As we head into a second lock down, with the days getting darker and the weather getting colder, we thought we take the opportunity to share with you some of favourite, tried and tested winter activities that you might like to enjoy at home,.
Young babies love to explore objects. As well as toys, try giving them everyday items from around the house. Pots and pans, a musical instrument, a bag of laundry pegs. Obviously, they need to be supervised closely when playing with non-toys. At nursery, we set up treasure baskets for this purpose. You could set up a basket for early morning exploration, which gives you a chance to enjoy a hot cup of tea at the same time.
Babies love to make marks and get messy. This really helps to develop their hand-eye coordination and their sense of perception. If the thought of painting with a bay fills you with dread, try this: mix a tiny bit of food colouring with low sugar custard/yogurt and allow your baby to paint in an empty bath with clean brushes. It’s completely safe, so they can put it in their mouths and when they’ve had enough, you can wash them clean in exactly the same spot! Another easy mark making activity is gloop. Simply mix cornflour with water and allow them to explore. It’s safe and clean, so easy to clean up. The sensory experience can be enhanced by adding a scent (vanilla, orange, lemon extract etc). If you don’t want to use a bath, you can buy a builder’s tray (tuff spot) easily on Amazon which also contains the play but gives them space to move about.
Babies also love to fill and empty and roll things. You can easily set up activities using pasta and pulses, pans and spoons. This is a life saver when you’re trying to cook dinner with a baby in tow! A piece of guttering from the hardware shop and some balls can provide hours of fun, as can posting balls through holes cut into boxes. Water play is an absolute favourite for babies. Daytime baths are a great way to while away an hour on a rainy afternoon. Trying adding cups and spoons from the kitchen to give them something different to explore.
You can’t go wrong with a bit of cooking or baking. It’s a great way to practice basic maths skills, such as counting spoons of sugar and also develops fine motor skills as they crack eggs and mix batter. Baking on the floor is very useful for toddlers as they can lean over dough when rolling and cutting out and they have more space to explore. Plus you don’t need to worry about them falling off the stool!
Anything that helps young children to develop their fine motor skills is always beneficial. These activities help to strengthen small hand muscles, getting them ready to write. Posting coins through a slot can keep them entertained for hours, as can filling and emptying containers with random things (shells, feathers, pom poms). At nursery, we call this set up a tinkering station. Playdough is a staple activity and is excellent for strengthening hand muscles, as well as developing vocabulary and imagination. You don’t need to buy expensive kits. Just make salt dough and add silicone cake cases, chopped up straws, lolly sticks and some cutlery from the kitchen.
Toddlers love to paint and you can maintain their attention by letting them paint different objects. Cars, sticks, plastic dinosaurs-the list is endless. Toddlers need room, so a tuff spot comes in handy here once again. Once they’ve finished, pop them in the bath with the painted items and brushes and they can tidy up for you!
Tuff spots come in handy for small-world play too. Having a set space (such as a tray or a rug) can really help young children to focus on their play. Small-world helps them to practise the real-life stuff on a smaller scale. Try setting up a tray based on their interests (building site, fairy garden, snow scene) and add sensory items to help hook them in. Loose parts are basically blocks are very useful. They are open ended so can be used for a garage one day, a castle the next. A great investment. If you model playing with your children, they will then go off and play alone…time for another hot cuppa.
Role play is always a firm favourite! A simple tea party, café or shop can keep children entertained for hours. They do often want an adult to join in with this play. It’s a great way of developing their vocabulary and social skills; sharing out cups, taking turns, serving others. Doll play is a brilliant way for children to practice caring and empathy skills, especially just before a baby sibling is due.
All hail the mighty cardboard box…it can be a rocket, a puppet show, a boat… Children love to crawl into them-try making it into a den. Let them paint and decorate it and watch their imaginations flow.
Grab some sheets, a clothes maiden, some pegs and you are ready to go. Young children (and old) develop problem solving skills as they build. They love to crawl in a den and you can make simple things special-a cosy movie, camping lunch and storytime with a torch. Magical for them and you might just get chance to have a quick tidy up!
At nursery, we create art ateliers (workshops) so that children can select resources independently and create their own masterpieces. The focus is on the process, rather than the product. You can easily create similar at home. Provide paper, glue sticks, tape, scraps and other collage materials and let them explore and create. Keep your boxes and jar lids! You might have a little space to set up a table but it works equally well on the kitchen table or the coffee table in the lounge. They will always make more if you display them proudly, as they feel that their finished products are important.
We hope that you find these ideas useful. Please do remember that some days, your children may just flop on the sofa and watch cartoons all day-don’t worry about doing stuff every day. Most of all, children just need to know that you’re there for them. A cuddle whilst watching Postman Pat on repeat could be just what they (and you) need after a busy week!
Written by Alex Chiorando for Poppy and Jack’s
I’m a qualified teacher who has worked in early years for over 20 years. All of the photos are of my 2 little boys and the things that we get up to at home. The quality team support all of the Poppy and Jack’s nurseries, developing practice to ensure the highest standards of care and education for all of our children.