Mother’s (or Father’s) Little Helper

This super-fun activity is known to adults by it’s not-so-glamorous name: chores. While many parents are aware of their toddler’s aptitude for making a fine mess, few understand that the same child’s willingness and ability to help and take part in household chores is just as great. The important thing for a parent is to recognize and nurture this tendency for altruism. This will require some patience from a parent, who can complete a chore with far greater ease and convenience if a child is purposefully excluded. But, in fact, stirring some pancake mix, even is some of it ends up on the floor, is a potential “gateway” to later and far more sophisticated experiments in cooking. Washing a few plastic dishes, water splashing every which way, may be the first stage of learning an actual chore, one that will be performed in the future with ease and commitment. Remember how much a child can benefit from collaborating with you, as you empty the dryer together, match clean socks, sweep the floor, or dust the shelves (socks put onto a hand of a toddler make hilarious and effective dusting mitts). Understandably, not all chores are developmentally appropriate for a small child, but if you can find a way to make work play, everyone will benefit in the long run.  An informative perspective on children’s contribution to household tasks was explored in this 2018 NPR piece

Dress-Up Fun

A combination of kids dress-up kits, Halloween costumes, thrift shop finds, and your old outfits and fashion accessories would be perfect for your kid’s special dress-up trunk. Dress up offers opportunities for dramatic play, an important part of child’s growth and development, a way to stretch the imagination, and experiment with role identification. There is an added practical benefit for the little kids who get to work on their fine motor skills by buttoning, zipping, tying, and lacing. Most importantly, dress-up enhances the world of make-believe where a child get to safely work through real experiences and emotions. Remember that imaginative play in early childhood is the key to creative thinking during the adult years.

A Tea Party for All

Help your little one throw an impromptu tea party. Even without a special cause, this celebration could become one of the real highlights of the weeks spent in quarantine. Don’t be afraid to get a little silly: you can set a table or put a picnic blanket down on the floor, you can use regular-sized kitchenware or mix it up with play dishes and cups. Create an impressive guest list that includes all members of the household, as well as your child’s favorite stuffed toys. Cookies, fruit, or any other snacks can be arranged on platters and accompany tea, which could also be water or juice. This is a unique way to engage with your toddler, to promote dramatic play, and to strengthen your relational bond. It is also an opportunity to give yourself, the parent, a permission to experiment with the set of prescribed rules, and to do that which we so often exclude from our busy adult lives: play.

Written by Marilee Hartling, RN, LMFT and Yelena Tokman, AMFT