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If you’re like me, time management can be a challenge. A busy schedule often leaves me feeling like I’m missing out on important moments with my child. In those times, I have found that quick play is better than no play at all. In the midst of even the busiest days, meaningful, spontaneous playtime can be created by taking a break from your daily routine with short, purposeful connections that will also result in quality time spent together and learning. These breaks can strengthen your child’s social, emotional, physical, and intellectual skills.
Here are 10 quick and fun ways to integrate play into your day and get a much-needed break from your routine…
What’s That Smell?
Scents create strong memory connections in our brains. This fun guessing game will prompt memory recall and lead to purposeful discussions about our sense of smell. Saturate cotton balls with various liquid scents from around the house. Use substances like vanilla extract, lemon juice, vinegar, perfume, etc. then let the guessing begin. Ask your child to smell each cotton ball and watch their facial expression as they recall memories of scents, good and bad.
The Great Toy Hunt
Gather a few toys of various sizes and hide them. Time your child to see how fast they can find the toys. Next, let your child hide the toys for you. Compare your times and talk about who did it faster, where the toys were located (high/low, above/below, in/out), and what the challenges were in finding the toys. In just those few minutes of play, you will be aiding in your child’s knowledge of time and comparison vocabulary.
Flatten out some playdough and gently press the sides and feet of plastic dinosaurs into the dough, making imprints that resemble fossils. Exercising those small muscles in the hands is important for writing and properly holding items. Stretch their curiosity for science by talking about the dinosaurs and how scientists find fossils on the Earth. You may have a young archeologist in the making!
Make Cleanup a Game
Can cleanup time really be playful? Absolutely! Sorting items presents a great way to introduce categorization and grouping. Make a game of sorting toys by category (color, size, type, etc.) into containers. Before you know it, the toys are cleaned up, your child’s mind has been challenged, and you have spent time with your child in a purposeful way.
Get the Wiggles Out and DANCE!
Simple. Fun. Silly. All you need is a favorite song and a willingness to let go. Clap along with the music and now you are teaching rhythm and even the basics of syllables, an important reading skill. By moving with your child, you are engaging them in muscle development, which is essential for coordination.
So much can be learned about math and science in a sink full of water. Add some measuring cups, spoons, and bowls to have some fun with math. Or, add items that sink or float for some science play time. No time for a sink full of water? How about a few bowls of water and some food coloring? Mix in a few drops of different colors of food coloring to create a new color (e.g., red and blue make purple).
Sensory Play with Letters, Shapes, and Numbers
On a kitchen tray with edges, place a thin layer of uncooked rice. Use your finger to trace letters, shapes, and numbers. Now, let’s extend this play with purpose. Make connections between letters and letter sounds that are in their name. Talk about the shapes in your home and trace them in the rice. Count the number of people in your family and trace that number. This is all about your child making connections to their world and learning from a playful interaction with you.
Stack It Up!
Who can build the highest block stack? Maybe even the highest book tower? What about a tower of plastic animals? Stacking small items will work those small motor skills. This simple game will help your child with pre-writing skills and dexterity.
Cotton Ball Race
Straws and cotton balls are all you need to make a fun race on a table top. Mark a start and finish line. Simply blow through the straw to push the cotton ball to the finish line. Need more of a challenge? Place some cups or toys in the path of the race to maneuver around. Using our breath and expanding our lungs aids in the development of speech patterns.
Good Night Yoga Poses
Doing 10 minutes of yoga together before bedtime can give you and your child some much needed stretching and stress relief before shutting your eyes for the night. Use poses you already know or let your child make up their own crazy pose. Imitate their moves. Tap into their creativity by asking them to name their pose. You might even get a good chuckle out of their response. What a great way to end the day – all stretched out and smiling.
Spending quality time with our children is important to all of us. You can create playful, yet purposeful, moments that foster memories beyond childhood. Take a 10-minute break from your routine to play. Enjoy the time while they’re still young because the days go by all too quickly.