How many parents turn to digital babysitters such as smartphones, games, and computers?
Oftentimes it feels like children aren’t happy unless they are plugged in and mindlessly swiping at their screens. This can make the job of watching children daunting and boring on occasion. The occupation of babysitting can be fulfilling and entertaining if you embrace learning through play.
Many children are not playing or observing the world around them and are missing out on vital aspects of childhood. Electronics are popular and favored among the younger crowd, but these years should not be wasted. As a childcare provider, it is your job to nurture a child’s ability to learn and have fun.
This can be difficult at times, especially when you need a little inspiration or motivation. Keeping children and yourself entertained can be challenging day after day. Remember you fill an important role in your young charges’ lives.
You have the power to help set the tone for their future education simply by encouraging play.
Benefits of Learning through Play
Learning through play is one of the best ways to introduce children to exciting new concepts by building valuable connections to math, language, science, and more from the world around them. Many educators and researchers have cited the powerful learning opportunities available to children through play.
Children love to master skills and a few have been known to memorize a favorite picture book or play rounds of their favorite game. In this occupational field, there is a high probability that you may encounter a time when you start to yawn at the site of a certain puzzle or a stack of flashcards.
It is always a good idea to keep some activities or crafts in your back pocket for a rainy day or mental drought. Children will model your behavior and mimic the emotions you express. If you are excited and engaged, they will be too.
10 Ways to Have Fun While Babysitting
Here are a few ideas to keep kids engaged and learning without putting you into a sleepwalking trance.
- Find new manipulatives. Lightboxes, small toys, and natural items (pinecones, stones, etc.) can provide hours of fun! Sort, count or do simple math problems.
- Piece together an invention box. Fill a tote with all kinds of odds and ends to use for inventing new creations. Popsicle sticks, inserts for push-ups, laundry cups, milk tabs, felt, and plastic flowers are just a few ideas to fill up your box. Encourage children to create from the materials provided.
- Paint with marbles, ice, or chocolate pudding. Who said you have to paint with a brush?
- Play with your food! Head to the kitchen and cook up a new recipe or treat. Take these moments to work with math and science concepts. You can even let them crack the eggs to develop their fine motor skills and foster confidence. Plus, you get a tasty treat.
- Create a new game. “Hide and seek” is delightful, but sometimes you just need to change things up. A favorite game around our house is “Bigfoot”. This involves a fort under the dining table and a howling “Bigfoot” who kidnaps laughing children.
- Grow something. There is something therapeutic about planting something. Whether it is just an indoor plant or an entire vegetable garden, let the child experience nurturing a living thing.
- Head outdoors and explore. A change of scenery can do wonders. Take a walk or picnic for some fresh air and observe the world around you.
- Read new books and delve into the world of the characters. Do an activity that extends a concept from the book. Bake, craft, or visit a museum- just have fun!
- Star in your own movie! Write, design, and film a movie with the children.
- Learn a new hobby. Knitting? Origami?
Learning for a Lifetime
Anyone can memorize facts and numbers. Sure, it may sound admirable when a child counts to 100 in Mandarin or recites the entire preamble to our Constitution. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean they understand the concepts behind the words. Anyone can memorize facts, young children need to naturally learn about the world by interacting with it to gain a deep understanding.
This is where learning through play is vital. Babysitting is a rewarding occupation that can impact individuals for their entire lives. So the next time you dread another round of tag, try a new play activity to spice things up. If you are engaging and connecting with your charges on a deeper level you will see them grow in numerous ways.
Put down the smartphones, tablets, and remotes- encourage fun through play!