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.
There's something about trains that just captivates young children, a fascination that can even last well beyond childhood! What is it about trains that children find so fascinating?
Toy trains are almost as old as the railways themselves. Young children, especially boys but also girls, enjoy lining up carriages into a train and pulling it along the floor or along a railway track. Children enjoy the sense of order that making a train offers. Trains have long played an important role in popular culture, first with books and then with television programmes featuring anthropomorphic trains such as Thomas the Tank Engine, Ivor the Engine and Chuggington. Real trains can bring excitement to young children - they will point out trains as they pass over a bridge in the distance, or when they see them from a car window.
If you live near a railway line or a station, take the children out for a walk and wait at a point where you can spot some trains. Talk with your little ones about what they are and what they do. Explain how lots of people can travel on a train. Make the noises that a train makes, point out and mimic the clickety-clack that the carriages make as they pass over joins in the rails. See if you can see signals and explain what they mean.
Seeing trains is an outing in itself for your little ones. What might appear to be perfectly mundane to you may create deep impressions on your children that last for many years to come.
As snow blankets the country, there is so much fun to be had outdoors with your littles ones, here are just a few ideas...
Giant snowball: Compact a small snowball and have your little ones roll it around the garden so that it gets bigger and bigger. See how big they can get before they can no longer roll it. Afterwards, turn your giant snowball into a snowman, or...
Snow sculptures: snowmen must have been around forever, but why not build other snow models too? A family of snow ducks, or a snow reindeer? Why not built a boat or train to play in?
Follow the leader: walk around the garden or a park and have your little ones mimic every move. The snow adds another element of fun as they can step in your footprints so that it looks like there is only one person.
Snow messages: challenge older children to run around in the snow and spell their name or write a message. View the results from an upstairs window and see how accurate they were.
Snow golf: Put a plastic mixing bowl out in the snow to be your golf hole. Use a plastic ball (ball pit ones are perfect) and find something to use as a club (what about one of daddy's welly's?!). Take turns to hit the ball from a starting point over and into the hole.
Have fun, and remember to wrap up warm!
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.
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?!
Over the last few years we've noticed that the cost of toys across many retail websites, and in shops, see a marked increase as Christmas approaches, and worse than that, stock availability is often poor during the festive season. Sometimes the price of individual items rises, in other instances, special offers that were available in earlier parts of the year disappear in the run-up to Christmas.
Our advice is to do your Christmas shopping early. Start looking for genuine bargains over the next few weeks and months. If you know some of the toys or other products that you want to buy then start monitoring their prices now and see if they come into a sale during the autumn.
Shopping early does mean that you could miss the number one Christmas toy, but if that's the only toy that you buy in the run up to Christmas, you can save yourself, quite literally, hundreds of pounds.
The New Year sales offer a great opportunity to stock up on birthday presents for the coming year. The only downside is that you need space to store everything until birthdays arrive, but if you have a cupboard out of the way, you can make dramatic savings.
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.
I-Spy is a terrific game to help while away boring chores, such as long car journeys or trips to the supermarket. Although young children probably can't spell yet, if they can talk then they can say what sound something begins with.
I-Spy with my little eye, something that begins with 'gr'
...or play a colours variation:
I-Spy, with my little eye, something that is blue
Add a new dimension to the game by letting your little one photograph what they are looking at with your mobile phone or a kiddy-camera if they have one.
I-Spy is such a great game for helping time pass, but also for helping develop letter sounds, colours or other knowledge. As it needs no equipment, just a minimum of two people, you can strike up a game at any moment!
Each year the Wimbledon Championships raise the profile of tennis in the country, and encourage social players back out onto courts all over the land. Most tennis champions were introduced to the sport at a really early age, and if you want a tennis star in your family, then you will need to start training them young!
In all seriousness, tennis presents a wonderful way to promote coordination in your little ones and there are lots of games you can play with them to help in their physical development.
Help babies to focus and track objects by bouncing a ball against a wall and catching it over and over. If they can sit upright, practice rolling a ball backwards and forwards and to you and back
Buy 'short tennis' rackets for toddlers to play with. Encourage them to hit a ball by throwing it to them gently. Have them run after and retrieve balls that you hit for them. Play simple throwing and catching games, have them throw items into hula hoops and then at smaller targets.
Encourage older children to practice bouncing balls on a racket over and over again, see how many times they can bounce the ball in a row. Keep a note of their 'high score' and watch their improvement.
Many tennis clubs run tennis camps during school holiday times, and especially in the summer. Some of these may be aimed at preschool children and some clubs run mother and toddler sessions throughout the year. Look at attending these, not really with the aim of producing a world class tennis champion, but simply to develop physical skills and hand-eye coordination. You probably will foster an early interest in sport, which is no bad thing, but regardless, you will be helping your little ones improve their capabilities.
If you are serious about pursuing junior tennis then the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) help with training and coaching for talented children from as young as five. Being involved in a local tennis club or tennis centres will help put your little ones on their radar.
We're only just past the summer solstice, marking the middle of the year, but there's no better time to starting your Christmas shopping than right now! Retailers in the high street and online are suffering poor sales - we don't have money to spend and we're not buying. Shops are currently launching into their summer sales, many starting earlier than usual. Now is the perfect time to bag yourself some bargains rather than waiting for Christmas.
Particularly good value at the moment are children's audio and video offerings. Family DVD's and CD's are cheaper at the moment than they will be at Christmas. Amazon and Play are selling many Disney DVD's for between £5 and £8 at the moment. Come Christmas time, they will probably run the same Buy One Get One that they have for the past couple of years, but suddenly all their titles will be retailing at a much higher price - you'll feel like you're getting a bargain but in truth you'll probably end up paying more than you will for the same titles right now.
Many toy retailers are also offering discounted goods at the moment. Grab yourself some bargains, pick up stocking fillers and stock pile gifts for friends' birthday parties now! Every parent takes advantage of discounted toys to give at parties, shop efficiently and you can save yourself a small fortune!
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:
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!
There's nothing worse than finding a great pop-up, 'lift the flap' or sticker book in your local bookshop that has taken a battering from children passing through the doors and playing with it! If you can't find the a copy of the book you want to buy as a gift for your children, their friends or relatives, then think about buying the book from an online bookseller. That way you will receive a pristine copy that hasn't already had all the flaps pulled or pop-up's bent!
Increasingly children's books are sold with additional 'parts', such as magnetic characters, toy bricks or accompanying cuddly toys. Buying these books online can be both cheaper and more rewarding than buying degraded copies from bookshops or supermarkets.
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