During warmer months it is easy to send kids outdoors for some fun in the sun and fresh air. Bike riding, tree climbing, soccer, hopscotch, and dozens of other outdoor activities provide children with hours upon hours of creative play that is healthy for their bodies and mind. Less than favorable weather such as rain and extreme cold may present a problem at times though and moms need to get creative in helping their kids to find productive play activities. In an age where video games and TV can easily become too important in a child’s life, many parents are reluctant to encourage these things. Luckily there are many alternatives for parents that want to stress productive and creative play rather than mindless screen time.
Help Them Make Believe
Pretend play is particularly important for a young child’s development. It helps them to develop their critical thinking and communication abilities. The great outdoors provides a grand stage for this type of play but parents can facilitate make believe any time with just a few clever props. A box of costumes can create hours of pretend play fun as your kids pretend they are pirates, fairies, knights, or even characters from their favorite movies and books. Homemade forts also provide an excellent opportunity for kids to imagine they are playing in a log cabin, a castle, or a tent. A simple sheet draped over a table can provide hours of fun and creative play. We have an indoor/outdoor teepee that my kids love.
Instead of toys with lights, sounds, and movement give your children some basic toys that they can use to build and create. Legos and wooden blocks are usually very popular among kids as they can spend hours creating virtually anything they can come up with. I highly recommend marble runs. My boys adore them, as seen in the photo above. Take some pictures of their creations and help them create a photo journal to record all of their inventions and accomplishments as mini architects. Post them to Facebook and help them feel like a celebrity.
Play kitchens and play food can also provide hours of creative play as kids pretend to cook their favorite meals and serve their family. Even an item as simple as a playsilk can be used as a flag, as part of a costume, as a sail on a boat, or a doll sling or hammock. Give them the raw materials and watch them create!
Forget video games what about old fashioned board games, card games, and the like? There is no time like the present to teach your kiddos to play Gin Rummy or War. A deck of cards is cheap and the fun can last for hours. Break out the dominoes and let them line them and knock them over to their heart’s content. There are also some amazing cooperative and educational board games on the market. In the former category I recommend Ticket to Ride and in the educational games category I recommend WildCraft.
Books for Homegrown Adventure
For younger and older kids it is great fun to read a book aloud and ask them to re-enact it in a play or with puppets. They can build the set, create the costumes, and then act out the part of their favorite character. If you have a video camera handy you or an older child can record these performances to let them view later and to create memories that the whole family will treasure for years.
For children that insist on TV time perhaps you can strike a deal asking them to select a movie that originated from a book and then after they read it you can all watch the movie together and discuss how the book and movie compared.
These are just a few of the ways that parents can encourage creative and productive play and leisure within their children.