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Kids' Hobbies That Foster Family Time

Activities you can do with your toddler as a family.
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As a parent to two sons, Nol, 5, and Q., 20 months, I've become a master of all "boy" hobbies. Discussions about trucks, race cars, pirate ships, and construction gear are part of my everyday playtime with my sons. And while my boys might meander between their different toys and hobbies throughout a given day, a few of their favorites have become family favorites because Mom and Dad join in on the fun.

Being Named a Lego Master
We bought Nol his first 500-piece Lego set when he was three. Now, two years later, his 500 Lego pieces have grown to 5,000 pieces. When Nol began playing with Legos his "game" consisted of watching Mom and Dad create wacky contraptions, such as a blue giraffe with wheels or a crazy moon rover. Each night before bedtime the three of us would sit on the living room floor, brightly colored Legos scattered around us. Eventually, there would be a competition pitting silly Mom against goofy Dad for the title of Lego Master. Nol, squealing and hooting with laughter, conferred the title.

The Lego sets we now own are much more advanced. Nol is quite skilled at assembling complicated structures by himself. But at least once a week we still gather to build our masterpieces. Q. joins us and fumbles as he tries to put Lego pieces together. I build him a small car and he lies on his belly, "brroombrrooming," while the rest of us continue our building session. Nol still asks for help, but more for the chance to have Mom or Dad right by his side than because he actually requires our assistance.

Enjoy the Outdoors With Little Gardeners
Many of our best times as a family are spent outdoors gardening, on warm spring afternoons and summer weekends. When Nol was two, I bought him child-sized gardening tools and a pair of child-safe scissors so he could join me as I pulled weeds and tended to our flowers. As our family grew, so did our gardening fun. Now, both preschooler and toddler kneel on the ground, digging holes for seeds or flowers, and watering our new additions. Afternoons wouldn't be complete without searching for bugs, making mud pies, or the requisite water fight.

Become an Indoor Fort Expert
As the parent of two boys, it is as important to be an expert fort builder as it is to know the sound a dump truck makes releasing its stash of dirt ("whoooooosh!"). The indoor fort is a family favorite for a rainy day. We bring out blankets and pillows from the linen closets, bedrooms, and trunks. We create a labyrinth between the dining room and the living room, or a simple blanket cabin that connects the boys' beds in their room. If you're in need of ideas for wacky and simple forts, check out David Sobel's tips in an article he wrote for Wondertime magazine, available at www.wondertime.go.com.

And whether it's making Lego creations, teaching tiny gardeners to have green thumbs, or building a tent maze of blankets, if you're doing it as a family, fun and memorable times will follow.

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