Although we would prefer to show you some newly discovered place, unfortunately our recent discoveries are limited to more mundane matters. Locked inside the house, we had time to focus more on what can be done within the four walls.
The beginning of the year is definitely not a good one. Locked inside the house for almost three weeks through the windows, we admired the winter we had not seen in Lodz for so long. We’ve been waiting for days like this for a long time: the sled has been dusting completely unused for more than a year now, we bought warm winter clothes hoping at least for some trip, and here’s such a surprise: Lodz was covered with white fluff, and not for one or two days as it happened for the last few winters. The real winter came, full of snow, frost, children sledding, and we only longed to admire it all from the windows, because we had to go through isolation and quarantine.
There have been quite a few challenges, because while spending time with the children 24/7 is not a problem for us, sitting constantly indoors and on top of that combining care and play with remote work has given us a hard time. Add to this the poor condition associated with the coronavirus infection and you have an explosive mix at home ;)
Well, so it was time to pull dusty games and toys out of the closets, we bought some new, some used, and some we got or borrowed during the closure. And since it’s been a long time since we had a post on interesting games and activities for children, we decided to refresh it a bit. Since the last post, the state of the children has changed, and so have the interests ;-)
The biggest challenge was finding activities for two. Because while with a 4.5-year-old it is already possible to play more interesting games, unfortunately, a two-year-old is the first to spoil, destroy and draw attention to himself ;)
So what helped us survive the shutdown?
Table of contents
We do most things together
But before we show you the various toys and aids that have worked for us, one thing that may change the perspective of many of you.
In the past, we used to do the cleaning, cooking and laundry when the kids were already asleep or away from home. Probably every parent will admit that help from the child is more like an extra mess or a snail’s pace…. BUT! Let’s look at it from the other side – this is time spent with children. A time when we teach them something, tell them about what we do, show them that we take care of the space together, not only eat together, but also prepare meals together.
Especially the closing time showed us that really, it’s possible to do most things together, and even make a fun game out of it (e.g. hiding all the toys from the vacuum cleaner, finding pairs of socks from the laundry in time). All the more so when we are sitting at home anyway, we are not in a hurry, and we have to manage the time somehow anyway.
So we encourage you to put your creativity into action and invite your children to join in the fun ;) Thanks to this experience, it is definitely easier for us now to embrace everything…. We no longer wait for a free moment in the evening, we don’t try to organize ourselves so that the apartment is ready for cleaning – we just try to do everything on the fly, often spontaneously – depending on what we feel like doing now.
And that, by the way, we will lose half a package of eggs, because Philip just happened to want to help unpack the groceries, or chickpea seeds will roll all over the apartment, because it did not work out to sift them…. that’s another matter ;)
>> We also recommend our post: Toys for young children for a long trip!
Puzzles and jigsaw puzzles
Puzzles have accompanied us for a long time. Starting with the simplest ones with shapes, or two-element ones, and ending with more complicated ones with many irregular shapes.
As a rule, we run two types at the same time – simpler and more difficult, so that each child has something for himself, but as a rule, after a while they switch and mix everything anyway. We arrange, we tell, we spoil and so on and so forth :)
We recently got a puzzle with a map of Europe from Mudpuppy, but not the usual kind. The pieces with countries are shaped differently than traditional puzzles – they are shaped like countries! So we learn geography in the process, and Olive, after a few puzzles, learns the contours of each country and its location in Europe! The next step is a world map ;) For this we chose a puzzle called. “compromise,” meaning for two at a time. Difficulty for the older one, pictures and tactile elements for the toddler – on top of that the dinosaur theme made both of them keep stacking (also from Mudpuppy).
