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Engaging with Kids at Every Age

If you're like me then you've found yourself laying in bed at night, thinking about your day, making plans for tomorrow, and realizing "Did I even play with my kids today?" In the chaos of school, dance, making dinner, trying to switch loads of laundry, and keeping to a bedtime routine- I had so little face-to-face time with my kids. Being the Type-A personality that I am, I wrote down a few quick & easy ideas for each of my kids on post-it notes and put them up on my bathroom mirror (this could be a whole other article, but seriously: post-it notes on your bathroom mirror are a game-changer). Research shows that your child only needs about 10 minutes of your undivided attention in order to feel loved & secure. Here are some activities to fill those 10 Golden Minutes!

Newborn to Crawling:

  • skin-to-skin tummy time

  • hold baby close to your face and sing softly

  • your baby loves to hear your voice, so talk to them about anything while you go about your day

  • lay down on your tummies face-to-face and talk to your child, this will help tummy time last longer and be more enjoyable for your baby

Crawling to Walking:

  • play music and dance with your baby, this could be another great opportunity to sing to your baby since they love to hear your voice!

  • if you make baby laugh, try to repeat the activity- this could be a silly sound or face, anything that keeps your baby's attention span growing

  • go on a walk, outside, with your baby, this can be made even easier with a stroller or carrier

Walking to Talking:

  • look at and talk about board books together, you don't have to read every word, just be sure to point to things as you talk about them to help your baby build their listening vocabulary

  • build towers with blocks or books or plastic plates- anything that you have available and knock them down together! This will help your toddler learn that it's okay for these things to happen and that we can always rebuild

  • talk to your child about what they're doing "Oh! Look at the snow! You are having so much fun in the snow!"

2 to 5 Years Old:

  • build puzzles together; start with puzzles that have a few large pieces and move to smaller pieces as they grow

  • take them to free community activities, such as story time at your local library, to help them socialize with other children

  • start an activity with your child, such as playing "chef" with plastic plates and food and slowly remove yourself from the play- this will help your child learn how to entertain themselves which is a crucial skill

  • play Search-and-find in your yard, "can you find me a leaf? See if you can bring me one orange leaf!"

Elementary School Age:

  • play cooperative board games together, our family loves Peaceable Kingdom games, like Gnomes at Night

  • build LEGO together (parenting tip: use the free Brickit app to take a picture of your pile of LEGO and they will show you builds you can do with the bricks you have)

  • keep reading to your kids! Bedtime is the perfect opportunity- we are currently reading a chapter each night from the AMAZING Upside-Down Magic series

  • play video games together, my kids are huge fans of Mario Party

Middle School:

  • take your child on one-on-one dates occasionally. Be sure not to pry- your child wants to share their life with you, but they want to do it at their own pace.

  • buy some patterned coloring books and color together- this is another good opportunity for your pre-teen to open up to you

  • kids in this age range still want to play AND feel mature: board, card, and video games are great way to do this

High School:

  • eat dinner together as a family whenever possible

  • send your teen a random "thinking of you" text

  • plan a movie marathon, including what you'll wear (pajama party?), what you'll eat, and what you'll watch

Remember that no matter what you do, you are doing the best that you can with the time, resources, and support that you have. Sometimes activities go left- attitudes get sour, and it's best to take a break, talk about it later, and try again another time. You're doing amazing mama!

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