Have you or your caregiver ever spent 20 minutes setting up an activity to have your child say “I’m all done” after 2 minutes?
Naturally, your reaction was “I’m not doing this again”. It’s easy to get discouraged, but with so many developmental benefits of structured activities – also called purposeful play – it’s worth trying again.
With these 5 tips, you’re guaranteed to have your little one excited about learning!
Oh and bonus tip, any good activity shouldn’t take 20 minutes to set up.
Don’t choose the Pinterest worthy crafts
It’s tempting, it really is. The beautiful transformation of toilet paper rolls into a magnificent blooming garden will have you ready to accept your medal for parent of the year. 20 minutes in, kids running all around you, you’ll realize it’s more an activity for you than for your kids. It’s often the less pretty ones, that prioritize the skill being learned over the outcome, that the kids enjoy most. At Rayz Kidz, we develop activities with the skill in mind. Many are cute, but that’s just a secondary benefit. First priority is always keeping the kids engaged and learning.
Give the kids choices
There’s nothing that gets our kids more excited about doing activities - or really about anything - than when they get to choose. Introduce each activity and what they’ll do, through pictures or videos, and have them select their favorite. After they’re done with that one, you’ll be amazed at how excited they’ll be to pick the next one. In the Rayz Kidz app, it is super easy for kids to pick their favorites from the set of weekly themed activities, or to go into the bank of activities and pin them to your weekly plan. Our kids are so used to doing this (“Mom can I pick out activities on your phone?”), I think they can navigate it better than I can.
Make it a routine
As with many areas of their lives, kids are most comfortable when things are familiar and predictable. There’s a theme here: control. Creating a daily routine helps give them that control, helps them feel safe, and ultimately opens them up to learning. In our house, our au pair does one activity with the kids in the morning and one in the afternoon. Every morning, our three-year-old asks with excitement “what activities are we going to do today?” She truly looks forward to these times of structured play, and knows that she has plenty of time for independent play scattered through the day.
Let the kids lead
Don’t get so caught up in the activity directions that you lose the point, for your kids to enjoy. If they start turning their toothpick marshmallow house into a fenced in farm for their animals, that’s okay. They’re still demonstrating lots of creativity and using those great fine motor skills. Use the directions as a guide and feel free to modify to what works best for you and your kids.
Let the learning come naturally
The learning is supposed to be so natural that it still feels like play. The key is really exposure. After “Fruits and Vegetables” week, they may not be able to rattle off the vitamins contained in each food item, but they’ll recognize the items, know their names, be comfortable with them, and someday may eat them without a fully negotiated bargaining agreement.
We hope this helps bring more joy, learning and fulfillment to your kids’ lives, it absolutely has for ours. And be on the lookout for the launch of the Rayz Kidz app that will make purposeful play in your household a breeze!
Successfully Engage Your Kids in Structured Play at Home
Author: Annie Delaney, Rayz Kidz Co-Founder