Now that the hustle and bustle of the holidays are over, we can all take a breath and settle into a more normal routine for our families. I don’t know about all of you, but our family flew right back into the craziness of work and school and we are still trying to catch our breaths! We are really trying our best to still fit in family time, but it’s so hard to find time for just having relaxed downtime with your kids, amidst all the practices, games, after school activities, and driving here, there, and everywhere! Everyone is so busy and over scheduled as families lately that it is easy to forget to carve out time doing the simple, fun activities, like crafts, building forts, making block towers, and exploring together. These are so important for children’s development! Our son is three and this is such an important age to develop his fine motor skills, his problem solving, foster his communication skills, and experience activities that he can be creative with. I try my best, but I’m not perfect, and often my best laid plans are left lying on the kitchen table!
I have decided that this year, my “New Year Long” resolution is to find time each week, even if it is only 30 minutes, to spend with my son playing, creating, or crafting together. It’s winter, and even though we are a hockey family and spend plenty of time on the ice, there are still lots of times where we are stuck indoors, and it’s perfect for spending some time playing together.
Play is such an important part of learning and development. Children need purposeful play that helps them develop their fine motor skills, language skills, ability to interact with each other, and helps foster emotional regulation. Screen time or using an iPad unfortunately does nothing to help this. If you are looking for some easy, low cost ways to have fun with your child and not break the budget while cooped up, dig out puzzles, blocks, Lego's, and toys that encourage building and construction. Choose toys that encourage pretend play and help your children develop their imagination. Even if they are older, find new ways to use them. Can you see how fast your child can assemble the puzzle? What about pulling out two puzzle sets at once and seeing if they can assemble both correctly? Mellissa and Doug themed puzzles are great for this. What about building an entire city with blocks and Legos, and getting those Hot Wheels out (our son’s current favorite), and connecting the buildings with roads? Small warning…you may have to leave it up for a few days, so set it up somewhere where there is not a ton of foot traffic!
Our son absolutely LOVES to do "projects" as he calls them. He loves to paint, color, draw, glue, cut, and create anything he can imagine with a paper plate, puffballs, and glue! I cherish these times as we make memories together, talk, laugh, and I get to watch his joy and eyes light up as he creates something new. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, we have kept busy in the cold temperatures finding fun crafts that still practice fine motor skills. Check out our “I love you to pieces” hearts and our “Heart Man.”
I worry that these experiences are being lost and happening less and less, as iPads and video games are overtaking our children's time and attention. Even something as simple as making paper snowflakes seems to have fallen away. As parents, we can't forget how important these activities are for our children's development and how much better they are than any app.
I recently completed a research project working to develop children's fine motor skills. I worked with preschool students and saw incredible growth in our pre and post tests. What did we do you ask? Well, we worked with play dough, painted, practiced picking up items with clothespins and tongs, used paint dabbers and stickers to practice making lines and shapes, and of course colored with Effortless Art Crayons! You know, really high-tech things! Children's pencil grasp and visual motor skills improved, which is a huge foundational piece for young children to progress to harder tasks, like writing letters and numbers, not to mention, help to increase their independence!
Bottom line - all these activities are necessary for your children to experience if you want them to be ready to read and write. We may not think much of them, because it seems too simple. However, simple is truly better, in fact, simple is necessary. If you do not build your child's foundation, they will have nothing to stand on when it comes time to learn to write, spell, and move onto more complex literacy skills.
Let your New Year’s resolutions ring out through the year! I hope you join me in making a resolution to focus on helping our children experience the fun of creating art, of being creative, of engaging in purposeful play. Try it out now starting with Valentine’s Day! You children will most certainly love the time spent with you. Till next time!
The Effortless Art Family,
Nancy, Jason, and Crayon Kid