Kids are little balls of curiosity and get bored of the same activity very quickly and are constantly looking for new challenges. This often leaves parents clueless as to how to engage a child. Why is engagement critical to a child’s development? Research has demonstrated that engaging students in the learning process “increases their attention and focus, motivates them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills, and promotes meaningful learning experiences”. Here are a few tips to help your child be engaged while carrying out your daily activities.
LET THEM LEAD
Sometimes as adults our creativity doesn’t come as easily as it used to, especially when trying to entertain our little ones whose attention span can be lost in the blink of an eye. One way to get more out of playing pretend with your kids is to let them set the stage. Perhaps they may want to play chef while you’re their customer or maybe they want to be the princess and you’re the fire breathing dragon or they might want to team up with you and go on a super secret spy mission! By letting them choose the adventure, it is almost guaranteed to keep their attention because it’s what they’re interested in. Ask them for pointers, many kids have specific ideas of how they want their story to go, this will help you both be more engaged and they will be delighted that you’re into it too!
While playing in imagination land is a lot of fun for kids, as parents it’s not always our ideal way to play. If playing pretend isn’t your thing, that’s totally okay! Think back to how you played as a child and you may be able to think of some new activities that you will both enjoy together. Maybe you enjoyed reading as a child, if so, try pulling out some of your favorite old books and reading aloud to them. Or if you loved playing outside with sticks, rocks, and dirt, a great way to spend some quality time with your kid would be to garden with them. Get them involved in choosing a plant and then have them help dig the hole for a plant and replant it. This not only provides bonding time but it can be a learning experience as well! Depending on their age, you can have them be “in charge” of keeping the plant alive, have them water it and check on it daily.
Your “To-Do” list is long and when your child is asking to “pretty please play with me” it can be tempting to push off chores or tell your little one “in just a minute” but why not do both?! My little one personally loves “cleaning the floor” which basically means using a swiffer with no pad and even though I know I’ll actually have to clean the floor later, it’s something she enjoys helping with! It also means that I have about 5-10 minutes to get something done as well! Having little ones help around the house is the perfect way to engage with your children. You can teach them responsibility, complete some of your chores, give praise (and rewards if desired!), and help them develop good cleaning habits that will aid them later in life. Start small and try to think of little tasks that will ensure you get to do the chores together. For example if you need to do laundry, have your little one match socks together. Or if you need to get the dishwasher unloaded, let them do the silverware while you put the rest away.
Some of the best ways to engage with your kids is through being active. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, you don’t need to go for a hike or play football. It might be something as simple as doing silly dances (check out top trending TikTok dances for inspiration!), a hula hoop contest, or a game of don’t let the balloon touch the ground. You’ll find that laughter and fun come so naturally as you actively interact with them. A great resource for finding activities is Go Noodle, they’re trying to “be a force of joy, health, and self-discovery for kids and the adults who love them” and provide many great indoor activities for small spaces.
BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF
Daily chores, appointments, and other time sensitive commitments can make entertaining little ones a challenge. While all these things are fairly simple to read and write about, we all know that real life is much more chaotic. So take a deep breath, remind yourself that you are doing the best you can and that it IS enough. Find what works best for you and your kids because every situation is different.