Fun Activities For Kids

‘Tis the season for school breaks. Kids look forward to time off with great anticipation but can find all the free time hard to fill up. And bored kids have two favorite devices: whining and getting into mischief, neither of which tends to fill parents with cheer.

Lea Ann Lowery, a clinical assistant professor in the University of Missouri’s Department of Occupational Therapy & Occupational Science, says the secret to surviving breaks is for parents to provide some structure to fill the void – not so much structure that kids miss the chance to make their own fun but some imagination-rich activities to help kids transition. Here are three easy ideas:

1. Set up a scavenger hunt. “Kids love hide-and-seek games, and scavenger hunts are kind of like that,” Lowery says. “It’s a secret; it’s fun.” And it’s simple to do. Just write clues at the right challenge level for your child (from picture clues for pre-readers to a riddle for an upper elementary student) and lead them to a prize. Or let older kids plan the hunt and write the clues. Either way, kids will be exercising their problem-solving skills while having a great time.

2. Make fun tubs. Pre-school and lower elementary school kids will love this activity. Take a plastic storage tub and fill it about half full with rice, beans, birdseed, etc., and place the tub on an old sheet or table cloth (or a cheap shower liner purchased for this kind of play). Throw in some funnels, measuring cups and spoons, and scoops, and be amazed at how long little ones remain occupied! The tub also works great for hide-and-seek games. For smaller kids, bury some little toys; for older kids, mix in some puzzle pieces. Kids will be learning about how different things feel, object permanence and math concepts (measuring, adding, subtracting, etc.), as well as practicing their fine motor skills.

3. Break out the craft supplies. It’s true: Crafts can get messy, which is probably why kids like them so much! A great holiday craft for kids is to give them old Christmas cards (or some bargain cards on shelves now), construction paper, glue, scissors and colors and have them make their own cards to give to others. The main thing for parents to remember, Lowery says, is to give their kids freedom to create. “Parents need to let go and not overmanage the project because it’s important for kids to make things that look like what they want them to look,” she says, adding that “play has to have some degree of freedom in it, or it’s not play.” Craft activities exercise kids’ fine motor skills and creativity, and this one also offers a good social lesson, as children learn the fun of making things for others.

All three of these activities may seem simple, but engaging children does not require a lot of expense or elaborate planning, Lowery says.

“It’s important to remember that it’s rarely the overplanned activity that is most memorable, but more so the tiny moments that were completely unexpected,” she adds. “Relax and enjoy.”

Coping Skills For Surviving The Holidays With Little Ones

It’s easy for kids to get overwhelmed and exhausted during the holidays, which tends to have not-so-great effects on behavior. Here are three tips parents can use to help their kids manage the demands placed on them this time of year:

  • Limit outings, both the number of them and their length. Kids need downtime, and parents should not expect too much from them. Be aware of their cues, and leave before meltdowns begin.
  • For children of all ages, allow for some choice or decision-making when making holiday plans. Offer a choice of two to three activities, and go with what kids select.
  • Brief them on the day’s plans. Lowery suggests drawing a picture checklist to explain to kids what’s on the agenda. “Prediction is the best way to help kids manage,” Lowery says. For smaller kids, add briefing sessions throughout the day.