Creative Activities to Do with Your Baby or Toddler
Are you looking for educational activities you can do with your babies, toddlers, and preschoolers? We all want the smartest and the happiest children and grandchildren possible. Below you will find some practical suggestions that I have used with my children from their earliest ages to attain this goal. This is part 2 in a 3 part series on this topic. Go to Creative Activities to Do with Your Baby to see part 1 of the series.
I will cover the following in Part 2 of this series:
Baby Sign Language, Library Story Time, What if I Have a Child Who Hates Books?, Making the Most of Diaper-Changing Time, Walking and Talking, How Do I Learn About Science and Nature?, Catechism Questions, and Cooking with Kids
Baby Sign Language
Just because your child hasn't developed their language skills so they can speak back to you doesn't mean they can't understand what you're saying. Many moms have realized that when they started teaching their children baby sign language from an early age. I haven't taught my children baby sign language, so I won't discuss it further. I will say, though, that I know of a number of moms who have found it to be quite useful in providing a tool for their baby to communicate with them, and they were amazed at what their baby who couldn't verbally speak could communicate.
This book with DVD is the best resource to get you started on learning and teaching baby sign language!
This is a great DVD series that teaches sign language to children in a fun and memorable way!
Did You Teach Your Baby Sign Language?
Library Story Time
Let's get back to reading for a moment. When my oldest son was probably about 6 months old, we started going to library story time each week. I learned a lot about how to interact with my oldest son from the story times. We learned finger plays, listened to stories (and found out about some great authors), did crafts together, watched and performed puppet shows, and more. After my second child was born, my oldest child would pretend he was the librarian and would put on puppet shows or pretend to read books to his baby brother. Attending library story time really did spark his imagination.
What if I Have a Child Who Hates Books?
I do want to address one issue: What if you have a child who hates books? Well, if you have a baby, start reading even before you think they can understand anything. All of my children have loved reading, and I think that's because they view it as a normal daily activity just like mealtime and nap time. If it's too late for that, try to find books with pictures that catch your children's attention. One mom I know has a child who will not sit still unless they're reading a book with Hot Wheels or construction equipment. That's fine. Read those books and occasionally toss in a book about something else. Maybe try giving them a snack to munch on or a toy to play with as you read to them. Some children just need something to do with their hands in order for them to listen. If you persist, your child will eventually sit through books with you.
Does Your Child/Grandchild Love to Read?
Making the Most of Diaper-Changing Time
After sleeping and eating, what do you think you spend the most time doing with your baby? Diaper-changing! We spend so much time changing diapers. Why not make that time learning time? When I first had oldest child I would sing nursery rhymes to him because those were the songs that I knew, but what's the point of memorizing lyrics about babies falling out of trees, plagues, and a deteriorating bridge? That would be "Rock-a-bye Baby," Ring Around the Rosie", and "London Bridges" by the way. I started thinking about all the songs that I knew. It's amazing how I could still recall all these, in my opinion, pretty pointless songs from when I was so young. I know that songs are a powerful way to get information to stick to your brain and stay there. What do I really want my baby to learn? Not nursery rhymes. Not silly songs about ducks or sheep. What about scripture? Well, I think at that point I only knew 3 or 4 songs that were actually Bible verses set to music, so I bought numerous CD's with Bible verses set to music. The only songs that my sleep-deprived mind could recall were the songs set to the alphabet. I used No Greater Joy's "ABC Bible Verse Songs" CD. "Songs for Saplings" is a similar CD and is of much better quality. Even today when I change my current baby's diapers, I will sing either Bible verse songs or the alphabet.
This CD has a different Bible verse for each letter of the alphabet. All the songs are straight scripture. They are simple, child-friendly verses, and the melodies of the songs are perfect for young children. My toddlers love this CD! Also look for "Songs for Saplings: 123"!
Of the MANY CD's we own that have Bible verses set to music, this is my children's favorite. The songs are enjoyable to listen to, and they are memorable. Before each song Steve Green speaks briefly about how that particular verse is relevant to a young child's life. We have all memorized all the verses sung on this CD and on Hide 'em in Your Heart Vol. 2. If you'd like to get both CD's, you can save money by buying the set. Look for ASIN: B001EJH4SW .
Walking and Talking
So what did I do when I only had a baby? When my oldest child wasn't even a year old yet, I spent lots of time changing his diapers (singing to him as I did that), reading to him, talking to him, and taking long walks and jogs with him in the stroller. When I jogged, that's all I did. When we walked, though, I would talk to him quite a bit. I'd point out the various types of clouds. We'd stop and watch ants work and I'd talk about Proverbs and how God says we would work hard like the ants. I pointed out the various breeds of dogs. I pointed out the plants: leaves changing color (losing their chlorophyll), how seasons change (less or more sunlight), and the names of any plants I could identify. I'd ask him questions: "What do you think that bird is doing? Where do you think that ant is going?" Do I think he understood most of that? No, but he eventually would. I wanted to make him notice God's creation around him, and the way to do that was for me to model an interest in it first. If I tossed around words like chloroplasts and cumulonimbus, he would eventually adopt those words into his own vocabulary as well.
