Young Minds

Thoughts of an early childhood teacher…

Stimulating and fun educational activities that give Mummy & Daddy a little break!

“I’m bored!”

“Play with me, Mummy!”

“But I’ve done that already.”

….are just -some- of the phrases you might hear at home trying to ‘entertain’ your little ones. Apart from the fact that it is my personal opinion that it is not a parent’s job to “entertain” their children, it IS my personal (and professional) opinion that it is an adult’s job (whether kindy teacher or parent or nanny) to prepare activities or an environment that will encourage imagination, learning, communication and problem solving.

It is VERY easy to pick out the children in a kindergarten that have no imagination – constantly looking for “something” to do, following the adults around (not searching for affection or attention, just not knowing what to do) and playing with imaginary toys, such as dinosaurs or trucks, a little bit awkwardly. Poor things – it’s not their fault! And not your or my fault either! We just need to help these little people find a little bit of imagination in their day.

But anyway, that is not what this post is about! It’s about preparing a few little activities for your little ones when you as a Mummy or a Daddy just need a few moments to put your feet up!

The first thing you will need is an area that is safe for your child to access. You’ll need some drawers or tubs or shelves or something to hold different activities.

You will also need an area for them to do each activity where they are FREE TO MAKE A MESS. This is really important. There is a time for cleanliness (ie. going to Aunty Katherine’s wedding) but it is certainly not during a child’s play. I have a child in my kindy at the moment who has not once gone home with her socks on – every time she wears them to kindy they are filthy/wet by midday and they go straight in her bag! Your child needs an area where their clothes can get messy, the floor can get messy and the table (if you use one) can get messy. It will really allow your child to open up in terms of their creativity and exploration of different materials.

Then it is just a matter of filling each tub/drawer with different materials. I have listed below my favourite examples.

Tub #1: Goop! 

Small packets of cornflour (better to create your own small packets by putting into zip lock bags), 1 plastic cup, 2 medicine cups, 1 plastic spoon, 5 popsticks, 2 meat trays (or other). Your child can pour in the cornflour themselves, get all the other materials themselves and they just need you to help them fill the cup with water. And if they make it too runny? Who cares, they will love it anyway!

Tub #2: Water play! 

1 kitchen sieve, a funnel, a few different sized plastic containers, some plastic boats, mini bottles of food dye. You will also need a tub or bucket to fill with water. I watched my 3 year old niece not long ago playing with some purple water we had made together and she incorporated her tea set. It entertained her for ages!

Tub #3: Rice play! 

Again, it is easier to store the rice in ziplock bags so that your child can get to it him/herself, a large container to hold the rice (like a cat litter tray), various containers for pouring, maybe even some little characters (Lego or similar).

Tub #4: Collage!  

Various collage materials (think texture & colour – sandpaper, cotton wool, shiny paper, coloured matchsticks etc) , prepared glue (flour & water in small cup with lid, Clag or ‘cell mix’ from educational suppliers), glue brush, plain paper, old wrapping paper (and child-safe scissors) salt shaker with glitter inside.

Tub #5: ‘Whiteboard’ drawing!

A3 blank page (laminated), whiteboard markers, erasers. If you want to buy an actual whiteboard (though it won’t fit in the drawers or tubs unless it is a mini one from an educational store) try to find the magnetic ones, then you can add all sorts of magnets – letters, numbers, shapes, etc.

Tub #6: Painting with water!

Different sized paintbrushes, small bucket. Your child can ‘paint’ anything they can find in the backyard! It’s the simplest thing but you should see their face when they try this for the first time. They are amazed! I love it! The only they will need from you is an easily accessible hose (I leave the tap done up loosely so they can easily turn it on and off themselves to fill up their bucket)

These are just a few examples of some ways you can give your child some enjoyment, stimulation and incidental learning with minimal effort on your part. I am in no way encouraging you to spend less time with your children, nor am I endorsing any sort of “children should be seen and not heard” garbage.  I do think you deserve that (however short) frame of time to put your feet up and (somewhat) zone out!

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