Children have a vivid imagination, and mine are no different. When they’re not spinning around in a circle until they fall down, they’re wrestling with one another; fighting over a shoe box that has been flattened and has no other value other than “I saw it first”; or they’re streaking down the hallways, laughter resonating against the walls, as they chant their battle cries with their foam swords in hand. Most of the time it’s pretty funny — hilarious actually. But sometimes, the screaming, the squealing, the “Mom, I’m being strangled” bit is just too much for me, and I feel like saying, “Calgon, take me away.”
Instead of turning on the TV and letting your child’s mind idle for hours (believe me, I know this is very easy to do, especially when you’re trying to get some work done or just trying to clean the bathrooms), take a couple of hours out of your day and do a structured activity with them. They’ll love it.
There is no kid who does not like bubbles, and what’s there to not like? Round, soapy shapes that float and bounce in the wind until they pop or a child’s hand pops them, bubbles elicit laughter from every child and adult. If you don’t have any ready-made bubbles, you can easily make your own at home:
- 6 cups water. If you have distilled water, this will work best.
- 3/4 cup corn syrup (you can find this in the baking section of your local grocery store).
- 2 cups liquid detergent. I was always told to use Joy brand liquid detergent, which always works well. If you don’t have Joy, experiment with what you already have.
Mix all ingredients together in a small bucket with a whisk until thoroughly mixed. Set aside for at least 5 hours or overnight. You can later pour your bubble mixture into old jars. Make sure that these jars are very clean and dry before putting in your mixture or it will effect your bubbles. Use straws for your bubble blower – simply dip one end of the straw into your mixture and you are ready to blow some amazing bubbles! For an extra cool factor, add a drop of food coloring into each bubble mixture jar. Make sure you blow these food colored bubbles outside. No need to worry about this mixture ever expiring — you can blow bubbles until you run out, whether it’s in one weekend or 5 years from now.
My kids love activities that require a lot of color and result in getting their hands dirty:
- Paper — I like to use the largest heavy construction paper I can find. Go to Michael’s or someplace similar and you’ll find various sizes and thicknesses of paper.
- Kitchen knife (for adult use only).
- 4 baking potatoes (the bigger the better). This amount also depends on how many shapes you want to carve.
- Tempera paints.
- Aluminum pie pans or anything you have that you can use as a palette.
Wash your potatoes. Take each potato and cut in half along its width. Have your kids draw a shape with a marker onto the surface of the cut potato. Easy shapes to work with are circles, squares, moons, diamonds and stars. Using your knife, cut around your shape and cut the background away so that the shape juts out of the potato. Pour paint into the pie tins. Since the kids are messy, I pour one color of paint into one tin. Take one potato, dip into the paint, and stamp on the paper. If your child wants to use the stamp with a different color, simply rinse it under water and let it dry completely by using a towel.
Potatoes do not require you to use paper; you can also stamp on fabric if you want. Just make sure that you buy paint specifically for fabric.
Ride a Bike
Although my kids don’t know how to ride a bike yet, they love to ride their bike with training wheels around our driveway and on the sidewalks in our neighborhood. When they’re on their bike, they feel independent and feel like a big kid. There is something exhilarating about powering a mode of transportation with your own feet and legs, having the wind scream through your hair and cup your face. Don’t forget the helmet!
Go to a Science Museum
There’s lots of stuff to discover at science museums. Exhibits are always engaging and broaden your child’s mind and yours. At my local science museum, they currently have an exhibition that explores the wonders of space travel. There’s also an exhibit that teaches kids about the science behind every day activities. Experience with your child the benefits of science and technology.
See a Movie at the IMAX
To experience a movie at an IMAX is like something you’ve never seen before — your senses cannot even fathom what you’re hearing and seeing. It’s amazing, to say the least. The sound rumbles and makes you feel like you are in the middle of all the action. The images are precise and oh-so clear. You can see each and every hair move with the wind.
With game consoles and TV, it’s easy to let your kids do their own things while you go about doing yours. But spending time with your children is beneficial in so many ways. How will your child remember his childhood? Will he remember all the times he sat in front of the TV, remembering every line of every “SpongeBob Squarepants”, or will he remember the invigorating glee of climbing a tree while you paced back and forth below hoping he wouldn’t fall, and the stomach-holding, milk-coming-out-of-the-nose laughter because you were dancing to silly music while making idiotic faces? Will he remember his childhood with fondness? This is one aspect of his life that you can influence heavily.