Re: I feel like a horrible Mom, how do I play with my Kids?
I feel like a horrible Mom. I find it hard to sit down and play with my kids. I have two girls - a todder and a baby. GA_googleFillSlot("minti_advice_island_logged_out_300x250"); I sing nursery rhymes, read books and tickle them, but apart from that I'm often stumped as to how I can play with them. I'm finding my patience very short and so sometimes instead of showing the toddler how to do something numerous times, I give up and walk away rather than get upset because I get annoyed - I feel HORRIBLE that I get this way!!!! I tend to let them play by themselves alot of the time and so I feel like I don't spend enough time playing with them, but I have no imagination when it comes to playing, and so I get bored very easily (and when I get bored I get a bit of a short fuse). My toddler is an explorer and often won't stay in one place for long, or play one game for long.
How many times during the day do you sit down and play with your kids? What things do you do? How "long" would these play sessions last? Any other advice or experience most appreciated.
Don't stress! We have all felt like that at some stage. There is not a lot of structured activities you can do with them when they are so young, but you are already doing great things and just "being there" for them is reinforcing their sense of self worth and confidence.
The music and singing you are already engaging them in are great ways to grown the synapses in the brain and children learn more rapidly when 20/20 (you might need to check this beat for accuracy!) beat music is playing in the background softly. When I was doing daycare, my CDO (child development liaison officer) told me how the Wiggles came to be. She was at teachers college with them when they all started learning about how music improves learning - the Greg, Jeff, Anthony and Murray then veered off for form the Wiggles, and a whole new kids' entertainment industry was born. I also had this confirmed by an elderly anunty of one of them I knew years ago.
There is no set time frame for activities with little ones - Generally, babies have an attention span of 5-10 minutes, 1yr olds 10-15 mins, 2yr olds 15-20 mins, and so on. However, each child is different and no one knows their capabilities better than a parent. Use your own intuition and if either child starts to look disengaged from an activity, stop and go back to it later or move onto something different. It is more productive doing lots of 5-15 minute activities regularly than having one big chunk of play time each day.
For babies and under 1s I would suggest things like ...
- Build block towers from tupperware or nesting (plastic) bowls. Watch them knock it over and wait for you to rebuild it so they can knock it over again. Boring I know, but then I realised this is one of the earliest lessons in "cause and effect" for a child.
- Take out your saucepans and some plastic utensils and bang on them as you sing songs
- Make a small house out of a packing carton. Cut holes for windows leaving one side attached so they can be opened and closed. You hide outside and and the little ones hide inside waiting for Mummy to appear at a window. This gets their minds working on the "what comes next" path
- When you are making your bed, let them sit or lay on it and cover them with the sheets. They will aqueal with delight as the billowing sheet slowly comes down over them
- Sit on a rug on the floor with babys' toys spread out. Let him or her see you take one and hide it behind your back then when they are wondering where it has gone, pop it in front againa nd say "here it is"
For your toddler also try these activities, maybe whilst bub is sleeping:
- Thread macaroni or cannelloni pasta onto thick string and make "jewellery" with it. Take it one step further by soaking the pieces in food colouring first to brighten it up. Or go to a craft shop and buy large colourful buttons with big holes in them. This will improve "hand-eye" coordination and colour knowledge as you talk while you play.
- make play dough at home. Toddler can help you measure and pour. Add 2 cups of plain flour to a saucepan with 1/4 cup of oil, food colouring and either fine salt or a bit of disinfectant (helps keep it fresh and germs at bay). Mix well and keep mixing while cooking over a low heat until it starts to form a ball. Turn of heat and remove to it can cool. IT WILL BE VERY HOT at this stage so don't let kids near it!! When sufficiently cool (I poke ti with a knife to check heat level in middle) roll out until smooth. If it is too sticky you might not have cooked it quite long enough. Use plastic cookie cutters to make nice shapes or pretend cakes and have a tea party with her dolls or stuffed toys.
- Take out phone books and make stepping stones across your floor. Mum steps on them in a series and toddler has to try and repeat the order.
- Put chairs together in a single line and pretend you are going on an adventure. Talk to toddler about the imaginary scenery as you "drive" along. Take turns driving. This helps build imagination and conversation skills
- If you have a large glass door, spray the outside with shaving cream and a few drops of food colouring and finger paint. This is great for summer, and you can then wash each other off from a bucket of water
- Grow some flower seeds and let your toddler watch the flowers appear. This will give her a sense of responsibility as she tends her "garden' and watches them grow, of course having to water them along the way. Alternatively, grab some cheap bird seed at your supermarket and sprinkle some on a layer of wet cotton wool on a foam tray. The seed will sprout within days so offers a fast result for impatient little ones!
- Set out say 5 items on a tray. Go through and talk about each one then tell the toddler to close his/her eyes while you remove 1 item and ask if they can tell what is missing. Good for memory.
- Take them walking in the rain or jumping in puddles just after it has rained. Contrary to most peoples' belief - it is medically impossible to catch a cold from doing this unless the virus is already in your system. Afterward, go home and take a nice bubble bath together then cuddle up and have a story or a nap.
- Set up a corner or box at home to put your nature discoveries into and let them show visitors
- Buy some scraps of good quality felt at a craft or habberdashery store then cut shapes out to make your own felt pictures. Cover one side of a firm piece of cardboard with a sold colour as your base board.
- Make cardboard shapes (animals, people, buildings, cars and trucks, etc) and let your child decorate them with fabric strips of different textures and colour and a bitof PVA glue. Can be a bit messy but kids just love mess!!
- Start building a scrap box - keep lids off containers of different sizes, scarps of fabric, tinsel, pipe cleaner, and generally anything you might think a toddler could "make something" with (jsut be careful of small items if your toddler is prone to enjoying a good od chew on small things!)
The key to keeping a toddler happy and building confidence is making sure the lesson behind each activity or game is small enough for them to achieve something from it. Play time is the BEST learning for all ages from birth onwards, as they don't see the educational aspect of it and let's face it - what little kid doesn't like playing with a big kid?!!
Importantly, you don't need to spend every spare cent on the latest toy or craft activity as there is so much you can use around your home to achieve the same outcomes. Plan one new activity everyd ay and before you know it the ideas will flow to you. Most of the activities I ahve listed can start of in the simplest form, and as the children get lder, just make them a bit more complex to suit the level of ability.
Continue what you are doing, lots of cuddle time in between playing and story reading, keep singing thos songs and you are doing a great job!
As well as having 4 children of my own, I ran a daycare business for a couple of years (9 mth babies to 5 yo children) and was constantly having to invent new games or modify what I already knew. Feel free to message me if you want any specific ideas!