We received an email a little while ago asking how many structured versus non-structured activities your child should participate in throughout the day and what type of activities these should be.
First of all, I view a "structured" activity as one that is planned with the intention to further your child's education. A non-structured activity is basically everything else....it's like "free play." It's the time when your child is just roaming freely, playing with toys by himself or wandering around. There's no planning behind it (which is okay too ofcourse!)
So, how many structured activities should you plan for your child?
I feel that you should try to have a few structured activities a day. However, "planned" activities don't necessarily mean you have to go out and buy something new or spend 30 minutes planning one activity for your child. A structured activity can be spur of the moment or random, as long as it's educational and enhancing the skills of your child. For example, each day I try to have a few structured activities that will work on areas that are on my 16 month old's level. We read 15 minutes a day but right now he doesn't have the attention span to sit for all 15 minutes so I break it up into 5 minutes (or less) increments throughout the day. Some of my structured activities are small, like counting the goldfish on his highchair tray. Even though he cannot pronounce the numbers he still points to them as I sing a counting song. We like to go on nature walks, and when we do I am involved. I point to things and help him say their names...t t t tree or r r rock. Or when we feel things I help him use his senses by asking questions like "Doesn't this rock feel smooth?" I try to plan trips to the library weekly to explore new books and try out new toys. I love the story time class and try to attend it as often as possible. I also love taking him to The Children's Museum or the Zoo. These are all "structured" activities that can be small or big...either way they are all focusing on Owen's education in some way or another.
This past week Owen and I worked on stacking to help his dexterity and motor skills...not to mention his creativity.
Art is a great structured activity that can be done with all ages and in many different forms.
Cooking is another great activity. We made homemade poptarts found here. They were delicious.
Water play is always a fun one and doing it in the bathroom when outside isn't an option works just as well. This was one of our "texture bins" for the week. Those of course are always a fun structured activity!
Some other activities we might do include: dancing, singing songs, reading Nursery Rhymes, learning about our body parts, going to a pet store, going to swim lessons, or talking about our family and church related things. Not all may seem mainstreamed "educational" but they are enriching in all different ways. We also have MANY activities for all ages on our blog that you might also enjoy.
As long as you are exercising your child's mind and body, you are providing him with the enrichment he needs.
These activities mentioned can be tailored to meet your child's needs and of course there are countless ways to do this for ALL ages. Get creative and search blogs, read books and ask questions to find the right activities for your child. I have always felt that there can be a limit to too many educational activities. However, I feel that as long as your child is having fun AND learning you can do as many activities as you want. But once the fun is gone and it becomes a boring task, enough is enough. :)
So, what do YOU do with your child throughout the day?? We would love to post all of your ideas and link them back to you!! Please share!