Listening is a hugely important skill as it helps children interpret instructions. Given that early schooling is highly verbal, it is essential to master listening early on. Here are some games to help improve listening skills with your children:-
Colour Story: Give each child a different coloured building brick. Tell a story and weave the colours into the story. Each time a child hears there colour, have them wave their brick in the air.
Name that Sound: Make sounds and have your children name them. For example, make a siren sound, the noise of an aeroplane, horses hooves, birdsong and so on.
Shopping Game: Take up to 20 store cupboard food items or play food and lay them out on the floor. Tell each child a list of three items that you want from the shop and have them walk over to the food, pick out their three items and bring them to you. Play rounds increasing the length of the list each time.
Simon Says: You must know this old classic? Instruct children to perform an action prefixed with 'Simon Says...'. 'Simon Says "Touch your nose"', 'Simon says "Twist around"'. Any command without 'Simon Says' must be ignored.
Happy Endings: Tell the first part of a story and have your children each make up a different ending to the story. Either read from a book, or make up your own short stories.
Vegetables are REALLY interesting...no, really! Babies will eat anything that is fed to them, and aren't discerning about vegetables. Most toddlers will eat most vegetables too and not question them, but as they grow older, and perhaps helped by peer pressure as their social networks grow, children might decide that they don't like certain, or even any, vegetables.
Is it the colour? ...the texture? ...the taste? There are a multitude of reasons why children may begin to turn their noses up at vegetables, but do what you can to fight their reluctance and try to keep vegetables firmly on the agenda.
One way to make vegetables interesting is to have children think about them properly. Make a vegetable chart and depending on how old your children are, order them in different ways.
The youngest children will be able to order by size or to sort them by colour. Older children might be able to start with the sweetest through to the most bitter. You may even be able to teach them about seasonality. Although most vegetables are now available from the supermarkets all year round, there is a pattern of seasonality at which point differet vegetables are available. Perhaps you don't know yourself? In which case, spend time with your older children looking at the seasons of vegetables. Work out which are traditionally available in spring, summer, autumn and winter!
Theme days offer a great way to spice up the lives of your little ones a bit, and help them to learn new concepts along the way. If you hold a theme day once a week or once a month, it will also help to mark time for preschoolers who will begin to understand the concept of a week or a month respectively.
Choose a theme, dress up for it, play themed games and undertake themed craft. There are lots of colourful themes to choose from, here are a few ideas:-
- Emergency services
- Doctors and nurses
- Princes and princesses
- Fairy Tales
- Literary characters (from adult or children's books)
- Animals (farm, zoo or wild animals)
The only limit is your imagination, you can even choose really abstract themes - your little ones don't mind, they will simply love the involvement.
Have fun with apples - here are some activity ideas for you to try with your little ones...
Apple prints - Start by covering the table and putting out different coloured paints in shallow dishes. Cut two apples in half; one vertically so you get the core and seed shape. The other horizontally so you get the seeds in a star shape. Dip each paint brush into the paint and cover the apple. Carefully press each print onto card. Paint on a stalk or some more seeds, when its dry, to finish it. Think of someone you appreciate or care about to send the card to them as a surprise. Talk about how nice it is to send other people notes of thanks. This is a great way to show the little ones how to appreciate others.
Hand-print apple tree - Take some brown paint and cover hands with it to make a great tree trunk! Press onto some card or paper. Take an apple and cut it in half then paint on green paint. Do lots of apple prints to make leaves for the tree! Use a finger dipped in red paint to add apples to the tree. Talk about apple seeds growing into little saplings, then growing into big trees and producing apples on them.
Apples and counting - Take an apple and cut it into slices. How many slices can you count together. Then pick out all the seeds. How many are there to start with? What about if you take one away or add a few more? Eat some of the slices and how many are left? Do lots of counting activities and see how good even the smallest toddler can be at counting with a bit of help.
Number recognition - Draw some apples - about ten of them - and colour them in in red, yellow and green. Write the numbers 1 to 10 on some paper and cut them out. Place a number in front of a couple of plates and ask your little one to count out the right number of apples into each place. So, if the number 2 is written they must count out 2 apples.
Colour sorting - Take 3 envelopes and draw an apple on the front of each one. Colour one red, one yellow and one green. See if your child can sort all the apples you coloured in the above activity and put them in the right envelope. Help them to start with, and then see if they can do it alone without you looking. Try it with some other things too.
Healthy eating - Show your little ones how lovely apples can be to eat too! They are great for printing, and counting and craft but best of all they taste great!
Go on an apple tree hunt round your area and see how many you can find... or other trees with fruit on them. Have fun!
Using technology to teach and inspire children is vital in this day where computers are commonplace, digital gadgets are all over the place and technology is so much more accessible.