How Do I Learn About Science and Nature?
How did I learn all about these aspects of nature? It was by reading my biology textbooks from college. No, I'm joking!!! I learned all about nature as I read children's science picture books to my oldest son. Two series, Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series and The Magic School Bus series both have great children's books on science and nature as does the author Anne Rockwell. Not all science ideas are consistent with the Bible, so be prepared to occasionally change words like "100 million years" to "5,000 years." Let me point out one more thing: To make a child curious about nature, you have to go outside. It can be at the park or in your backyard, but you do have to go outdoors.
My Favorite Science Picture Book Series/Authors
My absolute favorite picture book authors for learning about science are Anne Rockwell and Nancy Elizabeth Wallace. My favorite book series are Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science, Magic School Bus, and Backyard Books.
While we took walks, in addition to talking about nature, I also sang Bible verse songs to and with my oldest son. About the time that he was 14 months, I thought I should not only teach him verses from the Bible but I should also teach him ideas from the Bible. What should a toddler know about God, Jesus, and the Bible? How would I put everything in terms that he would understand? That's when I came across children's catechism questions. If you're not familiar with catechism questions, they're a way to teach your child about the Bible. I'd ask, "Who made you?" and my son would reply, "God." What else did God make? "All things." Where is God? "Everywhere." At first I had to use a little booklet with questions, but I eventually memorized most of the questions so that I could go through them not only when I was on walks, but also when I was driving in the car and couldn't keep looking at a little booklet or while I was pushing my son in the swing at the park waiting for friends to arrive. By the time he was 2 1/2 he could answer about 40 questions about God and the Bible. www.reformed.org is one website that lists some children's catechism questions. If you repeat these questions and answers over and over again, you'll be amazed at how early they can reply to the questions. If you think they're just memorizing answers and not understanding what they're saying, you may again be surprised. By the time my oldest son was not even 3 yet, he was asking me fun questions like, "If God is everywhere, is the grass God? Is God in my arm hair?" That's when you reply, "That's a great question for Daddy!" Seriously, though, the best way to respond to your child's question when you're not sure how to answer is to reply with, "What do you think?" It not only buys you some time to think, but it also gives you an idea of when he's coming from with his question.
The best way to respond to your child's question when you're not sure how to answer
is to reply with, "What do you think?" It not only buys you some time to think, but it also gives you an idea of where he is coming from with his question.
Teaching Catechism Questions Using Audio CD's (or MP3)
This is part 1 of a 4 volume set of CD's that has each children's catechism question paired with a supporting Bible verse set to song. The songs are pleasant to listen to and are memorable. We own all 4 CD's in the series and have enjoyed listening to them many times over the years. Even my 18 month old will sing along.
When my children are 5 and are ready to move from the children's catechism to the shorter catechism, we use this series of CD's to help them memorize the questions. Each song consists of 1 question and answer.
Do You Catechize Your Children/Grandchildren?
Teaching Catechism Questions Using Books
This is a children's book based on catechism questions/theology. There is a "devotional" for each day of the week. It includes a short Bible story, a Bible verse, a song to sing, and a prayer. Each week is based on a different catechism question/theological aspect. I will add a caveat that I did change words on occasion as this book is written with the presumption that young children cannot be Christians, with which I disagree completely. Overall, it is a good book, though.
This has a great family devotional for 6 days of the week based on the shorter catechism questions. It includes what to say, ask, and pray.
Kids in the Kitchen
Around the age of 14 months is when I started baking and cooking with my oldest son. Baking is one of my favorite educational experiences that I do with my children. You can teach so much, have a great time together, and enjoy something delicious afterward. Whenever my kids hear me tinkering in the kitchen, they almost always pull up a chair and ask if they can help. When starting with toddlers, first be prepared to not have a perfect product. Clean off your counter top because they will spill flour, sugar, etc. out of the bowl and you'll have to scoop it back in. Try to have all the ingredients together in the same place so that you're not running around the kitchen grabbing the oil, the flour, the eggs, or whatever else while your toddler is having fun painting himself/herself with your creamed butter mixture as he waits. If I do have to grab something from the pantry, I'll tell me children to put their hands on their heads and keep them there until I get back. When I first start my toddler in the kitchen, I let them dump in mixes, dump in cups of dry ingredients, and stir with assistance. We both hold the spoon together. This is the perfect time to work on counting. We count to 10 as they take a turn and then I take a turn. Eventually we count to 20. Sometimes we count to 10 in other languages. With my preschoolers we'll count by 2's or 5's.
