You just put the baby down for a nap and smile at the thought of peace and quiet. One problem: your older child (or children) is still up and about, wanting to be entertained. Television isn't the activity of choice, and you can't go anywhere for at least 2 hours -- how to you keep him occupied?
"Down Time" activities are a great way to bond with a child while slowly developing independent play-based skills. You've heard of (and tried) all the classic activities (tracing letters, doing a puzzle, molding with Play-Doh). Here are more some fun games and projects that will keep the entertainment up and the noise down!
- Build a Birdhouse
What's better than finding an activity based on your own backyard? Teach your child about the neighborhood birds. Then, make a birdhouse together. It doesn't have to be fancy-just use a clean milk carton, staple the top shut, and cut a 2" hole on one side. Add a dowel for a bird stand and some string to hang it and viola-a bird house. The kids will also have a blast painting and decorating it too. (Need more bird-friendly ideas? Read #6 from this article to find out how to make a nature-inspired bird feeder.)
- Put on a Puppet Show
The great thing about puppet shows is that they can be week-long productions. Grab those "single" socks from the laundry (you probably won't find their partner anyways) and make sock puppets. Kids will enjoy decorating each puppet and you can work on one a day. Feeling inspired? Build a puppet theatre. Couch pillows work or you can make a small theatre out of and old cardboard box and popsicle sticks.
- Chronicle Me
Create an "All About Me" book for your child. Ask questions that include favorite color, best friend, favorite food, and how I know I'm special. Then add height and weight info. For a great visual, measure your child using a thick piece of yarn. It will give him a great sense of how big he is, especially if you do this project once a year.
- Go on "Dates"
Want an easy way to teach kids etiquette and manners? Go on a mock dinner outing. Have more than one big kid, even better! Pretend to be the waiter or the diners and practice manners such as holding the door for your friends, ordering food, eating properly, and saying "please" and "thank you." All the practice should pay off the next time you are at a restaurant.
- Send a Videogram
Video tape you and the child reading out loud together and send it to the relatives. The extra praise from Grandma and Grandpa will give him the extra confidence he needs to keep practicing.
- Send Kindness
Kindness is something we all need to build relationships in our lives. Ask the question "Who do you want to do something nice for today?" Have a child help you make cards (they can draw a picture on the front) for someone whose day they want to brighten or someone they want to thank.
- Make Sand Art
Find a small vase and make a sand art creation. Layer different levels of sand and then use a dowel to create unique lines and patterns. Don't have sand? Use dirt of different shades or add various food coloring to sugar and salt - and mix.
- Build a Garden
We all want to eat healthy. Plant a small seasoning plant (basil, rosemary, parsley) in the kitchen. Have the child take the lead in taking care of it and watch it grow. Kids will be more excited about eating healthy when they have been nurturing the plant.
- Create a Song Themed-book
Working with songs like "Wheels on the Bus" or "Old McDonald," have kids create a new scene from a favorite visual-based tune. Old McDonald has a lot of animals on his farm, right? When you're out of animals, bus parts, etc, punch a hole in the corner of each page and tie together with string. Then get her to present the book while singing the song to the family.
Other Quiet Time Activities:
- Read books together
- Practice and trace the alphabet
- Complete a maze
- Play with Legos
- Mold something with Play-Doh
- Complete a patterned puzzle
- Learn about trees
- Learn about flowers