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Learning At Home

There are hundreds of ways in which the EYFS can be practiced and improved on at home.  Below are some simple and cheap activities that can help your child improve various skills.  Most of these abilities can’t be learnt in isolation and most of these activities will help advance more than one skill set.  The italicised writing will let you know what other capabilities your child will use in the activities.

Remember to monitor your child closely during activities with small objects that could present a choking hazard and to always use non-toxic materials.

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Personal, Social and Emotional Development

Holiday Crafts

Creativity, Small Motor Skills, Imagination - Cut out a small, medium and large circle from blue sugar paper. Help your child glue the circles together into a snowman shape. Encourage them to paint the snowman with white non-toxic paint, using either a paintbrush or a sponge. Once the paint has dried, help your child decorate the snowman, creating eyes, scarf, hat, mittens etc. Talk to them about winter and things to do when it gets cold and snowy. You can also create Christmas trees, Halloween pumpkins, Valentine’s Day hearts, Hanukkah candles, Diwali lights, Chinese New Year, Ramadan or Eid-ul-Fitr cards and Easter eggs. Use each craft session as an opportunity to talk about your cultural festivals and those of others.

Things I Love About You

Self-esteem ­– Glue your child’s photo onto the centre of a piece of light coloured construction paper and write at the top ‘Things I Love About You’. While your child watches and listens, talk about, and write down on the paper border, some of the reasons you love your child so much. You might write, ‘Sam is a helper’, Sam is good at sharing his toys’, Sam is kind and makes me feel good’. Post this where everyone can see it and add periodically to the sheet.

Sound Match

Problem Solving – Collect five pairs of items that would make a sound and feel different when shaken inside plastic eggs (or other containers). For example, two tablespoons of salt, two jingle bells, some beans, some water and two large heavy bolts. Divide these items between ten plastic eggs. Seal the eggs with glue if you wish. Mix up the eggs and let your child try to match the pairs by listening to the sound they make as they shake them.

Sock Twister

Colour Recognition, Large Motor Skills, Left/Right Recognition – Put a different coloured sock on each of your child’s hands and feet. Place the pairs for these socks on the floor, slightly separated from each other. Ask your child to place a sock they are wearing onto its matching sock, for example, ‘Place the blue sock on the floor,’ Ask him to remain standing and keep his hand on the sock as you give the next instruction, ‘Place the red sock on your right foot onto the red sock on the floor.’

 Simple Charades 

Visual Discrimination, Imagination – Act out simple things for your child to guess what you are pretending to do. Try silently pantomiming such things as brushing your hair, driving a car, throwing a ball, climbing stairs etc. Let your child take turns too!

 Silly Basket

Cut a piece of paper into strips and write down an action on each one. For example, ‘Wiggle and jiggle!’, ‘Stand on one foot!’ or ‘Sing a silly song!’ Fold the pieces of paper and place in a small basket and let your child select one. Read it to them and let them be silly! Take a turn yourself! 

Guess Who? Guess What?

Memory Skills – Give your child clues about people or things they know and encourage them to guess who or what you are talking about. For example, ‘I’m thinking of someone who likes football.’ ‘He also has a small dogs.’ ‘He has a red car.’ When your child eventually guesses ‘Uncle Tim!’ congratulate them and start again. Guess What can involve animals or everyday objects, their descriptions and sounds.

Grab and Match

Sensory Awareness – Give your child a paper bag containing three or more small, familiar items such as a key, spoon and a crayon. Have a bag of identical items for yourself, pull out and hold up one item from your bag and encourage your child to pull out the same item (you can do this with or without them looking inside). You can also try describing what you can feel and see if they can find the item by touch and simple clues. (‘I feel something hard and flat that unlocks doors.’)

Follow the Clue

Sequencing – Tell your child there is a surprise hidden in the house. Hide four or more clues written on index cards around your home. Then show your child the first clue and read it to them (eg. look under your bed). When they look there they will find the next clue and so on till they find their surprise! You can also draw the pictures of the locations so they can follow the clues themselves.

