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Activities For Kids at Home

Over the years, I’ve managed to keep my kids from telling me, too often, “I’m bored.” While I’ve nothing against extracurricular activities or “go-to” play areas (you know, the stuff you have to pay for), there simply are times when it’s a “stay indoors and play” kind of day.

Depending on why it’s an indoor day, will determine which activities will best entertain, educate, engage your kids and enable you to get some household chores done.

Though having no artistic ability myself, I’ve still been able to provide quite a few arts and crafts projects that the kids seem to really enjoy. Find a container. Several smaller ones work best. Fill these with crayons, markers (washable!), colored pencils. Several types of paint are good to have: acrylic, craft paint, water colors and finger paint. Have lots of white and colored construction paper available. Toss in some safety scissors too. Trash bags with holes cut for head and arms work well for “smocks”.

Add some store bought items such as stickers, ice cream sticks, glue and, for littler ones, glue sticks. Multi-colored glitter is always a hit with girls, but messy. Pom-poms and googly eyes are fun, too. From around the house you can gather cotton balls, foil, string, old greeting cards, ribbons and magazines to add to the mix.

With all these craft supplies in one place, it’s easy to get the kids interested in doing something besides watching TV. While you can offer suggestions such as crafts that fit a holiday or season, or illustrating a school project, creating a collage or painting a masterpiece, what I love about this idea is that it lets kids use their imagination to create whatever they wish.

Perhaps your kids are more into building things rather than “doing art.” The possibilities, though not endless, are quite numerous including the aforementioned ice cream sticks and glue, Bristle Blocks, Playdough, Legos, Lincoln Logs, wooden or plastic blocks. Even dominoes can be used to build SOMETHING.

Fort building is fun and takes nothing more than chairs, benches or tables along with sheets or blankets. What’s more snuggly than filling the fort with MORE blankets and pillows and some favorite books?

If the indoor-day is due to rain or nasty weather, the kitchen is a great place to spend time alongside your kids. Help them set up a sandwich shop so they can make lunch. Your little ones can handle peanut butter and jelly with a butter knife while the older ones can learn the art of egg or tuna salad, grilled cheese or veggie creations.

If cooking is your thing, now is the time to get your kids interested in cooking themselves, from cookie baking to prepping an entrée. Sharing time in the kitchen makes more than food, it creates warm memories.

One of our favorite things to do is “Day at the Movies” at home. This is easy-peasy. Premade popcorn scooped into lunch bags and a drink of choice (in our house it’s water), line up on the couch, close the blinds, turn off the lights and start a movie the kids have picked out.

Games are always an activity we enjoy. These include everything from Candyland to Monopoly, Go Fish and Old Maid to War and, for my 12 year old, Gin Rummy. Twister is fun to play and hilarious to watch. The interesting thing about some games? Kids think they’re just playing. You know they’re learning.

Speaking of learning, playing school is an activity that looks like play but qualifies as learning. When one of the older kids act as teacher, they reinforce what they’ve learned in school by teaching the younger ones. The young ones are little sponges and take in everything. Paper, pencils, books and a table are all that’s needed but grade level workbooks are easy to find and don’t cost much. Gold stars from the art box always help.

From a three piece wooden baby puzzle to a 1000 piece jigsaw, puzzles offer good times. Educational, or just plain silly, worked on by one person at a time, or a group, puzzles are wonderful to have around. Give several kids similar pictures and pieces and provide a prize (a new puzzle?)to the first done.

Reading is one of my favorite things to do. So our home is filled with books and magazines. Reading aloud to little ones is a joyful experience. When they want to read to you, even more so. A kid with a book in hand is hard pressed to feel bored. Create a family book club where each member has to report on a book of their choice. Or everyone, if older kids are involved, can read the same book and have a “dessert and discussion” evening.

When it’s time for a release of energy, start a game of Mother May I?. Add in crazy steps like gorilla and chicken. Funnier than Twister.

With a bit of brainstorming and preplanning, providing activities for your kids to do with you, with siblings or on their own, is not difficult. It’s fun!

