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7 fun activities to inspire your tot’s creativity

Spark your little one’s budding imagination with a few crazy-easy ideas      

7 fun activities to
inspire your tot’s creativity

Mix media.

Provide your tot with possibilities to explore a variety of creative outlets and media.


From crayons to Play-Doh, Magic Sand to sidewalk chalk, different artistic media allow for different forms of creative expression.

Is your tot a budding chef or is a life in architectural engineering more up her alley? Only time will tell…but your tot will appreciate having the opportunity to choose the creative activities she loves. (And you might get a sneak peek into her future passions by learning about what forms of art she craves now.)

Make it up as you go.

The next time you are bopping around town with your tot, make up a few ad-lib stories on the fly. Take note of something humdrum and turn it into a fantastical story.

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“You see that dog over there? I was in a café the other day and that dog walked up to me and said hello! You won’t believe what happened next…”

Once your child is verbal, include him in the story-telling process. Besides calming even the most restless of kiddos, this fun activity promotes visualization, language development, and creation.

Make a mess…smartly.

Let your child explore a variety of textures with his hands (or even feet!). Yes, this means potentially messy media.

To save you oodles of time cleaning later, try painting with shaving cream in the bathtub, making mud pies outside (preferably near a water hose), or getting wiggly with Jell-O in the high chair. Better yet, make a fresh batch of “CleanMud” with this super-easy recipe!

Commit time to craftiness.

Set aside time once or twice a week for letting your child get crafty with it. All the better if you have a few minutes to have some fun yourself. Art therapy can be a fabulous stress-reliever!

To get started with a few easy as pie (and cleaner than mud pie) activities, try Ziploc finger painting or oatmeal process art. Thank you, Pinterest!

Just remember to give your tot plenty of time to finish his craft. According to the Reggio-Emilia learning philosophy, children need ample time to engage in creative interests.

If you are worried about craft time eating into dinner time, set up your child’s activity within sight of the kitchen so you can both work on your own creative pursuits…yes, we consider defrosting a pizza to be creative.We’ve got your back, mama!

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Not every day with baby has to make Picasso jealous. Life often rushes by us with little regard for leisurely pastimes. Don’t beat yourself up about it. We can’t all be Pinterest pros.

The most important thing to remember about promoting a love of creativity and art is to foster self-confidence in your little one. That means no matter how tempting it might be, try your best to applaud your child’s art, rather than “fix” it.

Whether the colors are outside the lines or the macaroni noodles are glued on crooked, let your child know that you value her artistic perspective and creative eye by respecting her work as her own.

Inspiration made easy.

If your child is anything like mine, he probably isn’t too persnickety about his creative surroundings. A far cry from Matisse, children don’t need a Mediterranean backdrop in the south of France for a bit of inspiration.

Heck, my son is happy to sit in a cardboard box and scribble with markers. (Bonus: The box sets a “boundary” for keeping markers off the walls!)

If you are feeling creative yourself, you could also consider devising a few simple “imagination stations” in baby’s play room or nursery. From a play kitchen to a reading nook, or a drawing easel to a block-building corner, the possibilities are limitless. Switch them up from time to time to keep your tot intrigued.

Destination: Imagination.

To truly open up your child to new experiences of creativity, it helps to first broaden your definition of creativity. Any form of imaginative or symbolic play will promote your child’s inner creativity.

Invite your tot’s stuffed animals to teatime or make Play-Doh macarons. Build intricate train tracks or push your little racecar driver around in her—now brightly colored—cardboard box.

Find inspiration wherever you may be.

There’s no reason to limit artistic activities to the home. In today’s hustle and bustle, there are plenty of ways to fill on-the-go time with creativity. Try a travel-friendly magnetic drawing board or waterpaint pad in the car or stroller.

The opportunity to engage in creative pursuits allows our children to openly express their feelings and build problem-solving skills. Plus, getting a glimpse at their creative expressions allows us busy mamas to glean a little insight into our tots’ inner workings.

Of course, when we are faced with the daily grind of cleaning, cooking, working and everything in between, it can be easy to let time for creative expression slip through our fingers. (There are only so many hours in a day, after all!)

For a few stress-free ways to promote creativitya nd imagination in your tot, look no further!

As a developmental psychologist,I promise, the precious time lost will be worth it—and you may even score a few minutes to cook dinner in peace if your babe is engrossed in her latest masterpiece.

Here’s where to get started—

In This Article

    14 Toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

    $30

    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

    $75

    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

    $40

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

    $120

    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

    $30

    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

    $100

    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

    $40

    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

    $121

    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

    $100

    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

    $45

    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

    $179

    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

    $100

    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

    $33

    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

    $88

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    Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

    With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

    Minimize smoke exposure.

    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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