Fill In the Blanks Storytelling

Imagination, Language Skills, Memory Skills – Let your child help you make up a story by ‘filling in the blanks.’ Begin your story but leave out key elements for them to fill in. For example: Once there was a _______ (your child fills in this part – if they say ‘boy’ then you say:) And this boy’s name was ­­­­­­­­­­________... (You may need to give them some suggestions/options the first few times till they get the hang of it!) For younger children it might be easier for them to fill in the blanks to a familiar story like Jack and the Beanstalk. This can also be a good travelling game.

Communication, Language and Literacy

Writing Strips

Small Motor Skills, Creativity – Cut a piece of paper into thick strips and give them to your child along with a crayon or marker and let them scribble away. By encouraging them to keep their marks on the strips of paper, they will learn to use smaller and smaller hand movements. Talk about their writing: ‘These look like small loops and these look like bigger loops.’

This, Then, That

Listening Skills, Large Motor Skills – Your child will learn to follow a sequence of instructions with this activity. Tell them to listen carefully because you are going to have them do two actions in a row. For example, say ‘Touch your feet, then touch your head’ or ‘Jump up and down, then clap your hands.’ Increase the difficulty by adding to the number of actions. Get them to come up with a sequence for you!

Magic Lift

Imagination, Large Motor Skills – Lay out a large towel on the floor and announce to your child that you have found a magic lift! Press a pretend button and start the make-believe fun! ‘Ding! Going up!’ Pretend to arrive at a floor and declare it ‘The dancing floor!’ or ‘The clapping floor!’ When you get out of the lift everyone has to do the designated activity for that floor until you get back in and head for the next floor.

Is it an Animal?

Visual Discrimination, Classifying – Lay out a group of plastic toy animals interspaced with a variety of other items, such as a comb, toy train, spoon etc. Now ask your child to point out, or remove from the pile, only the animals. You can also point to each object and ask ‘Is that an animal?’ You can also vary the classification with things like ‘Is it a car/letter/toy?’

Fishing for Shapes and Colours

Large Motor Skills, Hand-Eye Coordination, Colour and Shape Recognition – Create a ‘fishing rod’ by attaching a 6 inch length of string to a 12 inch stick ( a ruler works well). At the end of the string, use a glue gun to attach a small magnet. Next, cut out different coloured shapes from sugar paper and stick each one to a metal jar lid. Give the ‘fishing rod’ to your child and say ‘Let’s fish for triangles! or ‘Let’s fish for red shapes!’

What Happens Next

Imagination – Show your child a magazine picture of an ordinary, everyday event (such as a man running, a child crying, a dog sleeping or a broken-down car). Ask them what is happening in the picture, what they think might have happened to cause this and what they think might happen next.
Pick and Find Travel Game – Observation and Discovery – Draw or cut out of a magazine things you might see whilst driving. Glue the pictures on index cards. Whilst you are driving, let your child select three of the cards. Once they has spotted all three items, tell them they have won the game! Let them pick three more cards and start again!

Photographic Memory

Memory Skills, Visual Discrimination - Show your child a picture illustration in one of their picture books and ask them to try to remember what they see. Remove the book from their view and then ask one or two simple questions about the picture. As your child becomes more skilled at observation and recall, increase the number and complexity of the questions.

Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy


Clock Hunt

Listening Skills, Observation and Discovery – Set the alarm of a battery powered clock a few minutes ahead. While your child is not looking, hide it somewhere in the house, such as under a sofa cushion, or in a cupboard. When the alarm goes off, help your child locate it, emphasising the need to ‘follow the sound’.

Chalk One Up for Fun

Large Motor Skills, Imagination – Draw a pattern of chalk squares and encourage your child to walk the path while keeping their feet inside the squares. You may wish to number the squares and count along with them as they move along the path. Alternatively, draw four large squares on the pavement. When your child steps into one of the squares, announce ‘This is the dancing square!’ and encourage them to dance inside the square. Other squares might include a humming square, a hopping square or a wiggling square. 

Colour Can

Colour Recognition, Sorting, Motor Skills – Gather three empty cans and cover the lip of each with masking tape to protect against sharp edges. Cover the outside of each can with different coloured sugar paper, such as red, yellow and blue. Now let your child sort their small toys such as colourful plastic building blocks into the three cans – blue blocks in the blue can, red blocks in the red one etc. Or, create your own sorting shapes from red, yellow and blue sugar paper. 

