We know during these trying times social distancing and staying home can be a challenge with children to keep them occupied and busy. As the weather warms up, we will finally be able to transition a lot of activities to the outdoors. Although playing soccer and going for walks can be fun, there is a way to engage children using a few simple materials and natural items that even our own yard has to offer. Outdoor elements can provide hours of play and exploration with very minimal effort.
Create a treasure basket of special rocks
Find a wheelbarrow, basket or truck to stones into and allow your child to transport them around.
Find small stones to make a shape/picture on the lawn
Look for flat stones to make a tower
Draw or paint on stones to make story characters/ or hide them around your neighborhood for others to find and bring joy to their day.
Draw a single black line (straight, jagged, curvy etc.) on stones and then try to make them connect into lines and shapes
Throw a stone in the water and watch the splash and then the ripples spread- who can make the biggest splash?
Look at the grain of the wood through a magnifying glass/ count the rings around the inside to see how old the tree is
Pick up sticks around the yard and try to spell your child’s name
Try to put your arms around a tree and see how wide it is/ compare trees that are smaller, larger or the same size.
Climb a tree
Find some old bark to decorate or bring indoors to create a craft with
Feel the texture of the bark- Open conversation about how it feels and talk about different characteristics you can see on different types of trees.
Talk about what is under the bark
Talk about what lives in a tree habitat- Provide food (bird seed) afterwards for the birds and squirrels that inhabit them and create a nurturing relationship between your child and the animals.
Go for a walk and find some puddles to look at your reflections- What else can you see in the reflection?
Look at the tree canopy using a mirror- Weekly follow the budding of the leaves and talk about the changes you see unfolding.
Throw a pebble in a puddle and watch it distort the reflection -Laugh about how funny your faces look in the moving water
Fill a clear bowl with water and make our own little pond/ turn it into a bird bath after
Blow a giant bubble and look to see what we can see reflected in it/ chase them across the yard to see how far the wind carries it before it pops
Look around your house to find things you can see your own reflections in- pots/pans, mirrors, windows etc. all provide different perspectives. -Have your child look in a mirror and draw what they see/notice about their own reflections.
These are just a few simple ways to enjoy and make the most out of the extra time with your children. Please let us know ways that your family gets out and explores the great outdoors, we would love to hear about all of your adventures together.
Suggestions are from https://www.naturalplaygrounds.ca/education-and-workshops/dr-claire-warden-mindstretchers
Modified by Coral Ennis
Blog written by: Rosel
One of our families generously donated a wooden barn to the centre. The toy alternated between a barn and a dollhouse. For the latter, plastic furniture and dolls were added. The house became a fantastic addition to the Chickadee room and used not only by the Chickadees and Infants, but by the older children towards the end of the day. Overtime, the children’s interest in the house waned, reducing the house as merely daycare space filler. For the house to encourage play and support learning for children of all ages, a renovation was overdue.
The first step was deciding on a layout. The goal was to design something both familiar and whimsical, a toy that children related to but slightly sprinkled with fantasy elements. Due to the Chickadees’ interest in imaginative play like caring for babies while the older children enjoyed taking on family roles, I chose to create a home. The house allowed them to explore that play on a smaller scale and from a different perspective. The house included spaces that were possibly found in children’s homes while the attic served as an indoor playground.
The second step was to design the house. I used leftover paint and contact paper for the walls and floor. Most of the furniture and decorations were created with various loose parts like Jenga blocks, dominoes, wooden containers, wood cookies, cubes, glass vials, old jewelry, calendar photos, and scrap wood. The items were embellished with white paint, contact paper, spices, and other craft materials. Flexible items were also constructed like a refrigerator to store loose parts, light fixtures, a tire swing, and even a moving toilet.
The last step was to find a spot in the room to place the house. A space with ample room for children to play yet provided a comfortable setting. I created a cozy area by elevating the floor with gym mats and a carpet near the window. The corner also included quiet materials like puzzles, books, and pillows. On the first day I reintroduced the dollhouse, the last two children at daycare immediately gravitated towards it and played together.
What started out as wanting a dollhouse for the children to play with turned into reflecting what children value and deserve. After tapping into my inner child, the environment has changed to foster more language, divergent thinking, social skills, and emotional development for all ages. Children deserve durable materials that are aesthetically pleasing, provoke learning, inviting, and encourages children to interact with one another. Quality materials can be as simple as scrap wood or an old box. Just like children who easily utilize their creativity and imagination, adults can too. Doing so can generate a positive learning environment and most importantly, plenty of fun!
Music: “Pure Imagination” by Rook1e