In today’s fast-paced world where we are all busy and easily distracted, nothing is more precious to a young child than your time and undivided attention, especially during the holiday season. If you want to give your child a truly memorable holiday gift, as well as establish some family traditions and take a break from holiday stress yourself, then the gift of time is perfect. This gift is flexible, easily adaptable, and suitable for any age, schedule and budget. The ideas below are just a starting point; take it from here based upon your child’s age and both of your interests.
- The Gift of Books: Visit the library. Using the library is a great way to teach children about the concept of borrowing, as well as how to treat the belongings of others. Browse through the shelves, discuss different types of books, and select special ones to take home. Have your child tell the librarian what her interests are and ask for book suggestions. Ask if there are any special story times coming up. Have your child mark on the calendar when the book is due to reinforce the concepts of time and responsibility. Dedicate some time to reading every day, even if just for a few minutes. Think creatively about how to use the books, such as acting out the story together, retelling it with different “what if?” endings, or using stuffed animals to tell the story.
- The Gift of Exercise: You don’t need fancy equipment — just begin with the basics. Kick or throw a ball together, jump rope, climb on a play structure, run down the block, try to imitate each other doing silly walks or hops, or climb a hill. Young children enjoy games such as Red-Light Green-Light, Simon Says, Follow the Leader, and Hopscotch, and these games help build important skills, such as self-control and gross motor skills. Build an obstacle course together using hoops, soft blocks, a balance beam, or whatever you have available.
- The Gift of Cooking: Cooking is a great way to teach concepts in math and science, as well as following instructions and time management. Plan and prepare a simple meal together. Talk about what you both like to eat and write out a menu, with your child drawing the pictures. Look up recipes; there are so many books and websites that have beautiful step-by-step pictures of recipes. Write up a shopping list (again, your child can draw the pictures on the list), and shop for ingredients.While you are cooking, talk through each step, and let your child do anything he can on his own. Preschoolers like learning new words, especially long ones that have interesting sounds, so point out new vocabulary. Set the table together and think about what decorations may fit the theme of the food you cooked. Enjoy the food together!
- The Gift of Nature: There are many ways to enjoy nature and animals. Walk to the park to look at the trees. If you have one, take the dog for a walk together or offer to walk a neighbor’s dog. Plant flowers or vegetables in an outdoor garden or windowsill pot. Plan a short hike, walk along the beach, or simply walk around your neighborhood (or a nearby neighborhood you wouldn’t otherwise explore); talk about what you notice, such as the bugs, the plants, the clouds, or how the wind feels blowing on your skin.
- The Gift of Art: Visit a local museum together; find out when they have special children’s activities or tours. Talk about what looks interesting and why. Create your own art together. You don’t need fancy supplies or packages — use glue, different patterns of tape, paper from the recycle bin, pictures from catalogues, crayons, markers, or homemade play-dough. Allow your child (and yourself!) to get messy — keep old clothes available to wear during art time. Keep the focus on the fun of the creative process, rather than what the outcome looks like.
- The Gift of Music: Keep an eye out for local performances appropriate for preschoolers. Check out a variety of types of music at the library. Ask your child about the differences she can hear. Dance together or relax and breathe as you listen to quieter music. You can use a 3-4 minute song as a short silly or relaxing break in between more stressful activities. Almost any small container can become a musical instrument. Coffee cans can be used as drums and smaller containers, such as plastic eggs or paper cups can be filled with Cheerios or uncooked rice to be used as shakers.