Movement is an integral part of childhood — not only for play, but also for brain development. "Research shows that encouraging free movement can give children space to develop self-awareness, learn non-verbal ways of communicating and to get to know themselves and their body," says the Australia-based childcare center Learning Tree.
Additionally, active play causes children to "absorb new skills better while doing," notes the company.
Math Obstacle Course
This activity calls for children to practice arithmetic while working their way through an obstacle course. To set up, you will need a deck of cards, clothespins, string and chairs. Create a hallway with the chairs and then weave the string between them to form a low-to-the-ground web that can be stepped through.
Next, consider what sort of numerical challenge you want your little ones to work on — matching numbers or finding all the sets that add up to 10? Afterwards, pin the appropriate cards to various points along the web, and voilá, you've got an hobby that will make both your kids and their teachers happy.
Pom Pom Races
Pom-poms, straws and painter's tape are all you need to get this fun going — and with multiple game-play options, you won't be wasting any materials. One activity you can do is to create shapes on the floor using the tape. Then, have each player select which shape they will get their pom-pom's into using only a straw.
The game only ends when everyone has achieved their goal, making this less about winning or losing and more about accomplishing a goal. For other ideas on how to use these items, click here.
This oldie but goodie offers both physical and educational engagement. You can use tape to create a grid on the floor or you can use felt and fabric to create a mat like this one. Involve your kids in the set-up by having them paint a set of small rocks to use as tokens. If you kids don't know the rules, watch this video together and then go to town.
Solve A Maze
All you need to pull this one off is a large swath of space. Once you've found that, using either pillows, paper or washi tape, create a checkerboard pattern on the floor. Then, mark a top corner as the starting square and a bottom one as the end. To play, draw a pattern on a piece of paper that the kids will have to follow to successfully navigate the maze — for example, move left, left, right, forward, back and so on. If the child messes up, they must return to square one and start over.
"Any type of exercise is great for the brain, but because cognitive development relates to speech, language, problem solving, reading and writing, the animal poses target special areas to help organize the brain and the body for learning these concepts with their teacher and at home," says the child development center Integrated Learning Strategies. Some things you can try are trotting or galloping like a horse, crawling like a worm and moving like a spider.
Once you've finished getting everyone's energy out, blast some music and work together to tidy up your space. Then, turn everyone loose to do whatever they want — even if that means engaging in screen time — and take a break to do something you enjoy. After all, nothing beats a good rest after a job well done.