Keep your preschooler busy
Make the holidays fun with these creative ideas for activities from a psychologist.
It's that time of year again where parents are about to pull their hair out - what do you do with your 5-year old for more than 30 days straight? 

It's great to let them have play dates with their friends and to spend time outside in the mud and make mud pies, but after a while, even they get bored.  

Here are some ideas to keep your pre-schooler busy during the holidays.  Not only are they fun to do, but they also help your child develop mentally and emotionally, and most activities help with co-ordination as well.
  1. Make or buy them some clay and ask them to make a figurine of themselves.  Let them be creative with plastic toy bits, coloured beads and other materials.  This is really fun to discuss with your child afterwards.  *please remember to do this activity under supervision to prevent small objects being swallowed by little ones
  2. Cut out pictures of different facial expressions (separately).  For example:  surprised eyes, crying eyes, happy mouths, sad mouths, big noses, crinkled noses, etc.  Ask your child to paste them on a paper plate to make a face according to how they are feeling inside.
  3. Staple a few blank pages together and ask your child to tell you about their day by putting a storybook together about what happened. They can draw, paste pictures and use glitter - whatever makes them happy. This is a particularly good activity if you are at work all day - when you come home you can go through the story book together and they can tell you all about their day. You can also modify this activity by asking your child to put together a "memory book".  They need to think of important events of their lives - things from school, at home, holidays, friends, etc.  They can even think of a title for their book!
  4. Using several different children's books, find at least 3 pictures of characters engaged in some form of activity. Ask your child what the character is doing to make sure they understand. Next, place the pictures next to one another and ask your child what they would like to do most. This will give you insight into what they love.                                                                                  You can also use a character from a book to ask your child why they like that character. Ask them if they are like that in any way - for example, Spider Man helps other people out of trouble.  Do they enjoy helping people too?
  5. Imaginative play - allow your child to role play using puppets or by dressing up as a famous person for the day or even while playing with their dolls. If you play with them, try and get them to use their imaginations as much as possible. For example:  You're a princess today, so when you eat your lunch are you going to use a knife and fork and a napkin?  This activity can be used to teach life skills in a fun way.
  6. Ask your child to come up with ideas for more Christmas decorations and how they can make them with "junk" objects around the house - and then of course to actually make them.  For example:  empty egg boxes and milk cartons, old magazines and newspapers, broken toys, etc.
  7. Make a kindness tree for the holiday period.  Create a paper tree (your child can help you colour in) and paste it to the wall.  Also help your child make lots of flowers from coloured paper.  Ask your child about what kindness means and examples of kind actions. Each day, ask your child to share ways they have been kind or helpful, or how someone else has been kind to them.  For each act, paste another flower to the tree.  By the end of the holidays you will not only have a tree in full bloom, it will have inspired your child to not only be more kind, but notice when others are good to them too.
The main objective with all of these activities is for your child to have fun in different ways.  You will pick up which ones they really enjoy by watching them do the different tasks. 

Look for the following:
  • How much time they spend on the activity (the longer they keep going, the more they are focussed)
  • Deep concentration
  • Contorted faces when working
  • Sometimes they stick out their tongues when concentrating
These are all signs that they are really involved with the task and are enjoying it.  Mission accomplished!    

Keep your older child busy too

Do you have special activities planned to keep your children busy in the holidays?

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