The other day, my grandson decided to make me into a grand-mummy using a roll of masking tape he found. Through the laughter, I thought about how magical a simple, mundane household item is in the eyes of a 3-year-old. And all it took was a little imagination.
Make-believe play is vital to a child’s development. By pretending, they get an opportunity to emulate real-life moments. For example, the little prince or princess in your life may not be able to go to a restaurant these days. But you can still teach them proper etiquette in a fun activity for when that out-of-home dining experience does arrive. Simply do a little play-acting by turning your kitchen into a restaurant. Make their toys, stuffed animals, and dolls the customers.
Now you may be thinking, “What about outdoor activities?” Those little ones are bouncing off the walls from being so cooped up (And let’s be honest, I bet many of you are, too!). Even though spring is in the air, we’re not quite there yet. So, ask yourself instead, “What are some fun indoor toddler activities to get them (and you) through the day…or at least the next hour or two.”
For your sanity, the first thing you should do is NOT look at the whole day. That will definitely be overwhelming, and your child will sense that anxiousness in you. Take the hours and break them up into what you think best serves the attention span of your child. Then, come up with various activities to fill in the slots.
Children love to build forts. True, it may make a huge disaster of their bedroom or the living room. But, it’s a great way for them to use their imagination and develop creative thinking skills. Building a fort or clubhouse is also an activity that older siblings can do with the younger ones. And now, everyone is involved! Let them take pillows, blankets, towels, sheets, chairs—whatever comes to mind—to transform the room into their magical castle, spaceship, truck, car, pirate ship, or jungle. As a preschool teacher I understand that building a fort accomplishes three things: 1) It takes a lot of time to gather the materials and build one; 2) They play in it for a long time; 3) It teaches them responsibility because they have to help you clean up afterwards.
With children in the house, it’s always a great idea to keep special baking ingredients around for some spontaneous cooking. My daughter-in-law enjoys it with her boys. And they love it! Baking is a great way for your little one to learn about following directions, counting, measuring, and patience as they wait for their special treat to bake. I watch my grandsons re-enact what they learned when they play in their own toy kitchen.
Let it be THEIR project as much as you can. Your kitchen will most likely transform to another dimension of messiness, but that’s part of the experience and fun. Of course, as with building a for–even though they may indeed be a prince or princess–the responsibility of cleaning up is a good lesson to learn. Wait till you see their proud smiles when they serve their masterpiece as dessert to the whole family.
Water play is always fun for children, and they don’t have to wait for hot summer days. All you need to do is spread some towels on the floor, get a large bucket, sponge, soap, and some rags. Have your little ones gather their toys…cars, baby dolls, balls, etc. and you get to sit and watch them as they wash all the dirt away and laugh at the bubble play.
In my classroom, I understand that teaching young children to improvise is important for their development. It also helps them advance their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. If it’s too cold or raining to go outside to play basketball bring the game indoors. All you need to do is roll up socks, grab a wicker basket or trash can, and let the game begin. When that game is over, you can take those same socks, add a bat made out of aluminum foil, place some rags on the floor for bases, and you have yourself a mini-baseball game.
The hope is by now the prince or princess in your life is beginning to slow down a bit. For sure you are exhausted! So, here are some less energetic activities for you to do with them:
- Watch home videos…children love to see themselves on the big screen
- Play board or card games
- Read a story (maybe one of our personalized fairy tales!)
- Cut up a magazine or construction paper and make a collage
- Paint or color
- Play I Spy with My Little Eyes
- Play I’m Thinking of an Animal
- Play Who Can Be Quiet the Longest
Always remember that independent play Is also good for children. It helps them to develop their imagination. Don’t feel pressured to entertain them 24/7. Some of my favorite moments are sitting back and watching kids play with their toys by themselves. And listen carefully. They sometimes say the funniest things when they think no one is listening.