What do kids like the most? Of course, there are numerous things kids like, but mostly they love to play. Playing with other kids, their toys and even with you. Play is a vital part of childhood. It is rightly said by O. Fred Donaldson
“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play, children learn how to learn.”
We as parents are the happiest when our kids enjoy their time. But, due to this pandemic situation, we were suddenly confined at home. Kids didn’t get to enjoy their park outings and outdoor activities or even mingle with their best buddies as they did before. This even restricted their play and became quite challenging to keep kids engaged, motivated, learning and acquiring new skills. So, how to engage kids fruitfully while at home?
Being stuck indoors doesn’t mean we have to cut down our fun and learning. Engaging the child in creative play-cum-learning activities, even if it is in a restricted space, will surely help to keep the kid engaged productively, create happy memories to cherish and allow kids to enjoy their favorite pastime i.e., playing.
I will be giving some tips and tricks to engage kids at home, be it during lockdown, holiday or even on weekends.
How to engage kids at home? Things to keep in mind while creating play-cum-learning activity:
“The activities that are the easiest, cheapest, and most fun to do – such as singing, playing games, reading, storytelling, and just talking and listening – are also the best for child development.”Jerome Singer
The brilliant quote mentioned above says it all. You don’t have to invest overly to create indoor activities for your kids. I have mentioned some pointers below to keep in mind while choosing/creating an indoor play.
- Kids enjoy company. Especially, small kids do not like to play alone. Choose an activity which includes participation of more than one person. That being said, the activity should also allow kids to think and play independently and not be too dependent on you.
- Choose an activity which puts the child’s creative brain to work. It should keep the kid busy but not be stressful. Let the child decide on the game/toy to include in the activity.
- Let the activities include learning the necessary and everyday life skills. The useful skills which will help them in day-to-day activities.
- Include activities that develop language and vocabulary. Read them a story, encourage them to talk or narrate a story. For older kids, who can write, ask them to pen down their thoughts.
- Involve them in household and kitchen works. Give them small tasks which are simple and easy to execute. Teach them to cook simple dishes.
- Introduce kids to the outside world by teaching them about different countries, diverse culture around the world.
- Take them closer to nature by introducing indoor/terrace gardening.
- Involve them in games that will improve their motor skills, hand eye coordination and boost cognitive development.
- Involve them in activities that develop communication skills. Let them learn to express their feelings and emotions. Teach them resilience, kindness and empathy.
- Include physical activities like yoga, dancing, exercises that keep them on their feet. Include mind relaxation activities like meditation.
Most importantly, enjoy the time you get with your kids. It can be overwhelming sometimes, but try to use it constructively for both sides. I guarantee, you will cherish every moment spent with them, as lives go back to normal and your kid grows older and becomes less dependent on your attention.
Indoor activity ideas: Fun as well as educational
Play activities to improve language skills:
This is an activity meant as a foundation to improve language learning skills in kids. Use block sets or cutout sets in different shapes and colors. For kids who are still learning to identify letters and numbers, bring in some colorful blocks with alphabets and letters printed. There are many types of sets available in the market from wooden puzzle to magnetic letters.
You can also use DIY cardboard set. Make a sheet with alphabets and numbers in big font. Cut out matching shapes using a sturdy white sheet ( you can also involve kids to color the shapes if they are old enough). Tell the kid to match the cuttings with the letters on sheet.
Once they learn to match basic shapes, try different animal/vehicle shapes as well. Once the kids learn to identify letters, slowly teach them the phonics sound of the letters and how to arrange letters and numbers in order.
Try introducing interactive books at an early age. These books help to guide and improve the kids’ reading habits. Interactive books make story reading for kids very lively and help in cognitive development and improve language skills. It helps in visualizing the story thus improving concentration and memory. Check out the article to know the benefits and tips to choose interactive books.
Involve them in simple tasks which teach life skills:
Make up some simple household and kitchen tasks. It can be as simple as keeping toys in toy-shelf/box after use, keeping cups and plates in place, choosing the vegetables for the day’s dish, arranging their clothes in wardrobe.
Slightly older kids can involve in assisting in the kitchen for peeling and chopping, helping in drying laundry, cooking simple dishes (salads, no-fire cooking recipes). If the kids are interested and smart enough, involve them in some baking activities, making their favorite cookie/cake in different shapes.
These activities though they look simple, require focus and coordination. So, they indirectly help to improve memory and concentration.
