When the weather permits, spend time with the children outdoors, if you don't have a garden, taken them along to a park. As well as outdoor games, try taking some of your children's favourite puzzles and board games to play outside too - being outside adds another new dimension to the games. Here are some fun games to play outdoors:-
Pin the Bug on the Daisy: This is a version of pin the tail on the donkey only using a big drawing of a flower and some stickers. Draw a big daisy flower with a stalk and leaves on wallpaper. Hang it up and blindfold the children getting them to try and stick their sticker nearest to the yellow centre of the daisy.
Hunt a Bug: This is a scavenger hunt game game which is easy and fun! Each child gets a list of five things (draw each one) they need to find: a branch, a red curly leaf, a pine cone, a dandelion flower, a feather etc. They then have to go off in pairs and them.
Bee Landing: Draw a small bee (or find a picture of one) and stick it to some blue tack or play dough to give it weight. Draw a large sunflower outdoors with pavement chalk. Blindfold each child and get them to throw the bee and see who gets nearest to the centre of the flower!
Mr and Mrs Pots: Turn empty flower pots into flower pot people. Paint on faces using poster paints, and glue or tape on hands and feet made from twigs or rope. Loop a long string to the top of the pot and you have a garden puppet! Why not put on a show?!
Landing on Leaves: Draw a large leaf for each child and get them to colour it in. Place one on each chair. When the music starts each child must fly like bugs around the chairs and when the music stops they must find a leaf to land on.
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.
Now that the Olympic games are a distant memory, keep that memory alive by holding your own indoor Olympics...perfect for these slightly more dreary autumn days!
Place a beanbag on your toddler's back and have them crawl around until it falls off. Older children can balance the beanbag on their head and walk slowly. Whoever keeps their bag steady the longest wins.
Place some small toys on the floor and describe a route around them. Take a medium sized ball, such as a foam tennis ball, and have your little ones 'bat' the ball around the obstacle course using a straw. Can they do it without bumping the obstacles themselves?
Use teddies, dolls or any other suitable toys as 'pins'. Sit them up a few feet away and use a foam ball to try to knock them down. Make sure the ball is only rolled gently along the floor!
Fancy Dress Race
Collect together some fancy dress outfits and place them in front of your little ones. They must put on the first outfit, turn around once then take that outfit off and put on the next one. The first one to wear all the outfits is the winner.
Get out all your puzzles (sized according to ability) and see how quickly you can complete them all. Use a timer to time each one and look at whether each puzzle is completed faster or slower than the one before. Show how timers count seconds and explain the idea of timing.
Here's a great game for kids to play in a restaurant while waiting for your food to arrive. Take a sheet of paper and draw a large circle on it, as large as you can fit on. Draw a large cross to divide the circle into quarters, then draw further lines to divide the circle into equal eights. Now the fun begins!
Pass the paper around the table and each player takes one of the 1/8th slices, drawing in their own pizza topping ideas. Keep passing the paper around until all eight pizza slices have been filled with different toppings.
There are no rules - you can draw in traditional pizza toppings, such as different meats (pepperoni, ham or spicy beef) and fresh vegetables (slices of peppers, mushrooms, sweetcorn or tomatoes). Alternatively draw in other patterns such as national flags, or why not put slugs, snails and worms on your pizza?!
You can add an element of surprise by folding the paper and only letting each player see the slice that they are decorating. When the pizza is unfolded at the end you can reveal the completed pizza for the first time.
Dice originated in many cultures at different times and dice games have entertained many civilisations including the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. Dominoes are believed to have evolved from dice in China in the middle ages. Today they are as popular as ever and are great for playing matching and counting games with your little ones.
Buy sets of large dice and dominoes to play with your little ones (you can even buy garden sets). Observe the different numbers of spots, look at matching pairs and count up the spots across two or more dice, or one or more dominoes.
Play 'collecting' games where you have to roll particular number combinations with the dice. For example, roll three dice and see if you can roll a consecutive 'run' (ie. 1 - 2 - 3, 3 - 4 - 5 etc). It may take a few turns but you'll get there eventually. Play 'memory' games with dominoes. Take out all the doubles, lay them around the floor, and see if you can turn up double one, then based on tiles you have looked at, double two, then double three. See how few turns you can use to pick up the whole run in order.
Dominoes are also great for building with and will help practice fine motor skills. Build pyramids and walls, or just play classic domino toppling. How long a line can you make, and topple, with a single set of dominoes?!
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.
