Savoring Life with Preschoolers

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Recently, as I baked cookies with my kids, I watched my 3-year-old lick the plate clean of sprinkles, rather than roll the dough balls in them. It made a classic picture: my little boy Judah looking up mischievously with colored sugar on his face. I reflected on the brevity of this season. While pouring a new plate of sprinkles may seem like an inconvenience, it is a fleeting one. Judah will not always approach cookie baking with such joie de vivre.

Our preschoolers will only be small for a short time. I love the quote by Jim Elliot that I came across recently, “Wherever you are, be all there.” What a lesson for parents! Spend some time today just enjoying the wonder of being 2 or 3 or 4. The following is a list of tried and true “fun things to do” with your little one.

1. Regular Library Day — Choose a day and time of the week that works into your family’s schedule and go weekly if you can. Once there, head straight to the children’s section. Use the subject index binder for finding picture books according to topics and learn how to use the computerized catalog as well so that you can find stories based on your children’s interests. Choose several to read together, perhaps according to a certain theme, and allow your little ones to choose books off the shelf that look interesting to them. Scan them before checking them out. You don’t want to take home a book that would frighten your children or fall outside the moral guidelines of your home.

2. Story time — As you familiarize yourself with the library, determine when their weekly toddler story time happens. This is a great way to meet other families, expose your child to good literature and watch him develop in a social setting.

3. Playdough — I remember the first time I “did playdough” with my son. What memories it brought back from my childhood. Smooshing the clay is also therapeutic for parents feeling the stress of the day. Purchase a few tubs of premade playclay or make up your own batch. (Recipe at charlotteparent.com) No special tools are needed other than a small rolling pin, a child-safe knife and some cookie cutters. Making your creations on plastic placemats protects tabletops and contains the mess.
Playdough recipe

Ingredients
• ½ cup salt
• 1 cup flour
• 1 Tbsp. cream of tartar
• 1 Tbsp. oil
• 1 cup water
• food coloring
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan, scraping the bottom to make sure all dry ingredients are incorporated into the mixture. Heat over low temperature, stirring constantly. Dough will be ready when liquid starts to evaporate and mixture starts to form a ball around your spoon. Transfer to a sheet of wax paper. Allow to cool slightly. Knead dough to a pliable consistency. Store in a zipper-type plastic bag. Dough should stay good for about 4-6 weeks when stored airtight at room temperature.

4. Painting — There is a variety of choices out there. The simplest is to provide your child with large paper, chubby brushes and washable poster paint. An easel is great if you have access to one. Cover all surfaces carefully with newspaper or plastic trash bags. While this activity does take a great amount of patience on the part of the parent, it provides an amazing amount of satisfaction to the kid. Allow your child to simply explore the medium of paint. You will be amazed at the modern art he creates.

5. Drawing — Our 4-year-old spends hours with pencils, crayons and plain computer paper. Don’t feel like you need to provide “instruction.” Merely sit down with your own supplies and create simple drawings. If you just don’t feel equipped for the task, check out “Drawing With Children” by Mona Brookes for some great ideas.

6. Crafts — You don’t need to be crafty to do kid crafts. Check the library for a plethora of craft books geared toward children. Some of our family’s favorites are part of the Little Hands series, specifically “The Little Hands Art Book” and “The Little Hands Paper Plate Crafts.” These guides feature easy craft ideas that can be made with simple household materials.

7. Cutting and Pasting — Most kids don’t need (or want) a lot of structure and direction when it comes to creating collages. Provide your little ones with old magazines, duplicate photos, construction paper, child safe scissors, and a glue stick or washable glue. They will spend hours cutting and gluing. Offer supervision and instruction about glue and where to place it. On the paper is better than on the kitchen window or your heirloom dining table!

8. Park Playdays — When weather permits, get outside! Try a different park each week. Make a note of your favorites. Invite friends to meet you or make new ones based on the other people sharing the park with you that day. Take drinks and snacks so that you can establish yourselves there for a few hours and not rush off. If you live close enough, walk or ride bikes. Enjoy the fresh air, the exercise and being outdoors together.

9. Lite Brite — Yes, there are 5 million little chokeable parts to this toy, but the kids absolutely love it! So, provide careful supervision, not just for the choking hazard, but also for fire safety. There is a small light bulb inside the Lite Brite. This activity is a great way for little ones to learn their colors and practice small motor control. Doing it together also provides an opportunity for conversation

10. Field Trips — Lastly, there is an abundance of fun and interesting sites to see in your own neighborhood or city. Check out Charlotte Parent’s Ultimate Family Resource Guide for ideas. Some possibilities are zoos, animal parks, historical sites, science museums and children’s museums.

Wherever you go or whichever activity you choose to do with your preschooler, it is sure to be a hit, as long as you do it together.