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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.
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
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 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
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
Children are naturally inquisitive and want to know about the world and what is happening around them. The way they express their wonder and curiosity is by asking questions.
Your child might ask questions about what they see and hear or about where you are going.
Where does the sun go at night?
Birth to 2 years
Next time your baby needs their nappy changed use the time to sing songs and to talk to them. As you change your baby’s nappy, name the different parts of their body and talk about what they can use them for.
Here are your feet. They are good for jumping and kicking the ball.
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.
Birth to 2 years
Next time you are dressing your baby talk about what you are doing. 

Let’s get you dressed and ready for the day. It’s cold outside so we need warm clothes. 

As you move your baby around to put on their clothes, name the different parts of their body. After a while you might notice that your baby begins to help you by turning with you. 

First we put on your top. Over your head it goes. One arm, now the other arm. There you go.

You could talk about what is going to happen next. 
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
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.
Birth to 2 years
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.
Birth to 5 years
Getting a new pet is an exciting event and your child will learn a lot. First you need to discuss what the most suitable pet for your family is. A large dog might not be great in a small flat, but hermit crabs might be perfect. You also need to think about how much a pet costs to buy and look after. Once you have decided to get a pet it's time to find out a bit more - write down a list of what you want to know.
What kind of pet would be good for your family? You could look online, go to the library or ask other people.
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
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
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.
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:
Birth to 5 years
Use photos of your child and their adventures to make special books for them. Choose some photos together and print them out. Glue them on pages so they make a story. Your child can help to add decorations like stickers or drawings. Write the story in the book together and then join the pages with cable ties or ribbons. Your child will love hearing you read a story about them.
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
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
Nowruz, the Persian new year, means ‘new day’. It is celebrated around the world usually from March 21st for 13 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.
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
Next time you are travelling in the car or going for a walk with your child, point out the different traffic signs. Why are they there? What do they tell you to do?There are traffic lights outside the school. They tell us to slow down and drive at 25km.As you notice the different signs try and sort or group them into ones that are the same.Those are crossing lights. They help pedestrians to safely cross the road.
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
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
Star light, star bright, the first star I see tonight...
As the sun starts to go down and night-time approaches talk to your child about what they might see and how the sky will change.
It is very bright and sunny while the sun is in the sky. What will happen when the sun sets?
When the sun disappears what appears instead?
3 to 5 years
There are many different ways that we can communicate and talk to people. You can have a conversation with others even when you are not face-to-face or in the same room. One way is by using the phone.Next time you are going to make a phone call talk to your child about what happens. Explain that sometimes when you ring someone they might not be able to talk. They might not be at home or are busy doing other things.If we can’t talk to Nikita we can leave a message. Then she can ring us back later.
Birth to 5 years
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.
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.
3 to 5 years
Do you get the newspaper delivered to your home? If you do, you can talk to your child about what is in the paper and how to find different information.
The paper’s here. We can look in the entertainment section to see when the movie is on that you want to see. The content index on page 2 will tell us where to find the entertainment section.
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
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?
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.
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 2 years
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?
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!
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
Next time you are out and about with your child take notice of the different cars that you see. Talk about the colour, how many doors the car has, the numbers on the numberplate, or the size of the car.
That car has round headlights, but the small green one has square ones.
Sometimes you could make predictions about what you will see before you set off. Later on, you can compare to see who was right or had the closest guess.
I think we will see more red cars than green ones today.
Birth to 5 years
Everyone is different and unique. How we look and dress, what we like, the things we are good at and are interested in differs for everyone.Sometimes members of the same family can look similar. Do you all have the same hair and eye colour or is each person a little different?The boys in our family all have blue eyes but the girls have a mixture of green and brown.
Birth to 5 years
Have you ever noticed the number of different textures around us?The rug on the bed can feel soft and cuddly, the new wool jumper might be hard and scratchy and the window after the rain could be cold and slippery.Next time you are out or moving around the house talk to your child about how things feel.As you help your child dress you can talk about how the clothing feels. You could try exploring the different textures of food at breakfast time.Your leggings feel bumpy! I think it is because they are ribbed.
Birth to 5 years
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.
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
There are so many different sports teams, all with their own uniforms. Sometimes they have similar colours and designs. How do you know which team is which?
Talk to your child about the different patterns and colours of the uniforms. Sometimes the colours are the same but the design or pattern is different.
I like to follow Aussie rules. Collingwood and Hawthorn both have vertical stripes on their uniform.
3 to 5 years
Talking to children about death is an important part of their learning. Children who are outside will often find dead creatures like birds, lizards or mice. They will want to know what happened.Sometimes it might be the family pet that has died.
Children are usually more curious than worried, so letting them look and ask questions is helpful. You don’t need to go into great detail and what you say will depend on what your beliefs are. Depending on the creature you may want to bury it and have a ceremony, but let your child have a say in the decision.
Birth to 5 years
Next time you are outside with your child ask them what they can see in the sky. Is it different in the morning compared to late in the afternoon or evening?There are lots of clouds up in the sky. Can you see anything else?It is very hot today. What can you see in the sky that helps us to keep warm?Talk to your child about what they can see. Is it always the same? Is the sun always in the sky?It is nearly sunset. Look at the sun – it looks closer to the ocean and lower in the sky.
Birth to 5 years
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.
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.