The hot weather gripping the nation this summer means that many child care centers are keeping children inside to avoid the baking sun and risk of dehydration. All that cooped up energy — energy that’s usually spent running outside and jumping around a playground — can make adults and children stir crazy.
Too many hours without exercise or projects can make it hard for little ones to focus in the classroom. Check out this list of child care activities to keep kids happy and busy as temperatures climb.
Build Your Own Shrinky Dinks
This retro-art project Shrinky Dinks, a craft that makes pieces that look like glass, gives kids a fun project to do that teaches motor skills and creativity. It involves coloring, baking and shrinking as well as using blank sheets to create custom trinkets.
Tracing artwork, making their own art, coloring and cutting are all part of creating a Shrinky Dink. If you have an oven at school, the children can watch as their project shrinks down to size. If not, send the project home with the child and give parents instructions.
Such kits are widely available for purchase online and there are ways to make your own.
When the project is complete, children have a charm to hang on a necklace or bracelet, or to give as a gift.
Chef de Jour
Set up a kitchen so your future chefs can hone their culinary skills. This activity gives children exposure to cooking, different scents and consistencies. You can make up fake “recipes” for older children so they can be exposed to cooking measurements.
Ask parents to clean out their spice cupboards and bring in any expired spices for this project. Dollar stores also have inexpensive ingredients.
Here are some things that work well to set up the kitchen:
- A variety of expired spices, herbs and baking supplies
- Old pasta, rice or quinoa
- Various-sized bowls
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Colored water (unsweetened Kool-Aid works well)
- A mortar and pestle for grinding
- Mixing spoons and whisks
Spices such as basil, star anise, coriander, cumin, lemon pepper, colored peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, lavender and cake sparkles all can make for hours of fun and creative play. (Avoid fresh rosemary — it has an oil that can make skin itch or burn.)
Children will become more willing to try different foods, and it’s a way to teach about spices and herbs beyond salt and pepper.
An added benefit is that when the children are done with their “cooking,” an adult can pour the concoction down the garbage disposal — it will make your kitchen smell wonderful!
Play Office or Post Office
Here’s a way to put old office supplies and junkmail to use! Bring in unopened envelopes, magazines and postcards, old calculators, receipt booklets, unused check registers, hand stamps, pens and manila folders. Then watch the kids get busy organizing, stapling and stamping.
When the children are done, everything can be tossed into a recycling bin.
Active Stretching and Yoga
Yoga allows many children to stretch and move in a very small space and teaches them proper breathing techniques to calm down and be present in the moment.
Learning such techniques becomes even more valuable as they grow older.
Check out this Cosmic Kids yoga class to get started!
The Line Game
Pair children up with blank pieces of paper, a pencil and colored crayons. Each child draws one line on their piece of paper — squiggly, straight, wavy, curly or whatever they want.
Then they trade paper with their partner. The children then use their partner’s line for a starting point to build a picture. It’s incredible what can come out of a single line!
This game is great for long car trips or any time there is a bored child and a long wait.
Use Ad Libs For Telling Stories
This game is great in the car, but also works well in groups.
An adult starts with, “Once upon a time there was an animal. What kind of animal?” Choose a child to answer.
Child One: “Baboon!”
Adult: “Once upon a time there was a baboon. The baboon’s name was ____________.”
Child Two: “Travis!”
Adult: “Great. The baboon’s name was Travis. Travis lived ______________.”
Child Three: “In a treehouse.”
The story gets built upon by each child. You can insert names, countries, places, colors or textures. This game gives children the ability to build a tale with your help and you end up with a pretty wacky story at the end.
Some more ideas
There are many ways to have fun, even when the temperatures spike. Keep these additional ideas handy when the kids in your care are restless, but temperatures are too high for outdoor play:
- Host a scavenger hunt for colors or letters (find something red or something that starts with the letter L, for example)
- Create an “all about me” book or collage with each child about their life and favorite things
- Make bookmarks out of flowers, leaves and waxed paper
Whatever you decide to try, choosing the right activity makes for a more fun-filled child care experience, indoors or out!