On this page you will find play ideas listed on the right

For more ideas Click here

Using your feet (more ideas)

  • Make footprints by stepping onto cement with wet feet and play 'whose footprint is this?'

  • Pick up a variety of items with the toes. e.g., pencil, money, books cards, plastic items, socks, cones, stones, leaves

  • Try holding a pencil or texta in the toes then  write with it.

  • Wriggle toes individually instead of all together.

  • Do foot painting: it’s as much fun as finger painting. Make paint by mixing a heaped tablespoon of cornflour with ½ cup of cold water to mix easily. Add 1 ½ cups of almost boiling water and stir over heat until it thickens. Colour with food colouring. Cool thoroughly before using the paint. Lay several large sheets of butcher’s paper on a cement path. Children can step into tray of paint then step onto paper and spread paint around by moving their feet.



Our family had a card game called Memory. The players had to memorise the position of cards on the table in order to collect a pair with identical pictures. The cards were only turned picture up two at a time and then immediately turned down again. It wasn’t long before our children were winning  every time. They seemed to have an extraordinary memory of where the pictures were. Memory games are easy to devise from the simplest objects and are useful in teaching the names of objects and to teach attention to detail. Here are some examples.

For 2-3 year olds:

Put three items under a cloth e.g. sox, a shoe, a hat. Adult removes one item and uncovers the others. Child then guesses what has gone.

3-4 year olds:

Make a face with pieces of dough. When child hides eyes, adult removes one feature. Child names feature that is missing

4-5 year olds:

Show child four pieces of fruit or vegetable. When child hides eyes, remove one item. Child names missing item. For a variation of the game, leave all items there but move the position of one while child is hiding eyes. Ask child to put things back where they were before. Ask child to remove an item or move the item while adult hides eyes. Children love to try to trick the adult.


Indoor ideas for  bad weather

This winter June and July have been extremely cold months in most parts of eastern Australia. Day after day it has been too cold or too wet for children to play outside except for short run-around times. The challenge for parents and child care workers is to keep kids occupied and to use up their physical energy while indoors.

When I worked in a child care centre and we experienced weather like this, I brought some outdoor equipment inside. I set up an obstacle course around which children walked jumped, hopped, skipped climbed rolled and ran. This was set up as a warm up activity, and was closely supervised by all staff so that each piece of equipment was used safely. Equipment included

  • hoops

  • balance beam

  • trestle

  • ropes, balls and bean bags. 

The activities were varied every few minutes to walking backward, sideways, bouncing, catching or rolling the ball, dividing the group into teams and making races of various kinds using different sizes of ball etc. to test children’s skills.

When everyone was warmed up and feeling lively, the same equipment could be used to quiet the children down, by converting part of the area for imaginative play. A boat outlined with boxes or blocks could be approached by the gangplank (balance beam). Children could fish from chairs in the boat using rods with magnets attached while the hoops became pools for the fish.

Children love to be involved in designing and arranging new play spaces.

Child care educators have imaginative minds. Whether you are at home or in a centre, see what gross motor activities you can provide to stimulate your groups in the inclement weather.


Dolls’ houses

Doll houses are easy and great fun for children to make.  A box of almost any size can be used. The outside of the box is easily painted by the child, using acrylic paints or cornflour paint coloured with vegetable dye. Inside the box, your child may like to cover the walls by pasting on attractive paper cut from magazines. Furniture such as beds, tables, and chairs can be made from small boxes, cotton reels, corks and small pieces of cardboard.  Match boxes glued together make a wonderful chest of drawers. Dolls can be made from paper, paddle-pop sticks or pegs. Wrap the fabric around and either glue it on, or hold it in place with small elastic bands.

Boys can make houses for action figures, castles for knights and royalty, caves for dragons or dinosaurs, or shops of every kind. Box houses are fun for the whole family.



When my boys were very young they were budding builders. They spent many hours with real hammers and nails joining bits of wood together to make wonderful contraptions that they used in their imaginative play. In pre-schools children are offered cardboard, paper, plastic lids, corks, paddlepop sticks, cotton reels and other odds and ends to attach to wood with either glue or nails. This kind of play is popular with girls as well as boys and is easy for parents at home to supply and supervise too. Full sized hammers are great as they have big heads, a necessity for beginning carpenters. The weight of a full sized hammer also helps a child to drive a nail into soft timber with a few blows. Children often use the hammer by holding it in both hands once the nail is upright in the wood. A strong workbench may be used in a centre, but my children used logs of wood as their benches, selected from the winter firewood supply. Nails must also have large heads. Pine wood is excellent as it is soft. Make sure it isn’t treated pine.  It is best not to suggest a project for the children. They will be satisfied to have a lot of nails partly hammered into a block of wood. They will name what they have made and it may not look as an adult expects the object to be. Remember that it is the process of making, not the finished product, that is important. Always supervise play with tools if there is more than one child there. Demonstrate the use of the hammer. Children from two years will enjoy this and by age four, you’ll be surprised at what they make. Begin with a hammer only but later a saw may be added if the child asks for one. Danger is minimised if the children are taught safety rules. Hammering develops concentration, and eye-hand co-ordination as well as an imaginative spirit.


Toys for toddlers

Buying toys for toddlers can be challenging. Many items that appear attractive, are labelled not suitable for children under three. The best toys for this age group are toys that encourage physical activity. Toddlers have almost unlimited energy. They love big or medium sized balls, sand moulds, buckets and spades, watering cans, large crayons, blocks, large paint brushes, toys to push and pull such as prams, wagons, barrows, brooms, mops, hobby horses,  and ride-on toys. Ride-on toys are easy for the toddler to use if they are designed to be propelled by the feet when the child sits on the toy, rather than by using a pedalling action.

Toddlers also enjoy opening and closing lids and carrying toys in baskets or bags. They can press buttons to produce sounds on musical toys and telephones and will spend lots of time using hammering toys.

Dolls, teddies and other soft toys are popular but make sure they are easy for the child to handle and that arms and legs won’t come off. A good investment is a child-sized table and chair or a rocking horse. A good quality chair and table will last many years.

The very young are quickly overwhelmed at Christmas by too many gifts. It may be better to buy one good quality more expensive gift, than many small, cheap items. Put away some of the gifts so that the child can play at length with a favourite one. Bring out the hidden gifts as the child needs more to play with.  



In April 2008, the 20th world puppet Congress and World Puppetry Festival will be held in Australia for the first time. It will take place in Perth and puppeteers from all over the world will attend and give performances. This will be an exciting event and as part of the congress and festival, people are invited to send a million puppets to Perth. This is a great opportunity for children everywhere to make a puppet. At one of my local schools children have begun making puppets and I saw some of them yesterday. They were fascinating, exciting and wonderful. The children had each used a wooden spoon to make their puppet. The spoons are painted in vibrant colours and clothed in feathers, material, paper and wool. Hair and facial features were made from matchsticks, pipe cleaners, wool, buttons, seeds and other easily found items all glued on securely or held with tape.  Another group of children at the same school has begun to make sock puppets. There is no right or wrong way to make a puppet. They can be as small as a finger puppet or as big as a giant. How about encouraging your children to make a puppet?

Here is the address to which puppets can be sent.

Million Puppet Project

PO Box 832, Fremantle Australia 6959

Puppets must arrive before Friday, March 21st 2008. The Carnival begins on 6th April.

Many puppets have already arrived. Look at this website to see some of the puppets.  A puppet caravan will be giving performances as members travel across Australia on the way to Perth. Enquire about the caravan visiting your town at the following web address:

After the festival, all the puppets will be sent to charities and schools where they will be loved and used by children.


Rescue Games

While we all hope that our children will never be in a situation that requires rescue, it is helpful to have practised rescue situations. Fire evacuation procedures are practised at Child Care Centres but many procedures can be enjoyed as games while children are learning at the same time. Here are some game ideas:

Rescue can be from

  • sinking boats

  • plane accidents

  • train accidents

  • a farm accident requiring the Flying doctor

  • fierce storms

  • car accidents

  • wild creatures including snakes.

Chairs are useful as vehicles and ladders. Ropes and boxes can be put to multiple uses. Ice cream containers can be helmets. Blocks make handy instant mobile phones and soft toys can participate too. In the process children can be learning about wearing life jackets, what ambulance officers do to stabilise a patient, the correct thing to do when a snake is seen, and how to phone for help.

A new initiative in schools and Early Childhood centres, is to teach children how to make emergency calls because more and more children have needed help in a variety of situations. Children also need to learn about stranger danger but first enjoy some of these exciting, creative games together.


Quiet games

Whether your child is school age, a baby, toddler  or pre-schooler, quiet, solitary play is a necessary part of every day. Baby needs time alone to just look at the surroundings and to touch toes, play with fingers and to babble and listen to his or her own voice. Children who are at school all day can be encouraged to spend some time playing alone in their room or outside after arriving home before playing with other children. Solitary play is a calming activity and is different from watching TV, as it means making their own entertainment or following their own interests.

Suggestions are:

  • waterplay

  • drawing or colouring

  • dolls house play

  • watering the garden

  • picking flowers

  • card games

  • dough

  • cutting out

  • climbing a tree

  • starting a collection or sorting an existing one

  • building models

A short time alone refreshes everyone and will help prevent arguments amongst siblings if they then wish to join together for other games.


Hide and seek

Three year olds love to play hide and seek. They do not wait to be found but jump out almost immediately and are delighted when the adult seeking them shows surprise. Hiding objects is another way to play this game. Have three hiding places in a row such as a cup, a box and a cushion, or have three boxes, cups or cushions to act as the hiding places. The item to be hidden must be small enough to fit easily under the hide. The child and the adult can take turns to hide the object.

Skills practised in this game are

  • using fingers to pick up small objects

  •  learning not to peep,

  • not telling anyone which is the hiding place

  • moving the objects quietly

  • concentration


Make a book

Making a book with your child can be fun for both of you. Begin with an activity book using photos. You are sure to have photos of holiday time or of special events such as a birthday or visiting grandparents or of games with the family pet. One photo can be mounted on each page in a spiral backed book with a simple caption under each. Spiral backed books are easy for a child to open and turn pages alone. Paper pages will last very well but you may want to use loose paper that can be slipped into the plastic sleeves of a document book. Simple excursions such as going shopping or to the town pool make ideal subjects. For example a going shopping book could have the following photos:

  • child waiting beside the car

  • sitting in child-seat with seatbelt done up

  • leaving the car park on arrival at shopping centre

  • sitting in the shopping trolley or helping to push it

  • shots of different isles

  • selecting some of the food

  • loading supplies into the car

  • meeting a friend

  • the pet greeting you on arrival home

  • having refreshments after arriving home

A four year old can help you to select the photos and decide what to write under the pictures. Older children would enjoy a project like this as a scrapbook of things they want to remember or as a book for a younger sibling.


Play with leaves

Autumn is a lovely time of year where I live, with sunny days and glorious autumn foliage in the tree-lined streets. I can never resist picking up some of the leaves. Of course some of you may live in the tropics or in parts of the world where it is now spring. Wherever you are take a look at the trees in your environment and encourage some games with leaves. How many ways can your children think of using them?

Here are ten physical gross motor movement ideas

  1. rake up a big pile of leaves

  2. wheel them in a barrow

  3. put them in a box with soft toys and attach a rope to pull them along

  4. dance with leaves to music

  5. jump on a pile of leaves then roll in them

  6. throw handfuls into the air

  7. lie down under a carpet of leaves

  8. make a huge sandcastle and decorate it with leaves

  9. climb a tree to pick leaves

  10. thread leaves on a string and make a kite to run with

Ten ideas for fine motor activities

  1. arrange leaves in rows or in squares

  2. arrange leaves according to their shape, colours, sizes

  3. count leaves

  4. draw them, put them under wax paper and iron them

  5. do leaf rubbings to discover their structure

  6. stick them to cardboard or paper, put them between sheets of contact, trace around them

  7. arrange them in a basket

  8. use them as plates for doll food

  9. wrap food snacks in edible leaves, collect as many leaves as you can that are edible

  10. wear a blindfold and name the leaves just by touch, classify the leaves according to feel –  are they furry, prickly, smooth, bubbly etc.

Enjoy these activities with your child or group of children. If you think of more ways to use leaves, please send me an email. Click here to contact Helen


The great Outdoors

Boys often choose to play quite different activities from girls outdoors, even at pre-school age. This is largely because adults encourage them in different ways and provide differently for them. However, outdoor play is an area where we can encourage cross-over gender play. Tricycles are a good beginning for both sexes. Prams or shopping trolleys are also good. Boys see plenty of men pushing them these days.

Having said that, my daughter has hit a snag with her three year old daughter. She quickly mastered riding her bike and enjoyed the activity but now refuses to ride any more because she declares that Santa brought her a boy’s bike – it is red and blue. Girls’ bikes she insists, must be pink (or at least purple). What to do about this? My daughter is contemplating spray- painting the bike in her daughter’s favourite colour.

Climbing games, camping, fishing, dancing and singing in pop-star style are also done by both male and female performers. I’m sure the Wiggles and Hi-Five have helped many boys to feel that singing and dancing are cool.

Help your youngsters to re-enact holidays at the beach, the river or fishing and boating outings. If they haven’t had these experiences, make believe is a great way to introduce this type of play. Many ideas can be found in story books too.