Special Delivery

Colour and Shape Recognition, Imagination, Sorting - Cut assorted shapes out of sugar paper and tape each shape to a separate drawer or cabinet in your kitchen. Next, draw corresponding shapes on individual sealed envelopes – one shape per envelope. Hand the envelopes one at a time to your child and ask them to ‘deliver the mail’ to the proper drawer or cabinet. The envelope with the triangle on it goes in the drawer with the triangle taped on it etc. You can do the same thing but with colours instead of shapes.

Touch and Count Cards

Sensory Awareness – On the left half of separate index cards, write the numbers 1-10. On the right half of the same index cards use a glue gun to affix a corresponding number of textured items. Next to the number 1, glue a coin. Next to the number 2 glue two dried pasta shapes etc. (You can use sandpaper, pompoms, lollipop sticks and so on.) Show your child how to trace the number on the card and then touch the items you count. 

Follow the Line

Visual Discrimination – On the left side of a piece of paper draw three starting points and label them ‘1’, ‘2’, and ‘3’. From each starting point draw a squiggly path to some point on the right side of the paper that is not directly across from the starting point. Lines from each starting point can freely cross each other. At the end of each path, draw a different shape. Ask your child where each path leads and then let them show you.

Number Board

Shape Recognition – Cut ten 4” x 4” pocket shapes from sugar paper and number the pockets in order from 1-10. Glue the edges of the pockets to a large piece of cardboard leaving the top of each pocket open. Cut ten 1” x 5” strips from sugar paper. Draw shapes on each strip (three moons on one, six stars on another, eight triangles on another strip etc). Show your child how he can count the shapes and then place the cards in the corresponding pockets.

Roll and Count

Healthy Eating – Use this snack time activity to help your child learn about quantities. Bring a bowl of snack items (grapes, raisins, carrot batons). Have your child roll a dice and then help them count the dots on the top. If there are three dots then give them 3 grapes. If they roll a two, give them two grapes.

Clothes Peg Learning Wheels

Colour Recognition, Small Motor Skills – Cut a piece of cardboard into a circle about 8-12 inches in diameter (or use a paper plate!). One one side of the disk use crayons or felt-tips to make different coloured pie shaped wedges. Get your child to match your coloured clothes pegs to the correct wedge and clip them on. On the other side write the numbers from 1-12 positioned like the face of a clock. On separate pegs, make dots that correspond to the numbers. Encourage your child to clip the peg with three dots on the wedge with the ‘3’.

Alternate and Replicate

Visual Discrimination, Small Motor Skills – Line up a group of plastic building blocks in an alternating pattern on colours in front of your child (eg. Red-Blue-Red-Blue). Invite your child to replicate this pattern with their own group of blocks. Increase the complexity of the pattern as their skill grows.

Knowledge and Understanding of the World

Sink, Float, Dissolve

Observation and Discovery – Fill a large bowl with water (or use your sink) and bring out assorted items for your child to place in it. Will the items sink, float or dissolve. Ask your child to guess and then to allow them to discover the answer. Try a jar lid, sugar, a wooden spoon, a leaf, milk, a cork etc.

Road, Sky or Water

Classifying, Memory Skills – On individual index cards, draw or glue magazine pictures of a road, a sun in the sky and water waves. Lay the index cards in front of your child and explain to them what each picture is. Next, show them toy vehicles (such as lorry, jet, car, ship etc) and ask them whether the vehicle would travel on the road, in the sky or on the water. Encourage them to hold up the card that best answers your question.

Fossil Creations

Motor Skills, Observation & Discovery – Use a rolling pin to help your child roll out a ½ inch disc of play dough. Place a natural object, such as a weed or a small piece of a pine tree branch, onto the top of the disc and encourage your child to use the rolling pin to press the object firmly into the dough. Help them take the object out of the clay and have a look at the fossil-like impression they have made. They can make other interesting impressions with household items like keys, plastic dinosaurs, coins etc.

Home-made Butter

Observation and Discovery, Sensory Awareness, Large Motor Skills – Pour about ¼ cup of whipping cream into a small plastic container and replace the lid. Take turns with your child shaking the cream vigorously. During the shaking process remove the lid every minute or so to view the changing consistency of the cream. Eventually it will seem like unmoving whipped cream. Don’t give up! Shake it more and astonishingly it converts into a ball of butter surrounded by thin watery milk! Depending on how vigorously you shake your container this can take as little as five minutes! Pour off the excess watery milk and help your child spread the butter on toast or water biscuits and enjoy!

