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Box of Fun

  • A Field Trip to the Local Farmer’s Market

Summer marks the time of year when fresh, local produce is plentiful. Teach children where food comes from with a trip to the Farmer’s Market. Ask them to name the different fruits and vegetables. Discuss colors, shapes, smells and flavors. Talk about the different parts of the plants that can be eaten such as: roots (carrots, beets, radishes), stems (celery, asparagus), leaves (lettuce, spinach, cabbage), fruit (cucumbers, squash, peppers, tomatoes), flowers (broccoli, cauliflower, artichoke) and seeds (corn, peas, green beans). Encourage the children to talk to the farmers. Allow each child to choose a fruit or vegetable that they like. Take the produce back to your program for a cooking project the next day.

  • Board Walking

Lay a long, flat board that is 6–8 inches wide on a rug or a grassy area. Make sure the board is free from nails or splintered edges. Demonstrate how to walk along the board while the children watch. Next, hold each child’s hand as he walks slowly across. Then let the children take turns walking across on their own. Challenge the children to walk across tip-toed, backwards and side­ways. Pretend the rug is hot lava or water. Encourage the children to use their imaginations, laugh and have fun!

Adapted from Active Learning for Two’s, 1988, by Debby Cryer, Thelma Harms and Beth Bourland

  • Clapping Words

No special materials are needed for this word game that develops language skills in young children. It is especially helpful for children who speak English as a second language. The leader begins by saying a word and clapping the syllables at the same time. Children repeat the word accompanied by the appropriate number of claps. Start with simple words and move to longer and unfamiliar words. Let children suggest words to use. Try different themes for this game—seasonal words, months of the year, colors, objects in the room, children’s names.

Adapted from: Follow Me Too, a Handbook of Movement Activities for Three to Five Year Olds, 1993, by Marianne Torbert and Lynne B. Schneider.

  • Cloud Dough

8 parts flour
1 part baby oil

Mix ingredients well by hand. This mixture is soft yet holds its shape like wet sand. Put it in tubs or a water table and allow children to shape it with their hands.

  • Crossing the midline

Help children learn the skill of making movements that go from one side of the body to the other, known as “crossing the midline.” This skill is necessary for a child to learn more complex tasks such as throwing a ball or passing an object from one hand to another. This concept is also important for fine motor development.

Here is an activity to encourage children to cross the midline: Figure “8” Hand out scarves or streamers and ask the children to make a large “8” in front of their bodies. Have children switch hands. Try making other shapes, letters and numbers with the streamer. Turn on the music and have a streamer parade!

  • Freeze Dance

This is a fun indoor activity for children and adults. You will need a way to play music that you can turn on and off.

  • Turn on the music and have the children move to the rhythm.
  • Make sure each child has enough room to avoid collision.
  • Turn the music off and ask the children to “freeze.”
  • Resume playing music and give the command “dance.”
  • Repeat.

Try different kinds of music. Choose a theme such as ethnic music, holiday music, classical music or folk music. Try handing out ribbons and streamers for chil­dren to wave as they move about to the music.

  • Fun ideas to build skills and knowledge for disaster preparedness
  • Plan a field trip to the fire station or have your local fire fighters visit your program.
  • Provide for dress up and dramatic play with costumes for fire fighters, first responders and emergency workers.
  • Develop a science theme with books and activities about earthquakes, tornados, floods, blizzards etc.
  • Play games like follow-the-leader so that children can learn to move together in an orderly way.
  • Play “turtle” and have children pretend to be turtles by crouching down, covering their heads and holding still.
  • Play “lizards under rocks” and have children pretend to be lizards seeking shelter under a sturdy table.
  • Jump the River!
  • Arrange jump ropes, hoops or tapelines in a large indoor or outdoor space
  • Explain to the children that they are taking a walk in the woods and may need to cross a stream or river. Ask children to walk throughout the space and when they come to a river (rope, hoop, or tape line on floor) they need to jump over the river without getting their feet wet.
  • To assist children in learning the fundamentals of jumping, teachers should initially ask children to takeoff on two feet and to swing their arms forward when they jump.
  • When landing, children should land on two feet spreading their feet about shoulder width apart so they have a wide base of support when they land. After landing children should proceed to, and jump over, the next river.
  • Give children plenty of time to move throughout the space and jump over all the rivers.
  • For safety reasons, suggest that children not get closer than two giant steps from each other, especially when they are swinging their arms to take off and when landing.

Adapted from and used by permission of PE Central “the premier web site for physical education teachers.” For more ideas, visit the website at

  • Laughter is Healthy!

A good sense of humor can be learned and nurtured. When children laugh they connect with others, enjoy better mental and physical health and can cope better with difficult situations.

