Home learning ideas
Reading for pleasure has a very positive impact on educational performance. The UK government’s Education Research Standards Team tells us, “Evidence suggests that there is a positive relationship between reading frequency, reading enjoyment and attainment.”
As a parent this is great news - sharing a book with a child is fun - it's a time for closeness, laughing and talking together. It can also give children a flying start in life and help them become lifelong readers.
Top tips for reading with children of any age
- Set aside some time
Find somewhere quiet without any distractions - turn off the TV/radio/computer.
- Ask your child to choose a book
Sharing books they have chosen shows you care what they think and that their opinion matters. This means they are more likely to engage with the book.
- Sit close together
Encourage your child to hold the book themselves and/or turn the pages.
- Point to the pictures
If there are illustrations, relate them to something your child knows. Ask them to describe the characters or situation or what will happen next. Encourage them to tell you the story by looking at the pictures.
- Encourage your child to talk about the book
Talking about the characters and their dilemmas helps children understand relationships and is an excellent way for you to get to know each other or discuss difficult issues. Give your child plenty of time to respond. Ask them what will happen next, how a character might be feeling or how the book makes them feel.
- And lastly, above all - make it fun!
It doesn't matter how you read with a child, as long as you both enjoy the time together. Don't be afraid to use funny voices - children love this!
It's never too early to start reading with your baby
- Sing rhymes and tell stories to your unborn baby
They can hear you from around 18 weeks, and will recognise your voice before they are born.
- It's good to start sharing stories, books and rhymes with your child from as early an age as possible
Babies don’t need to understand all the words, they will just love to listen to your voice, look at the pictures and hold the books.
A few ideas for games
- Hide and seek – Everyone hides and one person counts to or back from 10, then they go and find them
- Hunt the toy – A version of hide and seek but using a toy. One person hides the toy whilst the others count to or back from 10 and then everyone tries to find it
- DIY balance beam – Use some tape to mark out a balance beam. Children will enjoy walking up and down it. Make it more fun by having music or imagining crocodiles either side of it and jump over it
- Hot potato – Get children to sit on the floor in a circle. Turn on some music and get them to pass the potato (a beanbag or soft ball) around the circle as fast as they can. When the music stops, the player holding the potato leaves the circle. Keep going until only one player is left and wins the game
- Kim’s game - Put several items on a tray. Let the children look carefully at the items. Cover them with a tea towel, towel or blanket. Remove an item. The children guess which item is missing
- Simon says - To start, choose someone to be Simon. The rest of the players will stand in front of Simon as he calls out actions starting with the phrase “Simon says”: “Simon says…touch your toes.” The players then have to copy Simon’s action, touching their toes. If Simon calls out an action without uttering the phrase “Simon says,” the players must not do the action. If a child touches his toes when Simon didn’t say…, he or she is out of the game
- Bubble poppers – Children can pretend to be super heroes, characters from star wars and pop bubbles with their swords, light sabers or rolled up paper
- Indoor basketball - You need a bucket or container and a rolled up socks (or a small, light ball). Each player takes a turn at throwing the sock-balls into the bucket. When a player scores a bucket, he or she takes a step back and throws again until missing. The player who shoots the ball in the bucket from the farthest distance wins
- Freeze - Choose some favourite music. Get your child to dance or bounce until the music stops. When it does, they have to freeze in whatever position they find themselves in. To make the game more challenging, ask the them to freeze in specific poses: animals, shapes, letter or even yoga postures
- Indoor bowling – You will need some water or milk bottles. You may need to put a small amount of water in them so they stand up. Line up the bottles up at the end of your hall or living room. Make a starting line. Get a medium-sized in ball and start bowling!
Top parenting tips
Little ones can be particularly demanding on your time and energy and they can have very clear thoughts and ideas about what they want – this is normal!
