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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
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
There are many different activities that you can do at the beach and talking to your child about what they would like to do will help you to decide what type of beach you will go to.
The beach can be a very relaxing and restful place where you can talk, read, build sandcastles and lie on the sand. It can also be very active and involve going for long walks, running, playing or swimming.
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?
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?
3 to 5 years
There is so much to remember in a day, a week, a month and a year. How do you keep track of what needs to happen and when? One way is to record an event on a calendar.Talk to your child about all of the different events that happen over the year. Explain that some things we can remember because they are regular events and happen every day or week. Other things are harder to remember because they are irregular, changing or one-off events. When you record an event, time and place on the calendar it helps you to remember and plan what you need to do.
3 to 5 years
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.
3 to 5 years
Your family has finished their meal together and now it’s time to clean up. Who is going to clear it all away? You could ask your child to help.
Talk with your child about where to start. Do you need to pack away the plates and other things from the table first? Is it possible to just wipe the table straightaway?
We need to put away the containers and dishes before we can wipe the table clean.
You can put the serviettes into the rubbish bin while I carry the heavy plates to the kitchen sink.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Birth to 5 years
Quick! It’s time to go. We will be late for school. But where are your shoes and socks?
Encouraging your child to find their shoes and socks helps them to develop listening and navigation skills.
Talk to your child about where their shoes and socks might be. Is there a special place where all of the shoes are kept?
Your shoes are by the front door. We took them off before we came inside.
3 to 5 years
The first day of starting anything new can be a very stressful time your child. As the big day approaches, talk about what might happen, who will be there and what they can do if a problem occurs. Creating routines and having a dry run can help to reduce anxiety as your child will begin to understand what to expect.
Birth to 5 years
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.
3 to 5 years
Quick, get ready. It’s time to go.
Leaving the house and getting into the car can involve a lot of talking and planning. Where will everyone sit? Are there special seats for different people in the car? Does where you sit change if there are more or less people in the car?
We’re going to school. We have to fit four of us in the car. All of the bags will need to go in the boot.
Your seat is in the back behind the driver’s seat. You have your own special seat to sit in.
Birth to 5 years
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?
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 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.
3 to 5 years
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.
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?
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.
3 to 5 years
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.
3 to 5 years
Christmas is a time of celebration for many cultures and a time to reflect and give thanks for the year. Many families and communities will begin their celebration with a local pageant.Before going to the pageant talk about the different things you might see and do. Talk about the sounds you might hear and the different types of floats and entertainers that might be there.We will have to wait a long time for the pageant to start. We can draw on the ground with chalk while we wait.
Birth to 5 years
Spring is nearly here and September is show month.

Explore with your child all the different types of shows that are held. Explain that there are country shows and big city shows. Talk to your child about what they might see at a small local show compared to a big city show.

If you are going to go to the show with your child make a plan of what you want to see, do and eat before you go.
3 to 5 years
It’s the end of the week and work and school is over. What will you do on the weekend? Do you have plans or will you take it easy and catch up on jobs around the house?Talk with your child about the weekend routine or what you’ve got planned. Are there regular things that you do like football or the shopping? Do you wait to see what the weather will be before planning what you will do?Jake’s got football Saturday morning at 8’o clock. After the game we can go and play at the playground.
3 to 5 years
Many special things happen every day but some are so important that the whole family wants to celebrate. It might be the birth of a child, a birthday, a special cultural event, a new job, a change in seasons or winning an award.Talk to your child about the special event and how you will celebrate it. Is it a traditional celebration with customs to follow and special food to cook? Can the family choose how to celebrate because it’s a one-off event?
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
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
How you load or unload the dishwasher can be unique to you or your family and might be different just because of the type of dishwasher you have. As you work with your child to load or unload the dishwasher, explain to them how you will go about the task and the reason for the decisions you are making.
This plate is longer and has sharp corners compared to the plate that has curved corners. This plate is thicker so will not fit in that slot.
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
Getting the family to agree on what to eat can be tricky sometimes. Why not create a family cookbook to help everyone decide.Gather the family together and talk about how you will organise the book and what you will put in it.There are many different ways you could set up the cookbook. You could organise it by:
3 to 5 years
Work with your child and look for a recipe to make pasta dough. Once you’ve found a recipe talk with your child about the different steps you will do to make the dough. If the recipe has pictures point to each one and explain what is happening.First we’ll sieve the flour. Then we’ll mix in the eggs and last we will knead the dough.After the dough has rested we can roll out the dough - stretching so it gets thinner and thinner.
Birth to 5 years
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.
3 to 5 years
The sun has risen and it is time to get up. Are you hungry because it’s time for breakfast?Will you have toast? If you’re having toast, are there different types of bread and spreads to pick from?We have 3 different types of bread in the fridge. There is brown, white and multigrain. Which one do you want?Yesterday you had butter and Vegemite on toast. Do you want the same today or something different?
3 to 5 years
Celebrate the new moon with your family and friends. You can get together in your backyard, at a local park or by going to one of the big festivals.Chinese and Vietnamese families traditionally celebrated the new moon as part of the Mid-Autumn Festival on the 15th day of the 8th month. Explain to your child that we have a different calendar in Australia.Talk to your child about the festival and how it celebrates the moon. Explain that different people, families and cultures will celebrate different events and days.
