When Chicago's stay-at-home order began, like many parents I wondered how we would fill so much time at home with my 22-month-old. Even as a stay-at-home mom, this was a daunting task! I decided to get busy using my elementary-education teaching background to create basic plans for exploration and make the most of our time together. As we draw near the fall and probably another step toward increased distancing, I hope to empower parents with ideas for simple play at home. Creating memories at home together is the first step in your child’s education, and can be done with minimal materials.
I believe in learning through play, exploring child-led curiosities and interests, and exposure to as much language and color as possible! Through the eyes of a child, everything within your home is a learning tool! Getting creative with some basic items will encourage hours of play and create lasting memories. Below are some of my favorite materials for our projects, arts and crafts, all of which are pictured and detailed on the Instagram account, @raisingminimoss.
[Related: How to keep your kids active inside]
Pom poms: These fuzzy balls are so visually exciting! Use these for color sorts, toss and catch, or spooning into muffin tins. Tape paper towel rolls to the wall and create a pom pom drop! Squish some into a kitchen whisk and have your little one use their pincer fingers to get them out.
Contact paper: This one-sided sticky paper has filled hours of fun and crafting with my 22-month-old! Stick cotton balls to it and make a sheep or bunny. Use tissue paper scraps to make a suncatcher. Feathers can turn the contact paper into a beautiful bird! My little one loves going on a nature hunt and displaying her found leaves, sticks, and flowers on the paper.
Dot stickers: These are the basic ones you can find at the office section of your favorite store, and they can be used in so many different ways! Fine motor skills are practiced when removing the stickers from their paper, hand-eye coordination is practiced when sticking them on a line. They can be great for color sorts and matching activities by putting uppercase/lowercase letters or numbers on them.
Bubble wrap: Write letters or numbers on the big bubbles and have your child pop it as you call them out. Wrap a rolling pin with it and roll it through paint—the print is amazing! Paint it and use it as a stamp to make prints of honeycombs or sheep’s wool. My little one’s favorite is to simply put it on the ground and jump. Talk about gross motor skills!
[Related: How to celebrate kids' birthdays while social distancing]
Paint: My favorite is Crayola Washable Paint. I love it because it washes out of everything, but I still keep baby wipes on hand for quick messes. We love “random object stamping”: pine cones, dried flowers, or even sticks from outside. The bottom of a celery stalk stamps like a rose and apples and citrus fruits make beautiful prints. Forks make amazing prints too, like lion’s fur!
Recycling: Take a look at what you are recycling, and upcycle it! Your toilet paper rolls can become binoculars, stamps, or slides for toy cars. Empty tissue boxes can become a bed for dolls, a sorting bin, or with a few rubber bands it can become a guitar.
Sensory play: Sensory play encourages motor skills, scientific thinking and problem-solving, and is so much fun for exploration! Shaving cream, popcorn kernels, and even shredded paper can provide a great sensory experience to explore. Toss in a few small toys and have your child fish them out. There are lots of taste-safe options, too: yogurt, Jell-O, Cool Whip, food-coloring-dyed spaghetti noodles, ice cubes and even dried lentils.
Beyond these projects, reading, singing and sharing nursery rhymes encourage language skills. Your young child’s brain is a sponge! Use books as a springboard for projects and talking about various topics. Include your child in at-home chores such as laundry sorting, stirring and mixing in the kitchen, and pulling out pots and pans to make instruments.
Take advantage of this time together and make some special memories. By seeing the world through your child’s eyes, you, too, will develop a sense of wonder and creativity! Allow yourself to be empowered by your own ideas—you and your children will be glad you did! And when in doubt, just dance!