By Bianca Pong
Now that spring is here, it’s time to let go of your winter blahs and have some fun! Playing is not only a great way to spend time together, it’s also a fabulous way to help your child develop motor, linguistic and cognitive skills while interacting with other kids.
So turn off the video games and get creative with these 10 inexpensive, easy-to-modify, fun-filled activities:
Make Play-Doh: Kids love to feel the squishiness of clay between their fingers and create new shapes over and over again. Making homemade Play-Doh is not only fun while you make it, but it is also a great opportunity to incorporate a lesson on measurements. This is an activity to do at home and can be put away for later use. You’ll need 1 cup of salt, 2.5 cups of flour, 2 packages of Kool-Aid, 2 cups of boiling water and 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Mix together salt, flour and Kool-Aid. Add boiling water and vegetable oil. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Paint pet rocks: All you need for this is some paint and your child’s imagination. Take a trip to a park or even your own yard with your child and pick out some smooth rocks. Ask your child to paint his or her favourite animal on the rock, and wait for it to dry. Invite other children or siblings to join in this activity and lend a hand. Help your child create a home for it out of a shoebox or even place it in the garden.
Have an indoor/outdoor picnic: Part of the pleasure is in preparing the food. Choose easy-to-make food—such as sandwiches with tasty fillings, fruit kebabs, or celery sticks with peanut butter or Cheez Whiz—so your child can help. It’s okay to get a bit messy; in fact, that’s part of the fun. If it rains on the scheduled picnic day or if accessibility is an issue, you can have the picnic indoors and still have a great time together.
Hold a scavenger hunt: Find 10 small treats or toys, and attach a clue to each that will lead to the next “hidden treasure.” Hide them around the house, with one special treat—the biggest one—for the finale. The child can read each clue, or you can read them aloud. You can be flexible and imaginative with this activity: for example, play dress-up with your child and disguise yourselves as pirates for the hunt.
Go for a hike and draw: Visit a forest where you know it is safe to walk or where there’s an accessible path to introduce your child to the great outdoors. Bring along pieces of newsprint, paper and crayons, and find a beautiful spot to sit and draw what you see. You can chat about the scents of the forest and the sounds of the birds, watch joggers or cyclists on the trail and feel the texture of various leaves and tree trunks.
Have an old-fashioned lemonade sale: A simple recipe for lemonade is 1 cup each of lemon juice, sugar and water. Create a stand out of a large cardboard box or a low, colourful tabletop that a child in a wheelchair can park beside or behind. Set it up in front of your house or at the park where there are other parents and children. Remember to bring a stool if needed and a small container for money. This is a great way to meet other kids and parents in the neighbourhood and raise money for a favourite charity.
Put on a finger puppet show: Write a story with interesting characters to go along with the plot. This activity can help your child learn new adjectives and descriptive language. After the story is finished, make a puppet stage out of cardboard. Draw faces on your fingers with washable markers. You can either put on the show, let your child act it out, or do it together!
Plant veggies: Visit your local grocery store or greenhouse and buy seeds or “starter plants” to grow your own vegetables. Pick a sunny day and plant the seeds in your yard or in a pot. You can incorporate a science lesson, and remembering to water and weed will teach your child responsibility. This will also encourage your child to eat vegetables, especially if you have grown them together.
Create or buy your own kites and fly them: Spring days are perfect for kite flying. Get easy-to-follow instructions on how to make a kite at www.instructables.com/id/Easy-Paper-Kite-for-Kids. Materials needed are wooden dowels, paper, tape and string. A lightweight kite will require at least eight kph winds to fly, so check the weather conditions before you head out. Open parks, beaches and fields are the best areas to fly a kite; avoid places with a lot of trees and power lines. Stand with your back against the wind, lift your kite and let the wind catch it. Be sure to get a feel for the wind yourself before encouraging our child to try it.
Build a birdhouse: You’ll need a milk carton or pop bottle, a wooden stick or twig, a piece of string, scissors and some birdseed. Depending on your child’s needs, this activity may require supervision or help. Cut a square out of one side of the carton about two inches from the bottom, and two small holes on each side (large enough to fit a twig through) about two inches from the top. Fit the stick or twig through the holes, then tie the ends of the piece of string to each side of the twig. Fill the inside of your new birdhouse with birdseed, then hang it from a tree. Now you can watch as different birds visit the birdhouse and research about
Bianca Pang is an intern with the Publishing Certificate Program at Ryerson University in Toronto. She has worked as a primary/junior teacher with additional qualifications in special education and visual arts.