Written by Laura Reagan, MS; Photo: Fotolia.com
While you are chasing your toddler around the grocery store or answering your preschooler’s question for the tenth time, an older mom watches you nostalgically and says to you in the checkout line, “I know you’re tired now, but it goes by so fast.” You may be so busy taking care of your preschooler that enjoying them may be a stretch some days. It only takes a few minutes to make a memory, though.
Desiring to give every educational advantage, parents schedule preschoolers for playdates, dance classes, gym time, swim lessons, educational field trips to the hands-on discovery museum, and more. Early childhood is all about learning for sure. But doing so in the context of the parent-child bond is often the most impactful and the most fun.
“Okay, kiddo, let’s schedule some spontaneous fun without any purpose right now! I’ve blocked 10 minutes of unstructured play.” Sounds silly, right?
It may seem counter intuitive to keep a list of possible spontaneous activities to cultivate but the truth is, many of us simply aren’t good at letting go and having fun. Maybe the list below can spark some homespun fun, bonding, and learning with your preschooler. Add to
the list and make your own memories.
10-minute play breaks:
- Play in the rain and enjoy your child’s smiles and giggles.
- Wash the car and squirt each other with the water hose.
- Cook together. Supernanny Jo Frost calls this the ‘involvement strategy.’
- Read books side-by-side on the porch or front stoop, drinking lemonade.
- Combine math and fun, count everything! Count the toys. Count the books. Count the butterflies going by. Count the trees in the yard.
- Sing each other’s favorite songs while watering your yard.
- Lay down on a blanket outside (picnic-style) and watch the clouds go by; tell each other the shapes you see.
- Buy a box of crayons and draw portraits of each other.
- Pack a picnic lunch and go to the park to eat. See where the day takes you.
- Buy bird seed or bread and feed the birds or ducks at your local pond.
- Tell stories to each other with the listener providing the first line to the storyteller.
- Blow bubbles in the back yard.
- Make your own frozen popsicles with your favorite fruit juices and eat them outside. Be sure to let them drip so you have to hose off afterward.
- Turn on the sprinkler in the back yard and run through it, over and over again.
- Paint something, including each other. Body art is very cool.
- Put on your favorite music and rock out together!
- Play a new version of hide-and-seek with water guns. When a player is ‘found,’ squirt them!
- Do chalk art on your driveway or sidewalk together.
- Wash the dog together and squirt each other.
- Watch the clouds again and make up stories using what you see. Praise your child’s imagination.
- Have an arts and crafts day. Works of art can decorate the kids’ rooms or your refrigerator.
- Collect gently-used books and toys to take to a local charity or non-profit that helps families. Learning to give early develops empathy in your preschooler.
- Volunteer together at a local animal shelter or food bank.
- Take an evening nature walk or bike ride together. Why not make it a habit?
- Walk outside in your pajamas and count the stars before bedtime.
Have fun with your little one. As the wise older mom said, “It goes by so fast!”
Laura Reagan, MS, is a family sociologist, parenting coach, and parenting journalist. She can be reached for parenting resources through her website, heart2heartparents.com.