This is the deepest form of play – when children get involved in something, they lose themselves. Imagine a toddler filling the bathtub with water. “You get in ‘the zone.’ It feels great at any age,” Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., a psychologist, and author of Playing Smart, says. Studies show that kids learn big life skills such as resilience, creativity, and impulse control by spending more time in the flow.
These magical moments, when your child is completely engaged in play, can seem rare and far between. They are not like the times you actually get to reply to an email. These are some ideas and activities for kids that fall under the “flow” category.
David Shernoff (Ph.D.), an educational psychologist at Rutgers University, says that children are naturally curious. They are able to get absorbed in an activity. You, as a parent, must create the conditions for that to happen.
Begin by selecting ideas that appeal to your child’s interests. Then, gather supplies and let them be. Your child needs to be allowed to mess around and have chunks of time. This will help them find their flow. Jennifer Miller, an author of Confident Parents, Content Kids, says that kids won’t flow if they feel judged, or under constant supervision. You can control chaos by painting outside on your patio. This will not limit creativity. Don’t disturb them, not even with a “Good Job!” comment. Children learn best by trial and error.
Creative Play Ideas
Make cute animals. Get a cardboard egg carton. To make the creature’s head, cut a section of the carton with a pointed end. Then glue it to the cardboard. Make facial features (unicorn!) piglet!) on the carton, and the ears and body on cardboard (for more visuals, see @nylah.khan). –Nylah Khan is a Los Angeles-based artist-teacher.
Draw a life-sized self-portrait. Lay your child on a piece of butcher paper and have them draw their bodies. To help them fill in the details, prop up a mirror.
Learn to sculpt. Use plaster cloth to create 3-D objects using no-mess paper-mache. Make a bowl. Next, wet the strips and wrap them around half of the balloon. After the strips have hardened for 30 minutes, pop the balloon. You can add flair to the balloon with paint and markers. Wrap strips of cardboard or Styrofoam around to create dolls or masks.
Watercolor at its most extreme. Let your child draw a design on thick, white paper with a permanent marker in black. This part should be supervised by an adult. Use washable markers to make an abstract pattern on aluminum foil. The more colors the better! To transfer the colors, spray the paper with water. Place the paper facedown on top of the foil. Next, it’s time to reveal the masterpiece your child has created. It is important to dry it.
Create a playground you love. Your child can go through the recycle bin and then get a roll of tape, some corks, ice-pop sticks, and string. This will create a playground full of swings, slides, and monkey bars. Camp Supernow is a virtual after-school program founded by Lyndsey wheeler
Sensory Play Ideas
Sort stuff. Give your 4- and 5-year-olds buttons or pom poms, then ask them to put the items in a muffin tin according to size, shape, color, etc. Children love to organize things and make piles. Working with small objects can help them get into a flow state. Dana Anderson is a Montessori teacher from Indian Rocks Beach, Florida.
To make a sensory experience, fill a container with dried black beans. Next, add toys such as plastic bags, construction vehicles, and action figures. You can also add cups and spoons. Once your child is finished, close the lid and place the container in a storage bag.
Expert Tip These materials can also be used as fillers: rice, split peas and cotton balls, Easter grass, seashells, dried popcorn kernels, leaf, pom-poms, beads, or scraps of fabric. To minimize the chance of your child choking, you can choose larger objects if they are still chewing.
Imaginary Play Ideas
You only need a toy cash register to open a store. Children can create anything, from fake pizza shops to pretend malls. –Lauren Tingley, a first-grade teacher in Red Bluff, California, who blogs at Simply-Well-Balanced.com
Make a huge race-car track. To create a large-scale race car track, tape down painter’s adhesive. You can make your routes more interesting by making shoeboxes into buildings.
You can make a cardboard box into a spaceship or a castle with markers and tape. Do you need some inspiration? Read Not a Box by Antoinette Portis. This picture book is about a bunny who creates his own cubed creations using his imagination.
Go camping. For the ultimate hideout, pitch a tent in your living room and cover it with blankets and sleeping bags. Bring a flashlight to share stories at night.
Hiring an intern. Set up an office next to your desk for your child if you work remotely. It should contain all the necessary tools: paper, pencils, calculators, and a calculator. Ask them to complete their homework while you are working.
Science Play Ideas
These surprising experiments will help you foster the curiosity of your child and make Bill Nye a reality.
You can engineer a pasta skyscraper out of marshmallows or dried spaghetti. This pasta is great for cutting into the right sizes. Ask your children what makes certain structures stronger than others before they start.
Create an animal habitat. Assist your child in researching the habitat of their stuffed animal. A shoebox can become a bear’s cave. A bit of blue paper and rocks filled with plastic can be transformed into a cozy place for a crab. It should contain the four essential elements that all animals require to survive: water and shelter, food, space, and food.
Set up an exploration area. Gather tape, string, and scissors. A magnifying glass, cardboard, pipe cleaners, rubber band, and other odd objects to help your child create an “invention.” A screwdriver is a good idea for school-age children. Also, make sure to include any broken or cast-off items, such as an old phone or computer keyboard, videotapes, or other toys they can look at. Susan K. Perry, Ph.D. is a social psychologist who also wrote Playing Smart.
Mix some oobleck. This mysterious substance can be either a solid or a liquid and is always a hit. Mix two tablespoons of cornstarch and one cup of water. Your new scientist will be able to turn it into a ball and drive cars through it. Then, pour it through a colander. You can substitute liquid dish soap to make it stretchy and slimy. –Wilson