7 Fun Home Activities to Help Children Learn Through Play
Play forms an essential part of a child’s early development. As set out in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) statutory framework, playing is a vital tool which enables children to learn the necessary skills to prepare for their formal education. Play helps children develop physically, mentally, socially and emotionally to help them grow and thrive in the classroom and beyond. We’ve rounded up some fun activities that parents can do at home with their children to help support their early learning through play.
1. Play dough
Playing with play dough combines elements of sensory play with creativity to help children develop fine motor skills and prepare them for learning to write. As a tactile experience, moulding shapes helps strengthen the hand muscles and allows children to practise hand-eye coordination that is essential for writing.
Play dough also helps children to learn about shapes, sizes, colours, textures, and engage their imaginations whilst developing their creative art and design skills. It can also be useful for role playing games, such as making pretend food items and setting up a shop. Role playing in this way gives children a chance to practise their language and social skills.
2. Exploring the natural world
Spending time outdoors with children helps them to understand the world around them, whilst nurturing respect and love for the environment. Being outside also brings many benefits for a child’s health and wellbeing. Children can begin to learn about biology and the planet, gaining an awareness of different plants, animals, and habitats and the role they play within our lives.
Nature provides many opportunities for sensory play, such as exploring different natural materials and textures, playing with water, digging, smelling different flowers and herbs, and listening to the different sounds found in nature - like birds, rain falling, wind rustling the trees, leaves crunching beneath your feet.
Children can learn about different shapes, colours, sizes and develop new vocabulary from playing with resources found in nature, such as leaves, rocks, feathers, twigs, pinecones and seeds. Allowing children to explore the natural world in this way also encourages creativity and imaginative play.
Finally, getting active outdoors by dancing, running, skipping and jumping all helps to develop children’s gross motor skills whilst encouraging a healthy lifestyle and positive attitude to exercise.
3. Getting moving and grooving
Listening to music, making music using instruments, dancing and singing are all beneficial for helping children in their early development. Singing songs with actions helps children to practise their communication and language skills by: broadening vocabulary and understanding rhythm; teaching observation and memory; and developing good listening skills. When dancing and singing with others, it also nurtures positive social skills, encouraging cooperative play and teamwork.
Dancing with different actions helps children to learn coordination and balance, but is also a great way to boost their confidence and enable children to express themselves.
Many children’s songs incorporate elements of counting, as well as naming different body parts, helping children to learn key numeracy and language skills whilst understanding the world around them.
4. Arts and crafts
Under the umbrella of arts and crafts, there is a huge range of activities which help nurture children’s creativity and imagination. One of the criteria for the EYFS is ‘Expressive Arts & Design’, so giving children the opportunity to be expressive through different mediums is essential.
Arts and crafts can include activities such as: painting, drawing, cutting, sticking, folding, making 3D shapes, modelling, and jewellery making. All of these activities help develop fine motor skills to prepare children for writing, whilst learning about colours, shapes, textures and objects.
You don’t need to buy expensive materials for children to get creative - try incorporating natural materials, such as leaves or bark, to create pictures with. You can also reuse materials that would otherwise be discarded or recycled, such as old boxes, egg cartons, plastic bottles, and magazines for children to cut up or decorate.
5. Dressing up and role playing
Aside from the fact that most children seem to delight in dressing up, this activity is valuable for helping develop their communication, social skills, imagination and creativity. Enacting different roles can also help broaden their vocabulary whilst understanding the world around them and different roles that people fulfill, such as teachers, doctors, scientists, builders etc.
Trying on different outfits helps children to develop their self-care skills, and practise actions like doing up buttons, shoes and zips, so that they are able to dress themselves, which is an important factor for starting school.
6. Building blocks and jigsaw puzzles
Playing with blocks, jigsaws and shape sorters benefits children’s development by helping develop spatial awareness, logical reasoning, problem solving, observation, memory, organisation and fine motor skills.
Jigsaws and blocks also teach children about different colours, shapes, and sizes. When playing with blocks, you can ask your child to find different coloured blocks and help them to understand spatial relationships between items and the language associated with this, such as ‘on top of’, ‘next to’ and ‘underneath’.
7. Sensory play
Sensory play is any activity which involves touch, taste, smell, sight or hearing. Children can explore different textures and shapes which engages their curiosity and stimulates their imagination. Sensory activities could involve materials such as water, rice, ice, soap slime, or garden herbs.
Children by nature are inquisitive and enjoy tactile experiences, so setting up sensory play activities is a great way to allow them to have fun whilst developing observation, fine motor skills, spatial awareness, and encouraging investigative skills.
However you play with your child at home, every activity and interaction they encounter will be teaching them and helping their development to prepare for formal schooling. Giving children plenty of opportunities for different types of play will set them up for the best start in life and help them to thrive.
Look out for Melissa's latest articles on Anita Frost's author website, where she'll talk about topics including business and publishing, author news and events, and giving back to communities. You can find her in-depth monthly feature on the News & Media page of the Green Bean Collection website, discussing children's books and reading, early years education, living a greener lifestyle and all things Green Bea
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