Nap time's over: now what?
October 10, 2009 10:42 AM   Subscribe

How to occupy 15 non-english-speaking preschoolers/kindergarteners for four hours a day without toys, games, books, or crafts supplies?

I volunteered to teach English to students in Africa but classes are now over and I have three weeks left. I've been assigned to a daycare center where I'm only required to play with the kids.

There are plenty of games that require no supplies, and also songs, but there is the language barrier to consider.
We have paper and drinking straws and I've got scissors on my pocket knife and that's about it. Simple origami comes to mind. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!
posted by levijk to Education (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
1. Try "duck duck goose" -- a game kids of this age love in the U.S. -- using 2 animal names in their language instead of "duck" and "goose."
2. Try musical chairs (or marked spots on the ground) with you closing your eyes and singing for the music.
3. Kids of this age love to pretend to be animals. Get them in a circle, and one at at time gets into the center and pretends to be some animal; the rest get to scream out what it is. Go one by one.
4. If you can get someone to give you some pencils, pens or crayons, try that game where you fold a paper in thirds; pair up the kids and have them draw a head, body and feet on each third of the paper without looking at the other parts, until you open it up and see how silly it looks (can be people, animal or fantastic creature).
5. In a circle, have one child make a sound; the next imitates that sound and adds a second; the third imitates the previous two and adds a third; etc. Sounds can be oral, clapping, slapping the body, silly noises, etc.
Good luck!
posted by keener_sounds at 11:01 AM on October 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Learning songs in other languages is fun.

What about simple tag games (this one comes to mind) or relay races? You could have them pass an object off to their next team member, or they could have to complete a task (spin around three times) before their next team member could go.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 11:01 AM on October 10, 2009

Why don't you try to bridge the communication gap?
posted by Max Power at 11:17 AM on October 10, 2009

All great suggestions. Bridge the language gap by teaching nouns of objects familiar to them in English or French. That would be great prep for the games.

Also important for kids that age is breaking time down into short segments: no activity should last longer than 10 or 15 minutes. (...same appears true for people of all ages).

Teach five or so nouns or feeling words ('happy,' 'sad') for game. Give them game time. Follow game time with recess or free play. Then give them rest/nap time. Repeat. Length of rest/naptime should be as long as you need towards the end of your shift. With all that running around the kids will tire easily.

Then begin next day with review of five words of previous day and add a few more. Soon they will see the schedule and appreciate the structure you've laid out. Odds are you are tired too and you should not feel guilty making the days easy for you too.
posted by vincele at 11:32 AM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Teach them English nursery rhymeS and songs like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and eensy weensy spider.
posted by tamitang at 11:40 AM on October 10, 2009

I would try some improv warm-up games, and, actually, drinking games (with water instead of alcohol, obviously). I used to be a camp counselor and both of these went over really well; the kids would get SUPER into flip-cup.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:53 AM on October 10, 2009

For games, if you can get a rope or two from someone then jump rope with the various rhymes can be an option. Hopscotch is another game that does not require much equipment to play.

Also, do you have any rice? If so, you can make rice glue to use, and increase the options for what you can do with the paper you have. It only takes a cup of rice, but of course you only want to do this if you will not be perceived as wasting food.


* 1 cup rice
* 3-4 (maybe more) cups water

{makes 2 cups of glue}

1. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
2. Lower the temperature and simmer for 45 minutes.
3. Notice that it should look a bit like oatmeal - if it still looks rice-like, add more water and keep cooking.
4. When it looks like oatmeal, remove it from the heat and let it cool.
5. Put it through a sieve to remove the larger pieces, or put in a blender (you might need a little bit more water).
6. Store in a jar (in the refrigerator, if possible).
posted by gudrun at 12:17 PM on October 10, 2009

Make balls out of the paper and have them blow them around with straws. THEY LOVE THIS! SO! MUCH!
posted by kathrineg at 12:18 PM on October 10, 2009

Shaker toys? Small rocks in containers for shakers?
posted by tilde at 1:55 PM on October 10, 2009

Make Paper Helicopters. You don't need a paper clip; I never used one.
posted by CathyG at 8:18 PM on October 10, 2009

I usd to be a play worker and would have to regularly entertain large groups of kids of mixed ages. We would play co-operative games (see also camp games. Some of these work better with older kids but you should find some thing suitable for younger ones too.

The one game everyone should know is 'Dead Lions' (aka Dead Fish, Dead Frogs etc). Its really simple and really useful. You shout out Dead Lions! and everybody drops to the floor and makes out like a dead lion (i.e. lies very still and makes no noise). You then walk in among everybody trying to spot people failing the brief. If you catc someone they get to go sit out on the sidelines while the other carry on. The vital point once you have started out, you can shout out Dead Lion! at any time, regardless of what else you are doing, even if you are in the middle of another game. You should be able to figure out why this is such a great game.
posted by tallus at 10:07 PM on October 10, 2009

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