Arts, crafts, and creativity oh my! As a childcare worker, a parent, or a caregiver how do we keep these little ones busy and expand those growing minds all while satisfying their curiosity? Well, lets explore.
Children no matter their stage in life they are always developing, experiencing, and awaiting our guidance. In finding projects that are fun and creative is an important side note to consider corresponding with their development stage in life as well. Development is the process we go through to grow from the experiences we encounter. Not all projects will have this outcome but rather something we as someone they look up to should keep in mind.
Each child will vary in the stage they are in development. Preferences may arise as no one child is the same. One may love to color while another would prefer to play with building blocks. Children will also struggle and excel at different rates which can change the project in motion. Having an open mind to the projects out there will be helpful and make your job easier.
Development is separated by age and area. The basic age groups for a childcare center are:
- newborns (0-2months)
- infants (2-12months)
- toddlers (12-36 months)
- pre-school age children(3-5years)
- school-age children(6-8years).
The main four areas we focus on in children as they grow will be there physical (body, muscles, senses), social (play and talk with others), emotional (self-awareness, expressions, and feelings) and cognitive development (how they think, solve, understand and use language).
Newborn Age Group
Newborns are not yet very active and will spend a vast majority of their days sleeping but are still very ready to learn and connect. Your little one is just discovering life as your creating a pattern that works for you and your babies’ needs. In childcare or mommies at home with newborns will see they simply just want love, a clean diaper, food and to be rocked to sleep. Now, this is not to say you can’t do activities or fun newborn crafts.
A good starting point is to oddly enough follow your baby’s lead, see what he or she enjoys, or maybe wants more of. Baby coos are the extent of communication at this point, but we should also conversate about their surroundings, things they may be hearing, or feeling just so it shows your engaging with them.
Get on your baby’s level, literally, start doing some tummy time, read a book, and point to pictures in the book. Singing is always a fun activity, see how your little one reacts to your voice or maybe a song you’re playing and being silly to.
Newborn crafts are going to be messy no doubt but also so fun for you and them. Most newborn crafts grow to be very memorable in the fact we use their hands and feet to create a wide spread of colorful projects, full of sensory for them. You can have them touch different textures, paint, clay, etc. With clay, you can paint it your favorite color, add the date or their birthday. Hand and feet paintings can be made into just about anything so you can use your imagination there. Which can make it quite easy to make different gifts for family members around the holiday or just because you felt like being creative with your newborn.
Infant Age Group
Infants are going to be just a step ahead of the newborns. Infants will begin to strive for those infant development milestones with your help, continuing from the newborn activities and fun projects will subside the boredom of what’s next because they are still young ones discovering it all for the first time. The first year of there life is very important and is going to uncover how your journey with them may develop over time.
Being a parent will bring many emotions, feelings, wonders, and fears but personally, one thing I loved about the journey with my little one towards her one-year mark is witnessing her become her own person. Each month it seemed to be something new, whether it was hitting a big milestone or something as simple as she smiled at me that morning and ate her banana oatmeal.
Independence starts to form which can be a weird feeling for someone who depends on you for so much, for them to stay alive and survive they start to be mobile, babble, play, try to read, and talk with you. It’s their life changing as it can change yours in ways as well.
Besides all the importance of going through the milestones to make sure your child doesn’t delay, have fun with them and being a parent/caretaker is just as important. As you may have guessed, oh yes you can still use those cute little feet and hands for fun projects, paintings, and sensory activities. Now let’s get creative go use paper plates to make a donut or a watermelon, a foot to make a ladybug, take a coffee filter color it, and use a pipe cleaner creating a butterfly. Put rainbow balls in a water table, take some blocks and put shaving cream in between to keep them together or even better take raisins drop them one by one in water and now you have dancing raisins. Infants love experiments, colors, easy, new, and fun all they need is your guidance.
Toddler Age Group
Toddlers are next in the development age. As we progress in the age group the preparation itself will fluctuant, but toddlers can still be on the easier side of things. Toddlers are just beginning to walk, they try to gain more control of their large muscles hence the walking which will lead to running, climbing, etc. Smaller muscles like feeding themselves, using objects, drawing gives them an ability to focus and achieve the goals they seek.
