I love my kids. But in the past 6 weeks, there have been moments where I’ve (almost) lost my #*%!. They are 3 (full-time preschool) and almost 6 (kindergarten). They are amazing. AND they are both opinionated and strong-willed (just like their parents, I guess?). They also are both high-energy and want LOTS of attention. Is this starting to sound familiar?!?
So. How have we survived this crazy time? We introduced a daily schedule and routines early on (you can read about them here), and we split them up for chunks of time every day. They do so much better when they get breaks from each other throughout the day.
But they’ve also learned to play really well with each other. Little brother (D) is developing his vocabulary and his imagination trying to emulate his big sister. And E (big sister) is developing her leadership skills and is learning how to be patient and kind with her younger (big) fan.
I knew I wanted to bring in a few new games and activities to keep them busy and distracted from the long days being stuck at home. I spent a few evenings removing books, toys, and games we’ve outgrown or just never loved and played with as much. These items are packed safely in the garage and will be donated as soon as our local charities are open for business.
In the meantime, I’ve picked up a few things that would work well for both kids, and I bring out roughly one item/week. They have all been huge hits, and are used almost daily (if not more often)
Your mission is to run back and forth with a spatula and (plastic) pancakes and create the right sequence stack of pancakes. This game is perfect for getting some energy out (indoors) and was easy for both kids to follow. You can play variations of kid vs. kid, kid vs. adult or combo teams. *Keep an eye out for all pieces – they might wander off into your pretend kitchen for some “pretend brunch” action.
40pcs Extra-Thick Jumbo Giant Building Blocks in 3 Sizes
by Melissa & Doug ($36)
We are big on building in our house. Everything from forts using up furniture, pillows and blankets to magnatiles, legos, wooden blocks and even plastic cups. I noticed these blocks a while back at our preschool, and I’m so happy we now own 2 sets! They are sturdy enough for the kids to play rough (including stand on them), and large enough to build cool structures and mix them in with other elements. On Earth Day they pretended to be garbage truck drivers and sorted through recycling, compost and trash. My kids loved helping put them together and I easily contain them in an oversized square wicker basket in the playroom.
Educational game system for iPad and Fire tablets
(starting at $25)
In “normal” days we tried to limit screen time as much as possible (iPad used to come out primarily for travel/sick days). With our new reality, we play our iPads daily, but limit it to an hour/day. I like the OSMO systems because they offer a super creative interactive element. The kids are practicing letters, writing, shapes, math and numbers, creative problem solving and even basic coding (and music), and can use OSMO independently (which means I can get my own stuff done in the same room, yay!) We have the Genius Starter Kit, the Little Genius Starter Kit, and the Coding Jam. Both kids love all 3 sets and swap them amongst themselves regularly.
Book series by Diane Alber
You might be familiar with Diane Alber’s books SCRIBBLE STONES and STICKS. Diane is a fellow mom of preschoolers, an illustrator and author of more than 30 kids books. The illustrations are always playful and colorful and just make you smile! The stories are easy to follow and fun to read (over and over and over again). I love that they all have inspiring messages about being creative, believing in yourself and being kind to others.
My (our) favorite is her Inspire to Create (A Better You) Series (otherwise known as “a little spot of..” in our home). This series includes more than 20 stories that each name an emotion, and how to be with this emotion. Our kindergartner has always been a bit anxious in new situations, and the mantra in the Little Spot of Anxiety has really helped her stay calm. In addition to emotions, these books are a great way to introduce concepts such as teamwork, respect, diversity, patience, courage, organization… (yes. In case you’re wondering, since the start of the school year we have acquired them all :). I love them. And I love reading them over and over and over with the kids.
Have you ever been to a birthday party and were wowed by the giant balloons? Now you can make them in your own backyard! These are SUPER FUN (both for kids and adults!) They are actually easier to navigate that regular bubble wands! All you need is regular dish soap, a bucket, water and the bubble mix. 2 things to keep in mind — (1) The recipe calls for a full cup of dish soap, 16 cups of water and 2TBSP of bubble mix. You can absolutely cut that in half, and still have plenty of solution to go around (we kept our leftover in a separate jar to use again later). (2) If you use this on a deck, or paved area in your backyard, be mindful that the solution will make the area more slippery (when bubbles pop), so be ready to rinse it off to avoid anyone slipping and hurting themselves.
By Picasso Tiles ($70)
We actually gave this set to the kids as part of their Christmas gift. Fast forward 4 months – we are still playing with it EVERY SINGLE DAY. Our family LOVES magnatiles. It’s our go-to activity at home, and this set just kicks it up to the next level. For those wondering – the Picasso Tiles merge perfectly with the MagnaTiles brand.
If I had to guess, I’d say we have at least another 6 weeks of quarantine at home. I already have a short list of toys, games and activities I’m excited to introduce to the kids. At the same time, this will definitely be making holiday shopping much much harder this year…
QUESTION: What have been your favorite new games and toys with your kids?