Simple Pleasures

All ages

The most meaningful and engaging activities are often the simplest: flying kites, a walk in the woods, a trip to the aquarium. The greatest obstacle to a life of simple pleasures is the ruthless schedule. Free up time from routine activities. Schedule some unplanned time every week. Turn work into play and waiting time into game time with word games, observation games, storytelling. Great resource for waiting games: Chapter 1 of Susan Perry's Playing Smart: The Family Guide to Enriching, Offbeat Learning Activities for Ages 4-14.

Engage your kids in activities that use all the senses—the traditional senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound and the kinesthetic (position of your body in space—what makes it fun to go swimming or just run around). Enjoy both passively and actively—for example, both listening to music and singing. Great resource for sensory play: Chapter 3 of Playing Smart.

Mix familiarity and novelty, choosing times when your kids are energetic and alert to try new activities. Make it a family tradition to try at least one new sensation a week—miniature golf, karaoke, an exotic fruit you haven't tried before. Build on your child's likes and dislikes. For example, a "picky eater" could have fun with blind tastings. Can your kid really taste the differences between different colored M&Ms? How about the difference between pureed carrots and squash? Singing together might lead to helping a verbally adept child make up funny words to familiar tunes, or giving musical toys and instruments to a kid who's more interested in the melody might encourage new music.

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