I was watching ‘educational’ television the other day with my six-year old grandson and I couldn’t believe how many commercials there were. It’s no wonder that kids, who are watching and listening and absorbing everything they see and hear, come to their parents with requests…and sometimes, demands, of what they want.
Many parents spend more than they can afford to provide their kids with expensive electronic gadgets and ‘must-have’ items.
How much is too much?
To be honest, many young children would prefer the box the toy comes in! And although you may enjoy the peace and quiet of a kid absorbed in Minecraft videos or Angry Birds’ computer games, it’s really important to make sure kids have balance in their day.
Now that summer is around the corner, why not put together a tool-kit for your kids – one that requires NO batteries because the activities are powered by a child’s imagination. You can use a plastic tote with a lid (available at department stores for just a couple of dollars) with a several smaller shoebox-sized plastic containers to make things a bit more organized.
Here’s a list of my top 10 picks of what belongs in this tool-kit of magical imagination:
• Paper: Colored Construction paper, tracing paper, finger paint paper, sketch paper
• Crayons/markers/colored pencils
• Glue stick/Scissors
• Paper plates
• Paper lunch bags
• Clay and/or play dough
• Pretend play clothes
• Musical instruments like drums, bells, triangles
• Flannel board pieces and puppets for storytelling and role play
If you only have 15 minutes, here’s an idea. Grab several pieces of paper and on each, write down an activity that takes about 15 minutes…playing with clay, making a paper plate animal, telling a flannel board story, dressing up and retelling a favorite story or fairy tale. Fold each paper and put it into a jar. Invite your child to pick one – open it – and that will be the activity you will do with him or her. Having the summer tool-kit of magical imagination prepared, you and your child will have 15 minutes of joyful interaction, without having to run around the house searching for supplies.
My grandson and I started reading the first book in the Magic Tree House Series…a new favorite of his. Dinosaurs Before Dark was exciting. We read a couple of chapters every day and when it was finished, I told him he could pick one activity from the jar. MAKE CLAY FIGURES OF THE DINOSAURS was the paper he unfolded.
We pulled out the tool-kit and he got out the clay. Jeremy decided to make the T-rex.
This type of interaction is so valuable for kids…for developing literacy skills, mastering tasks like cutting and pasting, and sparking the imagination. My parent-teacher resource, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking, is filled with 100 quick and easy craft projects that use the contents of the tool-kit.
For example, if you and your child have read I Feel Happy and Sad and Angry and Glad by Mary Murphy (or any other book about emotions), you can make happy and sad faces door hangers. Cut out a shape for the head or use a paper plate Punch a hole in the top and string a piece of yarn or ribbon through it. Let your child draw a happy face on one side and a sad face on the other. Then your child can role play or you can ask how he would feel in certain situations (if someone took his toy, if he won a prize, if he zipped his jacket all by himself, if the kids in his class laughed at his lunch) and he can turn the plate to the side that shows how he feels. The door hanger can then be placed on the knob of his door…if you see the face on the sad side, you can initiate a chat…maybe something is bothering him.
The best thing about this summer tool-kit isn’t that the supplies are inexpensive, although that is definitely a plus. The best thing is that all of the items will spark your child’s imagination and creativity. And that’s a good thing!
Although she is not a fan of heights and was always a rather timid child, Vivian Kirkfield is constantly taking leaps of faith. She self-published Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking, went skydiving with her son, flew half-way around the globe to speak at the 2013AFCC/SCBWI conference in Singapore, and is amassing a respectable pile of submission-ready picture book manuscripts. When she isn’t scribbling stories, Vivian is hiking and fly-fishing with her hubby, reading, crafting and cooking with kids, and sharing self-esteem and literacy tips with parents and teachers.
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