Showing posts with label playtime. Show all posts
Showing posts with label playtime. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Surviving Bad Weather {With Kids}

Sir Ranulph Fiennes is quoted as saying, "There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing." This quote is also attributed as being a Scandinavian proverb and is sometimes attributed to Roald Amudsen. I don't know who ultimately said it. Amundsen was a Norwegian explorer, so he seems likely.

Anyway, from the first time I heard that quote, it has irritated some place in my soul. Sure, in most weather conditions, you can get dressed appropriately enough to go spend 15-30 minutes outside even if it is extreme in either direction. However, 15-30 minutes just isn't enough in the grand scheme of an entire day with children. If we are talking harsh winter, if it is 20 below and your "snow" is actually a sheet of ice, the child might be outside, but he sure isn't running around making himself tired. The same can be said of the other extreme at 110 degrees. Children don't run in the heat. They are smart little creatures. 

Because of this, we mothers need some strategies to help us survive that bad weather. And I am not talking, "Oh darn, it is raining. What should we do today?" I am talking, "Crap. The high is -10 degrees Fahrenheit again and has been for the last 3 solid weeks. How am I going to hold together the sanity of this household (primarily mine)?" I asked, you answered. Here are some tips. These can also apply to those random bad weather days as easily as the weeks of bad weather.

Change Play Locations
Kelli said she varies where her kids play in the house. Playing in a different room than normal can spark the imagination in a child. Reading in a different location can be exciting. 

Bring Outside Toys Inside
Britney said they bring their outside toys inside for the winter and put them in the basement. These outside toys allow for gross motor work.

Think Gross Motor
Britney also said she let's her kids take the couch cushions off and jump around. We also do this. It is a favorite activity here! My rule is the kids have to clean up when they are done. Think of things your children can do to get that gross motor movement in. Dance to music, find inside toys that provide some exercise. We love Just Dance video game. My kids also enjoy riding the elliptical and jumping on the mini tramp. 

Angela said she pulls her car out of her garage and they play in there. She gets out balls and other outside toys.

Fine an Indoor Play Area
This is a common one. Tiffany said she takes her kids to the library or mall to play on their play areas. There are a many indoor places you can take your kids to burn some energy. In my area, a group of us get together once a week at the church. We chit chat and let the kids play. At the end, one friend always leads the kids in some races and games to burn some energy.

Have Long Baths
I have had a lot of surprised comments over the years about either how long our baths are or how many bath toys we have. This is all strategic. A long bath is a great way to pass the time when you can't go outside. 

Picnics in Sunny Spots
Find a nice place in your home to have a picnic. It is fun to do something off-routine every so often. Britney said her family likes to have picnics in sunny spots. 

Tiffany said she has a board on Pinterest full of ideas for activities to do inside when there is bad weather. Have some activities ready to go so you can have something new and interesting to do.

There are a lot of interesting ideas out there. Try filling a tote or kiddie pool with snow and bringing it inside. Try having a water table in some water-proof part of your house. There is no limit to the fun ideas out there. 

Invite People Over
Have play dates to mix up your days. 

Invite Yourself Over
Call up your mom or someone else and go to their house. A lot of times, all we need is a change of scenery.

Still Have Outside Time
Katie said that even when it is 20 below, her kids go out three times a day. Each time isn't for very long, but they do it. So think of ways you can get outside. Angela said she and her kids take walks even in the rain. 

Movies and TV
Have some TV time in your day. This is one I prevent adding in for as long into the winter as I can. This comes out at the end of February. I find when kids watch TV, that is all they want to do (at least my kids). If there is no "crutch" of TV for when they are bored, they will be more creative in their play. You could definitely have well defined time for TV and prevent the TV crutch from happening. 

Have a Routine
Have regular structure with your days. Include the structured playtime, the free playtime, the independent playtime, the learning time, the nap time, etc. Also, have chores in there. 

Mix up the Routine
Have days where the routine goes out the window. Have a pajama day, a princess day, a lazy day, etc. We all need some variety at times.

