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GreatStart activities – learning with your child

Hop, hop, hop and stop

Help your child to draw a hopscotch course with chalk on cement. You can make the course as long as you like, but it usually has about 8 or 10 squares. Draw a set of single and double squares - like a ladder, but with extra bits. Write a number on each square of the course.

Let’s write 1 on the first square and 2 on the next square. What number comes after that?

Once the hopscotch course is set up you’re ready to go. Talk about the game with your child as they play.

It’s time to change the sheets and make the bed. This time, you could ask your child to help you.

Where will you start? Will you ask them to take off the sheets or put the fresh, clean ones on?

As you work together, talk about what you are doing and where you will start.

We are going to start at the base and work up. Let’s put the fitted sheet on first and then we will do the quilt cover.

When we put the quilt cover on, the buttons go at the top of the quilt, closest to the pillows.

Children are natural noticers and collectors of bits. It might be a feather found at the park or a pebble from the beach. They may have a special interest in something and collect as many different bits and pieces as they can.

The toy catalogue has arrived in the letterbox. Hunt through it and see if you can find any pictures of cars you can add to your collection.

Talk to your child about what they have collected and the different things they liked about it. It might be the colour or the shape or how it feels on their hand.

Are we digging to China or a tunnel under the sea?

Digging can be done just about anywhere. You can do it in your backyard, at the park or the beach, or in the kitchen when you dig out a scoop of ice-cream.

You and your child can get creative and make tunnels that travel from one country to another. Your child could help you dig a hole to plant a new lemon tree, make a trench for a stormwater pipe or get a new garden bed ready for the veggies.

Children explore how things fit and connect together from a very young age. You might see this when your child tries to slot the car keys into different locks around the house or when they pull everything out of the cupboard and try and fit it back in.

There’s something in the letterbox!

Junk mail that arrives in your letterbox might look like rubbish to you, but children love it. Next time you find catalogues in the mail take some time to look at them with your child.

Let’s see what these are about. What can you see on this page?

You can use food catalogues to plan your meals for the week. Talk with your child about favourite foods and new foods.

What should we have for lunch tomorrow? Do you want strawberries or mangoes?

Many cultures share and tell their stories through the colour, designs, placement and patterns printed or woven into their fabric and cloth.

The fabric can tell you the story of where a person lives, what animals or food can be found in the environment and who they are connected to. It can even tell you the age and status of the person wearing the cloth.

Next time you are out and about try to find some interesting or unusual fabrics to talk about. You can also look in a book.

As you feed your baby it is a wonderful time to talk to them. You can do it when you snuggle up close to feed them or when they are sitting in their highchair.

Talk to your baby about how much, how fast and what they are eating. As you feed your baby describe the colour and the texture of the food. You can also talk about things that are happening around you or that you can see.

Is there a park with a pond near where you live? Are there ducks at the pond? Next time you visit take some duck food with you to feed the ducks.

It’s a sunny day. Let’s go and feed the ducks down at the pond. I wonder how many ducks will be there today.

Talk about the location of the pond. Is it in the middle of the park? Or is it on the edge of the park next to the car park?

We are going to the park with the pond in the middle. We will park the car on the road next to the entrance and then walk to the pond.

All year round many different festivals are celebrated. Some are community festivals that celebrate the harvesting of local produce. Others are cultural or religious festivals that are celebrated across the world. There are also festivals that are small and celebrate what is happening with a small group of people.

Talk with your child about what the festival is for and who celebrates it. Is it a religious festival that is celebrated as a holiday and dates back hundreds of years? Is it a festival that celebrates local artists? Talk about how they are different.

Ask your child to help you find the food or ingredients you will need for the meal. Talk with your child about what you are doing. Is the meal ready-made or does it needs to be made from scratch? If it is ready-made where is it kept? If it is not ready-made where are the different ingredients stored? What order will you need to collect the ingredients in?

Let’s get out the vegetables first but wait to get the cheese out as that needs to be kept cold.

What’s the time? Is it time for bed?

Getting ready for bed is a wonderful opportunity to explore time and to look at the way we combine events together into a sequence. As bedtime approaches talk about what time your child will go to bed and how they know when that is. Is their bedtime 6pm - at the end of a favourite program? Or is it at the end of the evening meal?

