As Oklahoma’s seasons change, so do the ways children play. Rain coats, galoshes and mud have a way of coming together this time of year. Earth Day, observed April 22, is an ideal time to plan for easy preschool activities for hands-on learning outside the classroom. Rainy day activities to enjoy inside are also another opportunity to make memories with our littlest learners. See below for three ideas for outdoor play and three ideas for indoor fun this month using the five senses to keep children engaged as they learn by doing.
Outdoor learning: Three nature-based ways to play
Plant seeds together: Cultivate curiosity by planting seeds together. Age-appropriate modifications can be made for ages 1 through 5, with cosmos, sunflowers and zinnias leading the list of 10 easiest plants to grow according to the Home Garden Seed Association. Also included: cucumbers, lettuce and squash, which can make the experience even more tangible with a test taste. Research shows when kids are involved in the process of growing vegetables, they are more likely to try them.
Go on a scavenger hunt: Choose a theme, such as colors or shapes, and make a list of items to look for outdoors. Consider including the five senses with something to smell, taste, touch, hear and see. Hide a few additional surprises beforehand to find along the way. Gather leaves to bring indoors and use a paper punch to make biodegradable confetti for your next indoor play day.
Make mud pies: Plan a day of mud play, with washable smocks or try recycling large button-down men’s shirts as aprons. Be sure to have changes of clothes on-hand. Reuse plastic kitchen containers, which can then be recycled, to sift sterile potting soil, add water and allow children to mix their own version of mud pies. Items gathered during a scavenger hunt or piles of provided items, like leaves, petals and gravel, can be mud pie toppings.
Rainy day round-up: Three indoor play ideas for severe weather days
Create cloud play: Decide how to implement a cloud-related theme for the week with sensory activities like tracing letters with shaving cream, blowing bubbles, adding cotton ball sensory bins and making cloud dough. Adjust according to needs and ages. Discuss weather patterns and explore textures.Talk about the water cycle by topping a clear glass of water with shaving cream to create clouds. Add blue food coloring to mimic rainfall.
Make a tornado in a bottle: Empty one ounce of water from a plastic disposable bottle of water. Add two tablespoons of baby oil, food coloring and glitter to the bottle. Close tightly and swirl in a circular motion. A whirlpool spanning most of the bottle’s length will form. Use clear nail polish and allow it to dry to form a light seal over each lid.
Practice your child care center’s severe weather procedures: Help maintain calm in the event of actual severe weather by practicing classroom procedures as a Simon Says game. Read a comforting story by flashlight in your designated safe area to help normalize power outages during storm season. In the event of an emergency, children will already be familiar with what to do and how to react.
Whether you get your hands dirty with mud and earthworms or stick to more abstract concepts of weather play this Earth Day, take pictures, embrace the changing season as toddlers flourish with interactive fun.