Simple Things (Really Simple) To Keep Kids Busy, From Under Twos to Six
Sprinkler Fun by Austin Kirk; Wikimedia Commons
By Julia Sneden
It's summer, that season of family vacations and rich contact between grandparents and grandchildren. Those of us who live far from our grown children's families bless the airlines, the trains, the highways that make it possible for us to meet again, whether at the beach, in the mountains, at a resort, or in our own backyards.
Herewith, a list of suggestions for those who find themselves racking their brains to remember the kinds of things children like to do. Having taught kindergarten for twenty-five years, I tend toward direct, interactive activities. These days, children get plenty of television, movies, and computer games at home! (But perhaps you should have a bit of technology on hand, just in case you need a break).
Some General Principles
Nearly all children need exposure to life skills. Our grandchildren have sat in front of screens (computer, TV, movie) with their hands in their laps for too long. Any activity that actively engages the mind and eye and hands is good, but an activity that furthers the well-being of the whole family is best, because it becomes a source of great pride to the child. They are often surprised to discover that they can contribute to the family in useful ways. Don't be afraid to ask them to help around the house!
Do scope out the local offerings for good adventures. Bike trails, hiking trails, museums (short visits for the very young), short-session craft classes, libraries, miniature golf courses, live theatre, sports events, etc. are all useful for diversity in the daily plan. You don't want to spend all day, every day at home or on the beach.
At the same time, you don't want to overdo it. Allow for down-time. Just sitting around and listening to a child, or reading together for a short period, or lying on the floor and listening to music, can be restorative to both grandparent and grandchild.
Materials to Have on Hand
Crayons, colored pencils and markers; paper of various kinds; scissors (blunt-tipped for the small fry); scotch tape; stapler; water-soluble glue like Elmer's; a ruler; an art gum eraser; white and colored chalk.
My great aunt Martha always kept a 'fun bin' for us children. It was just an old box filled with odds and ends like tubes from toilet paper or paper towels, bits of yarn, scraps of fabric, small boxes, bottle caps (they make great wheels!), etc. These days, I keep two drawers of an old chest filled with the same sorts of things, only now I add plastic containers, berry baskets, cardboard, scraps of Contac paper, etc. My granddaughters are allowed to use anything from those drawers to make whatever they want. We have found that we need a rule or two, however.
Rule #1 is that at the end of the vacation, they may each take just one of their creations home.
Rule #2 is that it has to be something that will fit in the luggage, so that they aren't struggling with carry-on bags. They then have the choice of leaving their creations here, or dismantling them and putting the makings back in the drawer to be used next time.
For older children, if you have the space, sports equipment for sports like 'catch', badminton, croquet and ping-pong can provide a special treat.
Under Age Two
- Never underestimate the power of pots and pans. Muffin tins, wooden spoons, soft plastic containers, colanders, measuring spoons, etc. are all absolute treasures to a baby sitting on the kitchen floor. The important thing here, is to watch and enjoy. You will learn all sorts of things about the baby’s personality and imagination. Don’t forget music. Sing. Play CD’s. Tap out rhythms.
- Play pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo. Count the little piggies and Ride A Cock Horse.
- Read aloud!
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