Here are some toddler activities you and your child will enjoy this St. Patrick's Day. As with all activities involving cooking and art supplies, remember to give your toddler close adult supervision.
When your toddler lacks the fine motor skill to produce artwork that -- to be frank -- looks like something besides a bunch of scribbles using a stencil can be fun. It takes advantage of the skills your child already has and gives them an "I Can Do" feeling of accomplishment. Remember, too, that at this age art is mostly about practicing emerging skills and experimenting with new and interesting textures and techniques.
Photo © Stephanie Brown
That wonderful natural phenomenon -- a rainbow -- gives parents an opportunity to explore the wonder of color. With spring approaching, try to look for moments where you can go for a walk or a drive after the rain to see a rainbow with your toddler. If you can't, use a prism to create a rainbow indoors on a wall or floor. Then make this rainbow cake to reinforce what you've discussed about rainbows and color as well as introduce new skills like measuring and stirring. The best part: It's a rainbow you get to eat when you're finished.
Photo © Stephanie Brown
Using finger paint exposes your toddler to a unique sensory world involving sight, slippery touch and squishy sound as well. Add mint or vanilla extract and excite his sense of smell, too. Finger painting helps your toddler gain fine motor control: Each time his hand moves the way his brain directs or expects, he is closer to fully controlling a paint brush, crayon or pencil.
To make a rainbow, paint each fingertip a different color in rainbow order (red, orange, yellow, green, blue or purple) and gently guide your toddler's fingers across the paper in a curve. Take a moment to admire the rainbow and then let him do his own thing with the colors.
Tip: Line the table with newspaper or do this activity in a high chair for easy clean-up.
Photo © Stephanie Brown
Like using stencils or sponge painting, a cookie cutter can help your toddler create something he recognizes when he doesn't know how to draw the object. This activity is also a good starting point for the toddler is reluctant to participate in art activities because he doesn't want to get messy or doesn't like the way more tactile activities like finger painting or sponge painting feel.
- For a young toddler, put the paint and cutters inside a newspaper-lined pan. This will keep him from making too big a mess as he scoots the cutters around while loading them with paint.
- Older toddlers with a bit more practice can just use a paper plate. Both clean up easy.
- All ages should wear a smock or old T-shirt.
5. Take a Walk and See if You Can Find Green ThingsSt. Patrick's Day is all about the green, so take this opportunity to teach your child about this color. Since this day also marks the beginning of spring in most areas, taking a walk around the neighborhood or to a park will likely yield plenty to talk about. Get down on the ground and look under the blanket of dead, brown grass of winter to find new shoots appearing. Look at tree branches and find green buds appearing. Search for green caterpillars. Ask your child simple yes and no questions like, "Is this green?" when pointing to something of another color to see if he is acquiring the concept of the color. Knowing what green isn't is part of this learning.
6. Have a Green SnackAfter you've gone on a walk and talked about green things, you can start reinforcing those concepts. If you make a snack of green food like some Jell-O, be sure to talk about it, ask questions ("What color is the Jell-O?") or make it part of an all-green snack time with other foods like peas, steamed broccoli and green beans or wilted spinach. This is something to remember each time you give your child something to eat, not just on St. Patrick's Day. Food is such and integral part of your toddler's day, so why not take that time to point out a food's color, shape, size or quantity?
7. Drink Green Milk Shakes
Sure, you can put a couple of scoops of ice cream in the blender with food coloring and get a green shake. You could even run through the drive-thru at Mickey D's and get a green shake in a pinch. But you don't need to get a blender out at all to make a toddler milk shake. Just place a small scoop of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt in a short, wide cup. Add a splash of milk and let soften a minute. Give your toddler small spoon and add a few drops of green food coloring and let him use a little elbow grease to make his own milkshake. He will enjoy watching the color go from white to green and will love knowing that he made it happen. Don't worry about spills, either. This is part of the process of learning how to stir and mix.
Another reinforcing activity for green can come by playing with green playdough. Make it with Kool-Aid and stimulate your toddler's sense of smell. Or make it without, add a drop or two of food coloring and let your child experience the mixing of color as he plays. Playdough is an activity that stimulates pure creativity and does so much to help your child master fine motor control.
Tip: Use the same shamrock cookie cutters you used for the painting activity to make shamrock shapes out of playdough.
9. Don't Forget to Wear GreenUntil my son was older, I didn't really bother trying to explain the pinch of not wearing green. When I worked with toddlers, my classroom rule was that anyone not wearing green would get a tickle. No matter what your take is on the pinching part of St. Patrick's Day, this is one more chance to take part in a fun tradition and reinforce the concept of green. It's also a chance to instill independence. Allow your child to pick out his own green outfit. He'll have fun looking through drawers and closets to find something. You can make it even more fun by hiding a special green item in a drawer like a crazy new green pair of socks or a hat. For young toddlers, lay out two or three green shirts or dresses and ask them to choose just one.
10. Listen to Irish Music and Dance an Irish Jig
If the finer points of the holiday are lost on your active toddler, consider purchasing a CD of Irish music
or fire up iTunes and download some MP3s (they've got an "Essentials" collection for St. Patrick's Day, so download one song or get them all). Just playing Irish music is likely to get your toddler spinning, jumping and dancing. The upbeat tempo just begs it. Introduce the best part of the Irish jig by interlocking arms and spinning around in a circle.
11. Eat Lucky Charms CerealWell, okay, this is not technically an Irish activity. And I don't condone eating sugary cereal for breakfast on a regular basis no matter the "whole grains" label on the box. Instead, make it a fun, once-a-year treat and let your child have fun searching for all the green clovers and wondering what on Earth a leprechaun is.
So, Lucky Charms isn't authentic. But this Irish Dinner is. This recipe for corned beef and cabbage uses apple juice instead of beer and cooks in the crockpot giving you tender veggies and meat -- perfect toddler fare and easy on the budget, too. Or give these other Irish recipes a try: