Under 6 months, babies like to watch and listen, so:
- Play music
- Play games with them that move their arms and legs (pat-a-cake, this little piggy, etc.)
- Position them in different places so that they can see different things
- Talk to them when you are feeding them or changing their diaper
- Read them books, hold them so they can see the pictures – they are not too young!
Starting around 6 months, babies like to:
- Bang and shake whatever they can hold
- Squeeze squeaky toys
- Bite on toys
- Kick at soft toys suspended above them
- Play peek-a-boo
- Roll a ball once they can sit
- Imitate sounds
Around seven months, babies also enjoy:
- Bath toys
- Different textures to feel including safe household items
Around one year, babies start to enjoy, with your help:
- Nesting toys
- Toy phones
- Shape sorters
- Large cars to push on the floor
- Toys with buttons, knobs and dials that pop up or make sounds
Between the ages of one and two years, toddlers can:
- Push and pull toys
- Ride sit-on toys that have no pedals
- Play pretend games in a playhouse
- Attempt simple puzzles (the best have knobs)
- Enjoy being part of simple household chores like laundry (name colors, count socks, putting laundry in and take it out)
- Play with toys in a sink or basin of water
- Play with toys in sand in a basin or outside
Combine 2 cups of flour and 1 cup of salt. Add 1 cup of water and 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil. Mix and knead well. If too stiff, add more water; if too sticky, add more flour. For colored play dough, add food coloring to the water before combining it with the other ingredients. STORE IN AN AIRTIGHT CONTAINER. If left out in the air, the dough will harden.
Put different textures under drawing paper (scrap paper or the back of junk mail works just fine, you don’t need fancy drawing paper) and then color with a crayon. Try a comb, corrugated cardboard (that’s the bumpy cardboard from heavy boxes), sandpaper or different kinds of fabric. Or cut shapes out of light weight cardboard (old cereal or cracker boxes), put them under the drawing paper and rub the crayon over the top to make designs.
Completely cover the paper with heavy crayon markings of different colors. Then color over all the colors with one other color (black works best). Make a picture or a design with a toothpick or other pointed but not sharp object. It will scrape away the top color to show the colors underneath.
Paper bag masks
Use a large brown paper grocery bag for a mask by cutting out holes for the eyes (try it on the child to get them in the right place) and then coloring the face in fun ways with crayons. You can make different characters – a monster, a king or queen, animals, etc. Cutting holes for the shoulders can also be helpful.
Make your own rhythm band
Tissue paper taped over a comb makes a great kazoo. Make shakers out of beans or rice inside a container, a drum out of an empty box or plastic milk container. If you use cardboard containers, the child can decorate the outside. Play along to any music with a good beat. Make paper hats (from folded newspaper) to add to the fun or a paper flag to have a parade if you have more than one child.
Cut an empty plastic gallon milk container into a helmet shape. Pretent you are on a trip into space.
Make a bird feeder
Go for a walk to find a pine cone at least 4 inches long. Cover the pine cone with peanut butter and maybe bits of bread, crackers or cereal stuck to the peanut butter. Hang it from a tree by string or yarn and watch the birds come eat it. Try to hang it away from any place a squirrel can get to it.
Tie a piece of string to a stick. On the other end of the string, tie a magnet. The child can catch paper clips and other lightweight magnetic items you can find in the house. You can also put the paper clips on pictures cut from magazines.
Soap bubbles – Outside please!
Put soap flakes (Ivory flakes) or liquid dish washing soap (like Joy) in a cup or bowl mixed with water. Make sure the child knows how to blow – not suck – through a straw, and then let him make bubbles. A little cooking oil mixed in will help the bubbles to float in the air without popping right away.
If you have an old paint brush, use it to paint fences, houses or the sidewalk with water. You will be surprised how long this activity stays interesting.
Put a blanket over a table or between two chairs to create a tent or cave. Its a great place for a picnic or a “club.”
Basic Bookmaking: Use white or colored paper and a stapler. You can add a cover with themes depending on children’s interest (wrapping paper, magazines, art work).
