Photo by Design Mom
It’s so very alluring: the iPad app that entertains your child while you take a shower or make another phone call, the battery operated toy that’s a must have for every American toddler, or maybe it’s that next episode of ‘educational’ television.
Let’s admit it: we like to be entertained. And the convenience of entertainment in our generation makes it even more enticing. But I want you to ask yourself a question: What kind of home do you want to create for your child? I propose that choosing Enrichment over Entertainment will be exponentially more rewarding in the long run.
Some days it will seem like you have no choice in the matter. The kids are screaming, the phone is ringing, and you have dozens of e-mails in your inbox. But take a moment to reflect. Ask yourself, “Do you want your home to be a place of entertainment or enrichment?” If you chose the latter, excellent. But what does it look like to have a home focused on ‘enrichment’?
During my years in early childhood education and research, I discovered several ways you can implement critical and creative thinking skills right in your own home. I searched for households that sought to give children opportunities. I found places that weren’t a break from education, but promoted discovery.
Here are a few ideas on how you can transition your home from a place of entertainment to a place of enrichment:
Set up an art table. This can be a child-sized garage sale find or something like this one from Pottery Barn Kids. Tucked in the corner of your dining room or living room, this is a place for messes. Encourage creation here, not coloring sheets. Your child is capable of new ideas and will get comfortable with their creativity when given the opportunity to create. Supplies for your art table need not be magnificent. In fact, save things like paper towel rolls, bottle caps, and yogurt cups for moments of childhood inspiration. Have a basket you devote to such items and another basket for markers, paper, tape, and paint if you’re daring. Oversized t-shirts make great art smocks. Providing opportunity inside boundaries is perfect for young artists. Perhaps, each day you provide your child with a different medium to explore: chalk, crayon, marker, paint, clay or Play-Doh. All of these provide wonderful opportunities for fine motor skill development and creativity. If your child takes up a particular interest in painting, perhaps think about investing in an easel as an upcoming birthday gift. I suggest this one by Melissa & Doug.
Play in the kitchen. Whether you let your child ‘wash’ the dishes in the sink with soap and water, or you venture to bake with your toddler, they will inevitably engage in the task and gain knowledge of various properties of ingredients and how things work. For a toddler, the kitchen is a glorified science lab. Allowing your child to play with water is a simple activity that is common in many popular preschool approaches. Many schools invest in tables specifically designed for water play. However, if you have a large kitchen sink and a sturdy kitchen chair, you can create your own at home. Try saving water bottles, funnels and plastic cups for your child to experiment with in the water. Check out the SmartMom Pinterest page for more water play ideas.
Engage in dramatic play. Your house has the capability of transforming into a rocket ship, a grocery store, and a library: perhaps all in the same day! When your child is encouraged to engage with household items, the sky is the limit! Early on, this may take some encouragement from you as the parent. However, you will be surprised to watch your child come up with their own ideas when they are encouraged to utilize the materials around them. To stimulate this dramatic play, try questions like, “I wonder what we could make out of this table and these blankets?” or “How could we turn our living room into a Gas Station?” This encourages child-directed play and it will excite your child to see their ideas come to life. Dramatic play is critical to early childhood development because it helps engage children in various roles that will be demanded of them in later life. They develop language, social, and critical thinking skills, all while building an airplane out of pillows on the carpet in the hallway.
And, of course, don’t forget to read. With these methods of enrichment over entertaining, you aren’t likely to hear your child complain of boredom. After all, discovery happens in the mind of your toddler. Find ways to engage their creativity and enrich their minds!
If you’re wondering how to shop for enriching toys, look no further – we’ve got your back.