Dressing up offers a great opportunity for children to learn about professions and what different people do, or perhaps used to do in the case of pirates! But another way to expand children's knowledge of professions is to act out what people do. This is a simple and easy game to play in a group. Go through a series of professions and act out what they do. Here are some ideas:-
Act Like A...
Farmer: drive a tractor, scatter seeds, cut grass
Firefighter: drive a fire engine, put the siren on, put up a large ladder and climb it, point a hose at the fire
Doctor: mime putting on a stethoscope and listen to each other's chests, put on a plaster or bandage, administer medicine
Explorer: hunt aroudn with a torch, look amazed as you find spectacular things, cut your way through the jungle
Footballer: dribble a ball around, shoot at the goal, celebrate a goal
Have fun thinking of all sorts of things that people can do, and help your children learn all about various professions!
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!
It is no coincidence that you often hear that key learning stages are referred to as the 'building blocks' of life. Building blocks have the most marvellous property that while a single block is uninspiring, small and unnoteworthy, put together with many others it can create the most fantastic palaces or castles, the greatest zoos or fun parks or the most wonderful houses. A building block is a unit of a much larger creation, and the possibilities of what a pile of blocks can become are limitless.
The same is true when it comes to learning fundamental principles. Learning letters is the first step on the way to learning to read and write; learning numbers is the first step to learning complex mathematics. Craft play includes many fundamental principles that help to develop fine and gross motor skills, as do sports and games. Each small step is repaid with much more value by way of long term reward.
Active children who participate in a healthy mix of games, craft and learning will be collecting 'building blocks' through life. These building blocks will make well rounded individuals, and in the same way that traditional building blocks can make almost anything, so fundamental learning blocks will create a child capable of almost anything they put their mind to.
Money games aimed at preschool children should teach them counting and to recognise coins rather than adding or subtracting which is probably still beyond their understanding. Keep a collection of coins to hand, especially lots of pennies which they can count on. Here are a few ideas for games using money:-
Memory Game: Take four coins of different denominations. Show your little one what coins they are and what value or number each is (eg. 1, 2, 5, 10). Take a sheet of paper and place a coin under each corner without them seeing. Ask where '1' is and allow them one peek under one corner. If they are right, they win the coin, if not they must replace the paper over the coin. Then ask for a different coin and repeat until they have found them all.
Pairs and Sorting: Take two coins each of a variety of denominations and lay them all out on a tray. Have your little one pair the coins together based on size and colour. Can they sort them into order, either by number if they are able, otherwise by size?
Heads and Tails: Take a handful of coins and explain the difference between 'heads' showing the queen, and 'tails', the other side. Say a pattern such as 'Heads, Heads, Tails' and have them line up three coins in the right way. Make the pattern longer and longer to see how many they can remember and line up in a row.
Number Hunt: Take a selection of coins that between them display all the numbers from 0 to 9, include the year they were minted for numbers that don't appear in the denominations. Lay them all out, start at '0' and have your little one find a zero. Then look for '1', '2' and so on, up to 9.
Coin Rubbing: Tape some coins to a piece of card, lay over a sheet of paper and colour over them with a wax crayon to create copies of the coins. If they struggle to keep the paper still whilst rubbing then tape the paper down too. See if you can spot different numbers and pictures as they appear through the paper.
Olympic Challenge: This is a longer term project! To celebrate the 2012 Olympics, 29 special fifty pence pieces have been minted, each depicting an Olympic or Paralympic sport. Start collecting and see if you can collect all 29 fifty pence pieces. Every time you receive change in a shop, show your little one and ask them to pick out any 50p's. Generous retailers might be able to give you more 50 pence pieces in your change if you ask!
Don't be horrified by the idea of messy play, it gives young children the opportunity to explore materials in a unique way and reaches out to all their senses. Buy a 'messy tray' that you can use for messy play and carry out these fun activities outdoors or on a tiled floor in the kitchen or a conservatory:-
Yellow Brick Road
Buy a cheap roll of wallpaper or lining paper from a DIY store and roll it into a long 'road' in the garden. Roll up trousers and prepare plastic plates of finger plates. Have your little ones step in the paint and then walk down the road creating a footprint collage. Use sticks and other implements to make other marks.
Buy some plastic creepy crawlies and make up a jelly, inserting the creepy crawlies while it is still setting. Give the bowl to your little ones and have them look at the creepy crawlies and dig in with their hands to pull them out. If your little ones won't like creepy crawlies then use other small plastic toys.
