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Play and Learning at Home

Our partnership with parents doesn’t stop at the nursery doors. Our Play and Learning at Home offers parents lots of ideas, advice and suggestions for activities to try at home.








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Developmental Activities for 0-3 Months
Age Group: Infant
Topics: At Home, Out and About
Developmental Activities for 0-3 Months
Age Group: Infant
Topics: At Home, Out and About
You will need:

Directions:

Use Sensory Toys/Objects

Dangle objects for your baby to touch, eg hang toys over the cot or changing table, or place little one under the play gym. This encourages their reach.

Move objects in front of them such as a toy or rattle, or blow bubbles. Try objects that make a noise, move, are colourful or are black and white. This helps develop their eye movement and strength.

Sing Songs or lullabies and nursery rhymes

Any actions songs and nursery rhymes are fine. Show them the actions, eg clap their hands, clap their feet, bicycle their legs. Encourage them to look and play with their hands and feet.

Do the actions yourself and others such as wiggling fingers, pulling funny faces, clicking fingers and waving. This encourages body awareness.

With your baby on their back, hold each hand in yours and cross their hands in front of their body (so they're hugging themselves) and then uncross their hands. Repeat several times and do the same with their legs. This is important for developing coordination.

Tip:


Free Movement Activities
Age Group: Infant
Topics: At Home, Out and About
Free Movement Activities
Age Group: Infant
Topics: At Home, Out and About
You will need:

Directions:

Babies need daily opportunities to move freely on their tummies in a variety of stimulating, safe spaces without constraints such as clothing, or straps in baby chairs.

Floor Time

Put your baby on the floor on different surfaces and materials, eg blankets, changing mat, and in different positions, eg, front, back and each side. This will encourage free movement and balance.

Tummy Time

- Let your baby have lots of tummy time from as early as possible - little and often is best. This will encourage neck and head control.

- Lie little one on your chest while sitting in a reclined position or lying down.

- Get down on the floor with your baby. This will help their balance, as they sense the ground beneath them.

- Encourage interaction through talking, singing and shaking toys.

- Incorporate tummy time into nappy changes.

- Interact with your baby in lots of different ways - talking about what you're doing and about what they're doing, singing and reading. This will encourage listening and moving.

- Spend time stroking their hands and feet using different soft items such as feathers, ribbons and cuddly toys, and hard items such as plastic toys. This is good for sensory stimulation.

- Carry your child in different positions - in arms, on shoulder, face down on forearm. This helps with their neck and head control.

Experience the Outdoors

Take your baby outside for a walk in a pram or place on a rug/blanket, or grass if dry, under a tree to watch the leaves. This will stimulate their senses.

Tip:


Hopscotch
Age Group: Preschool
Topics: At Home, Out and About
Hopscotch
Age Group: Preschool
Topics: At Home, Out and About
You will need:

Bean bag

Chalk

Directions:

Draw your basic hopscotch grid, then the first player throws a marker, such as a bean bag, into box 1.

The player hops on one foot (or alternating feet) all the to the last box and back, stopping to pick up the marker on the way.

Players take turns trying to throw in each box in order (1, 2, 3, etc.).

A simpler way to play is to follow the instructions above, but only to hop to the first square, pick up the marker, and return.

This game encourages hand/eye coordination and balance.

Tip:

Why not ask your child to draw out the hopscotch board and to write the numbers, supporting their mathematical graphics.


Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud
Age Groups: Infant, Preschool, Toddler
Topics: At Home, Out and About
Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud
Age Groups: Infant, Preschool, Toddler
Topics: At Home, Out and About
You will need:

Directions:

Children love to have the opportunity to experience messy play; many children love to experience getting really, really messy - even playing in the dirt. In our clean environments we now sadly worry about this. However, there is a school of thought that indicates that getting dirty is actually quite important for children and something that children are actually programmed to do for reasons of survival.

The publication “The Dirt on Dirt” by the US based National Wildlife Federation summarises the benefits of playing in the mud for developing the immune system and preventing allergies. The Forest School movement advocates that playing outdoors also decreases children’s stress levels and improves their concentration abilities.

Many nurseries have developed “Mud Kitchens” where children can play in a hands on way, get stuck in and as messy as they like. As they get absorbed in squishing, moulding and mixing, their imaginations roam free. They spontaneously make potions, mud pies and develop their own little worlds.

If you have the opportunity to have a space in your garden to make a digging area where your child can also do this they will develop their own way of playing that will help them problem solve and encourage their own creativity. If you have no garden, go for walks in green spaces and gather natural materials to bring back and make potions on the kitchen table. Blossom trees and wild flowers are starting to spring up and these can be used for “magic”!