In our busy schedule, we usually rush the kids to finish the tasks sooner, for e.g., even a task as simple as buttoning up their shirt or tying a shoe lace, we either assist them or end up doing the work for them ourselves. Let us give them some time and help them learn basic life skills on their own.
Introduce brain development activities to improve learning skills:
They say that almost 60-70% of brain development happens during the first 3 years in a child’s life through play. This does not mean you have to involve kids in complex games/tasks to boost brain development.
Simple activities like playing in sand, making a mess with clay, finger painting, splashing around in water, scribbling on walls/paper or even trying to eat different textured food are all activities that aid in child’s brain development.
As the child grows older, we can guide them to involve in more creative activities books, puzzles, matching games, brain teasers even rhymes and poems. It helps to improve kids’ memory.
Playing education board games, creating a Lego or Mechanix models are all activities that gets your child thinking and exploring new problem-solving ways. These games aid to improve kids concentration.
For older kids, we can also include some interesting math kits or simple STEM creative kits. We should also try to involve them in day-to-day shopping and teach them about expenditure and savings.
Build a connect with nature: Teach gardening
It is very important to get kids closer to nature. Now that nature outings are difficult due to the pandemic restrictions, we can still try to introduce them into indoor/terrace gardening.
Show them how to plant a seed and nurture a plant. If the kid is old enough, let him/her to plant a seed/sapling, water the plant and also make a note of the plant growth.
The joy of seeing a flower bloom or even a tomato/chilly grow is something a child will remember a long time. It acts an essential lesson when it comes to connecting and caring for nature as they grow up.
Benefits of reading to kids are huge, so bring out those books:
Reading books plays a vital role in the early learning of a child’s life. The benefits of reading stories to kids are tremendous. Check out the article below on importance of reading story books to kids.
Reading books helps to improve language skills. As the kids listen to reading and try to understand a story/rhyme, it improves their reading ability.
Reading to kids also improves their concentration. Helps boost memory as they try to recall a story read out to them. Enhances their creative thinking and also family bonding.
It helps in the overall development of the child. So, make it a habit to read to kids from an early age. Engage them in various reading activities and see them grow in many ways. We should make the kids understand the importance of reading.
Story reading and other family get-together activity:
Set a specific time for the whole family can come together and play. These could be like watching a movie together, story-telling time, singing rhymes or songs together. Story reading for kids with the help of props and other gestures is a very enjoyable activity. Playing indoor games like carrom, uno etc.
The idea is to involve every family member in the activity. These help to improve communication and socio-emotional skills in a child which is very essential when he is out in the world.
Watch selective documentaries and TV shows together that teach them about earth, space, wildlife, science and technology. Let them know the importance of conservation. Let them know about WHO, UNICEF, NASA, ISRO and other institutions.
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects:
Invest some time in creative craft activities. Simple DIY craft by using available things at home not only will improve child’s creativity, they also learn the importance of recycling.
Involve in making origami art, a paper boat or plane, simple animal figures. Older kids can try complex origami designs or paper cutting models. Simple miniature models of building or any place you had visited also is a nice way keep the kids engaged. This can be improvised by adding their toys in the model and use role-play (like doctor, teacher). These activities not only are educational but also aid to improve learning skills.
If the kids show some interest sewing, knitting or crochet can also be taught.
Simple science experiments using kitchen/household items also are a great way to keep kids engaged as well as educational. There are many age-appropriate science kits available in the market as well.
Maintain a scrap book/diary:
For small kids, try to make a scrap book with pictures from newspaper or magazines about things that they find interesting or about something they have learnt during the day/week.
Older kids can write about how they spent their time/about their feeling and emotions/even a story of their own.
The basic idea is to make them realize the importance of a well spent day. Let them appreciate people and things around them which is indirectly teaching them gratitude. Teach them to develop resilience which is a very important in today’s world, so that they learn to cope and recover quickly from difficult situations.
Importance of exercise and yoga:
Yoga and exercise are very important for a child’s growth. Today when kids are glued to gadgets and TV and less of outdoor activities because of pandemic situations, physical exercise needs to be included in their routine.
Yoga not only gives physical flexibility; it also helps in many ways to calm and relax the mind. It helps to improve concentration in kids.
Being at home doesn’t have to impact or limit a kids’ learning. How to engage kids at home, might seem like a quite a task but is not so difficult once we give it some thought and sit down to work out a plan. Hope these tips will help you find an activity which is fun and fulfilling to both you and your kid.