Try not to focus only on what has been deemed in the past, to be gender appropriate play. Our kids need broad horizons.



With the price of petrol skyrocketing, more families are considering the use of bicycles. Bike riding is an excellent fitness activity that can be shared by the whole family. It builds muscles, and helps develop strong lungs. Remember too that it is a carbon free activity so is helping our environment. In the past, the majority of children living in rural areas of Australia, would have cycled to school or a least had a bike to use at weekends.

In the last twenty years, cars have really taken over our roads and our thinking. Parents run kids to

  • school and collect them 

  • sport and fun activities

  • music

  • the library,

  • visit their friends, and to the movies.

We re addicted to the motor vehicle and to getting to places in the fastest time with the least effort. Actually, bike travel is often faster than car travel. Riding a bike demands a responsible attitude of both adults and kids.

Parents should  provide their kids with bikes of the right size and help them to keep bikes in

good orde. Also  provide training, helmets, other appropriate clothing, supervise learner riders, and keep encouraging the young riders.

Children must not only how to ride but what the road rules are. Some schools offer bike clubs so kids can learn bike maintenance, rules, enter competitions, and have fun in a controlled and safe environment. Before riding alone on the roads, parents must assess their child’s competence. Remember that eyesight is immature before age 9 so younger children should be accompanied by an adult.

How about some pressure on your local council to provide cycle tracks to the schools, to the shops and to the sporting fields?


Toys for young babies

It has been proved in research that newly born babies study patterns put within focus of their eyes. They prefer black and white images and like a simple face shape with eyes drawn on it. My daughter had prepared a couple of these images before her baby was born. She placed them either side of the bassinet. She also made simple toys for baby to reach for at about three months of age.

The first toys that take a baby’s attention are ones that move and make a sound. Simple kitchen items are ideal. Across the pram or bassinet tie a cord to which you can tie small balls made by crumpling foil, or a small pie plate, a bunch of teaspoons, or little bells that will tinkle. Baby will like the bright silver and if it is within reach of his/her random arm movements, they will move enticingly. A balloon is also appropriate. At this stage baby will only be able to bat the objects, not catch hold of them so things that will later be unsuitable, are okay. Placing these objects so that baby can kick them will encourage vigorous kicking too.

Look in your kitchen and see what simple things you can use to make an interesting environment for your baby



Hygiene games – 1) water

Teaching children to wash hands is one of the easiest skills to teach because they love playing in water. It seems almost impossible for a child to keep hands dry if there is water available for washing games. Water to play with can be made available indoors in a dish, or in the bathroom or kitchen. Outside it can be in a small bucket, a dish or watering can or the hose. It is only when washing hands delays some other enticing activity such as eating or getting on with a game after toileting, that children don’t want to bother with it.

Encourage hand washing through washing-games in warm water by offering

  • dolls and dolls clothes

  • kitchen items

  • stones

  • pegs

  • things that float and sink

  • toys that can be used in water

  • cloth sponges

  • mud, clay and sand play.


Hygiene games 2) nose blowing

Runny noses are unfortunately one of the most eye-catching features of a child’s face but keeping the nose clean seems to be one of the hardest skills to teach. Children learn to sniff before they learn to blow. Teach blowing when the child is perfectly well without even the slightest sniffle.

There are several steps:

  • Encourage your child to taken deep breaths in and out through the mouth and to feel the warm air escape when breathing out. Taking a big breath through the nose is harder to teach. Demostrate it, exaggerating the actions by encouraging the child to breathe in through the mouth, close it tightly, then breathe out through the nose.

  • Practise with child every day until the skill is established. Your child can hold a feather under the nose to see how it flutters as breath comes out.

  • Collect a number of almost weightless items such as feathers, dandelions, pingpong balls, polystyrene balls, and coloured threads or tiny ribbons.  Have a blowing competition. Can you blow a feather or table tennis ball across a table using just the breath from the nose?


Fulfilling kids wishes

It is that time of year when retailers put a great deal of effort into attracting the attention of children with the expectation that they will put pressure on adults to purchase the latest, most desirable toys. Children have little understanding about finance until they are into their teens, and many even then seem to still think that parents have unending supplies of it. Do your shopping when the children are not tagging along, so you can avoid requests. Even pre-schoolers are not too young to be told that there s not enough money to buy certain things. If your finances are stretched this year, what can you do to fill the Christmas stockings?

  • look for second hand toys and books in good condition

  • team up with grandparents, aunts and uncles to buy one item of good quality rather than a number of smaller items

  • collect things that will enable children to make their own craft items

  • look at markets as they are a great place to pick up bargains

  • go through your cupboards and look for things that you don’t need. There are bound to be things there that would delight a child – a little vase, a cup and saucer, a magnifying glass, a little teapot and strainer that you haven’t used for years, nails, screws, a screwdriver

  • kids love tiny items that can be used for sorting  e.g.  buttons, beads, pretty stones, shells, cards, pencils

  • boys love nails, screws and tools they don’t have to be new

  • small boxes that jewelry came in delight little girls to put their own treasures in

  • paper dolls are a great idea. Trace some outlines from colouring books and cut them out of cardboard. You can use photos of your child's face to paste onto a drawn body. Provide coloured paper scraps or thin material scraps so children can dress the figures themselves.

Think back to your own childhood when the electronic devices of today were not available and choose things you liked. See how inventive you can be and have fun along the way.



Jigsaw puzzles have always been available in child care centres but do you have some at home? There are bright, interesting puzzles now at very reasonable prices to cater for children from eighteen months onwards. While wooden puzzles will be stronger, cardboard puzzles will last well too. For the youngest children, choose puzzles with simple inset shapes so that the cut out shape closely resembles the animal or object that fits in the space. These puzzles will have only a few pieces. The next type of puzzle often has a cut out shape too and will have several pieces to complete the picture. It may be of a person, an animal or some familiar object. All of the pieces will be relatively big so they are easy for the child to grasp and recognise as part of the picture. For four year olds there are many puzzles that relate to TV characters or familiar scenes. There may be a lot of pieces and a picture included to show the finished scene.

Children need to be taught skills if they are to master jigsaws and enjoy the activity. Sit with your child and help to work it out. It is best not to tip the picture out but to take pieces out individually so that the mind focuses on the relationship of each piece to the next. Teach your child how to recognise the edge pieces, how to sort out the colour groups, how to look at the shapes of the individual pieces and how to turn them around until they fit.

Jigsaws help children to

  • see relationships

  • look at details

  • follow instructions

  • concentrate.

These skills will help with literacy and with mathematics, both important parts of life. Incomplete puzzles are unsatisfying so make some rules about where jigsaws can be done, what to do with a completed puzzle and where they can be kept.



Children are fascinated by magnets. They are cheap to buy at hardware stores and you can make games easily.