Fabulous Fizz

Observation and Discovery, Motor Skills – Pour ¼ cup of white vinegar into a small plastic bowl. Let your child spoon in baking soda to create a fabulous fizz! You can add a few drops of food colouring to the vinegar to create coloured fizz. You will need to add fresh vinegar when additional baking soda no longer creates the fizzy effect.

Hideaway Box/Pillowcase

Memory Skills, Sensory Awareness – Cut a hole in one end of a shoebox, just wide enough for your child’s hand. While they are not looking, place a few items into the box such as a toy train, ball, keys, spoon, crayon etc and replace the lid. Encourage your child to place their hand into the hole and identify an item before they pull it out. For a younger child, let them see you put in the items and then ask them to pull out a specific one. For the pillow version, slip the items into a pillow and slip a rubber band over the opening. See if your child can identify the items by feeling the outside of the pillowcase.

Oil and Water Activities

Observation and Discovery, Imagination – Fill a 500ml clear plastic soda bottle halfway with equal parts water with blue food colouring and vegetable oil. Cap the bottle tightly and let your child gently rock it back and forth to watch the ‘waves’ roll. After the water settles, encourage them to shake it vigorously. Examine it again and watch as it separates again. Alternatively, place ½ cup of vegetable oil in a 500ml clear plastic soda bottle, then slowly add 5-10 drops of food colouring. Let your child examine it, shake the bottle and examine it again.

Leaf Discoveries 

Sorting, Visual Discrimination, Problem Solving – Gather about ten leaves with your child. Sort through the leaves with them and look at the different features. Hold them up to the light and look at the veins. Which leaves are pointy, rounded, large, small, dark or light green? Alternatively lay out several pairs of leaves from different plants, mix them up and ask your child to match up the leaf pairs. Another idea would be to create some tracings of different leaves and encourage your child to match the correct leaf with the corresponding tracing.

Straw Games

Hand-Eye Coordination, Cause and Effect – Crumple a small piece of paper into a ball and place on your child’s play table. Show them how to use a straw to blow the paper round the table. Set up goal lines and have a straw football competition with them! Alternatively, race with the straw and ball to a finishing line and see who gets their paper ball there first!

 Physical Development 

Water Tossing Games

Large Motor Skills, Hand-Eye Coordination – You’ll need zip lock sandwich bags for this. Fill several bags with water and zip closed to create water ‘pillows’. Using chalk, draw large targets on your pavement and encourage your child to throw the ‘pillows’ at the targets. You could also encourage them to aim them at a bucket. As their skill improves they can increase their distance from the target. Alternatively dunk large sponges in a bucket of water and play the same game. (Or, for a bigger splash, use water balloons!)

Balloon Tennis

Large Motor Skills, Hand-Eye Coordination – Make a ‘tennis racket’ by using masking tape or glue to attach a ruler to the back of a paper plate. Give you child the ‘racket’ and let them hit a balloon around, or make a second racket and play ‘balloon tennis’ with them.

Blanket Fun

Large Motor Skills, Hand-Eye Coordination, Imagination – Put a small stuffed toy or ball in the middle of a baby blanket or towel on the floor. Have your child hold two corners of the blanket while you hold the other two. Then both of you lift the blanket, toss the toy up in the air and catch it again. Alternatively, use the blankets to create a fort or tent for your child to hide in by draping them over chairs.

Breaking News

Large Motor Skills – Place a two inch tear at the fold of a two-page spread of a newspaper at both the top and the bottom. Hold up the paper by the corners so it creates a ‘wall’ for your child to run through. Encourage them to run towards the paper and burst through it. The small tears will help it split in two.

In the Hole

Large Motor Skills, Hand-Eye Coordination – Cut a 2½inch circular hole in the centre of the lid of a shoe box. Invert the lid and tape on one side to make a hinged lid. Place a 2 inch ball on the shoebox lid and show your child how to tilt or shift the box around until the ball falls through the hole in the box. Encourage your child to try again.

