I remember the rainy day I came home from school in my childhood. It was the peak of monsoon and the weather forecast predicted continuous rain for three days. The schools and offices were declared off. Phew, intermittent electricity and home bound!! I had run home where my dog was waiting at the front porch. And then we had three days of non-stop fun at home. How did we do this? No gadgets, no television (thanks to the power cut). Well, good old days!!
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And sometimes the answer is just that – good old days. Simple, rustic, good old days. And now, let us fast-forward to the present. We load our houses with every possible amenity and comfort. Our houses are filled with games, books and craft material and still, why are we idle? Why are we in dark when we scout around for activities to keep our children busy? My children’s room is messy, cluttered. But that is where all the action takes place. Here are few tips to engage the children at home.
First things first, forget that you can delegate any activity to your child and walk away with it. We need to get involved with him/her right from the beginning till the completion of the activity. Let the child inside you out. Be excited, energetic and silly. And be prepared for the mess and the subsequent cleanup.
Copy and draw: This is one of the most engaging activities which works for all children. Decide on a drawing, simple or complex, based on your child’s potential. Start drawing the outline on your paper, the child will follow your stroke and will start drawing on his/her paper. Enhance the drawing, add more landscape. Finally color it. The child will initially follow you, later at one point of time, will spin off his/her own creativity into the drawing. This activity does not need any skillset as it involves simple strokes and coloring. Take my word, the child will not get up till he/she will complete the picture.
Little Gardening assistant: Gardening is something every child enjoys to the core. They enjoy the mess of the mud, the fragrance of the flowers, the responsibility of carrying the water to the garden. Have some pots in your balcony. Get some seeds and make your child plant them. Make them water the seeds every day. Look at the joy on their faces when those little plants sprout up. Make them trim the garden with the scissors. Let them paint the mud pots. Your garden will be colorful and your child, a blissful gardener.
Teach them Imagination: Take a chalk and draw a road on the floor. Draw an outline of the road and the lanes. Draw an intersection and round abouts. Ask your child to fill in the next with his/her toys. They have to make a busy city road out of the outline. Sit back and enjoy the creativity which flows in, with their little cars, buses, shops, malls and what not!!! Give them old cardboard boxes, newspapers and lots of glue. Let them build their own buildings, let them roll up the newspaper sheets and make their own bridges. Let the creativity flow!!
Kitchen assistant: The favorite place for every child. Standing next to his/her mom and act all responsible. Ask them to arrange the fridge, peel vegetables, knead the flour, pour the mixture into the baking tray, they will comply readily. My mother used to ask me to dry and wipe all the washed vessels and arrange them neatly on the rack. I used to love doing it. Children get a sense of being ‘grown-up’ in the kitchen. Let them enjoy that moment. Just one simple rule, stay away from the gas and other sharp items.
Simple Craft activities: There are so many DIY activities available online. You can pick few of them and start making them with your child. Photo frames, fridge magnets, mask painting, pot painting are few of the activities.
Science Experiments: This is a fabulous activity to engage your child in. Take something simple, do not get into abstract concepts yet. Take something, which changes color, texture or state. Record their video when they are doing the experiment. Then play it back to them. Ask them to record what they did, if they cannot write, ask them to voice record it. Keep playing it to them. They will love it.
Reading: This is an excellent way to engage your child. If they cannot read a story, take a one page print out from the computer. Let them read, at least 10-15 minutes a day. After they read, make them draw. See the benefits. See the comprehension building up. See them confidently pick up a book in a few days.
Simple Recipes: Teach them simple recipes like popcorn, raita, salad, sandwiches. Let them be your helper first few times when you make it. Then let them record the instructions. Next time, they will have to follow the instructions without you. Let them make their own snack once in a while. Let them host a party for their friends.
Pottery: Messy but fun. Have a pottery set at home. Sit with them and let them enjoy the squishing, rolling and pulling the clay. Let them shape the clay however they want to. They will laugh and rejoice, they love the smell of the clay and the mess they create all around.
Outdoor Sport: Every child should have one physical activity in a day. They have to be engaged in one outdoor sport, and this done not necessarily mean classes. Cycling, scooter, swimming in the apartment pool, football and cricket with other friends. Or just play in the park running around. This is very much required to calm them down. Allow them to have fun.
A guided tour on the computer: Teach them wonders they can do with the computers. And this does not include video games or YouTube. Teach them how to make a ppt, teach them how to type something on word. Teach them how to paint.
Board games : Simple board games like carrom board, Ludo or snake and Ladders will engage both the child and the parent. They will develop a strong bonding with the parent.
These are just few of the activities which I have listed out. The central idea is to keep it simple and engage them in what you enjoy doing. You do not necessarily need an outing, a movie or a play zone to keep your child involved. Understand, they like spending time with you. They would like to spend all their day with you, if given a chance. As parents, we are their first role models. We can shape them, the way we want to. We can inspire them, by letting them watch what we do.
And looking back, may be that’s how we grew up. We watched what our parents did. We have all helped our mothers in the kitchen. We have helped our fathers carry water from the hand pump to the house. We have watched them water the plants, arrange the newspapers, their clothes and their music cassettes. And we learnt. We did not have as many options as our children have these days, but we learnt. May be that’s what we need to teach our children. It is not necessary to have gadgets, expensive toys or to go to the play zones. Let them go to the park and figure out what to do. Let them jump in the muddy puddle or mess their hair up in the sand pit. Let them kick the ball so high that it breaks someone’s window, let them jump into the pool and splash water all over.
Let them be, and you be with them. Live their childhood, re-live yours!!!
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