As a nanny I have learned a lot of simple things about kids that I had never thought about before. Obviously nannying is NOT the same as parenting, but I have still learned many tricks that I will be able to carry over into parenting one day; Lord willing.
One of those so called tricks is that making a day special and exciting is all in the way you present out-of-the-ordinary things.
I am currently working with 4 year old twins and most of my prior experience is also with young children. They have SO much energy and so much excitement about life (most of the time) it is hard for me to keep up the same positive energy. I have been learning, and hopefully will continue to learn, how much difference a "special" something makes.
Here are 5 simple ideas I've tried that make life more fun and help drag everyone out of the same ol' same ol'. NONE of these are earth-shattering to say the least people. I feel like playing with kids is like planning dinner. When you do it every day even the simplest ideas seem out of your mental reach and coming up with new ideas is stressful.
1. Spice up lunch time
Sandwiches seem to be the go-to lunch at home. "My kids" have just learned how to make their own sandwiches. A huge excitement in and of itself. So for a "special" day I have two ideas.
Here it was:
Simple simple. I cut up some cheese, sliced a boiled egg and slid some fruit onto a skewer. When they saw their colorfully prepared plates they lit up and were so excited to have this special treat. I used only things I already had in the fridge. Minimal extra work- maybe 10 minutes.
Making personal pizzas together was an event! I talked it up on the way home from school and made them a part of the whole process. They put all of the ingredients on their own pizzas and even watched them cook in the oven.
Rainy days are the WORST! The kids love outdoor activities so much that you can almost hear the rain clouds in their voices. Making rainy days fun is a major challenge for me. So I decided to take a sunny day activity and bring it inside. Picnic in the living room. Bust out an easily washable blanket (don't want to be stressing about them spilling because... they probably will) pack a bag or basket full of sandwiches or even a treat like chips and eat together on the floor.
3. Grocery store
With some play money and the plastic play-kitchen fruit, we set up a little grocery store in the spare room and went shopping. (I will blog more on this later because it was such a big hit).
I made a list (with some online help) of things to hunt for outside. We spent almost 2 hours walking through the neighborhood searching for all the items on our list. When we could find one we would all stop, take a picture of it (or the kids with it depending on the size or placement) and draw a picture of it on our chart before crossing it off the list. They had such a blast and all of the walking gave us some exercise and a new way for the munchkins to burn some energy. Not to mention it was just nice to spend some time outside on a nice day.
Here was our list:
Stick shaped like a "Y"
Colored leaf (it was fall)
Above is a not-that-great photo of our recordings. Just to show you how not-perfect this can be. The middle is the list of what we were looking for and the left and right are pictures of what they drew when we spotted things. They truly had a blast and talked about it for weeks.
I am NOT a children's flash card person. In general, I think experiencing and using senses are more productive and appropriate way to learn- especially in kids under 6 or 7 (before you get to the math stage). However, flash cards can come in handy.
I bought, at target (for $1.00), an ABC flash card set. I laid the cards out side by side down the length of the hallway. I would tell them one at a time silly instructions like... Hop like a kangaroo to the letter H, Soar like an airplane to the letter S, etc. once they got so good that it was barely a challenge, I changed it up to "slither like a snake to the letter than makes the sound "tuh", walk like a bear to the letter that makes the sound "zzzzz", etc. They stay entertained for over an hour most times. We are all Playing together so they love that and they get tired from all the hopping and running- a fun way to sneak in some learning.
You could do this with animal flash cards for younger kids or even words for a slightly older kids.
Have you come up with any simple special days? Please share! I always need ideas!!