- Children’s physical needs need to be met as this will affect their emotional state – they can’t control this yet. They need to have food (that will fill them up), sleep (so they feel refreshed) and rest (time to chill out with no external agenda – this will be different for different children) but might involve sharing a book, listening to an audio CD, watching TV, building a den and lying in it
- Try to build things into your day that you know that your child will like for example cooking, gardening, building – try to not include too many things that they will be resistant to
- Coach rather than chastise – tell them what you would like them to do, being supportive and praising their efforts
- Give your child what they need – if they are cross they may need a hug or some space or a distraction
- Give clear instructions using eye contact. Start your sentence with please and remember the 10 second rule – children need time to process what you have asked them to do
- Be consistent with rules and re state the message don’t lecture – for example – no biscuits before dinner
- Remember that verbal intelligence is not the same as emotional development. Your child might chat away but still need support to manage and label their emotions – It is ok to be cross, I can help you to calm down
- Place in the sunshine what you want to grow – highlight the things you want more of – Thank you for………....Well done for………….I felt really happy when……………….
- If they behave inappropriately sit them down where they are gently, gain eye contact and say what they should be doing for example – gentle hands with the cat please
- Try not to shout or get angry use the phrase – It is a shame that you………I am sorry that you did that. Use a calm tone
- Children like to feel in control, you can make them feel like they have some control and avoid confrontation by offering them a choice. For example- wellies or trainers, carrots or peas, you get in the pushchair or Mummy lift you in?
- Respond to mistakes with calm and forgiveness
- Children find it difficult to share especially with siblings, you will need to teach them how to do it. You could do this by playing games, sitting together and rolling a ball to each other. This will also teach them to wait and take turns
- When you are playing with children put away electronics and give them your full attention. Focus on what they are doing and comment on this rather than asking questions. This will help them to feel capable and this will also build their language
Most importantly have fun – play tickle games and games that involve physical contact. This will build affection and make you all feel good.
More fun ideas to try at home
Have a go at blowing bubbles together and encourage your child to watch and pop them. You can use shop bought bubbles or make your own. Use describing words while you play, such as big, small, high and low. Repeat words such as pop, blow, more and again, to help build up the number of words they know. Practising blowing bubbles helps to build your child’s mouth and lip muscles, which is important when they are beginning to form words and sounds. To develop physical skills, blow bubbles for your child to reach, stretch and pop with a pretend sword, light sabre or bat.
How to make your own bubble mixture
• 600ml water
• 150ml washing up liquid
• 2 tablespoons glycerine (you can buy this at a chemist).
How to make your own bubble container
• small container (yoghurt or fromage frais pot)
• drinking straw (cut in half)
• J cloth or flannel
• elastic band
Make a hole half way down the side of the container and insert half a drinking straw. Pour some of the bubble mixture into the container above the level of the straw. Cover the top of the container with a piece of J cloth or flannel and secure with the elastic band. Blow through the straw and watch the bubbles grow through the cloth.
Have a teddy bears’ picnic
Children love adults to play with them. It is great if you can follow their lead and join in the fun. Help your child to find the items for a picnic, such as cups, plates and play food (if you have some) or make out of paper.
Encourage your child to give the plates and cups out to their toys and teddies and to share out the food. Have fun talking to the toys and sharing the picnic together. As your child plays, you can comment on what they are doing, using or looking at, to help develop their language. Sharing and interacting with you and the toys at the picnic will help your child to learn how to be better understood. It will also help to develop their imagination and show them how to successfully communicate what they need or want. Sharing out plates and food will help with early maths and 1 to 1 correspondence as each teddy will need a plate, a cup and some food. You can also count how many you would need.
Be a marching soldier
Make an instrument shaker by filling a plastic bottle, tin or small box (secure the lid) with uncooked rice or dried peas. Encourage your child to march around the room while you shake the shaker. When the shaker stops, ask your child to stop and stand up straight like a soldier. Children like to be in control so you could take it in turns to shake the shaker and march. You could do fast and slow marching or loud and quiet shaking. If you can show your child how to be a good listener, your child will learn an essential skill for talking and learning.
