So often today, children of all ages are spending large quantities of time with eyes and minds glued to TV, game system, or an electronic device. While in an of itself, these pastimes have benefits, they should only be used sparingly. Research has repeatedly shown the adverse effects both to hearing and vision and more recently to mental acuities such as decision making, social interaction skills, and creativity. But, suggest many parents, what else is there for my child, especially a young child, to do? Many parents are stressed with jobs plus homemaking and don’t want to take the time to help young children with “old fashioned” activities, mainly because there can be “a mess” involved. However, lots of time and mess do not have to be part of “fun inside” activities. Here follow some ideas for creating engaging, inexpensive, mess proof activities parents can provide for their young children:
Before listing some specific activities there are several ideas that will help eliminate a lot of set-up time as well as mess.
If possible, have an area (can be just a corner of a room) where young children can build, create, and imagine. A small table and pint-size chairs are nice but colorful pillows with clipboards for hard surfaces work well too. To make the area seem more private and special use low bookshelves or wooden crates (you can ask for crates n the produce department) to give the appearance of walls. Supplies and building toys such as blocks, Legos, and children’s books can be kept on these low shelves. It is important for children to have a place to “put things away” as well as to “organize” their belongings. Small bins or baskets are great for keeping groups of small toys such as mini-cars, Barbies, and plenty of paper, both plain and colored. Scrap paper with one side clear works well. It is helpful for each child to have their own small container (shoebox will do nicely) for their own box of crayons, glue stick, washable markers, blunt scissors, and pencil. Other personal items such as stickers, pencil sharpener, and ruler can be put in the box as well. Young children do better when they have their own supplies and can also be held more responsible for the care of items when the items belong to them.
Tips for keeping “mess” to a minimum include having an old shower curtain or sheet handy to put down in the play corner when something messy might happen such as playing with playdough or cutting paper. Just shake debris off when the project is finished. A container of wipes helps for quick clean-ups, especially of little hands. A small wastebasket should be handy and can be something as simple as a large chip can decorate with stickers which the children can do. And for the big “messy” projects such as brush, sponge or finger painting, have the child put on their bathing suit and use the bathtub or shower stall as their art room. When all is finished, just wash any resulting mess away. For sit down activities an old tee-shirt, backward buttoned shirt or child’s cover-up apron is a good idea.
Some fun inside activities include:
–playdough (see part one of this series for homemade recipe)
–collage with cut-up magazine pictures, paper scraps, ribbon material, and yarn pieces, stickers, fingerprints, and tissue paper pieces
–creations with crayons, chalk, washable markers, colored pencils, colored-pens, stamps, and washable ink
–glue creations with toilet and paper towel rolls, small plastic tubs such as yogurt or applesauce cups, paper or styrofoam cups, corks, thread spools, toothpicks, oatmeal and salt containers, coffee grounds, rice, and container lids
–pipe cleaners, straws, and twist ties,
–colored sand (use sandbox sand and mix with food coloring)
–baking, both cooking and no-bake recipes, try animal and face ideas for salads, sandwiches, and pancakes
–paint with watercolors, washable poster paint, fingerpaint, colored washable glue, and whipped Ivory Snow soap
The above activities are a start to help get your creative juices going as you enjoy indoor activities with young children. Be sure to read the next blog in this series to learn fun activities you can do outside with young children. And remember, the most important activity is to “have fun’ at any age.