For most of us, this season is shaping up to look much different than year’s past. While many large gatherings and perhaps even some special traditions we’ve come to treasure aren’t on the calendar this month, here are a few fun and simple ways we can still make the most of this time of year within our own homes.
- Game night. Whether you have a closet full of board games or just a deck of cards on hand, getting the family gathered around for a game is one of the best ways to connect and be together. For the youngest age group, a quick internet search for free bingo printables is an easy way to jump into games when number recognition is still developing. Early elementary kids love games with rules, and there’s often quite a bit of hidden learning, such as math, logic, problem-solving and language, depending on the game. Board games and card games with older children and teens can increase in complexity and duration as their attention spans continue to develop. When looking at games, consider whether you’re a “party game” family or prefer strategy set-ups instead. If you’re missing game night with your big extended family this season, here are a few options for playing virtually that are worth checking out!
- Make a mess … and some memories. Doing things outside of the normal day-to-day is often what ends up making experiences so memorable. Choose an activity to get the family involved in and do it BIG. It could be baking cookies and other treats or something else fun in the kitchen, like homemade playdough. Break out the paints and glue and all the crafty things and let the kids loose on a project. Ease stress about the mess-making by preparing and selecting the supplies, surfaces and clothing ahead of time, if necessary, before involving the little ones! The end results, regardless of activity are much less important than the process, freedom to play and create and the time laughing and connecting.
- Solve a mystery. 2020 in our home will long be remembered as the Year of Scavenger Hunts, stemming from the initial springtime quarantine. At 5 and 3 years old, my kids live for the thrill of solving these little riddles. Write and number your clues as easy or difficult to suit your children’s development and attention spans. Get creative! A treasure at the end adds always adds a little extra motivation!
- Bring on the books. Books and read alouds are part of our everyday rhythm in our home, but there’s something even more magical about snuggling up over a story this time of year. There are advent readings and book options to fit just about any family’s holiday observances, celebrations or interests. Finding a couple seasonal novels to read together each year is quite special. If you find yourself needing to add to your collection, YouTube, free apps such as Libby and Overdrive via the Metropolitan Library System and Vooks are my top 3 favorite resources for instant access to digital books!
- Busy little hands. With a more of our time being spent indoors, having a rotating “invitation to play” is pretty helpful for little ones with energy to spare. A sensory bin (or just a simple plastic tub) with a new filler every few days tends to keep my own kids occupied for long periods. Think: colored water or brewed tea, stale cereal from the pantry, a bag of dried rice or beans, epsom salt, baking soda, etc. Add something for scooping and containers for filling. Try freezing little plastic toys or holiday decorations in containers of water, then offer some warm water and droppers/basters or kid-safe tools to chip away and melt the ice to “free” the items. A towel or sheet underneath can catch the mess and be thrown in the wash after.
Lauren Herrell is a native Okie and UCO grad with a B.A. in child development. She resides in Oklahoma City with her husband and two young daughters. As a homeschooling mama, Lauren is passionate about weaving art, nature and play into learning. Follow their adventures on social media @scissortales.play and tag her if any of these tips add a bit of fun to your family!