What’s a Parent to Do?
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What’s a Parent to Do?

Entertaining preschoolers and toddlers at home can impart a love of learning from early childhood.

Innovation Station Activity Cube is a favorite toy that grows with your child.
Innovation Station Activity Cube is a favorite toy that grows with your child.

Imagine your entire day is filled with sorting, stacking, clapping, singing, reading books, matching shapes, and more. If that rings a bell, you probably have a toddler at home or a grandchild who is ready to play. With preschools potentially delayed and social distancing, Mommy and Daddy are a baby’s first teacher. Now more than ever, home base can provide a happy foundation that fosters a child’s love of learning. Supervision and safety are key, and if you are looking for things to do that teach and make your little one happy, here’s some help from the home front front line.

As mother and daughter, we teamed up to write this article. We share FaceTime visits often so that 1-year-old Poppy can get to know Grandma “Ro Ro.” With Elmo puppets on hand, we sing songs and share endless smiles. Here are some ideas straight from the playrooms of Atlanta moms and our own 1-year old Poppy-approved playtime.

Poppy is an expert at stacking rings on the Spin Again toy for endless fun.

Explore Sensory Play

Sensory play is important for a child’s development and that is what Atlanta mom Abi Cohen focuses on daily with her 1-year-old daughter Ella. Since Ella was 6 months old, Abi has been filling a container from their pantry with water and items you find around the house: kitchen utensils, raw pasta and foam bath letters are a few of the items she uses. They sit together on their deck for a change of scenery and Ella loves pulling items out and putting them back in the container. Abi rotates the items every few days and teaches Ella about each one as she plays with it. This is a great opportunity and game to expose little ones to different shapes and textures while using what you already have around the house.

Toys That Teach

One-year-old Ella enjoys playing with items her resourceful mom finds around the house.

As a child grows, select toys that inspire curiosity. Here’s a toy for 1-year-olds and older that has unending options and expanded play. The Baby Einstein and Hape Innovation Station Activity Cube will grow along with your child and stimulate learning. Five sides of fun await your little scientist. Watch as baby becomes enthralled with the different things she can grab, spin, twirl and activate. Gadgets like floating beads and curious square gears will keep your baby coming back to play with this developmental toy. Enter a world filled with exciting scientific concepts that multiple kids can play with at once. They’ll be curious and eager to find out what happens when they push and pull the animation sliders or turn the bold-patterned gears. With a gravity-defying ball race and more, the discovery never stops with this wonderful toddler toy!

Fun at One

Alina O’Neal, owner of Learning Express of Atlanta/Buckhead, shares, “One year-olds are starting to walk as well as exploring everything around them. There is so much to see and touch in their world, and toys like Spin Again help them experiment by placing discs and watching them spin down the pole. They also like to see what happens when they touch a knob or when music plays after they press a button, such as when they play with the My First Activity Desk by Kidoozie.

“Two-year-olds are still busy exploring and sorting items by shape and color. The Shape Factory by Fat Brain Toys is a twist on the traditional shape sorter. Each time the top is pressed, the shape of the openings change, and the child has to solve the puzzle of which shape fits in the new opening.”

Learning Express has been busy sending out their Grand Box Bundles. Wrapped to perfection and customized for your grandchild’s ages, it’s a clever way to send a little play to your precious grandkids.

Teaching the ABCs

Paige Rothstein, 2 ½, loves to learn new words and sounds.

Preschooler Paige, 2 ½, daughter of Joanna and Josh Rothstein, looks forward to returning to preschool at The Epstein School. Creative Joanna shared one of Paige’s favorite activities. “Every day at home is a new journey with Paige, and despite the minimal social interaction due to the COVID-19 imposed isolation, everything we are doing is homemade, simple, effective and incredibly fun. We are introducing Paige to recognize alphabet letters through colorful cards, which are organized in a homemade ’alphabet and picture box.’ Paige plays with the cards and through repetition, we introduce a letter and talk about each associated picture. She is learning the alphabet letters, vocabulary and over time we’ll share sounds through the colorful cards a special family member lovingly made her. We are doing our best to make each day a happy day.”

Pretend Play

Artist and grandma Flora Rosefsky shared, “Children that age enjoy puppets and make-believe, getting dressed up in costumes. Have a big basket of hats, skirts, pants and other items to dress up.

“I still have the hand puppets I used to collect for my four children, where they would put on shows for each other. Preschoolers really enjoy puppets.” Rosefsky added, “The attention span for that age group is very short – also depends on the personality of the child – and they don’t mind doing activities by themselves instead of with a group. That’s where make-believe is important. They can line up their stuffed animals or dolls, action figures, and make believe they are all in a day care or preschool class. If the preschooler has an older sibling or more in the household, that could be a big help – having one’s own ‘counselors’ at home!”

Puppets on hand are ready for playing at home or on FaceTime with grandparents.

Inspire Creativity

Rosefsky continued, “Outdoor fun on a driveway or stone patio with a bucket of water and a wide size paint brush: paint shapes, lines with water! The sun will dry up the ’paintings’ but even a precocious child 2 and older can do this. My son, who is now almost 53, remembers those hot summer days painting with water.” Or, crayon rubbings are fun, she said. “Using larger crayons for younger children, put paper down on a rough surface, like a stone patio, a radiator vent inside the house, etc. Take the crayon and on the flat side, go across the paper so that a ‘pattern’ appears. A child can use different colors – maybe once using red, and then do it again using yellow – to get orange!”

And last but not least, talk to other moms. Join a virtual playgroup or FaceTime a scheduled playtime with a friend who children the same age. Playtime can be a way to create memories and learn new things. Even clapping becomes an accomplishment with grandparents and family members ready to applaud. Here’s to loving your little ones out loud as you cheer them on to learning new skills during the days spent ahead and at home.

Robyn Spizman, aka “Ro Ro,” is a New York Times bestselling author, media personality and author of “Loving Out Loud: The Power of a Kind Word,” www.robynspizman.com. Her daughter Ali Garfinkel is a dedicated Atlanta mom figuring out motherhood one toy and activity at a time.

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