When your child plays, they are doing more than stacking blocks or coloring inside (or outside) the lines. Each moment of play is building pathways and connections in the brain that they will carry with them for the rest of their life. Sound like a big task? Not if you take a little time to incorporate fun and play into your child's daily activities.
My little one is just over a year old. So, while a lot of our skills are still developing, I try to reinforce what he is learning as we go throughout our day.
1. "Where's the beef?" Ok, maybe not. But my little boy likes playing "Where's the duck?" Once you've read a children's book a thousand times, it's fun to look for new ways to enjoy looking through the pages. We try to look for a specific animal on the page to help build his vocabulary and recognition of the object's name.
2."Hide and Seek." Kids enjoy the thrill of discovery. Get on their level and join in a quick game of hide and seek. Make sure your hiding places are safe and age appropriate (hiding behind a pillow may be all you need to do to get a toddler giggling).
3. Play with your food. Uncooked macaroni and dried beans make excellent arts and craft items. You can talk about how things can have multiple uses. They can fill our tummies and help us share something beautiful with friends and family.
4. Sing. Sing a song. You don't have to be a grammy-award-winning artist to sing to your kids. Sing a song about putting on their shoes, or buttoning their coat. Any mundane task can be jazzed up when you add a melody.
5. Do you see what I see? This is a great game for keeping kids occupied at grocery stores or on trips. It's the classic game of "I Spy." At the grocery store you could say, "I see something yellow and yummy." I can guarantee you my son would quickly spot the "nanas."
6. What would you do? There are tons of fun books and movies for kids, but it's important to engage their mind, not just entertain them. It's fun to ask your kids, "what would YOU have done if you had super powers?" "Did you think they made a good choice when they decided to . . . what would you do instead?"
7. The alphabet game. It's a roadtrip classic. Locate letters of the alphabet on roadsigns and billboards starting with "a" and making your way through all of the letters of the alphabet. For a little one who is just learning their letters you can play a simplified version of the game and look for one certain letter anywhere. For example: "Ok, I want you to see where you can find the letter A on our way to the grocery store."
8. Cooking up fun. We've all got to eat. Why not include the kids in the prep work? Find safe and simple tasks for your kids to accomplish in the kitchen. Have them tear lettuce or stir the batter in the bowl. They will feel proud of their accomplishments and will be learning valuable skills to help them later in life.
9. Talk it up. I've heard of families that include the "Mad, Sad, and Glad" game as part of their family dinner time together. Each individual takes turns sharing about their day and telling something that made them mad, something that made them sad, and something that made them glad. It's a good conversation starter and is a healthy and fun way for kids to share how they are feeling (and to learn that grown-ups have feelings too).
10. Freeze. Tell your kiddos that you've just gotten word that an invisible blizzard is coming into town and at any moment it could strike. No matter where you are when you say "Freeze" everyone is to stop mid motion. When you say "Heat Wave," everyone goes back to normal. It's fun to keep them guessing. Who knows, a blizzard could strike during dinner, during bath time, or as your playing a family game together.
The most important play resource your child has is YOU! You don't have to have tons of cash or flashy electronic equipment. All you need is a willingness to spend a little time on their level. Look for the adventure and fun in your daily activities. Have fun and your kids will too!
“I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and The Hub blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”