I’ve been in conversation with my sister-in-law lately about being a hands on mom. She’s just at the beginning stages of truly being able to do activities with her oldest [2 years old].
As we’ve been talking, it has opened my eyes to common excuses, or hurdles, that a lot of moms have when it comes to becoming hands on with their children.
I often find myself with these same excuses. And it takes me a moment to shake it out of me.
First of all, I’d like to define by what I mean as being hands on with your kids.
Some of the common excuses I have said to myself:
- My child isn’t interested in doing projects.
- It’s so messy!
- The arts and craft projects never turn out!
- They can’t do any of the ideas I find!
- I don’t have the time!
- I don’t have any of the stuff to do the activities I find.
- I’m not crafty/creative myself!
- They’re not learning anything from it anyway…
- I’ve got a baby. It just doesn’t work.
- I’m so not organized enough to do this all the time! How do you do it?
I try to overcome these hurdles the best I can. It doesn’t always work, but it made a huge difference when I said it out loud to myself and promised to be hands on with my kids! From there, these hurdles were much easier to overcome. These may not be the ‘right’ way, but it’s what has worked for us.
Overcoming Hands On Hurdle #1:
My child isn’t interested in doing projects.
By simply spending some quality one on one time with my kids, I’ve learned what their interests are. This helps me choose projects and activities that I know they’d be excited to do with me. Not only by what they like to play with, but also by how they act.
Whether they’re a baby, toddler or a preschooler, you’ll find out how their temperament is. If they like to sit and do things, or get up and move. If they gravitate to the dolls and like to play dress up, or if they’re into motors and balls. Knowing what they like will help you create activities and projects around that.
Once you know what their interests are, use them to introduce new concepts and activities. If your child is all about moving and has a lot of energy, create fun, energetic activities for him to do, but with added details of something they’re not quite as eager to do.
And I found out the biggest secret: Do it with them! If they’re not interested and you really do think its something they would be interested in if they gave it a chance, start doing it without them, they’ll likely join in.
And the key to it all? If my kids don’t ‘bite’ on an activity, I’ll pass on it and try it again another day. Its likely their mood that day, and another day it will go over a lot better.
Overcoming Hands On Hurdle #2:
It’s so messy!
I like to embrace the mess. I tend to let the kids get carried away with most materials, sensory items, like sand and flour, especially.
My husband doesn’t care much for that though, so I understand when people don’t like to let everything get messy. Plan ahead if you can. If you’re doing a painting activity, think about what they’re wearing, or what’s below them. Put a sheet down, or take it outside, whenever you know there’s bound to be a mess.
Since I let things get messy, I’ve found the best solution is to make cleaning up after the activity a group effort [as part of the activity!]. Let them scrub with a rag and water, or use the vacuum. My kids flock to the vacuum any chance they get.
Overcoming Hands On Hurdle #3:
The arts and craft projects never turn out!
Explore the process of the activity. The ideas I come across were always so stunning and I am always so excited to make them with Henry. They rarely turn out like that. Henry usually has his own plan.
I try to provide him with the tools to explore and he can decide how to implement them.
Also, not every activity or project we do ends up here on the blog. They don’t all turn out at our place either! But what matters is that they’ve enjoyed it and the time spent with you.
Overcoming Hands On Hurdle #4:
They can’t do any of the ideas I find!
This was the hardest for me when I started being hands on with Henry. I kept looking up activities for him to do that were for two-year olds. Can you believe that some two-year old activities I found have them doing patterning and learning sight words? Or sitting down and doing crafts with stunning results… I couldn’t. And there’s no way Henry could or even wanted to do those.
I found that ultimately, the most important thing is to remember where your child is developmentally. I couldn’t expect Henry to do what other two-year olds were doing just because he was two. It’s not an age thing, its their skill level and how they are developmentally.
By spending more time with him, I figured out what he was capable of doing [or not doing]. I’ve learned to push him to his limits a little bit at times, too, by doing something outside his comfort box, but I don’t expect him to always grasp it either.
Overcoming Hands On Hurdle #5:
I don’t have the time!
