Blog by Becky Lynch
It can be so hard to keep children entertained on rainy days! Sometimes we feel like we must be 10 steps ahead of ourselves. We also overcomplicate everything to do with activities, children can easily play with and enjoy the simplest of things.
I will talk a little bit about the importance of play and how absolutely everything we do can contribute to their learning process. Play is a fundamental part of a child’s development as this is how they learn and make sense of the world around them. The benefits of play and being creative are important to all aspects of a child’s development. It is good for their social and emotional development, as children can express themselves and their individuality through creativeness. Children also benefit from peer-to-peer learning as they watch each other creating and displaying their skills. Children will often imitate and copy each other thus learning different techniques. It encourages turn taking, negotiating and sharing skills which require patience. Most tabletop activities are great for fine motor skills development for example art and crafts, jigsaws and playdoh. Whole body activities such as Simon Says, or musical statues are great for physical development and gross motor skills such as balance and coordination.
So firstly, before commencing any activity the childminder must consider some factors first.
- Time – how long the activity will take and how much time you have. A childminder has lots of responsibilities during the day including school runs and collections, dinner, cleaning among others.
- Age profile – This requires childminders to think about the ages of the children in your care, if you have children of the same age then activities will be easier to plan and manage. If you have a large mix of ages for example small baby who is not walking or a very explorative toddler for whom you need eyes in the back of your head for, it would be a little more difficult to manage and give your attention to activities.
- Preparation – If you plan complex art activities or crafts a lot of these will require prior planning and preparation of materials. You would have to figure out what you need. Possibly go and purchase materials for the activity and then prepare them in advance if things need to be cut or drawn out.
Some really simple activities can be carried out at the kitchen table. These can be playdoh, jigsaws, stamping with wooden stamps or homemade stamps using potatoes and there is also painting and colouring. I like to keep a large supply of colouring pictures for the children I care for. We would sit down and decide what pictures we would like to colour together, and I create a Microsoft Word document and save colouring pictures from the Internet onto the document to print out. I have ones for Paw Patrol, Disney princesses, Action heroes, Dinosaurs, Peppa Pig, Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Spring, Summer and many more, the list can be endless. A nice touch is to name and date the pictures for the child so the parents can hold onto them.
More organized activities could be sensory play boxes. When prepared they can be stored and last for ages and adapted as needed. These can be made using rice, pasta, dried soup mixes, dried lentils, couscous, quinoa, or dried beans. Some of the materials such as the rice and pasta can be coloured using paints or food colouring there are many videos on YouTube that show you how to do these (30) How To Dye Rice For Sensory Play – YouTube. You can then choose a theme for the box such as dinosaurs, under the sea, cars or using spoons and measuring cups. There are some great ideas for sensory boxes, but you should use your own judgement for the age of the child appropriate to play with the sensory box. Always watch smaller children closely in case they take a liking to the contents and try and eat them, because they will!!! (30) MUST HAVE DOLLAR TREE Sensory Bin Ideas – YouTube is an American video but the same applies to Mr Price or Dealz here. A warning for these activities though is that they can get quite messy so be ready with the vacuum.
I love arts and crafts for kids thematic to the time of the year. I tie them in with the seasons summer, autumn, winter and spring and then events like Saint Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas. We always try and make birthday cards for parents, grandparents and children as the birthdays arise. The kids love putting their personal touch to the cards. Some crafts require preparation prior to doing the activity. Always make sure to buy the materials through your business account as they will be 100% a business expense and keep receipts.
Sometimes these activities aren’t enough and if the children have a lot of energy, it would be hard to get them to sit for long periods of time. On those days it’s better to choose whole body activities that require them to expend a lot of their excess energy. A game such as musical statues is brilliant for this. We also play musical chairs and Simon Says. Anyone who worked during the Covid lockdowns for the frontline workers, will know the difficulties in keeping children entertained in the house. I found some useful pictures of activities to do, that require whole body movements. There is one called kids 7-minute exercise for self-regulation and it requires the kids to do frog jumps, bear walk, gorilla shuffle and starfish jumps. Don’t these sound so cool?
Lastly, children really enjoy real world play. All they want is for you to play with them. So as often as you can, get down on the floor with the kids and join in their play. Become part of their world for just a small while because they won’t be small for long. Colour pictures with them, play restaurants with them, play schools, and even helped to build train track networks. All of these activities create natural learning opportunities for the child and sometimes the adult too. All the child wants, and needs is interaction. Remember to HAVE FUN!!!!