Snow days, rainy days, days I just have to do laundry—we've had a lot of inside time lately. I have been getting creative with my 2-year-old and finding lots of inside fun ideas. From pots and wooden spoons to milk jug bowling—there has been tons of easy fun.
Here are 9 great indoor activities to entertain your toddler:
Wooden Spoon + Pots = Musical Madness! Doing the dishes and toddler driving you crazy?! Give him a pot and a wooden spoon. Bang, clash, boom. So simple yet so entertaining. Mix it up with plastic bowls, stainless steel pots, wooden and metal spoons (the bigger the better). He's learning about beats and music while getting his banging on
Cardboard box + crayons = Artful Activity! I get tons of cardboard box deliveries. A few crayons (washable of course!) plus his creativity and it makes for the perfect art experience. Lines, squiggles, circles. He's learning about art without even knowing it.
Empty milk jug + soft ball = Toddler Bowling! We go through 4 litres of milk a day (yes, really!) and so before I take those milk jugs back for deposit we re-purpose them into a bit of play. Line them up against a wall. Stand back. And gently roll (this takes practice) the ball to knock the jugs over. Fun physical activity—there is crouching, bending, picking up and running back to knock them down again.
Cars + hands + CRASH! There is something about CRASHING things that entertains my toddler to know end. Cars, pillows, teddy bears, two of anything can crash really. It is repetitive and verbal (he sings CRASH CRASH) and apparently tons of fun.
Fingers + Songs = Finger Songs. Folding laundry and toddler wants your attention? Start singing "Head and Shoulders" or "Wheels on the bus" or "The Hokey Pokey" —you can do the movements as you fold (whizzing socks around while singing "Wheels on the bus" is just organic) and he'll follow along. That's multitasking.
Kitchen sink + water = Homemade water table. This was my Tuesday. I pulled a chair up to the sink. Filled it with water and dish soap and put in wooden spoons, plastic measuring cups and some clean plastic yogurt containers. My son instinctively climbed up and went to town splashing and pouring. Yes, the floor got wet. Yes, he got wet too. But easy clean up with a quick towel whip up and change into fresh duds before nap—it was play time well spent.
Swim + bodies = Land Swimming. Sounds weird right? This was part of a game we played at play group where there were "octopus" who had to catch "fish" swimming by. Dear son loved it so much we often land swim around the house. Swim Swim Swim and we walk around the living room and move our hands like swimming. Hurry a shark!
Hide + Seek = Where'd it Go? Showing an object and then hiding it under my shirt (or his) is a daily event. Where'd it go?! we ask each other. I call it training for finding running shoes in his school years.
Books + Lap = Reading Time. Before every nap and bedtime we read stories. I change up the ones on the toddler reading table (more for my entertainment than his). Currently we are reading "Blue Hat, Green Hat" by Sandra Boynton and "Toupie a peur" by Dominique Jolin.
My daughter, recently, had her group project peeps over at our house for a work session and the 12-year-olds (a boy and a girl) both had cell phones with them. When the three kids went off to walk to the library, my husband insisted our daughter take his cell phone with her for security. My take: Really? Is 12 the right age to have a cell phone?
I grew up without a cell phone. If I needed to call my parents I used the phone at the neighbour's home in which I was playing. If my parents needed to reach me they yelled out the front door. This was ol' skool communication. However, it seems the landscape of childhood has changed...
My 12-year-old is one of the few in her class that doesn't have a cell phone.
According to mediasmarts.ca, "...young people ages 13 to 24 are the largest group of wireless phone users." I wonder...when do they find the time?! School, sports, homework, household chores, showers and sleep...there are only so many hours in a kid's day...when do they squeeze in uber-phone-usage?
According to the Statistics Canada 2009/2010 Census at School, after in-person communication kids preferred communication with friends is: Internet chat text, Facebook or blog, Messaging, Telephone (landline), Email and Cell phone. I totally "get" that today's child generation is digital. My 12-year-old never talks on the phone but connects via email with her friends, study partners...and even me ("Dear Mommy: How are you?")
But is a cell phone a communication tool or entertainment unit for a tween?
Back in the fall, I saw my daughter and her classmates at lunch in a park. Most of the kids had cell phones out. Most were either video taping each other or watching YouTube videos together. Neither activity pulls me to get my daughter a cell phone.
When, on the odd occasion, my daughter has asked "When can I get a cell phone?" my reply has always been "When you can pay for it." I've heard of teens racking up data charges (which...if you think about them watching youtube videos on their cell phones during lunch as in above example...$$$). Who pays for the phone?
And then, of course, one has to consider the Pandora's box one opens when a child gets a cell phone—cyberbullying, texting, sexting—and all the rest. I'm not sure I'm ready for this.
Cell phones are certainly a lifeline of communication. But do 12-year-olds really need them?
How often do you spend time on Google adding things to our virtual carts and researching the next "cool" toy which will entertain our kids. I have been absolutely guilty of this insanity. But now...no more. The best gift I will be giving my kids this month is my time. My presence. Myself. Because what do kids really want?...
"Mommy look at me!"
"Mommy can I come with you?"
My kids don't need more stuff (good Gandhi—our house is filled to the brim with stuff—we need a stuff intervention really).
Lately, I have suggested to family to give my kids the gift of an experience. A lunch date with Grandma. A trip to the movies with Dad. A family pass to the science centre so we have a destination to visit on any given P.A. Day.
And honestly, they prefer the gifts of time.
In our crazy busy lives kids hear "not right now" an awful lot (crazy a lot). My attention is on my email. Or twitter. Or dinner. Or the baby. Or laundry. Or a deadline. Or finding their right shoe. How often do you say "Yes, let's do that right now" when your kids ask you to do something with them? When, in our parenthood, did we stop being "right now people?"...(I know, you're totally thinking of the Big Bang episode when Leonard asked the same question).
A gift of time is measureless, priceless, sometimes costless. But yet it gives so much.
Our attention to our kids.
One of my best childhood memories ever, is of my Mom taking me (just me) downtown on the subway and having lunch together at the old Eaton's cafeteria.. I felt so special. So worthwhile. So very grateful. She left her work. And ironing. And dusting. And dinner making. And volunteering at home (and everything else that she and June Cleaver did in that era). And took me (just me) out for an afternoon date. Years later...I don't remember her dusting...I remember her taking me on a date.
I don't want my kids to remember the stuff in their childhood. I want them to cherish the memories of us together...activities like:
We spend so much time trying to find the "right" gift for our kids. We often forget that our time is free...and yet so fleeting. Childhood days may seem long sometimes (remember those 3am feedings that felt like eternity?!)...but the years fly by so quickly. Give your kids the gift of your time. There is no other gift like it.