Keep Your Child Engaged, Not Entertained

The month of October ushers in a lot of festivities, celebrations and fun times. Families plan get together, outings and the weather Gods shine benevolently, giving the much needed relief from a long period of summer.

For parents, it also means ‘holiday time’ for the kids. Schools are closed for a number of occasions and festival celebrations, which in turn means that children spend a lot of time at home. And keeping children engaged at home is quite a task by itself. And this is the time when the parent takes on the dual role of a teacher alongside being mom and dad.
No worries! Being at home can be fun and rewarding, both for you and your child. Listed below are some chores and tasks that you could safely engage your kids in. Studies show that children who are involved in household chores from an early age tend to me more responsible, accountable and achieve a greater degree of success even in their professional life at a later stage.

Initiate them into these tasks in a fun way and you could soon have them asking for more.

How to keep your 2 year old child engaged?
• While you are busy in the kitchen, give your child a bowl full of different sized pulses and beans to begin sorting. The little one will spend time diligently sorting out ‘dal, rajma and chana’. Make it rewarding by cooking the same bowl of lentils which the child sorted hours before. Seeing their own effort bearing fruit makes the child feel really worthwhile.
• Two year olds can also be given a ball of flour dough, to roll around, make shapes and knead to their heart’s content. Present their ‘artwork ‘at the dining table before the family for positive encouragement. Incidentally, this is one of the finest activities for fine motor skill development.
• When you are busy completing an office task, draw a few patterns with the help of a chalk on the floor (zigzag, horizontal, vertical, circular etc.) and get your child excited by giving him/her a toy car to race on the patterns. Change the toy if the child gets bored zooming around with the cars. This is an excellent activity for eye hand coordination and wrist movement too.
• Stick a piece of crayon vertically to a toy car and spread a few newspaper sheets. Allow your toddler to go racing on the newspaper sheets. Both of you will soon see patterns emerge out of this colourful scribbling.
• If you need to make an uninterrupted phone call, bring out the laundry basket and ask your child to take out the laundry and place it in piles as per the primary colours he /she is familiar with (red, yellow, green , blue) . Give them a free area to spread the clothes in piles. The reward can be something as simple as allowing the child to assist you in putting the clothes into the washing machine. Being allowed to assist in an adult chore is a big achievement for any 2 year old.
• Pick up an old piece of flat sponge sheet in the house and punch a few holes in it (maybe in a zigzag or horizontal pattern). Give your child a piece of wool or shoe laces and ask him to thread through those holes and perhaps make a pattern. Positive encouragement after every attempt is a must.

How to keep your 3 year old child engaged?
• Attempt all the above chores and in addition, a few more!
• Encourage the young one to fold napkins, handkerchiefs, vests, kitchen towels etc. and place them neatly in a pile.
• If you do the ironing at home, ask your child to button all the shirts and pass them to you for ironing. Likewise, the same can be done for the clothes that are sent to laundry  for ironing.
• Give them a bucket and a mug to water the plants in the balcony or the garden. Make simple rules, such as – half a mug for each pot. You may have to mop the mess for a few days but you will notice a marked improvement in their eye hand coordination with each attempt.
• Sit down with them and start making a grocery list. After your list is made, ask your pre-schooler to circle all the A’s, B’s, C’s and so on (all/any alphabets that he/she is familiar with). In short, you are encouraging language literacy.
• Get a pack of pipe cleaners and mould them in the shape of eye glasses, wrist bands, rings etc. they are very easy to make and soon you will find your children attempting to make the same with their fingers. Another excellent fine motor skill development activity!

How to keep your 4 or 5 year old child engaged?
• Attempt all the above and a lot more…
• By this age, the child should be an active participant in all household chores. Get them to lay the table, place the mats, plates, cutlery, napkin etc. in proper place. If you have two kids, rotate the duties for every meal.
• While you are busy in the kitchen, give your child some bread, butter and sliced cucumbers or tomatoes and let them know what non fire cooking is all about. Make their handcrafted sandwich look special by adding that special mother’s touch in the form of a smiley or a star on top of the sandwich. Munch together.
• With Deepawali around the corner, get your child a few packets of coloured sand (you can even make this at home) and allow them to practise making a few designs in the balcony or the driveway. To make things easier for you, let them do this activity before the cleaning woman comes in, so that the mess can be cleaned and your nerves remain unruffled.  Making a rangoli is excellent for strengthening the wrist and pincer grip of the child.
• With October ushering in the ‘Joy of giving ‘ week, live the values of compassion and charity by making a visit to the local orphanage / blind school/ old age home . Ensure that you and your child spend a couple of hours interacting with the inmates of these institutions. Remember, children are great imitators. They practise what they see.

Listed above are just a few activities. You can do a lot more.  Just get started and you will be surprised at the reservoir of ideas that will come rushing out.
Keeping children fruitfully engaged is a responsibility that every parent needs to pay close attention to.

Happy parenting!!!

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