Take your little ones to a park and look and listen to see animals communicating with each other, talk about how we talk to each other to communicate, and describe what other animals are doing. Look out for dog walkers who might be talking to their dogs, shouting commands to them. Look at how the dog responds, how do they show that they are happy? How do they play with their owners?
Listen out for birds calling to one another. When birds sing they are often exchanging song with a partner or potential mate. See if you can stand near to where a bird is singing and listen to its bursts of song. Then listen in the gaps between and see if you can hear thesame notes repeated back by another bird at a distance. Birds often exchange song in this way for minutes, you must just be patient to listen out for this and recognise that the communication is not simply one bird singing, but two birds exchanging notes.
Ponds should provide more evidence of animals communicating, especially when young ducklings have hatched. Look at how parent ducks protect their young from intruders - they will squawk at other birds and even people that step too close to their brood. Look at how ducks might peck each other to 'fight' over a partner. At the right time of year you might also hear the sounds made by frogs who make a terrific mating call, using sound to attract a partner.
Listen to what other noises you can hear from the park thamight interrupt birds communicating over distance. Can you hear the sounds of traffic? ...trains? ...aeroplanes? All this noise pollution has a detrimental effect on animals being able to communicate. Talk with your little ones about how this will impact their ability to communicate and demonstrate how you have to talk louder yourself as you approach the noise of traffic.
Young children, boys and girls, love camps - there's nothing better than a 'secret' place where they can hide from grown ups and feel inside a world of their own. As summer approaches, it becomes easier to build camps outdoors. Find a secluded spot in the garden and fashion some branches into a cover, or use an old sheet and drape it from the fence. You can even buy tents for next to nothing these days - the kids will go mad for that!
During colder months, and on days when the weather's not so good, you can build camps indoors. Erect your masterpiece in a spot where the children won't get in the way, bearing in mind that it may have to stay up for a few days! Use sheets or large towels, draped from furniture to radiators, or over clothes horses. Use clothes pegs to help secure your materials in place.
Young children love enclosed spaces in which to play. It really does become their own world set apart from the real one, and gives them a place that is theirs, where you cannot follow. They will quickly stockpile teddies, dinosaurs, dolls, tea sets, cars and all manner of kids' paraphernalia! Let them loose in their imaginative play, it's great for them to engage in pretend play, especially if they voice scenes between animals or teddies which helps them develop their language and thinking skills. Listen to them discretely from a distance and they will bring joy to your heart!
Choosing a family dog is a tricky job, you need first to establish what kind of dog you want and whether you really do have the time, space, patience and ability to look after it.
Here are some of the breeds best associated with families and children.
Renowned for their patience and good nature this is a breed that is rarely aggressive or too excitable. Labradors tend to be easy-going and intelligent. They love long walks and love being active but are also relatively calm and accommodating. They also live for around 12 years so a good long time.
These are similar to the Lab in their disposition. Again, they are mild mannered, and gentle. They also enjoy being near people and are easily trained. They love going out and running and fetching so are ideal for pr-school age children as they will never tire of a child chasing with them and running about. They do need care as they have long hair though.
A docile, calm dog although often stubborn, they are gentle and good for children because of their kind nature and love any attention from children!
A very small breed of dog: excellent with children and good indoor dogs. They tend to be very loving. They don't shed hair and are easy to take care of, even for kids.
A small dog who will play with anything and put up with lots of kiddie affection and cuddles. They don't shed much hair and they are fairly easy-going.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
An excellent breed around kids. It is a well-mannered and usually gentle and patient. They are also quiet dogs and patient about being poked and prodded by toddlers. They don't bite and like to play around children.
With summer seeming almost a distant memory, it's easy to feel that there's nothing to do at weekends but to cuddle up at home and entertain the children with craft and games. There are, however, plenty of attractions and days out that remain open throughout the year, and visiting such places on a fine autumn or winter day can be very rewarding. Tourist numbers are undoubtedly down, so you can gain a richer experience visiting attractions that remain open. Smaller crowds also mean it's less frantic with your baby and young children. If you don't have children of a school age, then you'll find that the weekends outside of school holidays and half terms are quietest of all.
Attractions with animals invariably remain open all year round because even though the crowds may be small, the animals require just as much as care and attention as they do on a busy summer day! Animal attractions include zoos and farms, also animal sanctuaries and wildlife parks.
Whilst the majority of National Trust and English Heritage properties close over the winter months, many privately owned country houses, stately homes and castles remain open. These can offer a wonderful place just to 'get away' and enjoy lovely outdoor walks. Many such properties offer garden and grounds only tickets which often suit younger children who may not endure a traipse around a stuffy home!
Lots of towns and cities have local museums that also remain open throughout the year. If you are looking for something different to do in your area, try to discover a new museum that you perhaps didn't know existed before! Use the internet to search for attractions new to you nearby.
Wherever you live, you're never far away from some 'great outdoors', perhaps a National Park, a country estate, a local park, the coast, a wildlife sanctuary, reservoir or industrial space such as docks. All of these can make for a fun place to walk and explore no matter how young your children.
