By: Stephanie Shabangu, Penfield Children’s Center

As busy parents, we all know how difficult it is to cook, clean, get all our errands done AND have enough time to do what we really want to do, play with our kids! As a mom of two small children, I make a daily choice: have a clean house and meals cooked OR spend time with my family. But, does it really have to be like this? Is there a way to truly do it all, or at least get close enough? I think so. In devising a plan to make this happen, I came up with a few play-based activities that can actually be done throughout the day while a parent or caregiver checks off his/her to-do list.

Before you begin, create a schedule. Children (and most adults) thrive from following a routine. Work with your child to create a visually appealing schedule that gives an idea of what’s to come throughout the day and also provides you some peace of mind knowing you’ll get the necessary chores done. Easy-to-follow charts include photos of each chore and a way of crossing off completed tasks.

Put on your favorite tunes. Make cleaning up fun. Play or sing your child’s favorite song and see if he can put all his toys away before the song ends.

Play basketball. Time to fold the laundry? While you fold, challenge your little one to see how many baskets he can make by throwing balled-up socks into the laundry basket. Bonus points (and gross motor skill points) if he can match all the socks and ball them up too.

Make lunch together. While it might take children a bit longer to prepare a meal, allow them to help in age-appropriate ways. Ask him to choose his slices of bread and sandwich ingredients. Lay out pre-sliced meat, cheese and veggies and allow him to construct his own sandwich. With proper adult supervision, older children can also help spread butter or peanut butter on bread, as it’s important to teach children how to use a knife safely. Encourage your child to eat healthy foods by asking him to construct a monster or silly face with cut up fruits and veggies. Picky eaters are more apt to eat when they are part of the meal preparation process.

Play grocery store bingo. Give your child a “bingo” game with about 10 of the foods you need to buy. Every time he finds (or you both find) an item, allow him to cross off a bingo square that includes a picture of the food on it. When he crosses off all the bingo foods, allow him to pick a healthy “treat” like an apple or fruit pouch.

Eat some Playdoh pizza. Well, not really, but while you cook, open up a container of Playdoh and ask your child to “cook” you some dinner. Allow him to take your order and then talk to him about his process of making each food as he rolls and shapes the dough. This keeps your hands free to do some real cooking.

Adding a playful spin to mundane tasks will allow you as a parent to get everything done while also spending quality time with your child.

How do you incorporate more interactive playtime into your child’s day?

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