When planning for children, I knew I wanted to create easy and meaningful education experiences at home (without feeling overwhelmed). After my daughter came along, this blossomed into sharing this passion with my community when I opened my home daycare and I spent my days laughing and learning with little ones. Not long into this dream-job-come-true, life happened – resulting in my putting my business on hold for a while. But my desire to share quick and easily implemented learning never went away. I’m a real mom with a real life and things get chaotic and busy so why make life more complicated? In the recent moments where Lady F and I are away from our normal routine, we have to find the creative in the moments of the day when I also have a long list of things to do. It’s possible through conversation, continued interaction, and valuing their input. Sure, things take longer to accomplish, but we both walk away from the task happy and having enjoyed one another. I wanted to share some of this with you, another busy mom with more than enough to do and no time to plan, but who value learning through play and time with your littles. So came this list of times we have made it work, having my daughter share in what is our “new-for-now” normal, and deepening our connection through everyday activity. ♥
1. Laundry Helper!
Such a big part of keeping a toddler or preschooler happy and engaged has to do with the attention you can give them. At the end of the day, all they want is to share your time. This can be tricky in those moments where something really needs to get done. I’ve come to find that my little lady really just wants to help me when she can and after we got the hang of doing this together, and she had a good understanding of what the “goal” was (to sort the laundry), she was happy to take part (check out this post on age appropriate responsibilities around the house). So much came from this! Talking about colours, shapes, sizes, textures, body parts, rooms in our home, the people we love, silly ways to wear clothes, categories, matching, using clothespins for fine motor development and the list goes on. The language and conversation here was incredible and what a great way to share our time and accomplish one of the many items on mommy’s to do list.
2. Chef In Training
This one can be a bit messy until everyone gets the hang of it but it’s a wonderful and fun way to play and learn. In our case, we keep it simple, pancakes, smoothies, play dough (which I will talk about in a moment), so she can play a bigger part in what we are doing rather than something complicated where I would feel compelled to “take over” the project for it to come out with a product we know and expect. Talking about measuring, learning to pour, names of ingredients, parts of the kitchen, using heat and the safety involved, healthy eating, and so much more. Letting F take part in the kitchen has her interested, excited and happily eating whatever we end up with which is always an added bonus.
3. Play Dough
Making the play dough itself (recipe here) is great as stated above, but using the play dough to create takes on a world of it’s own. Wonderful for the development of the muscles in the hand, building creativity, using tools in the kitchen to create and pretend, taking on roles for dramatic play, the options are endless which is why play dough continues to be such a popular activity! This is a favourite for me to take part in as it brings me back to my childhood, but also provides a great few moments of quiet play for those times when I need to get something done. F happily plays with the dough for ages and I am able to tick a few things off the to-do list.
4. Forts and Caves
When you can’t quite get outside to burn off that extra energy, pillows, blankets, and boxes provide endless hours of creativity! From the forts we knew as children with sheets draped over tables, to taking your creativity and your child’s imagination to the next level with boats or hot air balloons, you would be amazed with what you can come up with! We’ve taken this activity outside as well as sheets are so easily washed and it’s so fun to take the indoors outside! We are very big into caves at the moment as We’re Going On A Bear Hunt (activities here) plays a big part in our day. I talk a bit more about this in another post, coming soon.
Win – Win, right?! Dusting, wiping, helping to put things away, seem like such small tasks and of course can be done much more quickly by an adult in a hurry. But, taking the time to turn it into an activity, maybe adding a little dance party music, and letting the play unfold while being patient of how long it could possibly take, teaches your little one about responsibility, taking part in the household, and helping out while having fun (read more about age appropriate responsibilities here)! My little lady LOVES soapy water so providing her a vessel or sink with soapy water and whatever might need a wash (her own toys included) is a great way to let her have some fun and get a job done as well. Just be warned that the water will be everywhere, but cleaning that up can be part of the activity as well!
6. Window Writing
This is a great one when you need to keep your space small, and your clean up simple. Crayola has special markers just for this, which we really like and they clean off really well with your standard glass cleaner. When these markers aren’t available to you, a washable marker of any kind will work, or a dry erase marker works wonders! Just be careful with the dry erase, that it doesn’t get onto a surface that might not wipe off as easily 🙂 Doing the unexpected or non-traditional is always a hit for us, for who knew you could write on the window?!
This is one that I will dive into in more detail in another post as it is such a big concept right now and offers so much for learning and development. By taking materials that can be moved, manipulated, and combined with other materials, and allowing children to let them become “something else” with their imagination, your little one can get creative with their play and imagination, and you can make little changes to keep it exciting, and watch the play unfold! A great inspirational story for this is Not A Stick, where you can discuss with your child how with imagination, a stick can be anything!
8. Morning Binder
Having a morning routine that encourages learning through play is a great way to start a day and enrich those foundational concepts that are key to success in later years for your little ones. Printing a binder like this one, and working through it with your child until they can do so independently also creates a quiet time binder so while they are busy working away, you can get a few things done around the house while being nearby for support if they need it!
9. Get Outside
This would be a favourite for me. There is really nothing better that getting outside into the fresh air (check out these amazing and surprising benefits to getting your little one outside). Letting your little one run off some energy, letting you feel like a kid again acting silly outside. Anything from a quick run to a local part, to going off the beaten track and walking somewhere new. We love to create a story adventure (activity here) in the woods, collect leaves, or sticks or stones to use in a craft later. Being outside offers more than you think and usually ends up with a good sleep that night.
Here are 63 amazing messy play activities you can do outside with your little one using things you have around the house!
10. Take the Outdoors Inside
We can’t always get outside, be it weather keeping us in or having to accomplish something in particular. But that doesn’t mean you can’t experience the outside. For us, we take bowls of snow inside to play with (in the sink, on the floor that is a little more welcoming to being wet, on towels) and learn about, adding food colouring, or salt, or getting creative with play. If snow isn’t available, leaves, sticks, bark, grass, stones, sand and of course mud can be endlessly fun in an out of the box kind of way (although inside a box is less messy). Something so simple becomes so exciting when it is out of the ordinary.