Planning an activity for my elder son is something that I got into after I had my second child. I was undecided as to whether to get a double buggy for my two sons – in order to get out and about. So at the beginning, for a long time, we didn’t get out often (I couldn’t fathom that now, subhan’Allah). And yet, by Allah’s mercy, though we struggled in some ways, we really did manage alhamdulillah and even had a great time often – which was a shocker for me.
How Activities Started For Us
In the period that we were often home, I wanted to create variety at home as we ran into boredom. This made me look into finding activities. I did one, and then another, and then built up muscle to do more with my elder son.
It needs to be mentioned here that I have since come to love unstructured play for children; play that is initiated on the child’s terms, especially with good quality, passive toys and stuff that they have around them. That they can choose from, bring out and play with and go into focus and creativity with. So I had since moved away from activities (until recently) – partly to build my children’s independent play muscle, and partly because some of my need for activities had diminished…as we began to go out a lot more and explore the great outdoors.
How We Found and Did Activities
To find activities, I used to run a quick google search at the weekends for activities and explore the searches that came up (See tip number 1 for details).
I’d choose the ones I wanted to do with my elder son (my then baby, now three year old alhamdulillah, would be sleeping). I’d often pick about three for the upcoming week; enough for variety and fun for the both of us. Looking back, I notice that I’d often (unintentionally) choose based on some criterion: fun factor and what excited me, what I thought my son might like/his interests, ease of setting up and what stuff or toys we aleady had on hand to do a particular activity. We don’t need to feel like we have to buy stuff for activities; I only did when I felt like I wanted to or was excited to.
I’d copy and paste the links of my chosen activities from the web browser of my phone, onto my Colornote app, along with the activity title and the link beside it. I would sometimes title the note something like ‘Activities This Week iA’ and then be set, alhamdulillah.
During the week, it’d be a case of retrieving the note pertaining to the activities on my phone, clicking on one of the links saved, having a quick scan of it, and then proceeding to set it up or do it with my son – during my baby’s naptime, alhamdulillah. We really enjoyed it and it often felt like what it feels like when you have a good time with a loved one, doing something different, that you both experience together and connect over. I used the camera a bit too much at times, instead of perhaps taking a few snaps and just being with my son. Still, we both generally enjoyed it.
I often didn’t wanna actually run the search for the activities. I didn’t want another to-do at the weekend. But it was self-compassion (and the fact that it was quite quick!) that helped me to run the search at the weekend (‘one step at a time, dear’ self-talk).
Activities Benefits for Us (From My Personal Experience)
Activities can provide a really nice new environment (the activity) within a familiar environment (the home) in which to connect, and have a new and potentially fun experience in. As we weren’t going out much, it gave me that change of scene feeling. The times it went really well, Smiley was uber engaged, or a game or activity was really fun for both of us, or it transformed our home or the things we had in it into something completely different (like duct tape; which was transformed into a spider web across the door frame). When it went like this, I would feel rejuvenated. I remember walking past chores I hadn’t managed to get to yet and feeling completely differently than I did prior to doing the activity with Smiley. I didn’t see it with the same sense of…heaviness. I often, though not always, felt lighter and felt more able to tackle the laundry, say, without feeling done in.
Often, I’d be going into our play world of activities with a self-compassion one-step-at-a-time-dear internal self kindness talk (due to night feedings, alhamdulillah). Sometimes, it wasn’t uber fun for me and yet it served as a way to show up and try anyway. Other times, I felt uber creative and empowered and like, ‘I looove this’. The world of activity can serve as a way to change state (for me it went: from tired to excited, at times; from not-so-great to better; from well to very well indeed; from depleted to trying anyway; from excited to empowered; from okay to more alive).
Some Things to Consider
When doing the activities, I found the following points to consider from Hands On As We Grow as a good thoughts framework. They are:
” – Allow your toddler to explore whatever it is that you give them.
– Don’t do an activity with an intentional plan, it never works out with this age range.
– Expect a toddler to be interested, leave it out for them to come back to later, or even the next day.
