Tuesday, October 12, 2010
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When my children -- triplets plus one more all born within a year were toddlers -- I learned by trial and error how to survive with four kids in diapers at once and to have a great time while doing it. Now that my kids have turned into teenagers, I've been able to look back and reflect on all the ways I created a fun and playful environment for them.
My Top 10 Favorite Playtime Revelations
1. Simple Toys Were, Are, and Will Always Be the Best
As a Baby Boomer toddler, blocks and Tinker Toys were my favorite play things. Then, when my own kids were toddlers about a decade ago they preferred Legos and blocks to any of the more complicated age-appropriate electronic gadgets available then. Fast forward to today. I've noticed that my friends with toddlers all keep saying the same thing. Their kids consistently would rather play with basic stuff rather than the toys with all the bells, whistles, and electronic buttons. Based on that history, I'm predicting that blocks will continue to be in vogue for generations to come.
2. Boxes Intrigue Little Minds
When I was little I was usually more thrilled with the box rather than the contents that came inside it. I noticed the same thing when my own kids were younger and also with today's preschoolers. If you haven't tried this already, definitely do. You'll be absolutely amazed at how much kids love boxes of all sizes and shapes, whether they once held corn flakes or a new flat screen TV. That's my oldest son you see at left when he was almost 3 years old playing hide and seek with the box that Daddy just brought home.
3. Books for Babies and Beyond
When thinking about objects for fun and play, I bet a lot of you would not automatically include books in that category. Reconsider that picture books are a form of entertainment, a way that you can spend quality time with your child, and a source that stimulates young intellectual development. With advantages like that, who wouldn't want to include at least some reading (starting with picture books for the very young) in playtime?
4. Creativity is Only Limited by Your Child's Imagination
I have always been amazed at what kids will create if you just give them a pile of odds and ends and a few simple craft materials. When I gave my second grader an old cardboard box, some pipe cleaners, yarn, packing shredding, poster paints, and glue he created the horse in a pasture you see at the top of this blogpost. In my wildest dreams I would have never thought of such an original idea on my own. The lesson here is that EVERY child with normal motor skills can create something really imaginative if you just provide some tools for them to create with. Remember: allowing creativity is an important way to help child grow while also having fun.
5. Fresh Air Family Fun During All Four Seasons
Fresh air has been proven to be physically and emotionally good for kids and adults. So whenever possible, try and spend some time together outdoors each day, whether it's winter, spring, summer or fall doing something fun. Take a small child to a local park, dressing them properly according to the weather. For an older kid, how about taking a bike adventure together around the neighborhood?
6. Special Toys and Activities Just for Rainy Days
But what about those days when you fear your kids will get cabin fever because it's raining or snowing so hard outside they can't go out and play? This is a must-have tip for any stay-at-home mom or dad's playtime arsenal that I learned from the preschool my children once attended. If you stash some special toys that you bring out ONLY during those times when the weather is inclement your kids will never be bored when they must stay inside for many hours at a time and might even start looking forward to stormy days.
7. Playdates and Playgroups With Similarly-Aged Children
Once children begin to develop social skills at around three years old, it will be beneficial for you to seek out other children the same age as yours to arrange play dates with. Whether you enroll in a Mommy and Me Class or organize an informal play group in your neighborhood, the benefits will be the same for your child. One-on-one play dates are also a great way for kids to have fun together with others who are at the same stage.
8. Clean Up Time Can Be Just as Fun as Play Time
With all these toys and playing, all the play areas in your home are bound to get messy. At as early an age as possible, it's a good idea to teach your child by example that picking up and putting away their games and other play things is part of having fun. That's because if they put everything away neatly each time when they are done, they'll always be able to find things easily the next time they're in the mood for playing. When it's time to clean up, turn on some music, and turn cleanup time into a game that you play along with your child. If you at least look like you are enjoying the cleanup, your child will likely enjoy it too.
9. Community Resources are Everywhere
If you are lucky enough to live in a good-sized city or metropolitan area where museums and other venues offer kid-friendly activities you will have no trouble finding lots of fun places to go where your child can play. You might even buy an annual membership in one of these places so you can visit often without having to pay admission each time. Conversely, if you live in a smaller community you might be within driving distance of a city that offers a great zoo or dedicated children's museum. Even better, there might be fun events for kids that you can take advantage of that are offered by your public library or even small town local merchants.
10. Good Deeds for Less Fortunate Kids That Your Child Can Do
Help your child do something nice for a little one that is less fortunate than he/she is. This is a lot easier to do than you might think. When your child has out grown their toys simply gather these up and take them and your child to donate them to a children's shelter or thrift store that helps the needy such as Salvation Army or Goodwill.
This last revelation may be #10 on this list but actually it is the most important way you can incorporate fun and play into not only your child's life but also to another child in need. This definitely bears repeating because your children are looking to you as a role model. If they see you being kind to others, they will learn to be helpful as well. Not only that, but there will be a whole lot less kids who grow up without having any fun.
If there was just one thing you could share with other parents about making every day-to-day life more fun for a child, what would you tell them? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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