1. Make an Album.
Get a small photo album (the 4" x 6" plastic booklets from the photo store are perfect), and gather individual snapshots of all the people you want to include. Put the photo on the right, and on the left insert a 4" x 6" index card with a word or two identifying that person (Grandma, Uncle George, and so on). Kids love to look at pictures, and it will also help your child remember who's who.
2. Mail Love Notes.
Create postcards from 4" x 6" index cards. Have your child draw or paint a picture on one side, then turn it over and ask her to dictate a message for you to write. Add the address and a stamp, and you're sure to brighten someone's day.
3. Plant a Paper Garden.
It's not quite spring yet, but it's never too early for flowers. Using pinking shears or other decorative scissors, cut tulip-shaped blossoms out of brightly colored construction paper, then tape onto a drinking straw. Set bouquets in vases around the house.
4. Plan a Color Day.
Once a week, dedicate the day to a color. On blue day, dress your little one in a blue shirt. At breakfast, add a drop of blue food coloring to pancakes or scrambled eggs and your child's morning cup of milk. Go for a walk, and point out all the blue things you see while outside-a blue mailbox, a blue house, a blue bird. It's a great way for kids to learn their colors, and it gives organization to the day.
5. Build a House.
Call your hardware store, and ask if you can have a large appliance box. After you cut out a door and some windows, make curtains out of fabric scraps, draw or paint pictures to hang on the walls, and put a throw rug inside for a carpet. You can also attach boxes of different sizes to create a mansion.
6. Make Wind Chimes.
String beads, bells, and other noise-making objects onto thin strands of yarn or fishing line. Tie these onto an embroidery hoop or a wire hanger twisted into a circle, with the strings spaced closely enough so the objects strike each other and make music when the breeze blows. Hang the chimes on your porch or in a tree, and listen for the soothing sounds.
7. Feed the Birds.
Get a couple of bird feeders and a birdbath (a pie tin is just fine) that can be seen from your window. With your child, set out water and birdseed, then plop down on some cushions by the window to see which feathered friends drop in for dinner and a spa treatment. For more tips on bird-watching, log on to www.birdsource.org.
8. Write a Book.
Make an "I can" book with your toddler. Have her cut out pictures of things she can do (get dressed, ride a trike, brush her teeth) from magazines and glue them onto sheets of construction paper. Make holes with a three-hole punch, and bind pages with ribbon or yarn. Variation: Have her dictate a story and draw pictures to go with it, then bind as above.
9. Rock On.
Make your own instruments, and have a concert. Let your imagination run wild: For a great sound, put crunchy cereal between two aluminum pie plates stapled together, shake rice in an old film canister, make a drum out of an empty cardboard oatmeal container (use a wooden spoon for a drum-stick), or fashion a kazoo by wrapping a comb in waxed paper.
10. Host a Teddy-Bear Picnic.
Have your child draw invitations and send them to the guests. Prepare cocoa, tiny sandwiches, and a dessert of pound cake cut into shapes. Cover a small table with a cloth, and assemble the lucky partygoers.
Copyright © 2003 Mary Mohler. Reprinted with permission from the March 2003 issue of Parents magazine.