What Can Little Kids Do When the Big Kids are in School?
After the flurry and excitement of getting big kids back to school, kids still at home might start asking What can I do? which generally means they want to be doing things with you. Often this constitutes a juggling act between running the household and running with the kids! Make the most of your time together by engaging in a variety of hands-on experiences that promote opportunities for learning through play.
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If your child attends a preschool or is homeschooled, a portion of the day may already be scheduled with early learning curriculum. But whether the kids are at home for the whole day or part of the day, there are things you can do to make your time together fun and productive, and hopefully a little less chaotic!
Here are 5 ways to plan activities the little kids can do:
1. Involve them in the daily routine
When doing housework, kids can help with dusting or sorting laundry. Or set up a play area with a sensory tray, building blocks or play dough near where you are working so you can interact with your child. Then be sure to join in the play when your task is completed. At lunchtime, provide suitable utensils for kids to help with preparation. They can stir batter for cookies, spread peanut butter on crackers, or mash bananas for a smoothie. When older kids are doing homework after school, keep paper and pencils on hand for your younger child to keep busy and feel involved.
2. Optimize one-on-one time
Practice new skills with your child that require your attention and support, such as printing his name or cutting with scissors. Also, during your time together you have opportunities to teach your child self-help skills like toileting and dressing that build self-awareness and independence, concepts that will be beneficial to your child when he reaches school age.
3. Access community programs
Sign up for swimming or music lessons. Attend play groups, story times or workshops for your child's age group at the library or museum.
4. Play together
Play has been proven to be instrumental in the development of fine motor, gross motor and language skills as well as prompting creativity and imagination. Set up a few go-to play options that you use together or your child can access for independent play: create a craft box with art supplies and play dough; fill one basket with blocks, another with puppets, another with musical instruments; place puzzles, games and books on a low shelf within easy reach of your child. Plan to spend some playtime outside. Even without playground equipment there are lots of options for outdoor play.
5. Be spontaneous
Kids are often competing for your attention with the daily routine of dressing, running errands, cleaning up and making meals. Stray from the norm occasionally to build a blanket tent and stay in your pyjamas until noon, or leave the chores behind you for awhile to have a picnic in the park. Straying from the routine might not be as chaotic as it sounds!
By creating play spaces, providing age-appropriate activities and materials, and encouraging kids to be helpers, you provide learning opportunities that are both fun and meaningful.
You can help prepare your child for more formal schooling by working, playing and reading together in the early years. I am pleased to share more back to school resources from my blogger friends in the links below.