Not only will movement activities keep your child entertained for longer, these activities will also help your child to be able to better attend to those structured seated tasks throughout the day
Expectation, watching your toddler sit at the table scooping colored rice, from a container that you meticulously organized, into a cup for half an hour while you clean the kitchen and fold laundry. Reality, your toddler spends 3 minutes sitting at the table scooping rice from the container onto the floor and into their mouth and it takes you longer to clean up the rainbow on your carpet than it did to make the bin. Sound familiar?
So What is a Parent to do?
Children require movement to regulate their bodies! Think about this, do you notice that your child is able to play longer when you are at the park and they are able to move their bodies than when you are at home trying to get them to complete an activity that requires being seated? There are so many benefits of movement!
Movement releases endorphins that helps regulate your child’s mood
Movement helps burn off your child’s extra energy
Movement gives your child the sensory input they need to feel organized in their bodies
So not only will movement activities keep your child entertained for longer (let’s face it, that’s the goal at the end of the day), these activities will also help your child to be able to better attend to those structured seated tasks throughout the day.
In our current climate with parents and children mostly indoors, it’s time to get creative! My favorite way to offer movement within the home is by creating obstacle courses. Obstacle courses are my go-to because they are great for sibling play across all ages, relatively simply to make, you can utilize things you already have in your home, and they incorporate such a large scope of learning opportunities! Play and learn? Check! At a basic level, within an obstacle course children are practicing social skills through turn taking, memory and recall, following directions, coordination and balance.
Ready to be on Your Way to Keeping Your Child Entertained for Longer?
First off, focus on limiting your course to 3-5 steps for toddlers. You also want to try to incorporate a variety of steps that require different motor movements to complete. Spinning, crawling, jumping, climbing. Try to think about what your child enjoys doing at the park and give them similar experiences.
Next, plan out the location and what you have access to in your home. A bench with a blanket over it or a box can become a tunnel, a step stool and a couch can become a climbing wall, pillows on the floor can become a crash pad to jump into, paper plates can become stepping stones, blue tape can become a tight rope, a computer chair can become a spinning playground merry-go-round. The possibilities are endless!
Lastly, don’t forget to model for your child what to do!
Additional Ways to Incorporate Learning and Keeping the Course Novel
For younger children, simply focus on following directions and turn taking. You can incorporate prepositions and adjectives into your language use to narrate what is happening. For example, “Go under the chair!” “Spin fast… Spin slow…” To work on receptive preposition use and following directions, you can incorporate a favorite stuffed animal and give them directions for placement of the animal. For example, “Put puppy on the chair. Put puppy under the chair.” You may have to narrate and do it first a few times. But overall make it fun, take turns, and let them explore!
For children over the age of 3, let them run the course. After a few rounds begin to change it up to maintain attention to the activity. You can increase attention by giving directions on which steps of the course to complete out of order. You can also incorporate prepositions and adjectives into your directions. For example, “spin fast… run slow…” You can also ask your child where they are to encourage them to expressively use prepositions in their speech.
Strategies To Increase the Time Your Child Participates in an Activity
Introduce novel activities or show them novel ways to play within an activity
Model what to do when a new activity is introduced
Participate with them initially, you don’t want your child to begin associating a fun task with a parent leaving
Step back and offer behavior specific praise for how well they’re participating in the activity
Give attention for preferred behavior more than nonpreferred behavior