Yesterday I brought my 5 year old daughter to the lake to see the melting ice, and today my 3 year old son. I generally just let them go, watch, and follow their lead. My daughter wanted to explore. She wanted to collect things like clam shells, slide/”skate” on the ice, touch the water, ice, and stones, take her shoes off (at 23 degrees), and climb to the top of the largest rock. My son wanted danger and excitement. He wanted to throw rocks, break the ice, make a sand castle, sink into the deep mud, and walk on the ice (to break it). While there were similarities the experiences were completely different. My daughter putted around while my son spent the majority of his hour trying to break things. We often suppress this desire to dominate in boys and discourage girls from the physical freedom we allow boys. As a parent it is important to recognize there are differences between the natures of and in the development of boys and girls, that these are strengths each innately have, and to ebb and flow as a parent to support them to do what they feel naturally (safely). – Jodi Healy
Playing store is a great activity with many opportunities for learning, and setting it up is just as fun! I have my children collect empty cereal, pasta boxes, egg containers, plastic containers, or whatever they can find (that is clean) from the recycle bins or cupboards to sell. I help make fake money, find fake credit cards (old library cards or business cards work great), and some change (my 7 years old can do this herself now and loves the challenge). If you don’t have a cashier a calculator works and an old Easter basket/basket works great if you don’t have a shopping cart. I grab a few old bags lying around for filling up the groceries after someone has paid. I faciliate the first few minutes, play a shopper and explain things… but if your children have ever gone shopping with you they know what to do! I even leave our store set up for a few days and they go back again and again. It is hours of fun and learning (changing money, counting, planning, organizing, role playing, and more).
Often we forget the environment is an integral part of life, even for adults, and that children learn through experiencing it; sounds, smells, sights, and touch of what is around them. A walk in the woods is a wonderful sensory experience for a child. At first I used to worry about them getting dirty, hurt, ticks, colds, and all the other million things mothers worry about, until I realized I was limiting them and buying into the fear based reality (and stressing myself and them out trying to stop them). In the end we are animals and nature is our home! Yesterday after dinner we put on our boots, went hiking in a foot of mud, splashed in the puddles, looked for animal footprints, and slid on ice patches. We were soaked when we got home but a hot bath at the end of the day made everyone sleep peacefully and soundly!