So, it’s time for everyone to calm down a notch. The kids have successfully released their excess energy and it looks like things are going to get out of hand and noise levels are starting to rise to an uncomfortable level. Here are some of my tried and tested activity ideas to slow the pace around the house so we all have a chance to unwind, re-energize and maybe have a conversation! Each activity brings with it some benefits like social/emotional growth, educational which I will highlight.
At home, you could set up a basin or use the bath to scrub the pots and pans. Of course for a younger child it would be more hygienic to have the pots clean to begin with and they can have some fun shining them up with warm soapy water. An older child can be introduced to the dirty pots in the sink that you’ve been avoiding. There will be a sense of achievement as they will clearly see the fruits of their labour.
In a childcare setting, the children could set up a car wash or bath the dolls or bring the toy animals for a swim in the ‘pool’. All that’s needed is a basin/water table, some warm water (this will be more comfortable than cold and will keep them engaged for longer), some washing up liquid or soap and a scrubbing sponge or cloth.
Benefits: A chance for quiet calmness allowing the child to get lost in their own thoughts. This will allow them time to process any happenings in their day/previous days.
There will a raised awareness of simple science properties like the use of detergent to help remove grime rather than just water.
SORT THE LAUNDRY
Most young children like to help with the housework if it is an interesting task and not too big to handle (I find if I don’t call it ‘housework’ my kids are more likely to get involved!). At home or in a preschool, one activity that is a winner is sorting out pairs of socks (I’ve definitely grown out of that one!!). A fun extension to sorting out socks would be to hang a piece of twine like a clothes line and let the child peg the socks onto it. If they put them into pairs on the line, that’s an extra challenge to keep them engaged.
Benefits: Fine motor skills (brain and fingers working together) are practiced.
This can also be an opportunity for imagination and communication skills to be worked on as they ‘play house’.
MAKE A TREAT TOGETHER
Any sort of baking or tasty food preparation is a hit with young children for obvious reasons! I am not a keen baker. I have a mother and sisters who are gifted and one of my sons has turned out to be a bit of a ‘brownie king’. I love to taste their wares and I think they enjoy feeding me, so why change that arrangement?!
My kids do enjoy making yummy treats though so here’s a recipe that we use to make an indulgent (no bake) Rice Crispie Cake.
What you need:
4 Mars Bars, 100g real butter, 4 mugs of Rice Crispie cereal, 100g bar of cooking chocolate, around 2 tablespoons cream (not whipped). Sugar Strands (optional)
Cake tin, square or round, with a removable side.
Roughly chop or break up the mars bars and cut 75g of the butter into cubes.
Melt butter and mars bars until smooth.
Add the 4 mugs of Crispies to the mixture. Stir until fully mixed.
Grease the cake tin and put this Crispie mixture in. Press down with the back of a large spoon so that the mixture is compacted.
Melt the remaining butter with the cooking chocolate until smooth.
Add cream to the chocolate and gently swirl.
Pour this chocolate icing over the cake and spread to cover the whole thing.
You can sprinkle sugar strands onto the icing if you wish.
Put into a fridge to set for about 2 hours.
When set, pop off the side of the cake tin and slice up into bite size treats.
There are lots of options for making treats with baking or not.
Benefits: A sense of achievement will be enjoyed by your child leading to a growth in self-esteem.
Maths skills will be worked on as ingredients are measured and counted.
More science learned here as they witness the change in makeup of a set of ingredients as they are mixed together and heated up etc.
I have a large plastic box that contains a collection of odds and ends like toilet roll holders, scraps of cloth, glitter, buttons, paper clips, card, ribbons, cotton wool, feathers and small cardboard boxes. It’s junk, for want of a better word! Also included in the box is glue, selotape, scissors and clay/playdough. Every now and again in preschool I take out the box from hiding (as I don’t want to be looking at a box of junk every day!). It’s left at the children’s disposal for a few days and they are free to mess around and create and invent stuff. There is no instruction given, other than the invitation to invent something, and I make sure the children can see everything in the box. If they are slow or shy to start, I may sit with them and mess around with a few bits, maybe glue something to some other thing, but I don’t get too creative as some kids would feel they had to follow my lead.
Off they go and build what they wish and invent structures that I never would have thought of!
Benefits: Creativity and imagination is built upon.
Fine motor skills are improved upon.
Self-esteem is boosted by that wonderful sense of achievement.
PLAY DOUGH & CLAY
Kneading, pulling, rolling and squeezing playdough and clay there are all great ways to wind down and relax quietly. The texture can be messy or smooth (depending on the amount of water used to make the clay more pliable) and there doesn’t really need to be a finished product as such, simply running it through fingers can be an enjoyable way to pass an hour.
To extend the time spent at this quiet and calm activity, why not make your own playdough with the help of the children. The following is a recipe which I am reluctantly writing down as I will always keep adding to as I make it to attain the consistency that I want, so take it as a guiding recipe as opposed to a strict one that should be followed to a tee. This will make enough for about 5 children to have a good amount of playdough to play with. I’ve shared the same amount with about 8 children too though. Kids will happily be involved in each step of the process.
What you need:
A 2kg bag of flour, about a third of a 750g tub of table salt, 1 or 2 mugs of water (the amount you use will depend on the amount of paint used), teaspoon of vegetable oil, paint.
Pour most of the flour into a large bowl (you’ll need to keep some aside for dusting the table when playing with the dough and in case you’ve made it too moist!)
Add the salt, lots of it! Then add the oil and mix the whole lot together.
Add about half a mug of water and mix well, then the other half and mix again.
Add your choice of paint colour and use a spoon or hands to mix thoroughly. This part takes the longest but my kids usually enjoy it the most.
After a time you will notice that the paint colour is blending with the rest of the mixture. If not and the mixture is too dry, add a little water every so often to improve the texture.
If the mixture turns out to be too wet, add more flour.
Keep kneading the mixture until the colour has blended into the flour mixture somewhat evenly. As the children continue to play with it, the colour with become more blended and should look and feel great.
Because of all the salt that was added, this playdough should keep for 2 weeks in an airtight container. If you find that it becomes sticky, simply add flour and it will be back to its lovely self again.
Benefits: Relaxing and great to slow down an overactive child, allowing them time to think and to regulate their breathing.
Messing around with playdough or clay is a great opportunity to work on communication skills and to bring up and discuss any worries that may be bothering the child or you!
Board games are a great way to get people together in one spot and sitting still for some length of time. I like to play the traditional games with my guys as it keeps my interest, but there are lots of colourful new games out there with lots of bits n pieces and noises and batteries along with them (ugh, give me a two coloured chess board anytime!). Children as young as 3 can have fun with Snakes & Ladders and Draughts, nice and simple to teach/learn. When my youngest guy was learning how to play Draughts at 4 years old, he would make a strange noise when he made a good move or took one of my pieces. After a time listening to him honking and screeching and stretching his neck as he did so, I had to ask “Why are you making that noise?” He informed me that it was the noise that Giraffes make…. Hee hee, and I thought we were playing Draughts. (the two words do sound similar! )
Benefits: Gets the family together in some healthy competitive fun.
The children learn how to win and lose gracefully.. of course this does depend on your reaction to winning and losing!
Again, Maths skills are worked upon with counting, spacial awareness and forward thinking & calculating (especially during Draughts and Chess)
IF ALL ELSE FAILS
If all else fails, put on the TV 😉
Benefits: You get to have a cuppa and that chocolate bar you’ve been hiding!
Enjoy your indoor time. If you have any tried and tested ideas of your own, please share them with us in the comment section below!