What kind of hair does your child have? Is it long and straight or short and very curly? Does your type of hair make a difference to how often it needs to be cut?

Your hair is getting very long. You don’t need to get it cut because you can tie it up for school. Your brother needs it cut as it is getting in his eyes.

It is taking a long time for my hair to grow because it is curly and the curls spring up.

The holidays are approaching - are you going away? If you are, talk to your child about where you are going and the jobs that need to be done before you go.

We are going camping for Easter. We can’t take the dog and cat with us so we need to organise someone to look after them while we are away.

We are going on a big trip to Queensland for 2 weeks. It is going to be very hot and we can swim. We need to pack our bathers and take clothing for hot weather.

Wheat sprouts can grow in just a couple of weeks and your child will be able to watch them change from day to day.

Put the wheat in a bowl, cover it with water and let it soak for two days. Watch what happens. Does it look any different? You will need to change the water every day.

Let’s use the strainer to pour out the water. Why does the strainer let the water through but not the wheat?

Pour some more water in gently so it covers all of the wheat.

There are different ways you can heat food to get it ready to eat. Talk to your child about the different ways you can heat food and that it involves time and temperature.

When you travel by bus there are many decisions to be made. Where will you catch the bus? How close is the bus stop to your house? If you don’t know what number bus to catch or where to catch the bus from, how will you find out? How will you know when to get off? Do you know the bus stop number or will you look for a landmark?

We’re going to take the bus into town today. We’ll need to look at the bus timetable to see what number bus to catch and what time the bus leaves.

I spy with my little eye something that is green, soft and found outside!

Next time you are waiting for an appointment, have some spare time, or travelling on the bus, play I-spy with your child.

There are many different ways you can play I-spy. You might play using the first letter of the word, the colour and shape of the object or what you use it for. How you play will change depending on your child’s age and how interested they are.

I spy with my little eye something I can drink with.

It’s bath time and there is a lot to do to get ready. You can talk to your child about all the different choices that happen as part of getting ready.

How hot will the water be and how deep will you fill the bath? How many children will be in the bath together? If there is more than one, does this change how much water you need for the bath? Are you going to add bubble bath to the water? When does the bubble bath go in?

Once all the bath time choices have been made, talk about what happens and when.

The weather has changed and it’s time to see if last year’s clothing still fits.

Summer has finally ended and the nights are getting cold. I think it is time to change to winter pyjamas. We will have to see if last year’s still fit.

Talk with your child about the different ways you can work out if their clothing will fit. Do they need to try it on? Can you just hold it up against them to see if it is still big enough?

The rain has fallen, the sun is out and everyone’s keen to get out the door and go.

The weather has changed and the wind is blowing a gale.

What do you do? Do you stay inside where it is warm and toasty or do you go outside and brave the wild weather?

If you stay inside, look out the window and talk together about what you notice. Can you see the wind lifting up the leaves and blowing them high into the sky? Are the branches on the trees moving and bending in the wind? What else can you see?

The wind is so strong that it’s blown over the pot plant by the barbecue.

Many communities light up the night sky by holding a festival of lights.

Your community might celebrate the festival of light by stringing fairy lights through trees, illuminating buildings with different coloured lights or turning the lights on and off in time to music. Sometimes it starts with all the lights in the community being switched off and then turned back on after a countdown to begin the festival.

Making your own playdough is easy and your child will be learning as they go. Ask your child to help you find the ingredients in the cupboard. They can measure them out ready to mix.

Fill the measuring cup right to the top. That makes one cup. Now we need another cup of flour. That makes two cups of flour.

Drawing and writing doesn’t just happen inside. Outside can be a great place to draw and write too.

Give your child some chalk to draw with when they are outside. They could draw on cement, walls or fences. When your child is drawing or writing outside they are able to make very big pictures or letters.

Can you draw a big picture of yourself? Is it bigger than you?

How big can you write your name?

Encourage your child to experiment with mixing the chalk colours together.

Making pancakes with your child can be an opportunity to talk, read and create together. You can choose to use a packet or make them from scratch using flour, milk and eggs.

