As a classroom teacher for many years, I have learned to always have a plan for my day. In fact, teachers know that if you don’t plan ahead, the result will be chaos. The same goes for the home. If you are a parent will little ones underfoot, you need structure and a system or else your day will be disorganized, unproductive and stressful for everyone.
One way educators organize activities in the classroom is by using “centers” for the children, where they to travel from one work station to another, reviewing different concepts and skills at each one. This way the kids are actively engaged without the teacher talking all the time, and it helps keep them focused and on task. At home, you can use the same strategy by creating your own work stations or centers to engage your kids while you do housework, prepare meals, or be at your computer if you happen to work from home.
Of course, using centers in your home may not start off smoothly as your children need to get the hang of it and understand their new routine. Once they do, however, the household will be much calmer, children will be better stimulated and behave better, and Mommy and Daddy may even find themselves with the time for self-enrichment…or chatting on Twitter with friends, if we’re being honest here!
MAKE A SCHEDULE
Consistency is key, so make sure the kids are slated to work on their centers at around the same time every day. Let them choose how long to spend at each work station. I find children, like adults, are much happier when they have a few choices available. In order to help them keep track of their schedules, start the kids off on a creative note by building their own clocks. Use small paper plates and then add straws, paperclips, or popsicle sticks for the hour and minute hands.
SET ASIDE THE SPACE
Pick a place where you will be hosting your work stations or centers: the kitchen or dining room table, the kids’ rooms, the den… It all depends on the size and versatility of your home space. Then consider how many work stations you can accommodate comfortably and decide which will best serve the following purposes.
ARTS & CRAFTS CENTER
Arts and Crafts activities enable children to unleash their inner Picasso. At that center you can have empty bottles, cans, cotton balls, markers, crayons, glue, feathers, beads, yarn and the list goes on. You can purchase these items at the craft store or search your local dollar store (or junk drawer!) if you’re on a budget. The children can make wind chimes, soda bottle terrariums and even picture frames for any occasion. Your kids will be amazed at all the beautiful things they can create with a little encouragement from you and the freedom to explore.
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USE BASIC MATH SKILLS WITH MUSICAL CHAIRS
Have them play musical chairs with their siblings. Except instead of just playing musical chairs, in reality they will be practising their math skills. As you add or take away chairs, make sure the kids are adding and subtracting in their heads or out loud. Physical exertion helps kids with their thought processes, so this is definitely a fun learning game.
LETTER OR DEFINITION MATCHING GAME
For the younger children, you can use uppercase and lowercase letter magnets on the fridge door and have them match them appropriately. They can also begin building simple words such as Cat, Rat, Sat, Mat, focusing on word families. For older children, you can give them vocabulary words on note cards and the corresponding definitions on a separate set of cards. The children can match the word to the definition and through this activity expand their vocabulary.
There are plenty of other center activities that you can set up for your kids at home. When in doubt, ask your child’s teacher how you can carry over what they are learning in school to a fun center activity at home. The children are playing, still learning, and moms are rewarded with a little time to themselves. Overall, making centers a part of your home routine will have everyone happy, stimulated, and involved as a family!