Run Errands
Remember that first time you go grocery shopping after having a baby and it feels like amazing freedom? Kids feel that way, too, even if they are only getting out to run errands. Go shopping, go to the library, go out to lunch sometimes...get that variety in there. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Waketime/Playtime Index

Free Playtime
General Info
Independent Playtime:


Structured Playtime
Toys and Supplies

Waketime Length

Monday, July 6, 2009

Play and Your Preschooler

A child's job is to play. As adults, we might think of play as nothing more than recreational fun, but for a child, it is much more than that. On Becoming Preschoolwise points out that through play, a child learns problem solving, moral skills, social skills, improved motor skills, logic, reasoning, and strategy (page 16). That is a lot of skills!

Many parents today worry about the academics and success of their children. They might also want their children to excel musically and/or athletically. Because of this, parents start flash cards with a baby and music lessons as a toddler. You can see preschoolers running up and down the soccer field with overzealous coaches and parents screaming from the sidelines.

Your child learns all of the skills listed above through play. "Play is not simply an activity that a child wants to absorb himself in, but a necessary framework of understanding his world" (page 27). You don't need to overbook your child into formal learning organizations. Your three year old would likely learn more about T-ball if his parents played with him than throwing him into a situation with a couple of dozen other three year olds who don't know what they are doing.

I am not saying organized sports or lessons are inherently bad. There is a time and season for them. The point here is to not overlook the value of play. Overbooking your child denies him the opportunity to play since he is so busy running from lesson, to practice, to games, to recitals...the list goes on.

The other end of the spectrum is allowing your child to engage in too much absorption activities like television. This is not play. I don't think television is a necessary part of life. I also don't personally think it is inherently bad. I allow my children TV time each day. I monitor what they watch. I love shows like Super Why! and Word World that actually provide some educational value along with the entertainment. Some learning can happen here, but keep in mind that children learn through play.

Preschoolwise also points out that play reveals strengths and weaknesses of your child. You can observe your child's moral strengths and weaknesses as you play a board game with him. Does he follow the rules? How does he handle losing? How about winning? Will he play a second time even if he looses?

I have found playing games with Brayden very interesting. I am a competitive person by nature, as is my husband. I try to keep that at bay (which is difficult) while playing with Brayden. At first I realized I took it too far. I let him win all the time. I try to find a balance between playing to win and letting him win. He needs to experience that others win sometimes, too.

Once Brayden started to get competitive, he would have a happy dance that included a song to the effect of "I win! I win!" Well, that might not hurt my feelings at all, but if he were to do that to a child his age, it likely would. It isn't fun to have your loss rubbed in your face. This is something that is difficult to explain to a three year old, but over time, he has gotten it.

He also didn't enjoy losing. He would be sad and tell me he didn't want to lose. I replied that I knew. People don't want to lose. But not everyone wins. Over time, we were able to build up to an attitude of happiness just to be playing. We congratulated each other when things were going well. When things didn't go well for ourselves, we shrugged our shoulders and still had fun playing.

Most board games for children are completely left up to chance. Candyland is a good example. There are still things you can do in Candyland to make it hard on yourself and easy on your child. One example might be to require yourself to go back to the candycane after you have passed the peanut, but not require that of your child. Take wisdom in how you approach these games. It isn't good to always let your child win, but you don't always want to "smoke" your kid either.

Naturally you will want some formal learning time with your preschooler each day. "Not all education comes in the form of play" (page 27). You will need to teach sitting and focusing skills. You will need to teach your child to concentrate on the task at hand. You will need to give opportunities for your child to listen and follow instructions. Through play, you can observe your child's strengths and weaknesses and work on the weaknesses during formal learning time.

If your child is younger, knowing the importance and value of play can give you added incentive to incorporate independent playtime into your child's day. You will also want to allow free playtime and other structured playtime as your child grows. Playing is not a waste of time, and the ability of a child to play on his own teaches many wonderful skills. Children need to play, so be sure that each day you provide time for it. It is not time wasted, but time well spent.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Baby Whisperer: Learning Triangle

Tracy Hogg has a rule for what you give to your child to play with. That rule is that parent's stay within their child's learning triangle (146). That means you only give your child mental and physical tasks that your baby can accomplish alone. When your baby has a toy, observe rather than jump in.

As parents we are often eager to see our child accomplishing the milestones and to start playing with the fun toys we have available. The child might enjoy certain toys before the toy is age appropriate, but usually only so long as mom or dad is there to help him manipulate it. As soon as the child is left to his own devices, he becomes frustrated because he just can't do it.

