As a stay-at-home Mom, nurturing, entertaining, teaching and caring for my boys is literally my job. And I've got to be honest - I love it. I love watching my boys play, and hearing them tell stories about all the fun they had that day. I love when they learn how to do something new, and get so excited about the small things that we adults have long forgotten are amazing. And it's going to be really fun this Summer, not just at the events and activities I listed tomorrow, but right in our own backyard as we play and create!
The play sometimes is more structured; from time to time we'll do something that involves instructions, like making nature collages, corn syrup + food coloring butterflies, or face sandwiches.
This is an important part of play, since it helps them to learn new techniques, it provides a goal for them to work towards, and helps develop their ability to follow directions. Playing Simon Says, or even simple card games, and doing activities like planting seeds for your garden can be fun and educational for your kids.
Sometimes the play is a little more free. Sometimes, all I do is provide the supplies and see what the boys dream up. We paint the fence with water, we draw on the chalk table, we build block towers as high as they can go... This is an important part of play, too. This is where we watch the kids adapt, and figure things out on their own. It can be hard for some parents to sit back and let the kids take over the art projects. We may be tempted to guide their finger painting efforts so that the picture looks as intelligible as possible. But sometimes the kids just need the chance to do things their way. And when they're ready, their way will improve.
Sometimes the play is totally unguided - I sit back and watch my two oldest boys make up their own game and laugh at the things they come up with. Some of this play is based around shows they've seen, or stories they've heard (there's a whole lot of My Little Pony going on in our house right now...). Some of this play is re-enacting things that they've done in the past. This is where we learn :) This is when we get to listen to what is in our kids' heads and hear how they see the world. This is where we find out that our kids know that if the trout is black we have to put it back in the water, and that the stars are made of gas and are on fire in the sky. This where we can also hear things that need correction, and work our correction into their own play, as we guide them, instead of being harsh and rebuking them for something they didn't know was wrong. It's super important to listen to our kids, for so many reasons. Watch them play, and then get in there and play with them too!
And lastly, sometimes the play is messy. And it needs to be that way sometimes. We need to let our kids dig in the dirt. We need to let them stir the cake batter. They need to learn the worms are slimy, that dandelions can be picked and that puddles should be splashed in.
They need a chance to be loud and dirty and wild. And sometimes the cookies won't look great, and you'll have egg all over your floor, or the face sandwich you wanted them to make is just a mound of chocolate chips and raisins, but trust me, they're learning, and they're likely having fun :)
Here's a quick list of some activities to do with the kids in your own yard. Lots of these fall under the 'more guided' category, but if the kiddos lose sight of making anything of sense out of their craft, follow their lead, and let them learn the way they want to!
Collect rocks and then paint them - either do with a theme, like monsters or bugs, or just see what they come up with!
Blow paint blots with straws to make splatter art
Make little dots of paint on your paper, then once it dries, use a pen to draw on each dot, making it into a creature of some sort
Put paper down in the bottom of a Tupperware container or tin, add some blobs of paint and a marble. Let the kids tip the container to roll the marble around and spread the paint around the paper.
Add food coloring to bubble solution and blow the bubbles against a large sheet of paper taped up on your fence
Color on coffee filters with markers, then spray the filters with water, letting the ink bleed. Once the filters dry, twist the bottom of the filters together and wrap with a pipe cleaner to make a flower.
Pick up all the sticks in the yard and make a pile of them
Do a mini scavenger hunt - try naming as many different things for the kids to find as possible
Dig in the dirt
Rake up leaves
Just through the sprinkler - all of you
Water plants with a watering can
Maintain a water garden
Fill a kiddy pool with water and see what things in the yard float, and what will sink
Buy ice cream when the ice cream truck goes by
In the home:
Write letters/make cards for people, just to tell them you appreciate them
Make cut-out cookies and ice them together
Let the kids crack the eggs :)
Make face sandwiches - spread peanut butter or cheez whiz on bread, and let the kids top it with a mix of chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, sliced celery and carrots, raisings and dried ramen noodles.
Color your food different colors, just for fun (green eggs, pink milk, etc)
Make up popsicles together
Make mud pies
Go puddle jumping together
Do face painting - they get to paint yours too
Walk the Plank - set up a board on a tarp filled with jello, cooked spaghetti, or corn flakes - walk across, or else!
Slip and slide - again with the tarp, this time on a hill, covered with soap, and keep the water coming!
Mrs. VanderLeek ;)