Before you start, talk about what flavour pancakes you want to make and what you will need. If you are going to change the recipe explore the different flavours together and talk about when to add the extra ingredients.

We could make savoury ones and add cheese and grated zucchini.

Let’s make a sandcastle that reaches to the sky with turrets and bridges and a moat for boats to sail in.

Before starting, talk to your child about what you will need. Will you use a bucket and wet sand to make the main building of the castle? Can you just pile lots of sand in the middle and then smooth it over?

Let’s use the very big bucket to make the main castle building. We need to dig down to get the wet sand buried under the ground. Keep filling the bucket with sand up to the very top.

There are shadows all around us - some are inside and some are outside.

On a sunny day show your child their shadow on the ground.

What happens to the shadow when you move? Can you run away from your shadow? How do you know it is your shadow?

Talk with your child about how shadows are formed. Does the shadow change with the sky? Take your child outside at night or when it is cloudy and talk about the differences.

When you and your child are playing outside see how many different ways can you move your body.

How many jumps or hops can you do on your right leg and can you do the same amount on your left leg? Can you keep a ball or balloon in the air for one minute before it touches the ground?

How quickly can you crawl to the back fence and then hop to the side gate?

Did you do it faster yesterday than today?

Most countries have a special day every year that is a holiday and a day of celebration. The day is an annual event that everyone from that country can celebrate and remember. It is a special event that brings them together as a nation.

The day might celebrate the end of a war, the first day of independence or a significant custom or tradition.

Spanish families celebrate el Dí a de la Raza on the 12th of October. Some families call this Christopher Columbus day. The day celebrates his discovery of America.

When it’s dark outside different things come out to play. You might hear them banging across the roof or hissing at each other.

What do you think it could be?

You or your child might have noticed in the morning that things have changed since you went to bed. Have plants been eaten or is there animal poo on the ground?

What do you think it could be?

We went to visit the city one day and caught a tram along the way. What do you think we noticed that day?

Lots of different noises – car horns tooting, trucks reversing, clocks chiming, people talking, water rushing and tram bells sounding.

Lots of shiny windows – different shaped ones, reflective ones, open ones, ones with writing and ones you can see through.

Lots of signs – traffic signs, pedestrian signs, advertising, stop signs and shop signs.

Lots of people moving – quickly, slowly, riding, driving, holding hands and carrying bags.

Get ready, get set, go!

There are lots of different ways that you can have races at home, at the park or at the beach. You can race against each other or just against the clock.

You and your child can run, jump or hop over a set distance.

How fast can you run from here to the tree? Can you get there as fast if you hop? What about if you crawl?

Reusable grocery bags make excellent sacks for a sack race. Just get your child to step inside, pull the handles up tightly and jump.

Packing up time can be turned into a fun learning experience when you and your child share the task together. Talk about where each toy belongs before you put it away, so that your child is able to predict where to place items.

We have lots of different toys to pack away. We can put the blocks in the basket and the cars in the bucket. We can roll up the car mat and pop it behind the toy box.

Turn the task into a game by setting some challenges.

Painting is a wonderful activity that can be enjoyed inside and outside and does not always need to include paint. On a hot day painting could be a bucket of water and a paint brush, making designs and swirls on the path, watching to see how quickly the hot sun makes the water disappear.

Shaving cream is another wonderful substitute for paint. Your child can spread and move the shaving cream across the table with their hands and fingers. Encourage them to smooth the shaving cream out flat and draw pictures in the flat surface with their fingers.

When children use tools to pick things up they are building muscle strength and developing coordination. One way to do this is to give your child plastic tweezers to pick up items and transfer them from bowl to bowl. You could use coloured pom-poms, beans, pasta, shapes, gumnuts or cotton balls. Helping to serve up food with kitchen tongs is another way to develop hand control.

Is it a plane, is it a bird, is it Superman? No, it’s a jumbo jet bringing families home!

Often when you are outside or travelling around with your child they will notice a plane in the sky. When they do, talk to them about what they can see.

Can you see the plane flying in front of the cloud? Do you think it is a big plane or a small one?

That is a very big plane. How many engines can you see on it?

