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Posts Tagged ‘Activities’

Engaging Games to Develop Leadership Skills

two children playing with puzzle

By Lee Scott

Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

All children have the potential to build leadership skills. Developing these skills boosts self-confidence, supports communication skills and helps children organize their thoughts and learn to collaborate. Beginning at an early age builds a foundation for essential social-emotional development.

Playing games is an easy way for families to support the development of social and leadership skills. Children learn to cooperate with others, present their own ideas and take turns – all part of becoming leaders. Here are five of my favorite games to help you get started.

1. Puzzles – Puzzles are a great way to learn to take turns and solve a problem together. Work with your child on which pieces go where, ask for help from each other and encourage your child to try pieces in different positions.

2. Construction – Get out blocks, clay and recycled materials. Ask your child to help you build something. Encourage your child to decide what you will build, who will do what and what materials you could use.

3. Design a New Game – Your child can get creative by taking a familiar game and developing a few new rules. Play the game together while your child explains the new rules. For example, while playing I Spy, the new rule may be that you only spy things that are red. When playing a board game, try changing how many times a person can roll the dice.

4. The Classic Egg Game – This classic leadership game can be played with other family members and friends. Split the group into pairs. Each pair gets an egg. The goal is to move the egg across the room. The pairs need to be creative. The rules can be that you cannot just hold the egg and walk it across the room, that both players need to be involved and that you must use a tool of some sort to move the egg. The less restrictive the rules are, the more creativity you’re encouraging.

5. Follow the Leader – There are many ways to mix up the activities in this game. Get moving, and give it a try. Start by asking your child to give you two- or three-step directions. Take turns giving directions and following each other. Set a goal, such as moving in a circle or moving to the end of the driveway with 10 unique moves.

Thanksgiving Crafts

There is so much to be thankful for this time of year, and what better way to explore the concept of thankfulness with your child than through activities you can do together? These Thanksgiving-themed crafts are the perfect place to start.   

Turkey Tracks 

Where did the Thanksgiving turkey go? Follow the tracks to see! Your child will enjoy this activity while learning spatial relationships, developing fine motor skills and getting creative. 

Materials 

  • Pipe cleaners; 
  • Paint in assorted fall colors; 
  • Paper plate; 
  • Paper. 

Directions 

  1. Help your child bend a pipe cleaner in half to make the turkey’s legs, and then bend the ends of the pipe cleaner on each side to make the turkey’s feet. Make one set of turkey feet for each color of paint you use. 
  2. Pour each color of paint onto a paper plate to create a palette.  
  3. Have your child dip the pipe cleaners into the paint and make “turkey tracks” on a piece of paper. 

Thanksgiving Place Cards 

Help your child get involved with the Thanksgiving festivities by creating place cards for the dinner table. This activity supports writing, counting and creative skills while connecting to those you love. 

Materials  

  • Cardstock; 
  • Scissors; 
  • Crayons and markers; 
  • Glue; 
  • A variety of craft supplies. 

Directions 

  1. Talk with your child about the family members and friends who will be attending your Thanksgiving dinner.  
  2. Cut the cardstock to twice the desired size of the place cards, and then fold them in half to make tents. Slightly larger place cards will be easier for a little one to decorate! 
  3. Help your child write each person’s name on a place card. 
  4. Let your child get creative and start decorating them any way your child would like. 
  5. When setting the table for Thanksgiving dinner, let your child put out the place cards. 

 Leaf Letters 

From learning to identify letters to spelling simple words, the number of activities you can do with this simple fall craft are endless. You’ll love spending time outdoors with this fun way to help build your child’s knowledge of letters along with developing their fine motor skills. 

Materials 

  • At least 36 leaves; 
  • A black permanent marker. 