Play Simon Says
Have fun with your child by playing Simon Says together. You could play this as your child gets dressed in the morning. The idea of Simon Says is that your child should only follow instructions if you say Simon Says first. For example if you say “Simon Says put your socks on” your child should put their socks on. If you just say “put your socks on” (without saying “Simon Says” first) your child should ignore you. You could play this game anytime, for example while brushing teeth,
having a wash or tidying up. Helping your child to listen and follow simple instructions lets
them know what is happening in their world.
Washing up games
Make washing up into a game for your child.
Keep it fun and take the opportunity to chat. They can help stack the dishwasher.
• Talk about what you are doing while your child watches you. Use words like scraping and rinsing
• Stack the dishwasher together. Ask questions like “where shall we put this bowl?”
• Let your child press the ‘on’ button
• Give your child a bucket or bowl of water and big brushes (paint brushes are good) and let them paint patterns on the patio or walls of your house
• Talk about the patterns you are making – round and round, up and down, circle, wavy, straight, it’s like a face, it’s like a snake
• Or give them soapy water and sponges and let them wash toys or garden furniture
Having meals together helps children understand how to take turns and join in the conversation. Turn off the television or radio, as this will encourage everyone to talk.
• When setting the table give your child more or less knives and forks than they need. Let them work out if there are too many or too few
• Talk about who sits where and use words such as opposite
• While you eat your meal, talk about what your child has been doing that day
Children love to get messy and use all of their senses to explore the world around them. Let your child know it is okay to be messy. You could plan to try this before bath time.
• Give your child objects such as sieves, beakers, spoons or potato mashers, to use in some mixture
• Bury things like shells, pebbles, plastic dinosaurs or animals, in the mixture for your child to find.
Fill a washing up bowl or bucket with any of the following mixtures and let your child explore
• Cooked pasta
• Cooked rice
• Mashed potato
• Gloop (mix cornflour or custard powder and water until it is stiff – it will become liquid when handled)
Some other ideas
• Go on a shape hunt while you are out and about or at home, by naming shapes of everyday objects, such as circle, triangle and square. This will help your child learn language for maths.
• Lie on the ground with your child and look at the sky. Describe the clouds you can see, such as large, fluffy and white.
• Hop, skip, balance, climb and crawl to help your child learn build physical skills and develop their vocabulary of doing words by commenting on their play – We are hopping, you can skip.
• Go on a walk with your child to look for bugs, this will help to develop an interest in the world around them. You could then name and describe them and also count how many legs they have.
• Help your child learn words such as on, under, behind, above and next to, by playing hide and seek with their teddy.
• Make cakes together and talk about what you are doing – you can use so much language to describe what you are doing by naming the ingredients and utensils, weighing out ingredients, talking about what is next, talking about the process – weighing, mixing, stirring, cooking, decorating. Let your child choose how to decorate them – describe what they are doing.
- Make a little track for a car or train and use words like in, on, under, over, round, through, behind, in front, up, down and along, to describe the position. You could draw one on paper, an old card board box or on paving stones
- Establishing a beat is very important for language and early reading skills. Encourage your child to bang a wooden spoon against a saucepan and march to the beat
- Look for a dandelion flower that has turned to seeds, often called a dandelion clock. Can your child blow a dandelion clock? Each time they blow say the time (for example, one o’clock, two o’clock) until there are no seeds left
- Cut shapes in potatoes for your child to dip into paint and print patterns. Can they repeat a pattern with two different designs? Counting and talking about the shapes and patterns will help develop your child’s language for maths
- When you are cleaning your child’s teeth talk about opposites, such as up and down, in front and behind, under and over
- Instead of playing I spy with my little eye, play I hear with my little ear. Say the noise of something you can see, for example “woof woof” for a dog. Your child can guess what makes that noise