Early years development starts in the home, with the support of your child’s very first teachers – you, the parents! This list of fun and engaging activities is a great resource for teaching children how to learn. It’s ideal if you want to take an active role in your child’s early years development, instil a love of learning and help them to develop self-confidence.
- Listen and learn. Language development in the early years is underpinned by the ability to listen and discern different words and sounds. Help your child to fine-tune this important skill by playing games that encourage listening. Examples include Simon Says and Musical Statues, which emphasise the importance of listening and paying attention. Also take the time to talk to your child about the sounds they hear. Can they guess what mystery object is inside a box when they shake it?
- Cook up a storm. Get your child involved in a grown-up activity that they’ve seen you doing every day. Cooking and baking incorporate many different learning experiences for a small child, including sensory play, hand-eye co-ordination, weighing out or counting ingredients and of course, a sense of achievement when the finished product is ready to eat!
- Go shopping. While it sometimes seems like a chore to us grown-ups, children always enjoy taking an active role in the weekly shop. To make them feel really involved, sit down together and make a shopping list, talking about the different foods we eat, and which are their favourites. Give them tasks in the shop, such as searching for particular items or choosing which fruit they would like to buy.
- Read and sing together. Whether it’s a favourite book or much-loved nursery rhyme, your child will adore it all the more if you get involved. Take the time to really savour the book or the song. Let the child pause over an interesting page or ask questions about the words in a rhyme. Ask open-ended questions such as, “What do you think will happen next?”, or “How would you feel if that happened to you?”
- Use repetition. Have fun together with songs and rhymes that involve lots of repetition – this helps your child to pick up language more easily and it’s something they really enjoy. Great examples include We’re Going On A Bear Hunt and The Gruffalo. Incorporate repetition into your interactions with your child: listen to what they say, repeat it and add extra words. This is a great way to develop the art of conversation, make them feel heard and build up their confidence in speaking and listening.
- Let them lead. Facilitating early years development doesn’t have to mean imposing a structure on your child’s play. In fact, it’s really great to let your child take the lead, making decisions, getting creative and exploring what interests them. When playing together, mirror what they do, so that they can see its effects in action and enjoy a sense of control and agency.
By being active and involved in your child’s day-to-day life and making sure to get down to their level for face to face conversations, you’ll give them the confidence they need to progress, and instil a lifelong love of learning.
For more information about children’s early years development and what you can do to help encourage reading, writing, speaking and listening, you might be interested to read more information in early learning resources for parents section.