Some of the best opportunities for play – and for life in general! – come from just flowing with the moment and seeing where it takes you. The best-laid plans can fall to pieces, while the most wonderful activities can come from the spur of the moment.
This is especially true with a toddler. You may plan out a wonderful play experience for them, only to have your plans interrupted by a longer-than-usual nap, an extra messy lunch, or even just the fact that they are totally engrossed playing with that pot they stole from the kitchen, and you don’t want to interrupt their focus and enjoyment. And by just following the lead of what is going on in the environment and in your child’s interests you will find great opportunities, such as the kitchen pot that keeps them busy for hours putting the lid on and off, banging with a wooden spoon, etc.
Several days ago Lewis and I collected beautiful maple leaves outside, planning to play with them in his sensory bin. Even though I know he will love exploring the crunchy colorful leaves we haven’t gotten around to this activity yet. The weather this week has been wonderful, so we have been spending as much time as possible outside, and the time that we are inside he generally seems quite content to follow his own interests and immerse himself in his toys and books.
However, last night circumstances led us to a different sensory play activity instead.
We made pizza dough in the bread machine but unfortunately when it finished and I opened it to take it out I found a sticky mess of goo, clearly needing more flour and kneading. Bread machines can be rather finicky, depending on the current temperature, humidity, etc.
Lewis is always quite curious when I am cooking, so I often pick him up to show him what it is I am doing on that mysterious counter top way above his head. However, since my hands were going to be messy with flour and bread dough that wasn’t really an option this time. Instead I decided to put him up in his high-chair where he could watch me. At first I was just going to give him a measuring cup to hold and play with, but then I realized he might like to explore the soft powdery flour.
His first reaction was to stick his hand in it and wipe it on the side of his face, and then he got down to business of wiping it all around the tray, dragging the measuring cup through it, etc. He also took a lot more tastes than I expected. Personally I don’t find raw flour very appealing, but I guess it was an interesting new taste to him.
Obviously I should have put a bib or something on him, especially considering that I myself was wearing an apron, but the thought didn’t occur to me until it was already too late. Clean up wasn’t that bad anyway since the flour could just be brushed off of his skin and the tray, and changing clothes is easy enough. He had a lot of fun and kept busy for a good 20 minutes (and probably could have played longer but we needed to clean up to start getting other parts of dinner ready.) This is another activity that we will definitely re-visit in the future. Maybe next time I want to work on some baking project when he’s not napping.