Directions 

  1. Go on a nature walk with your child and collect leaves. You will need at least one leaf for each letter of the alphabet and some extras.  
  2. Write each letter of the alphabet on a separate leaf. 
  3. Have your child identify the letters, put them in order, trace the letter shapes with a finger and spell out different words. If your child can recognize uppercase and lowercase letters, make a set of each, and have your child match the uppercase letters with the lowercase ones. The possibilities for language and literacy lessons are endless!  

 Fall Mosaic Wreath 

Your child can help you decorate for the season with this fun craft. Besides the fact that children simply love to tear up paperthis is a great way for them to get their creative juices flowing while strengthening their fine motor and pre-writing skills.  

Materials  

  • Construction paper in fall colors; 
  • A paper plate; 
  • A glue stick; 
  • Scissors; 
  • String or yarn to hang the wreath. 

Directions 

  1. Cut out the inside of the paper plate so that the outer ring is left.  
  2. Have your child tear up pieces of construction paper. 
  3. Help your child glue the pieces of construction paper around the paper plate, and talk about the difference between a mosaic, where the pieces of paper don’t touch one another, and a collage, where they can overlap.  
  4. Once the glue is dry, tie the yarn or string around it to hang it up 

 

Autumnal Luminaria 

These festive lights are perfect for cozy fall nights, and they are a great way to bring nature indoors. Your child will build fine motor skills while following a sequence of steps to create a special candle. 

Materials  

  • Leaves; 
  • Clear glass jars; 
  • Mod Podge; 
  • A foam paintbrush; 
  • Battery-operated votive candles. 

Directions 

  1. Have your child paint one side of the leaves with Mod Podge and place them against the insides of the jars.  
  2. Allow the leaves to dry, and then help your child paint another thin coat of Mod Podge on top of the leaves to help seal them to the jar.  
  3. Once the Mod Podge dries, place a battery-operated votive candle inside the jar and enjoy!
     

Pine Cone Turkeys 

This fun fall craft is a great way to get little ones involved in setting the holiday table and sharing their thankfulness.  Along the way, you’ll help your child build processing skills through sensory learning while supporting their development of self-awareness 

Materials  

  • Large, unscented pine cones;  
  • Construction paper;   
  • Washable markers;  
  • Googly eyes;  
  • Child-safe scissors;  
  • Glue.  

Instructions  

  1. Trace your child’s hand on a sheet of construction paper, and cut out the handprint.  
  2. Ask your child to share at least five things he or she is thankful for, and write one thing on each finger.  
  3. Write your child’s name on the palm of the hand.  
  4. Draw a small diamond on an orange or yellow sheet of construction paper, and cut it out.  
  5. Fold the diamond in half to create a beak for the turkey. Repeat as necessary for multiple turkeys.   
  6. Glue googly eyes to the tapered end of the pine cone 
  7. Glue the beak below the googly eyes.  
  8. Insert the handprint between the back scales of the pine cone so that it stands up. If it won’t stay upright, glue the hand to the bottom of the pine cone 
  9. Have everyone who is coming to your Thanksgiving dinner create a turkey, or make them ahead of time to use as place cards.

Picture Frame Collage 

This craft is a wonderful way to help your child understand the concept of thankfulness. Before you begin making the frame, talk to your child about someone your child is grateful to know, and explain that the frame will be a gift for that person. Gift giving supports your child’s development of social awareness and relationship skills.

Materials 

  • An unfinished picture frame; 
  • Glue; 
  • Assorted fall-themed materials, such as leaves, acorn caps and  colored paper ; 
  • A picture to include in the frame, such as a photo or a piece of your child’s artwork. 

Directions 

  1. Remove the back of the frame and the glass, and keep them away from your child’s reach.  
  2. Help your child arrange and glue the fall-themed materials around the frame.  
  3. Set the frame aside to dry, and help your child choose a photo or create a drawing to place in the frame.  
  4. When the glue is dry, replace the glass, place the picture inside the frame and replace the back. 

Whether you and your child try all of the crafts on this list or just a few, you’ll both be most thankful for your time together.  

Socially Safe Halloween Masks Craft

Your Halloween celebrations might be physically distanced this year, but wearing a face covering for the festivities doesn’t mean your child has to compromise on a cool costume. Here’s how you can make your child’s face mask part of their trick-or-treating gear. 

 Materials 

  • Non-toxic foam sheets 
  • Washable glue sticks  
  • Hot glue gun 
  • Disposable paper masks 
  • Paper straws 

 Directions 

  1. Talk with your child to decide what kind of mask you should make. The possibilities are endless. If you need a little inspiration, take a look at this video for some ideas!
  2. To create an eye mask, help your child cut out a basic mask shape from a sheet of foam. Cut out foam shapes for your child to glue onto the mask with a glue stick.  
  3. Use the glue gun to attach a paper straw to the side of the eye mask as a handle. Only adults should use the glue gun. 
  4. Cut additional foam pieces to create a mouth for the face covering, and glue them in place with the glue gun.  

Now, your child is ready for a fun and healthy Halloween!  

Are you looking for more safe and spooktacular Halloween ideas? Check out this article on the Goddard School blog featuring some fun activities beyond trick-or-treating! 

More Than Just Fun and Games: What Children Can Learn from Playing Games

child playing board game with parent

By Helen Hadani, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

After sheltering in place for several months, many families are digging deep into their closets and garages for games that haven’t seen the light of day for months or even years. For families with young children, classic games like Chutes and Ladders, Go Fish and Candyland are fun ways to enjoy family time, but they also promote important social skills, including taking turns and sharing, and academic skills, such as counting, color matching and comparing numbers.  

By definition, games include rules. Remembering those rules requires working memory (the part of our memory that allows us to hold and mentally manipulate information in our minds), and following rules often requires self-control. For example, children have to resist the urge to touch their toes when playing Simon Says unless they hear the magic words “Simon says.” Similarly, in the classic outdoor game Red Light, Green Light, children need to exhibit self-control and only run fast when they hear “green light.” Even just waiting until it is your turn can be hard! 

Simple card games like Go Fish, Old Maid and Crazy Eights involve matching suits or numbers, which promotes early math skills. When children roll dice or use a spinner to determine the number of spaces they should move, they have an opportunity to practice counting. In fact, researchers have found that playing a number-based board game like Chutes and Ladders can improve preschoolers’ numerical knowledge and skills. 

Games are meant to be sources of entertainment and joy (and they bring out the competitive side in some of us), but research shows that some games can also promote cognitive and social skills.  

Don’t worry if your children ask to play their favorite game more times than you want to count – they are learning along the way as they get to that last spot on the board! 

Keep Outdoor Play Simple: Let Nature Supply the Learning.

Dad and two small preschool children going on walk outside on a path

Daily walks or time spent outdoors have recently become part of many families daily routines as the benefits of time spent outdoorsincluding lowering stress levels and combating hyperactivity, are being experienced firsthand. As such, many parents and caretakers are looking for guidance on worthwhile outdoor activities for their children that don’t require a lot of planning or supplies. Below are some ideas for simple, quality outdoor activities that you and your children can do together that don’t require supplies or much planning. 

Activity One – Taking a Walk Outside 

Taking a walk may seem too simple to have any real benefits, but it has many. It is a great gross motor and physical activity for the whole family, especially those still perfecting their walking skills. Even for older children, taking a walk on uneven ground such as over roots in a wooded area or through a park with slopes, arched bridges or hills provides excellent opportunities to practice coordination and helps them learn to navigate varying terrains safely 

Activity Two – Counting Natural Items 

Head outside to your backyard, a nearby park or natural space. Have your children pick an item that they can see more than one of, such as trees, flowers, rocks or even wildlife. Have your children count how many of each item that they see. For infants, talk about what you see and count out loud to them. Older children may even want to practice adding or subtracting the numbers that correlate to different natural items. 

