Tuesday 15 February 2011

Activities for middle childhood-work in progress

One of the biggest challenges of being a mother in today's society is finding useful occupations for children once they have passed the toddler/preschool phase.

The slide to screen based entertainment creeps insidiously. For us, we found there were a few computer games, initially educational, then iplayer plus an elderly relative moving in who had a TV licence. Suddenly, entertainment on a screen takes lots and lots of time.

Most of us don't live in a "Farmer boy" like situation where there is plenty of training for real life, on a farm. Our urban area is infested with so many foxes that even keeping chickens is unrealistic.

We've felt challenged about this issue of entertainment vs training and whether this is "bringing up a child in the way in which he should go." The issue is how to replace entertaining with training, at least to some extent.

Below are some ideas that we have used. Please don't think that we have "arrived". This is still, very much a work in progress where we take steps forward followed by steps back. It would be great if people could contribute their ideas.

-menu planning to a budget. We did this sometime ago with our older children and plan to do this again with the younger children. Internet shopping helps with this as it is easy to add to and remove from a virtual basket. The children then help cook the relevant meals. I give the children the same budget that I would use for a week.

-gardening. This is an ideal time of year for gardening and even little ones can join in. We have just planted strawberries.

There are often free seed offers around the internet. The Potato Council have a scheme for providing potatoes, lesson plans and worksheets for schools. Home educators can also register. We are currently awaiting our potatoes and information although we also have some other potatoes chitting.

-private blog. It is wise that a blog written by a child should be private but this is a great way to encourage writing and can be shared with selected friends and family. We have seen a private blog expand from being a tool used during formal learning hours to something that is used from choice in free time.

-making cards. This is a real win/win. We pay the children a small amount to make cards for us. This is cheaper than buying made cards and the children like to earn money. It works better when I buy glue that actually sticks!

-cooking. Most children can measure and mix independently by about the age of eight. I supervise cutting and taking things in/out of hot ovens. The aim is for them to become completely independent in the kitchen by their teens. Children, and especially teenagers, often like to cook things more complex than I would cook. They don't mind several stages and can produce great food. One of my children took over all the birthday cakes, from me, some time ago.

-Time travellers club. This is a club, for children, run by the Protestant Truth Society. There are two components: a bi-monthly newsletter with articles and a quiz to be returned for points to awards and project books on famous characters in Christian history: David Brainerd, George Whitfield and John Newton are examples. The project books are well presented with reading, timelines, codes to break, word searches, colouring, craft and suggestions for further investigation. These suggestions have taken us to look at the Eros statue, for Lord Shaftesbury, and to Olney, for John Newton.

More ideas will be gratefully received!


  1. Knitting and sewing are good hobbies and useful for the future. We are starting with a "Knitting Nancy" with the 5-year old and a simple tapestry kit. Then will move onto cross stitch etc. She was introduced to the sewing machine when she was 3, using the foot control with her hand, and helped make a playmat for her baby brother.

  2. I had forgotten about "Knitting Nancy". A couple of mine have wanted to knit when really too young and so haven't got off the ground with this. Will try "Knitting Nancy" instead for the little one. Need to go back to knitting with the other who should be fine now.

  3. I like the personal blog idea. Any thoughts on activities to busy toddlers whilst trying to school older ones?

  4. We've just started working through "Keepers of the home" and there is "contenders for the faith" for boys - available from ichtus resources - you can work through it as a family and send off for badges each time they complete the tasks.

    Look up tots trays for keeping toddlers busy! ~Some great ideas

  5. Wii sports (although it is screen based) is definitely good exercise; I use it when the children don't get their hour in the garden every lunchtime because it is wet; or simply when they have extra energy to burn off.

    And because Julian is so "technical" he has taught a lot of the children skills - they can unblock dishwashers; mend various leaks, fix laptops etc. Some of them, that is. Others are less technically minded.

    You always write thought provoking posts!

  6. Some great ideas-thank you.
    I laughed about the toddler bit.
    This morning, my toddler managed to pour milk over the fridge and his cup while I was explaining maths. Later, the whole cup of milk ended up on the floor.
    In order to save sanity, I got out the playdough forgetting that it had come out rather running being made with lemon not cream of tartar. My little one and I then managed to get covered in flour and playdough.
    There was also a bit of an incident with granola. Can't remember how many times I've cleaned the floor!
    So I'm probably not really the person to ask.
    On better days, tray puzzles, colouring, duplo and the train track help. I try to make some time for the younger ones at the beginning of the day.
    Will look up the tots trays.

  7. SarahElisabeth, what a day!

    I have two toddlers (2 and 3) and they DO keep each other busy, but I think I need to mix it up a bit.

    Unfortunately, my patience doesn't always meet up with my aspirations:( and sometimes it is just easier to pop in a video.