1.      Sorting things that a magnet can lift. Collect a range of small objects including wood, plastic, glass, metal, paper and fabric. Give the child two paper plates on which to sort them – one plate for objects that will stick to the magnet and the other plate for those that won’t stick.

2.      Paper boats Make paper boats and put some paper clips in each.  Float the boats in a dish of water. Make the boats sail along by holding the magnet against the side of the dish and moving it around.

3.      Counting How many paper clips or nails can the magnet hold at one go?


Nature safari

There are more insects in the world than there are of any other living species yet apart from bees, butterflies mosquitoes and flies, how many insects can your children recognize? Children are more likely to name sharks, dolphins, native animals, and wild exotic animals they have seen in the zoo or on TV, than the insects that live in their own gardens and local parks. Insects are as amazing as dinosaurs. Why don't you plan a nature safari for your children? Wear hats and take drinks and snacks in your back pack and go into the garden or to a park. A breakfast safari would be fun early one morning as the sun will be catching dew-sprinkled spider webs. Tiny spiders can be found then in leaf curls, the web hung between bushes. Later in the day these webs are not easy to see. With spiders, the idea is to see, not catch.

You will need a clear plastic drink bottle or other plastic container as a bug catcher. Cut the narrow neck off the drink bottle and secure a piece of panty hose or net as a cover, with a rubber band. If possible take a butterfly net too. It is necessary to teach children to look at, rather than touch the insects they see, as many sting or bite. Beetles are particularly interesting and many are robust enough for children to touch if shown how to do so safely.  A magnifying glass helps children to count legs, look at mouth parts, see how the shell is folded over the wings etc. Encourage children from four to eight to draw the creature they have captured before letting it go again. Older children will be able to record their specimens in photos and keep  records of the number and kind of insects, and where they were found.


Museum Games

1.Dinosaurs fascinate children. Not every child has the opportunity to go to a museum to see real dinosaur bones but it is easy to set up an interactive bone display using equally interesting bones purchased from a butcher, a fisherman or ones found in bushland or even along the roadside. Some weeks ago, on an early morning walk, I saw a dead bird on the roadside.  After some weeks only the fragile bones remained. Children would have been interested in them. If you resort to bones that are still covered with meat, you will need to prepare them for your display by boiling them well. Make sure that no smell lingers either. Teeth come in different sizes and shapes as well as leg bones and are fascinating.

Children can be encouraged to

  • place bones on the floor in different arrangements and to name their own dinosaur

  • dig for fossils in the sandpit where you have buried bones for them to find

  • build a body out of dough to cover the bone of a cuttlefish

  • choose a bone and draw the creature they think it belonged to.

2.Clothing In Maisy Goes to the Museum, Maisy dresses as an Egyptian and Cyril as a Knight.  You could improvise capes, gowns, jewels and crowns for Kings and Queens.

3. Toys Many families have toys stored away from their childhood. These would be excellent in museum games e.g. cars, blocks, dolls, marbles. Show children how to handle objects with care.

4. Cupboards Look at the back of the kitchen cupboards, for long forgotten items that will be strange to modern children. E.g. graters, egg poachers, jaffle irons, toasting forks, teapots. These would be good to compare with things currently in use.  Older children can make labels or put numbers on the items.

Once started on a museum theme, games will suggest themselves.


Make the most of autumn

Where I live, it has been a long, sunny autumn with brilliantly coloured trees this year. I cannot resist the urge to pick up leaves in the street and pin them on the message board in the kitchen. Children love autumn leaves too. Why not put some in your child’s room until they curl up and fall. Encourage children to look for them when going driving or shopping and to pick up some too. Before the weather is too cold water and leaves combine well in outdoor games. Kids will love to:

  • float leaves in the bath or dishes of water

  • float leaves on creeks, rivers or puddles

  • use leaves in cooking games

  • rake up leaves

  • stick them on paper with paint or glue

  • help you put them in the compost heap

  • spread them on gardens as mulch

  • use them in early mathematics for counting games

  • sort them into shapes and sizes

  • use them instead of toy animals or people in stories.


Food memory game

My granddaughter has just discovered the memory game my own children enjoyed so much. She is already very good at remembering the positions of the cards. Memory cards are easy to make so I suggest making a set of fruit and vegetable cards. They must all be the same size and be backed with the same colour of cardboard so that when they are placed face down there are no clues to the pictures on them. Use the internet to find free clip art symbols to print and paste on each pair of cards. If you don’t have a colour printer, get the kids to help colour in the pictures or use instead pictures from magazines.

Players take turns to turn over two pictures. If the cards match, the player keeps those cards and has another turn. If the cards don’t match the next player takes a turn, turning over the same card if he thinks he knows where the matching card is. The winner is the player with the most pairs of cards when play stops.

As the children become familiar with the names of the foods, they will be interested in looking for them in the shops. The next step is buying and tasting them.


Board games.

Pre-schoolers are ready to play board games but they all want to win. In order to prevent disappointment, tears or anger, the best idea is to find co-operative or team games, or adapt games so that they continue till everyone reaches home. Even snakes and ladders can be adapted. Here is a suggestion for a group game. The dice is thrown by each child in turn around the circle. The object is to build a tower of blocks. For each number thrown, a block is placed to build a tower but when a snake is encountered, two blocks comes off, when a ladder is encountered, two blocks go on. The height of the tower will be a matter of pride to all.



I’ve just found a wonderful new website called Kids Craft Weekly. Every two weeks Amber’s newsletter suggests educational, cheap, fun craft activities for children that she has created with her two small children. This week she suggests Advent activities that centre on fun things to do instead of on eating chocolates as in bought Advent calendars. The easy-to-follow instructions she gives are illustrated by photos and you are bound to come up with many of your own ideas once you are started. The simplest idea is to write activity ideas on strips of coloured paper and joint the strips up to make a paper chain. Every day one link is removed and the activity inside is followed. Activities range from going out for a picnic lunch, to placing a gift under a Christmas tree in the local shopping centre, or making cards or twenty other things children like to do as Christmas approaches. Here is the link

 The website is full of wonderful things to do during the holidays so find the link and explore it.


Wet weather in the holidays

On 27th December the rain really set in at my place. Many of the outback towns had already become flood bound and now the coastal towns will be inundated. My town is on the northern highlands of NSW and in town the creek will have cut the town in two. I live 22 klms from town and overnight the dams which were bone dry have filled and the tanks are overflowing. We had 201 mls of rain and it is still drizzling. The road just a kilometre further on, is closed by an overflowing creek and all those families will be cut off from shops.  Kids who got outdoor toys for Christmas will be frustrated but those with indoor ones will give them a work over.

Make a flood game.

This game will fit in with events. Kids can use real water if you are happy for a bit of a mess. Spread plastic first to protect the floor or if you have a verandah area set up there. Make a town scene with bridges that collapse, using paper for the river. A farm scene is lots of fun too with some dishes of water representing dams and plastic animals. Crumple paper to make hills to which animals can be moved as the rain falls and the water level rises. Use blocks for the home and dolls for the family. If you have no dolls, make people from pegs, spoons or cardboard rolls that we usually recycle. Kids can even draw people on paper, cut them out and stand them up using cardboard flaps. Making the game and playing it will take a whole day or more. Perhaps boats or helicopters will have to rescue people from rooftops. Once you start the kids off they’ll use their imaginations to contrive all kinds of situations.

If you live in the northern hemisphere, you could still have a flood game or it may be a snow game. There has been lots on our TVs about the enormous snow falls that have been dumped in cold places. Kids would have wonderful fun using cotton wool bits for their snow. 



Kids really love shopping games so why not organise a shopping game that will help you tidy up at home? It is easy to organise the following clothing shops, shoe shops, toy shops, grocery shops, cooking ware/ saucepan shops, book shops.

Give your child permission to take everything out of the cupboards or off the shelves from the selected category. While the storage areas are empty, you can dust them or wipe them down. Children like to sell as well as buy so between you shopping bags will soon be filled. When it is time to put the items away, you’ll find that it doesn’t take long to sort and fold the clothes and put them away in neat fashion. Older children can soon get the idea of putting tins of food into lines on the shelves and stacking saucepans inside each other.

From shopping games children can learn

  • counting

  • prices

  • colours

  • weight

  • sorting  (sizes and other categories)

  • uses

  • recycling

  • right side/ wrong side

  • lots of vocabulary

  • shopping etiquette

  • organisation skills and much more.


Messy play

Parents see paint, mud, water, even food, in a different way from their children. A baby given a piece of toast will make a real mess, smearing it all over face, hands, clothes and the high chair. We expect this, but by the time that baby has grown into a pre-schooler, the same behaviour isn’t acceptable. Pre-schoolers still like to explore things through the hands and we should provide them with the chance to get messy. Not everyone can have a sand pit in their home but there are other things right in your kitchen that can be great fun. Put a plastic sheet or some newspaper on the floor so the area will be easy to clean up, or give the child a table that is an appropriate height.

Lentils and dry pasta

Let your child empty a packet of lentils or dry pasta into a baking dish or a bowl. Encourage him/her to let them flow through his/her fingers. Children love to pour lentils and pasta from one container to another. They make a good sound in plastic and in metal containers. Small toys like cars or plastic animals are fun to play with at the same time.


Empty a packet of cornflour into a bowl or a flat container like a cat litter tray. Let your child pour a jug full of water over it then mix it with the hands. It feels silky and drips off the fingers in a fascinating way.

Cooked potatoes

Boil potatoes, cool them, and cut into quarters. Put them in a bowl and give your child a small jug of milk or water to add, and the masher. The mashed potatoes can be part of your child’s lunch.


Playing with leaves

With autumn here, there are lots of leaves falling. Leaves are one of the loveliest of nature’s gifts and can be use in so many ways.

Why not set up a shop area at pre-school or at home using leaves? Leaves can be

  • sold as plates

  • decorations

  • wrappings

  • small leaves can be used as money. 

Leaves are excellent for teaching colours, counting, and sorting into shapes.

Combine buying and selling leaves with craft activities for your child such as

  • threading leaves on lengths of wool

  • tracing around leaves

  • spattering over them with toothbrush dipped in paint

  • pasting onto paper or pressing onto contact paper

  • ironing them between pieces of waxed paper.

Children love to rake and sweep too so will be in their element raking up leaves on the lawn or sweeping the steps or patios. Help them to spread the leaves on gardens or put them into the compost.


Cooking together.

Children love to do things with their parents and cooking together is something that you can do regularly. Cooking with your child doesn’t have to be  time set aside for making a special recipe. There are many jobs in food preparation that children will love helping with such as

  • snapping ends off beans

  • shelling peas

  • washing vegetables

  • using the peeler and the grater

  • beating eggs

  • adding ingredients

  • measuring flour and dried fruit.

Older children can slice soft vegies such as zucchinis and cucumber, butter bread, oil or grease the pans.  Reluctant eaters are often encouraged to try new foods when they help with the preparation. If your child has a sweet tooth, balance preparation of special treats with preparing healthy foods. Take some photos of your child helping with the cooking. These can be used as story cards. Take three pictures of the stages of the cooking of lasagne. Take a fourth picture of the family eating it. Ask your child to put the pictures in the right order and tell you what each one is about.


Sand fun

Sand is a wonderful medium for kids to use. In no time they can make hills and valleys, roads and tunnels, even buildings. They can use it wet or dry and sculpt it in many ways. Here in cold New England, back yards and playgrounds are still mostly bare and brown but the wattle trees are in full bloom and cheer the soul. Blossom trees and spring flowers are weeks away but the sand pit can be used to bring spring early.  Kids can transform it into a miniature garden very easily with sprigs of wattle, gum tree leaves, and other leaves from around the garden.  Coloured snips and scraps from magazines can be used to put colour into the miniature landscape as flowers or butterflies and birds. Let the kids take their plastic farm animals into the sand pit too or help them make clay creatures. Rocks and stones can be added too. Help them to make paddle pop or peg people clothed in bright strips of paper or fabric. These are easy to stand in the sand too. As they make their sandscape, the kids are practising fine motor skills, learning about the qualities of sand, plants and colours, and smelling the different things they are using. These are wonderful learning opportunities.


Using Music

Music is everywhere nowadays but instead of just having it in the background, use it to promote activities. Choose music to explain feelings to children. for example, a bright piece of music in quick tempo will help you to talk about happiness, or a slower piece of music to talk about more serious things. Here are some other ideas:

  • To cheerful music, encourage kids to make bright paint patterns on paper

  • Make  arms, hands, fingers dance to the rhythm

  • Select calm, quiet music to calm children at the end of the day and talk about how that music makes you feel.

  • Help kids to select music that is exciting, stirring, loud, aggressive, unsettling, sad, frightening or frustrating.

  • Help kids to express these feeling in drama or mime, dance, painting and clay manipulation.

  • Music can also be used for routines such as bathing, hanging out the washing, ironing the clothes and putting away the toys.


More water

In all the coverage of the floods there was much mention about the floods of 1974 and that reminded me of a Save the Children Fund pre-school I heard about at that time. It was in a small community that was cut off for months. The teacher reported how the children’s games changed to be all about building levees and moving stock to higher ground and using boats to get around. The isolation went on for so long that a helicopter was finally used to take some of the older children to Lightening Ridge for school. As communities have grown so much in the last 37 years a lot more people have been affected by the recent floods, and the amazing spread of water over so many hundreds of kilometres that is still happening.  Television has taken pictures into all our homes and I’m sure that school age children in particular have learnt a lot about the properties of water. Along with the terror and devastation there is the blooming of life in the desert for the second year in a row. Water birds are breeding and stock has an abundance of feed after at least ten years of drought. Children in outback homes have water to swim in. Some of those children had never seen a river or a full dam before. Imagine their excitement. Imagine the new way those kids will be playing.  Perhaps kids in other areas of the country can use clay to sculpt a landscape with dry river beds and animals, then slowly add water to see how the model changes and what will have to be done to keep the homestead dry and the animals safe.


Bed time

Bed time is a great time to read or to tell a story. I heard a variation of this recently. Each night the parent hid a small item under the child’s pillow for the child to find. The story was then a sharing of the significance of the item. This  variation of show and tell that is so popular at schools and child care centres, is great for bedtime at home. Encourage your child to ask questions about the item and also to contribute ideas about it. For example a train ticket could remind you

  • of a family holiday or one you had as a child

  • of the time you missed the train

  • about a book of trains

  • about a train set in a shop window

  • the size of freight trains, the noise they make and  where they come from etc.

Another variation would be to have items in a small bag and your child pulls out an item just from feel and then the story is about that item. Model animals or pictures could also be in a bag or a box. The child selects one and then you both use an encyclopedia to increase your knowledge.



Children are always fascinated by creatures that are alive. After telling a story about a tadpole recently, I took some tadpoles into the centres for the children to look at. I’d spent quite a lot of time catching them for although there were a number in my pool, they are hard to catch. It was worth the trouble to hear the children talk about them.

Since then, I’ve seen a display of snails set up for children to examine. I’m sure all children are fascinated by these creatures and they are much easier to catch than tadpoles. A fair number of snails were under a transparent dome with fresh leaves on the base for food. This gave children an excellent way of viewing both the underside of the snails as well as their shells. Snails were clinging to the plastic as well as creeping along. There were also good sized pictures of snails displayed near by so encouraging comments about the different sizes and types of snails.


Start a story

A week of wet weather sends us all looking for ideas to keep children occupied. Here is an idea to start a story. See what the children imagine will happen next. Record their ideas and change the story each day. They could draw pictures for each version too.

Once upon a time there was a King who hated rain. “Everyone stop working, stop playing, and stop eating until the sun comes out again," shouted the king.”  The people got bored and hungry. A clever magician had an idea. He waved his magic wand and turned the king into a duck.  “You will be a duck until you learn to love the rain,” he said.


Role Play.

Recently I performed in a pantomime for children based on a nursery rhyme. As in traditional pantomimes, the children were involved and what wonderful fun they had. It made me think that more families should use drama within the family. All kinds of situations could be dramatised from shopping, visits to the doctor or hairdresser, to taking the role of a sport’s coach or acting out scenes from favourite books and TV series like Bananas in Pyjamas or cartoon series. As Kids love to dress up, use simple scarves or paper and tape to make props. Get the children to make suitable music for movement with percussion instruments or from CD’s they own. Swap roles too, letting the children take adult roles while adults act the child’s role. Just have fun.


Making a forest

At many child care centres, there wonderful outdoor play areas that are planted with trees, shrubs flowers and vegetable gardens. Some have dry, stony river beds and even frog habitats. One centre I remember had a forest of silver poplar trees that the children loved. Growing a forest isn’t a quick project and certainly won’t suit every centre or backyard but what about a miniature forest in a sand pit or a vegetable garden?

Children can go on a collecting hunt as you prune bushes in the garden. They could bring in twigs, bark rocks, shells, prunings etc. This morning as I walked, the road was littered with gum leaves and small branches as a result of last night’s storm. These would have made a wonderful addition to any sandpit. Add plastic animals and this forest setting would stimulate play for mornings to come.

I can also imagine a vegetable forest. My silver beet is going to seed and the plants have shot up high. Look at the plants in your vegetable garden. Could your children make a spinach forest or a garlic one with small plastic people searching through it for wild animals that have escaped from the zoo?

At my place the rains have brought spring growth to the weeds and as the mower battery is flat, I haven’t been able to mow yet.  I may even pretend this wilderness is a forest and hide toy animals and people there for my granddaughter to find at the weekend. I’m sure she will have great ideas to extend the game.


Christmas crafts

Christmas has always been a joyous time for my family with special activities, food, cards, displays to look at in the shops and the long summer holidays. We’d see relatives who lived far away most of the year too and we’d be able to swim and play in the water. Making cards was one of the first Christmas activities and instead of buying ones to send out, we usually made our own. The children really enjoyed this and friends seemed to appreciate them too.  It doesn’t take much effort to provide some good quality paper of the right size, some textas to draw with and some glue and sparkle. The cards will look wonderful. Many people in a child’s life like to receive a gift made by that child. If you have school-age children or one at pre-school, you will already have lots of ideas but every year there are new parents sending their children to some form of early education who may not have a background in craft so here are some ideas.


My daughter loves to make a Christmassy wreath to hang on her front door. She gathers grasses as well as cones, everlasting flowers and feathers and anything else that she thinks looks interesting. Kids can have a great time helping you make a wreathe too.


  • Keep paintings to use as gift paper or to cut into Christmas cards.
  • A piece of paper folded while the paint is wet gives a lovely blot or butterfly affect.
  • Spattering – dip an old tooth brush in thin paint then brush back and forth on thin wire gauze or a strainer to get tiny spots of paint. Before spattering place plastic animal shapes on the page so that the animals will be left white when the paint dries.
  • Cut paintings into thin strips and glue these strips into long streamers to decorate a room or tree.

Grass and leaves

  • Send children to look for leaves of different sizes, textures, colours. Very tiny leaves and many different shapes of leaf can be found in the grass e.g.clover. Press the leaves between paper for a few days then ask the children to arrange leaves on paper from a craft paper pad. Put a dab of glue under each leaf.


In some centres children have been introduced to using potters’ clay and their creations have been glazed and fired. Parents and grandparents value art objects made by their children. Even a two year old can squeeze clay into a shape or pound it flat and when fired that piece can be used as a paper weight.


Kids love to take photos. Let them take some photos of things that interest them, print the pictures and paste onto craft paper to make cards or to make a scrap-book.

Hammer and nails make modern art.

Kids love to hammer away at pieces of wood. Let them use full sized hammers as ones with large heads are easier to use. Nails with large heads are also recommended. Let the children have control over their creative sculptures. It doesn’t have to be named and can be painted and have fabric and foil stuck or hammered on. It can become a garden ornament or even decorate the bathroom or the patio if it doesn’t match the décor inside.


Advent calendars  are fun. Simple ones can be cut from last years Christmas cards.  Cut pieces about 10 cms x 5cms then fold in half. Write an activity in each card and staple shut. Write the numbers for the days to Christmas on the cards and hang up. Children open one card each day and do that activity. Here are some suggestions:

  • Make foil balls to put on the tree

  • Collect pine cones to paint

  •  Make a wreath to hang on the front door

  •  Make Christmas cards

  •  Learn a Christmas song

  •  Find a toy to give away

  •  Make paper chains

  •  Get out the tree to decorate

  •  Help to make Christmas chocolates or biscuits

  •  Glue glitter on a small bottle and light a small candle inside it.

  • Make paper baskets for sweets to give to the neighbours. 

Cutting and Pasting

I have been reading an interesting article about how children develop fine motor skills. The thumb, index and middle fingers are very important in hand control, and the child needs to be able to make an O shape with those three fingers. Maintaining the O shape while doing finger activities such as bead threading, drawing, pasting and painting is an important skill that is also needed for cutting with scissors. Using a vertical easel instead of working on a flat table top when drawing and painting will help develop the muscles.

Not all children develop fine motor skills at the same age but by three and a half or four years, most children will be ready to start cutting with scissors. They should be shown the correct way right from the start. The Thumb and middle fingers should go through the loops of the scissors and the index finger should go underneath to steady the scissors and direct the hand. The remaining fingers should be curled into the palm of the hand. Always provide scissors with rounded ends for safety and ones of the right size for your child’s hands.

Here are some easy cutting activities for children learning to cut:

Snipping rolls of playdough, snipping drinking straws into pieces Cutting coloured card instead of thin paper, snip narrow strips of card into small pieces. Have a brush and glue ready for using to paste the pieces onto paper or boxes as a fun activity. 


Turn taking games.

As a storyteller I always have a game for children to play after the story. Most weeks I have three different age groups to plan for – toddlers of two years, a group of three year olds and a separate group of four to five year olds. The toddlers are the hardest to plan for as they have such short attention spans and can’t wait long to take a turn. It is best if I have a number of simple activities so that I can change and give a restless toddler a turn as soon as the action changes. This week my story was about five little bears going on a boat ride with Mum and Dad bear. At the end I had six activities for the children to take turns with.

  • Choosing a bear from a bag
  • Putting it in a box-boat
  • pushing the box while I sang ‘row, row, row your boat…’
  • throwing autumn leaves into the air
  • using a little fishing rod
  • sitting all together to play that we were in a boat.

    All these actions had something to do with the story so reinforced the story concept too and kept the toddlers interested and active.

    The three year olds had a story about pigs. The game involved holding pieces of artificial fruit, listening to a rhyme and running to the Assistant teacher at the right time. Seven children were involved in the game while the rest waited for their turn. Again it wasn’t very long to wait, but one child was upset as he didn’t get to hold the fruit of his choice. It is all a learning process for me as well as the children.

    The older children played pass the parcel as their game following a story about a birthday. Many of them had played this game before and were explaining to the others how they had to sit in a circle. It was a great opportunity for younger ones to learn from older ones. The children learnt to wait for their turn, open the parcel, pass it on, and finally select a sticker from a sheet. All this involved concentration, manipulative skills, self control and ability to follow instructions. Children really do learn through play.


Bean Bag Fun

It’s a long time since I’ve played with bean bags but they are wonderful for kids of any age. They are cheap and easy to make if you haven’t got any. They are easy to throw and catch and with a bit of imagination they can be used in many games. Here are some ideas:

  • Run relays
  • Make a circle, kids stand around it and take turns throwing their bean bag into a box or a small hoop in the centre.
  • Throw bags at a target.
  • Carry a bean bag on your head or shoulder.
  • Carry a bean bag under your chin
  • Have a potato race using bean bags
  • How far can you throw a Bean bag?
  • Throw like a discus throw
  • How many bean bags can you carry on  each hand, or on a plate without dropping any?


Fun with mirrors

 It isn’t only girls who like to see themselves in mirrors. I was reminded of playing with mirrors this week when I walked into the indoor play space of one of the centres where I tell stories. A large standing mirror was set up with small lights draped over the top of it. It looked very inviting for children to examine their images, dress up or just to play with the toys nearby and see themselves while playing. This mirror can also be used to examine what else can be seen in the room and what is meant by a mirror image.

I remembered setting up a mirror game on a table years ago so I followed up by searching on the web for games now. There I found the game I’d used before with just two mirrors of about 15 cms square. The mirrors should be stuck to blocks of wood so that they stand up straight on a table. Place them side by side, touching each other with the child sitting in front, his/her chin resting on the table. By moving the mirrors so that the angle in the centre changes with the outside edges brought forward like a book closing, the number of images that the child can see will alter. Change the angle only slightly each time. This is a fascinating game. See for more mirror activities some of which are very complicated.


Paint and water

Three year olds are often at the stage of starting with a number of different colours on the page then mixing them all together so that the finished paining is both murky and very wet. This is an important stage for children to pass through, just as scribble is with markers and they revert to this even though they can make representational shapes.

I have noticed too that three year olds like to wash their brushes in water often and use that watered down paint on their pictures. Unless there is a plentiful supply of paper for small artists, picture making may be only a short activity. Here is an idea to use the paint water for an extension activity. Transfer the coloured water to the home corner or onto a table outside where you can provide cups, plastic glasses, bowls, teapots etc and pouring and mixing games will go on for ages.


Dough games

I love play dough. As soon as babies become toddlers and stop putting everything in their mouths, dough is an ideal play material.  Its use strengthens little fingers, hands and wrists preparing them for writing, drawing and cutting with scissors. It can be enjoyed by older kids and adults of all ages. Dough can be squeezed, pinched, pulled, rolled, thumped, cut and flattened.

There are other ways to enjoy dough too. I have recently seen pre-schoolers using it to make hills where they hid shells, plastic farm animals, dinosaurs and polished stones. Other children made wonderous sculptures in which they stuck feathers and leaves.

For home use, many people buy coloured play dough but it is easy to make your own in a quantity that will allow your child to have a big lump. Join in to create some wonderful creatures and sculptures with your child. If you don’t have a recipe here is a link.


Bed time games

It’s funny how our children usually don’t want to go to bed to sleep, but given some pillows, blankets or rugs of some kind, plus a torch and camping gear they’ll play at going to bed for hours.

Most kids love to play at camping even if they’ve never done the real thing. Use a camping story to set the scene then get kids to think of the things they’d need to sleep out in the bush overnight.

If you haven’t access to a small tent, make one by using an old tarp or large sheet or curtain draped over a line or chairs. Ask the kids

·         what they’ll eat for dinner?

·         how it will be cooked?

·         what they’ll need to eat it, etc.?

·         what noises might they hear in the bush at night?

