Guess what? It’s time to have our kids unplug. Yep. Right now. Right this very minute.
Turn off the television, the tablet, the phone, the laptop, the whatever. Believe it or not, there’s a world of fun to be had when kids unplug to play and learn.
There’s no denying that we are raising kids in a digital age. Everywhere you turn, there’s a screen, a swipe, a beep, or a buzz.
That means that it’s super important that we, as parents, do what we can to make sure that our kids are not staring at a screen 24/7.
You may be surprised at how much fun your kids–and you!–have during unplugged time together.
Speaking of fun, I am thrilled to announce my partnership with KinderCare Learning Centers – it’s a perfect match! KinderCare Learning Centers are totally aligned with the main focus of teachmama.com from the start: encouraging simple, meaningful learning in the every day.
KinderCare Education makes it their passion to nurture a sense of joy and wonder in every child, every day, at every one of their centers, and I love it.
This spring, I was invited to do a little celebrating with the KinderCare Learning Centers team here in DC as they launched one of their newest locations. It was a blast! And there’s another new center opening at Watergate East in July!
I was able to celebrate reading, talk to parents about how to bring some early literacy learning home, and share some great books with the children. Check out some highlights from the event here, and stay tuned for more on this exciting partnership.
Here’s the skinny. . .
Unplug to Play and Learn — 4 Quick and Easy Ideas
1.) Silly Songs
As a primary grade reading teacher, I’m always amazed at how many of my students do not know traditional nursery rhymes and staple songs of childhood. These songs are filled with rhyme, rhythm, and sounds that help our little ones learn.
And now there are even some modern takes on traditional nursery rhymes which are super silly and fun for kids. Try Mary Had a Little Jam, by Bruce Lansky for a start.
Instead of putting on the radio or DVD player next time you’re in the car, consider singing some silly songs!
Need a refresher? Start with these oldies but goodies:
- The Alphabet Song
- Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
- Baa, Baa Black Sheep
- Frere Jacques
- The Farmer in the Dell
Then try singing some of these super silly songs with your littles:
- Hickory, Dickory Crash!
- Baby Shark
- This is the Way We. . .
- If You’re Happy and You Know It
- any of the Wee Sing Silly Songs or these silly songs for kids
Singing songs with your kids helps them develop super-important listening skills that will actually help them with reading. Believe me–it’s true!
2.) ABC Hunt
Get your little one searching for those super-important letters of the alphabet with the ABC Hunt!
- You can play with the letters of the alphabet any time, anywhere, very simply by saying to your child: Let’s use our super-strong eyes to find your letter–the letter ‘L’ (the first letter of his or her name). Who will be the first one to find this important letter?
- Then you point out all of the times you see that letter on signs, on books, on menus, you name it.
Or, if you have time and a pen and paper (or if you want to print out our ABC Hunt below!), you can get a little fancier with your ABC Hunt.
- Simply print out the ABC Hunt and grab a pencil or a crayon or some small chart stickers (those teeny, round ones!), and you’re good to go.
- Say to your child, Today we are going on an ABC Hunt to see if we can find every, single letter of the alphabet. When we find one of these letters, we’ll put a sticker in the box below it. Let’s see how many we can find!
- Then get ready to have some fun!
It’s important that we set our kids up for success with games like this, to give them choices, and to keep things light and fun!
3.) Big Box
Next time an order arrives at your door from an online shopping spree, instead of recycling that big box, keep it and let your child play with it.
Especially if you’re lucky enough to get a huge appliance box, just let your little one have it. Many children have tons of ideas about how to make that box their own, but if your child needs a nudge, ask him or her:
- What can you do with this racecar?
- Where can you go with this rocket ship?
- What kinds of treasure can you haul in this treasure box?
- Where will this ocean liner take you?
Your child’s imagination will be stretched with this activity, and if you have paints or markers to add to the fun, don’t be afraid to bring ’em out. Sometimes, all you need to do is get your child started by drawing a door or a window or a steering wheel on the box, and your child will soar.
And if it’s a smaller box, don’t sweat it! You can still have a boatload of fun with a small-sized box.
Play Guess What? with a smaller box and put your child’s senses to work.
- Open the lid of the box so you can easily place an object inside.
- Cut a small opening on one side of the box, big enough to fit your child’s hand inside. The opening can be a flap that opens and closes, or it can be a circle like on a birdhouse.
- Place an object inside the box–but don’t let your child see it!–and close the lid.
- Ask your child: Guess What it is? and have him use his senses to feel the object and guess what it is!
Not sure what to put inside the box? Consider: a sock, a spoon, a toothbrush, a toy car, a rubber band, a hairbrush, a tissue, a watch. The possibilities are endless, and your child will really be using his brain to figure out this mystery object!
And if you want a few more ideas for using a big cardboard box in fun and creative ways, check out this post from KinderCare Learning Centers: A Car! A Boat! A Robot! 8 Great Things to Make with a Cardboard Box.
4.) Fine Motor Fun!
Grab a few fuzzy sticks (we called them pipe cleaners, but now they’re ‘fuzzy sticks’!) and a small bunch of Cheerios, Fruit Loops, or beads, and let your child at it.
You don’t even have to say anything, and your child will know what to do.
As your child places the items on the fuzzy stick, you can:
- count the items on the stick;
- talk about the colors of the items on the stick;
- see if the child can create patterns on the stick;
- encourage the child to bend and twist the stick. . .
If you don’t have a fuzzy stick, consider using a string, a shoelace, or a piece of dry spaghetti. Yes, dry spaghetti works–just make sure your child doesn’t try to eat it!
These simple, unplugged, activities encourage fine motor muscle development. Even though that sounds fancy, it just means that those important, tiny muscles in the child’s hands and fingers will be strengthened by these movements.
The counting, patterns, and color conversations are all helping to develop important foundational skills in fun ways.
You got this, friend.
BONUS – Unplug and explore Washington, DC!
And hey—if you find yourself in the DC Metro area anytime soon, how about you unplug and do a little exploring around the Nation’s Capital?
KinderCare Education has created an awesome Little Explorers’ Guide for DC, and it highlights some of the must-see parts of our amazing city. What better way to unplug and spend time together as a family than by exploring one of the greatest cities in the US?
I’d love to hear what you think!
Which activity do you think you’ll begin with?
fyi: I’m thrilled to share this post as part of a partnership with the great people at KinderCare Learning Centers. Check out how we celebrated the new DC KinderCare locations in April on the DC Waterfront.
KinderCare Learning Centers make it their passion to nurture a sense of joy and wonder in every child, every day, at every one of their centers. As the nation’s leading private provider in accredited early childhood education, KinderCare Learning Centers are committed to delivering the highest-quality childcare and educational opportunities for families and the dedicated professionals who serve them.
KinderCare Learning Centers are early childhood learning and care experts, guiding more than 1,300 community-based centers for children 6 weeks old through school age. To find out more, visit: