Activity AreasActivity Areas for Family Day Care Educators

For family day carers looking after children in their own home, the start of the year is a great time to look at reorganising and refreshing current practices.

If you are looking for some new ideas for the New Year on how to entertain and educate the children you care for check out the tips below:

Planning Activity Areas
Have a critical look at your activity areas and have a think about how you could update what you offer. Activity areas for children should include:

  • a place for messy play, like art or water activities.
  • a place for loud, active play, like jumping, rolling, and dancing.
  • a space for working or playing quietly.
  • a place to pretend.
  • a place to relax or be alone.
  • a place to eat.
  • a place to rest or sleep.
1. A Place for Messy Play
Think about including some of the following things:
  • dish pans or wash tubs, paint brushes, paints, shaving cream, food coloring, magic markers, paper, towels, and kitchen utensils like rolling pins, measuring cups and spoons, and egg beaters.
  • a sink nearby for washing up.
  • sponges and wash cloths so the children can help clean.
  • a low table with chairs or a regular table with cushions or children's seats on the chairs so children can use the table comfortably.
  • towels to mop up water on the floor.
  • old sheets or drop cloths (or newspapers) to put under messy activities and keep children from slipping.
Children may enjoy messy play more if they sit in chairs or on the floor. Messy play is safest and easiest to clean up in the kitchen, or it can be done outside in good weather.

2. A Place for Loud, Active Play
Set aside time daily for boisterous play and consider including some of the following things to ensure kids have a great time and burn lots of energy:
  • mattress, pillows, or cushions for jumping.
  • blankets for hiding and rolling in.
  • scarves for running and dancing with.
  • ropes for jump rope.
  • boards for making balance beams and ramps.
  • refrigerator or other appliance cardboard box for crawling into.
  • a radio or stereo for music to dance to.
  • a big, open space to move in.
Children need to move a lot. Regularly change the way you set up your activity space to keep it interesting for the children.

If you have enough room, a living room or garden would be a good place for active play. Noisy play should be away from your quiet space but where you can watch and supervise the children.

3. A Place for Quiet Play
You should have some of the following things:
  • beads, buttons, spools,
  • puzzles, pegs,
  • blocks, stacking toys, etc.
  • a rug or table with chairs for sitting.
The quiet work space could be a corner in the kitchen, so you can watch children while you make a snack. Or you could use a peaceful corner in the lounge.

Put toys on a low shelf or in boxes, baskets or buckets on the floor, so children can find toys easily. If you put the toys in the same place each day, the children will remember where to find them. Put the same type of toy in the same box each day. Try and keep this area away from the noisy play place.

4. A Place for Pretending
Consider including any of the following and anything else the kids will find interesting:
  • large cardboard boxes for making pretend cars, stoves, desks, etc.
  • toy telephones.
  • baskets, dolls, hats, and old clothes for dress up.
  • old pots and pans.
  • a blanket to put over a table to make a house, cave, bus, tent, etc.
This space should be away from noisy areas. It could be in a corner or behind a couch.

5. A Place to Relax Or Be Alone
A quiet cozy corner where kids can go for downtime or to read a book.

Consider including some of the following things:
  • soft pillows or a mattress in a corner.
  • soft pillows in a big, cardboard appliance box.
  • a blanket or colorful sheet to put over a table to make a tent.
Use this space as your book area. Keep your books on a shelf close to the floor or in a basket so children can see them. They should be in a place children can reach.

If you have infants and toddlers, have lots of soft places for sitting, resting, looking at books, or cuddling. Use bright fabrics. Have a rocking chair to rock young children to sleep. Let older children sit in it and read.

6. A Place to Eat
You should have some of the following things:
  • child-size tables (or regular tables and chairs with boosters).
  • a drop cloth or plastic tablecloth under the table to keep the floor clean.
  • high chairs for infants and toddlers.
  • a washcloth and toothbrush for each child, with his or her name on them.
7. A Place to Sleep
You should have a quiet place for each child to sleep. The child should sleep in the same place each day. Buy sleep mats or cots if you do not have enough beds. Play quiet music so children do not hear noise from outside.

Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC.

Miller, L. (1991). *Setting up your day care home*. (Family Day Care
 series). Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts.®
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