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make your own bird feeders

It's finally spring! What better way to celebrate than to make a bird feeder for your backyard or balcony. Our YMCA Child Care team has these simple ways to make a birdfeeder with your kids this weekend:

🐦 Using bread 
🐦 Using ice cream cones
🐦 Using pine cones (a classic)

Here are some learning opportunities when birds come:
🐦 Have a bird-watching day and point out the different birds that come to the feeder
🐦 Draw the birds that are coming to your feeder
🐦 Make a chart of how often the birds are coming
🐦 Do further research about the birds coming to your feeder

“Children develop a sense of wonder and appreciation for the natural word by connecting to and respecting the natural world.” (Flight: Alberta’s Early Learning and Care Framework, Makovichuk, Hewes, Lirette, Thomas, 2014)

outdoor scavenger hunt

Go for a walk today! If you have kids, turn it into the chance to work on some gross motor skills and have fun checking items off this scavenger hunt from our YMCA Child Care team:
🍃 A puddle to jump in
🍃 A yard or pathway with some snow still on it
🍃 A Canada goose
🍃 A robin
🍃 Feathers
🍃 Twigs
🍃 Leaves
🍃 Stones
🍃 A tree or plant with some buds on it

Find an open space and:
🍃 Throw or kick a ball 10 times
🍃 Do 20 jumping jacks
🍃 Do 15 knee bends
🍃 Run on the spot for 30 seconds

Want to make it an extra long adventure? Add your own items or activities to this scavenger hunt based on what's in your community.

“Ensuring that children have access throughout the day to gross motor activities indoors and outdoors is critical to healthy growth and development.” (YMCA Playing to Learn, Martin and Huggins, 2015)

Painters Tape Activities

This gross motor skill development activity from YMCA Child Care is super simple! All you need is painters tape and an open space in your home.

  1. Tape a straight line onto the floor and have your child do the following movements:
    🔹 Walk forwards balancing on the piece of tape — then repeat walking backwards and sideways
    🔹 Balance on the tape on your tippy toes
    🔹 Move down the tape by jumping from one side to the other as you go
    🔹 Move down the tape by doing a squat and putting a sticker on the tape each time

  2.  Make a ladder on the floor with tape and have your child jump to different rungs.

  3. Create a square on the floor or wall and have your child throw bean bags (or balled up socks!) into the square from a couple feet away. Increase the distance as you need!

  4. Create a maze and have your child kick a soft ball through the maze from start to finish.

  5. Create an indoor hopscotch game!

“ Children experience a safe and nurturing environment where healthy eating, daily physical activity, and safety – indoors and out are practiced. Learning requires that children have time, space and move, play and challenge their physical capacities." (Flight: Alberta's Early Learning and Care Framework, Makovichuk, Hewes, Litrette, Thomas, 2014)

physical activity dice

Get your kids active with this tip from YMCA Child Care: it's physical activity dice! Together you can come up with a list of different movements and roll the dice for each movement to determine how many times you need to do each one. Here's a sample list of movements for children that will enhance their physical literacy:

🏃‍♀️ Jumping jacks
🏃‍♀️ Toe touches
🏃‍♀️ Stomps
🏃‍♀️ Spins
🏃‍♀️ Knee bends (squats)
🏃‍♀️ One leg balances
🏃‍♀️ Sit-ups
🏃‍♀️ Hop
🏃‍♀️ Gallop
🏃‍♀️ Skipping
🏃‍♀️ Running on the spot

Some tips:
🏃‍♀️ Have children invent their own movements to do
🏃‍♀️ Create your own dice out of cardboard so they can enhance their throwing skills while throwing the dice
🏃‍♀️ Make a "workout playlist" with your children
🏃‍♀️ Make a video of the workout so your kids can watch it later
🏃‍♀️ Do this activity outside as much as possible

“All domains of development are interdependent, but none more clearly than physical and brain growth. As physical development is dependant upon the central nervous system, of which the brain is the key part, we need to consider the two together. The amount of physical transformation in the first years of life is paralleled by the brain’s changes.” (YMCA Playing to Learn, Martin and Huggins, 2015)

Rock Balancing

Rock balancing or stone sculptures are also known as stone cairns and date back to ancient times. These cairns, from the Gaelic term meaning heaps of stones, have been used by numerous cultures for many different reasons. Many people today use it as a very soothing, calming activity. Incorporating these cairns into an outdoor classroom activity will not only allow children to learn about stacking properties but also create a piece of artwork in the outdoors. Our YMCA Child Care team recommends researching cairns together online and then head outdoors to a local water feature (riverbank, pond or creek). Look for smooth river stones and collect a variety of sizes and shapes. Either bring these rocks home with you and add a beautiful stone sculpture to your yard or build one beside the pond, creek or riverbank for others to enjoy.

“Here are some of the advantages of outdoor play spaces over indoor ones:
☯️ A way to connect with nature – hearing the birds sing and the leaves rustle, seeing a spider web glistening with early morning dew, having time for stillness and connection, smelling the clean freshness of soil after a spring rain” (YMCA Playing to Learn, Martin and Huggins, 2015).

Sidewalk Paint

Have an artistic weekend making your own sidewalk paint with this afternoon's YMCA Child Care activity! It's simple to make and uses items you probably have at home. Click here for directions.

Older children can use paint brushes and sponges and younger children can experience the texture of the paint using their hands. Your painted sidewalk can spread joy to your neighbours — why not leave them an uplifting message while you're at it?

“There are many benefits to fostering visual arts in young children. Growth in the visual arts reflects the development of symbolic thinking. It also offers a prelude to the mastery of physical coordination, as well as a number of other cognitive areas important to achievement in school.” (YMCA Playing to Learn, Martin and Huggins, 2015)

snow play

At a time when we could all use an early spring, winter just seems to keep marching on out there. Don't be discouraged! Our YMCA Child Care team has some fun ideas using snow to spark your child's creativity:

❄️ Snow Castle Building — Collect some snow in a large plastic tub and bring it inside. Add shovels, buckets, little containers and utensils, and have a castle building competition till it melts!
❄️ Snow Painting — Fill spray bottles with water and add a few drops of food colouring. Bundle up, head outside, and make art in your backyard on your fresh canvas of snow.
❄️ Snow Forts — This one's a classic. Bundle up, grab some shovels and work together on the ultimate snow fort in your yard.

"Creative play is like a spring that bubbles from deep within a child." – Joan Almon (YMCA Playing to Learn, Martin and Huggins, 2015)