Play 'n Discover is aimed at children aged 3-5 years and their caregivers. In this session, you and your child will have the opportunity to engage in a range of guided activities allowing children to learn about their social and physical environment.
Children are discovering new things every day through play, they learn about the world around them, how things work and what makes them feel safe and secure. There are many games and activities you can do with your children to support social and communication skills, emotional competence and building confidence.
As a caregiver, you can instigate all sorts of activities however, sometimes it is important to let your child take control. Discovery play or free play is generally child-driven allowing them to move at their own pace. Child-driven activities lets kids discover their interests and talents, it is also a great way to keep kids active and working in gross and fine motor skills!
Outdoor play can be as simple as going to the local playground or exploring your backyard. Children will explore the space and make a decision on what interests them. Perhaps they enjoy playing in the sand and collecting sticks or they prefer to enjoy play equipment. Join in and play alongside them, let them direct you in the game or if they are content let them play alone.
More elaborate outdoor play may include:
- Mud kitchens: this classic and imaginative kitchen play can be started with just a bowl and some water – adding a few old kitchen utensils will having you making mud pies in no-time. The fun of measuring and mixing, can be extended by decorating your mud pies with flowers & twigs, pretending to serve them and learning to clean up - including a good bath!
- Messy play: cornflour and water create a fascinating consistency, add some food colouring and the fun can last for a long (messy) time. Bubble mixture has the same result!
- Nature art: collect fallen leaves, flowers, dirt and twigs and use them to create a little character or maybe a little house. You can build towers with rocks or throw leaves up in the air.
- Chalk: everyone can get involved with chalk – all you need is the chalk! For young ones joining in the fun, just the colour and movement is enough. To extend this for older children you could create an obstacle course (your own version of hopscotch!).
Play with others
Learning to play with others and learning to share is an important skill for young children to learn. Introducing children to other people (children and adults) will also help them place themselves in the world and discover differences we all have. Imaginative play and Discovery play are great ways to get kids connecting. Many activities under Play n’ Create are great for kids to do together to help build social competence.
Some easy activities that encourage sharing and build social skills are:
- Nature Colour Matching - Get the kids as a team to match colours in nature to paint samples or colours of crayons.
- As a team build a cubby house out of fallen branches and role play together
- Playing in the sandpit, sharing trucks, buckets and spades.
- Sing songs and read books about sharing.
- Have one less pair of scissors or glue stick. This creates a situation where children have to wait their turn and provides an opportunity for them to ask for an item if another is using it.
Our community is made up of people from many cultures and abilities. Learning about diversity through play can teach young children to celebrate the differences we have as well as helping them understand we are all humans.
Here are some great ways to start the diversity conversation and include it in play:
- Diversity Dress up – gather clothing from various cultures. Discuss the clothing, where did it come from why is it important? Introduce the clothing in to role playing during free time. Cultural clothing is also great for dolls and teddies!
- Try it, you’ll like it! Introduce new foods, this can be in pretend play or make something together in the kitchen.
- Get musical! Play with musical instruments used in different cultures, make musical instruments from natural materials and have diverse types of music playing throughout the day
- Get gardening! Plant different herbs and plants that reflect cultural diversity. Try Lemon Balm, Thai holy basil, Mint, Lemongrass, Thyme or Rosemary. Gardening is the activity that keeps giving and is a wonderful sensory experience from the smell of the plants to the feel of the soil between your toes!
Simple activities to develop disability awareness:
- Auslan is Australian Sign Language. Babies and young children can begin to learn basic signs from about six months of age. Introduce sign language in to your everyday routine. Using natural opportunities to work on signs rather than structured teaching allows young learners to learn Auslan as they would any other language. Start with 3 motivating, relevant signs and concepts like ‘food’, ‘bath’, ‘car’. Be consistent and repeat the signs everyday (you might sign ‘food’ before and during each meal). Use the spoken word with the sign. If you child makes the sign give verbal praise and offer the item (eg. Very good! Here is some food). Give it time! You don’t stop talking to a baby because they aren’t talking back yet, so don’t stop signing!
- Try walking in a straight line after being spun in a circle a few times. This may assist in simulating what it may be like living with a physical disability.
- Introduce toys depicting diverse abilities such as people in wheelchairs, or with hearing aids.
It is important that these activities are kept in context and discussions around disabilities are treated with respect. Children may find it difficult to understand disability unless they have been raised with a disabled family member. These activities may assist in awareness and sensitivity towards others and peers while increasing social awareness.
Discovery and diversity through books
Enjoy these great children’s stories that help children develop social awareness and the world around them.
- All the ways to be smart by Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys
- Another day in our world by Natalie Stone
- Bambi the blind alpaca by Jan Lummis
- Dachy’s deaf by Jack Hughes
- I am deaf by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos
- I’m Australian too by Mem Fox
- Lots: the diversity of life on Earth by Emily Sutton
- Multicultural me by Taku
- Some kids use wheelchairs by Lola M. Schaefer
- The black book of colours by Cottin Menena
- The perfect project : a book about autism by Tray Packiam Alloway
- The sneeches and other stories by Dr. Seuss
- Whoever you are by Mem Fox