The sun has been shining, the plants have all grown and now it is time to prune. Talk with your child about which plants need to be pruned and how you will do it. Do they need to be cut in a special way or can you decide how much you want to cut off?

The roses have flowered and we need to cut off the dead heads so more buds will grow.

It is very difficult to walk down the path by the side of the house as the bushes have grown too big. We need to cut them back to the edge of the path.

Reading can happen anywhere and everywhere. We read signs, recipes, information on packets and tins, bus timetables and menus. A love of words and language can be encouraged by reading books together.

As the seasons change the weather will change and we will see changes happening to the plants and trees in the garden. Talk to your child about the names of the seasons - spring, summer, autumn, winter - and the order they will follow. This may include looking at the calendar and highlighting the different months of the year that match the seasons.

What will you be having for lunch today and how will you serve it?

Ask your child to help you serve the food. This might include making decisions around how to cut up the fruit or the sandwich. Talk about what type of bowl or container to use. Can your child remember what tools you use to serve the spaghetti from the bowl or whether you put ice-cream into a bowl or a cone?

Often when you go to do the washing you will have a large basket of dirty clothing, towels, or sheets that need to be sorted before they can be put in the washing machine. Your child can help you to sort and group the items ready to wash. Talk to your child about the different ways that you can sort the washing, such as by colour, by material, and by function. Once you have identified how you will sort the clothing ask your child to find certain things, such as all the socks or all the green clothes.

There are many different ways that we share stories. It can be by talking, reading a book, showing a painting, drawing, weaving or design or by using the natural environment. One way to share stories with your child is to tell them - using memory or imagination.

As you snuggle up close with your child and tell stories they will notice how your voice, face and body changes as the story develops. As the tale changes and grows - and each new character is introduced - they will hear different words and language.

There are many ways to tell a story, not only by reading a book. Many cultures share and tell their stories through painting. The colour, symbols, design and patterns included in a painting will tell you a story about that person and what is important to them.

The painting can tell you the story of where a person lives, what animals or food can be found there and who they are connected to. The symbols in the painting can even tell you the age and status of the person.

Children often experiment with water. Gather some containers, tubes and funnels and help your child experiment with how the water flows from one container to the next. Together you can explore how much water one container will hold compared to another and how quickly a container will fill up before it flows over the top.

You can thread nearly anything that has a hole in it. A hole punch is great for making holes, even in leaves. Cut a length of string, thin plastic tubing or wool. Tie something on one end so the pieces don't fall off. Try threading pasta shapes, cut-up straws, beads, leaves, shells or pieces of fabric.

Can you put this shell on the string? Can you turn it around so it fits?

The threadings can become necklaces or decorations to hang in trees or windows.

Buying new shoes for your child gives you a chance to talk about growing and changing. You can talk about why your child needs new shoes.

Are they worn out or broken, or are they too small for growing feet?

What kind of shoes do you need? Are they for summer or winter, for inside or outside, or for everyday or special events?

Will you go to a special shoe shop or to a department store or supermarket? How will you know which size shoes to buy?

Why do feet grow, anyway?

There are many different ways that you can travel. You can walk, go by car, bus, train or even by plane.

You might walk to a place because it is close and you have enough time to get there. Other times you would travel by transport because it would take too long or is too far to walk.

Where you are going and what you will do there will help you decide how you will travel. If you are going to the supermarket and you have lots of shopping to do you probably won’t walk because you will have lots to carry home.

Treasure baskets are wonderful ways for babies or children to explore sensory materials. Just put some items in a basket and let your little one explore them. Stay close by but let them choose which item they want to explore and for how long. You can talk about what they are doing with each one.

How does the wool feel? Is it soft on your face? What else can you find in the basket?

Treasure hunts can be fun. Hide some sort of treasure - it doesn’t matter what. It could be a small gift or a message with a promise of a special treat, like five extra stories tonight, or a trip to feed the ducks. You will need to write some clues or directions. Write the clues or directions on individual cards. It could be ‘look in the letterbox’ and then in the letterbox it might say ‘look under the doormat’ and so on until your child finds the treasure.

Let your child help you put away the food shopping. Talk about where the food could go.