Activity Three – Watching Clouds  

Find an outdoor space with a clear view of the sky. Lay in the grass or on a blanket and ask your children what they see in the clouds. Point out anything that you see in the clouds. Does one cloud look like a dog and another like a tree? Ask your children what they know about whatever they see in the clouds to help develop their critical thinking skills, and identify areas of interest that you can explore together 

Activity Four – Taking a Thankful Walk 

Take a walk around your yard or community and point out natural items that you are thankful for to your children, such as I am thankful for the trees because they provide shade for us on hot, sunny daysI am thankful for the grass because it gives us a soft place to sit outside or I am thankful for the sun because it helps all of the plants to grow. Then ask your children to point out what they see around them that they are thankful for, and why. Depending on what your children point out, you can dive deeper into any topics that they show interest in and help them think critically about the natural world around them.  

Even the simplest of outdoor activities can have numerous benefits for both you and your children. Use your time spent outdoors as a chance to relax and enjoy some quality time together while the learning happens naturally 

Rorie Wells M.A., CPSI 

Education Facilities Specialist – Playgrounds 

How to Foster Creativity Amongst Your Young Learner

balancing-working-from-home-with-children-4By Lee Scott, Contributing Writer and Goddard School Educational Advisory Board Member

May is Inventors Month. Who knew? Our little ones are always inventing and testing.  This is how they learn to interact with the world around them. Encouraging creativity is essential to supporting our young learners. National Inventors Month began in 1998 to help promote the positive image of inventors and their contributionsInventors affect every facet of our lives, and we want to encourage children to be creative and learn to become problem solvers. How can we help our young learners to become creative? 

Creativity is often described as the action you take after imagination. In other words, it is not imagination alone but how you put your imagination into action. In the business world, we call it insights into action. The combination of imagination, creativity and problem solving becomes innovation.  

 We can nurture creativity and innovation in our children by allowing them to try new things, providing a lot of time for free play and creating an enriched learning environment at home.   

  • You don’t need a mountain of toys and devices to create an enriched learning environment for your child. A variety of toys that are changed often will provide your child with cognitive stimulation and promote curiosity and exploration. The toys don’t need to be fancy. In fact, toys that require imagination, like cardboard boxes and old clothes for dress-up, are often the most stimulating! 
  • Access to books is also important, and the public library can help keep the selection varied. We love Rosie the Riveter, by Andrea Beaty and My Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.     
  • Explore how things work by taking apart old equipment, such as a toaster or computer. Before you throw things away, think about how they can be recycled for play. Children will be fascinated by all of the parts. 
  • Explore your community. Trips to the zoo, different local parks, museums, and even grocery stores add valuable variety to your child’s experience. 
  • Limit screen time and encourage physical activity. 

 Enriching your home in this way will help your child tdevelop creativity skills and tap into his or her innovative spirit! 

Independent Moments Three

3

When you need a moment or two and you’d like your child to do something fun, ask your child to try one of these instant playful learning activities.

1. Puzzled

Make your own puzzles with pictures from magazines or mailers. You can cut them up into pieces, mix up the pieces and put the pictures back together. To make the puzzles sturdier, you can glue the pictures to paper before you cut them up. How many pieces will you make?

You’ll need scissors, old magazines or flyers.

Learning Areas – Design, mathematics and fine motor skills

2. How Long Is It? How Wide Is It?

Measure things in the house using unusual units of measurement, such as your feet or arms. How many arms long is the table? How many feet is it to the door from the couch? Make a chart with your new measurements.

You’ll need paper and a pencil for your chart.

Learning Areas – Mathematics, cognitive flexibility and writing skills

3. You Have a Seat at the Table

Make personalized placemats for everyone in the family.

You’ll need paper and crayons. Using paint, markers and colored pencils can be fun, too.

Learning Areas – Print knowledge, vocabulary and creativity

Independent Moments Two

2

When you need a moment or two and you’d like your child to do something fun, ask your child to try one of these instant playful learning activities.

