Mommy and Me Play Ideas for Toddlers (1 to 2 years)
- Indoor Sandbox – A big rubber bin filled with puffed wheat, rice, lentils, trucks and cars, measuring spoons and cups makes a great indoor/outdoor sandbox.
- Etch Sketching – Place white paper over coins, or any etched surface and rub with crayons.
- Cushion Islands – Spread sofa cushions over the floor for islands.
- Rainbow Playdough – Make white playdough and roll it out. Give the children markers to draw on the playdough and watch the colors squish into patterns.
- Water Painting – Paint the house outside with water filled pails and paintbrushes or sponges. Let children wash the car, bikes, or bike trailer.
- Puddle Tub – Fill the baby bathtub or bowls with soapy water and pouring cups. Use a small stool as a play table in the bathtub and give them cups to pour from. Be sure to supervise water play.
- Get Jumping – Get a small trampoline to jump on. Or designate certain sofa cushions for jumping on and fort building.
Mommy and Me Play Ideas for Preschoolers (3 to 5 years)
- Shadow Puppet Theater –Darken the room and hang a sheet with tape across a corner from one wall to the other wall. Shine a flashlight over the sheet. Make shadow puppets out of hands or objects from behind the sheet.
- Stuffie Puppet Theater – Drape old sheets over the bunk-bed top or large box for a puppet or stuffy theater show.
- Box Forts – Get big boxes from appliance shops for fort making. Let them paint and decorate it.
- Post Office – Save junk mail, envelopes and stickers and let the children play post office.
- Spinning Art – Buy an old turntable at a garage sale. Put paper on the spindle and give markers and crayons for children to draw on while it is spinning.
- Craft Carpenter – Use a portable carpenter’s tray to carry markers, scissors, and rulers. Makes for easy cleanup and moving around the house.
- Texture Art – Paint with toy car tires or anything with texture. Roll a marble or toy car in paint on a cookie sheet tray lined with paper for interesting pictures.
- Mosaic Crayons – Melt broken crayons into foil lined muffin cups for mosaic crayons.
- Cars – Draw on an old shower curtain a number of roads, buildings and city features so they can customize a car play mat or get a basic car track that you put together in a line. Then use pillows to make hills and valleys. See how far the cars will go.
- Indoor Picnic – Spread the sheets out on the floor and have a picnic in the house.
Mommy and Me Play Ideas for School-Aged (6 to 12 years)
- Lemonade Stand – Set up a good old-fashioned lemonade or iced tea stand.
- Home Moviemaking – Allow the children to use your video camera to make Lego™ movies after you’ve given a care lesson and are supervising.
- High Tech Hide and Seek – If you have a handheld GPS, take them Geocaching.
- Paper Dolls – Paper Dolls are still fun. Give them white paper and markers and challenge them to make a house, zoo, store, pool, school, library out of each sheet of paper. They can also draw and cut out people, pets and items. Before long, children will be acting out roles and scenarios!
- Egg Drop Test – Hard boil a dozen eggs and cool. Assemble lots of materials and packaging and challenge the kids to wrap the egg so that it won’t crack when dropped from six feet above the floor.
- Gadget Play – Any small gadget or appliance that is broken is wonderful to take apart and unscrew with parent supervision. Check out second hand shops and garage sales for free stuff.
- Theme Day – Play history theme day. For example, declare a “prehistoric” day and make cave paintings, eat with your hands, camp out in a tent in the back yard and wear draped sheets.
- Play Potions – Experiment in the kitchen by making different combos of liquids that are edible and see what tastes, properties and observations can be made from combining different mixtures.
Mommy and Me Play Ideas for Teenagers (13 to 19 years)
- Adventures in Reading – Drop them off at the library for a day to immerse in reading books
- Old Favorites – Teens love grown-up board games and especially old favorite card games.
- Volunteering – Summer is a great time to volunteer at many worthwhile places.
- Yard Sale – Show them how to set up a few yard sales so they can earn cash to buy new play items.
- Teen Lunch – Organize a regular teen lunch or movie night.
Judy Arnall is an international Parenting Speaker, mom of 5, and author of the best-selling, “Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery” www.professionalparenting.ca