Got Kids? Grand County’s early childhood experts tackle your toughest questions.
April 22, 2011
Finding support for parents or resources for young children can be difficult; in Grand County, Grand Beginnings is a nonprofit connecting parents, teachers, and services to improve the lives of young children. We asked Wendy Stefanski, Winter Park Resort Early Education Center Director, for help on this question:
Q: We love the winter and summer fun up here, but Grand County isn’t always the easiest place to keep very young children busy, especially as mud season approaches. How can we keep from going stir crazy? What can we do with our kids (ages 3 and 5) to keep them busy?
A: Because Easter falls late this year, Winter Park resort and the surrounding communities are still offering a host of free family and holiday activities a little later in the season than usual, so be sure to check resort and chamber web sites for events.
Local rec districts are a great resource for drop-in classes. Or hop on the Amtrak in Fraser and ride it to Granby (or in reverse) for just $11 for a parent and toddler (schedules at amtrak.com). The 30 minute train ride is the perfect length for little people. You can visit the Lonesome Stone Fiber Mill east of Granby to visit with the alpacas and pick out some yarn for a craft project. The Pioneer Village Museum in Hot Sulphur Springs is a great option for slightly older kids, as is bowling in Grand Lake’s Grand Lake Lanes. Or a warm day might prompt a hunt for fossils at Fossil Ridge near Kremmling (visit the Kremmling chamber of commerce for more info).
Need more inspiration? On April 29, Grand Beginnings hosts its free annual Children’s Fair at East Grand Middle School from 9 a.m.-noon, where families with kids ages infant to 8 can enjoy games and crafts, climb on local fire trucks, visit with local librarians, teachers, and naturalists, learn about health and safety, and get connected to other parents and the resources in the county.
But you don’t have to hunt for structured activities, says Stefanski. “Spending quality time with your children doesn’t have to be a formal thing,” she says. “With a little thought, you can make even ordinary outings into meaningful learning time.” Here are Stefanski’s tips for making simple errands fun:
• Talk it up. Fill your child in: “Today, we’re going to the store to pick out some flowers for the yard. What color should we get? What will they need to grow?”
• Come up with a plan. Leave the house with an idea of where you’re headed and how you can involve your child; pack a drink and snack if you need to.
• Get them actively involved. Make a list of what you need or what you might see; have your child help point them out.
• Work toward a common goal/project. Focus on an end result: Do you need ingredients to bake cookies? Potting soil to grow flowers? Clarify with your child why you are doing what you’re doing.
• Follow through. If the goal was to shop for ingredients, be sure to bake the cookies so your child sees the connection and enjoys the satisfaction of completing the activity.
• Show off. Share the cookies, show family members the newly potted flowers to encourage pride in accomplishment.
• Recap. Talk about your outing, and let your child tell you what they liked and remembered, or have them draw pictures of their favorite part of the day.
• And last: Be flexible. “Much of learning is spontaneous,” says Stefanski. “Let your child’s curiosity guide you on your outing.”