Creating A Stimulating Environment For Your Baby

Tips and Tricks to Create a Stimulating Environment for Baby

Home. It’s where we relax, celebrate, and live life with the people dearest to us. Chances are, you have worked hard to make your home a safe haven and your own private sanctuary from the worries of the world. Now, with the arrival of your newest addition, you want to make sure that your home is perfect for your little one. With some thought and careful planning, you can transform your home into a stimulating and encouraging environment for baby, without greatly disrupting your sense of style and comfort.

What is Infant Stimulation?
Infant stimulation involves all five senses. As a parent, it is our job to help our children interact with their world, starting from birth. The more a baby is able to see, taste, hear, touch, and smell the world around them, the better they adapt and adjust to their environment. This type of interaction is important because it helps infants improve their muscle tone and coordination and helps them reach developmental milestones faster. Proper stimulation will also boost a baby’s memory, pique their curiosity, and improve their attention span.

Sight

Bright colors are perfect for getting a baby’s attention. Especially in the early months, contrasting colors will appear very interesting to their developing brains. You can accomplish this by painting an accent wall, or simply using some colorful accents in baby’s nursery. A black and white patterned pillow case can do wonders for baby’s entertainment.

Touch

Exploring textures together with your little one can be so much fun! Take your baby through your closet. Let him feel the beads on your cardigan, or compare the different buttons on your blouses. Let him feel the difference between cotton, silk, polyester, and spandex. Don’t stop at your closet! There are dozens of textures around your home waiting for your baby to feel and explore. Do you have some velcro? What about your kitchen table? How will your baby respond to a feather? If you don’t mind a few smudges, let him feel the smooth glass of the bathroom mirror. Take him outside to feel the grass. By looking for opportunities to engage your baby with their surroundings, your baby will constantly be learning about the world around him.

Sound

Sound is another great way to engage your baby. Start with your voice. Show her all of the neat things your voice can do- laugh, giggle, talk, coo, whisper. Let her hear other people’s voices, whether from family or tv characters. Sit outside with your baby and listen to the sounds around you. Point out the birds chirping, cars passing, and other sounds you might hear. Music is another favorite. You can play everything from soft, soothing, instrumentals, to fast paced and upbeat favorites. You never know what your baby will like! Sing along during a dance party to create extra fun with your little one.

Smell

Activating your baby’s sense of smell can be a lot of fun! Bake cookies, and let the scent fill your home. Cook a fragrant dinner, and let your little one smell it. Find some flowers for him to smell. Burn your favorite candle while he eats. The sense of smell is a fun one to partner with the other senses too. Don’t just let your baby smell fresh flowers; let him hold one and experience the feeling of soft petals.

Taste

The last of the five sense, taste is a fun one to experiment with as your baby grows older. During the teething stage, more and more items will find their way into your baby’s mouth. This can be a good time to play with textures again. How does your baby like the smooth teether compared to the bumpy one? Eventually, it will be time to offer your baby food. Have fun during this stage! Try foods individually, then blended to create a whole new flavor.

Infant stimulation is crucial for proper growth and development, but it can also be a lot of fun. With a few strategic items, lots of creativity, and you as the guide, your home can become a center of stimulation for your little one. A home rich in environmental stimulation will help to foster trust and growth for your child.

Choosing The Right Toys For Your Toddler

The Right Toy for The Right Child

Not all children are the same, and not all children develop at the same rate. The best way to make sure your toddler grows up well is to ensure he has the right toys and the right kind of play activities. In these early developmental stages, your child won’t be learning in the same way as older children learn things in school – virtually everything will be learnt from playing. Toys and games will not only help with physical development and motor control, but also with mental, cognitive, emotional, and social development.

Another thing to consider is the size and age of your child. It’s no good, for example, buying an adult pushbike for a two-year-old! Acknowledging the capability of your child will help you to choose the right toys for your toddler.

The Developmental Stages of Your Toddler

Being a toddler isn’t necessarily about being a particular age. It is generally assumed that toddlers are between 12 months and 3 years old, but as already noted, children develop at different rates. The term “to toddle” indicates being able to walk, but not very well. Therefore, a toddler by definition has to be able to stand and move around.

There are many factors that may delay this ability, so it is important to be aware of how your child is developing and purchase appropriate toys to further their development.

Milestones to look for:

Physical Milestones

Standing and moving around in an upright position quickly advances to running in short bursts, jumping, squatting to pick things off the ground, kicking and throwing balls, climbing over furniture and stairs, and so on. As your child grows stronger, they will learn to control their body better, and gain hand-eye coordination.

