Child's artwork Child's artwork

Keeping the Kids Busy

In addition to all the to-do's, don't forget to add fun activities into your daily routine

Now that the kids don’t have sports, clubs or lessons to keep them occupied, we all have to find something for the kids (and adults) to do.

Really, it’s OK to pull away from technology for a spell.

Kimberly DeLeon, a master teacher with The University of New Mexico Children’s Campus, says that if you haven’t already done so, set a consistent routine for the kids, even the teens. Within that routine, make time for fun activities, such as arts and crafts, and for going outside for a walk, hike or bike ride.

The Child Life team, which provides age-appropriate education and activities for kids who are patients at UNM Hospital, is always coming up with new ways to have fun. They suggest making a game using tissue boxes, ping pong balls and string. Watch our video to learn all about it.

Loose Parts

For the younger set, from birth to 5 years old, Lois Vermilya, the director of the UNM Family Development Program: A Center for Excellence in Early Learning, suggests that families try “loose parts play” at home.

“The loose part is you keep it loose,” Vermilya says. “It’s not cutting and pasting. This kind of learning philosophy is … that young children love materials. They love cardboard boxes, ties on bread wrappers or shaving cream or bottle caps.”

The parts are things you can find around your home, whether it’s in a junk drawer or the recycle bin. The parts “could create a city today or a game the next day, or it could be used in storytelling,” Vermilya explains. “It’s the natural way kids learn through play.”

One example, called the Outdoor Circle of Investigation, encourages curiosity and conversation. You’ll need a 4-foot piece of rope or string. Place it on the ground in the shape of a circle and sit beside your child to explore looking at everything you can find inside the ring. Vermilya says it’s like making a giant magnifying glass that you can move around the yard. 

Another way to use loose parts is in Storytelling with Junk, she says. Pick up six things from around a room, such as a candle, a coaster, a pen or a sea shell. “And just start making up a story,” she says. Kids (and adults) love this game, she adds, because it gets them to use their imaginations.

And then there’s the classic – pots, pans and a wooden spoon. Parents can say such things as, “Oh look, you’re stirring like mommy,” or, “Oh look, you made a drum.”

Arts and Crafts 

Reliably popular arts and crafts for all ages include painting, bracelet making and weaving, DeLeon says. Teens enjoy the coloring books designed for adults, as well as making friendship bracelets with colorful beads and string.

DeLeon offers the following tips:

  • Teenagers like to have options and it’s important to limit their options. “You can do this or that,” DeLeon says.
  •  Toddlers, who like to have lots of options, too, also enjoy making art and playing with play dough. DeLeon recommends looking online for recipes to make at home. Kids of all ages like activities in which they can use their hands.
  • If your children span a wide range of ages, they’ll all have fun doing the same activity but older kids will want more to choose from. “It’s more engaging for the older child if there are more materials for them,” DeLeon says.
  • Kids of all ages like participating in day-to-day activities around the home, whether it’s helping to cook a meal or bake cookies, or doing yardwork. “They want to help and we encourage that,” DeLeon says.

Examples of Parts

Here are some items to use for loose parts play:

  • Colanders 
  • Clothes pins
  • Socks 
  • Scraps of paper
  • Coffee filters
  • Paper clips,
  • Straws 
  • Bubble wrap

The possibilities are endless. For adults who want to learn more about loose parts play, look up the Wemagination website for more information.

Additional Resources

Check out the following websites for more ideas: 

Categories: Features, Community, UNM Hospitals, Education, News You Can Use

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