Making Tape Sports

Large Motor Skills, Imagination, Shape Recognition – Create a masking tape ‘balance beam’ by laying down a straight strip of masking tape on the floor. Encourage your child to walk along it one foot at a time. Soon they will be able to do this without your helping hand. They can also jump over it walk along it in funny ways. Alternatively you could use the tape as a starting line and see who can jump farthest across it. You can use more masking take to mark where they land. Another idea is to use the masking tape to make a shape on the ground and use rolled up socks to shoot into it.

Head or Tails?

Visual Discrimination, Left/Right Recognition – Show your child the difference between the head and tails side of a coin and ask you child to choose one. Toss the coin. If they guess correctly they win and they get a kiss from you, if you win, you get a kiss back! To add complexity, go for a walk with your child and assign ‘left’ to one side of the coin and ‘right’ to the other. When you reach certain intersections, flip the coin to decide which way to turn. Alternatively assign the sides as walk forward/walk backwards.

Nuts and Bolt

Small Motor Skills, Visual Discrimination, Left/Right Recognition – Lay out an assortment of large nuts and bolts for your child. Show them how to screw and unscrew a nut off a bolt. Encourage them to match up bolts with the corresponding screws. Point out in which direction the screws work ‘Righty tighty, left loosey’.

Creative Development

Blocks and Sticks

Motor Skills – Cut floral foam (oasis) blocks into various sizes and gather ten or more sticks (dowels, chopsticks or twigs). Place the foam blocks and sticks in front of your child and show them how they can be joined together. Let them create their own unusual structures.

Fabric Swatch Collage

Sensory Awareness, Visual Discrimination – Gather different types of fabric swatches in different styles. Help your child glue these scraps onto a piece of sugar paper to create a collage. Talk to them about the different textures and designs.

Masking Tape Places­

Classifying – Lay down strips of masking tape on your floor to create a ‘roadway’ for your child’s toy cars. Include parking lots, petrol stations etc. Tunnels and garages can be created and added to the layout by cutting openings in the side of shoeboxes. Alternatively, create a masking tape zoo. Create large and small squares for cages and help your child sort animals into them.

Personal Placemat

Small Motor Skills – Have your child choose a piece of sugar paper. Encourage them to glue on flat decorating items such as magazine pictures, photographs, stickers and sugar paper shapes. They can follow a theme if they choose. After the glue has dried, cover it with sticky back plastic and let them use it as their own placemat.

Salt Art

Small Motor Skills – Line the bottom of a shallow roasting dish with dark-coloured sugar paper. Spread a thin layer of salt on the paper. Your child can use their fingers to draw and write in the salt. A light shake and you have a clean slate to begin again.

Car Dealership

Visual Discrimination, Language Skills, Listening Skills – Help your child line up some toy cars and trucks and explain that you are interested in ‘buying’ a car. Tell them that you are looking for a ‘car with a red stripe on the roof’ (for example). When they spot the car you are talking about, ask how much it is and pretend to pay for it. You can buy more cars or act as an agent for other toys who might want to buy one!

Design a House

Small Motor Skills – Cut the outline of a house using sugar paper, then cut an assortment of shapes such as windows, doors, chimney, trees, people etc. Use a crayon or felt-tips to draw bricks and glass panes etc. Place the outline in front of your child and ask them where the door should be. How about the chimney? The window? etc. You can make believe and talk about what is happening inside the house too.

Pretend Trip

Imagination­ – Suggest to your child you take a pretend trip. ‘Why don’t we pretend to take a trip to James’s house? Let’s go pack our bag!’ Use a small suitcase or backpack and discuss with your child what to pack – shirt, trousers, pyjamas, toothbrush etc. Add them to the bag. You can expand the game by pretending to go to the airport, check your luggage, look at monitors etc. Set up two chairs as airplane seats and talk about take off and have snacks. Get a rental car and let your child ‘drive’ to your final destination. ‘Look out! You’re heading for a tree!!!!’

Come Out of the Barn

Listening Skills – tell your child that you are going to play a game where they pretend they are a farm animal and you are the farmer. Ask them what animal they want to be and what noise that animal makes. Now have them go ‘into the barn’ (this could be going in another room, hiding under a blanket or sitting under a table). Tell them that you are going to call them out of the barn by speaking their language. If they are a cow they can come out when you say ‘Moo!’, but if you ‘oink’ or ‘baa’ etc. They should stay in the barn.