From building to art and beyond, there’s always something new to inspire growing minds.

Activities to try at home
Sink and float – learning with water
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Encourage your child’s curious mind through this fun water activity.

Age group: generally 2 years and up

Learning benefit / skills developed:

  • Supports children in using descriptive words to express their ideas and opinions
  • Promotes scientific thinking by making predictions, observations, comparisons, reasoning, experimentation and evaluation
  • Encourages children in building concentration
  • Development of fine motor skills

What you’ll need: 

  • Tin foil
  • A tub
  • Water
  • Small object to place on the boat (rocks/sticks/stones etc)

Instructions:

  • First, fill the tub with enough water so that the boat will be able to move up and down itself
  • Make a boat shape out of tinfoil.
  • Place the boat in the water and talk to your child about what they think will happen.
  • Ask them to add the other assorted objects and explore. Does the boat sink or float? What happens when things are added?

Please note: this activity needs to be supervised as there is water involved.

Download or print activity here

  

Saving bugs from the spider web
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This fun, imaginative play based game is all about saving the bugs using tongs/tweezers from the poisonous web.

Age group: generally children 3-5 years

Learning benefit/skills developed:

Promotes fine motor development and increased hand strength in a fun imaginative play-based way.

 What you’ll need:

  • Tray
  • Sticky tape
  • Tongs
  • Toy Bugs- if you don’t have something similar, anything around the house will work such as rocks, sticks, blocks-(just something the child can remove from the tray with tongs)

Instructions:

  • Find a container, any shape  is fine
  • Put bugs or other items in the bottom of the container
  • Place masking tape at various angles across the top of the container
  • Your spider web is ready
  • If you are following on with the colour sorter you will need to place some coloured paper if jars next to the spider web tray.

Tips / follow up activity: 

As a follow on you could have the child colour sort the bugs/other items into coloured jars which will help promote colour recognition and then count how many bugs are in each jar which will promote early numeracy/counting skills.

Items needed for follow on are:

  • Jar/cup
  • Coloured paper

Download or print activity here.

Shape match - encourage shape recognition
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Age group: 18  months and older

Learning benefit/skill developed:

  • Encourages shape recognition, labelling and awareness
  • Encourages language through shared conversation and interaction

What you’ll need:

  • ​Large paper (can use butchers paper or baking paper)
  • Textas to draw shapes
  • Post-it notes, or paper squares and blue tac

Instructions:

  • Draw shapes onto large paper, try doing some familiar and some unfamiliar shapes to challenge but not overwhelm your child.

Tips/advice:

  • Hold up a small square with a shape, and ask you, child, to stick it onto the large paper. Encourage your child to label the shape, or repeat the name of the shape after you   
  • You can make this more challenging by hiding the small shape cards around the room, so your child needs to find them and then stick them to the large paper
  • You can also do this game with colours, or letters, or numbers, or pictures, or anything you can match!

Download or print activity here.

Sensory trays - exploring our senses
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Create an open ended sensory experience for your child to explore their sense of touch, taste, sight, sound and smell.

Age group: generally 1 years and up

Learning benefit/skills developed

  • Develops children’s sense of wonder by encouraging their sensory exploration of touch, taste, sight, sound and smell.
  • Assists in children’s understanding of different colours, textures and sounds
  • Encourages messy play to promote children’s creative and adaptive play
  • Prompts exploration of senses
  • Explores food in a non-pressured fun way

What you’ll need: 

  • Metal aluminium trays ( bowls can be used as an alternative)
  • Shredded coconut
  • Coloured water
  • Cooked pasta
  • Rice
  • Herbs and edible leaves
  • Towels

Instructions:

  • Place one towel on top of the table and one towel underneath table (this will assist with the clean-up at the end)
  • Place five trays on the table
  • Fill each tray with your designated sensory item (be sure to place the dry sensory next to a wet sensory tray, this allows for a greater texture difference when exploring each tray one by one).

Extension of learning:

  • Question your child on the taste, “Does that taste yummy or yucky?”
  • Question your child on the feel, “ Is that soft, hard, crunchy, cold, warm or sticky”

Special Consideration:
Some children can be reluctant to touch or taste different textures or colours, this often is associated with their sensory preferences.

We all have sensory preferences but if a child has sensory processing challenges, this can result in the textures or tastes being incredibly uncomfortable for children to interact with. By giving children choices between wet/soft and dry/crunchy, we are being more supportive of these children.

