Activities for toddlers and babies
With babies and toddlers, a simple introduction to opposites makes exploring terms like "a few/a lot", "long/short", and "slow/fast" possible.
Display pictures representing opposites within your daycare. For example, display a picture of a small dog next to a picture of a large dog, a picture of a ping pong ball next to a picture of a beach ball, a picture of child who is running next to a picture of a child who is walking or crawling, etc.
ROUTINES AND TRANSITIONS
Pick wild flowers with the children in your group. Look at the petals and help them notice how each flower contains "a lot" of petals. Show them how they can pull each petal off the flower. When there are only two petals left, tell them that now there are only "a few" petals. Let them remove the remaining petals and tell them that there are "no" petals left.
Explore "high/low" during diaper changes
Use a helium-filled balloon and encourage children to let it rise high above the changing table. When it reaches the ceiling, have them pull it back down by tugging on the ribbon or string attached to the balloon. Use the words "high" and "low" as much as possible.
Explore "a little/a lot" during lunch and snack time
Cut the food items you serve to your group into tiny pieces. Just for laughs, deposit only a few pieces on each child's plate. For example, you may offer only two tiny apple pieces. Wait for children to react and tell them you have given them "a little" or "very few". Next, offer several pieces of the food you are serving and tell them they now have "a lot" in their plate. Variation: Replace solid foods with a liquid such as juice, water, or milk. Pour "a little" in each child's glass and then pour "a lot" in each child's glass.
SENSORY ACTIVITIES (hear)
Loud and quiet sound bottles
Use empty plastic bottles to create a sound game. Each bottle must produce a different type of sound when children shake it. Some bottles should produce loud sounds while other bottles should produce quiet sounds. For example, one bottle could contain rice while another bottle could contain dried peas. A few additional suggestions: tiny bells, tiny rocks used in aquariums, and dry pasta. Use items that will barely produce a sound such as couscous, water, and pompoms to create "quiet" bottles. Seal the cap on each bottle using hot glue and let children shake them to explore different sounds. Use the words "loud" and "quiet" during their exploration.
SENSORY ACTIVITIES (touch)
Soft and rough
Fill a large container with a variety of items that are soft and rough. Among other things, you can explore different types of textured balls, fabric pieces (jute, velvet, etc.), brushes, feathers, etc. Let babies and toddlers touch the items and use the words "soft" and "rough" to describe what they feel.
SENSORY ACTIVITIES (look)
On and off
Dim the lights in your daycare and set a container filled with different types of flashlights in the centre of the room. Have fun turning the flashlights "on" and "off" with the children in your group. At the same time, help them understand the difference between "dark" and "well-lit".
ARTS & CRAFTS
Black and white
Use two contrasting colors to make a collage. Cut a single shape, different sizes of circles for example, out of black and white paper. Encourage children to stick them on a sheet of adhesive paper or a large piece of blue or red construction paper. Name the colors and the shape with children.
MORAL AND SOCIAL ACTIVITIES
Happy and sad
Next to a mirror, display a picture of a crying child and a picture of a smiling child. Observe the pictures with the children in your group and discuss these two main emotions: happy and sad. Encourage children to mime the emotions by making sad and happy faces in the mirror. During the day, when a child is happy or sad, show him/her the corresponding picture and use words to state if he/she is happy or sad.
Big and small family members
This activity is for older toddlers. Like in the Goldilocks and the Three Bears story, show children how families are made up of people of different sizes and different ages. Help them notice how their family is most likely made up of two big people, their father and their mother, and one or more smaller people, the children. Ask parents to provide a family photo. Have fun observing the family photos as a group and identify the big and small family members in each one.
Go for a walk
When you are out for a walk with your group, push your daycare stroller very slowly at first and then much faster. Watch children's reactions. Start over and use the words "fast" and "slow" to describe the speed at which you are moving. Encourage older toddlers to tell you if they want to go "fast" or "slow".
Up in the sky
Help children notice the birds, clouds, and airplanes that are high up in the sky. Next, state that you are down below, on the ground. If possible, fly a kite with your group. Use the words "high" and "low".
Sink or float
Fill a large container with lukewarm water. Gather several different objects, some that are light and others that are heavy. Show them how certain objects float and others sink.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES AND MOTOR SKILLS
Uphill and downhill
Climb a small grass-covered hill with your group and encourage children to roll a big ball, a small ball, a very light ball, and a very heavy ball down the hill, releasing them all at the same time. Help children notice how some balls roll down the hill very fast while others roll down the hill very slowly. Invite children to take turns pushing the balls down the hill.
Long and short
You will need a party streamer roll. Cut pieces of different lengths so that you have very long pieces and very short pieces. Let babies and toddlers explore the pieces. Use the words "long" and "short" to describe the pieces. Play music and encourage children to dance with the party streamers. Variation: Use rolls of toilet paper or scarves instead of party streamers.
Develop children's fine motor skills by filling a large container with mittens of different sizes: large mittens for men, tiny mittens for babies, large oven mitts, miniature mittens for dolls, etc. Let children wear the mittens to manipulate objects.
Voice amplifiers, slow and fast
You will need a variety of objects: empty toilet paper rolls, funnels, small microphones, tiny boxes, etc. Let babies and toddlers manipulate them. Show them how they can babble, pronounce words, or sing into the different types of containers. Practice speaking or singing very quickly and very slowly to explore "fast" and "slow" with your group.
Early childhood educator
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