Getting outside, rain or shine, is important for kids. And while I will grin and bare it for a while and hop into some puddles, I love finding ways to keep busy indoors and avoiding cabin fever while staying dry and cozy.
Below are my top five favourite activities to do with children 3 and under (check back later for my next instalment for ages 4-6 years old)
1. Sensory Overload!
Anything that they can touch and explore works. A bucket with rice and scoops, a bathtub with some shaving cream or a sink with water and cups. Finger painting coloured yogurt on the shower walls during bath can be fun – and give you incentive to wash the bathtub after.
Children learn better when they are engaged in sensory activities. Do you notice that sometimes your child will respond better to requests when you touch their shoulder? Or that sometimes you come across smell that reminds you of something from your childhood? Brains learn better when engaged on multiple levels. And let’s be honest – it’s just plain fun. It can be calming and also help with fine motor skills with the scooping rice or swirling their hand through shaving cream.
Dean is starting to get really into dancing. We love cranking the music (to a safe level for his little ears of course!) and rocking out. Sometimes we will dance around the living room to the Wiggles and Raffi but sometimes we listen to the radio for some adult music.
Aside from the obvious benefit of exercise, which you’d be surprised how much energy is used when you copy how they dance, it’s also great to work on gross motor skills. Before walking, it encourages them to bounce. While walking, it encourages them to move. And when they are stable on their feet, you can add in teaching them to spin and stomp. Dean, at 18 months, is getting ready to jump now. He’s getting all the way up to his tippy-toes and dancing to some music is definitely helping! We do Follow-The-Leader and we take turns. I’ll show him a move and he copies. Then he shows me something that I have to copy. He finds it awesome to make Mommy climb under the coffee table… We do a lot of “solo” dancing but he’s starting to like holding hands and dancing together, which adds another step of complexity to moving because we have to work together.
Seriously. It’s a huge favourite around here. Dean loves sweeping up with the little dust pan and broom while I use the big one. And we take turns vacuuming. He helps put toys away. He helps wipe the table. And, I’ll be honest, I let him stand on the kitchen counter to help put away his dishes sometimes… However, laundry is something I have an issue sharing. Even the way my husband folds his laundry drives me crazy because it doesn’t fit properly into the set up if it’s not folded my (read : the proper) way.
Not only is this great because the house looks a little more put together than the disaster that follows being cooped up inside all day, but it also encourages so many developmental and lifelong skills. Fine motor skills are taught by picking up little toys, gross motor is worked on with the vacuum. He learns responsibility for his toys and because of the way his toys get put away, he learns to sort his stuffed toys from books from toys. He learns balance from standing on the countertops, four feet up off the ground.
I love baking and it’s no surprise that Dean does to! He enjoys helping me mix, measure and pour. And he LOVES the end products!
Baking is great for math skills – counting to three scoops of flour, adding one egg, eating three cookies (first one was given, second and third were stolen from the cooling racks…) But it’s also good for fine motor skills. And it’s just a fun way to spend some time together. Around here, it also teaches patience and safety. Dean is very good about sitting in “his cupboard” when the buzzer beeps so that I can open the oven. He understands that it’s hot and that he can’t touch or come near the oven when it’s open. There’s times that I have to stay ready to grab him because I can just tell that he is wanting to run over and snatch a cookie from the tray while I open the oven door, but for the most part, he waits and waits and waits.
One of my favourite things to do on cold, rainy days. And it’s starting to rub off onto Dean. He loves reading – sometimes I find that he has snuck off to his room and is sitting on his bed looking at books. And there are sometimes that he will come up to me and throw a book at me, then turn tail and run to his big bed and waits for me to follow so I am trapped and have to read him Shiny Trucks fifty. thousand. times. in. a. row. for. the. third. day. straight. But secretly, I don’t mind.
Reading is great for bonding and for mental development. You don’t have to read the words on the page, you can make up a new story to go with the pictures or you can even just talk about the pictures. Dean has quite a few books with 10-12 animals on each page spread and he points to them “Huzzat?” (translation : What’s that?) and we go through the names of the animals. Or I will ask him what sounds the animals make (which when asked “What does the fox say?” he proceeds to dance and shimmy) We talk about the colours of animals. We talk about if they live in a nest or an ocean. If they are soft and fuzzy or if they are scaly. Not sure how much he actually absorbs, but there’s not many better than having him snuggled up against me while we read and listening to the rain outside. (Except maybe a coffee in my hand while doing so…)
What are your favourite activities for the toddler age range?