Different ways of learning emerge as we mature but learning through our senses is not something that we entirely lose throughout our lives; who hasn’t been reminded to use oven gloves by touching a hot pan? We don’t want children to learn everything this way but experiential learning does have an important place as it helps to develop understanding and skills and gives the brain important feedback.

For more information go to:
http://www.muddyfaces.co.uk/download/Making%20a%20mud%20kitchen.pdf
http://www.nwf.org/What-We-Do/Kids-and-Nature/Why-Get-Kids-Outside/Dirt-is-Great.aspx

Tip:


Play Dough Cakes for Counting Fun
Age Groups: Infant, Toddler, Preschool
Topic: At Home
Play Dough Cakes for Counting Fun
Age Groups: Infant, Toddler, Preschool
Topic: At Home
You will need:

Play Dough
Rolling Pin
Cutters
Muffin Tins
Cellophane inserts from biscuit packets
Paper cake cases
Buttons
Birthday cake candles

Directions:

Play alongside your child making cakes with the play dough, roll into balls in your hand or use a rolling pin and cutters.
Place one paper cake case into each ‘hole’ in the tin or cellophane insert, counting out each one aloud.
Do the same when adding your play dough cakes to each paper case. It’s important that children hear this one- to- one counting with objects.
You can then make cherries with small bits of play dough or add buttons, or candles to the top of each cake, again counting each one aloud as you place it on top of the cake. When you and your child have finished, count each cake then affirm the final amount e.g. “we have made six cakes”.
You can add some stretch and challenge by helping your child work out how many cakes are needed for family members and how many will be left, or how many more are needed.

Tip:

This fun counting activity helps children acquire five important counting principles proposed by Gelman and Gallistel (1978) in meaningful ways.
1. One to one correspondence: principle Understanding that a number word is assigned to an item.
2. Stable order principle: Understanding that order of number words is always consistent. Ideally this should be the conventionally accepted sequence of number words.
3. Cardinal principle: Understanding that the final number said signifies the number in the set.
4. Abstraction principle: Understanding counting can be applied to anything.
5. Order- irrelevance principle: Understanding that items can be counted in any order so long as each item is only counted once.


Target Practice
Age Groups: Preschool, Toddler
Topics: At Home, Out and About
Target Practice
Age Groups: Preschool, Toddler
Topics: At Home, Out and About
You will need:

Chalk
Cones
Hoops
Balls
Buckets or containers of varying sizes

Directions:

Set up targets for your child using cones, hoops, buckets or chalked shapes on the floor.

Ask your child to roll, throw, or kick the ball to the target.

Move the target further away to make it harder, or move it closer to make it easier.

Make the target smaller to make it harder, or bigger to make it easier.

Ask your child if they notice how some objects are easier to throw and why they think that is. Can they throw with both hands together? Can they throw with their left and their right hands separately and at the same time?

This game encourages hand/eye coordination, gross and fine motor movements, and direction and precision throwing.

Tip:

If you haven't got ant buckets, why not draw targets on a wall with chalk or on paper which is then stuck to the wall? These can be different shapes and sizes and placed at different heights to provide higher levels of challenge.


Pour and Fill
Age Groups: Infant, Toddler, Preschool
Topics: At Home, Out and About
Pour and Fill
Age Groups: Infant, Toddler, Preschool
Topics: At Home, Out and About
You will need:

Plastic bottles - different shapes and sizes
Plastic Jugs
Plastic Funnels

Directions:

Collect up different size plastic bottles, plastic funnels and jugs for bath-time maths.
Have fun pouring water into the bottles, whilst playing talk about; Filling the bottle to the top, “Is it nearly full?”, “How many little bottles of water does it take to fill this big bottle?”, “Shall we fill it half full?”.
You can add some stretch and challenge by marking up quantities with a permanent marker pen or coloured waterproof tape. For example, marking up 250ml on a 500ml bottle, and marking up 50 ml units on a 200ml bottle.
If you have 2 different shaped bottles that hold the same amount ask your child which one he/she thinks will hold the most water. Help him/her test out to see what happens.

Tip:

Playing with water in this way helps children explore capacity and volume.
Talking with your child as they fill up bottles helps them develop understanding of mathematical terms associated with capacity and volume in ways that are meaningful.
Exploring how the volume of water stays the same regardless of the size or shape of a container is an important mathematical concept to develop. This is referred to as conservation of volume; having the ability to understand that redistributing liquid does not affect its volume. Children usually master this at around the age of seven years.
Children are likely to think that a tall narrow bottle contains more liquid than an equal amount in a short fat bottle. Through playing with water and different shaped containers that hold the same amount, children will begin to explore conservation of volume.