You'll want to initially use a spoon with a long handle so that you can hold the top of the spoon (to control to stirring speed) while your child holds the bottom of the spoon.
We love using these to not only cut out fun animal-shaped cookies, but also animal-shaped sandwiches, pizzas, cheese slices, apple & peach slices, and more!
Science in the Kitchen
As we dump in ingredients, I talk and ask questions constantly. The baking soda, yeast, and baking powder help the batter to rise by producing carbon dioxide gas bubbles. Flour holds the baked good together by forming a glue called gluten. The sugar makes it taste good, but it's not good for us so we try to reduce it as much as we can. Whole wheat flour is healthier than white flour because it has more nutrients and fiber. Dry yeast is "asleep" and needs warm water to wake it up and sugar to eat for its breakfast. I go on and on.
This has a number of child-friendly recipes. This is one of my favorite go-to books when I'm looking for something fun to create in the kitchen with my kids.
Math in the Kitchen
Not only do we talk about the ingredients, but we also talk about the measurements. Anyone who grew up cooking and baking knows that learning fractions in math was a breeze. I talk about how we could either use 1/2 cup or two 1/4 cups because they're the same. I'll tell them we need 4 cups of flour. We've put 1 cup in. How many more cups do we need? We need 3 eggs. Let's count as we put each egg in. My kids especially love helping to roll out dough and cut it using cookie cutters. When we make Peanut Butter Blossom cookies, the peanut butter cookies with a Hershey's kiss on top, the kids help me unwrap the chocolates. Then we divide them into groups of 5 or 10 and count them out. There is so much math you can do in the kitchen!
Fun with Kids in the Kitchen
This has really cute bento box meal ideas that are perfect for creating with your toddlers and preschoolers!
Getting Fat in the Kitchen?
If you're not into having baked goods around your house, you can give them away. We always baked before a church lunch, Bible study, or park play time so that we could pass along the treats we'd made. Another option that I haven't tried yet but am looking into right now are Bento box recipes for kids, which look like a great mix of fun and healthy foods.
Do You Cook or Bake with Your Child/Grandchild?
Looking for more of my posts on what to do with your babies, toddlers, and preschoolers?
- Creative Activities to Do with Your Baby - Are you looking for educational activities you can do with your baby? We all want the smartest and the happiest children and grandchildren possible. I have included some practical suggestions that I have used with my children from their earliest ages to attain this goal. This is Part 1 in a 3 part series.
- Creative Activities to Do with Your Toddler or Preschooler - Are you looking for educational activities you can do with your toddler or preschooler? We all want the smartest and the happiest children and grandchildren possible. I have included some practical suggestions that I have used with my children from their earliest ages to attain this goal. This is Part 3 in a 3 part series.
- Homeschooling Preschool and Kindergarten - Are you considering homeschooling but don't know where to start? Do you have a preschooler who is eager to learn but you have no idea what to teach or how? Are you feeling overwhelmed by all the options? I have laid out what I do to homeschool my children when they are ages 3-5 and have also included my favorite resources for preschool and kindergarten learning.
- Taming Toddler Tornadoes: What to Do with Toddlers and Babies While You Need to Focus on Other Activities or Children - Are you homeschooling older children and you have a baby and/or toddler at home as well? I currently have three school age children along with a preschooler, toddler, and baby. A question I get a lot from homeschooling families is, "What in the world do you do with your toddler and/or baby?" Read below to find out what I do to keep my babies and toddlers busy and happy while still covering algebra, sentence diagramming, dissections, and more with the older set.
- Training Your Child to Sit in Church - My children sit in church with us each Sunday. They sing and pray with us and listen to the sermon. Many families have asked, "How in the world do you do that?" That's why I'm writing this. Let me clarify that I am not writing this to explain why we keep our children in church with us. I am writing this to explain how we keep our children in church with us.
- Getting My Children to Ask for Violin Lessons - The violin is my favorite instrument. Even Albert Einstein agreed: "A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy." Convincing my children of that, however, isn't the easiest task...especially when drum sets sound their siren call from their earliest age. Find out below what I have done and continue to do to lull my children into sharing my love of this stringed instrument.
- Bible Verses Set to Music - Are you looking for fun and easy ways for you and/or your children or students to memorize Bible verses? I want my children to hide the word of God in their hearts. What better way to do this than to have them listen to fun songs with words that are. On this page you will find some of the best CD's out there to do this.