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GreatStart activities – learning with your child

Birth to 5 years
Playing with a big block of ice can keep your child interested for a long time.
Get a large container like a plastic basin and fill it three quarters full of water. Freeze it for about 12 hours. The next day take the ice out of the container and put it outside on cement, the deck or the lawn. Give your child some tools to use with the block. You could use a toothbrush, a fork, a butterknife, or even some cups to pour water over the block… use your imagination! Even a toy hammer and chisel would be great.
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
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.
3 to 5 years
Christmas can be a great time to make your own biscuits.
Once you have made and rolled out the dough your child can help you to cut out the biscuits. What shape will they be? How many will you make? Do they all need to be the same shape?
Talk with your child about why you are making the biscuits and how many you will need.
We are going to give biscuits to our friends for Christmas. They need to fit inside the small clear cellophane bags.
Birth to 5 years
Jump like a kangaroo, hop like a frog Next time your child is up and moving around, challenge them to a game of imagination.Can you jump like a kangaroo? How does a frog jump?How many different animals can you and your child pretend to be?Try and think of ones that move in different ways. Some are really tall. Some move on two legs and some on four. Some move slowly and some are fast. Some are big and some are small. How will your child need to move their arms and legs to be a tall creature? What about a scary one?
Birth to 2 years
If your baby has started to crawl, this game will challenge them and introduce them to lots of textures.

Lay out a course using things from around your home. You can use things like different textured bathmats, some cushions to crawl over, a large box to crawl through, a footstool to crawl around or an old shower curtain or fluffy blanket to crawl on.

Encourage your baby to crawl around the obstacle course and talk to them about what they are doing.

Does that feel bumpy? Go over the cushions. You are going under the table. There you are!
Birth to 5 years
Your child can learn a lot when cooking with you. Why not make a cake together?What does the recipe ask for? Do you have all the ingredients?Can you see if we have some milk and 4 eggs in the fridge? How much flour do we have? Is the jar full or getting empty? While you are making the cake, read out the recipe for your child to follow. Show them the numbers and words in the recipe. 
Birth to 5 years
Most children love to challenge themselves physically and explore the different ways they can move around, through and over different objects. You might find your child likes to try and balance on or along lines or other surfaces.Next time you are outside with your child or walking somewhere, encourage them to try a bit of balancing. Can they balance along a line on the footpath, on a low brick wall or on one leg?
3 to 5 years
Blowing bubbles can be a fun activity to do on a very windy day. Watch the wind catch the bubbles and lift them high into the air. Try and track an individual bubble. As the wind catches the bubble and lifts it higher make predictions as to how high it will climb.
Will it climb over the fence or even over the roof of the house?
Hold and point the bubble blower differently and watch to see if the bubbles travel in different directions. Does it make a difference or will the wind still catch the bubble and float it quickly up into the air?
Birth to 5 years
Let’s build.
What shall we create? Will it be a zoo for the wild animals or a house for the snails from the garden to hide in? Maybe we can stack and stack and stack the blocks until they reach the sky!
Talk with your child about what they want to make. What resources will they need? Can your child use the blocks and toys they have or do they need different things?
Let’s build a cave for the bear to sleep in. We will need to collect sticks and stones to make the cave.
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?
Birth to 5 years
Can you run and touch that tree?Next time you are all outside you can play a game with lots of actions. Ask your child to follow your instructions, but keep it simple at first.Can you run to that tree? Can you walk to the fence? Okay, now crawl back to me.Try to think of lots of different ways to get your child moving. Younger children can walk, crawl and run. As they get older they can add more actions like hopping, jumping and skipping.After a while you can make your instructions more challenging.
Birth to 5 years
Cleaning our teeth is something that we do at least once every day. Some families have a routine of cleaning their teeth after every meal while other families may clean their teeth in the morning and then at night before they go to bed. Talking to your child as you clean their teeth - or as they try themselves - is a wonderful opportunity to use positional and directional language. Talk about where you will start cleaning.
Birth to 5 years
There are many different ways you can move about. You can crawl, run, jump, roll or climb.You can climb up, over, under and through things. Next time you are outside, at the park or moving about talk to your child about the different things they can climb.We are going to the park with the big trees and logs. When we get there you can climb up the trees or over the logs.The cup is on the shelf. You will need to climb onto the step to reach it.
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
Your child can learn a lot when cooking with you. Start with a family favourite that you all like to eat.Talk about what you are going to make and what you will need. Ask your child to help you find the different utensils you need for cooking.We are making pita. We need to find the sieve for the flour, a large bowl for mixing, and a cup for measuring out the flour.Once you have all the utensils and ingredients, talk with your child about what will happen.
3 to 5 years
The Christmas pageant has been and gone, Father Christmas has arrived and it is time to decorate the Christmas tree.What kind of Christmas tree will your family have? Will it be a real pine tree that you buy from a special place or a branch from a gum tree? Does your family have an artificial one that you take down and put up every year? Do you have an inside Christmas tree or one that you decorate outside?It’s the first Saturday in December. It is time to put up the Christmas tree.
Birth to 5 years
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.
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.
Birth to 5 years
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?
3 to 5 years
Feeding your pets can be a simple task for your child to help you with. Talk with your child about what time you feed your pets.