Pre-Reading Skills

Your toddler will enjoy stories, no matter what they are doing. The sound of a parental voice is always welcome, and children enjoy looking at pictures in storybooks. They quickly understand that stories have a beginning and an end, and may call you out on it if you miss parts out! Storytelling helps to expand a child’s vocabulary, as well as language and communication skills.

Gain Independence

Your toddler is an adult trapped in a tiny body that they find hard to control. They want to be able to do everything you can do, and they don’t want help in doing it. While they are still small, they are fully dependent on you, but will constantly strive to get better. Every time they mimic someone and try and do something on their own, they are gaining independence.

Talking in Simple Sentences

As their vocabulary expands, toddlers will try and communicate what they are thinking with you. This may manifest in phrases such as “Me dinner!” when hungry, but the problems arise when more complex explanation is necessary. Because the child won’t know the words needed, they can easily become frustrated. This is when they start to throw temper tantrums, which are common during the “terrible twos” – when toddlers are around two years of age, they can become very frustrated by their lack of ability when they are fully aware of what everyone around them can do.

Feelings & Emotions

Even though there may be a lack of words to describe what your toddler is feeling, they are quite capable of feeling anger, possessiveness, excitement, guilt, and of course, frustration. It is important that they learn to understand these feelings happen in other people, too.

Different Type of Play

Not all play is the same! There are several different ways in which toddlers (and older children) can play.

Solitary Play – The toddler will play on their own and show no interest in what other children are doing.

Parallel Play – Essentially, solitary play in groups. The group of children will play in the same way, doing exactly the same thing, but not interacting with the other children. They may be setting up their own toy car park, or making something from building blocks, or any of a number of other things.

Onlooker Play – The toddler watches other children playing. They may talk and interact with the other child, but they are not actually playing with anything themselves.

Imitative Play – Similar to parallel play, but with more awareness of other children. Your toddler will copy how other children are playing.

Associative Play – Your child will interact with other children more and more, possibly even without toys. They will find it to be more fun to play with others than alone.

Cooperative Play – Your child will play with other children and work towards a common goal. For example, they will find it quicker and easier to build a tower of building blocks in a group than individually.

Seeing how your child plays will inform your decision on what type of toys to buy for your toddler.

How to Choose the Right Toy for Your Toddler

Hopefully, you will now have an idea of the right toys for your toddler, but here is a little more guidance if you need it.

Consider Safety – Safe toys are an absolute priority. Make sure there are no sharp edges, no small detachable parts that can be put in the mouth, and ensure that the toys are non-toxic as children love to chew on things even if they won’t fit fully in their mouths.

Choose toys that have many uses – Children will find different ways of playing with even the most mundane toys, but if you choose a toy with options to begin with, you might help fire their imagination. Toys like building blocks, nesting cups, or even sand, are ideal.

Choose toys that will last – Again, you want something that sparks imagination. If a child finds a toy boring, they may not go back to it. Dolls and action figures are ideal as the child can imagine them into almost any situation. Make-believe play helps to build language skills, literacy skills, sequential-ordering skills, and problem-solving skills. Even dress-up clothing will set off a story in their heads!

Engage the brain – Puzzle and problem-solving toys and games are fantastic for developing little minds. Toddlers love the satisfaction of solving things on their own, so toys like shape-sorters, art materials, and puzzles are perfect.

Find toys that mimic real things – Kids just want to do everything that you do, so finding toys that mimic real things will encourage them greatly. Kitchen equipment, vehicles, tools, everything!

Get toys to help with reading – Not only normal story and picture books, but electronic books too. Some have light and sound feedback, some help learning the alphabet, and some will even read the whole story out loud.

Find toys that encourage physical activity – Moving around is vital to the physical development of your child, so toys like balls, tricycles, scooters, playsets and tunnels are ideal to get him moving!

Get toys that the whole family can get involved with – Encourage social development by finding toys and games that everyone can join in with. Board games and card games are great for this, encouraging the development of memory, listening, matching and counting skills.

These tips coupled with your understanding of how toddlers develop and play will now allow you to make an informed decision when choosing the toys for your toddler.