To judge what can fit in your child's learning triangle, consider his accomplishments to date. What can he do. Hogg says don't look in a book, look at your baby. Can he sit up? Can he grab things? Here are some guidelines.

Mostly Watches and Listens

  • 6-8 weeks
  • At this age, baby is mostly one who looks and listens. He becomes more aware of hers surroundings as time goes on.
  • Babies this age like to look at lines.
  • You can draw lines on white piece of paper using a black marker for him to look at.
  • Primary colors stimulate baby.
  • Pastel colors calm baby.
  • Machines that mimic sounds of womb might be a good toy for this age.
  • You can sing or play songs of lullabies.
Gains Control Over Head and Neck
  • Usually around 2-3 months
  • A mobile for crib and playpen might be a good toy for this age. Don't position right above because baby turns head to the side.
  • Pictures of phases are a favorite among this age group.
  • Mirrors are also a good toy for this age.
  • Keep in mind that baby cannot yet move herself when something is too stimulating for her. If she starts to fuss and is done, you need to move her or change her scenery.
  • Hands often become a toy, but usually by accident.
  • You can sing or play songs of lullabies.
Reaches and Grasps
  • 3-4 months
  • Anything is fascinating for this baby to grab--including his own body parts.
  • Most everything goes straight to his mouth.
  • He loves to play with Mommy or Daddy (or perhaps a sibling).
  • Rattles and other safe, simple toys are good.
  • Choose toys that are responsive, generate noise, and/or feel good to the touch.
  • He loves to explore.
  • He loves to see his actions cause a reaction.
  • Comprehends cause and effect.
  • He coos and knows how to get your attention (he might drop the toy, cough, or cry).
  • You can sing or play nursery rhymes. Don't do too much (try one song per waketime).
  • 3-5 months
  • Still loves toys that make noise.
  • Also loves normal household items like spoons.
  • She is a scientist and loves to explore.
  • Is interested in playing with shapes, like cubes, balls, or triangles.
  • You can sing or play nursery rhymes. Don't do too much (try one song per waketime).
Sits Up
  • 6 months old
  • Can transfer objects from hand to hand.
  • He can point and gesture.
  • As he is playing and exploring, give him the opportunity to problem solve on his own. You can cheer him on, but let him control himself (within reason).
  • Give simple toys that reinforce actions. Simple jack-in-the-box, for example.
  • You can sing or play nursery rhymes. Try three songs per waketime.
  • 8-10 months old
  • Create a safe environment.
  • Cognitive skills are improving.
  • She will love to move to work off her energy.
  • She will find ways to make noise.
  • She loves toys that encourage her to put things in and take things out. At first they empty. Eventually she will start to put back (10-12 months).
  • Rolling toys are good, especially ones to pull toward her.
  • Peek-a-boo is a favorite at this age.
  • Use household items as playthings.
  • You can sing or play nursery rhymes. Try three songs per waketime. You can also add movements easy enough for baby to imitate.
12 months old
  • In your song time, sing or play nursery rhymes. Try four songs per waketime and play each song twice. You can also add gestures.
See this post for more on toys: Out With the Old, in With the New (toys) :

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Structured Playtime

There is some confusion as the the distinction between each of the playtimes described in the -wise series. This article discusses Structured Playtime. Structured playtime as defined in On Becoming Babywse II (page 71) is simply independent playtime where mom chooses the toys played with and the time it is done.

In On Becoming Toddlerwise (page 49), it progresses. Mommy picks the activity and the time it happens. This is a good skill because the child needs to learn that he can't always choose the activity. Once your child gets to school, he will have very little freedom about what he does and when he does it. Structured Playtime can be playing puzzles or coloring. It can really be any activity. I would choose an activity that is going to require some concentration and focus. I believe this can be something done in teh presence of others. Perhaps you are making dinner while your child colors at the kitchen table. You can also have all of your children color together. You can have your children play in the yard together. You can overlap structured playtime and sibling playtime. When you instruct your children to play with each other, they can develop important social skills. If your child is resistent to structured playtime, you can start with short increments of time and work up--using a timer.

