Child care games, as well as, "play" is very valuable in child care. Play is children's "work." Parents may worry that learning only happens with "seat work" style lessons. You can reassure them that child care games and play are an important part of their child's day and that your job is to guide children's learning through play. Play is not only an outlet for fun and physical activity, but also as a learning tool. Children learn from play – motor skills, grouping and classifying objects, understanding order of events, concepts such as hard and soft, problem solving, making sense of the world around them, and about the world in new ways, such as through pretending to be someone else. Playing with others helps children learn language skills and cooperation, as well.
There are different types of child care games or play – all of which are important. For example, there is free play, where you might lead a child to the block area and allow him/her to choose the things that are meaningful and interesting to do to them. You watch the child and keep him/her from throwing blocks, but essentially allow him/her the freedom to choose what he/she wants to do.
There is directed play, where you choose the activity and do it with the children. For example, you might spread paper on the floor giving each child a mound of shaving cream and direct them to "finger paint" with it. You join in, encouraging them to touch the cream and move it around; asking them how it feels, etc.
There is also cooperative play amongst the children. Cooperative child care games should do just that – encourage cooperation and not focus on winning or losing, or excluding anyone. For example, when playing musical chairs, don't exclude children, instead, have the children problem solve, by letting them sit on each others' laps to be sure everyone has a seat each time a chair is removed (help them do this as not to hurt each other). You can do a similar activity called "sharks in water." Outline a large square on the floor with either masking tape or chalk. This area is the safe island and the area surrounding the square is the ocean. When the music begins children "swim" around the island. The stopping of the music indicates that sharks are coming and all player must retreat to the safety of the island. With each round the lines are altered making the island smaller and smaller. Players must work together to make sure everyone has a safe place to get away from the sharks.
Or, try playing "dragon tail." Players form one long line or train by holding onto the waist of the child in front of them. The child in the front becomes the dragon head. The child in the rear is the dragon tail and a colorful scarf is attached into a belt loop. The "head" is to try to catch the scarf flapping behind the "tail". All of the other players, members of the "body", are compelled to work together with both ends and both the goal of the head and the tail at that same time. The main objective thoughout is to keep the dragon intact with no players letting go. This game is best for older children and requires a large area.
You can also do child care games in pairs such as "mirror, mirror." In this game one partner is chosen to initiate movements the others are to try to mimic as quickly as possible so that it appears they are a mirror image of the partner. You can also do this in larger groups with one leader initiating the movements and all the children trying to mimic that leader.
For more cooperation, and motor skills, try the "parachute ball bounce." You can use a parachute or large sheet for this game. Players hold and stretch the edges of the parachute. A ball is placed in the center. All players gently tugging up and down to cause the ball to bounce. Players can see how long they can keep the ball going without it bouncing off the surface. More balls can be added for additional challenge and fun.
Whatever child care games you play, keep it fun and keep children learning through their "work" – play. For more information on importance of play, see Extension online courses, such as The Value of Play and Why Play?