Learning and fun – ideas for home activities

Most of us are finding ourselves at home with our children a lot more than usual, looking for ways to keep them entertained and mentally stimulated.

Katie, one of the Just Chill Baby Sleep team and also an Assistant Head Teacher and mum to two young boys, has shared some ideas to keep children entertained at home, which are both easy to do and educational at the same time! You can vary them to work for young toddlers and older children too.

Play Themes

Most of us will have some classic children’s stories in the house that our kids know and love – you can use those as a theme for play.

You can set this up the evening before so when the children first see it in the morning they are engaged and ready for fun. The theme can carry on through the morning and maybe even across the whole day. Here are some that have been enjoyed by our family:

The Tiger Who Came To Tea – Judith Kerr

This book is a firm family favourite – my toddler loves it! I set up the table with a tiger toy, some play food and a tea set and told him that the tiger was going to visit us.

We spent the morning taking it in turns to knock on the door and come in as the tiger then eating all the food up.

He had so much fun whilst also supporting his language development and ability to re-tell stories.

You could also change the educational focus to maths one day, by counting out how much food he ate or the size of the different foods.

We’re Going On A Bear Hunt – Michael Rosen

This is a fantastic book to use outside, in the garden or on a walk, to help your little one burn off some excess energy, You can role play the story together while walking around your garden and enjoying the adventures of mud, grass and the blizzard. When you come inside you can continue the play by using Duplo or other construction toys to build the house or the bear’s cave.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle

There are so many activities that we enjoy doing, using this book as a theme.

We use playdough to create all of the foods which the caterpillar ate his way through, make sock puppet caterpillars and use paints to create a butterfly.

You can build language skills and have discussions based on the patterns and colours you are using, as well as start to learn the days of the week.

Fairy Tales

Classic fairy tales such as Goldilocks & the Three Bears, Jack & the Beanstalk, The Three Billy Goats Gruff and The Three Little Pigs are all excellent to create play themes for. We enjoy role playing the stories, using empty boxes from around the house to make different houses and scenes and creating the characters from playdough.

Making Playdough Together

Making playdough together, in fact any cooking, is a great way to incorporate maths key skills into an activity. Count out loud the number of teaspoons or tablespoons of ingredients and read together the numbers on the measuring jug.

This is my homemade no cooking required recipe to make your own playdough, that you can then use in different activities:

  • 8 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp table salt
  • 60ml warm water
  • food colouring (optional)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil 

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until they come together. Knead together for a few minutes to form a smooth, pliable dough. If you want a more intense colour you can work in a few extra drops of food colouring. Keep the playdough in an airtight container in the fridge and it will last up to 10 days.

You can use the playdough to make characters from books, play food and you can even use it to have your own playdough disco!  It’s an exciting activity to not only burn off excess energy but by using hand and finger exercises is also designed to help develop fine muscle control, hand-eye coordination and ultimately support children’s early handwriting skills.

Grab yourself a handful of the playdough, switch on your favourite tunes and whilst moving to the music ask your child to try the following moves:

Smack it: Using the palm of your hands, flatten the dough into a pancake shape. 

Squeeze it: With the dough in one hand squeeze hard.     

Roll it: Using flat palms roll the dough between both hands forming a sausage shape.

Ball it: Using both hands, roll the dough into a ball shape.   

Dive in: In turn, plunge each individual finger into a ball of dough.

Ideas To Help Early Writing Skills

Bubble writing: Have some leftover bubble wrap lying around? Use it with some felt tipped pens to create large scale pictures together.

Shaving foam: Squeeze some shaving foam into a large container and let your child create some patterns and shapes with their fingers, paintbrushes or even wooden spoons and kitchen utensils.

Cornflour: Mix together some cornflour and water and place on a tray. Your child will love to use their hands and fingers to learn to write their name or to draw a picture in this slime like mixture!

Water and paint brushes: If the weather is dry take them into the garden and give them some buckets filled with water and large paint brushes. They will spend ages ‘painting’ the fence or patio for you. This is a great way for them to develop their gross motor movements.

Edible finger paints: Painting with a little one can be stressful and worrying if they put their fingers in their mouth. Making edible paints means that you still get the experience of painting without the worry. Simply mix together some cornflour and water to create a thick paste and add a few drops of food colouring.

Rotating Toys

It is also a good idea to get in the habit of rotating toys. This is where you put some toys away and after a period of time swap them over with other toys that you might have in the house. This can help when children get bored with their toys as well as giving some older toys a new lease of life! My little boy loves it when we go upstairs into the cupboard and choose a ‘new’ toy to play with.

We hope you and your children enjoy these ideas!

Useful Websites

What to expect, when? Guidance for your child’s learning and development in the early years foundation stage. https://www.foundationyears.org.uk/files/2015/03/4Children_ParentsGuide_2015_WEB.pdf

Talking tips for parents from The Communication Trust https://www.thecommunicationtrust.org.uk/media/262297/npdw_toptips_ey.pdf

Twinkl, Scholastic  and Teacher’s Pet  are resource websites which many teachers use. There are offering free home learning packs that parents can download.                                                                    https://www.twinkl.co.uk/                                                                                                    https://tpet.co.uk/                                                         https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html

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