  • Babies laugh at funny faces, physical stimuli like tickling and blowing bubbles, and the unexpected like playing peek-a-boo or putting a diaper on your head.
  • Toddlers like physical humor such as clothes that are too big or falling down. As they build their vocabularies they enjoy rhymes, non-sense words, and songs with funny actions.
  • Preschoolers find humor when something is strange, like a chicken that says “moo”. They are learning to appreciate jokes and a humorous use of words. Preschoolers also start delighting in bathroom humor as they master the developmental milestone of toilet use. Create an environment in your program that is rich with humor. Choose books, pictures, songs, activities and toys that are funny. So why do birds fly south for the winter? Because it’s too far to walk!

For more information on Humor and Young Children: Kidshealth:

  • Let’s Drive!

Materials Needed: ball of yarn, duct tape, cardboard boxes, music in a large indoor or outdoor space, create a “road” by stringing yarn along the floor using duct tape at points to hold it down. Make straight lines, zigzags, curves, right turns and left turns. Place cardboard boxes along the route to act as parking spaces. Have the children walk along the line while pretending to drive. When a child comes to a box, he should “park” by stepping into the box. Variations include: walking backwards, hopping, marching and “driving” to music (turn on the radio!)

  • Music time

Incorporating music into your day is enjoyable for young children and for staff. Music improves rhythm and coordination and helps children learn new words. You can plan to have “music time” each day, but you can also add music and songs to other activities such as hand washing and clean up time.

Try this musical activity:

Instrument Parade Give the children instruments such as drums, shakers, and tambourines. Sing or play a recording of a song as you lead them around the facility. Allow each child to enjoy the music in their own way and at their own time. After the parade, collect the instruments for the next time.

Adapted from Active Learning for Twos, 1998, by Debby Cryer, Thelma Harms, and Beth Bourland

  • Nature’s Play Dough

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
beet, spinach and/or carrot juice

Mix flour, salt and oil, and slowly add the water. Cook over medium heat, stirring until dough becomes stiff. Turn out onto wax paper and let cool. Knead the dough with your hands until of proper consistency. Use as is, or divide into balls and add a few drops of the vegetable juices to make green, pink, and orange. Place in plastic bag or airtight container when cooled.

  • Neighborhood Walks

Teach the children in your program new skills, show them new sights and increase the amount of time they are active by taking walks in your neighborhood. Here are some ideas to make your walks safe and enjoyable:

  • Use a “walking rope” with handles or loops for children to grasp. This keeps the children orderly and together. Walking ropes can be homemade or purchased at early education supply companies.
  • Dress children in matching t-shirts for walking trips. Provide matching adult-sized shirts for teachers so the children can easily recognize them.
  • Assign each child a buddy.
  • Assign each teacher or assistant a few children to supervise.
  • Visit interesting places in your neighborhood like the fire station, post office or library.
  • Avoid walking at rush hour and take routes with fewer cars.
  • Work to improve pedestrian safety in your community.

For information on creating walkable communities: Safe routes to School California, CDHS, EPIC or Kids walk to School, CDC

  • Play a follow the leader game

When the leader calls “green light” the children go, and when the leader calls “red light” they stop. Let children take turns being the leader.

  • Play Housekeeping Station

Set up a housekeeping station with child size cleaning tools and equipment such as brooms, push brooms, whisk brooms, rakes, mops, dustpans, dust cloths, buckets and brushes. You can purchase these items from an early education supply company or put them on a “wish list” for your community. Dramatic play with cleaning tools can be an indoor or outdoor activity that makes cleaning fun. Through role-play children develop self-esteem and competency while learning important daily living skills. This activity will help children learn to pitch-in to take care of their environment and develop responsibility.

Children of all ages and abilities can learn the health and safety principles of cleaning such as:

  • prevention of slips and falls by sweeping sand and wiping up spills
  • preventing the spread of germs
  • reducing asthma triggers such as dust
  • cleaning up crumbs, standing water and garden debris to prevent pest infestation
  • Play the “Can You?” Game

Teach the children in your care to pay attention and follow instructions by playing this simple game: Can you reach high to the sky? Can you touch your nose? Can you touch your toes? Can you sit down? Can you clap your hands? Can you rub your tummy? Can you stand up and turn around? Can you wiggle all over? Can you hide your eyes? Can you cover your ears? Can you melt into a tiny puddle and be very, very quiet? This sequence can be calming and be a good transition to a quiet activity or story time.

Adapted from Follow Me Too, 1993, by Marianne Torbert and Lynne Schneider.

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

You can help your program to be earth-friendly by reusing household materials for arts and crafts projects. However, be careful that the materials you reuse are safe for children.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Avoid containers that held harmful chemicals, household cleaners or detergents.
  • Choking hazards like buttons, corks, and bottle tops should only be used by children ages 3 and up with adult supervision.
  • Reuse fabric, magazines and newspapers that are clean and free of mold and dust.
  • Do not reuse metal cans or other items that have sharp edges.
  • Reuse paper towel tubes and gift-wrap tubes. Do not reuse toilet paper tubes since they can be contaminated with germs from the bathroom.
  • Foam egg cartons must be cleaned and sanitized prior to use. Cardboard egg cartons cannot be properly cleaned and sanitized so they should not be reused.
  • Plastic and foam produce containers should be washed with soap and water. Do not reuse meat and poultry trays.
  • Shadow Tag

The long days of summer are a great time to teach children the game of Shadow Tag.

