I have an extensive experience working with children as a teacher of fine arts and natural sciences and I had a chance to witness the process of their transformation from chaos to self-disciplined and focused creatures exerting some inner powers to bring some object to life within a couple of hours. Here are some general recommendations for functional upbringing-involved parents who would like to expand their ideas on how to design some non-trivial games and activities for a child, while not over-investing into expensive entertainment systems.
1. I will start with the Zero principle. It says: The Less Toys The Better! First, majority of commercially available toys for kids are made of plastic and their harm can range from solely environmental to health hazards if manufacturer is questionable. In addition, it might be very beneficial if a child learns to be entertained using its fantasy and imagination rather than by consuming pre-made products.
2. Incorporate as many real-life objects and raw, unprocessed components (wood, paper, clay, rope, fabric, seeds and grains, feathers, stones, etc.) as possible. Be reasonable choosing the size of the objects in accordance with the age of children to avoid common hazards. There are multiple lessons that a child is getting by assembling the simple components into some functional object. First, it develops imagination. For oversaturated mind, a stick is just a stick, while for a child it can serve so many purposes! Secondly, working with parts refines the motor skills that are connected with the brain. Third, it is a good lesson on how nature works. The objects we can easily find outdoors or at home often have a rich history that can lead to the interesting conversations about biology, chemistry, physics, geology, geography, manufacturing, and human history. And even if you are playing in the kitchen, you can bring up the mechanisms of heat transfer, water boiling and absorption!
3. Learn together. Try avoiding negligence towards things that might seem mundane to you, but could be interesting for a child. Instead, try to understand the surrounding phenomena and explain them in the most accessible form. It will not only make you a big wizard for your child, but also bond you on a mental level and will teach a child to be an active learner without a fear of failure.
4. Dose the informational load and do not disturb or laugh if a child is focused and seriously involved into the activity.
So far, this is the general overview of the principles that will be useful should you introduce your kid to any type of scientific and artistic activity. In the upcoming passages, I will be giving actual projects that can be accomplished with children of different age groups.