By Tania Swift from B Inspired
If you feel lost for ideas of what to do with your young child right now, or just feel stuck in a rut, then you are not alone.
Teachers, nursery practitioners, parents and anyone else who has had to keep a young child occupied for long periods of time have all hit a brick wall at some point or another. It happens to the best of us.
Over the years of working with children, parents and early years practitioners and teachers, I have compiled some sure-fire ideas and tricks to keep children occupied, happy and developing though movement and play.
Child-led play time is when a child is left to do what they choose: exploring, discovering, growing and developing through enjoyment - and they need ample time to do so. As a parent, your role in child-led play is to provide your child with a variety of enriching environments.
‘What is an enriching environment?’ you may ask. Put simply, it is any indoor or outdoor area that sparks a child’s imagination, excitement, interest and delight, and motivates them to explore, move and try new things.
Adult-led activities are important to allow you to spend meaningful time with your child, to introduce them to new things and experiences, and to teach them things that they may need help with (e.g. learning to skip). As parents and carers, you know your child best. You will already know what they enjoy and love, now all you need to do is build on what you already know with some of these top tips and ideas.
Young children cannot focus for long periods of time and they lose interest quite quickly. Enhancing activities with the following will engage them for longer and make the activities more enjoyable.
Imagination and Interests
Any activity can be enhanced with a little imaginative magic. Instead of just jumping from rock to rock, your child could be frog leaping from lily pad to lily pad; instead of sitting in a box, they could be a racing car driver taking corners at 190 mph. Think about what they are interested in and bring that into the activities and games you are playing.
Active Stories and Big Nursery Rhymes
When it comes to children in the early years, always remember to keep them moving if you can - do not make them sit down. Young children need to be active for most of the day as they learn, develop and grow best when they are moving.
Quiet time reading and bedtime stories are wonderful for young children, however stories and nursery rhymes do not have to be confined to those times. You can create big, energetic moves for stories and rhymes you already know, or even better, your child can help you create the moves. Alternatively, you and your child can create your own stories, using their imagination and interests.
Animals and Nature
Children are close to nature and respond well to being in a natural environment and also to activities based on nature and animals. Simply acting out animal moves and sounds always creates excitement in a child, and there are so many to choose from. Yoga-based moves and stories are a favourite for most children.
Yoga was originally based on things in nature, such as a tree, snake, rock, etc., and children are able to imagine what they are imitating and trying to be. The best thing you can do for your child, and yourself, is to spend time in nature, however if you can’t get outdoor, bring nature into the room you are in.
Find some online yoga classes for children.
Babies will move to music even before they are able to walk and most of us still feel that love as adults. Hence putting on music and moving in different ways is a great way to get children moving.
Play different styles of music such as classical, children’s songs, chart music or your favourite music. Grab ribbons, balls, dolls or anything else you can find and move around, while moving the object you are holding along with you. If you have received a parcel packed in bubble wrap, place it on a non-slip surface and dance on it to music. Most of us love a bubble popping noise. If you enjoy dancing, share the love of moving to music with your children, if you don’t enjoy dancing, do it anyway.
Find some online music classes for children.
Help children focus more and make activities more engaging by using props.
Use a balloon (not blown up), some playdough or a piece of tinfoil and instead of your child following instructions, they can follow the prop. Stretch it vertically- children stand on their tippy toes and stretch up to the sky, stretch it horizontally- children stand with their feet wide apart and their arms stretched out to the side, scrunch into a ball- children crouch down into the smallest ball, blow up the balloon and let it go- children run around in different direction and then fall to the ground.
Musical Instrument Toy Props are a great way to get children to move in different ways but also learn to pay attention. Allocate different moves to different toy instruments - children should do that move each time you use that instrument.
There are so many things you have around the house that can be turned into fun activities. Here are a few ideas that don’t cost anything and are easy to do:
1. Newspaper Scrunch
Get some old newspaper and crunch ½ sheets up to make each ball
Pass the paper ball around waist passing the ball into the other hand behind your back and again at the front.
Using boxes, plastic bowls etc. set up targets to throw the balls into.
As your child gets better move them further away or make the containers smaller.
2. Balloon Keepy-uppy
Blow up a balloon and tie it
Keep the balloon up in the air by tapping it with hands. Encourage children to use both hands. Count the number completed and aim to beat your score.
Use other body parts such as head, knees, feet, elbows etc.
3. Cup Catch
Scrunch up some kitchen foil or paper to make a golf ball sized ball.
Place the ball inside a plastic cup or beaker
Throw the ball up out of the cup and see if you can catch in the cup again
4. Animal Magic
Can your child move like animals? Ask them to:
Hop like a rabbit, creep like a spider, stretch like a cat, fly like a bird
What other animals can you think of?
5. Scavenger Hunt in the Garden, Park, House (if you can’t get out)
Create a list of articles you can find in the park or garden (Find free printable scavenger hunts).
If you can put pictures with the list, that is even better.
Challenge your child to find objects on the list.
For younger children, do the hunt together.
You can also create a list for grocery shopping and potentially your child will not be so bored wandering around the isles.
Keeping young ones engaged and entertained will always be a challenge, however with a few small changes it can be just that little bit easier. Wishing you a Happy, Healthy and Active 2021.
About the Author
Tania Swift is an author and the founder of B Inspired. She specialises in early years physical development and how children learn and develop through movement and play.
B Inspired provides many products to support parents and carers with young children. These include Mini Movers - an online site jam-packed with activity ideas and information, physical resources to get your child moving, Blogs and Vlogs.
You can sign up to Tania’s online resource membership for 2 weeks (no obligation to continue after this period). It is full of ideas and videos that parents can use.
Social media: Instagram and Facebook: @minimovesgear