Playtime with a child doesn’t only mean taking time to sit down on the floor together, pulling out the toys and having some organized play. There are many things around the house that you can use to interact with your child throughout the day as you move about the house together. Whether you are getting ready for the day, preparing food, cleaning, working out of the home, or just relaxing, here are some creative ways you can incorporate interactive play into your daily life with your child:
Learning shapes. Many items around the house have a shape, and pointing these out to your child at every opportunity is a perfect way to help him learn. Here are some ideas:
- Squares – windows, floor tiles, TV sets, cabinets doors, CD cases, books.
- Circles – plates, recessed lights, doorknobs, CD’s, fruit.
- Rectangles – light switches, doors, video cassettes, picture frames, cereal boxes.
As you move around the house, show your child the various shapes. Ask her to find a shape for you. “Find three squares for daddy” is a great way to keep your child engaged with you while you are busy with a task. Show your child how her own toy shapes compare to shapes around her. Hold a circular toy block up next to a doorknob and show her how they are the same shape. Ask her to do the same with her other shaped blocks. Each room will provide it’s own unique set of shapes so your child will always be able to find something new.
Mirror play. Getting ready to go in the morning can be a challenge with a busy child competing for your attention. The bathroom or closet mirror provides a creative distraction that can keep your child busy while you play together as you wash and dress for the day. Here are some ideas for bathroom interaction:
- Funny faces – make some creative facial expressions in the mirror. Ask your child to mimic you. Then let your child take the lead and you try to copy him.
- Funny sounds – make some fun sounds with your tongue, lips, and mouth that your child can copy. You’ll both be entertained as your child watches what his mouth does to produce each sound.
- Facial parts – mirrors are a perfect way to teach your baby the parts of her face. Point to your own eyes, mouth, etc., in the mirror and ask your baby to point to her own. Playing “where’s baby’s ears?” and all the rest of her face is a fun way to keep your baby busy while you get ready.
Mirror games work best when your baby or child can easily see the mirror. A full-length wall or door mirror is perfect; a child of any age can easily interact with his reflection. You can also have your child stand on a stepping stool to see into the mirror at the bathroom counter, or sit your child up on the counter with you if he will sit there safely and securely. Mirrored toys will also work well wherever you are.
Pushing buttons. It seems like most toddlers want to push buttons on whatever electronic appliance or device is within reach, especially if it’s not a toy. Kids are curious. They are naturally going to explore. Instead of repeatedly saying “no no no” to every household item that’s fragile, here are some ideas that will satisfy your child’s fingers and avoid replacing costly equipment time and time again:
- VCRs and TVs – what toddler doesn’t love to get her little hands on these devices? You have two choices; either put it on a higher shelf out of reach, or allow your child to push the buttons but teach her how to do it gently. By saying “no” to something that’s so irresistible, your child is probably just going to be more adamant and aggressive with it. Demonstrate using quiet words, slow movements, and gentle touches how you want baby to treat this and any other breakable electronic devices.
- Cell phones and cordless phones – when kids see how much time parents spend on the phone, of course they’re going to want to copy us. Besides showing your kids how to “touch the phones” gently, you can also teach your toddler what is mommy’s and what is baby’s. Buy your toddler his own toy phone that you can use for a distraction. Try not to leave any real phones lying around within baby’s reach. Keep a second toy phone handy in your car, diaper bag, or purse so your child doesn’t need to insist on grabbing yours. By using gentle but firm phrases like “this is mommy’s phone, and here is baby’s phone” from an early age will help your child learn about possession and respecting adult property.
- Computers – keyboards and mouse buttons are just too tempting for a toddler to resist. As before, instead of always saying no, show your child how to do it gently and properly. When your child gets too rough, a temporary removal from the room will help remind your child how to be more careful.
Overall, kids are going to get into anything that’s on their level. All the “no’s” in the world won’t change this. Simply put breakables up out of reach, and take the time to interact with your child around unmovable items and teach him how to be careful. Trying to teach your two-year-old to never touch the crystal vase sitting in the middle of the coffee table is an exercise in futility.
Color time. Books and toys aren’t the only way to teach colors to your kids. Everyday objects, such as clothing and household items, work great too. As you interact with your child throughout the day, label everything you do with its color too. Here are some ideas:
- Dress for success – many toddlers resist dressing. You can make it more fun by adding color to your words. Instead of saying “let’s put on your shirt”, tell your child it’s time to put on her green shirt and blue pants. Asking her to bring over two toys with corresponding colors will make getting dressed more interesting and educational.
- Outdoor colors – find stimulating colors as you look out the window together. Then ask your child to go find a toy that matches. “Your ball is blue just like the sky” will really enforce your child’s color learning.
- Food coloring – we’re not talking about the artificial stuff. Labeling your child’s food by color will make mealtime more fun. Instead of “eat your broccoli”, a creative “look, your broccoli is green just like the trees outside the window – Yum” is more likely to perk your child’s interest in mealtime.
You can make day-to-day life with your child much more stimulating and educational by simply carrying on conversations and playful interactions throughout the day, even when you’re not actively engaged in play. These little lessons and games don’t take much effort, and will help you build a brighter, more social, and more interactive baby and child.