When introducing a child to a less preferred texture it may be useful to start with using tools such as spoons or long paint brushes, or the first touch could be the tip of the finger. If introducing new food textures to taste, smell is a great starting point. Using cutlery with these foods and even giving the new food a kiss to start getting it closer to the mouth can all help towards exploring new taste.

Download or print activity here.

Home made paint - fun and creativity
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Run out of paint? No worries, just mix water flour and salt with a little bit of food colouring and voila, some paint! This paint washes off easy (as long as you don’t go crazy on the food dye). Painting is a great way for children to have fun and express creativity.

Age group:  Generally children 1 and up

Learning benefit/skills developed:  creative growth, imagination, concentration, coordination, problem-solving ability and fine motor skill development.

What you’ll need:

  • Food colouring
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Water

Family benefit:

  • Utilising a range of materials in the house such as old cardboard boxes which make great canvases or even old sheets.
  • A great way to harness your child’s ability to develop mentally, emotionally and boosts their self-confidence.

Tips:

  • Bigger the better - old cardboard boxes are great canvases
  • Avoid giving too much direction, see what your child develops
  • Using different kitchen utensils to paint such as mashers, forks, spoons, sponges and cookie cutters. Get imaginative!

Download or print activity here.

Back to Back drawing – guess what it was
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write or draw on each other’s back, then, the person that was drawn on tries to identify the word or drawing sparking a conversation about the illustration. What was it? or What did it say?

Age group: generally 3 years and up

Learning benefit/skills developed

  • Stimulate your child’s visual memory skills in a multisensory way.
  • Encourages children to use their imagination and concentration skills.
  • Helps children make a connection between visuals and words
  • Develops social and communication skills.

Variation: This game can also be played with paper fixed to another’s back and as a player draws, the person being drawn on also tries to recreate the drawing on paper in front of them, then players can compare both pictures at the end. This game can also be played between children.

Instructions:

  • Play the game, using your finger to draw on each other’s back. (Or play the paper version, where each player draws a message/drawing) Take turns.
  • The person that was drawn on tries to identify the word or drawing sparking a conversation about the illustration. What was it? or What did it say? Encourage conversation about the differences.
  • This game can start simple, drawing simple shapes or letters and can progress as needed.

Tip:

Playing with your children is important for their brain development. This is how the children learn to interact with the world around them. Playing with your child makes them feel special and builds connection.

Download or print activity here.

Block matching game - build skills with blocks
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A fun game with blocks for families to play with their children

Age group: generally 3 years and up

Learning benefit/skills developed:

  • Develops children’s small muscle skills by having children manipulate the blocks in a variety of ways,
  • Helps children develop problem-solving and cognitive skills.
  • In the advanced version of the game, children develop higher thinking and comprehension skills while problem-solving.

 What you’ll need: 

  • 2 sets of about 4 identical blocks (wooden blocks or Duplo/Lego etc)

 Instructions:

  • Using one of the blocks sets, create a small structure and present it to the child to copy.
  • Once the child has completed the blocks as you have created it, have the child make something for you to copy.
  • For a more difficult game; make something with the blocks and hide it behind a book or piece of cardboard, describe how the structure looks so as your child can copy. Use words like on top, next to, as well as referring to the colours and shapes. Take it in turns with your child to create and copy.
  • This game can be added too with adding identical blocks or adding more children with numerous sets of blocks.

Download or print activity here.

Ball box – find the right shape
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This activity supports children understand about object permanence, problem solving and spatial awareness, through a game of putting a ball into a cardboard box.

Ages: generally 1 years and up

Learning benefit/skills developed:

  • Encourages children to develop hand and eye coordination as they put the ball through the cut out holes in the box 
  • Helps children understand shapes and sizes
  • Develops children’s problem solving skills and spatial awareness

What you’ll need: 

  • A cardboard box
  • Small balls of any material (roughly 5cm diameter so they are small enough for your child to pick up with one hand and large enough to not pose a choking risk)
  • Have balls of different sizes available to add an extra challenge
  • Scissors to cut the holes, according to various shapes and sizes of balls

Instructions:

  • Cut 2-4 holes in the box using scissors
  • Leave the box closed but not sealed (it should open as the child tips it and the balls should come out)
  • Give the balls to your child and watch as your child puts the balls in. Give them space to see if they can figure out how to get them in and out.

Download or print activity here

Paper towel projection – create shapes
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Create fun light projections with this easy activity

Age group: generally 2 years and up

Learning benefit/skills developed:

  • Develops children’s understanding of light and shadows, such as how they are created and obstructed.
  • Helps children compare and verbally label and categorise projected images based on size and shape.
  • Children exercise a range of thinking and problem solving skills when attempting to create and/or recognise images.

