3 School play ideas to enhance preschool learning in your own home

Preschool philosophy over time has changed, merging play and education, now known as play-based learning. It is imperative that parents recognise the importance of this partnership between play and learning, and adapt a new focus on play ideas at home. Here are a few inexpensive play based preschool activities for toddlers which can be done in the comfort of your own home:

Building with sand and water

A great activity to increase sensory skills, building with sand and water refines senses, correlating observation and skill. It is a great way for children to explore and learn, in turn, increasing cognitive ability. For youngins, ‘hands on’ is considered more educational than learning in itself.

All you need is:

  • Sand, sand and more sand
  • Water
  • A box filled with bits and pieces (leaves, twigs, stones, old toys, recycled pieces such as toilet paper rolls, small plastic containers, etc.)

Activity:

  • Provide your children with the materials listed above.
  • Assist children in mixing sand with water, giving them an opportunity to mix it themselves.
  • Using the box of bits and pieces, demonstrate how various boxes/shapes can create different sand buildings e.g. a house, building, etc.
  • Encourage children to add different materials and toys to their sand environments.
  • Discuss their ideas as they work – engage in conversation about their thinking and ideas. It is always great to make suggestions! This extends their thinking processes.
  • Once they are complete, positive reinforcement is key! Acknowledge their efforts, take photos of their work, invite the rest of the family to have a look, stick a photo on the fridge; whatever gives your child a sense of pride!

Scavenger Hunt: It’s as simple as A, B, C…

It is never too early to teach your child the alphabet. But what if there was a way that cognitive thinking, including problem solving, could be improved through this? Increasing cognitive development is associated with a child’s learning through manipulative play and interactive learning activities which incite memory, attention to detail, coordination and problem-solving.

What you need:

  • 2 sets of 26 different coloured paper shapes (one with different letters from the alphabet written on them) e.g. blue squared paper is for the letter ’A’
  • Blu Tac

Activity:

  • In a familiar environment to your child, set up the 26 different coloured paper shapes (without the alphabet) in front of them. Ensure these shapes are colour coded to those with the alphabet written on them. E.g. Red card matches letter “A” which is also red.
  • Scatter the shapes with the alphabet letters on them around the house.
  • Encourage your child to find the shapes around the house and stick them with Blu Tac on top of the correct coloured shape from step 1.
  • By the end of the scavenger hunt, the alphabet will be written in sequence.
  • Singing the alphabet with your child once the activity is complete is also a great means of increasing cognitive thinking  

Flower Markets

Correlating life and learning, children can use drama as a means of creatively expressing various understandings of the world surrounding them, unconsciously developing language, creativity and communication skills. Setting up a flower market gives your little an insight into real life scenarios (buying and selling goods), but also into addressing their fine motor skills through setting up the market.

What you need:

  • Flowers (plucked from your backyard will do) or artificial flowers for allergy prone bubs
  • Ribbon lengths cut at around 5cm
  • Plastic cups
  • A sign which reads ‘Flowers: $5 a bouquet’
  • Fake $1 coins or any type of currency
  • A customer base! Bring the neighbours, family, whoever!

Activity:

  1. Give your child the responsibility of grouping the flowers into similar sized bouquets.
  2. Place the flowers into cups which act as vases, explaining them that this is the preparation process.
  3. Set these up in an area which can be considered ‘appropriate for selling.’ This can be a table, a benchtop, wherever! Feel free to get creative with your market stall!  
  4. Tender the flowers in exchange for $5 (allow your little one to be in charge of this); count with them to boost their skills.
  5. Once all flowers are sold, count all the money.
  6. Pending on the age of your child, ask what he/she would do with the money?; this will prompt hypothesising and creative thinking.

What are the benefits of school-play activities at home?

As parents, this play-based learning model does not need to be confined to childcare centres, in fact, creating a dynamic and exciting backyard at home can be just as educational as a child care learning environment. Benefits of such activities in dynamic environments include:

  • Increases social skills
  • Increases sensory building
  • Improves coordination & fine motor skills
  • Encourage explorative play
  • Increases creative thinking
  • Promotes independent thinking in a group environment
  • Encourages hypothesising
  • Increase language abilities

See Young Academics Programs here to see how childcare can extend school play ideas.