Here’s Lisa Jarmin with some tips on becoming one of those Pinterest mums… ish.
Listen, I know how it happens. When you’re pregnant you’re full of good intentions about all the fabulous Blue Peter style things that you plan to do with your future child at home. Then you have the baby, discover a level of exhaustion and apathy that you didn’t know existed, and before you know it you’re spending every day slumped on the sofa in front of CBeebies, entertaining vague fantasies about Mr Bloom and where you’d like him to stick his veggies.
Setting up activities for toddlers can be soul destroying. It seems like wasted effort when they never seem to do what they’re supposed to and create so much mess. But, as any good foundation stage teacher will tell you, it’s all about the process not the end result, and mess making is all part of the learning experience. Where to start though? How about here, with this list of six activities which combine great learning outcomes with minimal effort and maximum smugness:
Cutting and Sticking
Why? It’s great for motor skills, helps to develop hand eye coordination and promotes creativity.
How? Don’t rush out and buy everything in Hobbycraft. You only need safety scissors, Pritt Stick and lots of stuff in different colours and textures cut into small pieces. Use whatever you have at home – envelopes, bubble wrap, old clothes, and provide larger pieces for your child to cut up themselves. Let them stick everything as haphazardly as they want. If you’d like a more focussed activity, buy some of those big cardboard letters in their initials for them to decorate. The end result will look really crap. Deal with it.
Why? Aside from the sensory benefits, this is going to teach your child about capacity. Train them to say the word “capacity” in front of your least favourite playgroup mum for extra smug points.
How? Take every container, saucepan, cup, ladle, spoon etc you can find out into the garden. Fill a washing up tub with warm water and sit back while your child pours, stirs, empties and splashes to their hearts content. Haven’t got a garden? Cover the floor with towels to soak up the splashes, limit the amount of water, and do it indoors. Try adding food colouring or bubble bath to the water. Then dump in a load of sequins and let your child fish for them with a tea strainer. This is also quite therapeutic for you, should you be feeling particularly close to the edge.
Why? This is all about taking turns and working together. It also provides a space for role play after the den is built.
How? You will need sheets, sleeping bags, cushions and pegs. Discuss the den that you want to build: How wide? How tall? Drape sheets over furniture and help your child to secure them with pegs. Fill the den with sleeping bags, cushions, toys and bowls of novelty crisps. Now your little darling can play in the den, leaving you to sit under a duvet eating Frazzles and stalking people on Twitter. Result.
Why? Playdough is amazing for strengthening little fingers. This activity also encourages creativity, role play and mathematical thinking.
How? Google a playdough recipe and replace a quarter of the flour with cocoa powder. It takes less than 5 minutes. You can do it. This makes the most deliciously chocolatey scented dough (just be vigilant and don’t let anyone eat it). Provide a fairy cake baking tray, paper cake cases, cookie cutters, plates, candles and other decorations. Hold a birthday party for one of the teddies and count out the right amount of candles for their age onto a cake. Make endless pretend biscuits and cakes. Just don’t get it on the carpet as that is a fast track to losing your shit.
Why? This teaches your child about weighing, measuring, reactions, hygiene, where their meals come from, and kitchen safety. It also gets the buggers out from under your feet when you’re making tea.
How? We’ve all made cakes with our kids, but letting them help you to cook meals is a revelation. Give them safety scissors or a blunt butter knife for chopping, let them add ingredients to the pan and stir, or if you can’t supervise that closely, give them their own pan full of cold water and vegetable peelings and let them pretend to cook on the worktop next to you. Encourage them to smell and taste everything and get them to help you with weighing and measuring. If you make pizza, they can do every step on their own, and there’s an outside chance that they might actually ingest a vegetable because they’ve made it themselves.
Why? This teaches children about the changing states of water, cause and effect, and is a great sensory activity.
How? You can go two ways with this:
- Freeze things the night before (ideas: ice cubes, a superhero inside a bag of water for your child to rescue, water in rubber gloves to make hand shapes, you can even freeze paint in lolly moulds to use in art activities the next day). Let your child explore the frozen objects using warm water to defrost them or spoons to scrape the ice.
- Freeze things with your child. You can make ice decorations by freezing water with food colouring, sequins and small toys in baking tins with a loop of thread to hang them by, or try freezing different liquids to see what happens.
Either way, this activity is going to remind you that you desperately need to defrost the freezer. Sorry about that.
Now, take the kid out to the park for half an hour and give yourself a high five for a) leaving the sofa and b) doing something vaguely Pinterest-worthy today. More Frazzles and Mr Bloom for you, you absolute winner.