Activities for toddlers and babies
Now that summer and beautiful weather are in full swing, many early childhood educators are looking for simple outdoor activities for little ones. This theme provides a wide range of suggestions.
Hang several beach balls from the ceiling in your daycare. In your reading corner, offer books about the joys of summer. Next to your changing table, laminate and display pictures of children playing outside.
ROUTINES AND TRANSITIONS
A variety of playground and sandbox activities
I suggest you purchase several inexpensive plastic animal figurines. Visit your local dollar store.
We often forget to bring this kind of toy outside, but children love figurines and they can easily be carried to the playground in a bag.
Children can use animal figurines to explore sand, water, tree branches and leaves. They will create beautiful environments and décors for the animals to live in. Babies and toddlers will also enjoy hiding them in the sand or immersing them in water.
This activity will make an outdoor snack extra special. Slice a watermelon. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of the watermelon slices. Older toddlers can help you cut the shapes. They will look forward to eating them at the end of the activity.
SENSORY ACTIVITIES (listen)
Music and scarves in your yard
Did you know that soft, feather-light scarves represent great first rattles for very young babies? Not only are they light, they are usually colourful too! If you wish, you can add a few drops of vanilla extract on the scarves to stimulate children's sense of smell.
A simple activity
You will need to bring a radio and a container filled with lightweight scarves outside. Have fun dancing, jumping, and running to the sound of music with babies and toddlers. You can also stop the music every now and then. Encourage children to remain perfectly still when the music stops. The first few times you stop the music, very young children will be surprised, but they will quickly catch on and imitate you. If you do not have scarves on hand, you may also use party streamers.
Hanging wind chimes on the ropes or chains of your swings is magical for young children. Be sure to hang them out of children's reach. When you push children on the swings, the sounds produced by the wind chimes will attract their attention. Trick: If a child falls asleep in the swing, use clothespins to hang a blanket over his/her head to protect him/her from the sun. This works well with swings that have four ropes.
SENSORY ACTIVITIES (look, touch, listen)
Purchase or borrow several play tents or, if you are very courageous, set up real camping tents in your yard. Set the tents in different corners and leave the doors wide open. In each tent, deposit different types of toys children can explore. For example, one tent could contain books, another tent could offer musical instruments, and another tent could be filled with different sizes of balls. Children will love to visit each tent and spend time exploring the material. Children will most likely take the items out of the tents. That's fine! The goal of this activity is to encourage exploration.
ARTS & CRAFTS
Summer is the perfect time to make a variety of prints. What's more, since this activity is messy, presenting it outside is a great idea; you can fill your kiddie pool with bubble bath and wash children off when they are done. Set large pieces of paper or cardboard on the ground and invite children to press different items in paint and then on the paper or cardboard to make prints:
- Their feet
- Their hands
- A ball that can be rolled along the paper/cardboard
Set a large piece of adhesive paper on a wall or table in your yard. Use wide electrical tape to hold it in place. With babies and toddlers, collect leaves, flowers, grass, etc. You can give each child a small bucket or container to hold their findings. When their bucket or container is full, show them how they can press the items on the adhesive paper. Children will enjoy sticking and removing the items over and over again.
Outdoor makeup session
Purchase washable body paint or makeup pencils. Let babies and toddlers use the paint or pencils to draw on their body. Constant supervision is necessary. At the end of the activity, fill your kiddie pool with soap and water and wash children off.
This simple outdoor craft is sure to please young children. Invite children to paint or draw on paper plates. When they are done, glue party streamers behind each plate and hang them in a tree. Little ones will love watching them dance in the wind. Be sure to hang the plates out of children's reach.
MORAL AND SOCIAL ACTIVITIES
Meeting other babies and toddlers
You most likely cross paths with other daycare groups when you are out and about in your neighbourhood. When you do, stop to say hello. You could even plan to meet at a nearby playground or walk together. This will make it possible for the children in your group to meet other children. If you wish, you may take turns planning a simple activity that both groups can enjoy together.
Hula hoops and balls for two
This activity is great for babies (with help) and toddlers. It requires a ball, a strong piece of elastic fabric, and a hula hoop. Use the elastic fabric to hang the hula hoop from a clothesline or your swings so that if a child pulls on the hula hoop, it bounces up and down. Position a child on either side of the hula hoop. Encourage them to take turns tossing the ball through the hula hoop. Variation: Use sponges instead of balls.
It's raining bubbles
Babies and toddlers love soap bubbles. Invite parents to join you at a specific time during the week and ask each adult to bring one bottle of bubble solution. Parents will enjoy helping you blow tons of bubbles for your group. If parents are unable to participate, you may ask older children from another daycare group to help out.
You will need several large magnets (large enough that children can't swallow them). Deposit them in a box and present them to your group at the playground or in your yard (if metal toys and objects are present). Children will love pressing the magnets against different surfaces to see if they are attracted to them or not. If there aren't any metallic surfaces in your yard, you may provide cookie sheets. Whenever you go for walks with your group, bring the magnets and let children try to stick them on posts, signs, garbage cans, etc. Let children experiment and help them discover what type of surface attracts magnets.
Babies and toddlers may begin to show an interest in tiny ants that climb up their arms and legs or butterflies that flutter in the sky. Provide magnifying glasses children can use to observe tiny insects, leaves, or grass. Invite them to discover different elements present in nature. Provide books and laminated pictures related to the theme. You may also fill a large container with leaves, bark, flower petals, etc. Children can explore these items indoors on a rainy day.
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND MOTOR SKILLS
Do you remember the joy associated with running through bed sheets hung on a clothesline when you were a child? If you have a clothesline in your yard, hang a blanket so that children can experience this simple pleasure. You can use elastic fabric to hang the blanket at children's level. Children will also love bouncing the blanket up and down by pulling and releasing it. Variation: Provide paint and paintbrushes and let children paint on the blanket.
I am walking in the rain
When the weatherman calls for a warm but rainy day, ask parents to send their child's rain boots and raincoats. Provide small umbrellas and go for a walk in the rain! Children will appreciate exploring the rain and stomping in water puddles.
With older toddlers, organize a rock hunt. Give each child a small bucket they can use to collect and transport their findings. Sort the rocks, keeping only the ones that have a flat surface. Have toddlers paint them. Once the paint is dry, glue male Velcro on a rock. Glue a piece of female Velcro on a second rock and so on. Toddlers will enjoy sticking the rocks together and pulling them apart over and over again. Be sure to keep only larger rocks that children cannot put in their mouth. However, keep in mind that the rocks mustn't be too heavy.
Musical picture books
You will need several musical cards (dollar store), pictures or illustrations, and adhesive paper. As much as possible, use pictures and illustrations that represent summer (water games, balls, flowers, ice cream, etc.). Glue the pictures and illustrations on the four sections of each card (inside and out). Seal the pictures and illustrations with adhesive paper for durability. Let babies and toddlers open the cards, look at the pictures and illustrations, and discover different sounds. Name the different items for the children in your group.
A cereal bin represents a great outdoor activity. Since cereal can be eaten, it is safer than sand with very young children. Simply fill a plastic container (with a removable lid) with dry cereal. Ideally, use puffed rice cereal purchased in large bags. Let babies and toddlers explore the contents of the bin. As they begin to lose interest, add bowls, spoons, figurines, etc. They will enjoy filling, emptying, and hiding the items. Setting one or two plastic tablecloths under the bin will make cleanup a breeze. To encourage children to speak during this activity, you may also hide laminated pictures and illustrations in your bin.
Early childhood educator
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