My sister has a 3-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter. During term time, her daughter gets to sleep in peace in the morning as her son is at playschool. However, now that he is on his school holidays, my sister is looking for quiet activity ideas to do with him while his sister sleeps, which could last for a couple of hours each day.
Here’s a list of some ideas, I had.
Read Stories to Him. He loves stories and it’s great to sit down and read stories of his choice without having his sister vie for attention or pull at the pages of the book. I know it’s hard to keep the attention of three-year-olds, so don’t feel you have to read every word in the book but rather draw them into the story by asking questions about pictures or what they would do if they were the character in the book. If buying books isn’t an option, take regular trips to the library and pick up different books every time. Kids love repetition and I think you’ll find that they enjoy listening to the same story over and over. The Gruffalo Little Library and the Peter Rabbit Little Library are lovely little books that help focus on learning numbers, colours, animals and opposites.
2. Do a Craft Together. My sister was quick to point out that it’s much harder to find crafts for boys than girls, and she is right, even at this age. There are lots of mums who craft with their kids and blog about it, so if this is something that might interest your child, start following some of these blogs and pick up new ideas every week. It is so much easier to do a craft with one child than it is with two, so take advantage of the two hours you have with one child and get the messy play done for the day. The SES Creative Sticking Shapes is a good option for children as young as 1 years old. Or, these fun Janod mosaic stickers help with fine motor skills and learning about shapes.
3. Work on Learning Something New in a Fun Way. Unless you have a good monitor which you can bring outside, playing outdoor games or teaching your child how to ride a bike, isn’t an option during this quiet time. However, you can do things like helping your child recognize letters and sound them out. Teach your child how to spell their name using magnetic letters. If they manage this, you could start teaching them basic spellings with these really lovely See and Spell Boards from Melissa and Doug.
4. Do a Jigsaw Together. My eldest never really got into jigsaw puzzles but my youngest loves them. They are great for developing concentration and fine motor skills and they are fun and satisfying to do. Again, it’s really hard to do jigsaw puzzles when you have little brothers or sisters in the room. There are two jigsaw puzzles that I’d recommend from my stock for this age group. The first is the wooden puzzle of the World and the second are the 36 piece puzzles from Djeco. I stock a Fairy and Unicorn one and a Ballerina one. If you like to buy puzzles that last a long time, why not choose a progressive difficulty set of puzzles, like this Four Seasons one? Alternatively, now is the time to work on floor puzzles when there’s not a baby crawling around. This panoramic Jungle floor puzzle is gorgeous as is the Very Hungry Caterpillar Floor Puzzle.
5. Play a Game Together. You are never too young to learn how to play simple games. Snap is a good place to start or dominoes. Once they have mastered the skill of taking turns and the ability to accept that they won’t always win, then you could introduce some memory games. I think you’d be amazed at how quickly they learn how to play these games and how good their little memories are. Games for this age group don’t have to be traditional and you’ll find entering into an imaginary play game will bring them so much fun. If you are looking for some props, I can recommend this Wooden Kaleidoscope Camera, a wooden laptop or some play food.
6. Build Something Together. Use lego or wooden blocks or sand or play dough. Enter in with your child to the imaginary world they are making. I think you’ll find this lots of fun and therapeutic, as you’ll be able to make your own creations too.
7. Teach your Child how to Cook or Bake. Prepare dinner but involve your child in the process. Bring the food down to their level or have them stand on a chair so they can see what you are doing (provided it’s safe for them). Count spoonfuls going in together, get ‘help’ stirring and adding. They’ll love being involved and they’re probably more likely to eat it since they made it. It also helps you do something productive.
This time that you have one on one with your child is special and it won’t last forever. Your child will be back in school in less than a month and although it’s draining now, you’ll miss it when they have gone back. Next summer, your baby may not nap any more, so make the most of this special time.