As reality sets in and we all begin to adjust to our new ‘normal’ of being and working from home with young children in tow, we thought we would offer some virtual support and advice on ways in which to keep the Under 5’s occupied at home.
We will be posting an age group per week; offering snippets of advice and activity ideas, using items you may already have at home to buy you a few minutes peace, and maybe even the opportunity for a hot cup of tea!
This week we are focusing on activity ideas for children aged 2-3 years.
Children in this age group are starting to display more intense interests and fixations, which can be utilised and incorporated into activities and experiences to support them in developing their concentration for longer periods of time.
Water play is always a hit with this age group, whatever the weather and can be adapted to suit your indoor or outdoor space, and again can be done on a larger or smaller scale depending on the resources and space you have available but children of this age just adore exploring water freely; add bath toys, jugs, cups, bowls, spoons, buckets – anything that allows them to fill, empty, transport and explore cause/effect – if doing indoors, make sure you have plenty of towels to hand!
You could also begin to build stories around your child’s favourite toys and incorporate this into their water play too. For example;
- Muddy dinosaur swamp; add coffee mixed with water, sticks and leaves and dinosaurs figures.
- Baby Bath; add dolls, cloths, sponges, bubble bath and towels and encourage children to bathe their babies.
- Underwater theme; blue food colouring, fish and sea animals (you could even add some shells and pebbles if you have these available.)
- Coloured water always sparks an interest so you could simply add a drop of food colouring and some small world figures and vehicles and receptacles and let your children’s imaginations run wild.
An all-time favourite activity at our setting is ‘Sensory Soup’ (again can be done indoor or outdoors dependent on what you have available.) We found a large bowl or underbed storage box is just the right size to add water, chop some citrus fruits (oranges, limes, lemons work the best!) and also add some flower petals and leaves alongside spoons and containers and voila! Sensory Soup or a Perfume Creation Station!
Children at this age are really beginning to develop their independence and demonstrating what they can do by themselves! And so, encouraging the children to serve/make their own breakfast or lunch with support, is the best time to really focus on and develop those skills that children will need to develop in later life, but allowing them the independence and freedom to chop fruit, be independent in the cake making process, follow instructions and be hands on and involved in meal time routines will be so beneficial for them and allow them to showcase to you exactly what they are capable of!
Guttering and Balls are a firm favourite for our children so if you have anything you can makeshift some guttering and stands from; this offers up countless opportunities for problem-solving, teamwork (siblings!) and critical thinking as the children construct the giant marble run to ensure that there are no breaks in the run to allow the balls to run freely to the end of the track! This works brilliantly with water and cars too – lots of opportunities to develop this and also will hold their concentration for a very long time!
Busy Bags are great to have if you need to keep them busy for 5 minutes or so whilst you write an email and can be made up from things you have in the home. The idea is, it’s a bag that contains an activity designed to increase concentration and encourage the children to focus on a self-motivated challenge. Create 3 or 4 bags and you have these up your sleeve ready to bring out when you need them the most!
Our most popular with this age group include:
- Nuts and Bolts; provide children with a collection of nuts and bolts and encourage them to focus on threading the bolts on, counting how many they can fit on one screw, before taking them all off again – requires a great deal of concentration and fine motor skills but is brilliant for developing these skills and watching their confidence and ability grow each time they play.
- Pom Pom Tweezer game; cake cases, coloured pom poms and tweezers – place cake cases in a baking tray and encourage the children to use the tweezers to transport and separate the pom poms into individual coloured piles.
- Colour Matching; coloured card an array of coloured items – lay the card on the floor and encourage children to collect items of the corresponding colours and sort into the correct coloured piles.
Children really start to develop an interest in puzzles around this age and so it may not seem like an ‘activity’ but providing a range of puzzles; inset boards or puzzles with more pieces, floor puzzles – enables the children to really develop their focus and problem solving as they adapt their skills to the different puzzles.
If you can stand the mess and have the resources at home to do so; painting is a great activity for children of this age group. It doesn’t have to be bog-standard painting with a brush either, you could always try:
- ‘No paint brushes allowed’ large scale painting. – using anything that is not a paintbrush to make marks!
- Body painting
- Car tracks in paint
- Printing with corks, forks, or items of various shapes.
- Spray painting (diluting paint in a spray bottle with water.)
- Potato printing (also works with apples!)
Another firm favourite with our Pebbles is ‘water painting’ – definitely best to do outside! Provide children with a bucket of water and a range of different paint brushes and allow them to ‘paint’ on concrete/walls/garage doors/chalkboards – we sometimes make it harder by giving them a drawing challenge but many children of this age will just be happy painting in this way on a larger scale and trying to work out why their artwork keeps disappearing!
Story Sacks encourage language and focus on stories and rhymes; you could create a themed basket based upon a particular book to develop your child’s interest, knowledge and language. For example, a basket of soft toys and resources/props alongside the child’s favourite book to encourage them to develop their imagination and also to allow you to bring the story to life by adding props as your read with your child.
Children love to be noisy so allowing them some time to freely explore the sounds of instruments is a great way for them to not only develop an interest in music, but also to follow instructions and explore how different instruments work. If you don’t have a range of instruments available at home, why not make your own? Plastic bottles and cardboard tubes full of rice and pasta make great home-made shakers, and saucepans and spoons make fantastic drums! (Not that your neighbours would agree!)
At this age, you’ll notice that children love to dress up and take on the role of their favourite characters and so leaving a pile of dressing up clothes, or some of your clothes and accessories if you don’t have any is a brilliant way to not only develop their imagination as they try on the various outfits, but also great for developing those early self-care/dressing skills in a fun way too!
Our children love incorporating mark-making and early writing into their play whether it be indoor or out, and for each child in our setting we have set them all up with a ‘writing book’ a small notepad with their name and picture on the front which they can freely acess whenever they like to mark-make and write down their important information!
We hope you have found this little activity guide useful and can find some inspiration from some of the activities we’ve mentioned to keep the children entertained during these uncertain times, join us next week where we will be looking at activity ideas for children aged 3-5 years.