Many children have their own toy cameras now, which is great to see the world through the eyes of the children.
However, you can try to give the camera usage a little more direction by setting the children photography projects such as:-
- Things that make me happy (ice cream, friends)
- Things that are brightly coloured (coat, bike)
- Things that don't belong here (litter dropped on the pavement etc.)
- Things that are beautiful (nature, trees)
- Things featuring numbers (shop phone number, house number)
- Things featuring letters (road names, signs)
- Things we need (post boxes, front doors)
- People I love... etc.
You could set the challenge of photographing things that begin with the alphabet letters.
- Find an Apple, Bed, Cup, Desk, Egg, Fence etc.
- Find various colours: find find 5 red items.
- Find a certain number of things: find 3 socks, 2 teddies etc.
When the pictures are taken, show the children how to load the images onto the computer. Describe what happens as you flick through the pictures and sort them. Show them how you print them and trim to size etc. You could then create a booklet displaying the images in order and writing the appropriate letter on each page.
Colouring has to be the number one activity, entertaining children around the world on a daily basis, but what does it teach? As with so many baby and toddler activities, colouring assists learning across a broad spectrum of skills:-
- Fine motor skills: this is all about coordination, young children will learn to hold crayons and to control their hand movements. Such control is essential before your children can start writing so colouring is a precursor to being able to write.
- Knowledge and understanding of the world: exposure to different pictures to colour in will help to teach children about the world around them; talk about the scenes that they are colouring, and make sure that they know what each object in the scene is, this will broaden vocabulary as well as nurture a wider contextual understanding.
- Colours: colouring helps your little ones learn their colours. Children will also begin to learn the effect of mixing different colours.
- Concentration: colouring will help your children to concentrate on a project and to see it through to its conclusion.
There are so many lessons that colouring a simple picture can teach. Make sure you always have a small pack of crayons in your handbag, and a sheet or two to colour in (you can quickly find pictures to colour on the Internet, we have lots at ToucanLearn!). The next time you find yourself having to wait somewhere with your little ones, or stuck in traffic, you'll be grateful that you can just whip out some colouring, and your little ones will be improving themselves along the way.
Here's a quick and easy activity to introduce colours... Find some cardboard boxes and if you can, paint each one a primary colour, or simply colour in one side of paper and stick it onto each side of the boxes. Get your little ones to help choose which colours to opt for and get them to help the colouring.
Head off round the house with your little, one hunting for small items that match the colours to put in each coloured box. Encourage them to choose what to put in, which items to reject for being the wrong colour and ask them to hold the boxes.
Some ideas of things to go in:
- Play plates/cutlery
- Play fruit
- Small balls
- Coloured blocks
When you have collected a good selection, mix them all up and see if your little ones can place them in the right boxes, naming the coloures each time. Ask where each ones goes, and give lots of praise if they get it right.
Getting young toddlers to sit still on the London Underground can be slightly tricky because it's such an exciting place to be, and lots of other tube passengers are standing, so why shouldn't your little one?!
Luckily there is so much distinct iconography inside tube trains that can inspire even the youngest traveller to play fun games. Look for different colours, shapes and letters. Look around a tube carriage and you'll see yellow warning triangles, red circles for London Underground's logo and no entry signs on doors between carriages, blue rectangles and squares with notices inside.
You'll see the tube maps with lots of coloured lines on - ask your little one what colours they see.
Look for letters in the signs and adverts stuck all over the carriage, look for the letters that your children's names begin with. Look for numbers - especially the number of how old they are.
Play I-Spy looking for items of different colours ('I-Spy, with my little eye, something that is red').
Older children can look around and spot all the different warning signs and instructions littered around the carriage - have you ever noticed just how many rules there are when you embark on an Underground journey?!
Of course most of these games will adapt to any train ride, and even journeys on buses or planes too.
You'll be amazed at just how quickly your journey goes, no matter how long it is. Just take care that you don't have so much fun that you miss your stop!
So often activities that the children enjoy doing can be beneficial in different ways besides them having fun. They may think they are just having some painting time but in fact they are learning about other things too. In the activity below, they are practicing their painting and printing skills, but learn all about shapes and numbers too with a little guidance.
Prepare an area for painting. Find some cookie cutters that are simple shapes (square, circle etc.) or some plastic shapes from a shape sorter. You could use household recycling such as kitchen roll tubes, the ends of small boxes or plastic pots. Put some different coloured paint into 6 different shallow dishes and place a shape into each one ready to go.
Ask your child to do some printing with the shapes Encourage them to do it neatly, in rows, so the shapes can be easily identified. When they have done a few, then suggest they do an abstract piece of art and drag the shapes, mix the colours and over print the shapes to make something of their choice. Ask them what the picture is? Is is a sunset over hills; is it a dinosaur on the beach? Keep a note of their explanation on the back of the picture.
