By Kate Damo, CELA early education specialist
There is nothing quite as good as splashing in some bowls of water while hearing the clink of a few ice blocks. If weather permits, getting children to do some outdoor cooking with some old containers and dirt, leaves and water can provide hours of fun and sensory exploration.
More sensory play ideas can be found in our article 8 sensory activities for babies and toddlers
Toys are terrific but measuring cups from the kitchen draw are much more interesting to most children, particularly if there’s an opportunity to practise some pouring skills while they play... or bake.
Need more ideas? STEM education providers Little Scientists have set up a channel where families can enjoy the wonder of STEM projects from their own homes.
Children make meaning of their world though characters in play. Dressing up in costumes and assuming the roles of different characters, using props such as dolls, are all great vehicles for children to process what’s happening around them. Having ‘sick’ toy animals and playing animal hospital with bandages and toy medicine dispensers can also help children process what’s happening with the pandemic.
No time for flash cards has an awesome guide for helping children to set up a vet clinic at home, plus a bumper guide full of 25 easy pretend play ideas
ABC Kids Listen app has music, stories and podcasts for young children, great for entertaining them and developing their auditory processing skills.
Find out more here.
Building cubbies with chairs, blankets, cushions and boxes is great for children’s problem solving and spatial reasoning, as well as empowering them to create their own safe and cosy spaces.
Getting out doors
Bird-watching seems to be THE lockdown activity for 2021 to slow down and connect. Merlin Bird ID is a smartphone app which allows you to see images and hear the calls of different types of birds in your area. It’s on a screen, but it does enable children to explore the types of birds in their local neighbourhoods, including what they look like and the different calls they make.
Here are 6 more fun outdoor play activities from Amplify
Branch into music
Branch into Music has some five-minute music videos designed for young children. Parents can also easily sing along with to help get the child started. There are some songs with actions to celebrate the recent Olympics in Tokyo. View the channel here.
Playgroup at Home
Playgroup@Home sessions are running each day, for either 0-5 year olds or a specific Baby Playgroup@Home session Monday mornings. These half hour sessions over Zoom are free to attend and a time for parent and child to interact with a shared activity. Find out more here.
How families can integrate play-based learning in a remote learning environment
Perhaps the best way to begin the journey of remote play-based learning is to ensure that parents and carers understand the value and importance of play as a learning tool, and have the confidence to facilitate and extend play-based learning in the home.
“Parents are recognised as the child’s most influential teacher,” shares CELA learning and development specialist Kerrie. “Parents are vital in facilitating and extending children’s play and a remote program can support families in this important learning.”
Once the confidence and ability are there, educators can start to include observations and documentation.
Sarah Brownley from Sapphire Mobile Children’s Service takes the following approach:
Sarah provides families with resources and experiences that would usually be provided at the service such as play dough, loose parts and resources. Families have been sending photos of their children playing and creating with the resources provided. Sarah is now taking the next step of discussing what’s happening in the photos in discussion with parents and most importantly, their child, and is turning these into learning stories to be shared via their new digital documentation program.
So, in this new world of remote learning, parents become play facilitators and the educator provides questions to extend the children’s play. The educator then analyses the learning occurring in the play and shares this as a learning story with the parent.
Setting the scene
Share with parents that they can help to encourage learning through play by making time and space available with relevant resources at hand.
Many parents may be worried that they do not have the right resources at home – you can reassure them that everyday household items like pegs, cups, chalk, masking tape, pots, pans and string make perfect ‘loose parts’.
The NSW Department of Education give many ideas for play-based learning in the home for babies, toddlers and preschoolers on their website.
Parents are used to hearing the familiar cry of ‘I’m bored’ or ‘I’m finished, what can I do now’.
One of the wonderful things educators can share with parents is the art of extending play – play is never really finished, it’s just about helping children to see the remaining possibilities in what’s already there.
Children’s play can be extended by providing time and encouraging them to be curious,” says Kerrie. “Parents can facilitate this by asking key questions that support children’s play (see these as a provocation, not as instruction on how to do something) and providing as many variables in the environment to support children’s natural curiosity and exploration.
Finally, you may like to share a reflective question with parents:
What were your top play experiences as children and what did you learn from that?
Read more about this topic in our Amplify article Don’t forget to play