Young children love having time with their grown-ups. The key to keeping the time pleasant and productive is to stay engaged with the kid. Pick some activities you both can enjoy to make the most of this time. Use the child’s natural curiosity and high energy to propel both you and the child through each day’s adventures. This is amazingly easy with ten steps to help you think like a kid.
- Go someplace special, like your own back yard. This doesn’t require an investment in expensive tickets. Simply explore the possibilities in front of you. Look for three pretty stones together, or try to find four funny sticks. See how many different kinds of leaves or flowers you can gather. This is a great math readiness lesson and a lot of fun.
See who is creeping through the grass or wiggling around under the ground. Look for ants, worms and other friendly creepy-crawlies. Poke holes in the top of a jar and put a specimen or two inside for a closer look. Don’t forget to release the reluctant guest after an hour or two.
Do you have grass? If the child is awake when the stars come out, lie down in the grass and look at the sky together. Try this first thing in the morning, before the sun climbs too high and hot.
- Use the sticks, flowers, leaves and stones for a creativity session. Children are born creative and need to have this side of their personalities encouraged and nurtured. Use a piece of cardboard or paper and some nontoxic craft glue to create a collage of found treasures. Or dip the finds in nontoxic paint and use them for stamps. Let the child explore his own ideas of what to do with his finds.
Young children like to engage in parallel play with their grown-ups. Encourage the child’s efforts by sitting next to him and making your own creation. The most important thing is to enjoy the activity together without trying to over-direct. The point to a young child’s art activity is the doing, not the product.
- Talk about what you are doing and what the child is doing. Don’t ask what his efforts represent. Instead, talk about the colors and shapes. “Oh, you used red in your picture” or “I see the circle you made” will invite his own comments. Avoid value judgments such as “This is pretty,” and don’t try to guess what the picture represents. Let the child tell you if he chooses.
Talking about what you see, hear and feel is an important component of the way a parent relates with a child. Even a trip to the grocery store can become a learning and play activity when the adult talks about the experience. Ask open-ended questions or say “I wonder...” to pique curiosity. “Why are these apples red?” “I wonder how the beans got in the can.”
- Keep sessions short. Most little kids have brief attention spans and will soon need to move on to another activity. Have a wide variety of possibilities ready to explore with the child.
- Keep moving. Toddlers have a lot of energy and
like to be active. Play games like “Let’s walk like inchworms” or “How
could you walk like a duck?” to spark creative movement.
Practice physical challenges on the local playground, making sure the equipment is safe and sturdy first. Try walking on a balance beam close to the ground. Challenge the child to cross the monkey bars or climb the ladder for a low slide. See how fast he can run from point A to point B.
- Wind down with quieter activities. Make play dough together from a simple recipe found on the Internet. This presents a good opportunity for a simple and quick lesson on measuring. See what happens if you mix two kinds of food color, such as blue and yellow or blue and red.
- Puzzle it out. Choose a simple puzzle to work with the child. Let him place all the pieces, but provide a little verbal help when required.
- Never argue with a tired child. It’s usually easy to tell when the child becomes tired or over-stimulated. If this happens, just take some time to cuddle. Look at a picture book together. Give him his favorite lovey toy for some down time.
Making summer vacation a special time to spend with the child will provide memories for the years to come. Keep it simple and fun, and the child will enjoy learning and playing with you. The time will pass too quickly. Enjoy it while you can by planning simple activities to enjoy together.
About the Author: Brianna Kelly has over 5 years experience publishing articles on childcare education and parenting. She writes on a regular basis for Giraffe Childcare Dublin, who has 18 locations based in