When all the pictures are dry, have a chat about the shapes and ask some questions.
- Which is the square?
- What is the yellow shape called?
- How many circles are there?
- Which is the biggest shape?
- Which has most sides?
- How many blue shapes are there?
Count and answer the questions together first and then see if your child can do it alone. Display the picture and practice each time you pass by.
Learning can be so much fun and so easy! For lots more ideas for activities, and explanations about learning for parents and childminders, go to ToucanLearn!
Walking to pre-school or nursery in the bad, autumnal weather can be a real bore for little ones, especially those who are only just out of the buggy. Here are a few ideas to perk up your walk together and do a bit of fun learning on the way!
Weathery Walk - walk the way you might in different types of weather.
- Trudge through snow
- Battle against raging rain
- Fan yourself in the heat of the hot sun
- Keep upright in the blowy wind
Colour-Spy - spot things that are certain colours. Find 3 red things (traffic light, post box, car) etc.
Letter Think - think of things that begin with certain letters. Name 4 things beginning with "d". Even little ones can do this with come help. Give a clue to help them get to a "d" word.
Wonkey Walks - Walk in different ways between the trees you pass. So, walk like a frog to the next tree. Then walk like a monkey to the next tree.
Tree Races - If you live on a quiet road you could race to the next tree. See who gets there first.
Count the Steps - estimate how may steps you need to get to the next landmark (tree/traffic lights) and simply count how many steps you actually take. How close were you?
Car Count - name a colour and count how many cars you see on the way of that colour.
Walking to school or nursery is a great, healthy way to start the day; these ideas will make it fun too! Have a good day!
Here is the famous rainbow song; teach it to your child and sing it often as a reminder of all the colours around you!
Red, And Yellow, And Pink, And Green,
Orange, And Purple and Blue,
I can sing a rainbow,
Sing a Rainbow,
Sing a Rainbow too!
Have some fun learning colours with rainbows, the most colourful things in the world!
- Rainbow picture: Cut out all sorts of colourful things from magazines and catalogues. Place all the red things in one pile, all the green in another etc. Then draw a big rainbow on a page and stick on all the coloured pieces of paper in each appropriate arc.
- Floor rainbow: Go round the house collecting things that are colours of the rainbow. Find red bricks, blue cars, yellow socks. Then make a huge rainbow on the floor placing all the red things in one arc, all the blue in the next etc.
- Rainbow puzzle: Draw a rainbow shape on a page using a thick black pen. Use paint, glitter, coloured pens to fill in the colours When dry, cut out each arc to make a rainbow puzzle, and go round the house finding things that match each of the colours. Re-make the rainbow like a puzzle.
- Rainbow of clothes: Children often have such colourful clothes. Head off to the wardrobe and find items for the colours of the rainbow. Make them into a big clothing rainbow on the bed.
- Sing the song: and as you say the colours, point to something int he room that is that colour. See how you get on!
- Colour Eye Spy: Take a look round the room and play I Spy with my little eye, something that is.... and add your chosen colour. It's very easy for little ones to get the hang of this game and they will quickly be good at spotting colours!
Have lots of colourful fun!
Why not make some fun 'stained glass' effect pictures to hang in your little one's windows and see them light up in the bright sunshine? For this activity you'll need:-
- some black card
- assorted coloured tissue papers
- a craft knife (for you to use in preparation)
- some child safe scissors
Prepare some templates one evening whilst the children safely tucked up in bed! Take the sheets of card and cut them into shapes and then, using the craft knife, cut holes in them. Make sure you have thick borders around your holes because these will become 'frames' for the tissue paper to be stuck to. Here are some ideas of pictures you can make-
- Parrot: cut out a parrot shape then cut out holes inside the tail, holes for the body and wings, the head and perhaps a crest on top
- Rainbow: cut rainbow arcs into a whole piece of card, making one arc hole for each colour of your rainbow
- Fish: cut the card into a fish shape then score out stripy markings using the craft knife
- Peacock: If you're feeling really artictic, cut out the shape of a peacock making a fan tail with long holes with small round holes at the top
If you aren't overly artistic, just cut shapes into the card because once the tissue effect has been created, they'll still make wonderful patterns.
Once you have prepared your templates, have your children cut out coloured pieces of tissue to stick over the holes. Use this as an exercise to practice your colours by talking about the colours you need and what colours you are cutting out. Glue the tissue shapes into place and then hang your pictures in the window. As the light shines through, you'll have some lovely bright art!
Often when we take the children out in the fresh air to teach them about the outside world, we head for the local park or nature reserve. Our towns and cities are often overlooked as places to take children when in fact there is a wealth of opportunity for them to learn in built up areas.
