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Beat Cabin Fever with Innovative, Indoor Ideas
By Jane Kostelc, Parents as Teachers National Center

Parents as Teachers National Centers provide some much-needed activity ideas for families who find themselves with the opportunity to spend time indoors with their young children. Nothing is more important to your child than spending quality time together playing, talking and listening to each other. The best advice is to use what is available in your home to provide entertainment and learning opportunities for your child.

Learning Through Play

Teach your child basic skills through projects that make learning seem like play.
" Spend time teaching your preschool child to scribble or write letters. Experiment with writing tools by scribbling left to right. Encourage your child to make letter-like forms or letters and write them all over the page. Have your child copy a letter by looking at a model or tracing.
" Have your older child create an invitation to a tea party or picnic for their dolls or animals. This helps them learn to hold a writing tool and write or draw. Once the invitations are made and passed out, then decorate the table together or provide a healthy snack for the guests.
" Teach your child through music. Turn on some lively music and hold your infant or toddler as you move to the beat. You will be teaching her to respond to what she hears. Have a living room concert with your toddler or preschool child with home-made instruments. You can bang pots and pans or use a container with a plastic lid and fill it with dry beans or rice. Your child learns about beat and pitch while playing music with you.
" Host a pretend petting zoo. Collect your toddler's favorite stuffed animals and arrange them together or place them in different rooms of the house. Visit each animal with your child. Pet it and talk about its unique features and the noises it makes. Read a book about animals or a trip to the zoo.

Games to Promote Self-Regulation and Focus

Teach your child the importance of focusing on a particular task.
" Model language for your young child. Playtime is a great opportunity to describe what she is doing which helps her to connect actions to words. Pronounce words like an adult does, to model the correct way to say them.
" Be a consultant to your child as he plays. Encourage your preschool child to play pretend by suggesting new roles or new uses for play materials. Self-regulation is promoted when your child follows the rules of a make-believe scenario or plays a board game to completion. These are skills that preschoolers are just learning, so be patient and encouraging. Keep structured play time short until your preschooler can tolerate longer periods of focused activity.

Picture Albums

Children enjoy looking at pictures of family, friends and themselves.
" Create a simple album that captures happy memories. Talk to your toddler about each picture. Tell him who is in the picture and what is happening. Let the child pick out the pictures he likes.
" Babies like to look at pictures too. Prop a photo album next to your baby as she lays on her tummy on the floor. Attach a larger photo on the outside of the bars of her crib. Holding your baby on your lap while you look at photos of family and friends together can help her feel secure and loved.
" Visit with family and friends through pictures. Show your child pictures when he was a baby or of relatives that live away, such as a grandparent.

Indoor Workouts

To get some physical activity indoors, try these ideas with your child:
" Get out a blanket and give your baby some time on the floor to stretch and move.
" Place boxes or baskets around the room and have your 2- to 5-year-old try to toss or roll balls or beanbags into the 'targets'.
" Practice tossing and catching foam balls or beanbags to each other, or have your preschool child bat a balloon into the air with his hand. Be sure to immediately dispose of any burst balloon fragments as they can be a choking hazard.
" Find surfaces of various widths and heights on which your child can practice balancing, such as a pillow, phone book and a stepping stool. You can also make lines on the floor with masking tape and have your preschool child try to walk on the tape without stepping off.
" Have your preschooler practice stretches like sitting on the floor with her legs outstretched and try to touch her fingers to her toes. She can also stand and make circles with her hips like playing with an invisible hula hoop.
" Make use of community resources such as indoor swimming pools, recreation centers or walks through the shopping mall.
" Organize a play group in a church multi-purpose room or the basement of your home or apartment building.

Reading

Spend quality time and promote literacy by reading with your child. Children of all ages, even babies, love to be read to.
" Make a book for your baby. Take pictures of familiar objects or cut some out of magazines. Put them in a small photograph album. Name the pictures as you hold your baby and look at them together.
" By reading to your child, you help build vocabulary, develop background knowledge for more complicated learning, expose them to rich language patterns and learn the structure of a story.
" Use funny voices when reading a story to interest your child, and ask your child to make predictions about the story.
" Reading helps children learn how to handle books and becomes familiar with elements of books such as words, pictures and pages.
" Time spent reading helps your child identify reading as a pleasurable activity.

For more child development and parenting information, parents are encouraged to visit the Parents as Teachers National Center web site, at www.ParentsAsTeachers.org.

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