When the weather outside is frightful, playtime can still be delightful. In fact, engaging and challenging fine and gross motor skills is especially important when outdoor activities are not possible. The reasoning is simple – a young person’s innate curiosity and creativity are enhanced by play. This explanation validates why an increasing number of schools have adopted a play-based learning philosophy within the early years curriculum. It is widely believed that this framework of learning supports cognitive, physical, and emotional growth and development.
The logic behind this mixed approach stems from the notion that when children are engaged in purposeful play, they are exercising their mental and physical faculties. More specifically, children are stimulating their imagination, exploring problem-solving skills, and expanding their knowledge. This pedagogy is based on the principles that play promotes creativity by allowing children to discover and create meaning by taking risks and exploring opportunities to learn in a greater capacity.
This form of play heightens the overall learning experience and thus enables a child to achieve greater outcomes. Longterm effects of the intellectual and cognitive benefits of playing have been well documented. Children who experience quality play are more likely to have well-developed language and memory skills. They are able to regulate their behaviour, leading to enhanced school adjustment and academic learning (Bodrova & Leong, 2005).
Since play is the beacon for childhood happiness and intellect, here are 10 indoor activities that will challenge curiosity and motivate minds:
1. Capture little imaginations with an art lab. Take out all those bits and pieces of scrap paper and finally put them to good use. All it takes is some colourful scraps of paper and glue for your tiny Picassos to make their own shape collage or mosaic masterpiece. Encourage the younger tots to channel their inner Pollock’s with some edible finger painting. Tint yogurt with natural food dye, lay down butcher-block paper and let them paint or eat away.
Little jewelers in the making can string together dried pasta or fruit loops to create a necklace or bracelet. Younger tots can help sort the pieces into shapes and colour categories. The mental task of focusing on the pieces helps to center and calm them down.
2. Have a dance party or an aerobics class! Let each child play DJ or instructor for a few songs so everyone has their fair share of music choices. Award prizes for inventive moves. For a younger bunch, play music videos from Youtube to burn off some excess energy.
3. This one is for all the aspiring architects! Raid the linen closet and build a fort with sheets, cushions, and pillows. After creating this cozy nook, challenge them to solve a puzzle, a card game, read a book, or play an all-time favourite board game like Clue or Monopoly .
4. Tiny Chefs-in-training will love getting their hands-on experience with the making of personalized pizzas! Set-up stations with an assortment of toppings, sauces, and breads for them to choose from. These pizzas are sure to please anyone’s palate. For dessert, assemble some fruit kabobs. Let the colours of the rainbow inspire your edible arrangements. When it’s time to do the dishes, have some fun with blowing bubbles with the soapy water using a potato masher or pasta strainer.
5. Everyone could use some down time once in a while. Kick back with a bowl of popcorn and a movie marathon. Consider a pick from the classic Disney collection like the ever-popular, The Lion King- “Hakuna Matata’!
6. Get thrifty and pull out some old attire and accessories. Let your kids have a blast from the past with some fun dress-up play. Then take it up a notch with a fashion show! It will have the crowd in “stitches”.
7. Children can play ice cream shop with a sundae station. No baking required, just some frozen yogurt and a variety of toppings. Provide a selection of healthy add-ons such as, coconut shavings, cacao nibs, fruit (fresh and/or dried), and let them go “nuts” till their hearts’ content.
8. Organize a scavenger hunt using a treasure map to help navigate the young explorers within a safe designated area. Hide special prizes around the house such as, chocolate gold coins. They’ll be sure to “dig” this adventure.
9. For the tactile type, why not make some play dough. It’s easy, requires only household ingredients and in just a few minutes you’ll have long-lasting, nontoxic, homemade play dough to mould into whatever their hearts’ desire. Click here to get the recipe.
10. Make a time capsule for the thoughtful bunch. Have kids include a letter with information like their hobbies and interests; favourite movies and songs, as well as anything else they would want to share with their future selves. Include a few mementos and photos that represent their most memorable moments. Then bury it in an airtight container somewhere you’ll remember to look one day.
Child’s play is just as important as learning and when combined fosters an enriching experience indoors as well as out. Next time your kids are cooped up inside, try adding some beneficial mood and brain boosting adventures to the table. These ten play-based learning activities are designed to engage the senses and are guaranteed fun!
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Bodrova, Elena, & Leong, Deborah J. (2005). The importance of play: Why children need to play. Early Childhood Today, 20(1), 6-7.