Welcome to a new year of my weekly play based learning posts. It is my aim to inspire, support and encourage both parents and educators to provide simple budget friendly play experiences for children under 5 . Each week I'll take you on a journey through some of the activities I shared with my home daycare children the previous week.
If you are a parent, grandparent or carer be sure to read through “What am I learning?” section at the end of this post as parents are often surprised at the depth of learning children experience just through play and interaction with simple activities. All my activities aim to be budget friendly and often use bits and pieces from around the house or recyclable materials – they are also easy to set up and pack away because I too am a Mum and I know you have little time to waste on setting up fancy activities that they might not even play with! And just quietly they are so easy that you will never look silly when the kids want you to join in 😉
Most of the activities are easily modified for both toddlers and preschoolers as I provide a program of activities for a multi age group each day…so they just have to be!
If you are an early childhood educator be sure to think about your relevant learning frameworks and how the following activities might fit into areas of learning. If you have any questions about how I would link to certain outcomes or elements just ask in the comments section below.
So, let's take a walk through last week at Jode's Family Day Care….
Sand and Water
We had quite a bit of rain over the previous weekend so this led to a renewed interest in all things sand and water. There were puddles of water to be found all over the yard, secret bowls and cups and containers were now filled with rainwater and just waiting to be mixed and scooped and poured into sand. Leaves and cumquats had fallen off the trees in a storm but made perfect additions to the baking. Nature had provided a glorious bounty to play with…the children's imaginations did the rest!
The sandpit was full of lovely wet sand just perfect for building with and we marvelled how quickly it dried and became soft again in the afternoon after the sun came out. There were many opportunities for conversation and problem solving as we played.
Some questions we explored…
“Why is it easier to build with wet sand?”
“What can wet sand do when building with it?”
“Can we use it to stick things together?”
“How does it dry?”
“How does the wet sand feel different to the dry sand?“
When Ruby became frustrated that her sandcastle wouldn't stay up I took the opportunity to explore some of the questions above as we played. The rest of the group joined in and in the end after adding water we made some fantastic sandcastles!
This led to a wonderful group activity with some wet sand and our favourite outdoor blocks. Buckets were filled, shovels were found and a bricklaying station was in operation. Toddlers worked along side older children to mix up a brickie's slurry and ‘stick' the bricks together.
“Quick it's going to fall, we need another one here”
“That sand needs more water now”
“What colour brick is that on the top?”
“Can we count how many bricks we have now?”
“How could we make it stop wobbling?”
“What do bricklayers build in our community?”
Teamwork toward a common goal….
The addition of animals and wood to the sandpit this week invited little imaginations to leap forward, houses were built, holes to hide in were dug, treasures were found for food and heavy machinery was brought in to excavate.
Bet you've never seen a frill neck lizard, a dinosaur and a lion in the same place before…why is that? Again, so much to explore!
“Where do the lizards live?”
“What sound does a lion make?”
“Why aren't there dinosaurs anymore?”
This led to more animal play and exploration inside. The boys used the wooden hollow blocks to make a ‘zoo' for all the animals so ‘everyone can see them”.
Sensory play is always so much fun and I enjoy finding ways to introduce children to this form of play. I firmly believe that the more exposure children have to messy, sensory play when young the fewer sensory processing issue they will have as they grow older. Something to consider for all that work and play with children.
We focused on circles and big and small during this activity. First the children helped me to collect some sand from the sandpit, then we added some edicol dye powder and I handed out the spoons, the more they mixed the more colour they could see!
We marvelled at the circles made on their paper after stamping in some PVA glue. When they were happy with their circle picture it was time to scoop and sprinkle some coloured sand over the top. Some were very precise, some covered the whole page. I then showed how to shake the page so that the excess sand fell off into the bowl.
And they were amazed that their circles had now become colourful! When dry these pictures are fun to run little fingers over to feel the bumps. I suggest doing this activity on some thin cardboard if possible as paper doesn't handle the weight well.
More sensory fun with shaving foam provided another opportunity to experiment with our colour mixing skills
Foam, foil, brushes, fingers….fantastic!
Exploring our Environment
We spend a lot of time playing outside and the children always notice so many things in their natural environment….this is our “magic beanstalk!” and has been the focus of many conversations over the past week.
I wonder how tall it will grow? Who planted it? Do you think there is a giant in the clouds?
The children helped me to mulch the veggie garden and we picked some of the red tomatoes. Why do we mulch? How many handfuls can you get? Can you pick me 3 red tomatoes? There are always possibilities for learning even when doing the simplest of tasks!
