Double Duty Kid Activities

by Brenda Nixon

You can have special memories with your tots by doing projects together. Kids love spending uninterrupted time with Mom or Dad and your activity can serve a duel purpose – supporting growth and development. When learning is like play, kids don’t even realize you’re making the activity educational.

Try these fun, easy, and memory-making activities to “teach” your children:

Countdown Combo Mix
Why not reinforce numbers and counting while you keep little hands busy, minds active, and mouths watering for this tasty, healthy individual snack. Help your kids count out:
10 small round pretzels
9 raisins
8 Cheese-It crackers
7 pumpkin seeds
6 chocolate chips
5 Rice Chex
4 peanuts
3 miniature marshmallows
2 cashews
1 M&M
Place all items in a snack size baggie, close, shake to mix, and enjoy.

Hand-sized Squeeze Balls
Balls are a sure play-promoter for preschoolers. But they also strengthen small muscles in the hand and serve as sensory calming.

Stretch a balloon by blowing it up a few times and letting it deflate. Then assist your child with packing it with a cup of sand, rice, flour, sugar, or salt. You may want to use a funnel.

Place the one filled balloon inside a second stretched balloon as this makes your squeeze ball more durable. Tie off both balloons and you’re ready to play.
Toss them in the air, play catch, aim for a bucket, or just squeeze as hard as you can. Your kids will think you’re great for showing them how to make a small, personal ball but you can feel smug knowing they’re learning during the fun.

My Family Tree
This activity helps instill pride for your family. It’s also an excellent way to stimulate small motor skills, language, memory, and build eye-hand coordination.

Begin by gathering:
Green construction paper
Single hole punch
A Styrofoam or paper cup
Playdough or florist clay
Glue stick
Small twigs or tree branches from your yard

Give your child a small ball of playdough or clay to press in the bottom of his cup. Firmly insert the twig so it’s secure and held upright.

From the construction paper, cut out large, green shapes to resemble leaves. Give your child the number of leaves that represent each person or pet in your family. Decorate the leaves with glitter or markers. Write each family member’s name on a leaf. If your child can print, then encourage him to identify and label each leaf. Grandparents or anyone living in your home can be included on this tree.

Punch a hole at the top of each leaf and tie it onto the twig with yarn. Now you have a “family” tree filled with colorful leaves representing colorful members.

Food Face
Ever say, “Don’t play with your food?” This time you can encourage your kids to have fun with food because it will teach language, colors, and creativity while strengthening eye-hand coordination.

Place toasted, frozen pancakes on a plate. Set out bowls of raisins, licorice strings, peanut butter, and alfalfa sprouts.

Instruct your child to push the raisins into his pancake to look like eyes or a nose. The licorice can be a smile or squiggly mouth.

Next use the peanut butter to “glue” on alfalfa sprouts hair.

During this activity talk about the different feelings we have; sometimes we feel silly and sometimes we’re sad. Explain that all feelings have a purpose and can teach us about ourselves. Remind your child we must be careful how we act on our feelings. This is an excellent time to prod your child to talk about when he’s angry or sad and try to find the underlying cause. Then you can teach him appropriate ways to respond.

Bringing up kids is a complex task. But your rewards come when you have fun together with them and, at the same time, feel competent as their most important teacher.

©2007, Brenda Nixon.
As a speaker and writer to parents, Brenda Nixon builds stronger families through parent empowerment. She’s the author of The Birth to Five Book: Confident Childrearing Right from the Start (Revell) and working on a book for parents on child discipline. Free parenting articles and discipline tips are available at
Brenda also is the Host of The Parent’s Plate

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