I heard a story once about a mother who went to pick her daughter up from the last day of preschool and the teacher mentioned that the child was very good at putting puzzles together. With this information, the mother went home and took out their little 24-piece puzzle and watched her little girl quickly assemble the puzzle. The mother found a more challenging puzzle and again the daughter put it together easily. All through the summer the mother brought home puzzles for the preschooler, each puzzle more difficult than the last. By the time preschool started up again in the fall, the little girl was piecing together 100 piece puzzles. The mother earnestly thanked the preschool teacher for letting her know about her daughter's ability and reported on the progress that she had made throughout the summer break. The teacher in amazement, brought out the puzzle they had been working on the previous year: a simple wooden inset puzzle with pieces that lifted in and out of their places.
Whether it's a toddler who wants to learn to catch a baseball or a little girl who enjoys doing puzzles, the only thing our children need from us is encouragement. And maybe some chocolate pudding.
· Make up a big batch of your favorite flavor of pudding (chocolate). Tear off a big sheet of waxed paper for each child and give them each a big splotch of pudding to use as finger paint. This is a great alternative to finger paint, because instead of having one more masterpiece that needs to be displayed somewhere in your house (until you can sneak it into the bottom of the garbage can without getting in trouble), you just eat it!
· Gather all of the shoes in your house (if you have Imelda Marcos tendencies just grab an armful). Mix them up in a pile in the middle of the room and then have fun taking turns finding the pairs of shoes. If you have a basket of socks that are waiting to be folded into pairs, try this activity with the socks too.
· Get out the wagon, the tricycle and the stroller, decorate them with crepe paper or tinfoil (or whatever else you can dream up) and attach some cans with string for noise. Then head outside for a parade. When my children do this, they love to throw candy, which I will gladly provide if you are in need. This activity is not as embarrassing as it sounds since they usually have their parade on the back patio and my job is just to sit and clap for each parade entry as it passes by in front of me…again and again and again….have fun!
· Read the story Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (by Judi Barrett), and then talk about the different kinds of precipitation that the town experienced. Have the children make their own book about the kinds of foods they would like to have fall from the sky. Have them color pictures of the food or cut pictures out of magazines and make a collage book.
· Spread out a big blanket in the middle of the floor and bring out your old -fashioned popcorn popper. With the lid off, have fun watching the popcorn come flying out. Enjoy your popcorn plain or make it into caramel corn or your favorite popcorn recipe.