Saturday, January 24, 2015

Notes From A Daycare Provider: Finding The Right Activities

When dealing with a wide age range of kids, finding appropriate activities, crafts, and games can be challenging. Thankfully for me, there's this wonderful thing called Pinterest that I get quite a few of my ideas from. My other ideas come from me knowing each child, their capabilities, and finding ways to grow their capabilities.

Many times, if I find an activity I think would be great, I tweak it to fit each child's age. For example, the kids recently got into learning how to use glue on their own thanks to a lot of the kids being in preschool (where their teacher's are brave enough to let them have free reign to glue, glue sticks, and tape.....these teachers are angels). A few of the kids can do it on their own, but need to be watched so they don't use too much, other's need help controlling it so I hold the bottle too while in use, and still other's are too young for glue using to be acceptable so I do it for them while they watch me (in hopes that they can learn how to do it themselves sooner rather than later).

I figured out last summer that sensory activities are great for any age and all kids seem to love them. Food such as noodles, dried pasta, rice, and homemade play doughs are great because older kids like to pretend they're cooking, set up a restaurant, or a shop (example: http://ashlen-kidspert.blogspot.com/2014/05/sensory-play-ice-cream-shop.html) and younger kids are in no danger when they want to sample some of said sensory activities. Another one of my fave go-to's for ages 1+, any experiment/activity involving baking soda and vinegar. All kids go crazy for it!

When I find an activity I really want to do, but it only fits the younger crowd, I put the older kids "in charge" of helping the younger kids. This gives the older kids a chance to grow their leadership skills, listening skills, and how to work with others. For the younger kids, it often helps with hand eye coordination, language skills, learning letters and numbers, etc. A great game I came up with involves our number rug (http://ashlen-kidspert.blogspot.com/2014/09/a-love-letter-to-rug.html). The number rug is set up a lot like hop scotch. Each child takes turns as I call out what number(s) to jump too. This helps younger kids learn to identify their numbers. For the older kids, I have them jump to numbers and add or subtract them together (example: jump to the 3 then to the 5. What's 3+5? Jump to the answer). It also gives them physical activity, which is much needed right now during the winter!

Activities that involve a lot of cutting, gluing, precise instructions, or rules are usually out for us. I've found the kids don't enjoy these activities quite as much and it's usually me that winds up doing their project(s) for them! We stick with basic coloring, painting with many different tools (tooth brushes are a favorite, while their fingers are their least favorite), chalk....pretty much anything Crayola makes is a safe bet. Using food in crafts can be dangerous unless the craft is edible (I've learned how to make my own edible glue using powdered sugar and water).

Before the children reach the age of 1, I don't do a lot craft-wise with them. After age 1, I find activities for them to participate in based on their development and capabilities. I've had kids as old as 2 1/2 still have issues with attempting to eat crayons, markers, and paint, which meant activities were either incredibly monitored or the child(ren) missed out on the activities. I once had a child attempt to eat the paint brush they were using. It was quite a while before that child tried out painting again!

Planning for a wide age range (ages 1 to 7) can be tough and often times requires a lot of tweaking on my part. As I've said before, activity planning can be the most time consuming part of the job because of all of the research and thinking that can go into it. My biggest concerns when planning new activities are safety and if it will be entertaining for all ages. If I get yes's to those two, then it's a go....despite how messy some of these activities can get!

Here's a few of our favorite daycare craft items we use A LOT: http://ashlen-kidspert.blogspot.com/2014/11/best-toy-buy-craft-supplies.html

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