Now we’ve finished our breakfast, it’s time to feed Duffy. He likes to eat in the morning too.

Show your child what your pet eats and how much to feed it.

Duffy likes half a can of dog food and a handful of dog biscuits. Can you scoop out the food from the can? Now put one big handful of dry food on the top. Let's leave Duffy to enjoy his breakfast.
3 to 5 years
Move, move, freeze!Have you ever shown your child a statue? They don’t move. Can your child stand as still as a statue?If your child isn’t already up and moving, encourage them to get started. You could sing as they move or play some music. Work out a way to tell them when to stop. You could use a word like freeze or stop. Or you could use a sound like clapping your hands or ringing a bell.When I clap my hands you need to stand as still as a statue. You can’t let anything move – not even your toes.
Birth to 5 years
Let's party!

Friday night could be party time at your house. First set the scene. Where will the dance party be? Do you need to move some furniture? Have you got music? Do you have some coloured lights?

Let’s move the chairs out of the way. They’re heavy so we’ll need to push hard.

Put the music on and dance with your children. Think of lots of ways to move and let the music guide you.
3 to 5 years
What will you wear today?There are plenty of decisions to make when you help your child get dressed in the morning.
What are you doing today?Does what you do change what you will wear? Is it a day at home or a going out day?
Today we are going to playgroup so you’ll need to wear clothes you can play in.
What is the weather like today?You can find out by looking at the weather forecast or just looking out the window.
It will be cold outside so what will you need to wear - a jumper or a T-shirt?
3 to 5 years
Children delight in finding surprises and these blocks are a way of keeping your child interested as they try to free the surprise in the iceblock.
Partially fill a milk carton or small plastic container with water. Add a plastic creature or other surprise such as a shell, leaves or even flowers. Freeze it overnight and turn out the iceblock in the morning. Talk to your child about the different ways they could free the surprise.
How can you get the surprise out of the iceblock?
Birth to 5 years
It’s raining it’s pouring, everything’s wet and boring…The weather has changed and winter has arrived. Often when this happens and the rain rolls in it is hard to find things to do outside to keep your child busy and active. Rain puddles are just made for jumping. You can try jumping over puddles with your child.
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.
Birth to 5 years
Most children find it fun to play - seeking out adventures and actively exploring the world with their bodies.Playing at a park or a playground will give your child an opportunity to use all their big muscles and experiment with how to move their bodies in different directions. They can run as fast as the wind or roll down the hills like a spinning top.There are other ways that you can encourage your child to be physical and active. You could try:
3 to 5 years
Cheese or ham? Brown bread or multigrain? It’s lunch time. Let’s make sandwiches.Your child can make their own sandwiches. First encourage them to choose what sort of bread and which fillings they would like.Look in the fridge and see what’s there. Would you like tomato and cheese?Count out how many slices of bread you will need. We’re making one sandwich for you and one for me. Two slices of bread for you and two for me. 1, 2, 3, 4.
3 to 5 years
Lunar New Year is celebrated by many Asian cultures. It is usually in January or February, begins on the night of the new moon and continues until the moon is full 15 days later. Dragons and lions, food, the colour red, and money are all part of the celebrations. Like many other cultures, the New Year is a time for a fresh start and it is important to clean the house, have a haircut and buy new clothes. The Lunar New Year is also about good luck for the year ahead and this is celebrated in many ways:
Birth to 5 years
Instead of buying wrapping paper and gift bags this year you could try to make your own. Your child could help you.Talk about what kind of wrapping paper you want to make. You could draw pictures, create dotty paper using stickers that are round, or use paint to create different designs. Will you use lots of different colours to create a rainbow? Would you rather use just one or two colours to make it match the decorations on your Christmas tree?Our Christmas tree has red and green decorations. We can make paper that will match.
Birth to 5 years
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.
3 to 5 years
Many cultures use an Advent calendar in the days leading up to Christmas. You could buy one but making one can be more fun. There are many ideas for simple calendars on the internet. One idea is to have 24 envelopes with each one containing an idea of something to do on that day. The ideas could include: make a wish list of presents, write some cards, read a special story, make a decoration, go for a walk to look at Christmas lights, do some cooking, sing some Christmas songs, and so on.
3 to 5 years
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.
Birth to 5 years
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?
3 to 5 years
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.
Birth to 5 years
When children go to childcare, kindergarten or school they will take a bag with them. In their bag there will be things that they need every day and some things that they will only need for that day. Ask them to identify what they need every day and to locate the objects to go into the bag. Talk about what are the “only today things” and where they can find them.
Birth to 5 years
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.
Birth to 5 years
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.
3 to 5 years
Planting a small vegetable and herb garden with your child gives them a chance to experience the sensation of soil on their hands. Together you can make choices about what to plant and you will be able to observe the changes as the plants grow and begin to produce fruit, vegetables or herbs.
