Activities for Children
It is through playing that children learn many of the vital skills necessary for their overall development.
Often children will benefit far more from playing with natural materials than from bright plastic toys. Babies particularly, as they learn through their senses, so respond to many different textures.
Play is sometimes referred to as children’s ‘work’. It is through playing that children learn many of the vital skills necessary for their overall development. Children will play with anything, so it is important that their playthings are safe and age appropriate.
However be careful. Manufactured toys are designed with safety in mind, natural items at not and can be dangerous. For example, we would not recommend that a baby puts a fir cone in his mouth? Chains may trap little fingers, lavender bags may not be firmly stitched and the child could choke on escaping lavender etc. Ensure items are not small enough to choke on.
Activities for babies:
• Treasure baskets. These are particularly beneficial for babies when they are able to sit up independently. Get a basket, and place different objects inside. Include a variety of textures e.g. a kitchen whisk, a wooden spoon, a rubber object, silk scarf, netting, fir cones, pumice stone, lavender bags, and small chains etc. Your baby will happily play for half an hour examining the different objects. Babies examine everything with their mouths first so check things are clean and safe. This type of play is excellent for their development of concepts.
• Interactive rhymes and songs. Songs like ‘Round and Round the Garden’, ‘Incy Wincy Spider’, ‘Wheels on the Bus’ and ‘Zoom, Zoom, Zoom’ encourage language and listening skills, as well as giving important one to one communication with your baby.
• Baby massage. This is a wonderful activity to carry out with your baby, and is particular good for their physical and emotional development.
• Playing with coloured, cooked pasta. Babies love this activity. Boil some pasta in coloured water until its soft. Allow to cool and let your baby play with it. It is a messy activity so the kitchen is probably the best place to play.
All of the above activities can be carried out using everyday household products and equipment.
• All activities should be carried out on the floor with the exception of the pasta, which can be carried out when your baby is strapped in its high chair.
• Wooden blocks are excellent additions to the treasure basket, but check there are no loose parts, and that they are clean.
• Before massaging oil into baby's skin, check that they do not have an allergic reaction by testing on a small area first.
Activities for Toddlers.
• Percussion: Toddlers love making a noise, and giving them a light saucepan and a safe wooden spoon will entertain them for a long time.
• Hand and Foot printing. Get a roll of wallpaper and place it on the kitchen floor. Mix up runny different coloured paint and let them make hand and foot prints all over it. Any art activity is very good for their creative skills, as well as their emotional development.
• Cold cooking. Hours of fun can be spent making delicious snacks in a completely safe environment. Good examples are: icing sugar mice, fruit kebabs, golden syrup crispies, decorated biscuits, celery and cream cheese boats, and different shaped sandwiches. A good activity is to get a plate, and make train sandwiches, using cucumber for the wheels, carrot batons as the track and cream cheese as smoke etc. It is a good way to get them to eat vegetables!
• There should be someone nearby to keep an eye on them when they are playing.
• Painting and cold cooking should be supervised at all times. Use non-toxic paint and safe foodstuffs. Any cutting should be with a blunt knife, or done by an adult.
• When cooking make sure that there is no dangerous equipment within their reach.
As with the activities for babies, all of the above can be carried out using equipment and products available in most homes. All are very good for their overall development and are also great fun!
Activities for 3 – 5 yr olds.
• Papier-mâché. Tear strips of newspaper and mix with some wallpaper paste. Blow up balloons. In layers (allowing each one to dry) stick the newspaper on the balloon. When the paper is dry it can be painted.
• Any art activities. Icing sugar painting, magic pictures (done by drawing a picture on sugar paper with a candle and then paint on top with dark coloured paint), bubble painting, butterfly painting, and modelling are very good for refining hand-eye co-ordination, developing their creative skills and allowing opportunities for free expression.
• Cooking. Children of this age love cooking. Making simple things like meringues, flap jacks, brownies, jam tarts and ginger bread men or houses give them endless satisfaction as well as something delicious to eat.
• Dressing up games. At this age children have incredible imaginations, and providing them with a few props such as a hat, scarf, shoes etc will enable them to become all sort of different people!
• Teddy bear tea parties. Another outlet for their vivid imaginations. They will make imaginary tea, feed imaginary teddies etc.
It is true to say that the over threes have a much more developed sense of danger, and have learnt through experience. However, it is important not to become complacent! They act before they think, which can lead to dangerous situations.
• Any cooking involving heat requires constant supervision.
• Make sure equipment used is clean and hygienic.
• Beware water. A child can drown very quickly in only a small amount of water
• Don't let them walk near stairs or other dangerous places in ill fitting dressing up shoes or long clothing