Some tips and tricks to entertain your little ones without resorting to screens
Winter. It sometimes feels like it will last forever. We have been very fortunate this year with mild weather that allows us to spend lots of time outside. But what if we get those sub zero days when the wind chill leaves us dreading facing the elements? That’s when we pull out our ‘tricks’ to keep our little ones entertained.
Before we share our ideas- let us remind you- it’s okay for children to be bored. It’s not your job to entertain your little ones every waking hour. When they come and say ‘I’m bored.” It’s a great opportunity to respond with “I can’t wait to see what you come up with to do!” Imagination and creativity are more likely to come from moments of boredom. And if we do not constantly provide them with entertainment, children will have to use their own resources to occupy themselves. Do you remember blanket forts from your own childhood? That’s when your mom probably told you to ‘just go do something!’ Did she do it for you? Probably not!
'never underestimate the power of free play and boredom. Wonderful discoveries are made when children are left to their imagination. ‘
It is always a good idea to have some activities to provide for your child- so they don’t resort to watching television or playing games on an ipad. Screen time leads to inactivity- which contributes to unhealthy habits. Did you know that for children under the age of 4, it is recommended that they have less than an hour of screen time per day? This is where having a ‘bag of tricks’ comes in handy.
Children love science. Simple activities like a baking soda and vinegar volcano can entertain a toddler for lengthy periods of time. And the ingredients needed are usually right in your kitchen. An easy homemade volcano can be made by cutting the top of a water or pop bottle, covering the sides in playdough, clay or a flour water mixture. Adding food colouring to the vinegar makes it more colourful and exciting. Put it on a baking sheet with a small edge around it, some small cups to add the baking soda and vinegar (little medicine cups work!) and you’ll have trouble pulling yourself away from the fun.
Speaking of playdough- did you know that playdough is an excellent tool to develop writing skills? It is! Manipulating playdough or other clay materials- helps children develop those fine motor skills/ muscles that they will need when they start holding a pencil to write. And who knows, you may have a budding sculptor in your home!
The good old standbys like finger painting never go out of style. Children love to get messy- and it’s ok- spread out some paper on the table- and pop your little ones in the bathtub when they are done! Remember, paint is washable- and so are children. Another ‘messy’ play activity is goop. Corn starch mixed with water and some food colour (just to make it pretty) is exactly what it sounds like- Goop. But children love to pull and try to form balls with this mixture that just keeps slipping through their fingers. And as messy as it is- the clean up is actually easy because it dries and can be easily swept or wiped up.
Some children just don’t like messy sensory activities. So, if you need something that doesn’t involve ‘goo and slop’- try this one. You need to create a small base with playdough or clay- something that you can put upright sticks in. If you have skewers they work, but so will uncooked spaghetti noodles. Now give your child cheerios or fruit loops and ask them to put the cereal on the ‘sticks’. It’s fine motor, hand eye coordination- and it’s time consuming- until they realize they can eat the cereal…..but that’s part of the beauty too- because that’s half the clean up!
Jig saw puzzles are also a great activity (make sure it is age appropriate) Puzzles require your child to use problem solving skills, hand eye coordination to manipulate the pieces, and patience. And they can learn to clean up by collecting all the pieces to go back in the box.
Do you get flyers in the mail every week that probably end up in your garbage? These are great to keep in a box with some children’s scissors. Bring it out to the table and let them cut. This too will help develop fine motor skills that they will need when they go to school. And they can use the cut outs to make an art collage when they are done!
When the wind chill is just too much – remember the fun of blanket forts, sock puppets -even a scarf can become a ‘toy’ for playtime. Take a few minutes to curl up on the couch for a game of ‘eye spy’. A large empty box (or tote) can be a boat, a car or a spot to curl up with a book. We want our children to do things that help them think and use their imagination- instead of spending time with screens that do all the thinking for them.
Children can entertain themselves with very little if we just let them. And we should.
‘Play is not time wasted. It is time learning, time growing, time developing, time processing, time becoming. It is time well spent in the timeless pursuit of childhood.”