‘I’m running out of ideas’ is a common complaint you’ll hear from many parents because, let’s be honest, keeping young children entertained for longer periods of time can be quite a challenge.
Children have short attention spans and you cannot expect to see them sitting quietly in a corner drawing for hours, on their own. They need engagement and a parent to play with on a long rainy day when they cannot go to the park and have fun with other children.
Instead of dumping the kid in front of the TV, which can miraculously capture their attention for hours, a parent should always try to come up with creative activities. It’s not just about doing something to pass the time, any sort of creative activity has an educational value, even if it’s not that obvious to a grown-up. Children learn through play!
Here are some ideas for creative activities your little one will certainly appreciate:
All you can cut and glue
If your child is competent enough to use safety scissors let him cut out various shapes of colored paper. If not, prepare some shapes, the more varied the better, for them.
Challenge your kid to create their own design by gluing various colored shapes on a sheet of paper. It can be anything – a dog, a robot, a house, a space alien.
The point of this exercise is to encourage creativity so allow the child to use his imagination freely. What if the ears are too big for the head? It’s his alien after all, isn’t it?
A glue stick, paper, and whatever materials you have around the house can provide countless hours of fun. It might be a good idea to raid an arts and crafts store to buy cheap materials your child could use in his art projects.
Instead of cutting shapes, you can cut out pictures from an old magazine and have your child make up a collage – on his own or following a certain theme like:
- Choose only (predominantly) yellow images
- Collect all the smiling faces
- Imagine a new city using pictures of buildings
- Create your own zoo
- Decorate your dream house
This allows your child a fair amount of artistic freedom while still following instructions, a very useful skill for school. At the same time, kids learn colors and how to distinguish between images.
Tip: Make it fun! As an adult, you might be frustrated that the teddy bear image the kid placed in his dream room is way bigger than the bed. If you want to help him improve his sense of proportion poke fun at the idea of the teddy jumping on the bed and crushing it. The kid will get the idea and won’t feel ashamed for making a mistake!
Spend some time in your garden or the park and collect leaves, flowers, twigs even grass. Give them to your kid together with a glue stick and let him create a nature collage. You’ll be amazed how impressive such a simple collage can be!
Let there be colors
Paint and color pencils are a parent’s best friends as there’s no end to the activities you can do with them
Finger painting – you can buy that or make your own paint using this recipe.
Teach them how to use the thumb to draw a head and the little finger to make ears and let them be as messy as they want!
Mix various colors with water and teach your child how to safely take some with a straw and blow it on a piece of paper. For smaller kids, it’s best if you splash some paint on a piece of paper and have the kid blow through the straw to create a design.
Back and forth painting
A wonderful activity for the two of you. Start by drawing a simple thing – the shape of a house or a play area. Pass the drawing to the kid and have him add whatever he wants, a dog, a car, a spaceship on top of the house. When it’s your turn again draw a ladder for the alien to come out of their ship. You can engage your child to create a story together or just draw silly things – an elephant sitting in the car.
An excellent activity for a beautiful fall day. Take a walk in the park and collect fallen leaves of all shapes and sizes. When you get home you can dip each leaf in paint and press it against a sheet of paper. You can create complex patterns or put them on separate pages. While you’re at it, explain to your child all the different trees the leaves came from and write the name on top of the page. (Never waste an opportunity to teach your child the alphabet, this is how they will eventually learn how to read!)
Make stories together
One of the easiest mess-free activities to entertain your child and stimulate his imagination is wordplay. There are various word games you can play together, to help your child improve his vocabulary
Opposites – you say big and the kid should say small, tall-short etc. For young kids use ample gesture to emphasize the meaning of each word
Word association – each player should come up with a word somehow related to the one the other player said. For instance, if the kid says car you can say fast, red, big, wheel, driver, basically anything that has to do with a car. If one says red, the other can add apple, heart, ladybug, you get the idea.
Made-up stories are a lot of fun. There’s no need for a plot, it can be as silly as possible, actually try to make it really crazy. `A little girl went for a walk in the wood’ is a good starting point. What happens next is up to your imagination.
This sort of games will help your child later in life when he will have to write all sorts of things as part of his homework.
If you have any sort of toy instrument around the house make up silly songs together. Have the child bang on the toy drum while you come up with ridiculous rhymes. Or you do the playing and have the child make up the words.
Music is great for the development of a child’s brain and allows him to express himself when he is too young to know how to put his feelings into words.
You can alternate between these activities to make sure the kid doesn’t get bored. If there’s something he particularly enjoys set some time in your schedule for that particular activity every day… until he gets bored with it. If this happens, drop it and let a few days go by before proposing it again.
Always keep in mind the first rule of creative activities – there are no rules. Whatever the child wants to do in his art project it’s fine. You don’t want to stifle your child’s creativity in any way, that’s the school system’s job!
Last, but not least, give ample praise to your child’s art projects. No, not every doodle is a masterpiece but your preschooler is certainly trying his best and should be praised for it!
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