Some fun, creative, and simple ways to help little ones pass the time with purpose.
With summer vacations just around the corner, lots of parents are asking themselves just how they’re going to keep their little cherubs busy all summer long. Without resorting to screens, and with a little imagination and inspiration, we have some ideas to help you ensure that those days at home can actually be a blessing in disguise …
Bake a delicious treat
We’re not looking for any “Top Chefs” here; stick with a basic recipe, especially if it comes straight from grandma’s cookbook, as you can have the opportunity to talk about family traditions while baking together. Let your children crack those eggs — even if it means adding a few extra minutes fishing for those stray pieces of eggshell — and let them get their (clean) hands dirty by making those cookie dough balls. The sense of achievement they will feel having created something certainly outweighs a messy kitchen. Once the cooking is done, sit down together to appreciate your efforts.
Simple recipes: Look to those Junior Masterchefs for a bit of inspiration for quick and simple recipes, or the Food Network has some kid-friendly recipes to get your mini-chefs started.
Go for a walk in the rain
Get those rain boots and raincoat on and go singing in the rain! Most young children love using an umbrella, so if you have one suitable for a child don’t forget to take it with you. While out and about, take the time to examine those magical rain-resistant spider webs, the creepy crawlies taking shelter, or play who can find the biggest puddle. Then schedule a warm bath, PJs, and snuggles under a blanket.
Indispensable accessories: Target has a great range of children’s umbrellas and boots — just don’t forget to pick out some waterproofs for mom and dad.
Create a family tree
You can get inspiration from looking through old photo albums, and high school yearbooks — kids love to see their parents when they were young, particularly with those often questionable hairdos. If you’re not sure how to get started, there are plenty of models on the internet. All you need is a big sheet of paper, some colors, and scissors, then let your history lesson begin. (Make sure to save the family tree as this often comes up as a school project.)
Family-tree models: There are plenty of family-tree models on Pinterest to inspire you. And if you’re an adoptive family, check out these ideas. If you are making an actual tree, why not get a lot of green paint, in different shades, and make your own fingerprint leaves!
Create a family fresco
Picasso once said, “All children are born artists,” so help your child get creative by letting their imagination and their paint-filled hands run wild. If you have an old white sheet, either place it on the floor or hang it on a wall (just make sure you have sheets of plastic to prevent any spillages) and get painting. The whole family can get in on the act, and if you’re lucky, the final piece may even deserve a place on your walls.
Useful tools: An old sheet, plastic covering to protect the floors and walls, and paint … lots of it!
A little sorting
We all put off sorting through our children’s things, but if you get your little ones involved, you can also teach them the importance of gratitude and charity. It’s important to take the time to explain the nature and purpose of this big sort. Not only is it an opportunity to finally find floor space, it is also the time to give to others. However, be careful with toys your child may have sentimental attachment to; in those cases, you’ll need to wait until they are really ready to let them go. After the negotiations, sort into three piles: to throw, to give away, to store for later use.
Donations: With the items you want to give away, turn to your local parish, St. Vincent de Paul, or Catholic Charities, among the many other charitable organizations.
Reenact a favorite Bible story
Bring out your child’s inner thespian with a little piece of Bible theater. You can start by choosing the story you’d like to enact — from the Nativity to Noah and his animals entering the ark two-by-two — then it’s time to rummage in the closets for the perfectly imperfect outfit. Encourage your children to find their own props to bring the story to life, including toys, and if you are lucky they will spend a lot of time rehearsing, ready for their final performance in front of the whole family.
Sources of inspiration: There are lots of sites with favorite Bible stories for kids to help your children choose, but this one from the Christian site the Doorposts Blogs categorizes stories according to your child’s personality.
A reading session in mom and dad’s bed
On a particularly rainy day, there is nothing better than curling up in mom and dad’s bed with a pile of favorite books to read. To add atmosphere, you can always make use of the surroundings: if there’s a scary book you can read it under the covers for extra security; or if it’s a fairy tale, mom’s bathrobe will make the perfect gown.
Good books: Especially with young children it’s better to keep books short. You can read your own favorite childhood books, or why not turn to religious books on saints, or got to this site on wholesome books for children that are sorted into age category.
Create a botanical scrapbook
If you know you have days of rain ahead, get prepared by sending your little botanists out in advance to collect as many different leaves from different trees as possible, as well as petals from flowers (remember to tell them not to go into their neighbor’s garden to pick their flowers!). Then when the rain arrives they can get sticking their important finds in a scrapbook. By dedicating an entire page to each leaf or petal they can then include any information they can find about it. Younger kids can be happy trying to draw around the leaf, while older ones might want to trace over the leaf to pick out any patterns. Children can also paint any leftover leaves and use them for the family tree above!
Activities with leaves: Once more Pinterest has some great ideas for kids to get busy with their foliage.