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GreatStart activities – learning with your child

3 to 5 years
What can you do with a big cardboard box?Next time you have a large cardboard box give it to your child to play with. Encourage them to use their imagination.I wonder what this big box could be. What does it look like to you?Turn a box on its side with the opening facing out. If you add a cushion or rug you’ll have a cosy nook just right for reading or dreaming.A large shallow box can be a road with a car park. Encourage your child to draw a road inside the box. Draw some car parking spaces nearby. Line up your child’s toy cars and go.
3 to 5 years
Everyone celebrates birthdays differently, sometimes there is cake.What would happen if there were twins? Would you make one big cake or lots of little ones?How many cakes will we make? How many of the cakes will be red and how many will be yellow? If we make 12 cakes will there be 6 red and 6 yellow?We are going to make lots of little cakes for the twins. They have just turned three and love red and yellow, and all things chocolate. Most of all they love to help.
Birth to 5 years
A cardboard box car can be as simple or as fancy as you like. You’ll need a cardboard box that is big enough for your child to get inside.
Which box can you fit in? Is it too big, too small or just right?
Seal up the box with masking tape. If you want to paint the box now is a good time to do it. Make sure you let it dry before you add the other parts of the car.
What colour would you like your car to be? Can you cover every bit of the box?
3 to 5 years
There are many different ways to grow more plants. They can grow from cuttings, seeds, seedlings, bulbs or rootstock.Next time you do your fruit and vegetable shopping with your child see if you can predict which ones will have seeds inside. If they have seeds inside you could try and grow them. I think the pumpkin will have seeds inside that we can try to grow.A pumpkin has lots of seeds inside but the avocado only has one big seed.
Birth to 5 years
Sitting together as a family to share food can be a great opportunity to talk about what happened during the day or what might happen tomorrow.If the weather is nice you could pack a picnic and sit outside or go to the park and share a meal together. If it is cold and wet you could still have a picnic, but have it inside by the fire or heater where it is nice and warm.
Birth to 5 years
Summer is a wonderful time to encourage children to eat fruit and a fun way to do this is to add fruit to iceblocks. Fruit iceblocks can be a refreshing and healthy afternoon snack on a hot day and if your child is reluctant to eat fruit it may encourage them to try.
3 to 5 years
What type of gingerbread people could you make with your child? Will each biscuit be decorated differently with individual personalities or will they be your favourite football team?Before starting to cut out the people, talk about how they will look. If they are going to have lots of decorations will you make them bigger compared to ones that will only have eyes, a nose and a mouth? Once you have worked out how big the biscuits will be, talk to your child about how thin to roll out the dough.
3 to 5 years
The weather is fine, the days are long and the family is on holidays. If you have a barbecue everyone can help to prepare the meal. Maybe this time you could make kebabs.Talk to your child about the different types of kebabs you can make. Will you use meat or vegetables or a mixture of both? Your child could help you to cut up the different ingredients and thread them on.
Birth to 5 years
Children are natural movers and shakers. As they grow, your child is constantly exploring how to move their body in different ways.Sometimes they are exploring how to move through an object, such as a tunnel. Other times they might be exploring how to move their body in time to the music and the beat.It’s really fast music - I can’t jump as fast as that.
3 to 5 years
We often send cards to family and friends at Christmas time. Instead of buying cards this year you could ask your child to help you make some.Talk with your child about the different types of cards you can get and what they are used for. There are table cards that help people to know where to sit, cards that are tags for presents and cards to write in. What kind of cards will you make?We need to make cards to label the presents, and cards to send to Nana and Papa in England.
Birth to 5 years
Playing with playdough is a wonderful opportunity to creatively explore what objects can be made but also to engage in pretend play. By adding patty pans, bowls, biscuit cutters, baking trays, and coloured stones suddenly your child is making cupcakes and biscuits for a birthday party. Take away the cooking utensils and add sticks and feathers and the activity can change to making birds and a bird’s nest.
3 to 5 years
Different things are special in different families. We mark these special occasions with a card. It might be for the birth of a baby, a birthday, National days, naming days or cultural celebrations.
After the big day has been celebrated and it is time to take down the cards, what will you do with them?
