I have always tried to do lots of crafting and activities with Amelia, but now that Wills has joined our little family the time that I used to have to devote to crafting and playing with her has significantly dwindled. I make a point of carving out time in the day for her, but there are times when it just isn’t possible. It felt awful to keep having to tell her “Mummy’s busy right now”, “I just need to sort William out”, or “Not right now, I’m making dinner”. So I have put together a few activities for her that I know will keep her busy for those short periods of time when I can’t interact with her fully. As well as being fun and distracting, most of these activities also have an educational value, which is something that is important to me.
As you will see, none of these activities require any special kind of artistic skill (check out my not-so-brilliant puppets!), and I literally managed to throw them all together in one evening. So instead of telling the kids “I can’t right now” why not try “Would you like to choose a busy bag?”
Cars & Roads
This is so simple it’s almost cringey! I literally cut some vague road shapes from dark card (really, any old colour will do!) and stuck strips of tape down the middle to resemble road markings. I robbed some little cars from Amelia’s bedroom, and hey presto! Cars & roads! This activity allows kids to use their imagination to create all kinds of different road formations, and then drive their cars to wherever it is they choose they’re going that day (Nana’s house mostly, anyone else?!) The activity also allows children to practice their motor skills and pattern making by putting the pieces of road together to form, well, roads. The beauty of this is that you can add to it anytime – if Amelia fancies adding a roundabout tomorrow, it’s just a circle of card! And if you fancy getting really into it, why not cut out some roadside additions like trees and animals, or street signs. Go nuts!
I love how simple but really educational this activity is. I chose to use the letters of Amelia’s name as we are currently working on recognising and copying her name, but you could literally use any letters for this. The foam letters used here are self adhesive from Poundland, and come in a huge bag. The ramekins I have used have been collected over years of eating way too much cheesecake (Gotta love a cheesecake) but I had actually intended on using paper cups. Obviously, this activity helps with letter recognition, which is great for moving on later to phonics.
Make A Puppet
As you can see, my fabulous artistic skills are totally on display here (it was late and there was wine!) In hindsight, and for the next batch, I will probably use some kind of template, or print pictures from the computer for this activity! Again, this can be thrown together in minutes. The bag simply contains some lolly sticks, a stick of glue, some character/animal shapes, and some stickers for decoration. I would advise with this activity making one together, so that you can show them where to put the glue (on the stick, by the way). Once you’ve done this, just let them go wild. I used stickers that we had lying around from old kids magazines (you know the ones). Once a few puppets have been made, and you have a little more time on your hands, you can then create a little puppet show together (we like to do this at bedtime in lieu of a bedtime story). Letting kids use their imaginations to create stories out of basically nothing is such an important part of their development. Not only will you be encouraging their creativity and imagination, but an activity like this promotes oodles of confidence in their own abilities, something which will serve them greatly throughout childhood and later.
There’s not really a huge amount I can say about this activity, other than for some reason this is the one activity that Amelia will spend ages and ages with! It is exactly what you see; some poorly drawn shapes on lolly sticks! I put two lolly sticks side by side, and using different coloured Sharpies drew shapes so that half was on one stick and half on the other. Using different colours promotes colour recognition as well as shape, and once again, the sense of achievement when they match a pair works wonders for confidence levels. Any kind of puzzle or matching game is also great for problem-solving skills and memory, something you will notice to be of great benefit when the kids start school.
Letter & Number Caterpillars
No particular reason for the use of caterpillars here, except that Amelia likes them and I like hearing her saying it wrong (don’t judge me!). This activity works on a multitude of levels; in much the same way as the lolly stick shapes activity, matching the pairs is a great game for confidence, problem-solving and memory. As well as being a simple matching game, this activity also helps with letter recognition (again, we are focussing on Amelia’s name right now, but you could use any words or letters) and number recognition which is great for kids who are counting and moving onto the next step of knowing a number when they see it, and even further to being able to depict that number (for example “That’s a number 5, here are 5 fingers”)
Create a Play Space
For those of you making do with small homes, be it a flat or house, I’m right there with you! Rental and property prices anywhere vaguely south of the country have made it virtually impossible for us to afford anything bigger than our current 2-bed 1st-floor flat. Coupled with both of us now looking at working from home, and a massive desire (mine mainly) to have a space that (at least in the evenings) is kind of kid free, what I was ending up with, put bluntly, was crap everywhere! Creating a play space has not entirely eliminated that, and that’s fine. But what is does mean is that while I am doing whatever I need to do, Amelia knows that the play space is her busy bag space, so for those 15-or-so minutes I know that she will only really be in that area, thus eliminating me looking up from making the dinner to find that she has trashed the whole flat in a fit of boredom! Luckily our kitchen is strangely big for a small flat, so our play space is at the end of the kitchen far away from any hot things. In the evenings, with some clever hidden toy storage, we are able to push the living room door to and pretend for a blissful hour before we inevitably fall asleep that we have a nice, tidy, grown-up home!