Play for 5

Do you ever plan on working out but keep putting it off, then when you actually do it, you feel so good after?  Playing can be like that.  Sometimes you may want to get dinner ready, fold the laundry, make appointments, or drink a coffee, whatever is on your to-do list, it can wait 5 minutes.  When someone small says “Will you play with me?” Say yes.  just say yes.  Don’t say “in a minute” or “not now” or “okay but only for a little bit then I have to do things”.  Just say “Yes.”

When you play with your child, you are setting off those feel good sparks in their brain.  You are strengthening your bond.  You are teaching to take turns, share, learn new words, providing experiences they wouldn’t get if you were doing the dishes.

So say “Yes” and play for 5 minutes.  This may turn into 10, 15, 20 minutes or more.  Your child will appreciate the time you give them and won’t realize just how long or short it was.

In 5 minutes you can…
play a game of catch,
have a tea party,
make funny faces at each other,
play patty cake,
play a board game,
color,
push cars around,
make pretend soup,
stack blocks,
shake instruments,
have a dance party,
snuggle.

When those few minutes are up you can slowly back out of the game and encourage your child to play by him or her self by setting up a stuffed animal or doll in your place.  You can also weave the playing into wherever you are by asking your child to finish making you tea and bring it to you while you finish an email, have them push a car around the laundry basket and check for lost socks, set her up with a mixing bowl and spoon while you make dinner.

Just to be clear – we can’t play ALL the time.  Someone has to be mom.  This post is just meant to be a check in.  A reminder of how important it is for children to play and how even just a few minutes of your time takes up a big space in their brains.

Now, go play!

Bubbles!

Bubbles are a baby staple. Every baby, child, and adult enjoys good bubbles. Think about it, isn’t it satisfying to blow through a bubble wand? And isn’t it disappointing when they’re just not good bubbles?

Bubbles are an inexpensive toy that can provide endless activities. Here are ways to use bubbles and activate each area of development.

Cognitive: Babies are in awe of bubbles. “What are these shimmering balls floating above my head?” Blow bubbles to extend tummy time and encourage those eco muscles to look ALL around. For toddlers, they are using problem solving skills as they learn how to shape their mouth and how hard to blow, trial and error at its finest!

Language: “Where should we blow the bubbles? On your head or toes?” “Look! The bubbles are going up, up, up!” Bubbles make room for lots of language. Babies will communicate with you through smiles and reaching while toddlers use their words or hand gestures for “more”.

Social and Emotional: Who wants a turn? Everyone. Always. Practice turn taking with your toddler every time the wand needs reapplication. For babies, they are expressing their feelings of joy when the bubbles pop on their nose (or dislike) and it’s your job to respect their emotions. “It looks like you don’t like when the bubbles pop on you, I’ll blow them farther away,”

Motor Skills: Pointing, teaching, clapping, stomping, running, how many ways can you think to pop a bubble? Get moving!

The best part is bubbles are inexpensive, available almost anywhere including the dollar store, and last forever!

Dollar Store Haul

Wander the aisles of your local dollar store and fill up on goodies that are sure to entertain your kiddos.  Below are a few activities you can throw together with simple materials available from the dollar store, although you may already have most of them at home.  Keep them in a bin and store away when not in use.  Pull out in times of need, ie: prepping dinner, making doctor appointments, checking email, writing a blog post, etc.

Animal Bath: Fill a bin with an inch or two of water, add some plastic animals and a sponge.  Use a plastic table cloth as a catch-all and for easy clean up.  Let your little ones give their animals a “bath”.  Add some dish soap for some bubbles, or not if you have someone who eats everything.

Push and Pull Garden: Poke artificial flowers through a colander, let your little one “pick” flowers for you!  For a toddler, show them how to weave pipe cleaners in and out of the holes then let them work it themselves.

Stainless Steel Fridge Fix: Baking Sheets double as a magnetic refrigerator.   Add magnetic letters for spelling fun.

Tummy Time: mirrors, paper cups, bubbles, masking tape sticky balls, balloons, and items of various textures (cleaning cloths, hairbrush, gift bows, measuring cups, flashlights, practically anything.

