*I wrote this article a few months ago for Macaroni Kids but it still applies (and always will). I hope these ideas and tips help you navigate more challenging days, uplift moods, inspire young minds and encourage playful connection!
Our lives are looking a little different these days. We are stuck in the house, working from home and learning how to homeschool our children. We are overwhelmed, anxious and exhausted, and although we are doing our very best to stay present and soak up these fleeting moments of togetherness, it can be hard. I love to set up simple activities which can be a great way to peacefully connect with my children but are also helpful when I need a bit of time to cook dinner, get some work done or simply have a moment of rest.
These activities can be prepared once and revisited often so it doesn’t take a lot of work on your end. A simple switch of a few materials can make the activity feel fresh and new.
Play Dough Three Ways - Make a batch of dough using your favorite recipe (or buy some pre-made to make your life easier!). Pair it with a variety of theme-based items you already have. Save the dough but switch out the pairings every week or so. Here are a few examples:
Bakery - silicone or paper cupcake cups, cookie cutters, sequins, candles, pom poms, toothpick cupcake toppers.
Party Animals - plastic toy animals (larger are better), beads, feathers, toy jewelry, pom poms, pipe cleaners.
In The Garden - plastic bugs, faux flowers, rocks, glass gems, seeds
Water Play Three Ways - It may seem scary to have this in your house but trust me, with a little preparation and some ground rules you can keep indoor water play contained. Designate a water proof mat for all messy sensory play. You can use a waterproof picnic mat, tablecloth or plastic drop cloth. I’ve even laid out four trash bags on the floor and covered them with an old sheet in a pinch. If you don’t already have one, purchase a large under the bed box. I’m telling you, you will use it over and over again. Fill the bin half way or less with water and set some ground rules. If things are getting a little crazy, close up the bin and explain why everyone needs to take a break. Try these fun themes using similar items you have in your home:
Baby Washing - soapy warm water, plastic baby dolls, bath bombs, sponges or scrub brushes, wash cloths, drying towels, fresh outfits.
Scent Lab - cut up citrus, fresh or dried herbs, wilting flowers, essential oils (a few drops mixed with water) in easy to use containers like spray bottles, dull knives, citrus juicer, mixing tools, a variety of containers.
Color Lab - large bowls for holding a variety of food colored waters, smaller bowls, basters, mixing and scooping tools.
Art Table - Takeover your kitchen table for a few days with a fun art activity. Cover the table in paper. Use a roll of kraft paper, this awesome bulletin board paper or even a solid color wrapping paper. Tape down the sides if necessary. Switch out the tools you are using each day. Try chalk pastels, watercolor gel crayons, paint sticks, markers, crayons and colored pencils. Add glue in a cup with a paintbrush and collage materials like scraps of old artworks, cut up newspaper and sequins. Painters tape is a fun way to create shapes, frames and patterns when adding color on and around the area.
A few tips for setting up successful activities:
A clean space with organized materials is much more inviting to a child (I have to remind myself of this often!).
Pull out some materials and try to think outside of the box. You can almost always find everything you need in your home.
Keep it simple. If it’s too complicated you won’t want to do it again.
Set it up when your kids aren’t around.
Setting up a snack with the project will keep kids engaged for longer.
And of course, please do not hesitate to reach out with questions!