Is it cold food that goes in the fridge? Is it frozen food for the freezer or dry food for the pantry? Where should we put the fruit and vegetables? Would they all go in the same place?

You can make an obstacle course with your child inside or outside. Work together to discover what you have around home that you can use to make the obstacles. Try and build different challenges that your child can walk on, go up, over, under or through.

Make obstacles that your child can balance on. You could use something like a flat piece of wood or a masking tape line.

We need something you can balance on - what could we use? How about this piece of wood?

Next time you have a letter to post walk with your child to the postbox. Before you go predict what you might see along the way.

Will there be a dog today or will someone be watering their garden?

As you walk together talk about the things you notice and describe where you see them. You could count the letterboxes as you go, trying to work out what the number is and then predict what the next number will be.

Are the numbers going up or down?

It’s time to wash your child’s hair. Where will you start? Will you brush out the tangles first or dive straight in and get their hair wet?

Talk with your child about what you are doing. Do you wash your child’s hair as part of their bath time routine or do you wash their hair over a basin?

Can you tip your head back so the water will run down your hair and into the bowl behind you?

As you wash your child’s hair talk about how long or how thick their hair is and where you will start to wash.

We went walking and what did we see?
Windows - round ones, long ones, narrow ones, patterned ones and ones with writing.

We went walking and what did we hear?
Noises - birds chirping, bees buzzing, car horns tooting, people laughing, crossings beeping and lifts dinging.

We went walking and what did we feel?
Textures - rough and lumpy ones, smooth and slippery ones, sharp and prickly ones, soft and squishy ones.

We're having a baby!

The announcement of a new baby is a very exciting time and will involve a lot of talking, planning and action for the whole family. Your child can also be involved in getting organised for the arrival of your newest family member.

Talk with your child about when the baby is expected to be born and what will happen to your body as the baby grows. You could mark important dates and milestones on the calendar and encourage your child to mark off each day as the milestones get closer.

There are many different ways that you can have a car race at home. One of the most exciting ways is to build your own racetrack with blocks and found parts. Together you can experiment with different designs to see which car will make it to the bottom first in the fastest time. Sometimes if the car is travelling too fast it might crash and not finish the race.

Every day many different things happen. Some of them are planned and predictable but others just pop up.

Make time with your child at the end of each day to talk about the different things that happened. You might talk about events that you did together, ones that suddenly came up or things that happened to your child while they were at kindy or childcare.

As you talk together about your day, remember to give your child time to think and respond to what you are saying. One way to keep the conversation going is to ask questions about what happened.

The holidays are nearly here and you might be wondering what you and your child can do together.

Before you talk to your child about what they want to do over the holidays, do some research to see what free activities are on.

We’ve got the whole day free today. Let’s find out what we can do.

When you are out have you ever stopped to look at the front door of a shop or house and wondered what might be inside? You could play ‘I wonder’ or guessing games with your child to try and work out what is inside.

Sometimes it is easy to tell what is behind the door as the door is made of glass and you can see through the door. Other times it might have writing or a picture that tells you what is inside. Often it will only have a number and that doesn’t give you a clue whether it is a home for a family, a business or a shop.

Autumn has finally arrived and the days and nights are cooler. With the arrival of autumn you will not only notice changes to the weather but also the time the sun rises and sets.

Autumn is a time when many changes take place in the garden. Take a walk around the garden or the neighbourhood and try to see what has changed or is different. Have the leaves on the trees started to change colours, going from green to yellows and reds? Have leaves started to fall from the trees?

The washing is dry and now it is time to put it away. You could ask your child to help you sort the washing into different piles. Start by asking your child to find their own clothes.

Let’s start by sorting the socks first. Can you find all of your socks?

As you sort through the basket of washing, talk about the different types and sizes of clothing. Explain to your child that the size can help you to work out who it belongs to.

Dida is the biggest person in our family. His jeans are a lot bigger than Benny’s jeans.

Learning to write begins with children noticing writing around them and trying to create their own words.

You can help your child to begin to write by encouraging them to scribble and draw with a variety of tools and materials.

You could set up an area with drawing materials they can access at any time or encourage them to help you with everyday writing tasks.

We are going shopping tomorrow. Let’s write a list of what we need before we go.