Staying at home with your high-energy kids? Try these educational, fun activities that you can bond over with your toddlers and preschoolers, and keep them busy and happy too!
1. Soft shape game
Gather old socks, T-shirts or sponges as “throwing toys”, suggest the experts at the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC). Roll the tees into balls of different sizes or wrap them around small containers of different shapes.
Stretch one T-shirt over a child-sized chair, box or step stool. The neck opening serves as a slot for your child to put the items through. Turn this into a colour-sorting game by using items of different hues, and vary the play by getting your tot to take the objects out of the neck hole or sleeve.
2. Ice cube tray activities
Place an ice cube tray on a larger tray. Guide your toddler as he or she uses spoons of different sizes to scoop and transfer small items like seeds or beans from a bowl into the ice cube tray (the larger tray catches the spilled items). Your child can also use kitchen tongs to transfer coins in the same way while supervised, say NIEC experts. Vary this by making play dough with flour, water and salt, and have your toddler squeeze the balls of dough into the trays.
3. Butterfly print activity
Listen to a reading of The Very Hungry Caterpillar story by Eric Carle on MapleBear Singapore’s YouTube channel at bit.ly/2V5aAJK.
Afterwards, place a piece of paper on top of a pile of newspapers. Drop non-toxic paint or food colouring lightly onto the paper, then ask your child to close his eyes while you fold the paper in half.
Say “Hey, Presto! A butterfly!” when he opens his eyes and sees the butterfly print. Make more prints with paint of different colours, frame them with cardboard from old boxes and hold an online exhibition.
You can also make caterpillar prints with toilet rolls or a caterpillar using pom-pom balls. Nurture your child’s imagination by allowing him to explore colours, lines, shapes and colours, says Mrs Patricia Koh of Maplebear Singapore preschools.
4. Colour-matching activity
If you have toddler-friendly blocks like Duplo and a base board, this activity from Ms Fynn Sor of learning activity website Happy Tot Shelf takes just three minutes to set up.
Place two blocks of the same colour in a row, but leave a block’s worth of space in between. Repeat for the remaining blocks of different colours. Then invite your toddler to fill in the “blanks” with the correct colours, and name each colour as your child does so.
5. Post-it Note number houses
Tape a large piece of paper onto your child’s table. Draw six houses in two rows, then divide each house into four equal parts. Write the numbers 1 to 6 in the roof spaces. Then prepare Post-it Notes with the numbers written in different permutations – for instance, the number 3 can be written as a numeral, three triangles, three dots and so on. Invite your child to match the Post-it Notes to the number.
This activity from Happy Tot Shelf’s Ms Sor can be easily modified for older children. Her seven-year-old son uses it to practise addition, subtraction and multiplication.
6. Riddle me this, riddle me that
“I always believe kids learn better when they discover the answers for themselves,” says Ms Chow Keat Yeng of speech and drama school Artistic Expressions.
“So when you want children to find something, instead of telling them where it is, speak in riddles and get them to solve it.”
As her daughters are below four years old, she focuses on things they are learning in school – colour, size, location and sound. “For example, if I want them to grab something from the oven, I will say: ‘I am black. I am small. I am in the kitchen. I make the sound ding ding when I am done. What am I?'”
After your children are familiar with the concept of riddles, challenge them to create their own for you to solve. Ms Chow also posts twice-weekly podcasts of learning ideas at bit.ly/2V4pCiU.
7. Green drumming
Make a “green” drum by using objects found in the home, says Mrs Koh of MapleBear. Find a range of drum tones, from low-to mid-range to high-pitched ones. Either paint the items or use starch and paper to make a papier-mache instrument.
Then, watch a kid-friendly song on YouTube, such as Rhythm And The Beat on MapleBear’s YouTube channel. Parents beat the rhythm and the children can copy. After that, reverse roles.
A variation of this is to play a game of “Guess the Song”. One parent-child pair thinks of a tune and plays the rhythm, while the other pair tries to guess the song.
(Also read: Fun stay-home activities for kids age 3 to 6)
8. Photo album writing
Choose a photo from your old family albums. Let your child practise inventive spelling by writing a sentence about the picture. Focus on the effort and the message, not the spelling, say the experts from NIEC.
If you have a series of photos on a particular event, let your child create a story by sequencing the photos. You can also shoot a video of your child talking about the photo like in show-and-tell sessions, and share it with the family members pictured.
Final pointers: If the child does not take to an activity, introduce it a few weeks later. You can change an element in the activity, such as swopping dot paint markers for dot stickers. Try leaving the activity on your child’s shelf and wait for him to pick it up.
A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times.