“Laugh,Play and Have Fun With Your Child …..On The Cheap”

by Julie Jenkins Sathe

Okay, yeah…yeah…we all have heard the news, the budget, the economy, we are balancing our checkbooks and buying groceries and it feels like spinning plates in the air. Okay, so things were feeling a bit more flush a few years ago….but these are the years of childhood that your little ones have. Don’t let them go because you are stressed over STUFF. Kids don’t want stuff; they want to do what we all should do more of: living in the moment, laughing at what is silly, exploring the world right in front of us.

With preschool kids and toddlers, this is so easy and you have everything you need right where you are. Nothing to buy, no lessons to sign up for….just a slight adjustment to you and your environment.

1st: Start by putting on your comfy clothes and deciding to have fun.

2nd: Stop bragging about how much knowledge or data or skills your child has developed and just let them enjoy and explore their life, their world.

3rd: Look around your kitchen, backyard and look back into your own childhood. There are probably some clues you will glean.

4th: Quit trying to make a product. Make something, do something just for the sake of the action. Nothing to keep, nothing to perfect, no end result to accomplish. This one shift in your behavior alone will remove the adult pressure that we adults sometimes place on our child’s actions.

Ideas, ideas, ideas

*One bowl, rice and a flour scooper.
From your kitchen drawers, pull out these items. Just sit your preschooler or toddler in a chair and lay out the items. You don’t have to say a thing. In fact, it’s more fun…it’s like a surprise! Your little one will begin in a flurry, or slow and steady depending upon their personality. Stay nearby to see if your child requires some parameters, i.e. “try to pour the rice into the bowl, not on the floor, Johnny”.

* Big bowl, water, liquid soap and a whisk.
Who needs directions? Just sit the child on the floor, table or on the porch and watch ‘em GO!

* One fresh orange, an old fashioned manual juicer and shallow bowl.
You may have to get this started, but a preschool child will revel in making their own real orange juice while developing some curiously new skills and understanding of fruit.

* Two, liquid measuring cups, water and a sponge.
Fill one of the measuring cups (you can substitute for an ordinary creamer) with water. Sit your child at the table with the cups and water and a sponge or rag. Eventually the sponge will be filled and the cups will be empty. Great attention builder and develops very good eye-hand coordination skills. If you want, use a tray with a lip around the edge to collect spills or place all on a folded bath towel.

* Boxes, tubes and cans
Before you recycle, fill up the kitchen table or floor with some recyclables for building and creating. Sit on the floor with your child, perhaps you can provide some engineering assistance.

* Go for a walk
Take a paper sack for your walk with your child. Along the way create a game of collecting things. Maybe you want to start with a theme: leaves, shells, feathers, flowers or even litter. You can make a teaching opportunity out of carefully watching for dangers, washing hands and so forth. When you return home your child’s treasures can be displayed or glued onto a piece of cardboard. Take a photo of your collection and add a caption “Jenny’s Tuesday Trash Hunt” or “Matthews Feathered Friends”. Take a photo and release the collection whenever you feel done.

* Turn off the TV and pack a picnic.

Lay a cloth on the front or back lawn and have a picnic at home. If the weather is gloomy, do it inside! Make eating a fun, memorable time. Don’t let those calories get lost in cartoons or movies.

* Color.

* Paint with water on the sidewalk.

* Play with shaving cream on a Formica counter, tile table or kitchen tray.

* Scoop, pour, stir, whisk…..

Put away the bills, turn off the tube, shut down the computer. Smile, laugh, hold hands and sing songs. These years will fly by, create some memories that you and your child will never forget.