All magnetic puzzles also work well for us, because unfortunately the traditional ones somehow magically get lost and we have most of the sets incomplete ;) About two years ago we tested Mudpuppy magnetic book puzzles as a perfect solution for traveling. There is less risk of them getting lost, and stacking in different positions and means of transport is easier, too. Here we followed the blow with something that worked well for us before and added a second set each, because there were starting to be arguments :)
And at home, Magnetibook puzzles (Janod) are great – we have two sets, both supposedly from the age of 3, but they are completely different when it comes to the level of sophistication. The yellow ones with animals are three-piece puzzles – each animal is arranged in the same way. The second box, on the other hand, is more complicated and creative, just right for older kids. They can create images as their imagination tells them or model themselves after the cards provided. Caution, the set contains very small pieces, so better let the little ones stay away ;)
We also recommend magnetic jigsaw puzzles with characters (Mudpuppy) – for older children, because here, too, there are many small pieces, but if your children love dresses, princesses, dress-up, etc., this is the set for you ;)
Board games and more
Great joy and sadness at the same time. Joy, because we get into more and more fun, developmental games, and sadness, because it’s hard to play with three of us when the little belly wants to play too ;) So we take turns playing or at nap time or in the evenings when Philip is asleep. Although we are slowly already trying to introduce the simplest games of the “On Berries” or “Lottery” types.
So playing together is the time we fully dedicate to Olive. Definitely embraces the rules of the game, the order, counting points, can focus on the game and…. combine to win ;) We are also not afraid to modify the rules a bit to make it easier, or to introduce a theme of cooperation instead of competition.
A big hit at our house at the moment is Mushroomcatcher (Trefl), Taxi (Kukuryku, although here we modify the rules a bit), Closet Monsters, traditional dominoes, Falling Monkeys and the hugely popular Honeycombs (Honeycombs, we’re already looking forward to taking this game on the road). Also, we like to play magnet fishing together and it is a game that will work for the whole family. These games we could play all the time :) Unfortunately, they take up a lot of space, so rotation within family and friends is advisable.
Also starting card games, although limited to very simple games like Quartet, Macau or Peter with dedicated cards.
If we were to recommend something to start with, it would definitely be“On Berries” and any type of memory – these simple games allow the child to learn the rules, learn to wait their turn, and exercise memory. Remember that the rules of the game are what they are, but that does not mean that you have to stick to them rigidly :) We often modify the rules, if we see that the game is too difficult for now, we help each other instead of competing. We also give an educational character, for example, smuggling colors in English, or naming characters in English.
Also super are the games from the Lottery series from Captain Science – you can play them in many ways, and with the youngest they work super well as cards for learning vocabulary and perceptiveness. There are many types, from colors to animals to English.
Drawing and coloring pages
While games by design involve the whole family, coloring books no longer do. At least in theory, because in practice it varies :)
At our place there are always a few coloring books in stock, and even more blank paper. In general, any work involving the hands (drawing, painting, kneading, cutting) is highly recommended by speech therapists! So it’s a good idea to let children maze, draw, paint, cut (there are special safe scissors) from an early age. One must, of course, adequately protect the table or clothes, or expect additional cleaning.
What works best for us? Coloring books for adults ;) Seriously! And it’s not that there is such an advanced level of coloring already, but just something parents do is so cool after all ;) Such coloring books will work especially well if your children like their parents to sit next to them and just watch…. Now you can add an element of stress relief for the parents and color together.
These days, when it’s better to avoid trips to the stores, we recommend printing pictures to color at home. There are many sites providing coloring books for free, and you can choose only those that will 100% appeal to toddlers.
What else? Water coloring books with special markers (in our case they work well from the Water Flamaster series). Easy, magical, reusable. There’s also Bazgraki, which we recommended to you as part of one of our trips – books with tasks that you solve with a washable marker. There are many such books on the market, including for learning letters and numbers.
A river topic! Although we promise ourselves that we will buy less already, a few always fall by the wayside on some occasion :) And while we will not recommend any particular book or series here because as many children as many opinions, there are several important aspects of reading books.
