1 year old – Hugs All Around
How many ways can you mimic a hug?
Materials: Assorted stuffed animals, family pets, cozy blankets, pillows, favorite toys, a copy of the book, Hug, by Jez Alborough.
What to Do: Read the book with your child and discover the joys of hugging. Then go on a scavenger hunt through your house to find things to hug, or that might feel like a warm hug: wrap your child up in a soft blanket, squeeze a lovey, pet the family dog, squish a poofy pillow.
Hint: Objects don’t have to be soft. Vroom a favorite dump truck, bang a toy drum, sing a favorite song.
Variations: Talk about how a hug makes us feel loved, special, safe and happy. What other things make us feel that way?
2 Years old – Quilting Bee
Explore colorful patterns as you design your own “quilt.”
Materials: Construction paper in assorted colors, cut into equal-sized squares.
What to Do: Encourage your child to design his or her own quilt by placing the squares into a pattern. Experiment with stripes or a design blocked out in different colors. Name the colors as you go.
Hint: Consider using poster board or card stock to make the pieces sturdier. That way, you can slip the squares into your diaper bag for an on-the-go activity.
Variations: Cut some squares in half diagonally to allow for more complex patterns. Write letters or numbers on one side of the squares and turn your quilt into a memory matching game.
3 Years Old – Pick-Me-Up Party
Everyone needs a little TLC sometimes.
Materials: Lemonade, cookies or other tasty treats, paper streamers and balloons.
What to Do: Together with your child, come up with a small number of friends or family to invite over for a Pick-Me-Up Party. Decorate with colorful but simple decorations, put out a pitcher of lemonade and a plate of cookies. Help your child serve your guests.
Hint: Store-bought lemonade and a box of cookies work just fine here. Make the prep as easy as you can so you can spend more energy teaching your child how fun it is to take care of others.
Variations: Don’t love large groups? Invite just one or two people. Or consider bringing your party to someone who is unable to come to you (an elderly neighbor, a friend on bed rest, etc.).
4 Years old – Web of Kindness
Get tangled up in the art of verbal affirmation.
Materials: Ball of yarn, other family members or friends.
What to Do: Sit in a circle, with one person holding the ball of yarn. The yarn holder says the name of someone else in the circle and tells that person one thing he or she likes about them, and tosses the ball of yarn into their lap, while keeping hold of their end of the yarn. Now the new ball holder repeats the same action with a different person. Continue until your web is full and everyone has had multiple chances to receive praise.
Hint: Try to get beyond surface praise (I like your hair.) to the inner characteristics of each player (I like how you share your toys with me.).
Variations: Play multiple rounds but change out the color of the yarn each round. Consider using the web game to take turns sharing stories about the day. No one can talk until he or she holds the ball of yarn.
Tally Flint is a freelance writer and editor and the Children’s Nurture Coordinator at Denver Presbyterian Church. She makes her home in Denver, Colorado, where she and her husband are vastly outnumbered by their four children, ages 12, 10, 8, and 8.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Hello, Dearest. If you didn’t get a copy and would like your own, you can subscribe to get Hello, Dearest in your mailbox every season. If you subscribe, forward your receipt to email@example.com and we’ll shoot a copy of the current issue in the mail to you for free … just because we like you.