A child’s time playing it the best opportunity for new learning to happen. Children love to explore their environment- no matter what that looks like. Some homes are full of all the toys, while other take a more curated approach with the “less is more” mindset. No matter your home style, there are several tips I have for you to make doing activities with your child enjoyable and self-paced rather than chaotic, making you want to pull your hair out.
Prepare Your Materials In Advance
Many of the activities in the Language with Everyday Objects series comes with visual directions for activities. Use the materials list to gather your items prior to starting. Set all items in the work area. You may want to pre-measure some materials if your child is only in the “dump” phase. By having everything in one area you won’t have to worry about running around looking for items during your child’s precious moments of attention. This will keep your child engaged AND you calmer.
Prepping Shouldn’t Take Longer Than Activity
There are so many beautiful activities for children on Pinterest. But the fact is- if it takes you 20 minutes to prep and the child spends 5 minutes doing/using it, it wasn’t worth your time. Choose activities that have quick setup. Also, don’t be afraid in asking your child to “go get” materials to help you setup. This way they are involved and it is an engaging activity instead of you doing all the prep.
Look For Projects That Can Be Used Again
One of my favorite examples of this is from our Garden week in the Language with Everyday Objects Series. We started off the week by making a rain gauge. The next day we made a soda bottle watering can, that we filled using water from the rain gauge. Then the following day we made grass in a cup and planted some herbs. We watered all of them using the soda bottle watering can with water from the rain gauge. By creating each of these is a specific order it allowed us to use them multiple times over the week (and beyond).
Think About Your Language Focus
Do not try to incorporate ALL of the language skills at one time. My recommendation is to chose 1-2 and be mindful in using those skills. For instance, if I am making the rain gauge I might focus on requesting using core words and specific vocabulary. Then as we observe the rain gauge after a storm I shift my focus to “more/less” and measurement vocabulary.
Plan On Going Slow- Don’t Do A Project If You’re In A Rush
We’ve all been there- grab the hand, paint and slap it on the paper to make a cute gift. But for language-focused activities wait until you have at least 15 minutes to honestly devote to it. If you have the time you can make yourself take a pause, breathe, and focus on each step. You’ll also be more willing to let your child get involved and make a mess.
Prepare For The Mess
Messy is not bad! It is your child’s way of fine-tuning their fine motor and hand-eye coordination skills. The trick is to prepare in advance for it. Throw a towel on the table or ground. Know that all of the ingredient won’t make it into the bowl. THAT’S OKAY! The trick is to teach your child that the activity/recipe isn’t over until the clean-up has happened. This teaches children to complete a routine- setup, activity, cleanup. It also teaches them a responsibility of living in a home.
Keep Items Out After Structured Activities
Finally, don’t be quick to put the crafts and activities away. Leave them out so they can use them in independent play later on. In our home we have two spaces for our child to play. During the Everyday Language Series I put the previous weeks activities and books upstairs while I put the current weeks activities and books downstairs. This allows the child to continue having exposure to the vocabulary even when you aren’t doing a structured activity.