As the weather begins to get colder and we spend more time inside, you may be looking for ways to keep your children engaged, cabin-fever free, and off of screens. Sometimes it can feel easier said than done.
Kids are always looking for something or someone to entertain them, and often times feel that its up to the parents to provide all of that entertainment. It can be exhausting, and sometimes I just reach for the remote when I’m at the end of my rope.
Now, I’m not passing judgement on television time. Popcorn and movie nights are a huge hit for our family and snuggling up on the couch for a flick is a great way to bond. But play is incredibly important for a kid’s childhood. Being able to run, jump, scream, and just be kids in general is all a vital part of their development, yet with the amount of fun shows, apps, and video games available today, it doesn’t always feel as fun.
However, there are some great ways to encourage your children to go screen free during these days indoors that will also help them grow, learn, and play on their own! Here are three ways to help you get the cold days off to a great start!
Board games are a fantastic way to engage your kids in play and is something the whole family can enjoy together. Whether your children are young toddlers or older teenagers, coming together for an evening of family time and board games is something that everyone enjoys.
Not only will everyone be playing together, but playing games is a great way to work on critical thinking skills, problem solving, math, and language skills just to name a few! But the biggest benefit will come from the amount of intentional time that you are all spending together.
You can play a dexterity game like Animal Upon Animal, stacking monkeys, sheep, toucans and a host of other creatures atop the crocodile as you race to place all your wooden pieces first. Or take on the role of Super Rhino in Rhino Hero - Super Battle as you and your super friends battle each other, climb the tall skyscraper, and fend off spider monkeys. If you’re more interested in strategy games definitely check out Karuba or Iquazú for a bit of friendly competition that will get your mind working.
Toys that Encourage Imagination
It doesn’t take long for a kid with a room full of toys to start the cries of complaint that they’re bored. Over the years, we’ve found that the toys that tend to engage our children the best aren’t always the toys you see in the magazines and they certainly aren’t the ones that they beg for from the commercials.
Battery operated toys can be fun in the short term, but they usually do not stand the test of time. What toys do children consistently return to? Ones that require them to use their imagination to play with! Here are just a few of the types of toys that our children return to consistently and the ones that always make for the most fun during playdates.
You cannot go wrong with a solid, quality set of wooden blocks. Wooden blocks are used perhaps the most in our home because they are pulled into play with all sorts of other toys. Our kids love to build towers, castles, or farm animal fences with them. They become the structures that get knocked down during an epic super hero battle, chairs for dolls that are having a tea party, or lined up and used as a highway for cars.
Wooden blocks are completely open ended. No child needs to learn how to use them and there are an endless number of ways that they can be incorporated into play.
In our playroom we have a basket filled with farm animals and I cannot remember a day in recent memory when these animals weren’t pulled out for play.
Animals are a great toy for kids to have that encourages their imagination at all ages. Young children can practice making animal sounds while older children may set up elaborate scenes. Either way, they’re always a hit and a definite must for every playroom!
Not only is role play a fun activity for kids that doesn’t require screens, it’s actually an incredibly important part of their behavioral development making it a great way for children to learn and grow.
With things like costumes, play food, puppets, dolls, and play houses, children are able to act out their understanding of the world and work on important social skills, communication and language skills, and even work on their cognitive development as they must recall memories from past experiences to influence their play.
Toy Rotation: Less Options for More Play
Even in a playroom filled with the best toys, children can still become overloaded. Just like when we as adults are presented with too many options, children too can become overwhelmed and disconnect.
That is why toy rotations can be an incredible way to keep your children interested in what they have out and not overwhelmed with all of the options.
By taking some time to put the majority of the toys in a few bins or boxes that you can rotate through the playroom every two weeks or so, the toys will seem new, fun, and inviting and the toys that they were getting bored with can be put away for a few weeks so that they can rebuild interest.
With less options, kids may actually play more. Everything they have available will be visible and a bit more inviting. When we started toy rotation in our home, we noticed that our children were better able to entertain themselves without our help and had much more elaborate play sessions than before.
This is also a great way to learn what toys your children like and what toys they are growing out of. Plus it also decreases the amount of time required to pick up, which is something everyone in the family can get behind.