Exposing your children to interesting places from an early age will impart a curiosity for interesting places and learning in later life. Just because the traditional tourist season is over, don't write off the idea of great days out in the autumn and winter!
Toddlers may be too young to be able to play word games, but as soon as they start talking, you can play sound games based on word games that older children enjoy! Here are some fun ideas:-
- I-Spy: Rather than playing I-Spy for words beginning with letters, play I-Spy for things beginning with sounds. For example, I-Spy with my little eye, something beginning with 'TR' (for 'tree'), 'K' (for car) or 'Sh' (for sheep)
- Alphabet Animals: Go through the alphabet giving the sound for each letter and ask your little one to name an animal beginning with that sound. Couple this with a trip to a petting farm or zoo where they can learn new animal names!
- Word Chains: Look around and say the name of something that you see. Then have your little one say a word that begins with the sound of the last letter. For example, you might start with Table, then your toddler must offer a word beginning with 'L', perhaps Lamp. Then you say a word beginning with 'P' and so on...
- Sounding Words: Take words and sound them out with your toddler so that they begin to understand sounds and syllables. This will give them a head start when they start to learn spelling phonetically at school! Trak-ter, spag-ett-ee, okt-o-puss, tel-er-vish-un and so on. Have your little one sound out words for objects they see in the room.
These games are great to play when you have to pass time, perhaps when you are waiting at the doctor's or dentist's, on a car journey, or queuing at the supermarket.
You may not have your own pets, but at some point you and your children are likely to come into contact with other people's pets. Even if you don't own a dog or cat, here are a few ground rules to set out for your children to ensure they are safe and calm around other people's animals.
- Don't encourage small children, not familiar with animals, to handle pets by themselves without supervision
- Don't allow them to hit or shout at an animal. Teach them respect and show them how to speak to the animals in a calm and sensible voice.
- Don't allow children to disturb dogs or cats (or indeed any animals) when they are sleeping, feeding, or playing alone. Animals need quiet time too, so they should be left alone sometimes.
- Don't let animals lick children's faces (or indeed let children lick or kiss animals' faces.) Just think about what they lick to keep clean!
- Don't let children feed pets with their food ie. sweets, chocolate etc!
- Double check that the animals you visit have been wormed and checked over for fleas. It may be embarrassing to ask, but it's worth it to know for sure!
- Insist on washing children's hands ofter playing with or handling animals, especially if cleaning out cages!
- Show your child how to approach, speak to and address with animals. Don't just tell them... show them so they can see for themselves.
- Explain that animals may not want to do what the children want them to do and have an opinion of their own.
Face painting is a great way to enhance your little one's pretend play - by painting their faces they can become a tiger, dog, fairy or butterfly. Your kids will love having their faces painted. Don't worry if you don't feel you are artistic enough, however your artwork turns out, they're bound to feel the part!
The best face paints to use are sold in palettes like water colours, rather than the crayon sticks that you may know from your own childhood. You can apply these paints with a sponge or brushes. Start by creating a wash all over the face using a base colour and then add the detail using brushes.
If your child has sensitive skin or you are worried about painting their faces, then you can simply paint motifs onto their hands or arms.
Here are some ideas for faces to create:-
- Animals: tiger, zebra, frog, butterfly, dog, rabbit
- Superheroes: Spiderman, Batman, Incredible Hulk, fairy
- Antiheroes: Dracula, the Gruffalo, a skeleton
- People: Clown, soldier, pirate
Celebrate summer and being outdoors with a garden sing song, there are lot's of fun songs that you can sing with your babies to enjoy in the summer sun!
Mary, Mary Quite Contrary
Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle-shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.
Round and Round the Garden
Round and round the garden, like a Teddy Bear.
(trace your finger in a circle around your little one's palm)
One step, two step
(walk your fingers up their arm)
Tickle you under there!
(tickle them under their chin or arm)
Creepy Crawly Songs
There's a Worm at the Bottom of the Garden
There's a worm at the bottom of my garden,
And his name is 'Wiggly Woo'.
There's a worm at the bottom of my garden
And all that he can do
Is wiggle all day and wiggle all night,
The neighbors say what a terrible fright!
There's a worm at the bottom of my garden,
And his name is Wiggly Woo!
Incy Wincey Spider
Incy Wincy spider climbed up the spout,
Down came the rain and washed the spider out,
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain,
Now Incy Wincy spider went up the spout again!
Five Little Speckled Frogs
Five little speckled frogs
Sat on a speckled log
Eating the most delicious grubs.
One jumped into the pool
Where it was nice and cool
Then there were four green speckled frogs.
...then repeat with 4, 3, 2, 1.
Old Macdonald had a Farm
Old Macdonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O
And on his farm he had a cow, E-I-E-I-O
With a moo-moo here and a moo-moo there
Here a moo there a moo
Everywhere a moo-moo
Old Macdonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O
...and repeat for different animals
Five Little Ducks
Five little ducks
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said
"Quack, quack, quack, quack."
But only four little ducks came back.
...repeat until all of the ducks have flown and then...
Sad mother duck
Went out one day
Over the hill and far away
The sad mother duck said
"Quack, quack, quack."
And all of the five little ducks came back.