Cards can be used for cutting and drawing, sewing around, creating new cards and special letters. They can even be used to make a book about the special event.
3 to 5 years
Children often love to help around the home. Establishing regular routines and ways for completing tasks helps them to be involved in the everyday activities you do as a family.
You might be surprised to discover just how much your child will enjoy taking part in your family's everyday routines.
3 to 5 years
Shadows on the wall, shadows on the ceiling…you can make shadows too.
Sit with your child and use a torch or a lamp to make shadows on the wall or ceiling.
Can you make a shadow with your hand? What about your feet?
Talk about the way shadows are made.
Your hand blocks the light from reaching the wall. That's how it makes a shadow.
Birth to 5 years
Crash, bang, play and sing. Let’s make an orchestra.Your home is full of things that you can use to make music. Your child can help you find all sorts of possibilities in the saucepan and plastics cupboards.Saucepans and large mixing bowls make fantastic drums. They could use a wooden spoon or their hands to make music. Two saucepan lids make a pair of cymbals. A funnel makes a trumpet.
3 to 5 years
Getting your child to help you with the shopping involves a little planning. What you would normally do on your own quickly will take more time when you work together.
Make a list together before you go. You could use the junk mail. As you make the list talk about what items will be found.
We need to get milk, cheese and yogurt. They’ll be in the cold section in the last row.
Birth to 5 years
There are many different ways that we share stories. It can be by talking, by showing them in a painting, drawing, weaving, or design, in photographs or by using the natural environment.
One way to help your child tell and listen to stories is to use stones. When you use stones to tell stories the tale changes, taking on many possibilities and personalities that are not just words or pictures on a page. The picture, colour or pattern on the stone becomes a page in a story.
Birth to 5 years
Spring has arrived and it’s time to plant new seedlings.
Before you plant the next lot of seedlings do you need to add more soil to the pots? Has the soil gradually disappeared leaving the pot half full?
How will you go about filling up the pots? Will you buy bags of soil from the garden centre or will you have a trailer load of soil delivered? If you get a trailer load will it be all hands on deck, shovelling and moving the soil?
We have 20 pots to fill so everyone will need to help shovel the soil.
Birth to 5 years
There are many different ways you can travel to a place. You could go by bus, train or tram. Next time you are travelling by public transport with your child take some time to talk about the different things that you notice around you.
Talk with your child about what you see inside the vehicle compared to outside. Inside there will be lots of different people to notice compared to outside. Point out to your child the different shapes and sizes of the people or what they are wearing.
Can you see the short man with the blue hat?
Birth to 5 years
Washing the dog can be a great activity on a hot day. There can be lots of discussion and negotiation as you try and wash your dog without ending up soaked.
Let’s call the dog 'Harry'.
Harry is a big dog and you will have to work hard to get him wet from head to tail.
Before starting, work out a plan about how you will wash Harry and who will do what.
Where will you start? What do you need to do first? Can you put the shampoo straight on or do you need to get Harry wet first? Who will get the water?
Birth to 5 years
Watering the garden and pot plants is a wonderful opportunity for children to play with water and to experiment with measuring and following directions. Set up a visual schedule that shows what time of day the garden and plants will be watered. This could include a photo of a clock with the time on it or you could set a timer to sound when it is time to water the garden. Include information about which plants will be watered. Will all of the garden be watered every day or will some plants only be watered now and then?
3 to 5 years
When you are out walking or driving the car how do you know when to stop or where to turn? Do you have to wait for someone to tell you what to do or is there something else that helps you to know?
There are signs everywhere and they help us to know what to do and how to act. When you are out and about with your child point out the different signs that you notice. Ask them if they can work out what the signs say from the picture, symbol or number on the sign.
Birth to 5 years
Is it time to wash your car? Your child can get involved too. All you need is the car, a bucket of soapy water, a sponge, and a towel to dry everyone with after you finish.
Birth to 5 years
Writing a card or letter is an interesting activity for children.First think about who the letter is for and what you want to say. Is it for a birthday, is it a get well card or a postcard while you are on holiday? It could even be a letter to the child themselves. Your child can draw or write the letter. Or if your child is younger, ask them what they want you to write for them. As they get older they can copy some words that you write for them on the letter.