There are many classes available out there for toddler and preschool age kids, especially in urban areas. However, classes can be expensive and hard to fit into the budget of a single income family. If classes aren’t going to fit into your budget, here are some ideas of ways to do class activities and socialization at home.
1. Form a Playgroup. If you don’t know anyone in your area with kids, start hanging out at the park or another play area. If you already have some friends who are also stay at home parents, organize one or more day(s) per week to get your kids together to play. A park is an ideal place to start. When the weather turns bad, try a play area inside a mall or other free play area. This may not be a structured activity, but it will get your child playing with and around other children, an important part of early socialization skills.
2. Plan ‘Classes’ at Home. Plan an hour (or 10 minutes) every day (or once a week) to do some structures ‘class’ activities at home.
For Gymnastics: Put some pillows on the floor and let the kids do tumbling. Practice balancing on one foot, hopping and doing other stretching/tumbling activities.
For Art: Put a protective cover on the table and get out the paints. Use crayons, colored pencils, watercolors, scissors, glue, stickers and paper and simply let the kids explore different types of media.
For Music: If you are not a singer yourself, find a cd or dvd that has some good singing and encourage your kids to sing along. If you have toy musical instruments, get them out and have ‘band practice.’ Find songs that have a good rhythm for clapping hands and tapping toes. Sing songs that include movements like “Hokey-Pokey” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”
Don’t think that just because your child is a toddler that they cannot start helping with ‘chores’ around the house. I have noticed that there is a window of opportunity where kids actually like to help. By taking advantage of that early window, you can set up routines and examples for your kids to follow as they grow.
Picking up Toys: I think the best way to start forming good habits is to have kids help pick up and put away their own toys. Teach them early on that part of playing with toys is putting them away. Even if you put away 90% of the toys and they only put away 10%, it is a good start.
Laundry: Putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket is a good place to start for kids helping with laundry. After they get undressed, ask your toddler to pick up the clothes and take them to the laundry basket. This works best if the laundry basket is low to the ground. If you have a taller hamper, consider putting a small step stool nearby. Toddlers and preschoolers might also be able to help load the washer and dryer, especially if you use front loaders.
Dining Table: Most preschoolers can start to help setting the table. Be prepared for things to be put in the wrong place and dropped on the floor though. Silverware might be a good place to start. For example, ask your child to take these spoons and put one at everyone’s place at the table. Or say, here is your cup, go put it at your place. Cleaning up after meals is a little more tricky. We typically head right into potty time or bath time or nap time right after meals, so help in clearing a washing up will have to start a little farther down the road for us.
Cleaning: Dusting is a great place for toddlers and preschoolers to begin helping. Give them a damp dust rag while you are dusting and let them go at it. They might just move the dust around instead of wiping it up, but at least they are getting the idea of wiping down the furniture. *Remember to keep toxic cleaning chemicals away from your child.
Yard Work: Most kids love to play outside. Make outside chores a fun activity for your child. If you are working in the garden, let them have a small plot in which to dig and use a watering can. Weeding (provided you are specific about what is a weed and what is not) can be another fun chore. The Boy also loves helping pick up clippings and taking them to the street or to the compost pile. Sometimes a child-sized accessory (like kid gardening gloves) is all it takes for kids to actually want to help out!