Hello caregivers, how are you hanging in there? After almost two months of quarantine our family has found a steady rhythm and flow to our days. We are truly enjoying this time to stay home (in pajamas all day), not rush anywhere, eat home cooked meals all the time, and simply be with (and on top) of each other. That is not to say I don’t miss my coffee dates with friends, Pilates classes, and a quiet house when kids are in school…I miss those a lot. However, for now we—I—have found peace with the “new normal.”
That being said, I wanted to share a list of some of our favorite quarantine and non quarantine games, sensory play, and general play activities we have been indulging in during this time. This is by no means a list of activities you “should” be doing and many of them might seem simple and obvious. I am sharing them as a resource for myself and anyone else interested.
Listed with the activities below are links to the items should you wish to purchase anything. I’m grateful in advance for your support as I receive a small commission for anything purchased using the direct links. Nourish the Littles is a small business trying to stay afloat just like so many others out there. Thank you for continuing to follow along!
Uno: A classic numbers game that can be played with the whole family with kids as young as 2yrs old, depending on your child and their developmental stage. In the beginning we would remove the action cards and play with just the number cards. This offered a fun, teachable moment working with numbers and colors and matching them. This game has become a staple activity in the mornings before breakfast or in the evenings after dinner. My littles will play by themselves and make up their own games with the UNO cards—even better!
Dominoes: Another classic number game with tiles. This one requires a little more strategy and it has been fun watching our 6yr old develop his own methods of playing that have garnered him many wins against the most senior members of our family. Domino tiles are also fun to stack, build with, or create “obstacle” courses with, then send toppling over in a satisfying crash. Who says games are meant to be played by the rules?
Jenga: Speaking of building and crashing, Jenga is the best for this kind of play. In the process, littles learn about structural engineering as they try to remove tiles without the tower toppling down. It has been interesting to watch our kids try to play Jenga on different surfaces and realize that the foundation on which the blocks are placed matter. Sometimes the jenga blocks become corrals for wild animals and other times we play for real. It all works.
Water Beads: These are tiny little beads that grow in size when placed into water. Once they are large, there are endless ways to play with them. I typically place them into a large bowl or bin where littles can dip their hands directly into the beads and touch them. A few cooking utensils (whisk, measuring cups, spoons, cookie cutters, etc.) and kids will be entertained for hours with this sensory experience. The beads are rather delicate and tend to break, however this has never deterred my littles from continuing to play with them. They could easily be mixed in which sand, dirt, flowers, grass, play dough, water balloons, ice, and paints. After a few weeks they tend to get moldy or break and then I toss them into the composting bin or flower pots. They are biodegradable and originally used by the flower industry to fill vases for flower arrangements.
*Note* Water beads are non toxic and biodegradable however they are NOT meant to be eaten. This sensory play is best suited for littles out of the mouthing stage and with a supervised adult. They could be a choking hazard.
Beans/Grains: We love using a mixture of chickpeas, kidney beans, and oats for sensory play. Dump them into large bowls or bins along with a handful of cups and kitchen utensils and my kids will play for hours. Even if they all end up mixed together, take the opportunity to work on those fine motor skills and have your littles separate the individual beads into different containers when finished. Or leave them mixed all together, whatever works for you.
*Note* Beans/Grains are non toxic and biodegradable however they are NOT meant to be eaten raw. This sensory play is best suited for littles out of the mouthing stage and with a supervised adult. They could be a choking hazard.
Sand or Dirt: Yes, dirt—sand or dirt (or mud) are some of the best and least expensive sensory tools. It requires littles to be outside, which is always a plus, to get dirty, and can keeps them entertained for hours. All you need are some shovels and cups and time for deep, independent play, and exploration. I choose this sensory play for days that my cup is full and I am feeling resourced enough to allow them to make a big mess. It is okay if they mix the dirt with the sand or pour the sand out of the sandbox or take clumps of grass to dump into the sand. In the end it is just play and who am I to tell them how they should play.
Play dough and Paints: There are many homemade play dough recipes on the internet, I won’t reinvent the wheel. The possibilities are endless with these two options. With play dough offering rocks, sticks, gemstones, glitter, and toy animals are all ways to spice things up.
When it comes to painting I personally prefer to let my littles lead. I simply offer the paints and a surface to paint on and let them choose how to use the brushes (or no brushes), colors, water, etc. Painting surfaces can vary from paper to rocks, sticks, leaves, cardboard boxes, flower pots, etc. Scissors, glitter, glue, gemstones, and stickers sometimes end up making an appearance on their art projects.
Water: The oldest trick in the book and one of the best. If you have access to a patio/backyard/balcony for a water table, great! Otherwise, baths are a fabulous alternative. Baths at 10am or other random times of day are fun and spontaneous. Most children can play for hours in the bath, so bring a book, sit on a stool and let them lose themselves in their ocean of fun.
Indoor Gross Motor Play
Pikler Triangle: If you have the resources to purchase or make a pikler triangle, this is a wonderful indoor (or outdoor) climbing structure for all ages. Use the triangle to create obstacle courses, forts, or doll houses for stuffed animals. The climbing allows littles a chance to burn off some of their extra energy and work on their gross motor skills.
Mini Trampoline: Kids love jumping and when we don’t want them jumping on furniture or mattresses, bring out the mini trampoline. This one has been a lifesaver for my people who sometimes need 30 seconds of intense jumping to help them eliminate excess energy or twenty minutes of jumping and daydreaming. Vertical vestibular input (jumping, rebounding, bouncing) provides sensory and health benefits for our littles, and adults as well. Activating vestibular input can help with self regulation, improve body awareness, helps with lymphatic drainage, improves core strength, supports visual processing and motor development, to name a few. We love combining the pikler triangle with the trampoline to create an indoor obstacle course. For the older kids you could try tossing bean bags to see if they can jump and catch or throw simultaneously. When they aren’t jumping on the trampoline, it becomes an ocean for all their marine animals.
Painter’s Tape: This one might sound strange but who doesn’t love tape that can stick and unstick to any surface without ruining it. Painter’s tape is a great tool for adding to obstacle courses and is so easy to use in the creation of millions of games. Stick a long strip on the ground and play:
Walk the Bridge—littles walk on the tape as if it is a bridge without falling off
Land and Sea—one side is “land” and the other is “sea.” A designated person calls out: “LAND” or “SEA” and players have to jump on the designated side called out without touching the tape.
Ball Toss—With two players, have each one stand on either side of the tape and practice tossing the ball. Take steps back for a challenge and see how far they can throw the ball without it dropping or touching the tape.
Put the tape in horizontal lines to create a ladder and have littles practice “climbing the ladder” or jumping from rung to rung. Create different shapes with the tape and see how your kids find ways to play with the shapes: jumping, crawling, slithering, rolling, walking backwards, etc. to get to each shape.