Writing in the Sand
Age Groups: Infant, Toddler, Preschool
Topics: At Home, Out and About
Writing in the Sand
Age Groups: Infant, Toddler, Preschool
Topics: At Home, Out and About
You will need:

Sand - or a sunny beach
A stick or index finger

Directions:

Use a stick to make marks in the sand - vertical and horizontal lines, circles and crosses are good to start with.
Encourage your child to copy you then ask him/her to make marks for you to copy.
Talk about the marks and letters you make and the movements you do to make them. “I’m starting here, then going down, then stop”. “I’m starting here then going round and round and round”. “I’m going to make M for Mummy”

Tip:

This helps your child develop skills and confidence in forming and connecting the curves, vertical, horizontal and zig-zag lines that form the bias of letter shapes.
Starting big then gradually working down to smaller develops as your child’s hand and eye co-ordination skills and manual dexterity skills mature and integrate.
As your child associates the language of the mark or letter shape with the action of forming these, he/she will be getting kinesthetic feedback which is essential for any motor action.
Kinesthesia is the knowledge of where each body part is and direction in which it is moving.
It is an important component of motor control for legible handwriting.


Writing Shopping Lists Together
Age Groups: Infant, Toddler, Preschool
Topics: Out and About, At Home
Writing Shopping Lists Together
Age Groups: Infant, Toddler, Preschool
Topics: Out and About, At Home
You will need:

A note pad
A pen or pencil

Directions:

When you sit down to write your shopping list provide your child with a shopping list note pad and pen and sit together writing your lists.
As you write talk about what you are writing down “We need more milk”. “I need some tomatoes”. Ask your child to write down what he/she thinks you need to buy.
Take your shopping lists with you when you go shopping and refer to them as you go round the supermarket. “This says I need to get some tomatoes”. “What does your list tell you to get”.
Don’t worry if your child’s marks and squiggles don’t look like words, your child will be able to recall what his or her marks mean.

Tip:

When children see adults writing they perceive that writing is important. This this creates a inspiration to be a writer and to be part of this fascinating world of writing and reading.
By sitting at your elbow as you write, your child will see how spoken words are converted to words and will imitate what you are doing. This is an important element of creating a desire to write for a purpose.
This activity will help your child develop an understanding of the instrumental function of writing and how it helps to him/her to obtain goods and services.


Create a sensory garden with your child
Age Groups: Preschool, Toddler
Topics: At Home, Out and About
Create a sensory garden with your child
Age Groups: Preschool, Toddler
Topics: At Home, Out and About
You will need:

Seeds
Plant Pots

Directions:

Spring is with us and it is the time of year to get outside and think about brightening our outside spaces. Even if you don’t have access to a garden or balcony, you can still do a lot with pot plants inside and on your window sills.

Gardening with children is a really gratifying activity. It helps children to learn about where our food comes from and the cycle of life. A sensory garden enables children to explore the properties of plants, their look, feel, texture, smell and taste.

Take a trip to the garden centre. For a child, this is a novel and colourful experience. It gives you the chance to show children a wonderful variety of plants. Talk about the differences between them, the shapes and shades of leaves, the fact that some plants are good to eat but others would taste bad and could make you ill. This teaches them to be cautious about the things they may see in the wild and to be careful about picking and eating.

Look for seed packets of herbs and spices. Good ones to choose are the many varieties of mint, parsley, oregano, basil, marjoram. Read the backs of the seed packets out to the children to get them to think about what we need to do next and what other equipment you may need to plant the seeds in. In many cases it is best to plant the seeds in pots indoors to “chit” them. This is when you start the seeds sprouting before you transfer them to bigger containers or to the garden.

A good and immediate way to show children what will happen to the seeds, is to plant cress. Place the cress seeds on damp cotton wool or paper. If you keep them in the warm and damp they quickly sprout and develop and soon the children can put the cress in their sandwiches.

Happy gardening!

Tip:


Marvellous Magnetism
Age Group: Preschool
Topic: At Home
Marvellous Magnetism
Age Group: Preschool
Topic: At Home
You will need:

A tray
Magnets
Various magnetic and non-magnetic materials
Paper to record results

Directions:

Adult Guided Activity

Provide your child with a tray of metal and non-metal objects and some magnets for experimentation and exploration.
Include some metal objects to which magnets do not stick, such as jewellery, to prompt curiosity and questions.
Create a chart with your child that lists (in words or pictures) the objects that are magnetic, and another for objects that are not magnetic.

