Coming up with new ideas to keep your young ones occupied can sometimes be difficult and costly.
But before you resort to expensive outings or buying unnecessary toys, check out these 5 fun and educational activities you can do with everyday items you already have around the house.
1. PLAY WITH CLOTHES-PINS
Everyone has them. Clothes-pins provide a fantastic opportunity for your toddler to develop coordination, finger dexterity and problem solving. For example, “How can I get the clothes pins on / off Mom's skirt?”. Your little one will keep busy for ages if you can supply them with an assortment of items to attach them to.
Create a color pattern for your toddler to copy such as “Red, red, blue, blue, yellow, yellow.” Increase the level of difficulty as your child catches on.
2. Q-TIP PAINTING
Use cornflour and food coloring to make a great non-toxic paint. Experiment with consistency (TIP: Thicker paints are helpful in avoiding spills). Art activities are instrumental in allowing children to express creativity and recognize color. The Q-tips will allow them to focus on those fine motor skills and learn about cause and effect, such as how movement and direction will result in different lines being made on the paper. If your toddler has had enough of using the Q-tips, move onto finger painting!
3. FROSTING COOKIES
If you’re not quite ready to embark on a full blown cooking activity yet, this is a great place to start. Use any plain cracker or cookie you might have in your pantry, then choose a favorite dip or spread. This is a perfect opportunity to teach your child about hygiene, so remember to wash those hands first!
If you’re unsure about giving your child a bread and butter knife, try encouraging them to use the back of a teaspoon until they refine their spreading technique. This will help your little one to discover taste, texture and expand that growing vocabulary. Not to mention, there is something incredibly satisfying about preparing your own snack. This idea is especially great for fussy eaters.
4. CREATE A STORY
Believe it or not, some of the best stories are not found in books. Get your toddler to help you collect a handful of toys or other household items. Sit down together and select one to begin with. You will probably need to initiate ideas until your child has had some practice. If for example you have chosen a toy duck, start with something simple like “Once upon a time there was a small, yellow duck. One day he decided to …”. This is the perfect time for your child to contribute to the story. Depending on your child’s language skills their answer might range from just one word to several sentences. Make sure you encourage them by reacting positively to their suggestions.
After your child has taken their turn, use their input to continue with the story. If you are stuck for ideas, chose another one of your items for inspiration. Wouldn’t it make for a funny plot if that little, yellow duck suddenly came across a soup ladle. How would the duck react? What would it say? Could it be used to help the duck in some way? Ask your child questions to get their imaginations flowing and who knows, you could end up with an amazing new story that your child will want to be told over and over again.
5. EARLY BATH-TIME
I often do this with my children in Winter, as it saves having to get them undressed after that cold night air has set in and they love it. Over time, I have found that many of our favorite bath toys are ones that have come from our kitchen. Some suggestions include plastic cups, measuring jugs, plastic bottles with lids (old baby bottles with the teats removed work great), straws, funnels, spoons (the scoops you find in infant formula tins can function as spoons) and whisks. Many a scientific experiment has resulted in our bathtub just by introducing a few simple, everyday items.