We watched the Eastern Rosellas balancing on the corn stalks to eat their breakfast….what colours can you see? “What are they eating?
Peek a boo!
And there were eggs to collect, I had forgotten for a few days so we had a lot of eggs to count and transfer into cartons. Lucky I had helpers who enjoy counting and sorting into big and small groups.
Fine Motor Fun with Natural & Recyclable Materials
I love to incorporate materials from nature into our play whenever I can and I also like to find other uses for materials we already have so this activity covered all bases!
Some gumnuts the children had helped to collect from underneath the gumtrees added to some cut pieces of pool noodle and a few bamboo offcuts and we had a fun fine motor activity.
Can you fit the gumnuts into the holes?
Can you show me shortest to longest?
My twins favourite activity of the week was making funny faces on our felt heads.
We used our face parts stones, some necklaces and material offcuts for hair and some pebbles to make all sorts of funny faces. Are they happy, sad or grumpy?
The stones are just smooth landscaping pebbles from Bunnings, facial features using this fab printable from Picklebums and pasted onto the rocks using a watered down PVA glue. I then did another PVA wash all over the pebble to seal. Making the stones was a previous weekend project with my girls and they enjoyed being part of the process.
Our old keyboards came in handy at the outdoor cafe as we focused on finding the letters in our names and being the first to shout them out!
There is always a new use for an old thing especially when it comes to play!
Using our large muscles
Using our big muscles and practising our balance, coordination, control and new skills outside is an important part of our day. The obstacle course was a favourite last week and was rearranged in some way each day by the children to suit their play needs.
Favourite outdoor game would have to be our 'round the clothesline colour game'. We sang round and round and round we go and when I stopped singing the children had to find a coloured stepping stone and freeze. When I called their name they had to tell me which colour they were standing on. The older girls helped the younger ones to identify a colour.
This game seriously could have gone on forever but there is only so many times you can sing the same song and hear the same squeals. I know you understand!
All of these activities were fun, have been easy to put together and yet have incorporated many learning concepts. Let's take a look at a few below.
What am I Learning?
- How to work together as a team and take turns
- How to use words and sentances to ask questions and solve problems
- An appreciation for animals and natural materials in their immediate environment
- Listening to and following simple directions
- Recognising and naming colours
- Letter recognition and reading
- Exploring with the senses and talking about what is touched, smelled, heard or tasted
- Sequencing, number recognition, basic counting, sorting and classifying
- Staying with a task until a desired outcome is achieved
- The principles of cause and effect
- The job of a bricklayer and how he/she works in our community
- Exploration of facial features and their positions as well as showing different emotions and a sense of self
- Strengthening fine and gross motor muscles
- Creative self expression
- Being aware of using natural and recyclable materials and why we use them.
- Spatial awareness and the concepts of big/small
Can you think of any more?
Find more ideas like this for early learning and network with other early childhood educators from around the world in The Empowered Ed Community.
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A Little About Me
Jodie Clarke is an early childhood professional supporting educators who want and need to stay passionate about the work they do! She has 30 years hands-on experience in the early childhood and human services sectors across many different roles.
Jodie is mum to 3 in Australia and has already helped thousands of educators with their work through her popular blog posts, activity ideas, online training and e-books.
Rachel | Racheous - Lovable Learning says
How inspirational and lovely!
Thanks lovely Rachel xx
Colleen weir says
Amazing jode ,I love ❤️ looking at your site
The Empowered Educator says
Thanks so much for the lovely feedback Colleen x
Ive been in child care a long time and your ideas make me come back to some great basics using whats at hand not whats on sale….. thankyou.
The Empowered Educator says
I’m so glad to hear that Michelle! The simple basics just modified and used in different ways are always the best I think. Save educators lots of money too which is always a plus in this job!
Melissa Hamilton says
I am at home at the moment with my foot up, as I fractured it during the school holidays. Today I discovered your wonderful website and inspirational ideas and now I can’t wait to get back to my Kindy class so I can implement some of them.
Thanks for providing me with the motivation and inspiration to get moving soon!
I am home based learning provider and was searching the internet for new ideas on activities to do with the little ones. I clicked on your site and I am wow-ed. While reading, I wanted to be a child in your day care and be part of all these wonderful experiences.
God bless you
Elvira from Kenya
Huge creative ideas from you mind, encourage me to learn from you. You are fabulous