Developing Investigation and Enquiry

Ask your child to guess if the magnet will pick the item up or not. Try it out and then record the result.

Introduce the word 'attract' as you explore if the magnet will pick up the item, "Will the magnet attract this?"


  • Ask your child to sort the items into those that are attracted and those that are not attracted to the magnet

  • Ask your child to think why some are attracted and others aren't.


Introduce the word words metal and metallic and then see what else they can find that is metallic that will attract the magnet.

Provide a range of metal objects and help them to understand that magnets stick only to objects made of materials such as nickel, iron and steel.

Further Exploration and Experimentation

Using magnets under a piece of cardboard, see what they can magically move across the cardboard.

Place paper clips on a clear plastic container and see what happens when the magnet is moved along the side.

Help them explore and discover that every magnet has a north and south pole. Help them explore that two north poles or two south poles will push away from each other and that opposite poles will attract one another.

Tip:


Maths at Home
Age Groups: Preschool, Toddler
Topics: At Home, Out and About
Maths at Home
Age Groups: Preschool, Toddler
Topics: At Home, Out and About
You will need:

Directions:

Here are some ideas that can help your child develop their mathematical skills both in the home and out and about with the family.

Number
• Counting steps/stairs as you go up – perfect for one to one matching
• Counting red cars, telephone boxes etc on the way to nursery or the shops
• Pairing up socks and shoes
• Laying the table – how many knives will we need?
• Helping peg out the washing
• Doing up their own buttons or someone elses?
• Looking at numbers around us – on house doors, registration plates, shop windows
• Helping with the shopping – we need three oranges and two lemons. How many altogether?
• Talking about the child’s age and those of the rest of the family.
• Use ordinal numbers (first, second, third etc.) in going through steps of a recipe, having a race down the garden, or getting dressed in the morning.

Sets and Sorting
• Sorting the washing
• Tidying away toys – getting the toys in the right boxes
• Talking about similarities and differences between objects or people
• Sorting everyday objects in the kitchen.

Pattern
• Following different sequences e.g. laying the table, getting dressed, in the same way each time
• Singing songs or telling stories with a clear pattern, sequence of repetition, e.g. Old MacDonald, Three Blind Mice, Three Billy Goats Gruff
• Looking at the patterns on curtains, wallpaper, wrapping paper. Children can print their own wrapping paper to wrap a friend’s birthday present
• Looking at patterns on buildings e.g. bricks in wall, windows
• Building with blocks and different construction toys – using one piece after another.

Shape and Space
• Describing different containers and packets in the kitchen and at the supermarket
• Finding shapes in the child’s own environment e.g. road signs, post-boxes, windows and doors, books
• Doing jigsaw puzzles (looking at the shapes of the pieces and the ‘holes’ where they could go, and keeping the overall shape of the puzzle develops spatial awareness)
• Playing with car mats, train sets, or outside on tricycles.

Measuring
• Estimating how much is needed, for example, how much bread to make 4 sandwiches, how much icing to ice the cake
• Playing in the sand pit using different containers
• Bath time or washing up time – pouring from one container to another, filling different containers, using containers with holes
• Talking about events throughout the day in order of sequence
• Drawing child’s attention to the clock – e.g. we’ll have tea when the big hand is on the 6
• Handling money at the shops. Role playing ‘shops’ at home using coins and counting out the right number
• Tidying things away into different boxes and containers – will we fit them all in?
• Comparing different lengths (dog’s lead, socks, shoelaces), weights (shopping bags, toys), areas (footprints of child and adult), sizes (teddies, chairs for child and adult) and capacity (child’s beaker and adults’ glass, bottles of squash).

Tip:


Thirsty Celery
Age Group: Preschool
Topic: At Home
Thirsty Celery
Age Group: Preschool
Topic: At Home
You will need:

Red and blue food colouring
2 clear plastic cups
2 stalks of celery
Water
Magnifying Glass

Directions:

Adult Guided Activity

Trim the bottom and top of the celery (adult only)
Put a small amount of food colouring in each of the plastic cups and fill them with water
Place a celery stalk in each cup and leave in a warm place overnight

Developing Investigation and Enquiry

Talk about what has happened to the celery stalks


  • Why do you think it has started to change colour?

  • How did the celery 'drink' the water?

  • How did the water get up the celery stalk?

  • Can you see the tiny tubes in the celery?


Introduce the word xylem to explain the tubes that transport up the stalk. Use the magnifying glass to see the xylem.

Tip:

Keeping Everyone Safe

Role model safe cutting when using a sharp knife to cut celery.