Crafts and art projects are a great way to spend time with your child exploring and learning but for young children (0-5) it really should be the icing , not the cake. Most of the things kids this age should be doing should be open ended, play, exploration and with less boundaries than most crafts offer. I get asked almost daily about a schedule and about how much time we use up doing crafts and the reality is usually less than 30 minutes a day is spent at the kitchen table doing structured learning. Here are some of the other things we do – please feel free to share yours too .Oh and don’t worry , your children are learning while they play , they are always constructing and connecting many concepts and skills while they “work”.
Here is our list of fun play activities we have been into lately, with my tips on how to make it work and how to keep the fun going with those tricky toddlers.
- Play outside, I know this seems like a no brainer but I find I go in cycles, I take him to the park every few days then I don’t for ages. When we go and there is no one else there , we play follow the leader, hide and seek and chase. It’s a great workout for me and he naps well after it !
- Dress up. I don’t leave all of our dress up stuff out all the time, when I do they don’t get played with, if I put it away and bring it out all at once we end up playing with it for 30 minutes happily. Our collection is just starting with s few costumes, some beads, hats and the bunny ears you see above. My son loves using my husband’s clothes too.
- Book Festivals are big right now in our house. We gather a pile of books, and snuggle in my bed while reading each book. ( I didn’t really read Twilight to my toddler ).
- Block cities, castles and of course toddler-zilla. Build it up and knock it down, don’t fight it, embrace it and make sure that no one is getting bonked , bu you have to admit blocks scream to to knocked down. If you have a child like mine who can get pretty upset if his tower gets knocked down , teach them that it’s okay , you can rebuild. I have found that simply saying ” Oh let’s rebuild” and not really coddling him but acknowledging his frustration has worked for us. If you have a tip, share!
- Animals. We love the aquarium, zoo and our local marine science center, visits are short but still worth it , but even if you don’t have that you probably have a pet store or good old Walmart. Trust me on a rainy day a few goldfish can save your sanity!
- House. This hasn’t surfaced yet at our house but when I was nannying 2 little girls I spent most days from 4-5:30pm playing some form of house. Make believe is a great way to teach and learn about your kids, it’s fascinating to listen to what they say when they are playing “roles”. Or choose another pretend play idea that appeals to your child and run with it.
- A kid size hike is always fun, most towns and cities have pathways in parks that will let your little one explore some nature freely !
- Cooking! Real food, wood food it doesn’t matter this is a great way to spend time with your child . My son loves to play with wooden mushrooms but I can’t sneak real ones into him in go figure!
- Children’s Museums. As a teacher I loathed going on field trips, they are logistical nightmares with preschoolers, but I love it now that I have one hand to hold not 20 heads to count. Click here to find one in your area.
- Sensory fun : Water, sand,rice, oatmeal, the options are endless. Add some measuring cups or favorite, coffee scoops and you are good to go ! We have made tons of sensory tubs you find a great one with just the right theme for your child.