Friday, 1 March 2013

Keeping a one year old busy...

Our little girl is a bundle of energy... she literally never stops. As her 'Bestafar' (Grandpa) in Norway always remarks: "she can't sit still for 5 seconds"... and its true... she is ALWAYS busy (wonder who she gets that from?!)

One of the challenges, I have found, of parenting in our society is the whole 'entertainment' culture. With screens left, right and centre, ballet classes, swimming classes, music lessons and sports teams on offer for children as young as one, is it any wonder that our teens and tweens are suffering a perpetual case of the 'I'm bored!' syndrome? The temptation with Ava is to have a constant stream of play dates/stick her in front of the television/go on trips out all the time. The problem with these options is that they are either totally impractical, really bad for her, or just plain old unsustainable, and the biggest problem with them is that they move her away from learning to use her imagination and amuse herself. Let me just stick a disclaimer in here - I think all of those things are GREAT. Ava has lots of friends who come round to play, she does watch some television and we do enjoy going out for trips together... but I think our culture encourages us to fill up our time with these things SO much, that we've forgotten how to be content at home, how to encourage our children to independent and make up their own imaginative play

So I thought I'd share 5 activities that have worked for Ava this week... Five things that have enabled her to play independently for at least half an hour so that Mama can clean/get on with jobs/crash and read Kindle because baby brother/sister is breaking my back!

Here goes... I'm sharing in the hope that some of you might share back, and because, lets be honest, we all could do with a little help sometimes with coming up with stuff for our little ones to do that doesn't involve our having to be ON them the whole time!

1. Street Chalk Art
You need: 
A bit of pavement
Street chalk (large chunky chalk - can be bought in Wilkos, Tiger, ELC etc)
Clothes that you don't mind getting a bit dusty

This is GENIUS stuff. When the sun appeared on Wednesday, Ava and I headed down the garden and I whipped out the street chalk and spent about 5 minutes drawing whatever she asked for (the usuals - cat, lion, bike, butterfly, dog - always in that order!) She was pottering around me "adding" her creativity to my drawings and then really got into it... she played for about 45 minutes after that on her own, doodling away in all these different colours, covering herself in chalk and generally having a whale of a  time. I, meanwhile, grabbed myself an orange juice, placed a chair in the sunshine and read my Kindle (yes, there were 101 other things I could have been doing - but I'm 39 weeks pregnant and sometimes a girls gotta just sit!) Warning: Do not attempt to tell your child that it is time to put the chalk away, as this will result in full blown, stamping feet and wailing paddy... be prepared that this activity will be SO loved, that you will never be able to escape it!

2. Playdough Fun
You need:
Playdough in assorted colours
Utensils that make patterns - e.g. toy fork, toy spoon, toy knife
Some kind of oilcloth/PVC table cloth

This has been my discovery of the month. Give a child a pot of playdough... let them spend 10 minutes taking it out of the pot and putting it in again repeatedly, then another 10 minutes breaking it up into tiny pieces. 3 minutes trying to eat it, discovering it doesn't taste very nice, and spitting it out again (phew - lesson learned!) and then another ten minutes probing it with assorted child friendly utensils. Once you have done all these things, your child has entertained themselves for over half an hour (with only a little intervention from Mama when she heard the "yuk" and spitting noises!) you then remove pot of playdough and offer another pot, in a different colour, and child will think "oh! A new activity" and the whole process begins again. We had 8 pots of assorted colours. Ava played happily for over an hour and a half, and Mama had the most productive afternoon ever!!

3. Make Believe with Miniatures
You need:
Childsize versions of things you use regularly - household items/vehicles/babies - anything goes.

One of the big things I am learning, is that there is nothing Ava loves to do more, than imitate me. I know that this is a short phase and stage, and so I'm going to make the most of it. In a few all too short years, this girl will be making her own way in the world, and so I'm going to enjoy this little season where she WANTS me to be her role model (not that I'm claiming to be a great one!)
If I am dusting, she wants to dust - so hand her an old cloth. If I'm cooking, she wants to cook - so hand her a plastic bowl and spoon. If I'm caring for her needs, she wants to play "mama" too, and will spend literally HOURS feeding her babies, changing their nappies, taking them for walks or trips in the car... quite often, she will announce she's off to the shops with baby in buggy and a basket over her arm and will ask me, quite seriously, for the car key, before shouting "Tschuss!" (Bye!) as she heads out into the hallway. I have found her reading to her babies on numerous occasions, potty training them and teaching them to walk... I have also found her telling them off and even teaching them to say please and thank you. I LOVE watching her letting her imagination run wild... just go with their interests and let them be creative - it's fascinating and oh so very important!

4. Book worm...
You need...
Books, books and more books
A library card

In our Bible study on Wednesday morning, we are currently working through a parenting book... one of the things it was asking us to think about this week was what our family values are. What is important to us as a family? One of the things that I have really wanted to instill in Ava from a young age is a love of reading.
For that reason, we have read to her pretty much since she was born. It's hard to know whether the love of books she has now is a result of that, or whether she had an inbuilt love of books that meant that she's always been a positive listener. Either way, we've been through all the stages - stare blankly/eat the book/turn the pages at 100mph... and finally it seems we're ready for stories and we are LOVING it. More to the point, she will sit on her own and empty her book box, gradually, book at a time, turning pages for around 45 minutes... She won't sit still that whole time. She'll sit on the beanbag and read, turn the box upside down and try and read while sitting on it, climb into the box and read (?!), read to her babies, read on the sofa, read on the potty... but she's reading, and she's amusing herself, and she's learning that Mama can't always entertain her, and that still pictures can be just as enjoyable as flashing ones that change angle every 5 seconds.
And you DON'T need to own a ton of books to do this - get a library card, and make it a fortnightly trip out. That way you get constant new stories and don't have to pay a penny, OR find somewhere to store all those books!

5. Building
You need:
Some kind of bricks (duplo, megabricks, lego, stacking blocks, Brio blocks - anything will do!)
That's it!

Blocks are a recent discovery in our household! Ava received Megablocks for christmas and at first she eyed them with suspicion, got frustrated that she couldn't click them together properly and would end up asking us to build everything for her. However, there's been a real development, and after a lot of building input from Papa, Ava now has got the hang of it and will do it quite happily and independently. In fact, its become our favourite activity.
She builds all sorts, and most of the time, its totally and completely unrecognisable. I was quite impressed by this chair though...

If you don't own any bricks, go get some! They are TOTALLY imaginative, and great for that hand-eye coordination... they will require some input until your child knows how they work, but boy, is it worth it!

Those are the discoveries we've made so far in 2013. Any of you had any great ideas for independent and imaginative play that has minimal adult input??? Comment me below... I'd love to know about it!

1 comment:

  1. Lauren used to sit for ages with a shape sorter. She also had the little people (tikes) house and ark that she played with for hours. You can pick them up quiet cheap from ebay. Or jigsaw puzzles x


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