8 Activities You Must Do With Your Toddlers and Preschoolers This Year
With my first son, I planned activities for him every day when he was a toddler—walks, playdates at friends' houses, visits to indoor gyms, toddler-friendly crafts, spontaneous picnics on the living room floor, and swimming–just to name a few. I was fanatical about filling all his waking hours with something.
Is it a second child syndrome? My second child, now 20 months old, has had a few playdates, plenty of food messes on the floor masquerading as “craft” (more a result of baby-led weaning where he fed himself yogurt, fruit, rice, pasta from a young age), and has gone swimming once. He spends most of his day playing cars, trucks ,and trains with his brother, riding the bike, going up and down the slide at the playground, and occasional trips to the toy store, but this is nowhere near the kinds of things we did with his big brother.
As a family, we have been to zoos, gone bush walking in Australia, visited a science museum and an aquarium, and run around in plenty of parks, but vacations are not an everyday occasion.
So for 2014, I am putting together a list of things I'd like to do with my toddler (and as a family). If I write them down, from the simple to the more involved goals, I feel like I will reach that goal of making quality time the focus of the new year while also engaging my toddler as he begins to become even more aware and interested in his surroundings.
1. Go to the beach.
Play in the ocean in the summer and build sand castles in the cooler months! Enjoying the beach in each season is possible. As long as you bundle up and talk ahead of time as to expectations for the visit. Take them on a seashell hunt one afternoon and host a fun toddler version of relay races or soccer on another visit. Think ahead, keep it simple, but have a plan ready to go to make it fun each time. Leave your books and e-readers at home to ensure you engage with your child.
2. Take a nature hike during each season.
It can be easy to get consumed by life and not get outdoors and explore with your kids, enjoying what each season brings. Find a favorite trail and note the changes you see happening as the seasons progress. If you happen to live in a place where your seasons do not change much, then make a commitment to get out to a new hiking trail or hidden gem like the one pictured above each week or month. Make it a little extra fun by creating a toddler/preschool scavenger hunt. Have them hunt for specific shaped leaves, large rocks and small rocks, caterpillars and butterflies – simple things they might already know that can keep them engaged as you hike together.
3. Fly kites and picnic.
Pack a basket of the children's favorite food and drinks and have a picnic outside while flying kites. This is a great activity to do with older siblings. Bring pinwheels for your littles if they get bored with the assisted kite-flying that is likely needed. It's a great alternative for something to blow in the wind that they can control independently.
4. Have fun in the kitchen!
Starting early cooking and baking with kids is a great way to bond with your kids. Sure, your littles can't chop and slice just yet, but there's plenty that they can do!
Get your toddler to help bake cookies and cupcakes – they can pour ingredients, stir and spread icing with small appetizer spreaders. Allow them to help you roll out pizza down and sprinkle the cheese and toppings on your homemade pizza.
There's plenty of ways to involve your young one and it's a lovely way to engage them in the meal making process while spending quality time.
5. Play in the rain.
Stop worrying about getting dirty, being too wet ,and having them drip all over your floor. Break out the camera, snap a few photos while watching them enjoy the puddle splashing and feast your eyes on the wonder that comes from dancing in the rain. It is worth it.
6. Explore the library together.
Show your child the magical world of books through the library. Find one that offers a great space for reading, offers an interactive story hour perfect for toddlers, and computers just for them. Allow your child to put the books up on the counter and hand the librarian your library card so they can feel the pride that comes from checking out a book. Make it an adventure of exploring reading in a variety of different ways, planting the seed that will create a love of books and stories as they grow.
7. Let loose and get boogeying with dance parties!
Make the morning breakfast prep routine more fun by throwing on some kid music and dancing in the kitchen. Teach your child to love cleaning up while bopping around to music as you throw toys into their bins. Have a dance party on a really cold day when you can't get outside, to burn off some energy. The key is doing this together, laughing and being silly.
8. Go to a petting zoo
When you head to a place where children can safely get up close and personal with animals they have the opportunity to learn about animals in a different way than a traditional zoo. You can use these visits as teachable moments about respecting non-domestic animals as well as enjoying a variety of different animals within their habitats. Pack a lunch and make an afternoon of it! Just make sure to bring hand sanitizer for after you've fed those goats! Sometimes the farms run out.
What is on your must-do list of activities with your children this year?