Schedule this activity for later in the afternoon when shadows are the longest. Introduce the game by discussing how shadows occur. Encourage children to pay attention to how their shadows change throughout the day and how on a cloudy or foggy day they may not see them at all.  The goal of the game is to step on the shadows of other children thereby “tagging” them. The physical skills of traveling, changing directions and dodging are used. Teachers and caregivers can join in the fun too!  Children love it when adults play along with them and everyone benefits from exercise.

  • Sidewalk Chalk

1 cup plaster of paris
1⁄2 cup cool water
2-3 teaspoons dry Tempera Paint

Combine plaster of paris, water and tempera paint in a mixing bowl. Pour mixture into candy molds and let dry completely. Pop chalk out of molds, and you are ready to draw!

  • Tasty, Fresh and Fun!

Make snack time more fun by studying edible plants! Combining science and snack time will show children how to look more closely at what they eat and encourage them to eat healthy foods. Most children are interested to know that much of our food comes from seeds, fruits, flowers, leaves, stems and roots. Use the study of plants as a way to introduce new foods and to teach about how different foods grow.


Invite children to experience fresh peas in the pod. Discuss how the peas we eat are actually seeds. Talk about how a seed can start a new plant. Show pictures of how this happens. Let the children remove the peas from the pod. Later, at snack time, serve fresh peas. Consider planting some peas in a garden box or in pots at your site.

  • Teach children these rhymes

Stop, look and listen
Before you cross the street
First use your eyes,
Then use your ears,
Before you use your feet

Adapted from Bananas Handout,
Red light, Green Light, 1996, Oakland CA

The red is on top
The green is below
The red means stop
The green means go
The yellow is in between
And it means no crossing

  • Throw Hard!

In a large indoor open space such as a gym or a large open outdoor space, ask children to pick up a bean­bag and place it in the hand they are going to use to throw (this should be the same hand they write with). “Bend your elbow up and hold the beanbag behind your head, step forward with the opposite foot, and throw the beanbag as hard as you can.” If inside, children should be directed to throw hard at the wall. If outside, ask that they throw as far (or hard) as they can into the open field. Remember to stress the cues “throw hard” and “step with the opposite foot.” The throwing skills of young children will vary greatly. Some children may want to get close to the wall while others will need the challenge of being farther away. While this activity seems very simple it is an important first step activity for young children learning how to throw.

Used by permission of PE Central (, “the premier Web site for physical education teachers.”

  • Tidy Up!

Place several boxes with small objects such as balls, rings, beanbags, blocks on the corners of a large square rug or grassy area. Mark the outside of each box with the word and picture of the type of object that belongs in that box. Next, spread all of the objects on the ground.

Now, let’s move:

  • Signal to begin by clapping, whistling or playing music.
  • Have the children walk and pick up one piece of equip­ment at a time and place it in the correct container.
  • Continue until all of the objects have been returned to the correct boxes.
  • When the objects are all returned to the correct boxes, everybody wins!

Adapted from SportFun, Copyright 2001, Human Kinetics Publishing, Inc.

  • Traffic safety games and rhymes

All children need to learn about traffic safety. Start with simple lessons about how cars move fast, that drivers cannot always see small children, and that the street is off limits, unless children are with an adult. For young children, games and rhymes will teach important traffic safety lessons.

  • TV-Turnoff Week: April 21-27, 2008

Join millions of children, parents, teachers, health advocates, and other community members by celebrating TV-Turnoff Week. People all over the world have participated in TV-Turnoff Week since it began in 1995. Here are some ideas for what to do instead of watching TV: Read a book, play a board game, go to the park, play sports, do a craft, have relay races, garden, cook, tell jokes, play musical instruments, sing, do puzzles, play catch, walk the dog, bake cookies, share them with a neighbor, arrange flowers for your table,visit a friend, enjoy a family meal, organize a pot luck, tell stories, write a letter, finger paint, go to the library, look at old family photos, go to the farmer’s market, make paper airplanes, star gaze, string beads, have a costume party or make a fort. Add your own ideas to this list and have fun! For more information: Center for Screentime Awareness at

  • Wet Sponge Toss

Here is a water activity for a hot day that conserves water. Put a large sponge in a large bowl of water. Place another large bowl a few steps away. Ask a child to toss the wet sponge into the empty bowl (this may take several tries.) After the sponge lands in the empty bowl, have the child squeeze out the water into the new bowl. Repeat until all of the water from the first bowl has been transferred to the second bowl. Refill and replace the water with clean water as needed. Use the remaining dirty water to water plants.

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