Repeat the jelly game but using a packet mousse instead. This time your little ones won't see the toys hidden inside so they must do everything purely by touch. Help them squidge the mousse through their fingers and even let them taste the mousse so that they use all their senses.
On the Pulses
If sloppy is too messy for you, encourage playing with pulses and pasta. Mix together dried beans, lentils, pasta and rice and encourage tactile play. Sort the foods into shapes, types and colours. Make a collage by gluing the dried foods to paper.
Cook up some spaghetti and add a small amount of cooking oil to it to prevent it from sticking. This makes a great treat to play with - try combing the spaghetti like hair, separate strands out, or bend them into pictures.
All sorts of wonderful things are happening in the garden and parks at this time of year, so lets get out and do some great things with the wonderful wiggly worms, flippy flappy butterflies, busy buzzy bees and all the other bugs in the garden. Have a bit of messy fun and have a great time!
Before you start, go through a few basic rules for the Outdoors to keep the little ones safe and the bugs alive!
Keep a note book and record what you find.
1. Go for a bug hunt and when you find something draw it in your note book. Or you could photograph it and stick it in. Talk about what it looks like, how many legs it has, what colour it is etc.
2. Make a wormery! Take a tall transparent plastic bottle and cut off the top. Fill with layers of soil with some small pebbles and some grass or leaves on top. Put in a dark place. Place a couple of worms into the wormery and leave. Take a look each day and see if the worms have made tunnels and left worm casts on top of the soil. Set them free after a couple of days.
3. Hide some toy bugs in a sand box and see how quickly you can find them. Count them out and group them in colours.
4. Digging in the garden can be a great activity. Take some spades and dig some holes in flower beds. Talk about how much energy you need to do the job and which parts of the body you are using. When you have a nice howl, sit back and see if any birds come along to search for worms.
5. Snail racing is fun if a grown up is nearby to ensure the safety of the snails. Find two snails, draw a chalk circle on a patio slab and place them side by side in the middle. See which crosses out of the circle first. Does cheering help?
Children love a bit of messy play and this spell of fine weather gives the perfect opportunity to make potions in the garden! Give your little ones a selection of little pots and a large mixing bowl and encourage them to find different ingredients to make a potion. Stir together sand, water, leaves, some small stones, perhaps some flowers such as daisies or dandelions. Look for small items around the garden that can all be mixed together.
Talk with your little one about what the different ingredients do? Perhaps the flowers make it taste sweeter, perhaps grass cuttings and leaves help to turn the drinkers skin a green colour? Pebbles might be to help make the potion more digestible, strips of bark from trees and a few twigs may give you strength.
Of course, stress that this is only pretend and that your little one shouldn't really drink it, but at the same time, fire up their imagination and see what they can pretend this potion is for. Describe the different textures of the ingredients and discuss whether they make the potion easier to stir, or lumpy, or change colour and so on. Observe the changes as more ingredients are added. Above all, have fun!
Listening to and recounting stories is a terrific exercise for toddlers as it helps them think of a series of events and to develop their language skills. Sit down with a story that you enjoy and read it to them. At the end, ask them to act out the story themselves, with the help of a few props such as teddy bears, dolls and other relevant toys. See whether they are able to recall the story and act it through. Help them through if they struggle to remember it, you could even read the story again and again in order to help them.
Young children have the most remarkable memories and will quickly learn whole stories, such as The Gruffalo or Fix It Duck, after hearing it just a small number of times. If they can learn a book then have them recite the whole book and act along with their props. Books that rhyme are easier to learn because of their rhythm but even fairly long passages of prose can be committed to eager young memories with little practice.
Have your little ones take on the different characters in a story, and use different voices for the different roles. You can play along too, take on one of the roles, or perhaps act as narrator to tell the overall story while they act out the details.
Your little ones simply adore copying what you do, and when your working in the kitchen, nothing will make them happier than to play with the same kitchen implements that you use - wooden spoons, spatulas, whisks and bowls. Of course, they don't need to mess up your lovely kitchen utensils, although nylon and wooden ones would be perfectly safe for them, you can also buy whole sets of kitchen utensils from any toy store.
