I really hate calling myself a stay-at-home mom because rarely are we home. The boys and I are always out on some daily adventure filling our heads with new hands on environmental knowledge. Obviously though, there is time when we are home and their little minds still need to be engaged. Here is my dilemma when we are at home:
1. How do I keep them entertained without them trying to kill each other (or me!)?
2. What can they do that is also a teaching tool and may provide some calmness around our always rowdy abode?
3. How can I manage to get some things checked off my own to do list while they are occupied?
Impossible you think? Pretty much, but maybe I can at least get a good half hour, ha!
My thought process in all this went back to when we were researching preschools for my oldest son, Troy. When on the hunt we looked into Montessori schools to see what all the fuss was about. In the process we learned more about the philosophy of the Montessori education and how it is characterized by an emphasis on independence, freedom within limits, and respect for a child’s natural psychological development. In the end we decided a different route was best for Troy, but with my “at home dilemma”, I figured why not just try some of the things they implement myself. With a little online research I was guided in the right direction. I managed to find some independent non-rough housing ideas while encouraging a little down time for my VERY high energy boys. There proved to be many resources out there.
First, here’s a tid bit more about the Montessori concept that I found interesting and exciting while I was perusing. According to the concept a child’s play is their work. Basically, Dr. Montessori taught the importance, backed by her own observation and study, of giving children a lengthy period of time, three hours to be precise, of uninterrupted “work” time. This period of time was determined by Dr. Montessori as the required amount of time for a child to progress into the most in depth concentration and intellectual exploration, which then results in the most significant progression and growth. Dr. Montessori taught that not only will this lengthy, uninterrupted time lead to the most intellectual growth, but equally important, at it’s conclusion it leaves the child with a feeling of peace and calm satisfaction. Did Dr. Montessori know that it would give Mommy some peace too? Three hours! Could you imagine?! I could get SO much done and my kids would be “working” without even knowing it! A girl can dream…
Anyways, back to the task at hand. I was looking for projects that didn’t require an extra trip to the store or any cash. Here are a few that I was able to put together right off the bat with stuff around the house.
Filling to the Line
This one can be done using solids or liquids. This time we used water, which involved pouring, scooping, spooning, and squeezing. I found some beach buckets to fill with water and they had 3 different containers (clear plastic cup, baby bottle, smaller plastic snack cup) that I used electrical tape to make the fill lines with. They had a sponge, eyedropper, washcloth, and a spoon to transfer the water into the containers until they were filled to the line. They both love water play, so this was a major hit. I was especially surprised how well my two year old got the concept and how proud he was when he got to the line. This lesson is so practical and can be applied to many situations in everyday life. It is a useful skill for a child to learn while having fun.
Sensory Mystery Bag
Again, I wasn’t sure how well my two year old would do at this, but he loved it and proved me wrong once again. I found two drag string bags I had gotten as random free giveaways (one big one for my older son and a smaller one for my younger) and put 3-5 objects into each bag. I told them for this “mystery game” they had to close their eyes and pick one item at a time while leaving their hand in the bag to guess what they were holding. All these items were toys that they were familiar with. You could also do foods, things of nature, shapes, etc. The point of the exercise is to help the child develop awareness and recognition of regular solids and other familiar objects while using tactile and muscular senses. At first they kept asking me to refill their bags with new items, but eventually they started filling each others. It was awesome seeing them work together nicely and having fun.
Matching Colors and Numbers
This is SO easy. I found as many different colors of construction paper I had around the house and cut them into squares. Then I labeled 10 larger squares on white paper with the numbers 1 through 10 assigning each number a color. They then had to not only count out the number of squares to the corresponding numbered card, but they had to match it with the color as well. Learning numbers and colors all in one! I figured this would be boring for my four year old, but identifying numbers and colors is something we are still working on with Drew, at two years old. So this turned into Troy being Drew’s teacher and helping him with the task. They sat for a good half hour sorting out all the colors to the numbers. It was as if Drew was fascinated with Troy’s knowledge and of course Troy took it all in with enormous pride. It was too cute to watch.
Here’s another one that takes a team effort, either with you or another child. Troy once again took charge of this one. It took 2 minutes to put together with things around the house. I found a tray and placed random toys in it. You could do other themed trays as well. Using foods, for example, and having them describe the taste, smell, and color. I explained to the boys that they have to take turns giving each other clues about one specific item at a time and the other person has to guess what that item is. First time around I had to be bit of a referee, but after awhile they played it all on their own. This game uses great creative thinking and verbal skills. My boys eventually turned it into hide and seek, hiding the items around the house and then looking for the object that was “orange” or “that roars”. Good times had by all! Here’s a little video of our first attempt (I did a little Drew-gee two year old translating for you).
I hope these few projects help give you a kick start (and some peace) like they did for me. I will definitely add more projects as time goes on and we make our way towards those three hours!
In the meantime, here are some more helpful resources I came across: