Recently a mom asked, “How do I get 15 minutes to myself? 5 minutes? To make a phone call, wash the dishes, send an email, check Facebook, whatever?” The underlying issue is “How do I get my little one to play by him/herself?”
As a parent, we deserve all the free time we can get.
There are a few ways to go about this.
- “New” Toys
- Sensory Play
- Helping Hands
Does your house seem to be overflowing with toys? Are you constantly putting toys back into bins, shelves, closets, etc. An easy fix is to put some away in closets. Away where your little won’t see them. Once a month, pull out a couple and put away a few more. Voila! New toys!
Search Pinterest for “sensory play” and you will get a few hits. A few million. Stimulating different senses activates parts of the brain that typical toys don’t. Find a bin, a bowl, a tray, or a bucket. Spread out a beach towel, shower curtain liner, or plastic table cloth. Fill containers with various sensory stimuli. Think touch, sight, hear, smell, taste(!). Sensory CAN be messy. But it doesn’t have to be! Water dries, rice vacuums up, and other things can be contained. Here are 5 examples of sensory play for each sense:
- Touch- Water play, may be the easiest set up and clean up. Remember, a little water goes a long way. Start with a baking sheet and just enough to splash in. Fill a container with and inch or two of water. Add spoons and cups. Ice cubes or plastic animals. Give toy cars or baby doll a bath.
- Sight- Add flashlights to a blanket fort or teepee. Get outside. Natural light is much more stimulating than indoor light.
- Hear- The classic: a wooden spoon and pots and pans. Or make homemade shaker instruments by adding various materials to a small plastic container and seal it shut with packaging tape. Beans, rice, pasta, popcorn kernels make different noises. Join the band!
- Smell- Open up scented candles and sniff! At bath time, smell different soaps. Identify likes and dislikes
- Taste- For picky eaters, start out with bland, mild tasting foods then move to stronger tastes. Over sensitive taste buds need time “warming” up to various tastes. For older children, experiment with blind taste tests and see if they can guess the type of fruit or veggie with eyes closed.
Children love to “help”. So teach them to fish. Teach them to fold laundry, put silverware in a drawer, put clothes in the dryer, sweep, feed the dog, put toys in a bin, anything that will help you out! It may not be perfect, ie spoons in the fork spot and dog food on the floor, but they are doing it! And it makes them feel like super kid. Between the independence and your praise, their self-esteem will shoot through the roof and you’ll have a happier kid (and maybe a cleaner house?). Plus, once they know how to do it you can say “Remember when you helped Mommy put the dishes away, can you help me again while I make a dr appt/send an email/start dinner?”
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Now, go play!