3 to 5 years
A new year is traditionally a time for celebration. Different cultures have their own ways to celebrate but most see the end of one year and the start of another as a special time. Children enjoy the celebrations and parties along with everyone else. Many people celebrate New Year’s Eve on December 31st with parties. Lunar New Year is celebrated by many Asian cultures and the date and way it is celebrated can vary.
3 to 5 years
It’s time to go off to the shops and do the shopping. Have you checked that they’re open? How could you find out?
We need to buy pita, hummus and stuffed vine leaves. I am not sure what time the shop opens. I might ring and see if they are open yet.
Explain to your child that shops have opening and closing hours and they can all be different. Some shops will open very early in the morning. Other shops are only open later in the day.
The supermarket market is open 7 days a week and starts trading at 7 in the morning.
Birth to 5 years
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?
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.
Birth to 2 years
Next time you have a few minutes or you are waiting for the bus to arrive play peekaboo with your baby. You can play using your hands to cover your face. You can also hide behind a book or a paper and pop out from behind it.
Before you start make sure you are facing your baby and have their attention. Try and keep your baby’s attention by changing the noise you make and your facial expression.
Peekaboo!
Encourage your child to join in by helping them to cover their own face with their hands.
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.
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
Once you have decided that as a family you are going to keep fish, go to the pet shop together to choose the type and number of fish you want. Will you be getting tropical fish that will require warm water and a heater or will you be getting cold water fish? How big is the tank you will be using? To figure out how many fish you can keep you will need to know the size of the tank.
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
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
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.
Birth to 5 years
If you are going on a bus, train or tram look up the timetables with your child before you go. Talk about how you are going to get there. Will it be on the bus, on a tram or by train?
Show your child that each bus or train has its own timetable.
Which number bus are we catching? The 224 or the 225?
What time do we need to get there? How long will it take? What time do we leave home?
You might use a paper timetable, look at a timetable online or use the timetable at the bus, train or tram stop.
3 to 5 years
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.
Birth to 5 years
Are you wondering what your family can do this weekend? You could visit the Botanic Gardens.
Before you go to the gardens talk to your child about the different things you can do and see there.
Explain that the garden is divided into different sections and each section tells a story of different types of plants and where they can be found. Explain to your child that the plants are grouped into ones that are the same. Some of the plants will be in special houses because they need hot weather to grow.
3 to 5 years
Are you wondering what your family can do this weekend or during the holidays? You could visit an art gallery.
Before you go to the art gallery talk to your child about the different things you will see.
Explain that there are lots of different paintings, sculptures, statues and artworks from many different cultures. The art is grouped in different rooms or galleries and you can work out where to go and what to see by following a map.
Birth to 5 years
“Miss Polly had a dolly who was sick, sick, sick . . .So she rang for the doctor to come quick, quick, quick.”
Sometimes children can become ill very quickly and there is a quick rush to the doctor or the hospital. Other times it will be a planned visit – maybe for a check-up. When it is a planned visit you can talk to your child about what will happen at the doctor. Talk to them about the different people they will see at the surgery. Will there be a doctor, a nurse and other patients?
Birth to 5 years
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.
Birth to 5 years
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.
Birth to 5 years
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.
Birth to 5 years
Every day the weather is different and this will effect what we can do and wear. Talk to your child about the different ways that you can find out about the weather. You could listen to the weather forecast the night before on the radio, watch it on the news on the TV or read the predicted weather forecast in the paper. Looking at the predicted weather the day before will help plan what you will be able to do for the day and what to wear. You may choose to find out about the weather on the day.
3 to 5 years
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.
3 to 5 years
Next time you are planning to go somewhere with your child talk to them about what time you need to be there. Explain that activities have a start time. You can show them how this is usually represented - with numbers written as a time.
The movie starts at 2pm so we will need to leave home at 1pm to be there in time.
Look and see if there are different start times for the event. Can you pick from one of many different times or does the event only happen once?
3 to 5 years
You use time every day. You use it when you heat food in the microwave or organise who will have the first shower or the last. You also use time when you are planning your day, organising to meet someone or picking your child up from school.Talk to your child about how you use time and the different ways that time can be described.The spaghetti will only take one minute to heat - that’s not very long.Dad is going to be late home tonight so we won’t have dinner at our normal time.
3 to 5 years
Children love maps. If you have a street directory see if you can find where you live on the map for your suburb. Work out the different routes you could take to get to places like the shops, kindy, playgroup, friend’s places or Granny’s house. Older children might like to follow the way on the map or on the GPS if you have one in the car or on your phone. Talk about street and suburb names as you look at the maps or as you program the GPS. Talk about the symbols you see on the map. Try and predict what they might be.
3 to 5 years
Next time you are out and about shopping with your child ask them to help you look for a spot to park the car. Will you try and find a spot in the car park or look for a park out on the street?
Talk to your child about how long you will be at the shops. Are there time restrictions that change where you park and how long you’ll stay?
We’re going to see a movie and have lunch. We will be at the shopping centre for more than 2 hours so we have to find an all-day park.
3 to 5 years
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.