More and more councils are collecting recycling now, which makes recycling household waste easier than ever. However, before you pop them in the recycling bins, how about you have a bit of play time first! It will be fun, and introduce the idea of recycling as a positive activity
- Squash your milk cartons: wash out some milk cartons or plastic bottles and squash them, squeeze them and try to stamp them flat. What is the best way to get them small?
- Cardboard boxes: try to tear the boxes into shapes and then try to put the box together again! Its harder that you think!
- Climb on a box: if you have a sturdy box, how about trying to stand on it (with some help) and see how long it takes before it collapses. Will someone else have to join you?
- Build up some boxes and cartons and throw a ball at them to see them topple over! Play 'Ten Pin Bowling'.
- Build a tower: how high can your tubs grow? Build a tower to see how many you can place on top of each other before they fall over.
- Drumming: with some wooden spoons as sticks, set up a drum kit and bang on all the different boxes and tubs to see how they all sound!
- Arms full: see how many tubs and pot and boxes you can carry in your arms then walk about and see if any drop. Who can carry the most?
- Sort all the different recycling things into piles and see if you can sort by size, colour, shape or material.
- Count all the boxes and tubs and see how many there are of each.
After lots of loud, exciting, destructive (!) play... see who can throw all the bits and pieces into the recycling bins.
Whether its some long distance driving in England to stay with family or friends or a full blown European motoring vacation, the thought of taking children on a long car journey can seem a great idea when costing out the family holiday, but as the day approaches it seems more and more daunting.
The secret to a successful trip is to invest some time before you set off so you're prepared and ready to entertain, challenge and keep happy those delightful little passengers strapped in their cosy car seats in the back row.
- Think kids: The most important thing is to remember that they are only kids. They may not be interested in alpine skylines or breathtaking sea scape. Think about how they see things and try to think like them.
- Prepare the car: Before you go, have a good clear out of the car inside. Get rid of old crayons and rubbish tucked in between the seats. Throw away scrappy colouring books and freshen up the whole car. Get the kids helping clear up and polish, wipe and scrub away the year's mess and rubbish that may have accumulated. Give the car a good vacuum and clean the outside too. This way you'll feel much more ready to hit the road!
- Supplies: Make sure you have wipes, plasters, first aid kits etc on board just in case. Plus emergency drinks, sucky sweets (in case of feeling a bit car sick). Also you may wish to think about blankets, pillows, torch, fire extinguisher and jump leads... just in case!
- Safety inside the car: Keep the back of the car clear of any baggage or things rolling around, if you can. Get a good holder to keep all the supplies together and safe.
- Treats: Ration the treats and entertainment you bring along. Don't use up all your good ideas before you even hit the motorway.
- Take some different coloured mega blocks and can see if the children can arrange them in order when you shout out the colours. So, say, red, blue green and see how long it takes them to assemble accordingly. For babies, just getting them to play with a couple of block can easily amuse them
- Bubbles - blow bubbles (especially good for babies).
- Balls - to have a run about and play in the open air when you stop.
- Books - old favourites and perhaps a few new ones. CDs of spoken books are great too.
- Post it notes - allow them to write notes and stick them everywhere! Easily removed and their arms won't stretch too high to obscure the driver's view.
- Make up a story inspired by what you see outside.
- Wool, hole punch and old birthday cards - get the children to punch hold, then thread with the wool.
Children love water and if its in a paddling pool on a summers day it's even more exciting! There are some great games and activities you can get the children to enjoy which are fun and also promote learning through playing.
Listed below are a few ideas:
- Coloured water: how about adding a few drops of food colouring to your paddling pool and floating boats on the blue sea or turn it green and hide some underwater sea creatures under the waves.
- Weights and measures: Find a few plastic containers (yogurt pots, empty milk containers, plastic cups etc) and fill and empty them with the water. See who can pour from one container to another; see how many little pots fill a bog pot etc.
- Flower pot fun: clean out some old flower pots and use them to play in the water. Find big ones and small ones. Put them inside each other; make a tower and fill them with water to see how it pours out through the holes. It's like a shower!
- Witches Cauldron: get some bits and piece that are waterproof and make a special witches brew! Add some plastic play food, plastic flip flops... anything crazy that the children think of!
- Texture play: add some smooth spoons, rough pine cones, squishy sponges, watery flannels and look at how they feel and look different in and our of the bath.
- Sink or float: find some bits and pieces round the house and see whether they sink or swim. Gently place them onto the top of the water and see what happens. Try a coin, a straw, a crayon, a bead, a leaf etc.
- Bubbles in the garden: add some bubble bath to the paddling pool and see how many bubbles you can splash in the pool. Try blowing bubbles too and have lots of bubbly fun.