1. Who Is That?

Make a funny character using a paper lunch bag.

You’ll need a paper bag, paper and crayons or markers.

Learning Areas – Creativity, social-emotional development and fine motor skills

2. My Room

Make a colorful nameplate for your bedroom door. You can add dimension with paper cut-outs glued to the nameplate.

You’ll need cardboard, tape and markers. You can also use crayons or colored pencils.

Learning Areas – Writing skills, creativity and fine motor skills

3. What Is That?

Take an upside-down picture or a close-up of a familiar object. What is it? Try this with a single category of objects, such as pieces of furniture or toys. Print the images or share them with your family members and ask them to guess what is in the pictures.

You’ll need a camera or a smartphone.

Learning Skills – Observation, cognitive flexibility, creativity

Independant Moments

1

When you need a moment or two and you’d like your child to do something fun, ask your child to try one of these instant playful learning activities.

1.Fruit Face

Make a face with fruits and vegetables on a paper plate. Will the face be happy, sad or silly?

You’ll need a paper plate and some cut-up food items. Take a picture of your child’s creation, and then enjoy the snack.

Learning Areas – Creativity, social-emotional development and healthy habits

2. Handy Animals

Turn an outline of a hand into a zany animal. Make more animals with outlines of your fingers or thumbprints.

You’ll need paper, crayons, markers and your imagination. Take a picture, and share it with family members and friends.

Learning Areas – Fine motor skills, creativity and biology

3. Does It Fly?

Create something out of paper and cardboard that will fly. You can decorate it, too. Try making two things and testing which one flies the farthest.

You’ll need paper, cardboard, crayons, markers and scissors.

Learning Areas – Engineering, creativity and invention

Supporting Children’s Positive Behavior While They’re at Home

engaging-children-in-caring-for-the-environment-1

By Rorie Wells M.A., CPSI, Education Facilities Specialist – Playgrounds

Why more time outdoors might be the answer that you have been searching for.

Parents are being asked to juggle work responsibilities at home with caring for their children full time. It’s a lot to manage, but there is a simple solution to help cope with the stresses created by these new at-home scenarios while supporting positive behavior from your children. Head outside!

While restrictions have been put on many everyday activities, the CDC continues to recommend that children spend time outdoors as long as they are practicing social distancing procedures. This is for good reason, as time spent outdoors:

  1. Lowers stress levels.
  2. Improves mental health.
  3. Helps reduce hyperactivity.
  4. Promotes healthy development and physical fitness for children and adults.

Perhaps the most relevant benefit of spending time outdoors is that your child will come inside with an increased ability to focus on learning, allowing you to return to your other responsibilities. Here are a few tips for making the most of the outdoor time.

Go with the Flow

When heading outdoors, you don’t have to worry about a concrete plan for activities. Let your children lead the way in exploring their environment. You can introduce loose parts such as buckets, balls, toy cars, trucks or sidewalk chalk, or you can get creative with building, stacking and drawing with your children. Pose questions like, “What will happen if we do this?” or “Can you build a tower as high as your belly button?” or “Can you draw a picture of our family?” Follow your children’s interests for what to do next.

Observe Nature

If you feel you need a more concrete plan when heading outdoors, consider taking a nature hike and observing the world around you. Ask your children what they hear as you walk and discuss what they think is making those sounds. If you don’t have a trail nearby, you can head into your backyard or a nearby outdoor space and listen for different sounds.

Indoor Activities Can Go Outdoors

You can also take some of your children’s favorite books outside and have an outdoor story time or create a nature scavenger hunt and ask your children to find different natural items like something green, something rough, a piece of grass as long as their fingers, a piece of tree bark or a smooth stone. Simple questions and prompts open the door to more involved investigations and learning opportunities for you and your children.

The next time you feel overwhelmed with your dual responsibilities and your children’s behavior is becoming a little more difficult, head outside!