Nothing is greater than the moments I get to watch my son come alive when discovering some place new. When he learns how to crawl through a new obstacle or discovers a new animal, I’m just as excited as he. Children’s minds are always open and ready for new experiences. They need new environments and activities to engage in so that their imaginations can continue to grow. Exploring, learning new things, and play time are all crucial parts of everyday life for all of us. The earlier we expose our kids to new things, the more open they will be to new experiences later in life.
So, now that I’ve shared where I look for new adventures and discussed my views on learning something new, I’ll shed a little light on how I select activities. When deciding on where exactly we will go, I usually want the activity to meet 3 criteria….. It needs to have some level of exploring, space to play, and an opportunity for him to learn something new. Each is equally important!
Being little is exciting. There are so many things they haven’t experienced. As adults, we have a tendency to rush through things and assume that we know what’s boring or fun. Honestly, we dont. If you want to know fun, let a kid show you. When selecting an activity, I question if it gives a chance for him to explore something. We take daily walks (depending on the weather) and it’s great!!! I give him the time to pick up leaves, grass, flowers, and whatever else we see. I let him touch trees and I talk to him about the texture of everything we experience. He immediately asks numerous questions throughout our walks, and is interested in touching almost everything. Children are inquisitive and love opportunities to explore something new. According to the University of Illinois, “exploring is normal and important for children to do. It is one of the first steps in learning about objects and in learning how to solve problems. Children are fascinated about how things work, what they look like from the inside, and how they are made.” So, allow them to walk in the rain to catch rain drops. Go on scavenger hunts and climb hills just to see what’s on top! Find places to take them where they have the opportunity to explore.
Some of my favorite places to explore are:
1. Any neighborhoods/trails with trees and lots of grass.
2. Port Discovery – Baltimore, Md
3. Farms – Enchanted Forest – Ellicott City, MD
Play is very important to development! It’s also easy to get children to do, because it’s what they want to do all of the time. I try to allow Kristopher, to find a moment to play no matter where we are. I create games and find fun activities everywhere we go. One time in the doctors office, Kristopher and I practiced swimming like a fish. We made kissy fish faces, swallowed water, and quietly moved our bodies like we were gliding through water. Kristopher had a ball and behaved himself because he was playing. When your kids are getting a little antsy, redirect their attention with a little playtime. It doesn’t matter how small it is, they will love it. Playing together also builds a bond between you and your child. They get to see you as more than just a person that feeds and clothes them. They learn all about your silly side, and fall in love with you as a parent all over again. I try to ensure that all outings offer play areas, time, and opportunity.
Some awesome places to play:
1. Annie’s Playground – Fallston, MD
2. Centennial Park Playground – Ellicott City, MD
3. Kiddie Crusoe – Timonium, MD
I’ve heard two views on this. Some say you don’t need to teach your toddler, just allow them to play and develop naturally. Others focus on teaching their little ones something new each day. I’m not here to change or direct anyone’s choice. All I can do is to speak for my own parenting style. I enjoy play time, but I do believe in learning time as well. Every night, aside from reading with my son, we work on numbers, letters, animals, shapes, colors, and more. When I seek out activities, I try to find things that will teach him something and reinforce what we are working on. For us learning is important. The earlier they start, the better they can be later in life. You don’t have to limit learning to flash cards and books. There are so many places you can go and learn something new. You will be so surprised how much you learn from watching them!
Some great places to learn while having fun:
1. Aquariums – local
2. Please Touch Museum -Delaware
3. Zoos – local
“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” -Joseph Chilton Pearce