More elaborate bookmaking with older kids – you can sew the pages together and make a really nice cover by covering some cardboard with nice paper.
Flip Books: Using small post-it pads, draw a picture on each page that looks just a little bit different than the one on the previous page. When you flip the pages really fast, you can see some action.
Paper Chains: Kids can really get into these: Take many strips (about 2 x 8 inches or 5 x 20 cm) of construction paper (white paper will do too) and staple the first one into a circle. Form the next circle and loop it through the first one. Keep on going until your chain has the desired length. This is a fun project when you use “seasonal” colors, like red, white and blue for the 4th of July celebration, or orange and black for Halloween.
Origami: Use any kind of paper to fold fun things out of paper. Pick up a book at your library for ideas.
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Make your own Silly Putty: You need ½ cup of Elmer’s Glue, or any kid-friendly white glue, liquid starch (local drug store, grocery store) and food coloring if desired. Put glue in a small bowl and add liquid starch until it covers the glue. Add food coloring. Start mixing with your hands – it is very messy at first. Keep squeezing until it gets the consistency of Silly Putty or a very soft rubber ball.
Oobleck: You need ½ cup of corn starch or potato starch (very powdery) and water, food coloring if desired. Stir water into the bowl with starch, bring to the consistency you like. Very messy, best done in the kitchen next to a sink, or outside.
Sculptures: Use cereal boxes, boxes from shipping, tissue boxes, empty toilet paper rolls, bottle caps and corks, empty and clean yogurt containers, and uncooked pasta to make fun sculptures or houses. You can glue or tape everything together, depending on the comfort level of the child, and paint the sculptures. If you use tape, try to get masking tape, which is easy to remove.
Cooking: Especially elementary school-aged kids enjoy cooking. They can help with basic cooking, making fun sandwiches, bagel faces. Be cautious with everything concerning safety. Use only plastic knives if children cut. Point out danger spots in the kitchen (oven and stove, knives, running hot water, microwave and more)! Pick up a kid’s cookbook at your local library, or look online for recipes.
Cooking: Don’t forget that children love to role play. They may take their favorite stuffed dog for a walk or play a big fantasy role play with you in the backyard or on the playground!
If you put up a play with the children, make sure the parents will watch it! Use furniture inside to get the right setting for your play.
Games: You probably remember a lot of card games, marble games, games with dice from when you were younger. These are a lot of fun to teach to kids!
You probably remember a lot of card games, marble games, games with dice from when you were younger. These are a lot of fun to teach to kids!
Homework is important because it helps children practice and strengthen academic skills, teaches time management, initiative, self-reliance, and resourcefulness. Homework also teaches children responsibility, the sense of accountability for mistakes and successes, and a respect for authority outside the home.
Support, encouragement, patience and guidance are basic in helping children with their homework. Not every type of help will work with each child. Here are a few ideas:
- Agree on a quiet place to do homework.
- Check with Host Parents if the television, music or computer can be on while the child is doing homework.
- Agree on a reasonable homework schedule. Should homework be done after school or after dinner or after a short break before dinner?
- Should home privileges be taken away form a child that doesn’t complete homework or puts it off?
- Can the child use the computer, talk on the phone or get together with friends before homework is done?
- Try to determine how long the child can keep concentrating on work. It may be best to build breaks into the homework schedule.
- Avoid getting into a power struggle over homework.
- Ask your host parents for ideas if you are having a problem.
- Helping with homework can be frustrating for everyone involved. Do not get angry, try to remain patient.
- Let your host parents know if you think the amount of homework is overwhelming the child.
- Never do the homework for the child.
- Be enthusiastic and positive when the child makes a good effort.
Do you have a child with homework and a younger child who has none? Sometimes younger siblings wish for “homework.” If this is the case you can give the younger child an “assignment” while the older child does homework. Coloring a picture or cutting pictures out of a magazine are activities that may help a younger child to feel like he or she is also doing homework.
Special thanks to Sandee Plescia, Community Counselor in Illinois, for her contribution on this topic.