What you’ll need: 

  • Paper towel rolls
  • Plastic wrap
  • Rubber bands
  • Stickers (any stickers with a clear shape outline will work)
  • Torch or a phone with a light

Instructions:

  • Wrap one end of the paper towel roll with plastic wrap and secure with rubber bands
  • Stick a sticker onto the end of the paper towel roll that is covered with the plastic wrap
  • Turn off the lights and point a torch or phone light onto the end of the paper towel roll without the sticker. Aim the light towards the flat surface.
  • The shape of the sticker will be clearly projected onto the wall

Download or print activity here.

 

Dinosaur small world fun - imaginative play
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Small world play is a type of imaginative play using small toys.

Let your child’s imagination run wild as they create different scenarios with their dinosaurs and some natural resources.

Age group: Generally children 2 years and up

Learning benefit/skills developed:

  • Encourages children to use their imagination to explore ideas related to different concepts and everyday life.
  • Small world play supports different learning processes including problem solving and reflective thinking. It can support language development through the use of self-talk.
  • Helps children develop their social skills as children can explore different social scenarios with the dinosaurs, by playing in a safe and contained manner.

What you’ll need: 

  • A tub or large container/cardboard box
  • Natural resources such as leaves, bark, sand and twigs
  • Man-made materials
  • Small toys

Instructions:

  • Assemble your tub with natural materials, man-made materials and small toys
  • Place tub on a steady surface such as the floor or table
  • Get involved! Ask your child questions about the world you have created together in the tub. Create scenarios, solve problems and introduce new vocabulary. Have fun!

Special consideration

Children learn from those around them. If your child is learning to use toys in an imaginative way, think about using modelling - this is when older siblings or adults play with the toys in order to show a child how to play or what they can do with the toys. In the case of the dinosaurs, this could include stomping, jumping or eating the leaves. Support your child by bringing their attention to what you are doing by staying close to them or positioning yourself face to face.

Download or print activity here.

Special Kitchen cupboard - introducing kitchen experiences
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This is a simple activity to do at home. The kitchen cupboard idea is a great way to introduce children to the kitchen and cooking experiences. Giving your child access to a safe low kitchen cupboard with items they can handle and access safely, provides an opportunity for children to explore containers and lids, measuring cups and spoons, and other safe to use cooking utensils. 

Ages: Generally children 1-3

Learning benefit/skills developed:

  • Fine motor skills, using the small muscles in the hand as well as hand-eye coordination in manipulating and stacking containers.
  • Language development, as you discuss the activity you are doing.

Family benefit:

  • This activity provides children with a space in the kitchen to learn and copy what you are doing.
  • Being close to you also provides opportunities for language development as you discuss the activity you are doing as well.
  • This activity also provides an opportunity for parents to do the things they need to while also engaging and supervising their children.

What you’ll need?

  • Plastic or tin containers with matching lids
  • Wooden Spoons
  • Measuring cups and spoons (ones that stack inside one another are best)

Instructions:

  • Select a kitchen cupboard not near high traffic areas of your kitchen or too close to the oven and cooktop. Clean it out and add materials.
  • Allow children to access this cupboard and remind them that this is their special cupboard.
  • Play with your children on the floor, making sure that it is not in an area where people need to access the fridge.
  • Encourage children to stack the containers and measuring cups, use a wooden spoon to experiment with the different sounds of the containers. Find and match lids to the containers.

Follow up or modifications

This idea would also work within a home office. Using the same materials and add notebooks and coloured pencils.

Download or print activity here.

Sensory path - exploring sights, textures and sounds
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Create a path of different sights, textures and sounds for your child to wonder and explore

Age group: generally children 6 months and up (suitable for crawlers and walkers)

Learning benefit/skills developed:

  • Encourages physical movement and develops children’s sense of wonder by encouraging their sensory exploration of sight, touch and sound
  • Develops balance for children who are crawling and in early stages of walking
  • Assists in children’s understanding of different colours, textures and sounds

What you’ll need: 

  • Laminating sheets or thick sandwich bags
  • Masking tape
  • Recycled or craft materials such as ribbon, bubble wrap, paint, felt, pom poms, leaves, dried flowers or anything else you find suitable

Instructions:

  • Fill each laminating pouch or sandwich bag with desired materials (if using laminating pouches, seal the edges with an iron or hair straightener so they don’t leak)
  • Use masking tape to tape pouches onto the floor to create a path

Extension for older children: try creating a different number, colour, letter, or shape from the materials in each pouch and encourage them to find the letter/shape/colour/number.

