Through play and creativity there are many ways to help create a supportive learning environment for children. Our buyer Rachael looks at some of her favourite activities that provide children with strategies to help them on a daily basis, and as they eventually move on to school.
In our fast-paced world there are so many factors that shape who we are, our beliefs and the decisions we make. The early years of life play a pivotal role in teaching key life skills that help establish secure, happy and mentally healthy children. Your role as an early years practitioner is key to guiding and supporting children in their journey. Creating environments where children feel safe and confident to explore and share is essential, especially for children who may struggle to connect with others or to settle into new environments.
Hands of support
Let children draw around their own hands, or for more fun get the paint pots out for hand prints! Explain to little ones that each finger represents a person in their life that’s important and help them add it on to their picture. A great way for children to share something about their lives as well as learning about others. You could extend this activity by creating hands around the topic of people who help us.
Mindfulness is a very popular technique to help recognise and deal with emotions. As a quick activity, encourage children to lie with their eyes shut and picture a starry night. Explain that each star represents something that makes them happy – allowing them to take time to focus on these things is great for reinforcing positive thinking and for coping with anxiety. You could ask children to draw a picture of their starry night which they could refer to if they feel insecure.
A balanced diet can affect how we feel as well as giving children the best start to being healthy eaters. To engage children in this simple topic, have a teddy bear’s picnic, or try doing painting and prints with fruit and vegetables as a fun way of learning about what we put in our tummies. You could also do taste testing - children may be more willing to try new things with their friends in the nursery environment than they would be at home!
Create paper chains in the shape of people for this activity. Allow children to personalise them to represent their friends or family members, as well as themselves. A great little way of remembering those who are important to children and to share this with others too. Older children will also be able to explain what it is they like about their friends and family, taking a closer look at what’s important to the child.
Children love to dance, play, run and explore – many little ones would rather be moving than sitting still. Not only is this great for their physical strength and coordination, it’s another way for children to express their personality and feelings. Why not try holding a mini yoga session or go exploring on a nature trail? Some children will find it much easier to talk and share emotions when busy doing an activity then they would be when sat quietly.
Taking care of you
It’s important to teach children that being healthy relates to both physical and mental health. Try using a cardboard cut-out of a gingerbread man (or if you are a secret Mary Berry why not bake some!) to show different emotions as well as physical attributes such as a healthy heart or clean teeth. This will open up discussions about how we stay healthy and what makes us happy or sad.
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