The world we’re living in today is so different from the one we inhabited with our children just a few short weeks ago. And you know what I can add to the list of changes? Myself as a parent.
I’m a mother of three boys, and I do not do crafts, DIY activities, or “creative mom” undertakings of pretty much any kind. I have always been a “go out and do” kind of mom, and our activities usually included museum visits, city adventures, mountain hiking, travel, even plain old errands out and about with all three kids in tow.
When we are home, I tend to let my kids direct their own play, and I don’t plan much. With the entrance of a new, less social, normal into our lives, all of the sudden each day stretches out before us, longer than the last, with nothing to break it up. It was time for me to explore a new way to approach the day as a mother. In the abundance of online resources we have at our fingertips right now, I was encouraged by an email newsletter from The Parenting Junkie that said, “Maybe you’ll discover strengths you never knew you had,” in reference to these new days we find ourselves in with our kids.
With the entrance of a new, less social, normal into our lives, all of the sudden each day stretches out before us, longer than the last, with nothing to break it up. It was time for me to explore a new way to approach the day as a mother.
Now, never would I say that crafting and creative activities are a hidden strength of mine that were just waiting to be uncovered by a stay-at-home order, but I will say that I’m very surprised by the fun I’ve had shifting gears into creating simple, at-home-activities with my kids. It’s been life-giving for me to do something totally different than my usual bent and to be finding joy in it.
Whether you are a creative queen or wondering how to fill the day with young children sans libraries and playgrounds and people, here are a few simple, creative activities I’ve done with my kids (ages 1, 4, and 6) that we have had a lot of fun with. All of the inspiration here comes from Busy Toddler.
Flatten a large cardboard box and use a permanent marker to draw a grid of streets/roads—bonus points for drawing a few parking lots or round-abouts. My husband and I did this after the kids were asleep for the night so that we could draw the streets in peace. It took us all of 5 minutes, and then we left our creation on the living room floor so that the kids could find it the next day.
Our kids were immediately drawn to it. Have them gather all their cars, trucks, and vehicles for the roads, and then blocks, LEGOs, etc. for building structures like skyscrapers and bridges on their cardboard city. If you have room to leave it out and can tolerate stepping over and around it, I recommend doing so, because we got a good 3-4 days out of the kids gravitating back to their cardboard city to work on it on and off throughout the days.
When my 6-year-old was asked on a Google Hangout meeting with his first grade class about something fun he had done at home lately, I heard him describing the cardboard box road, and it made me so happy.
For this one, grab a large plastic tub, like a storage container. It’s best if this container is relatively shallow so that the kids can reach in and play easily, but use whatever you have around and available. Then, place smaller containers inside, such as different sizes of plastic storage containers and other vessels. Fill those containers ⅔ full with water. Add pouring tools like measuring cups and spoons, and you’re almost ready.
If you have an outdoor space like a yard, patio, deck or porch, you’ll want to set this up outside. If you do not have access to an outdoor space, just spread plastic (like a shower curtain liner) beneath your bin to protect the floor from any water spillage (or work on a surface that is easy to wipe up). Grab your kids and some food coloring, and get ready for the magic of the pouring station. I let my kids experiment with adding food coloring to the different water containers and see how to make different colors in different shades—they loved this part.
If your kids are too young to do that part, or you don’t want them using up all of your food coloring, just color the water yourself beforehand, and they’ll have just as much fun playing with the pre-colored water. Then, let them enjoy using the measuring cups and tools to experiment with pouring, transferring, and mixing the water however they wish, so long as they keep the water in the big bin. You’ll want to be closeby to monitor how they’re doing with this, but it’s really fun to watch them engage with it and be free to experiment.
Painter’s Tape Parade Route
While all three of these activities are pretty quick, easy, and sourced with items already around your home, this one is the easiest of all. Grab a roll of painter’s tape and tape out lines on your floor for the kids to line up all their vehicles, animals, and figurines on, as if in a parade. Be as simple or creative as you want with your “parade route.” Little ones especially seem to have fun with lining up their toys, and this gives them a new, fun way to do it!
As with all things kids, you never really know for sure how they’re going to react to something. My husband and I were laughing to ourselves the night we taped out their “road,” thinking how much our boys were going to think this was so fun. Well, the next day when they saw it, their engagement with it was initially underwhelming. It’s OK to just let something be, for even a few days, and see if it calls to them in a little while. It’s also interesting to see how kids bring their own creativity to a set up; while we were thinking “parade for your toys,” they saw it and thought, “car wash line.” It’s fun to see how setups like this are just a jumping-off point for creative play. If you give kids enough time and space to keep coming back to it, the whole activity evolves as their inborn creativity sparks new ideas.