In On Becoming Preschoolwise (page 97), the rules for structured playtime are the same as in Toddlerwise. Mom chooses the activity and the location of the activity.

I view this activity much like free playtime. It is a good activity for you to turn to when making dinner or other chores. It is good practice time for preschool and on.

See these posts for more on other playtime activities:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Free Playtime

I use free playtime basically as something to turn to at my convenience. For us, free playtime can often move around in our day, though it tends to fall at a certain time of day. For my children, free playtime happens when mommy needs to get something important done. This usually is dinner.

Because my children have regular nap(s) and regular independent playtime, I can do my "chores" and hobbies around the house during these times. I can clean, I can weed. I can write articles for my blog. I can answer your questions :). I can sew, scrapbook, read, and make jewelry. I can exercise. I can do the things that interest me and the things I need to get done during these regular, scheduled times.

Dinner time, however, falls at at time when there are no naps and no independent play going on. I use this slot for free time. However, there are days I have made lunch ahead of time (like when I cook in a slowcooker) so I don't need free playtime there. No problem. For me, free playtime is not something that is on my mind that I make sure gets done consistently each day. It seems to happen most days.

For the Pre-toddler
Babywise II talks about free playtime for your pretoddler (page 79). This is not a time for baby to roam the house looking for fun. It is a time you tell your child to play with certain items at what BW II refers to as a playcenter. A child's "job" in life right now is really all about play. It is how they learn.

In the pretoddler months, keep toys simple for free playtime. It can be blocks, balls, books, etc. Be sure they are toys that are age appropriate so your child doesn't get frustrated in either direction (too easy or too hard).

For the Toddler
Toddlerwise talks about free playtime for your toddler (page 49). This is when your child has the freedom to choose what he wants to play with. You carve out the time slot, but he decides what he wants to play with. You don't let him jump from toy to toy. Let him learn to have an attention span.

Toddlers can do a variety of things for free playtime. They can play outside (remember to supervise), play with toys, puzzles, read books, color, etc.

For the Preschooler
Preschoolwise talks about free playtime for your preschooler (97). Free playtime is a time your prechooler chooses the activity. You choose when free playtime happens, but your preschooler decides what to play with.

Preschoolers can also do a variety of things for free playtime. They can play outside (remember to supervise), play with toys, puzzles, read books, color, etc.

No matter the age of your child, be sure he is involved in cleaning up. For the 12 month old, 99% of the toys are going to be cleaned up by mom. Sometimes it might move down to 95% (depending on how many toys are out), but don't expect a huge help. Not because your child isn't trying, but because he just isn't as fast as you are. As your child gets older, you can require more. For example, for Brayden who is now 3 years old, he is required to clean up all of his trucks after playtime all by himself. I then help with the rest of the toys. He does the trucks alone before I start to help at all. Some days he cleans up all of his toys by himself when he is done. For free playtime, fewer toys will be out and you might be able to require your child to clean up all of the toys. Teach your child that playtime is not over until the toys are cleaned up. Make sure you calculate cleaning time into your schedule.

We have always cleaned up with Brayden, and he is an excellent helper. He never forgets to clean up when he is done. Kaitlyn, 15 months, is also a good helper. I say, "Time to clean up!" and I then sing a clean up song. Everyone does their part.

My Examples
Here are some examples from my house for free playtime.

  • Kitchen. In the kitchen, I have a couple of Leapfrog toys on the fridge. One is the barn and one is the alphabet (incidentally, I love Leapfrog, and no, I have no affiliation). My kids both love these things. I also have magnetic letters and numbers. This is my kitchen "station." Some children might also find it interesting to play with pots and pans and spoons. The pre-toddler often finds various kitchen items fun, and the pre-schooler can do imaginative play.
  • Family Room. In the family room, we have a large closet. This closet contains games, puzzles, and art supplies, among other things. We have puzzles that are age appropriate for both children. We have a Karaoke machine the kids often enjoy. We keep our library books in there. We have a tote full of various toys they can play with. Sometimes for Brayden free playtime can be playing Mario Kart in the family room.
  • Master Bedroom. I have a small tote with a few toys. These are just about too young for Kaitlyn (and definitely too young for Brayden, he doesn't have free play in there).
  • Outside. We have a fully fenced in backyard. In that yard there is a fully fenced in playground area with a swingset, gravel, and sandbox (if you are wondering why it is fenced in, it is because of one of our dogs who is a lab and prone to destroying things with her teeth). The kitchen is also by the backyard so when I am in the kitchen, the kids can be out there and I can hear everything they say. The outside is actually rarely used for free playtime--we use it more for sibling and family time (though you can have sibling free playtime where they have free playtime together).

