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Friday, August 14, 2009

Prepping For The Little Ones

Taking a break tonight from all the eyestrain and carpal tunnel from wading through the Health Care bill - I want to speak for a moment about ways to prep for the little ones in the family.

You definitely want to consider activities that will keep those 5 and under little ones busy, because there are times that you'll want to have their attention occupied productively and safely.

We home-school and last year I had a very active 3 year old that I needed to keep busy with her own "school" work while I worked with my older children. In about an hour one afternoon, my oldest and I put together about 2 dozen activity bags that my 3 year old will use during her "school" time when we start our lessons.

I used various sized baggies that have the zipper-pulls on the top so my daughter would be able to open and close the bags by herself.

Each bag has an activity that should keep her occupied for at least 30 minutes. Some are educational; all should be fun for her to do. Here's what we came up with so far in individual activity bags:

~ pipe cleaners and large pasta noodles - she can string the noodles onto the pipe cleaners and bend into shapes.
~ paper with large, straight black lines that she can practice cutting along
~ paper and a variety of stickers - she can sticker to her heart's delight
~ a cheap, round pizza tray and magnetic numbers & letters she can manipulate on the tray
~ paper with shapes drawn on them - she can put stickers inside the shapes
~ sandpaper and crayons for textured coloring
~ self-stick foam shapes and construction paper
~ a bag of nuts and bolts that will work her fine motor skills
~ a magnifying glass and misc. items to look at
~ a magnet and misc. items to pick up with it
~ craft pom poms and small containers for her to organize by color
~ a small spool of yarn
~ a ruler and colored pencils
~ stackable containers
~ various sizes and colors of buttons to glue on construction paper
~ yarn and pasta noodles to thread on the yarn
~ a sand shovel and bucket for scooping dry rice or beans or the like
~ play-doh and small cookie cutters
~ paper for practicing cutting skills
~ water paints, paper and cotton swabs for painting activities

These are just some of the ones we managed to get put together that day. I have more on my list that I'll put together for this year to give her a new variety.

I'm keeping all the baggies in a banker's box with her name on it. She gets to pick out her "school" bag to work on while I'm doing school work with others. Also, when I'm spending one-on-one time with one of her siblings, the other will work on an activity bag with her that requires some assistance - perhaps one with glue or painting involved.

The website I found that has a ton of examples for preschool activity bags is Paula's Archives if you want to see the great ideas listed there - many of which I used when putting our activity bags together.

I've also heard of mom's having activity bag "parties" - Say you invite 20 moms. Each mom puts together 20 bags and brings them with her - then each mom gets one of each bag that was put together. Each mom then ends up leaving the party with 20 different activity bags - sounds like an idea to me!

Also, if you have a little one who'll just make great work of taking everything out of the "school" box and promptly emptying it all out - then just put in a few baggies each week for them to choose from. This way they won't get too overwhelmed or make too big of a mess.

These activity bags would also make very inexpensive gifts and you could put together a few to keep in your various 72-hour kits, car emergency kits, etc. to have on hand to keep your little ones occupied as the need might arise. We've pulled these out during power outages, on rainy days, for a variety of reasons besides "school" work. We even carry these with us on errands that might take some time - like dental appointments.

If you have any good ideas for these types of bags, please share them with us! Most of all, don't forget to prep for your little ones!

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