Learning and play ideas

Here are some ideas that you might like to try with your child, linked to the 7 areas of learning and development.

Talking and Listening

  • Let your child look at their face in the mirror and make a happy face, then a sad face, or what about a really grumpy face! Make as many faces as you can, and talk about how they might be feeling with each expression. Have some paper and crayons and encourage them to draw how they feel today.
  • Sort objects into colours or patterns e.g. let them help you sort the washing, pairing socks
  • Look for shapes or patterns in nature. What are your child’s favourite colours and why?
  • Encourage your child to think of rhyming words and to use rhyme in everyday activities, for example at bath time say “Splish splash splosh what are we going to wash?”
  • Have fun changing words in favourite rhymes. Make up silly songs!
  • Talk about how animals are different.
  • Look at pictures or storybooks that cover the topic of feelings, for example a little child is crying because they may have been hurt or treated unkindly by another child. What can we do to help them to feel better? Talk about the importance of being kind and gentle with others. Consider the consequences of their words and actions for themselves and others.
  • Introduce ‘teeth’ vocabulary such as tooth, gum, plaque, decay. Talk about tooth friendly snacks.
  • Talk about the importance of washing hands even if they don’t look dirty. Tell them that germs are invisible and using soap on our hands is the only way to get rid of them effectively.
  • Talk to your child at home about how some objects can be dangerous and should only be handled by adults. Can they think of any examples?
  • Use the traffic light colour system to label dangers, red for danger, yellow not sure, and green for safe. Stress the need for children to follow simple safety rules involving unsafe objects, for example not touching plugs and in the kitchen, “we never touch the kettle”, or “we never play with matches”.


Making and Baking

  • Buy or make your own bubble solution (water and washing up liquid), blow bubbles and talk about what colours you see. Investigate the best way to make big bubbles e.g. using funnels, yogurt pots with holes in the bottom.
  • To make fruit and vegetables attractive and fun to eat, make a fruit or veg kebab. Slice or chop up colourful fruit pieces then have your child name them and then place each piece onto the kebab stick. You could make it harder by getting them to follow a particular colour sequence. And at the end count how many you have put on.
  • Cut out pictures of food from magazines and using glue make a colourful collage of healthy food and not so healthy food
  • Make apple smiles using apple wedges for lips and diced pieces of cheese for the teeth. Make sure they have a go at counting each tooth. Put a raisin in for a decaying tooth and explain that too many sweet things can rot the teeth if they are not cleaned well.
  • Paint nursery rhyme characters or make puppets using wooden spoons and old socks
  • Make homemade instruments e.g. music shakers made out of empty bottles filled with dried pasta, rice, glitter, sequins etc. Don’t forget to secure the lid with plenty of tape.
  • Use cardboard boxes or construction bricks to build a wall for Humpty Dumpty to climb (a soft toy works well also)
  • Make spider web cakes with icing and add a drop of food colouring in the middle using a cocktail stick to make a web pattern
  • Children love moulding with play dough and it is surprisingly easy to make. All you need is 2 cups of plain flour, 1 cup of salt, 2 tbsp vegetable oil, 2 cups of water, 2 tsp cream of tartar, food colouring of your choice. Mix with a wooden spoon while heating in a saucepan (careful) until it forms a dough. Tip onto a floured surface. Knead well!


Out and About

  • Go and explore in the garden or park and see what you can find, draw what you find and maybe take pictures. Make a scrap book/diary of your findings.
  • Listen to the sounds of animals and insects going about their everyday tasks. Can you guess what they are? What can you see and can you copy the sounds they make?
  • Visit your local library to look for non-fiction or fiction books
  • Remember it is free to visit most museums. Oxford University Museum of Natural History has a wonderful collection of dinosaur and animal exhibits and offers family friendly activities.


Get Active

  • Play ‘head and shoulders knees and toes’. Gradually increase the speed as you play it again and again until you are all puffed out! Then encourage your child to notice the changes in their bodies after exercise, such as their heart beating faster, feeling hot or feeling thirsty.
  • Treasure hunts around the house to find items of different shapes or colour to put into different piles


Taking Turns

Taking turns in play is an excellent way of developing your child’s understanding of conversation. Turn taking games you can play at home with your child include:

  • Roll a ball to each other
  • Take turns to cuddle a teddy
  • Take turns to blow bubbles
  • Take turns to turn the pages in a book when you read a story
  • Build a tower, taking turns to add the bricks
  • Use pairs of noisemakers (shakers, tambourines, drums). Take turns making sounds. Can you and your child continue taking turns to make a sequence of sounds?
  • Play with puppets, taking turns to say something

Use “my turn” and “your turn” repetitively and consistently as you take a turn. You can also use a gesture such as touching your chest.