Children like to read one and the same book until they fall…. More specifically, of course, when parents read the same thing over and over again ;) And I guess we have like every parent that instead of reading the first part of Puff again, we would prefer to look into something new, however, for children this repetition is extremely important! The child’s brain needs such repetition, it enriches its vocabulary, it sees more details, it is also a sign of security…. In fact, many studies and articles have been written on this subject, after reading which we clench our teeth and say what is written in the book for the fifth time on the same day, almost from memory.
However, what if the children do not want to listen to our reading? There are a lot of books for finding different objects, characters, solving tasks – in this way we can encourage children a little to look into books. Yes, we were not supposed to recommend specific ones, but at this point you should see such items as Detective Pierre, or the well-known Where’s Wally?
Finally, we would very much like to encourage you to rent books instead of buying. Nowadays, libraries are increasingly well stocked, we can easily find novelties and bestsellers. We rent a lot of books, have a constant rotation of them at home, and if something turns out to be a hit, then we buy it.
Modeling clay, kinetic sand
Many parents are frightened by the ubiquitous mess from kinetic sand or modeling clay so they put off such games until the child is a little more proficient at playing with them.
For us, however, it is a way for children of different ages to play together, because each can do something at their own pace and with their own abilities…. They can play role-play, help each other, share colors, tasks, etc.
Yes, there is a lot of cleaning up afterwards, but after a few times you know what to expect and how to protect yourself. We recommend, for example, to buy a very cheap oilcloth that you used to put on the table, put it on the floor and after playing sweep everything up and into the trash. Of course, you have to monitor all the time if you are sure the use is as intended ;)
We are big fans of Lego! We are now conservatively focusing on Duplo, but they too continue to perform superbly even for older children. Why Lego? Because they are indestructible, reliable and always compatible (even the oldest sets). We’ve been through a lot of pads and see quite a difference in quality and durability.
Sets with trains and tracks are the biggest hit with us. You can endlessly create new routes, there are many additions, and at the same time children learn the basics of programming, thanks to special tiles that define how the train should move. Of course, there is also role-playing, creating a whole track environment…. only imagination limits us ;)
Another hit is, unfortunately, Duplo fake tracks – special tracks with balls. They are supposedly compatible with Duplo, but qualitatively it is much worse, and the structures are not stable. Nevertheless, children love to build tunnels for balls and let them go endlessly ;) We are waiting for a better quality equivalent to be created ;)
Finally, our latest discovery thanks to a neighbor who lent us a wooden rocker with a slide.
Until now we wonder how we could live without it ;) For the time being, the slide is a bigger hit than the rocker itself, but once the slide is tucked away, it too is enduringly popular. They both go crazy, sliding, rocking, on top of that they let go of cars, animals, planes, see what will go down faster, what will go down easier, learn, experiment….
So if you are facing quarantine or isolation then borrow such a marvel from a kind neighbor – it is a lifesaver!
Unfortunately, it takes up quite a bit of space, and this is the biggest drawback of the rocker (another is the price, but on the Internet you can find instructions on how to make such a marvel yourself). Several people have recommended to us gymnastics sets with ladders, swings, rods – so far untested but we’re afraid the fun would be just as forward.
In truth, we sincerely believe that such posts will not be popular :) We prefer to show you new places, attractions, discoveries than toys and ways to play at home, but times are what they are and you have to cope somehow.
We hope that at least some of the ideas of you will be useful and save time in confinement :-)
We look forward to your suggestions and ideas – what worked best and what turned out to be a dud?
We also recommend you other interesting articles about traveling with a child:
- 7 TOO MANY gadgets for kids on the go and ONE thing you can’t miss!
- Airplane flight “for free”, that is, with a child under 2 years of age
- Pros and cons of traveling with a child in the off-season
- Traveling with a baby through the eyes of a dad
- First airplane flight with a child
This entry was created in cooperation with the distributor of JANOD and MUDPUPPY brands.