So, how does an excursion around the town provide opportunities for learning? Excursions in and around towns can help in the following ways:
- It builds on children's everyday experiences
- It helps create a sense of community
- It helps teach about the different cultures that might exist around where you live
- It promotes the idea of being out in the open air taking walks, keeping healthy and staying active
- It can help children gain confidence about being out and learning about road safety
- It helps children learn about how seasons can effect the environment in which they live
Things to look out for:
- Different styles of buildings (cottages, old office block, modern houses, old shops)
- 'Street furniture': street lamps, phone boxes, ride-on toys, post boxes, benches, display signs etc.
- Road signs
- Letters and numbers on shop fronts
- Road and rail networks
- Different vehicles (colours, styles, types)
- Building materials: concrete, bricks, wood, glass, metal
- Sounds and smells
- The people around and what they do (bus drivers, road sweepers, children, adults doing gardening etc.)
How can you enhance the experience? Here are a few ideas:
- Talk about what you see as you go along your walk. If you see a bus, look at it's wheels, the colour of the paintwork, how many people are on it, adverts on the side etc.
- Listen to noises and discuss smells. Try and name all the noises (pedestrian crossing 'beeps', diggers, car horns, sirens, shops blaring music)
- Ask questions: where is the red car?, what's in the tree?, who can see a bus?
- Spot different materials used in towns and talk about how strong they are: iron railings, wooden fence, plastic door, brick houses etc
- Look at signs and talk about them. What might they all mean?
- Stop to watch a building site or a dustbin lorry collecting bins. Chat about what they are doing and what happens.
- Look at road signs and the symbols used eg speed limit numbers, construction signs, house numbers; discuss different colours used - blue/white for information, red/white and yellow/black for warnings, green/white for environmental information, bright colours for shop fronts etc.
- Look for shapes: square garage door, rectangle front door, round letter box etc.
- Take some photos of your trip and turn them out as a map.
- For older children and pre-schoolers, you can couple the outing with other activities when you get back home
- Ask them where they want to walk to? Involve them in the planning of the trip and supplies they will need (eg. snack, drink)
- Make a map of the trip and follow it, draw in any landmarks you pass
- Ask them to remember things they saw on the trip and draw them when they get home
Have fun and enjoy your environment!
Shapes and colours are amongst the first concepts that babies learn and learning them helps to stimulate connections in the brain that will continue to serve your baby as they learn throughout their childhood. Learning both shapes and colours with your baby can be fun for both of you. Here's a fun idea on how to familiarise your baby with both.
Take two potatoes and cut them in half so that at least one of the cross sections makes a circle. Now carve the other faces into a rectangle, square and triangle. You now have four large stampers!
Dip the face of the potatoes in finger paint and stamp different coloured shapes onto a large sheet of paper. Practice the stamping and discuss each shape with your baby - count the sides on the shape and point your finger around each shape as you show them. Start with a single colour and state the colour with each stamp: 'red circle', 'red square', 'red triangle', 'red rectangle'. Wipe the paint off the face each time and then start on another colour.
When you have played with these for a bit, show the effect of mixing colours; demonstrate how two colours mixed together create a different colour. Try mixing various combinations of colours to create a varied array.
Playing with shapes and colours will help to cement these concepts in your child's mind and start them on a learning path that will set them up well for school in a few years!
It's never too early to introduce your toddlers to science - you don't call it science, of course, but there are plenty of fun activities that you can do to help build an understanding of the world around them. Here are a few ideas:-
Weather: Create a series of card pictures for different types of weather, and a picture for each of the seasons. Each morning look at the weather and put the appropriate weather and season pictures up on the wall.
Faces: Create a large picture of a head and then create a series of different eyes, noses, mouths, ears, eyebrows, hair and pairs of glasses. Have your toddler create faces, placing features in the right place. Discuss different coloured eyes, different shaped features and talk about what glasses are for.
Planting: Buy some cress or mung beans, plant them in a plastic pot, water them and watch them grow. Have your child chart the progress each day as they germinate and shoot up. Discuss the ways that they change each day, draw how they look and at the end, make a sandwich and enjoy them! Talk about how healthy they are and that good food makes you grow.
Colours: Show how mixing finger paints creates different colours. Create swirling patterns on paper by pouring on generous amounts of paint and swirling with your finger.
Growing: Use a wall to mark the height of your children. Have them stand against the wall, make a pencil mark at the height they stand and measure how tall they are. Add a date, and repeat on the first day of each month. Sometimes you'll see almost no difference, other months you might notice change. Over a prolonged time you will see how they grow. Discuss what makes you grow and the concept that your little ones are growing into big children.
These are just a few ideas, there are hundreds more activities that you can undertake with your toddlers to get them used to the concepts of science, and to spark an interest in the world around them.