Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How to entertain your toddler – and yourself

My husband and I usually go all out for theme parties, so it’s no surprise we do the same for our children. Every once in a while we like to pick a fun activity to do with our four-year-old son, Max, and make it a theme night – something he can really get into.

Max loves trains and cars more than anything in the world, but of course not everything can be about trains and cars, so we use these theme nights as a way to broaden his horizon a little; to show him there’s more to life than transportation!

I gathered this list of our top five theme nights – maybe some of these will work for you or maybe they’ll serve as a jumping board for some ideas that would better cater to you and your toddler. Either way, I hope you enjoy. We certainly did!

1. Who Stole My Pic-anick Basket?
One weekend night we rented the newest Yogi Bear movie and went to the store to get stuff for hot dogs and picnic food. We draped a sheet across chairs in the living room to make a big family tent, where we ate our “picnic dinner” and watched Yogi Bear. Our son loved it because we never eat in the living room so that was special, plus he just adores tents. And he decided he likes Yogi Bear!

2. Life as an Artist
For this night we focused on colors. We started the night by clearing the dining room table and putting Max in play clothes. Then we got out his water-based paints and told him we were going to paint pictures like an artist! He painted to his heart’s content and then we moved on to dinner, where we showed him how ketchup and mustard mixed together makes a new color; and how food coloring can turn Sprite all different colors. He loved watching things change colors – whether it was us mixing two colors together or experimenting with food coloring.

3. Restaurant Academy
We started off this night by telling Max he was going to be a chef and a waiter. We made pizza – I cooked the dough, then we set out all the toppings and he made the pizzas with whatever he wanted on them. After we cooked them, we let him be the waiter and come and take our order and bring us our dinner (with a little bit of help.) He absolutely loved making his own pizza and surprisingly he really got into the whole waiter thing. We even let him help us clean up … though he was bored with that part after a few minutes. Go figure.

4. The Mystery of the Missing Cars
We took Max to Boo at the Zoo and they had a great little outdoor theater where there was an animal mystery. Max loved it so we decided to recreate it at home. We dressed him up like a policeman and made clues leading him all over the house and in the back yard, pointing him to some missing cars. All in all, it took about 25 minutes, but he just loved it. We’ve also done something similar with Blues Clues – in case you have a big Blues Clues fan. We cut out blue paw prints and taped them on things throughout the house so he could find them. Either way, it’s a way to get their little minds working and for them to feel accomplished.

5. Meeting Harry Potter
This year we decided Max was old enough to watch a Harry Potter movie. We had taken him to Great Wolf Lodge and bought him a magic wand there, so he was already familiar with the idea of magic. We found his wand and set it out in the living room, and watched the movie there as a family. Then we made pizzas shaped like a sorcerer’s hat and a quidditch broom for dinner. Max enjoyed all of it, but I think the sorcerer’s hat pizza was his favorite – we gave it a face.

Have you tried this with your children? We’re always up for new ideas.

Aleshia Howe is a Communications Specialist for the Texas Health Harris Methodist Foundation and Texas Health Presbyterian Foundation, and Mom to a 4-year-old and 8-month-old.

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