How to Become Hands On With Your Kids

ParentingAll Ages36 Comments

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.

Excuses (and how to overcome them) for NOT doing activities with your kids

First of all, I’d like to define by what I mean as being hands on with your kids.

Being hands on, is simply means to spend quality time with your kids.

Therefore, a hands on mom is a mom that spends quality times with her kids.

(Please note: Replace the word mom in those statements with whatever you are. Dad, Grandpa, caregiver, teacher, etc.)

What is a hands on Mom?

Some of the common excuses I have said to myself:

    1. My child isn’t interested in doing projects.
    2. It’s so messy!
    3. The arts and craft projects never turn out!
    4. They can’t do any of the ideas I find!
    5. I don’t have the time!
    6. I don’t have any of the stuff to do the activities I find.
    7. I’m not crafty/creative myself!
    8. They’re not learning anything from it anyway…
    9. I’ve got a baby. It just doesn’t work.
    10. 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.

You may just need to slow down and make your child’s day. Childhood Beckons wrote an amazing guest post here about some little things you can do every day that I consider to be hands on approved!

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.

become a hands on mom with your kids

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):

    • Paper
    • Scissors (depending on their skill level)
    • Markers/Crayons
    • 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.

become a hands on mom with your 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.

Become a Hands on Mom with your Kids

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!

What is a hands on mom?

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  1. Jackie @ Happy Hooligans says

    Jamie, this is a great post! I think a lot of Moms will relate to what the perceived challenges are in being a Hands On Mom. I know I felt the same way when my own two were little. Now that I’m running a daycare, and I’ve learned to embrace mess, and not worry if they don’t do the craft the way it’s supposed to be done etc., it’s so different. Every day I see the benefits that come from making the time and the space for the craft, and encouraging even the youngest to participate. Happy kids, creative kids. Kids who love to get messy and explore and experiment with the materials they’re provided with. And it’s so rewarding for me as well. Thanks for spelling it all out here. I’m on my way to share this now!

  2. Toddler Approved says

    One thing that I’ve realized as I’ve talked with friends is that there are so many ways to be “hands on.” I think some moms use their creativity to make amazing activities and crafts with kids and some moms are great at taking their kids on field trips to interesting places or just engaging them in extracurricular activities and being there to support them, hug them, give them high fives, etc. I don’t think moms need to create daily activities or crafts to be hands on, but rather like you mentioned, spend quality time with their kids in however that works in their family. I love hearing about how different families successfully accomplish this!

  3. Jill @ A Mom With A Lesson Plan says

    YEAH! You did a beautiful job Jamie. Hope we see lots more like it in the future! I love every point you made… especially #5. We need to think of spending HANDS ON time with our kids as much of a priority as cleaning, or cooking.

  4. Lisa Nolan says

    Great post! I just have to add that having a child with Down syndrome, (he is now 7 1/2) there was a lot of hands-on time spent with him (luckily I had a Montessori background). And there was trial and error, messes, fatigue (OK, tons of mom fatigue!), so much learning (by both of us!), open-mindedness, humility, pride, anger, fun, tears, smiles, giggles, frustration… and yes, pressure to do so much with him because of his special needs! So I solute all you moms! (Now go take a nap, LOL!)

  5. Gina says

    Jamie! I want to share this post with all of my classroom parents…and my sisters…and my coworkers…and my mom! You hit the nail right on the head with this one! Thanks for this post. Really. You rock!

  6. Jode says

    What a great post….thank you, i really enjoyed reading it! I love mess with my twins but am often asked why i bother or get told ‘i am so brave’!
    Honestly, as long as you are a litle organised, activities really don’t take much time and i think a happy and busy toddler is worth it to my sanity!!!
    I have a kids get moving board too and just invited you to my toddler board!

  7. Laura says

    Great post! I’m sharing it on my FB page for my website at This is such important information for families, especially for parents with kids with developmental delays. Thank you!

  8. Deanna says

    Great post! My Little Man is just getting to that stage where he can start doing more activities, too. I just started incorporating “lesson plans” and activities into our day. Thanks so much for the encouragement!

  9. Deb says

    I’m not big on messes myself, but I have found times to work a mess in. I’m getting ready to sweep and mop the kitchen floor? Time to turn the kids loose with play-doh and the various baby cutlery, yogurt lids and actual Play-Doh accessories for a bit first.

    Your post is very encouraging and I will likely read it again and again. Time with my children is priceless and fleeting. I don’t want to waste it hanging onto my flimsy excuses. They are worth the effort it takes to get over myself (or just work around myself – lol)!

    • Jamie says

      Oh thank you. I love your plan ahead for letting it get messy. I do that with the windows. If they really need washing, that means its a day for painting the windows first. The kids love it.

  10. Emily says

    This is a really great post…I’m glad I found it via pinterest and took the time to read it. I have a lot of the same hurdles with doing artsy crafty stuff with my two year old daughter (especially since I am eight months pregnant now) so this was great motivation for me. Thanks!

  11. ACoalson says

    Hi Jamie,
    I AM an early childhood teacher, you are absolutely right, you may not know what your kids are learning, but they ARE. Often, it’s social skills, creative thinking, problem solving and emergent (very beginning) reading and math skills. These are the priceless things that we can give our children that all too often the public/academic schools miss out on.
    I’d advise parents to read, read, read about play and the benefits of time spent doing everyday tasks. Teaching the little ones manners, self help skills, independence, and the benefits of having a job that contributes to their families. Planned activities are great, but there is also a lot of learning happening during these times.

  12. Donna Amis Davis says

    Wow. Love your site! My daughter sent me a link to your 30 Ideas post, and it is really fun to look around at all the ideas you have. We are in the grandparent stage now, and they are 1 and 2. Your activities and philosophy are just great. It is really good to be reminded about how to gear activities to their level, embrace the mess, and let them explore. I can’t wait to try some of these with our grandkiddos. Thanks!

    • st says

      All great points! But also important to allow hands-OFF time with your kids. They have to learn to be resourceful and that sometimes means overcoming their own boredom. I think in this generation of parenting we worry far too much about our children having to be entertained eevery second. That is exhausting and finally not in our kids’ best interest. So I’m all for a balance between the hands on and the hands off:)

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