Try encouraging your child to do a different movement with every section of the path they stand on (for example, jumping on the bubble wrap or clapping when standing on the felt)

Download or print activity here.

Scavenger hunt - an exciting challenge
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Families pick a Scavenger game and create an exciting challenge where children go on a hunt to find matching items of colour, smell, shape, size or texture from around the home or garden.

Age group: 2-3 (supported by an adult) and 3-5 (with increasing levels of autonomy).

 Learning benefit/skills developed:

  • Classification skills, observation skills, emotional intelligence, patience, resilience and persistence.
  • By using icons instead of only words, children also have a chance to build independence.

Family benefit: 

  • Families can work together on a hunt or help encourage without their child’s independence.
  • Building effective communication as a family, through describing instructions of the game and potential clues.
  • Some of the hunts will be a good opportunity for families to discuss and to reflect on together.

What you’ll need:

  • A basket or a bag to place their items once found
  • A Scavenger hunt activity chart as below. Please open and save to your computer or print. 
  1. Scavenger hunt - Nature
  2. Scavenger hunt - Shapes 
  3. Scavenger hunt - Colours 

Tips:

  • For children who aren’t used to playing independently, you could break the hunt down and give them 1 or 2 of the items to locate at a time.
  • Families could have them up on the fridge to refer back to throughout the day-almost like bingo.
  • It could be beneficial for families to spend time noticing and talking about each object and challenge.

Download or print activity here.

Sticker-line up - keeping toddlers occupied
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Sticker Line Up is a great way for toddlers to concentrate and stay occupied, also giving parents a few moments of relaxation.

Age group: Children 2 and up

Learning benefit/skills developed:

  • Fine motor skills: Children use the pincer/ pinching movement with their forefinger and thumb to remove and then apply the sticker to the paper – this not only strengthens and hones small muscle strength and control but also introduces the correct pencil holding for writing skills as they grow.
  • Early Literacy development - children make their mark from left to right on the paper-based on writing at school taught from left to right (you can adjust writing direction if your home language is not written from left to right).
  • Concentration and Persistence, Those pesky stickers can be tricky to peel off and apply to the paper in just the right spot.  Sticking with this task requires great concentration and persistence – excellent life-long skills.

Instructions:

  1. Draw a line on a long piece of paper.
  2. Provide stickers (doesn’t have to be dots) for the child to stick along the line – left to right (or in a direction you choose).
  3. Can extend by challenging child to follow or create a pattern on the line with the colour of the stickers.

Download or print activity here.

Frozen friend rescue - persistence is key
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Frozen friend rescue is a great way for children to explore what needs to happen for the water to turn to ice and what needs to happen for the ice to turn back to water.

Ages: Children 3 and up 

Learning benefit/skills developed:

  • Science, as children, explore liquids and solids.
  • Problem Solving, children need to formulate different strategies for the ‘rescue’, implement, trail these and then alter their approach as needed.
  • Persistence, this activity is not a quick one (unless conducted in the middle of summer) so it requires patience and persistence to get to the end of it.
  • Teamwork & cooperation, this is a great one for siblings to work together on. They will share problem-solving ideas and work together toward a common goal.

Instructions:

  • Select toys that your child might like to rescue (make sure they will survive being frozen in water –plastic toys are best for this).
  • Place toys in a plastic container – Tupperware or an old ice cream container works well.
  • Freeze toys overnight.
  • Provide spoons (as a digging implement) and encourage the child to think about how to ‘rescue’ the toys.

Download or print activity here.

Shape stamping - encourage shape awareness
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Age group:  18 months and older

Learning benefit/skill developed:

  • Encourages shape recognition, labelling and awareness
  • Encourages language through shared conversation and interaction
  • Allows children to explore different methods of creating art

What you’ll need:

  • ​Paper
  • Paint (can make your own, see Family Hub for recipe)
  • Cookie cutters in different shapes (if you don’t have any, you can make your own stamps using cardboard)
  • A plate of flat container for the paint

Instructions:

Show your child how to stamp the cookie cutter into the paint, then on the paper, then let them explore.

Tips/advice:

  • Talk to your child about what shapes they’re making, and what colours they’re using.

Download or print activity here.

 

 

SDN is committed to the safety of children and families and encourages the safe undertaking of activities on the hub. For more information read our terms and conditionsFor more on child safety at home visit Raising Children network.

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