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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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
To watch a bulb grow, roots and all, it is best to grow it in a jar, instead of outside in the garden.
Choose which bulbs you want to grow. When you choose the bulb, talk about it with your child, looking together at the pictures on the packet.
Let’s look at these bulbs on the stand. Which one should we choose? This is a hyacinth and has blue flowers. This one is a daffodil. It has a yellow flower. Should we grow more than one kind?
When you get them home put them in the vegetable drawer of your fridge for a few weeks.
3 to 5 years
A vegetable that is taller than you…
Sweet corn is an easy food to grow and you can grow it in your garden or in a pot.
In September or October choose a place in your garden that is warm and sunny. Dig the soil so that it is ready for planting and water it. Talk with your child about why the plants need good soil and sun to grow.
We need to make sure the roots of the corn can grow deep into the soil.
3 to 5 years
Wheat sprouts can grow in just a couple of weeks and your child will be able to watch them change from day to day.Put the wheat in a bowl, cover it with water and let it soak for two days. Watch what happens. Does it look any different? You will need to change the water every day.Let’s use the strainer to pour out the water. Why does the strainer let the water through but not the wheat?Pour some more water in gently so it covers all of the wheat.
3 to 5 years
The washing is done, the sun is shining and now it’s time to hang it out. Your child could help you do this.
Put the bucket of pegs and the basket of washing on the ground where your child can reach them. Ask your child to find different items of clothing. As they find each one see if they can work out how many pegs are needed to hang them on the line.
Can you find the spotty socks and the purple shorts? How many pegs will we need to hang them up?
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.
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:
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.
3 to 5 years
Making pancakes with your child can be an opportunity to talk, read and create together. You can choose to use a packet or make them from scratch using flour, milk and eggs.
Before you start, talk about what flavour pancakes you want to make and what you will need. If you are going to change the recipe explore the different flavours together and talk about when to add the extra ingredients.
We could make savoury ones and add cheese and grated zucchini.
3 to 5 years
There are shadows all around us - some are inside and some are outside.On a sunny day show your child their shadow on the ground.What happens to the shadow when you move? Can you run away from your shadow? How do you know it is your shadow?Talk with your child about how shadows are formed. Does the shadow change with the sky? Take your child outside at night or when it is cloudy and talk about the differences.
3 to 5 years
Most countries have a special day every year that is a holiday and a day of celebration. The day is an annual event that everyone from that country can celebrate and remember. It is a special event that brings them together as a nation.The day might celebrate the end of a war, the first day of independence or a significant custom or tradition.Spanish families celebrate el Dí a de la Raza on the 12th of October. Some families call this Christopher Columbus day. The day celebrates his discovery of America.
3 to 5 years
When it’s dark outside different things come out to play. You might hear them banging across the roof or hissing at each other.
What do you think it could be?
You or your child might have noticed in the morning that things have changed since you went to bed. Have plants been eaten or is there animal poo on the ground?
What do you think it could be?
3 to 5 years
Have you ever noticed how many numbers there are around you? Next time you and your child are out walking take a look and see how many you can find.You might find numbers in surprising places. Remember to look up high and down low. Look on letterboxes and doors, gates and fences.There’s a number on that fencepost. Can you read it?Talk about why houses and buildings have numbers. Can you work out the patterns?This is number 3, then comes 5, then comes 7. What will the next one be?
3 to 5 years
Looking at a takeaway menu to choose what to eat is an activity that can involve the whole family. Talk about what you want to eat. Will all the family eat the same thing from the menu or will individuals be able to choose their own items from the list? Will the serves be large enough to share and if so how many people will each serve feed?
3 to 5 years
I went to visit the city one day and spied North Terrace along the way. What else do you think I spied that day?I spied with my little eye lots of different statues – tall ones, short ones, ones with people, some with horses and one person sitting.I spied with my little eye lots of buildings – ones to live in, some to shop in, ones to read in, some to look in, one with paintings and one with dinosaurs.
3 to 5 years
Stripes, spots, squares and checks - patterns are all around us.Next time you are out walking with your child look for the patterns around you. A pattern is s ordered and predictable, but it might not be even. It could be bricks in a wall or crooked paving stones. Show your child how some things form patterns.Look, the slats in the seat make a stripy pattern. A stripe of wood, then a space, a stripe of wood, then a space. That makes a pattern.See if they can find their own patterns.
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
Spotty eggs, stripy eggs, coloured eggs, so many eggs! You can decorate eggs with your child at any time of the year and many families like to do this at Easter. Your eggs can be as simple or as complicated as you like. It is best to use hard-boiled eggs for decorating. There are many ways you and your child can decorate the eggs. Simply draw on the eggs with wax crayons or textas. If you use warm eggs the crayons will melt onto the eggs. What will you draw on this egg? Which part of the egg is the top?
3 to 5 years
As the seasons change the weather will change and we will see changes happening to the plants and trees in the garden. Talk to your child about the names of the seasons - spring, summer, autumn, winter - and the order they will follow. This may include looking at the calendar and highlighting the different months of the year that match the seasons.
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.
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 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
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.
3 to 5 years
Treasure hunts can be fun. Hide some sort of treasure - it doesn’t matter what. It could be a small gift or a message with a promise of a special treat, like five extra stories tonight, or a trip to feed the ducks. You will need to write some clues or directions. Write the clues or directions on individual cards. It could be ‘look in the letterbox’ and then in the letterbox it might say ‘look under the doormat’ and so on until your child finds the treasure.
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
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.
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.
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
When you are out have you ever stopped to look at the front door of a shop or house and wondered what might be inside? You could play ‘I wonder’ or guessing games with your child to try and work out what is inside.
Sometimes it is easy to tell what is behind the door as the door is made of glass and you can see through the door. Other times it might have writing or a picture that tells you what is inside. Often it will only have a number and that doesn’t give you a clue whether it is a home for a family, a business or a shop.
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.
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
Autumn has finally arrived and the days and nights are cooler. With the arrival of autumn you will not only notice changes to the weather but also the time the sun rises and sets.
Autumn is a time when many changes take place in the garden. Take a walk around the garden or the neighbourhood and try to see what has changed or is different. Have the leaves on the trees started to change colours, going from green to yellows and reds? Have leaves started to fall from the trees?
3 to 5 years
You have found the perfect present for that special person and now it is time to wrap it up. You can ask your child to help you.Start by talking about the size of the present and the amount of paper you will need to cover it up. Is the present a regular shape like a box with straight sides? Or is it an irregular shape that is a mixture of curved and straight sides?We have bought Baba shoes for his birthday. They come in a box so it will be easy to wrap.