Dollar Store Shopping List (all materials noted above plus some extra)
Bins/Containers
Plastic Animals
Sponges
Dish Soap
Colander
Artificial Flowers
Pipe Cleaners
Baking Sheet
Magnetic Letters
Mirror
Paper Cups
Bubbles
Masking Tape
Balloons
Flashlights
Velcro Hair Rollers
Toy Cars
Baby Doll
Kitchen Utensils (spoon, spatula, tongs)
Gift Bows
Tissue Paper
Streamers
Paper Plates
Coffee Filters
Spray Bottle

Want more?  Drop a comment with a random dollar store item and we will make an activity out of it!

Now, go play!

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

That you see and you greet each day.

One way to encourage your child’s development is to get out in the world.  By interacting with others, your child will observe how relationships work.  How to shake hands, how to say hello, how to be polite, how to make friends, how to end a conversation when someone is talking too much.  When you provide your child with different experiences he learns.  He takes it all in.  And when he’s ready, he will participate in those social experiences just like he learned.  From you.  So, the next time you are in line at the register, be kind to the grumpy teenager ringing you up, hold the door for someone, smile, say ‘Good Morning’.

And the morale of the story, greet everyone you see.  Be kind to others.  Be the person you want your child to be.  As mentioned, she is watching you.  ALWAYS.  And as she begins talking and imitating, you know just where her material will come from.

Today is Martin Luther King Jr Day.   If nothing else, celebrate by greeting someone.  You could also make these peace signs.

Now, go play!

Don’t forget to pretend.

It’s January.  The batteries are fresh and the volume is up.  Sometimes it can be hard to find something in the toy aisle at Target that doesn’t involve a blue tooth or laser beam.  As mentioned in a past post, when shopping for toys, whether it be for your own child or someone else’s (parents will thank you!), look for toys that involve the imagination. You’d be surprised when a child doesn’t know how to push a car around the kitchen floor because he is fixated on pushing the buttons that make siren noises and lights flash.   Pretend play is a crucial part of childhood.  It’s when a child practices fine motor skills as he pours invisible coffee into a cup, when she develops her communication as she talks to her stuffed animals, when he practices his balance while pushing a shopping cart around the kitchen, pulling items out of your pantry.  Pretend play encourages exploration and problem solving, strengthens memory skills, creates expectations to learn from.

You would be surprised what a child can do with an empty box, a few plastic cups, or a piece of tinfoil.  The next time you give your child something new, whether it is a toy or something you came across in the junk drawer, give it to them without saying a word.  Well, build it up with “ooohs and aaaahs” but then, let it go.  See where it goes.  And play along!  Blocks don’t have to be stacked and spoons don’t have to be just for stirring.  By allowing your child to play in their own way, you are strengthening their imagination and their self esteem, which in turn will lengthen the time they can play on their own!  Hellooo coffee time!

What is your child’s favorite non-toy item?  Pots and pans? Pinecones? The dog leash?

Now, go play!  And don’t forget to pretend.

Tricks and Treats and Tips

If you are afraid your child will be afraid of costumes and strangers, and strangers in costumes, (they should be!), practice at home before Halloween festivities.

  • Play dress up in front of a mirror.  Use old Halloween costumes, or just hats and clothes in your closet.  Let your little one see you put on a mask and take it off. (It doesn’t have to be scary!)  Just so they know it’s still you under there.

 

  • Visit a Halloween store and point out all the costumes.  Use phrases such as “Wow!  Look out tall that skeleton is!”  “That witch is wearing a hat!”  “That’s a silly werewolf, does he look like —–‘s dog?”  What does a dog say?  This dog howls!”

 

  • Walk around your neighborhood and count the pumpkin decorations.

 

Need more fun?  Here is a recipe for Moon Dough.  It’s similar to play dough but softer.  Its crumbly but will hold a shape, sort of like a snowball.

Okay to Eat Cinnamon Moon Dough.
Serve in a pie pan with utensils for an invitation to play!

You will need:
4 cups Plain Flour
1/2 cup Olive or Vegetable Oil
Ground Cinnamon

First put your 4 cups of flour into a large bowl, then make a hole in the center and pour your half cup of oil right into the center. Mix together with a whisk or your hands (have your little one help!).  You’ll notice that the mixture is starting to form a crumbly texture. When you mold it together it will form a shape, and when you crumble it back down it returns to a dusty or floury texture. It takes only a couple of minutes to mix together. Add a pinch of cinnamon powder. Mix thoroughly into your moon dough and it is ready for play!

 

Now, go play!