Social interaction also increases, having the want to include themselves in the world with others around them. Toddlers will start to connect names with objects or say mama, dada. Growing but still just a young one. Have fun with some pasta, do a color sorting activity, any water activity is a no brainer, matching objects, bubble fun, paint is always a safe go to, stacking toys/cups/blocks, hiding items can be fun also, an expansion on peek-a-boo is hide and seek (farm animals, blocks, dominos). Create discover stations like a sink or float. As they grow, they want to experience everything!
Preschool Age Group
Now, the pre-school age children are just as important as any developmental age but do need attention because this tends to be when we will see if they have an early interest in learning, more interacting and we want to stay on top of that interest so the child isn’t discouraged. Obviously, we don’t want to be forceful in learning nor not enough so it’s a bit stressful at times to find that balance for this age group. But just as the other age ranges pre-school age children have plenty of fun projects to grow on what they already know.
Simple activities to do together would be playing bingo, if they like to draw have them trace letters or draw some shapes, do a colorful scavenger hunt in the center, bubbles, bubbles, and more bubbles, baking together, use that imagination of there’s and create a story. Let’s not forget about moving around! Play freeze dance, simple dance moves they can copy, and maybe a calming option such as yoga for kids. Get a variety of fabrics, colors, crayons, markers, stickers, etc. and create a collage or maybe a mask.
School-Age Age Group
Lastly, we will have the school-age children where you will see noticeable differences in appearance like weight or height. As they try to find their place in the world and experience their growth, we want to keep an eye out for any developmental mind or growth delays that may have not been detected earlier in their life. The motor skills large and small will be used in a more smoothly manner but these vary and can affect the ability of how they do things like writing neatly or making a bed. How long they pay attention is something to keep your attention on, this is a sign that they could have a stressor in their life(bullying), learning disability, or mental health issues. Along with this the language development and behavior also come into play.
Some children struggling will not be able to express themselves, which can result in bad behaviors, or behaviors that aren’t really who your child wants to be but again is struggling without being able to talk or feel as if somehow they failed themselves and us by not becoming what is expected by their peers. This burden is too much for a child to carry, which is why parents need to be prepared for really anything at this point. If your child isn’t or feels they can’t talk to you seek some help, keep close communications with other adults interacting like teachers or other parents.
Be proactive and let your child know they can talk to you, be open but set limits, encourage them to be expressive, and as crazy as it is to realize this school-age child was once a newborn which may seem like easier times but you can still participate in fun, creative projects alongside being their parent through a new stage in life. In this older age range, we suggest things like soda rockets, take a toilet paper roll and make a cat, find rocks use chalk to color them- put kind words, your name or your friends, color and glue together popsicle sticks building a skyscraper. Experiment! Put four different foods in tubes and see which one rots first, play with Legos, or maybe the most fun is baking a creation like a cinnamon roll snail. Fun and edible, can’t go wrong.
No matter the age group you teach in, or your very own that you parent always take precautions in all the activities, projects, and or experiments you plan. Planning is smart and will help take away the risk of any trouble or unknowns ruining the art and memories you and your little one will create, plus hopefully less stressful for you. It’s a cliché to say but a very true one, children are our future; quite literally. No matter our title in their life we need to be what they need from us, development is crucial but furthermore, alongside that it’s what and how you show you care and love for them. We at times need that moment I think to realize how important we are in their daily lives and just how important they are in ours. It’s a relationship, a special bond that I personally don’t think should ever be taken for granted, although I know how easy that can be. Now, after we consider their development stage and age, taking precautions and that each child is different; the result is to just explore and have fun. Keeping them busy as their minds expand with knowledge and new abilities is such an unforgettable experience. Don’t forget to love your little one each and every day with a side of fun and creativity!
COVID fun and learning
Today more than ever during the COVID pandemic, families are looking for fun projects for their children. Here are some great resources:
- Childcare At Home is a collaborative effort between four daycare teams across the country; Smart From the Start Preschool & Childcare, The Nook Childcare & Preschool, Tiny Tot, and Wise Owl Daycare. Their helpful website provides art projects, circle time ideas, enrichment, ways to get moving, cooking ideas, parent resources, read-a-loud ideas, sensory activities, Spanish-language activities, S.T.E.A.M. activities, teaching videos, and more!
- Scholastic offers free online learning, educational games and reading resources for kids and parents
- PBS offers Everyday Learning opportunities for online learning (ages PreK-13)
- NASA is offering their entire library free online for students