Running operations while maintaining social distancing may seem difficult. After all, children can touch multiple toys in the span of a few minutes, they like to socialize, and the space in your centre may be limited. However, with the help of other staff members, you can make sure your centre is following all safety guidelines. All that is left is to figure out how to still encourage children’s learning and development while maintaining social distancing and keeping them safe. The following is a list of activities for different age groups the team found can be used, while still maintaining physical distancing.
1. Playing with Stickers
Stickers are a great way to develop an infant’s motor skills as it requires them to get the sticker off the sheet, hold it, then place it on a piece of paper. Not only will this work the child’s hand muscles, but they can also become familiar with the different shapes, sizes, colours and designs stickers come in. Additionally, since the stickers can come in sheets, each child can have their own.
2. Spider Web Discovery Basket
A spider web discovery basket is when a basket (with holes on the sides) is filled with a variety of items, like toys or magnets, and string is threaded through the holes to look like a spiderweb. This type of sensory bin makes the child have to go around the string to touch the items and to pull them out. Like individual sensory bins, each child can have their own basket and easy-to-clean items can be used.
3. Miniature Obstacle Course
These miniature obstacle courses may require more cleaning, but it allows infants to move around on different textures and learn how to go around obstacles. Their motor, cognitive, and problem-solving skills will develop while learning to understand what the obstacles actually are. The obstacle course can be in a specific area of the room and to save you time, you can use items that can be easily disinfected.
1. Puddle Jumping
This activity can get toddlers moving while also learning about different colours and designs. All you have to do is cut out puddle-shaped pieces of paper with different colours and designs and place them apart. Then the child can practice jumping onto these pieces of paper based on the colour or design you tell them to jump on. For example, you can tell the toddler to only jump on green coloured puddles and they will have to distinguish how to go down the “puddle-path” while only jumping on green puddles.
2. Matching Games
What’s great about this particular activity is that there are so many options to choose from, each child can play with this activity independently, and paper can be used to create the cards. Children can match cards with colours, shapes, letters, images, designs, all of which will introduce them to different concepts and develop their cognitive skills. After each use, the paper cards can be thrown out or if you would like an environmentally friendly option, “cards” can be made out of plastic blocks with the letters or shapes drawn onto them.
3. Individual Sensory Bins
Sensory bins are a great go-to when trying to develop a child’s motor and problem-solving skills. In this situation, each child will have to get their own sensory bin and the items used should be easy to clean or replace. For example, a sensory bin can include water, plastic figurines, miniature toy balls, and more. The water can be poured out and replaced and the figurines and toy balls can be sanitized since the material is plastic.
Preschool & Kindergarten
1. Colouring Pages
Colouring pages can keep children occupied for a long time and allows them to be creative with their colour choices. There are many different colouring page options online to choose from and to print out, so it is a simple activity to use when you need a quick activity. Plus, each child can get their own page, their own colours to use, and can colour from different areas of the room so that social distancing is followed.
2. Guess the Animal Sound
This activity can get all the children involved together while still staying safe. While spaced apart, someone has to make an animal sound, or an animal sound will be played on the computer. Then classmates will have to guess what animal made that sound. This allows children to learn about a variety of different animals while still being able to socialize with their peers.
3. Pass the Movement
This is another activity that develops a child’s cognitive skills and allows the child to safely interact with their classmates. One person has to make a movement, then the next person has to copy that movement and add their own. Then the person after that will copy the first two movements and add their own (and so on). This is great for a group of 3-6 children and also allows them to develop their coordination and gross motor skills.
4. Feed the Letter to the Animal
This activity allows children to learn about the different letters of the alphabet and the sounds it makes. Each child will get a paper bag that resembles an animal. In the center of the bag where the animal’s mouth would be, a hole would be cut out to put the letters into. Each child will get their own pile of letters and will have to “feed” the animal the correct letter the teacher tells them to. For example, the teacher may say to feed the animal the letter that makes a “g” sound.
With this list, hopefully it can give you some ideas on how to entertain the children at your centre while still maintaining social distancing and encouraging their learning and development. Iif you need more inspiration, ask around, look at what other centres are doing, or do a quick google search. This can be a challenging time but you are not alone.