Who doesn't want to keep their kids entertained until bedtime mercifully arrives? Really, do any moms feel the urge to raise their hands? Boredom equals bad behavior, so we avoid it like the dirty diaper stuck to the bottom of the pail.
But our obsession with overscheduling may stifle organic learning opportunities. You'll be surprised by what your child absorbs when you leave your wallet, cellphone, and watch behind. It's all about perspective, soaking up the bounty we often ignore in a rush to get to the next gymnastics class. Here are 5 everyday activities that will enrich your kids more than you think:
1. Don't be so quick to get out the door. Giving your child time to get dressed is invaluable. It gives her a sense of independence and personal accomplishment ... and lets her show a little creativity and flair. Take it a step further and ask her to separate her clothes by color or size to work pre-math and pre-science skills. If you're not rushing, it could lead to costumes, role-playing, and even a production! There's real beauty to witness when kids have the chance to slow down in the morning.
2. Bake and have a picnic. Baking enriches your child's life in so many ways. You can discuss the ingredients, where they come from, how they interact (mini chemistry lesson, anyone?). Let your child feel the different textures of the ingredients, get playful and messy, and throw on a chef's hat. She will learn simple measurements, new vocabulary words, practice counting, and follow directions. You can eat your creation at a picnic (indoors or outdoors) ... and teach your child about etiquette with a little imagination.
3. Make errands fun. The grocery store is a ripe environment for learning. You can have so much fun with the scale in the produce section. Grab a bunch of grapes and ask your child to guess if they weigh more or less than one pound. Ask her to put apples in a bag and weigh them until they equal one pound. She will have to add and subtract ... and you will get some shopping done while she's counting apples.
4. Create art. Throw caution to the wind and create! Don't put crayons and paper on the table and start dinner. Change it up! Break out the messy paints, put huge pieces of paper on the floor, whip up some Play-Doh. "Whatever the activity is, make sure to first explain that there is structure to it," said Jeffrey Lipsky, visual artist, lecturer, and former Arts Education Director of Munroe Center for the Arts in Lexington, Massachusetts. "Set up engaging fun with different materials and then clean up. Creating art with your child teaches him how to share and excel in a non-competitive atmosphere." It also helps develop problem solving skills, self awareness, patience, and confidence, according to Lipsky.
5. Get outside. Tap into your sense of wonder. Remember what it felt like to watch ants marching in line, listen to birds chirping, examine the veins flowing through different types of leaves. Breathe. Whether you choose a nature walk, scavenger hunt, or quiet observation in the yard, spending time in nature with your child always provides fertile ground for enrichment.
What's your favorite activity to do with your child?
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