Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Preschooler Summer Unplugged

While we don't have hard and fast rules, we try to keep screen time super limited for our kids. Earlier in this pregnancy there were more extended chunks of television watching, but the more energized I've felt the more I've cut them back- to the point that our television was completely off all but three sick days in June.

Not relying on screens forces me to be more creative as a mom. If I don't get a shower before Niall leaves for work, I strap them into their booster seats at the kitchen table {at least the little guy} and give them art supplies and an audiobook. 

If you're looking for frugal and simple ways to keep your little ones unplugged and entertained all summer long, I've curated a list of our favorite go to's. Outdoor activities, because getting outside as much as possible while you can {can you tell the Pennsylvania winters are getting to me?} is an imperative. And an Indoor list, because sometimes you unfortunately have to do tasks like shower and clean your house, and sometimes it rains. Or is just way too humid for sane people to be outside {or is that just my third trimester talking?}. 

Outdoors


  • Sidewalk Chalk. Seriously, we love the stuff. Step it up a notch and make your very own sidewalk chalk paint {1 cup water + 1 cup cornstarch + food coloring = 1 super easy and fun afternoon!}. 
  • Water Play. Thanks to my sister, we now own a kiddie pool, which has been amazing. Seriously, my kids will spend two hours happily splashing while I read a book. Brilliant! But before our pool days, a baby bath tub, even pots and pans filled with water, were still fun and kept them occupied. 
  • Nature Walk. Take a stroll, letting your kids roam and use up all that energy. They can collect leaves and pick dandelions and clover as they go. I'm often surprised at how much kids are enchanted by the simplest of things. 
  • Puddle Jumping. Summer rain storm? Throw a pair of boots on and let them splash away. Our puddles are always muddy, so I make sure the kids are wearing clothes that can get dirty, and then I toss them in the washing machine as soon as we get inside. 
  • Rocks. I keep telling you, its the little things folks. Collect them in a bucket, stack towers and knock them down, practice counting, throw them in water... my little man is happiest among the rocks. 
  • Park Exploration. My husband and I share a car, so there are many days when I am home bound. But the days I have a car, we make park stops. We've been to 5 different parks {within a 15 minute radius of our house} so far this summer, and I'm trying to frequent as many as possible. Novelty is a powerful force in entertainment. 
  • Picnics. Lunch, outside. Snack time, outside. Somehow food is more fun when consumed out of doors. 
  • Story Time. Why not move your daily reading time with the kids outside? Find a shady tree, snuggle up on a blanket, and enjoy some good picture books. 

Indoors


  • "Audiobooks" Via YouTube. This recent discovery has been a motherhood game changer for me. Did you know that there are countless children's books available to listen to on YouTube? I play them on my phone and flip the screen downwards so that my kids don't even know there are accompanying pictures. They just enjoy hearing the story! Think of your child's favorite book, and search the title with "read aloud" after it. It just might be there. The quality of the audio varies, depending on who recorded it... but even poor quality recordings have managed to amuse my kids. Some of our favorites include Peter Rabbit, Fancy Nancy, Ladybug Girl, and Max and Ruby
  • Crafts. Allow them to practice their scissor skills and amass a whole pile of paper scraps, then give them a glue stick to glue said paper scraps to another paper and make a collage. Just these two activities could buy you an hour or two. My kids also love stickers, colored pencils, mom's gel pen collection, mom's highlighters {if it belongs to mommy, it is super exciting to use it}, and pom pom painting {clothespin attached to a craft pom pom as the brush} when I am brave. 
  • Ice Cubes. Use an ice cube in a paint with water book. Throw them in the bath tub. Let the kids run around the house with them. Slowly melting water doesn't make too huge of a mess, so it is worth the opportunity cost in my book. 
  • Cooking and Baking. As much as toddler/preschooler help in the kitchen can slow down operations, I am trying to remind myself that it will be worth it when my slightly bigger kids can really help. Trina Holden's Instagram feed is super inspiring in this regards! Whenever I make bread or pie crust or pizza dough, I hand each kid a dough ball to play with. They love it :). At almost two and four, they also like to help dump ingredients and stir. 
  • Housework. Older kids may hate to do housework, but little ones are interested in whatever mom is doing. Let them push the vacuum {or try a hand held!}, dust, wipe down tables and baseboards, and scrub with a sponge. I'm hoping if I capitalize on their current interest and make it fun, the enthusiasm might stretch to older ages ;). 
  • Balloons. You can get a bag of them at any dollar store. Batting around balloons is also much safer in the house than a ball. 
  • Bath Time. Confession: I'm not famous for regularly bathing my children...but more and more I'm pulling it out not just for hygiene, but entertainment purposes. Throw your kids in the tub with a hefty handful of water friendly toys, and clean your bathroom {or just read a novel}. My kids will play until the water is freezing and their lips are purple... but boy what fun they have. 
  • Library. Free and wholesome! We hit ours every Friday for story hour, where they sing songs, read books, and make a really cool craft that doesn't require my efforts to prepare or clean up after :). Win win. 

So tell me- how do you keep your kids busy all summer long?

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