3 to 5 years
Before planting the seed read the instructions on the packet with your child. As you read the instructions point out the different symbols that are used to give direction to know where to plant the seed, how deep to plant it and how big it will grow. Talk to your child about what size container you will need for the seed to grow in.
If the seed grows into a tall plant the roots will grow down deep and will need a tall container. If the seed grows into a spreading plant that is wide the container will need to be shallow and wide.
Birth to 5 years
Playing with balls outside provides children with the opportunity to catch and throw, roll and kick, push, punch and chase after the ball. As the ball moves, talk about the way it is moving.Is it moving along the ground at a fast pace or bouncing up and down on the same spot? Can you roll the ball under the chair or throw it at a target on the shed?
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.
Birth to 5 years
Talk about how thirsty your child is - do they want a big glass or a small glass? Is there a favourite glass that they have and can they find where it is? Will they have a hot or a cold drink and where would they find the drink? When you pour the drink will it be from a tap that may come out of the tap very fast or will it be poured from a jug slowly?
3 to 5 years
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.
Birth to 5 years
Shoes and socks sometimes need to go on quickly, but when you have a few extra minutes putting on shoes and socks can be a wonderful opportunity to explore direction, space and the type of footwear you need for different events or weather conditions.
Birth to 5 years
Children often experiment with moving their bodies in different ways. They might move in time to music or try and fit their bodies inside different spaces. Sometimes they will try and figure out how to move without using their legs and feet.Next time you are near a hill encourage your child to experiment with different ways to roll down the hill. Can they tuck their bodies into a tight ball and roll? Can they become long and sausage-like, putting their arms above their head as they roll?
Birth to 5 years
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?
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.
Birth to 5 years
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.
3 to 5 years
Winter is here and the oranges are ripe and ready to pick.Do you or a friend have lots of oranges that you don’t know what to do with? You could make fresh orange juice.Talk with your child about what you will need and how you will do it.We are going to squeeze the oranges by hand using a hand juicer. We'll need to cut the oranges in half before we can squeeze the juice out of the orange.
Birth to 5 years
Will we go up? Will we go down? Can you jump from the top down to the ground?
Next time you are out and about and see some steps, encourage your child to climb them. As you help your child go up and down you could count how many steps there are or talk about which direction you are going.
Let’s start at the bottom of the steps and climb to the top.
There are 4 more steps till we reach the bottom.
3 to 5 years
Next time there is a pile of leaves to sweep up or it is time to sweep the kitchen floor get your child to help you. What part of the sweeping process will you ask your child to help with? Your child could sweep the leaves into a big pile with the broom while you use a dustpan and brush to put the leaves into the bin.It has been very windy outside and there are lots of leaves on the ground. I am going to sweep them into one big pile. You can use the bucket to collect the leaves and tip them into the bin.
Birth to 5 years
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.
Birth to 5 years
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.
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
All you need is a container, some water and some things to play with. Half fill a plastic tub, the bathroom sink or even a baby bath with water. Choose a few different containers and sit with your child and play together. Talk about what is happening as you measure, pour and gently splash.How many of those cups does it take to fill the teapot? What about these little bottles?Can you squeeze all the water out of the sponge?Oh, no - we got wet!
Birth to 5 years
Before getting the shopping out of the car try and estimate with your child how many bags of shopping there will be to carry in. Talk about how many bags each of you will have to carry. Try and predict how many trips back and forth to the car that will be. Talk about which bags are full and which are not. Will the full bags be the heaviest? Place the bags on the ground and ask your child to lift the bags up to identify which bag is heavy and which is light.Are these all the same or are some heavier and some lighter?
3 to 5 years
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?
3 to 5 years
Do you wash the dishes in a sink or in the dishwasher? Are there times when you choose to wash the dishes rather than put them in the dishwasher?We need to wash the saucepans as they are too big to fit in the dishwasher.If you don’t have a dishwasher do you wash up after every meal or wait until the end of the day when there is a pile of dishes to do?There are only 2 plates and 2 glasses from our lunch so let’s wait and wash them with the dishes from dinner.
Birth to 5 years
Together you can look closely at hands and fingers, turning them backwards and forwards, talking about the back of your hand and the top of your hand. Talk with your child as you wash your hands together.
Let’s turn on the tap slowly to fill the sink. How many hands do you have? How many fingers do you have? Let’s put our hands in the water and wash right up to our wrists.
Now we can dry our hands and let the water drain away. Sing a song while you wash your hands, such as ‘this is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands, to wash away the dirt’.
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?
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.