- Wash the babies: get some dolls and give them a good bubbly wash in the the pool. Wash their clothes too. Chat about needing to wash each day to keep healthy and clean.
- Big balls: get a selection of balls and play with them in the pool. Which makes a big splash? Show sinks? Which spins on the water or is most slippery? Try playing catch with wet balls... a bit more tricky!
- Blocks in the pool: bring some toys into the pool that don't normally get wet. It will be a great novelty. How about building blocks or bricks. Watch how the children play or do things differently with the toys in the water rather than out of the water.
For so many children, going to bed in the dark can be frightening - for months they don't mind going to bed with the lights out and suddenly they develop a fear of darkness, are worried about what's under the bed or nervous of what's lurking in the wardrobe. Here are a few activities to reassure them and lessen the threat of darkness terrors by playing a few games that use a torch to light the way.
Hunt the teddies - Hide a few teddies around the room prior to bed time and turn off the lights. With a torch search for them together and discover their hiding places. You could make it a bit crazy by hiding some things that don't belong in a bedroom. Hide a few wooden spoons from the kitchen or new toilet rolls or plastic food bowls. You could hide some family photos too and see who can be discovered.
Who's under the bed? - Show your little ones that there is nothing under the bed to be scared of. Ask them to choose a couple of favourite teddies to stay under the bed and look after the bed during the night. They could easily report back in the morning that there was nothing to be afraid of. Similarly put a couple of trusty teddies in the wardrobe to stand guard during the night.
Finding things - Another activity for slightly older children would be to find really small things like small pompoms or cotton wool balls. Give them a collecting bucket and tell them they need to find all 12 pompoms that you have hidden. Then try it again but this time in the dark, just using the torch to see.
Sleeping Mummy - Hide yourself in a room and cover with a blanket or toys and see if your little one can find you just using a torch. Pretend to be sleeping when they do discover you. Try to avoid jumping out to startle them though... the aim is to build their confidence rather than scare them!
Learning phonics and understanding the sounds that different letters make is essential for reading and the earlier you start introducing letters to the children the better because as they become more and more familiar with the sounds, so they will find reading all the more easy. It's understandable to want to get children reading early, but in fact, it's better to get them 100% confident with the phonic sounds first, even if they can read whole words already. That way, once they see words, they will be able to easily combine the sounds to read the word.
Here are some easy and fun ideas to get phonics into your daily routine and introduce them to little ones in game format:-
- Pick a different letter each week to focus on. Start by drawing the letter on a big page and colouring it or decorating it. Say the sound together.
- Found a Sound Telescope: Make a telescope to look through to find the sounds. Simply decorate a kitchen roll tube and use it for hunting.
- Say the sound the letter makes and go on a sound hunt. Find things beginning with that sound.
- Sound box. When you find something beginning with the right sound, collect it in a box. Put any things you find that are not actually the right sound into a 'bin' box.
- Give masses of support, guidance and help as its hard to begin with, but once they get it the children will be off on an adventure with no trouble at all!
- When you have a few items, gather them onto a table and look at them and say the sounds and the words together to reinforce that the correct letter and correct item has been found.
Have fun, and expand this sound game with your own ideas too!
What were the games you liked best at school: skipping, Cat's Cradle, British Bulldog, hand-clapping rhymes, marbles? People would have us believe that all these games have completely been wiped out by the advent of the DS, television, DVDs etc. However recent research has found, not surprisingly, that playground games are as popular and as fun as ever they were!
The Universities of London, Sheffield and East London carried out research on traditional games children play and it found that many of the traditional games we enjoyed are still played today, with some modern references thrown in.
Two years was spent studying the children at play in schools. There were lots of imitation games such as their own version of Britian's Got Talent and chat shows, and lots of mimicking their childhood heroes such as Simon Cowell and pop stars.
The finding suggest that children are in fact better informed by their access to the digital media of today. They are not, as many would have us believe, walking around zombiefied once starved of their Wii or DS. Instead, they use the information they have and build ideas and develop themes in an accomplished way.
The results of the study entitled 'Children's Playground Games and Songs in the New Media Age' will be presented at the British Library next week by former children's laureate Michael Rosen.
It has been found that children today are more likely to be able to use a mouse to play a game on a computer, than tie their shoe laces or ride a bike.
While it seems a shame that so many can't or won't ride a bike, is it really their fault? After all, it the parents who put them in front of the computer and are pleased when they learn to use it. It's the parents who use their iPhone in front of the children or encourage them to play a game to 'keep them quiet' and it's the parents again who are not helping them tie shoe laces by providing them with velcro fastening shoes! But, as long as parents try to show and teach a balanced way of life (a bit of TV and a bit of swimming; a game on the computer then a nice blowy walk) then it's great that our children are being exposed to such brilliant and creative technology that computers provide.
