As Nannies, we play an integral role in the lives of young children- supporting their development through play. Your role is to facilitate the implementation of a learning program which supports children’s wellbeing, learning and development across the 5 domains (gross motor, fine motor, cognitive, language, social/emotional).
When planning programs to facilitate the children’s learning, it is important to communicate and be respectful with the families regarding their parenting values, beliefs and styles.
“Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at an early age engage and interact with the world around them”.
Play is central to children’s learning and development: – building confidence; ensuring that they feel loved, happy and safe; developing social skills, language and communication; learning about caring for others and the environment and developing physical skills. As children grow, the way they play changes.
Different types of play
Unstructured, free play is the best type of play for young children.
This is play which just happens, depending on the child’s interests. Free play is not planned and lets the child use their imagination and move at their own pace.
Examples of unstructured play might be:
- creative play alone or with others, including artistic or musical games.
- imaginative games – for example, making cubby houses with boxes or blankets, dressing up or playing make-believe.
- exploring new or favourite play spaces like cupboards, backyards, parks, playgrounds and so on.
Structured play is different. It is more organised, occurs at a specific time or in a set space and is often guided by an adult.
Examples of structured play include:
- water familiarisation classes for toddlers, or swimming lessons for older children
- storytelling groups for toddlers and pre-schoolers at the local library
- dance, music or drama classes for children of all ages
- family board or card games
- modified sports for slightly older children, such as Cricket Blast, Aussie Hoops basketball, NetSetGO netball, Come and Try Rugby, and Auskick football.
As children grow, the way they play will change – for example- more creativity and experimentation more with toys, games and ideas, meaning they may require more space and time to play, playing alone, playing alongside other children and playing interactively with other children.
Play Ideas to Encourage Development
Newborns and babies: play ideas to encourage development (0-2 Years)
For babies, the best toy is you. Just looking at your face and hearing your voice is play for your new baby, especially if you are smiling.
- Music, songs, gentle tapping on the baby’s tummy while you sing, or bells: these activities develop hearing and movement.
- Peekaboo: this is great for baby’s social and emotional development.
- Gentle tickles, or objects with different textures, like feathers, mud, metal or foam: these develop the sense of touch.
- Objects of different sizes, colours and shapes: these can encourage babies to reach and grasp.
- Sturdy furniture, balls, toys or boxes: these can get stimulate crawling, standing and walking.
- Regular tummy time and floor play are especially important. Tummy time assists babies develop muscle strength and control.
Toddlers: play ideas to encourage development (2-3 Years)
Big and light things like cardboard boxes, buckets or blow-up balls can encourage toddlers to run, build, push or drag.
Chalk, rope, music or containers can encourage jumping, kicking, stomping, stepping and running.
Hoops, boxes, large rocks or pillows are good for climbing on, balancing, twisting, swaying or rolling.
Dress-up games with scarves, hats…are good for imagination and creativity.
Hills, tunnels or nooks can encourage physical activities like crawling and exploring.
Putting on some favourite music during play can also encourage experimentation with different sounds and rhythms. You might also like to sing, dance and clap along to music.
Pre-schoolers: play ideas to encourage development (3-5 Years)
- Old milk containers, wooden spoons, empty pot plant containers, sticks, scrunched-up paper, plastic buckets, saucepans and old clothes are great for imaginative, unstructured play.
- Simple jigsaw puzzles and matching games like animal dominoes help improve memory and concentration.
- Playdough and clay extend children’s fine motor skills.
- Favourite music or pots and pans are great for a dance concert or to make up music.
- Balls can encourage kicking, throwing or rolling.
- When encouraging kicking or throwing, try and encourage the child to use one side of their body, then the other.
School-age children: play ideas to encourage development (5+ Years)
- Furniture, linen, washing baskets, tents and boxes are great for building cubbyhouses, forts.
- Home-made obstacle courses encourage children to move in different ways, directions and speeds.
- Games such as: ‘I spy’ are great for word play and help develop literacy skills.
- Simple cooking and food preparation activities are great for developing numeracy and everyday skills.
- Using their imagination, the child can turn themself into a favourite superhero or story character.
- Encourage getting involved in sports or team activities for school-age children. Other possibilities include after-school or holiday art and craft activities.
Managing children’s behaviour is one of the most challenging aspects of parenting and caring for children.
Behaviour management is guiding the child’s behaviour so that they learn the appropriate way to behave, rather than just punishing them when they do something you do not like. A positive and constructive approach is often the best way to guide children’s behaviour.
When managing children’s behaviours, encourage reciprocal relationships in promoting cooperation during their play and interactions with others and be respectful.
The first step to understanding child behaviour management.
It is normal for children to behave in challenging ways at different stages and in particular situations. Understanding children’s behaviours is an important step in managing it. For example, tantrums are quite common in toddlers and pre-schoolers, because at this age children have big feelings and not enough words to express them. Helping children express their feelings in positive ways will be more effective than punishment.
Children are more likely to repeat behaviours that earn praise. Using praise can assist with changing difficult behaviour and replacing it with positive behaviour.
The first step is to watch for times the child behaves positively. When you see this, immediately get the child’s attention and tell them exactly what you liked – for example, ‘It is so wonderful how you used words to ask for that toy’.
A reward is a consequence of positive behaviour. It is a way of saying ‘well done’ after the child has behaved positively. For example, as a reward for keeping their room tidy, you might let the child choose what meal will be prepared for dinner.
Rewards can work well at first, but it is best not to overuse them. If you need to use them frequently, it might help to rethink the situation – are there any other strategies that you could try to encourage positive behaviours? Or is the task or behaviour too difficult for the child right now?
Note that bribery and rewards are not the same. A bribe is given before the desired behaviour and a reward is given after. Rewards reinforce positive behaviours, but bribes do not.
Routines assist family members with understanding who should do what, when, in what order and how often. This can mean less inappropriate behaviour about boring things such as cleaning teeth, tidying up after play, or switching the TV off.
You can also build routines for young children around play, meals and sleep. When children have had enough good-quality sleep, nutritious food and plenty of play, they are more likely to behave positively.
Planned ignoring is paying no attention to a child when they are behaving negatively. This means not looking at them and not talking to them while they behave negatively.
For example, if the family is having a meal and the child is bouncing up and down on their seat, you could leave them out of the conversation and not look at them until they stop.
When they stop, you could say, ‘I love it when you sit still on your chair at dinner. Why don’t you tell us what you did at preschool today?’
Be prepared – ignored negative behaviour often gets worse before it gets better. Children might complain or nag more, hoping for a response from you. You should consider this when deciding whether to use planned ignoring as a behaviour management strategy.
Family rules are positive statements about their beliefs regarding looking after and treat each other. Rules can assist family members with establishing guidelines and expectations. Children as young as three can contribute to the development of family rules.
Choose the most important things to make rules about – for example, a rule about not physically hurting each other would be important for most families, as well as rules about safety, manners, politeness, daily routines and respect for each other.
There are times when you might choose to use negative consequences for inappropriate behaviour – for example, to reinforce rules when simple reminders have not worked.
Some consequences for inappropriate behaviour include:
- the child refuses to carry their coat to the park= they feel cold later.
- the child swears at an adult = they aren’t allowed to watch TV later.
- the child refuses to share a toy= they have five minutes of time-out in a safe and boring room without toys.
Reserve consequences for children over three years. Children younger than this don’t really understand consequences, particularly if they don’t understand the connection between their actions and the outcomes of those actions.