Literally, I bet 90% of the activities, crafts, and art projects take 15 minutes to do. I don’t expect my kids to have the attention span to do it for longer [although, sometimes they surprise me]. The younger they are, the less time they’re probably willing to devote to a project, so I always try to keep that in mind when I’m doing something with George.
Most of my activities are set up on the spot, mostly because I’m not organized enough to think ahead. So, most take 5 minutes or less of prep time.
Start working these 20 minutes, or so, into your daily schedule. Treat it as part of your day, as something that needs to be done. Not as something ‘if I have time’. I’ve learned that if it’s a priority on your list, you’ll make time for it.
Overcoming Hands On Hurdle #6:
I don’t have any of the stuff to do the activities I find.
There are only a few basics you need to be hands on with your kids [don't forget that being hands on doesn't just mean being crafty and artsy]:
- Scissors [depending on their skill level]
- Glue [School glue kind]
- Tape [I recommend painter's tape, so it comes off surfaces easily]
- Pretty much everything else can be made pretty easily with stuff you have in your cupboards! [Seriously.]
- I do recommend Crayola Washable Paints though, they’re tough to beat.
Save your recyclables or other things you might normally throw in the trash. Once you start being ‘hands on’ you may become a hoarder. We have tons of old measuring cups [from laundry detergent], bottles, medicine droppers, and so on. You’ll soon find that a lot of ‘ordinary’ items to you, are a LOT of fun for the kids.
Overcoming Hands On Hurdle #7:
I’m not crafty/creative myself!
One word. Pinterest. You’ll find plenty of inspiration there to get your creative juices flowing.
But do remember that you don’t have to be overly creative, or an artist, to be seen as creative by your kids. Alissa, from Creative With Kids, believes that everyone is creative, and I agree. Creativity doesn’t just lie in art and craft projects. You can be creative in the kitchen, with organizing, and almost with anything else. Divulge into your creativity and find a way to enjoy it with your children.
Most of the time, just by starting the activity or project itself with the kids, brings out my own creativity.
Overcoming Hands On Hurdle #8:
They’re not learning anything from it anyway…
I’m not a teacher. So most of the time I have no idea what my kids are learning… but believe me, they are learning.
Whether it’s a ‘learning’ activity, or not, they are learning.
Every single thing they do during playtime, or hands on projects, kids learn from it. It could be intentional learning that I planned for, like the ABCs, 123s, shapes, colors, etc. or it could just be learning to follow along step by step, or listening, or taking turns in a game, that just happens as they’re watching me or by doing an activity. Every little thing is a learning opportunity for them.
Overcoming Hands On Hurdle #9:
I’ve got a baby. It just doesn’t work.
A baby most generally sleeps. This is when I do our hands on activities the most.
If it doesn’t pan out that way [because a lot of times it doesn't], we try to incorporate George into the activity, if possible [not always possible], otherwise I set him up to do something ‘contained’ in his high chair. I do this if what Henry and I are working on will be destroyed in the event that George comes along.
When I do try to incorporate George into the activity, I try my best to make sure he has something to do. Whether it’s the same thing that Henry and I are doing, or if its something slightly different, but with the same ‘tools’ that we’re using. A lot of times, he likes to watch from the sidelines holding onto the same tools that we’re using, doing his own thing.
Overcoming Hands On Hurdle #10:
I’m so not organized enough to do this all the time! How do you do it?
Me neither. I’m not organized at all. Hey, I used to be. I used to be the geeky spreadsheet lady and would have all of this charted out weeks ahead of time. But kids happened. Organization has taken a huge back seat.
Most days I plan in the moment. Henry asks me to do an activity or an experiment and we figure something out together. I know that doesn’t always happen, especially when you’re first starting out. But I do keep a log of activities, crafts, art projects in the back of my mind to do ‘someday’. Pinterest is great backup. Often, I’ll bring up my “Get the Kids Moving” board when its one of those days and we just need some distraction.
There’s my ten most common hurdles to being hands on with the kids.
I’m not saying that my answers to these hurdles are the best and most effective. It’s just what has worked for us! I hope this will inspire you to become a little more hands on with your kids just by spending some wonderful quality one on one time with them.
What’s your biggest hurdle to be hands on with your kids?
It’s simple to be hands on with your kids. Please share what is to be a hands on mom!