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5 Great Activities that Combine Education with Play

For babies and young children, play is a fundamental part of their learning and development. If you work in childcare or are a parent yourself (or both), you'll be familiar with that frequently (and incorrectly) uttered phrase 'they're just playing!'. Actually, play is really key to developing literacy and numeracy skills, as well as promoting your little one's understanding of the world around them.

Here are 5 great activities that can help you support your child's education through play.

1. Build a den

This old favourite is fun for parents too! If you wanted to take this really seriously you could encourage your little architect to sit down with you and sketch a design of your construction, then get busy finding materials around the house to build with. Once it's all set up, your den can act as a storytelling area or maybe the base for your latest role play (space station? Pirate cave?). This is a great way to teach your little one about size, shape and weight and also helps to develop their problem-solving skills.

2. Making sarnies

Doesn't sound like much fun to you, but your little Jamie Oliver will jump at the chance for some independence and the chance to show off their culinary skills. Go shopping for bread and their favourite fillings, then encourage your little one to spread and cut their own sandwiches. They helps to develop their hand-eye coordination, builds self-confidence and your heart will melt as your budding chef beams with pride while the two of you eat the lunch they've just made you.

3. Message in a bottle

Trying to entertain a small child with a big imagination? Pretend to be 'shipwrecked' for the afternoon and send out an SOS with an old-school message in a bottle. This will promote an interest in literacy and mark-making, and encourage conversations around the concepts of floating and sinking.

4. Yogurt painting

This might just sound like the description of an average mealtime with your child, but yogurt painting is a great way to allow your little one to explore different textures and colours. Simply mix plain yogurt with some food colouring (in different pots if you're using multiple colours), get a brush and get stuck in! just remember to put a big waterproof sheet down first. This activity can also really help to develop their gross motor skills as your child mixes the colours together and gets familiar with using a paintbrush.

5. Make rain clouds

For this one you need a glass vase, some shaving foam, blue food colouring, a glass or cup and an eyedropper or teaspoon. Fill the vase two thirds full of water, and squirt over shaving cream to create big fluffy clouds on the water's surface. Fill a separate glass with water and stir in a few drops of blue food colouring, then drip the blue water onto the shaving foam using an eyedropper or teaspoon. Then watch closely as the blue rain falls through!  This science activity is a great way to teach children about our weather system, the shaving foam mimics real clouds and when they become full and can't hold any more water it begins to rain!

Do you have any other great activities that encourage learning through play? We’d love to hear them! Send them to us on Facebook and Twitter, and remember to follow LEYF Nurseries for more tips, tricks and ideas about parenting and early years childcare.

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