Knowing what your child will be doing all day at the daycare centre or home is important for a number of reasons. First, it helps you select the type of care that will best suit your child's temperament and abilities; and second, it gives you peace of mind knowing your child will be developing a strong mind, body and spirit, rather than simply loafing around all day.
A good program, or list of activities the children will be involved in on a daily basis should include:
* active play that allows the children freedom to move about, to exercise
* quiet activities such as story time, working on puzzles, viewing a quality television program and looking at books that give children a break from the hustle and bustle of life in the daycare
* outdoor play that gives children the fresh air and sunshine they need for their health, while at the same time helping them develop their large muscles
* and indoor play, like music, arts and crafts or cooking.
These activities should be combined with the list below in order for a child to grow in all areas of his or her development.
Child Initiated Activities
Free play, where a child is allowed to play with whatever and whomever he or she chooses, is an example of a child-initiated activity. Others might include allowing a child to choose between a few activities set up in the playroom, or simply letting the children pick what they would like to do on certain occasions. This encourages independence and fosters decision-making.
Caregiver Initiated Activities
Certain activities must be planned and carried out by the caregiver. These might include more difficult art activities, music, field trips, meal preparation, etc.
It is important for children to learn to get along with other children. Large group activities are the perfect setting for social development as they allow children to interact with their peers, to share stories, ideas, happy and sad thoughts.
Small Group or Individual Activities
To build solid, trusting relationships children need individual attention or time in small group settings. They also need time to play by themselves. Self-concept is an important part of a child's overall development.
Nap and/or Rest Time
Young children need a time period each day of around 1-2 hours so they can nap or rest. Children who are not nappers should be allowed to play quietly after they have rested for at least 1/2 hour.
A well thought out program gives children the security of daily routine - something by which they can set their internal clock. In fact, some children cannot function unless everything is done at the same time, in precisely the same way every day. Centre or home programs should be posted on a weekly or monthly basis to give parents an opportunity to see what their child will be doing on any given day, or to give the provider/centre additional ideas or feedback, for future scheduling.
If a parent has their child in a home where there is no program, he or she should spend time visiting the home to see if the children are learning through play or if they are aimlessly drifting about. If the latter is the case, a parent must discuss the situation with the caregiver and perhaps help her to set up a program. A child will learn little in a home where he or she is left to his or her own devises day in and day out. By the same token a program that allows little time for child-initiated activities or free play may be too stressful.