Like so many grandparents these days we were very actively involved in the lives of our granddaughters when they were little and they lived with us for quite some time. But it was a wonderful way to stay close to them and watch them develop. And they filled the house with fun and laughter.
People grumble about how bad modern technology is for children. But I don’t think it is the technology which is at fault. The problem is that there is so much of it and it is so readily available so it is possible, even for little ones, to escape into their own virtual little world for most of the day if you let them.
Our granddaughters loved watching the Disney Channel on Sky TV before breakfast on Sunday morning (while the grandparents slept in!) and they liked playing Poptropica on the computer. But we made sure there were plenty of hours left in the day that electronic devices were kept unplugged.
We’re not in favour of buying expensive toys. Children lose interest in most of them quickly, and after that, they just clog up living spaces.
So instead I always made sure there were plenty of art supplies (felts, crayons, paper, cardboard and glue sticks) on hand.
They loved watching their granddad washing the dog, spraying each other with the garden hose, baking with me and licking the bowl, riding around the deck on their tricycles, having a cuddle with Abby the Lab, and dressing up. And there were always piles of Picture Books around which I picked up for next to nothing from our local flea market.
But as the day wore on the dreaded moment would often arrive when a little voice would pipe up with “I’m bored Grandma.” And they would be getting tired and scratchy and missing their Mum.
By this time my energy levels would also be running low. I’d have run out of ideas and it was tempting to just to open a big bag of chips and let them chill out in front of the TV. And to be honest, at times we did.
You might think that because I was an art teacher and have written educational resources that I’d never run out of ideas. But being a grandparent of pre-schoolers and keeping them happy all day long is something else.
I would have loved to have Bright Ideas for Young Minds on hand for some fresh ideas.
It was produced by BestStart Educare, New Zealand’s largest early childhood provider with contributions from over 100 BestStart early childhood educators from across New Zealand and is designed to stimulate the enquiring minds of young learners from 0-6.
Inside are 70 activities for having fun and learning together and no TV screen, laptop, iPod or expensive toy is in sight!
“Bright Ideas for Young Minds is guaranteed to fill many an afternoon with wonder, giggles, shrieks of delight and countless lightbulb moments when a skill is mastered, new knowledge is gained and imaginations are fuelled,” it promises.
There is one activity per page accompanied by a full-page photograph. Each lists the things you will need to do it and how it is done. It also tells you what learning is occurring and includes some extra tips.
All are quick and easy to set up and use free inexpensive ingredients that most of us have around the house or in our pantries.
I think it is a really wonderful book for parents and grandparents who want to spend more quality time with their little ones but need some help on what activities they could do with them. Doing them together will help them to learn new skills and make them more independent. And having fun together helps to build a great relationship with them.
Here’s a taste of what you will find in each of the7 chapters.
Blowing bubbles is fun but creating a giant one is amazing!
Decorate some tidy boxes with them to make cleaning up more fun
Act out their favourite story. Children love to pretend games.
Mud, Glorious Mud. Kids love it! They can dig, add water, ‘bake’, and use their senses to touch and smell it.
Head out into the local park, bush or beach to collect the rocks you’ll need for some creative rock painting,
Use the clothes pegs from your laundry to teach them maths, language, and small muscle skills.
When you need a quiet, calming activity for your pre-schoolers introduce them to animal yoga.
Bright Ideas for Young Minds by Best Start Educare Ltd. Published by Mary Egan Publishing. RRP 39.99
Reviews by Lyn Potter
Parent and grandparent, Avid traveller, writer & passionate home cook