·         what animals might be out there?

·         how can they stay safe in the bush?

·         What they’ll do if it’s cold or rainy?

A camping theme can go on for days and days with additions like a treasure hunt, catching fish to eat, going hiking and collecting leaves or stones, pretending to be lost and sending out a search party, taking photos and videos, spotting animals (toys) at night and singing around a campfire. Have fun everyone.


Balls, the perfect toy for kids

Balls are a great way to keep kids active and happy whether they are only a few months old and can just hold one, or whether they can catch, throw, run and kick. They are also great if the child is in a wheelchair.

Balls can be

  • tossed through a hoop or into a box
  • rolled to a partner
  • bounced to a partner
  • kicked into a goal
  • caught and thrown
  • juggled with
  • bowled at skittles
  • used with paint
  • hit with a bat
  • used by an individual or by teams
  • used on carpet, wood or vinyl flooring, grass, cement, gravel, dirt or in water

 Every child should have some balls of different sizes. They are great for the whole family to play with.


Kitchen Play Skills

Kids are keen on helping in the kitchen and love to spoon, stir, pour, beat, scrape, spread and of course taste. All these skills improve with practise and to preschoolers practise of this kind is fun. Parents and carers need to take a deep breath and be patient when food is spilt or spattered and try to allow their kids plenty of time when helping. On wet days when play ideas are a bit thin, set up some pouring practise with real foods in a play situation. Search the pantry cupboard for dry ingredients that can be poured as children won’t mess these up too much.

Getting started – Provide the following:

  • two or three dry ingredients from this list: rice, pasta, lentils, split peas, Cornflakes and Rice Bubbles.  Even one ingredient will entertain the children for hours.
  • some plastic containers like take-away food dishes and some bottles with broad necks like peanut butter jars with unscrewed lids, a cup-sized jug or two.
  • desert spoons and teaspoons
  • a funnel as well big enough for the split peas or rice to fit through.

The children learn a lot from pouring. They learn about the concepts of full, empty, half full, They notice that different foods pour at different speeds. Weight varies although two bottles the same are filled, the rice will weigh more than the Rice Bubbles. When they come to screw on lids they have to match the right lid to the bottle and the screwing action will exercise hand and finger muscles.


Water play

Water play means taking extra care to supervise, but kids do love to get wet especially as the warm or hot weather takes over. Try a small wading pool at the foot of the slippery slide. Have just enough water in it to give the kids a splash landing.  If your wading pool isn’t fenced, it must not be left with water in it when you are not there to watch. Help the kids to empty the water onto the grass or the garden when the game is over, as we all need to conserve water. 


Easter painting ideas

I have seen some easy painting ideas recently. These are ideal to use for decorating wrapping paper or painting the background of cards.

  1. mix green paint and let your child make hand prints all over the paper
  2. mix yellow paint and let your child make handprints all over the same paper. The result will be like a green and yellow field. Let the paper dry.
  3. On the dry paper, show your child how to make rabbits in brown paint or chickens in yellow by using just a finger dipped in paint,. You can both make these all over the paper by making first a thumb print for the body and a dab of paint for the head. Carefully draw ears and legs on your rabbits or beaks on the chickens either in paint or with texta colours.
  4. Alternatively make the rabbits or chickens on a separate piece of paper and when dry, cut them out and past onto the hand printed paper or cards.
  5. Use the paper or the cards to wish family and friends a happy Easter.


Dangling balls

Stuff a tennis ball inside the leg of an old pair of pantyhose and hang it from a tree branch or the clothes line. Practise hitting the ball with a bat or a stick. This will strengthen arms and improve eye hand coordination. Experiment with different sized balls and ones of different weights. Or hang a number of balls that way at different heights along the line and encourage kids to hit each one in turn.  It isn’t as easy as it sounds.


Sequencing games

As preparation for school four-year-olds enjoy sequencing games. These games will help them with both number and literacy. The games involve counting, identifying shapes, colours and sizes, classifying objects in different ways, comparing objects, and putting pictures in the right order to tell a known story.

At preschools many different cards, games, types of equipment and materials are available for the children to play with that help them to improve their skills. At home you can create games at little cost that your children will also enjoy.

Here are some ideas. Use

  •  matchbox cars – sort in colour, according to uses, for counting, parking in different positions e.g. under, beside or behind, for estimating how many are in the group before actually counting.
  • felt or coloured paper shapes to make repetitive patterns. Make a pattern and ask your child to copy it
  • small dolls or animals to count or classify, put in different positions or compare sizes
  • play dough and cutters - copy shapes to make patterns, to count or classify in sizes, colours
  • stickers
  • three simple pictures to illustrate stories or rhymes e.g.

a) eggs, hen on eggs, chickens

b)3 bears, Goldilocks eating porridge, bears looking at Goldilocks asleep

c)boy asleep, boy dressing, boy eating breakfast

It isn’t necessary to be good at drawing to make these pictures. They can be drawn as stick figures as the child watches, or you can trace them, cut them from magazines or use stickers

Enjoy being creative and involve your child in making the games too.


Map making

Yesterday a friend who was minding my almost five-year-old granddaughter, treated her to a day at the zoo. They came home with a map which she then used to tell me about the animals they had seen. Then she set about making her own map with tiny drawings of animals and a trail linking them. She has been going through a map making phase recently, probably because the playground at her preschool has been redesigned. Construction went on over several weeks with the children taking a great interest in the progress and a plan had been on display. She has made plans of her room and the outside play area. While your children may not have a nearby construction underway, there are often building sites in town where you can watch construction over time and talk about the machines, the soil, the construction materials, look at the plan at the local council etc.

At the end of the zoo visit yesterday, my granddaughter went back to the starting point in the sky lift thus seeing the whole area from a height. While you probably won’t have a sky lift, you can take your children to lookout points over the town or to a tall building to see what landmarks you can pick out from a distance. Then encourage the youngsters to make a map.


Copyright 2010/12


Copyright 2008



Using your feet
Indoor ideas for bad weather
Dolls' houses
Toys for toddlers
Rescue games
Quiet games
Hide and seek
Make a book
Play with leaves
The Great Outdoors
Toys for young babies
Hygiene games-water
Hygiene-nose blowing
Fulfilling kids wishes
Nature safari
Museum games
Make the most of autumn
Food memory game
Board games
Wet weather holidays
Messy Play
Playing with leaves
Sand fun
Using Music
A holiday calendar
More water
Bed time
Start a story
Role Play
Making a Forest
Christmas crafts
Cutting and Pasting
Taking turns
Bean bag fun
Fun with mirrors
Paint and water
Dough games
Bedtime games
Balls, the perfect toy for kids
Kitchen play skills
Water play
Easter painting ideas
Dangling Balls
Sequencing games
Map making