Working with low income families with limited resources

Babies and toddlers don’t need expensive toys or play items to learn and grow.

Every year, through Michigan State University Extension, I work with dozens of limited resource and low income families about parenting their children for optimal growth and development. These parents often ask about ways to play with their young children without the use of the latest, greatest toy or play item, which most of them cannot afford. I have shared many tips over the years and have learned many more from the parents in my groups. There are many fun ways and things to play with that are free.

Children love to play with everyday items found around the house. Playing and exploring this way helps them learn. I encourage parents to save boxes that shoes or other products come in and let children play with them. Pots, pans, plastic bowls, empty paper towel rolls, wooden spoons and other kitchen items can be wonderful for rolling around the floor, banging around or making music. It’s important to note that these activities should be closely monitored.

Another way to allow children to learn and play that doesn’t cost anything is by letting them help adults around the house. This will allow a parent to keep a close eye on their child, while talking to them about everyday things like sweeping floors, folding laundry, dusting or making beds. Young children love to mimic their parents. They learn language and refine fine and gross motor skills to boot through following their parents around the house.

Sing songs, make music and read books together with your child.  I encourage parents to sing interactive songs, such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Rock a Bye Baby” with their children. Books are free from the library, many Women, Infant and Children clinics and doctor’s offices now have borrowing libraries for parents to share books with other families.

It’s easy to keep a baby or toddler aged child entertained. Simple activities such as playing with everyday household items are fun and help with learning. Children don’t need expensive toys. They need the time and attention of their parents and caregivers to grow and learn optimally. For more information on this and similar topics, visit MSU Extension.

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