‘Oh the weather outside is frightful’… frightfully hot most of the time, but that doesn’t mean we can’t encourage our little ones to get outside, exercise and work on their gross motor skills.
Morning and late afternoon are probably the best times to avoid the heat of the day but an overcast day is an opportunity to take advantage of.
If you don’t have a safe, outdoor space at home, you can try out of the of the local parks such as the FNB First Park in Broadhurst. These are free to the public and an underused but valuable resource to our community.
Here are some suggestions on how to encourage outdoor play this season.
When faced with an open space and outdoor area to play in, some children are inspired and need no encouragement to tackle the jungle gym, race around or explore the environment. Others would prefer to be indoors or lose interest quickly.
You can easily grab a child’s attention and engagement by creating an obstacle course. This can be as simple or as creative as your time and materials allow and adding an element of competition will generally spark more interest.
This holiday, my children and the children I work with through our SensoBaby community projects, have been my guinea pigs for a variety of obstacle course ideas. Our favourites so far include ‘Jingle Bells’: stringing bells across the play space and getting the children to jump over them or crawl under them without jingling the bells. ‘Snow Trails’ involves marking out a route the children have to follow using salt or flour. I generally have them walking over stepping stones made from bricks, jumping over twigs, weaving in and out of obstacles and climbing through hula hoops.
Use what you have in your space and around the home. Older children may enjoy setting courses for younger siblings which means you can sit back and observe!
Reindeer Ball Game
Remember that traditional party game ‘Pin the tail on the Donkey’? Well now it’s time to pin the red nose on Rudolph!
We cut out the shape of a reindeer from a piece of cardboard and cut a hole in the middle for the nose so the children could post red balls through it. It was appreciated by crawling babies in our SensoBaba class as well as the older children at Childline who challenged themselves by standing further away and practicing their throwing skills.
It’s an easy game to set up and once it reached my own home, it’s a game that the children have gone back to each day for a few minutes. We’ve also incorporated it into our obstacle courses.
You can be creative and try any seasonal twist on an old favourite: pin the beard on Santa, put a hat on the Elf. Make it a water game; draw a shape on the wall and let the children throw water balloons, sponges or wet clothes at the target.
Where possible get the children to make the game themselves to involve them in the whole play process.
Build a Snowman
We may be lacking in snow in Botswana but you can still build a snowman outdoors. I used salt to draw the outline of the snowman and asked the children to decorate him using items found in and around the garden (or the vegetable drawer for the carrot!).
This was another activity they kept returning to throughout the day; popping back to change the look of snowman, start over again or make small adjustments. It encourages your child to think creatively about the natural materials they can use, it connects them to nature and it develops their spatial reasoning skills since creating a picture on the ground is very different to the drawing they may be used to.
You can burn some of those extra seasonal calories by joining in the outdoor fun and games or enjoy a minute of relaxation and cheer them on from the side lines. Get active, get busy and get outside this festive season.