The research published information that suggested 70% of children aged 2-5 can play computer games but that only 20% of them could swim on their own. Well, to be honest, the stats may sound threatening, but swimming unaided is actually a great deal more tricky to master at 5 than using a computer which is, after all, very simple to use, and the type of games the children play are specifically designed for children... It's not rocket science to suggest this might be the case!
S0me people suggest that in this digital age, children's skills are being measured by their ability on a computer. It says that parents are too busy or too lazy to help their children learn practical and physical skills. This is rather harsh. The fact remains that we do live in a digital world. It's not negotiable. We have to embrace the digital age or we simply won't be able to function! What we need to do is teach them all the traditional values and skills in addition to all the new-fangled ones. Then we will develop balanced and well rounded young people who don't sit in front of the TV all day, but who can ride bikes, swim but also use a computer.
Maths and counting and numbers may not be your preferred subject and it may bring back memories of dreading the maths lessons as school and struggling over homework, but it doesn't have to be like that! While hard sums are a long way down the line for our children, it's a great idea to get them in the swing of counting and using numbers, even when they are small, so they are confident when they get older. It will serve as vital building bock for future maths.
Here are a few simple way of incorporating numbers, counting and sums into your toddler's life. You'll see how easy it is!
- Count together at every opportunity: Count when drying toes and fingers, when marching up stairs, when passing trees, when stepping along the road to nursery, when passing cars in the street. Make it something you do at least once on every outing! It needn't be counting to 100; just to 10, and then 20, is a great start.
- Sort things: Arrange things in order and sort into groups. Mix coloured bricks or trains and cars and ask them to sort them into piles. All yellow bricks here and all red bricks there! Sort the washing together, sort the food after shopping: fruit here and vegetables here.
- Cooking: Make a cake together and mix in spoonfuls of raisins or cherries, measure and mix together to make a delicious cake. Or simply cut vegetables and count a few for each person at dinner.
- Shapes: Go round the house naming shapes, or when out for a walk spot things that are a particular shape: rectangle letter box, round, sign, square garage.
- Compare Size: Find the big book and the small book. Ask which is widest, which is longest? Sort books or other objects into size order.
- Patterns: Teach patterns and talk about patterns. Sort coloured blocks and make patterns with them or look at patterns on clothing or in books.
- Bath time: Even in the bath measure and pour water into little jugs. Talk about full and empty.
Making learning fun is the fundamental ideal of ToucanLearn, it's fun and learning for you and your little ones!
During the Christmas holiday, there is every chance that you will be taking a long car journey with your little ones to visit family or friends away from home. We nearly all dread this element of time away from home, but with a little help it needn't be a total nightmare. Here are some tips!
Travelling with a new or tiny baby. Pack up the car and then feed well and then leave quickly. Hopefully they will be lulled to sleep by the motion of the car, and you'll have a nice, quiet journey. When the next feed is due, try and stop around this time and feed in a service stop or somewhere calm and warm. Then head back on the road, and they are likely to nod off again. Keep some favourite toys nearby so you can clip them to the car seat if they wake and need amusement.
Travelling with toddlers. This may be a bit more of a challenge as they get tired and bored and restless sitting in one position in a car for too long. It's understandable, really!
- Leave really early before the morning rush hour. Transport your toddler to the car whilst still asleep and get most of the journey under-way before the traffic gets busy and before the little one wakes up!
- Have a sun shade in case low winter sun streams in through the window. It can be very irritating and cause lots of trouble for a toddler if the sun is directly in their eyes.
- Get a rear seat mirror especially if you are the only driver so you can see what's going on without worrying too much and turning round in traffic.
- Plan stops so you can all get out and have a run about to stretch legs and get some fresh air. Every 2 hours is probably best. Change nappies and have a toilet stop even if you don't need it.
- Attach a box on the seat next to the toddler with a few toys, colouring and crayons etc. so they can go through the box and help themselves rather than you trying to pass over things during the journey.
- Play games: the old ones are the best! I-Spy, Spot a Red/Green/Yellow car, First to see a... (lorry, telephone box etc).
- Have all you will need in the change bag including bottles, milk etc and all changing things. Searching through the suitcase to find a clean pair of trousers can be very frustrating and time consuming.
- Have lots of dry snacks for the journey to keep hungry tummies full and active fingers happy!
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