Every child is different. I find that with mine, an activity that the two of us do together in the morning will pretty much set him up for the day. Usually this involves us going out. A walk in the woods, a trip to the park, a play in the playground, a visit to the museum.
There's a lot to be said in favour of walks in the rain too! It is a really drizzly day out there, and I'm thinking that it might be a good plan for today. There's nothing like poking about in wet leaves with a stick. When he's got his wet weather gear on (trousers and jacket) we have the playground to ourselves too.
But you don't always want to go out, and frankly it isn't so much fun for mum and dad to do this every day as it is for the little ones. Sadly, the weather forecast for our area is for rain, rain, and to paraphrase (badly) a quote, it is rain all the way down.
So if you're looking to avoid the lure of the DVD and/or video game, here's a fab alternative. Cooking. Get them in the kitchen having fun, making a mess, and maybe even doing something a little bit scary (stirring a pot on the hob for the first time for example). Here's three top tips for making kitchen time fun, exciting, and a little bit different on a rainy day.
Let them make lunch
If you've got more than one child in the house, or siblings, and don't mind cleaning up a huge mess, you can just let them go for it themselves. Depending on their ages, this could vary from the simple - sandwiches - to the slightly more complex (my friend got custard and toast for lunch from her 10 and 8 year old sons - you have been warned!).
Sandwiches and other lunch foods (especially anything you can do with pasta, and crudités) can lend themselves to a bit of lunchtime fun too. Here's a couple of enjoyable ideas for making sandwiches with your children. I love these traffic light sandwiches, shown in the picture above and here at Planning With Kids.
I'm never going to spend all that time every morning making 'cute' sandwiches for son's packed lunch. Who are these people that do that? And how do they manage to keep them looking cute and intact through a whole morning of the lunch bag being tossed in the box in the corner of the classroom (not to mention swung around on the walk to school). Anyway, I digress. For a one off activity of making the sandwiches with your child, it can be fun to get a bit artistic. This idea here for an Ice Cream sandwich in the Family Kitchen is pure genius!
Cake mixing, that good old stand by. Baking is a fun activity, and easy to if you use a cake mix. For our purposes today though, we want to make the activity a little bit different, a little bit more fun, and take up a little bit more time than normal. Be warned though, this will create mess.
Make the cake from scratch. Good for getting them to work out all the measurements, and there's a bit of chemistry thrown in there too. Look at what happens to the ingredients at the different stages of cake making. How you can mix two different substances together, and come up with a third kind, with a different texture.
Here's a top tip from mum of two Sue, if you've not got all the proper scales and other measuring stuff in your kitchen. She recommends using this online tool, the Cooking Measurements Converter. You select the substance you want to convert, then put in the measurement from the recipe, and it will tell you what this means in a variety of other measurements including cups, tablespoons etc. A cup is a teacup - you may have one you can use in your cupboard.
If you don't usually let the kids loose with the hand mixer, then do so. You may end up having to wash the walls down but they'll love getting to play with it. This all depends on the age of the child of course, but as long as they can grip the handle (and you've got one hand on the bowl for them, plus one keeping the mixer steady if necessary) then they'll be fine.
Have the kids prepare the vegetables and salad. Especially handy if you can take them out somewhere that they can pick the ingredients themselves. But also tearing up lettuce leaves and chopping up radishes can be a lot of fun on its own.
At what age should you allow a child to start chopping on their own? Well they won't quite be on their own, you'll be there to supervise. It does depend on the child. I'd personally suggest starting them quite young with a softer fruit or vegetable and a knife that at the most will graze their finger if they have an accident. Mushrooms, for example, firm but easy to slice peppers and courgettes, also cucumber.
This helps them learn knife safety and by the time they're about six you can let them use sharper knives. The chances of them doing more than nicking their fingers are low, but of course all the usual caveats apply. Keep an eye on them, show them what to do, and make sure they understand. Don't let them use a super sharp knife at that age, and make sure they understand that they only get to use the knife when mum or dad is around.
In short, apply commonsense!