The Beauty of Age Appropriate Activities

Singing cows: the ultimate in entertainment for a 3 year-old

On our family vacation this year, we had the opportunity to visit Hershey’s Chocolate World. My 3 year-old daughter, who is usually tagging along with her 9 and 5 year-old siblings, was totally in her element from the moment that we walked through the doors to the moment that we left. Hershey World offers a free ride, where families sit in a little car that takes them through process of how the chocolate is made. We rode this ride not once, not twice, but three times with C! While her older siblings went to do another activity with dad, she and I stood in line and waited to go on the ride over and over again. She was in heaven!

As we rode in that little car and experienced singing cows (her favorite!) and saw how liquid chocolate was transformed into a myriad of delicious candy bars, I was struck by the realization that so much of what we do is not age appropriate for a young child. Much of this is unavoidable and it is just part of being part of a family, but it was so much fun for me to see my youngest totally enjoying herself. It was also nice to be in an environment where she really couldn’t get herself into trouble, because everything was pretty much designed for children her age! Unlike baseball games, where I am reprimanding her for hanging from the bleachers or running onto the field, or swim meets, where she is miserable because she can’t jump into the pool, or even board games with the older kids, where they are getting mad at her for messing up the pieces…here, she could just be a kid and have fun!

I have tried to find babysitters more often for my younger children recently, especially in situations where it is just not appropriate for me to bring them along (i.e. music recitals, parent-teacher conferences, long doctors’ appointments). Sometimes these situations cannot be avoided, but I at least try to be more realistic in my expectations and realize that I will have to compromise in some way. For example, I may need to let my 3 year-old watch a video on my I-Phone while she waits at the doctor’s office with me for 2 hours. While I hate the idea of using my I-Phone in this way, nobody wins when I am stubborn to the point of making everyone around me miserable! I have also been having lots of fun just playing with my kids from time to time, getting onto their level and realizing what brings them great joy. For a 3 year-old, endless games of hide-and-seek, silly dance contests, and story-time are the best!

I hope that each of you are having a great Monday morning. Mary, Queen of families, pray for us!

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  • Juris Mater

    Kat, this is a really good reminder to me to start brainstorming ways to play with my younger kids once school starts. It’s harder during the summer, because the older kids are home all day and the activities revolve around them. But once they’re off to school again, I will be able to focus in on my littler ones, and I am going to give some thought to how best to make the most of that.

  • Mary Alice

    I try to spend about a half hour each evening playing alone with my baby, who has just turned one. So much of the time he is just dragged along on the others’ activities, or they are all over his play and smother loving him, but after bathtime I close the nursery door and let him choose a few toys from his little basket and we just play quietly. It is fascinating and fun to really watch as he figures out the ring stacker or his little cars.

  • It is hard with all the kids being being different ages. Our younger ones are pretty regularly just dragged around and they are bored and cranky. I think you really have to make the time to do things that are age appropriate for the little ones, or else it just doesn’t happen. A set story time, the pre-school circuit, and special one on one outings with mom or dad are some of the regular ways we “schedule” toddler/pre-school time. I took Claire (almost 4) to the farmers market alone on Saturday, and she LOVED it. She felt very important helping me pick out produce and listening to some music and getting a special snack. She is still talking about it days later.