– Plan for them to put it in their mouth if you have a mouther.”
She gives the above points to consider if you are doing things with a toddler. But I would say, the first three points work with preschoolers and very young children, too. I very much agree with letting the child explore, as mentioned in the first point. And with point two, I’d generally agree. I personally understand this second point in this sense: If the game is ‘supposed to be’ a throwing game yet they wanna slide, sliding it is. That’s unless what they want to do instead makes demands on you that you are can’t or aren’t internally prepared for handling at that time: i.e. mess everywhere as opposed to confined to a table, perhaps; then it helps to gently set limits before (mess only in this area), or to let go. Whichever works and will result in us not feeling aggravated.
With regards to point three: also allow for them to not be interested or to not take to it at all. I have had occasions where they are initially somewhat/just about interested and then they leave it off. And that’s a-okay.
With regards to activity set up, we can be flexible: activities can be adjusted. Adjusted in both materials used as well as execution; how you do the activity. There was an activity where the lady from Hands On As We Grow had used paper plates on the floor to do some kind of movement activity. We used chalk that we had to draw circles on our kitchen floor as a subsitute for the paper plates and it worked fine.
So, as Mommas, how can we easily plan some activities for our children – or for us and our children to do together – if we wanted to?
Actionable Steps In Implementing The Tip
1) We can look up activities online to do with our kids. Websites such as Hands On As We Grow (which I used often) and Kids Activities Blog are chock full of activity ideas. Running a general google search of what we’re after can bring up some interesting results, too. I used to search ‘easy activities to do at home with kids’ or ‘activities for toddlers/activities for toddlers at home’ for example.
Also, terms like ‘gross-motor’ and ‘fine-motor’ may be useful when we’re searching. If we’re after jumps etc, may be helpful to put ‘gross motor’ and if we want something with small movements and precision, it may be helpful to prefix our activity description search with ‘fine motor’.
2) Pinterest is a great resource for crafts, and activities. As Pinterest is really visually appealing, when a search like ‘activities to do with kids’ or ‘activities to do with toddlers/preschoolers’ is run, beautiful things come up (and I get excited!)
Handy pinterest point? You can create boards to save stuff. So we could create a board to to ‘store’ all the activities we may want to do with our children, or set up for them.
On Pinterest, I have also recently tried the search ‘Arabic alphabet crafts’, ‘Islamic activities for kids’ and ‘Ramadan crafts for kids‘ and lovely activities and crafts come up (pertaining to salah, and Qur’an and prayer mat colouring and lantern and masjid cut outs).
3) When we do find activities, we can copy and paste the links in a place like our phone or a word document…so we have a stash for when we want to do them, insha’Allah.
4) Use the activities as inspiration. They can be adjusted and tweaked. We can even use them as ideas to re-view the things that we have at home as things our kids can use to play. So, for that bit of thick string? Maybe we can tape it to a door frame with a gap at the top…our child can then throw a ball over the ‘line’/through the gap. They can play alone, with us, or with a sibling, should they wish to.
5) Use Du’a and Self Compassion. If we’re tired or it’s a humdrum type of day and we wanna try and shift the mood of the home for the better, an activity can really potentially help with that. But we might not feel like it. If we still think it would help, whispering up a du’a asking for ease and barrakah, getting our self-kindness talk on and then taking one step at a time at getting going can help: getting up, getting whatever needs to be used, putting it wherever it needs to go. A few steps into setting up or playing and the initial resistance could subside insha’Allah.
If we really are shattered or can’t for whatever reason, whipping out some play dough (or slime!), toys, or some colouring pens may work better (more on this another time, insha’Allah).
My favourite no-cook play dough recipe: https://theimaginationtree.com/best-ever-no-cook-play-dough-recipe/
My go-to slime recipe*: https://theimaginationtree.com/easy-uk-slime-recipe-contact-lens-solution/
*Slime play may not be suitable for unsupervised young children’s play; young children who are still putting things into their mouths, that is.
I hope some of these tips help insha’Allah.
And I wish you enjoyable, khair and eemaan filled days with your little lovelies 🙂