by: Emma Aguirre

I looked over at my daughter a few days ago and she was standing ON her shape sorter, as opposed to actually putting the shapes IN the sorter. I knew then I needed to do something. As fun as it was for her, I cant help but think there has to be more I can do. With the Houston heat well and truly upon us though, I needed to start getting creative. At 20 months, my daughter is a sponge, a true eager-beaver just begging to learn. So, I’m up.

I’ve learned to plan. Look at your calendar and see what family events are coming up. A birthday? An anniversary? Is there a national holiday coming up, a special day? We’ve had a few birthdays in our house lately so I went to the library and loaded up on books all about birthdays and sorted out our own library at home with that theme in mind. Side note: the library has become a weekly trip for us as there are so many fun, free activities to see and do, including petting zoos, magicians, story times. Check out your local library online, but consider venturing out of your neighborhood to find another. We have several that we rotate including the downtown location.

From there, I geared at least one of our activities every day around the birthday theme. When my daughter rose from her nap, I had something planned for us to do. Your activity time might be in the morning, but consider designating a time for your activity as well as a box filled with fun goodies that your child might not see every day ($1 books, scarfs, blocks, pop sticks, printables, cotton balls, dried pasta…). Summer brings a lot of long, hot days and a good plan might make them seem a bit shorter! One afternoon we made a card. The next day, we made a piñata from a brown bag, the following day we baked a cake. We learned to sing happy birthday. We looked at baby photos. There were five days, and I planned five activities which was really the easiest part. I looked at all my craft supplies and figured out what I needed to stock up on. A quick visit to a craft store and $20 later, we were ready. Some were more fun than others for my daughter, but the point is the TV was off, we were in the AC and we were being productive.

Activities can be as simple as counting blocks and working on numbers one afternoon. It doesn’t have to be complicated, so don’t over think it. Use colored pom poms in colored cups to work on colors, numbers AND fine motor skills. Since I actively started counting with my daughter…counting everything…she can count through one to five. She has no idea how many one is, but she knows the next one is two and I think that’s pretty amazing.

If getting out of the house is your thing, summer is a great time to take advantage of all the classes out there.  When you’re planning your week, incorporate a class in there. Let’s say you’re heading to the beach on vacation in a couple weeks. Now might be a great time to try a swimming class or a new pool you’ve been meaning to check out. Not only will you spend a morning doing that, but you’ll tire your toddler out which means a great nap is in their future AND they’ll be less inclined to freak out on vacation. It’s a win-win! The Motherhood Center has many great options for toddlers!

Getting out in the yard is another fun activity for your toddler. Beat the heat by getting out the door before it gets too hot for a breakfast picnic and paddling time in a play pool. Alternatively, turn on the sprinklers or hose before bath time when it’s also not as hot and let them run off that last bit of energy.

Summers can be long and hot, particularly in Houston. The key to enjoying them is planning for your little one so they are never bored. Be prepared and think outside the box a bit! And don’t forget to take lots of photographs…this is the stuff memories are made of!