Those are my typical free playtime activities. You might be wondering about length. There is no definite number given in any of the books. You want it to be long enough learning can happen. The sample schedules in Toddlerwise and Preschoolwise show free playtime as lasting for 30 minutes at a time. For some children, free playtime can happen more than once in a day. Our free playtime in our house is usually around 20 minutes, though it can be as short as 15 minuets or as long as 30 minutes.

Remember to let your schedule serve you. Let free playtime serve your family and the needs of everyone in it.

Related Posts:

Reader Comments/Thank Yous:

Reader Questions:

  • bradysmom said...
    My LO is 6.5 months, and maybe this will make more sense when he is older, but I don't understand the difference between independent play time; free play time; and blanket time. Can you clarify? THank you!
    August 13, 2008 6:24 AM
    Plowmanators said...
    Bradysmom, I will do a post on that. But Independent play is alone, whereas free playtime can be in the presence of others or even with others (like siblings). Blanket time and free playtime could feasibly be combined. The differences do grow more as they get older because at 6.5 months, they don't really choose what to play with, which is a part of free playtime.
    August 13, 2008 8:27 PM
  • The Traveling Turtle said...
    I think I have the same clarification question, bradysmom. I have a 5 1/2 month old and we typically let her play in her excersaucer or on her activity mat for about 10 - 15 minutes every night while we get her dinner and our own dinner ready. I have done this with her from the get go though - always given her time that she plays when I am not in the room. Even if it is just to be in the swing or watch her mobile. Is that considered independent play time? I am guessing she can't really have free play time right now since she can only roll over and sit up - it makes her somewhat limited in the things she can really do on her own.
    August 13, 2008 7:06 AM
    Plowmanators said...
    Traveling Turtle,If she is alone, I would count that as independent playtime. See the independent playtime post for more on that. I outline acceptable mediums. Independent Playtime:
    August 13, 2008 8:29 PM

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Playtime: Don't Over Stimulate

As a first time mom with Brayden (now 3), I thought my job was to make sure he was happily entertained every minute of the day. As he got older and I learned about and instituted independent playtime, I saw that not only was that not my job, but it wasn't good for Bradyen for me to do that.

Brayden was a highly overstimulated baby due in large part to my excellent entertaining skills. Once I started to back off, he chilled out. I had, however, trained him to need entertainment. When it came time for independent playtime, he had a rough go getting started. We had to start with 5 minutes and work our way up over time. He did get there, but it took time.

When Kaitlyn came along, I was not the entertainer to her that I was to Brayden. Part of the reason is that with a 22 month old child, I didn't have the time available to me to entertain her like I had Brayden. But the main reason for it is that I had learned my lesson with Brayden.

Babies don't need the stimulation we need in order to be entertained. Everything is new and interesting. It takes very little to teach and interest them. With Kaitlyn, I learned to just let her sit there. She could be in the room with me and be fully fascinated by the normal happenings of the household. I didn't need to be constantly singing, touching, bouncing, performing, showing toys, etc. She was not an over-stimulated baby. She was content and happy. And in case you read that and worry that if you do the same your child will be less intelligent...Kaitlyn (now 14 months) is proving to be ridiculously smart.

When we started independent playtime with Kaitlyn, it was easy. I put her in the playpen, expecting to have her cry or fuss for a full 5 minutes before I got her. Well, she happily played for 15 minutes before I decided that was long enough for her age and got her out. We have never had a problem with her and independent playtime.

So no matter the age of your baby, try to provide proper stimulation for his needs. Over-stimulation is not going to do anyone any favors. If you find your baby has become overstimulated, take note of what waketime was like and adjust waketime activities in the future. Just because your child is awake doesn't mean you need to be in front of his face putting on a show. Let him have some time to observe. Let him have time to himself. Realize that even a diaper change for a newborn is quite the stimulating activity.


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