With hot and humid summer days upon us, we’re excited to have a guest blogger sharing some fun and educational ideas for entertaining little ones indoors. Stephanie is a former early education teacher who currently works from home. Thanks for the ideas, Stephanie!
Hi! I’m Stephanie, a stay-at-home mom of a 14-month-old boy. I also take care of a 10-month-old in our home during the week. Before being mom, I taught kinder and first grade for 10 years. Coming up with fun activities that not only entertain but also educate our littles can often be challenging— that’s where being a former teacher comes in handy! On days when my boys are going stir-crazy, I scroll through my mental log of “teacher stuff” for something fun to keep their active minds busy. Here are a few of my favorite activities to get you through these hot (and often rainy) days with your little ones.
[Related: Chalk it Up to Accidental Learning]
Bean Bottle Shaker
When babies are very young, they are learning how to hold onto things and manipulate them independently. This is a vital step in developing gross and fine motor skills. Holding items that make noise is a great way to motivate your baby to work on this skill. There are lots of different household items you can use to make noise makers without having to go to the store and spend a bunch of money (always a plus!). Just fill an empty bottle with a handful of beans and screw on the cap. Tape the cap with heavy duty tape to create a more secure lid. A quieter alternative is to fill the bottle with dry spaghetti noodles (broken in half) or paper clips.
Sorting is an important basic skill kids work on in their early elementary education. At this age babies don’t understand the idea of actually sorting based on “likeness,” but they do love moving items in and out of containers. This is another activity you can make at home with everyday household items. The tray I made was from an old lego box and solo cups. I cut holes into the box and put the cups in the holes, taping them so they would stay. I give the boys different items to put in and out of the trays to keep the activity fresh. Note: Double check that the items they’re sorting are large enough not to be a choking hazard!
I used a mirror in my classroom often to discuss and understand feelings and emotions. I think kids are never too young to start understanding who they are and how they feel. Mirrors are a great tool for this, plus babies love to look at themselves! You can find mirrors that already have fabric around them and are light-weight in most baby stores. I usually put them on the floor below the boys when they do tummy time. You can also put them at varying heights on the wall as your baby learns to pull up, stand, and look at themselves.
[Related: Baby’s Quiet Book: DIY Project]
Ages 1 – 3
When kids are young they want to touch, smell, and eat everything! Having a place where they can do these fun things that also stimulate their brains is a great thing to have in the home. My sensory wall is constantly changing as the boys are able to do and understand more. Some ideas for your wall are posters with pictures and words, fabrics of varying texture, closet push lights and noise makers such as wind chimes.
Gettin’ Dirty (shaving cream, painting, playdough)
These three items can be a kids dream and a parent’s nightmare, but they are great ways to keep kids entertained for a long time— plus, they stimulate creativity. Here are a quick tip to help keep you sane and your house a little cleaner while they play: Put the items in a confined space like a cookie sheet or a bath tub. Make sure to have a clear plan of attack (paper towels!) and age-appropriate boundaries before jumping into the activity. This way, you won’t be scrambling to find clean-up materials as your child flings paint across the room.
Ages 3 – 5
Developing your child’s imagination is a vital part of their development. Doing something as simple as creating a place for a puppet show will entertain your child and give them the tools they need to grow a healthy imagination. I cut holes in an old car seat box and let the boys finger paint on it. Right now, they use it simply to crawl in and out, but once they are a little older, we can turn our box into a farmer’s market, a bank, or a full theater production!
Big handed puzzles and stamps
Students in my class loved stamps and puzzles, but often got frustrated because the pieces were too small. Of course, then I would get frustrated because everything was either a mess or lost. I found a teacher store that sold giant puzzles and stamps with handles, and it was a game changer. You can also find both these items at consignment stores if you don’t want to spend a ton of money. With the stamps, you can use large cookie sheets (yes, they’re my go-to!) to keep all the materials in a confined space.
Have a fun game or activity for littles? Share it in the comments below.