Pretend kitchen play is a valuable pastime for all kids. At a physical level they are learning about materials and honing their fine motor skills as they drop ingredients into bowls and stir them. They are also growing their understanding of how food is prepared, learning what is involved and about where their meals come from.
As they grow older you can move from pretend utensils to real ones, and from play food to real 'dried foods' (such as pasta, dried fruit, cereal etc.) and on to genuine cooking. Next time you are in a supermarket, take a look in the home baking aisle and you will find all manner of easy foods that you can whip up with the kids.
Here are some simply foods that you can buy from the supermarket and which even the youngest children can 'cook':-
All these products can be prepared in around 5 minutes and baked in around 20, and can form a part of the children's real meals. Try to cook with your children at least once a week and they will have a whale of a time!
If you're not the sort naturally to be inclined to go on long walks, then make it into a great game and join the geocaching craze! If you've never heard of it, there's a whole secret world waiting to be discovered by you, and it starts just outside your doorstep! Take the kids out to your favourite parks and open spaces and you'll almost certainly find hidden treasure waiting for you - even in parks that you thought you knew like the back of your hand. The kids will quickly become addicted and you'll find yourself geocaching wherever you go.
Geocaching is a treasure hunt. All over the country, in fact the world, are thousands and thousands of little treasure chests. The majority are actually old film canisters (remember those?!) while larger ones might be small tupperware boxes. Inside you will find little toys and often a pencil and a log sheet. The idea is that you have to find them and when you do so, you are entitled to take one of the toys as a prize, but you must also replace it with something else for the next person. Small prizes might be a coin, marble, plastic soldier, rubber creepy-crawlies, or anything else.
How to find them? These things are, quite literally, littered across the nation. A central database has them all logged by GPS coordinates (latitude and longitude). If you have a smartphone then go along to your app store and you'll find a variety of apps to help you locate and navigate to these secret hideaways. Your mobile phone will help you arrive at the right place through its GPS system, you'll see your progress on an onscreen map as you close in on the cache. Coordinates are accurate to a few metres, and caches have a hint that helps you find them, often describing a tree or bench where the container will be found. Find out more and view the database of geocaches online at http://www.geocaching.com.
Learning to recognise colours takes time and patience but it comes to all toddlers with practice. To help toddlers to learn their colours, undertake long term colour projects. Create a 'colour wall' in your home or setting, create a label for each colour, written in its own colour. Write balloon letters, coloured in for best effect. Attach the labels to the wall leaving space around them and you are now set to start your project.
Every few days, select a magazine or catalogue and look at the pictures with your little one. Identify an object in the picture that is primarily a single colour, point to it and talk about what colour it is. For children who aren't yet talking, tell them what colour it is, for young toddlers who are babbling, ask them what colour and see if they can guess correctly.
When you have talked about the picture and identified the colour together, cut the picture out and lift up your toddler so that they can stick the picture to the wall around the correct colour label.
Over a few weeks, your wall will grow into a great big colour chart with large swathes of each colour around each label. It will look pretty and serve as an aid for remembering colours and the repetitive nature of the project will help them to identify and learn their colours.
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.
During the first six months of a baby's life there are lots of games and activities you can do to help them make sense of their new world. Even when they are just born their senses are working and developing.
Here are some ideas for encouraging babies to use their senses.
Before any child can even attempt to read, they need various basic skills which will stay with them throughout their reading career! Some of these skills come naturally through every day life. They hear and use words themselves, they have seen books and heard teachers or parents read from them, they have enjoyed the thrill or comedy of a good book etc. But there are also things you can do as a parent or carer to help your child come even close to that magical day when they pick up a book, and read it for themselves!
1. Read, read and then pick up another book and read!
2. Practice rhyming words.
3. Recognition and Matching.
5. Use words.
Making friends, especially if you are a toddler, is not always easy... some children are keen to have 'best friends', others go around in packs and some are simply not interested at all. When you ask who they played with a nursery and they say 'no one' it can be heart-breaking. But, we have to remember that some children are emotionally 'advanced' and understand the concept of having a friend; whereas others are more interested in playing along side another child with no interaction at all.
If your child is nervous of making friends or you want to gently encourage them to make some new friends, here are a few ideas for encouraging and guiding them. Friendship is an important part of all our lives and the importance placed on making friends in childhood is demonstrated by the fact that 'Forming Relationships' is part of the EYFS and is a focus of Personal, Social and Emotional Development.
Here are some tips on how you can help children make friends:
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