Learning Through Play

Early Years – Learning through play!

Learning through play can be a lot of fun.

Here are some great ideas that you can try with little ones…

Fine Motor Skills

The development of fine motor skills is a huge benefit to toddlers and pre-schoolers. This link has a large amount of fun ideas for activities that will develop these.


This subject need not be boring! Try a few of these suggestions suitable for pre-school aged children to get them interested in maths. You could also use these as fun play ideas for a toddler to help give them a gentle introduction to learning about maths.

  • Number rhymes! ‘Once I caught a fish alive’ or ‘Five little speckled frogs’ weren’t just fun songs from childhood- they played an important part in helping us learn to count. What rhymes can you remember involving numbers? Could you have some fun trying to remember them? Maybe you could make up your own?
  • Counting is key. Count anything you can find together. Plates on the table, crayons in the pot, trees in the park or even little fingers and toes. Start simple by counting to five or ten and as your child becomes more confident- move up the numbers from there.
  • Introduce patterns. One of the most simple ways of doing this is by playing with blocks. See if you can each have a pile of the same coloured blocks or Lego. Line up the colours in the pattern and help your child to recreate it themselves. If you have a younger child, allow them to play more freely and point out any patterns or colours you can see.
  • Shapes- can you sit and draw shapes on some paper? You could name them out loud and speak about them. Encouraging your child to try colouring them in will give a fun element and keep their focus- this also links with the important step of learning colours. If you are out on daily exercise look for shapes as well such as the square road sign or the rectangular post box. Name them and make a game of it.
  • Bathroom containers. Introduce your child to the concept of measuring by using some old waterproof containers and cups at bath time to help them understand about half full/empty, full up or empty. If you’ve a shower only, how about using them at a clear kitchen sink?


The fine motor skills activities linked above will help your child develop the muscles that they need for holding a pen correctly and writing. However mark making in any way can be beneficial to toddlers as an introduction to this. Even if it looks like a scribbles, toddlers will find the way they can move their tools around the paper really interesting.

The power of nursery rhymes here again will also be of a huge benefit- as your little one of any age will pick up on the rhythm and rhyme of songs. Even just singing the alphabet will help them! Make it funny and silly and this will help link into more imaginative play ideas.

Reading will be one of the single most important things that you can do with your child. Even if it’s just for 5-10 minutes a day of story time, it will help. Younger children and toddlers may take time to build up to sitting with you for any length of time, but if you keep it a consistent part of your routine you may find their attention span gradually increases. Even skills such as getting your pre-schooler to hold the book for you and turn the pages are important skills to set them up ready for reading.

Many children start their journey to learning to write by first writing their own name. Grab some paper and let your child have a choice of which pen/pencil/crayon they’d like to use. Write out their name in pencil and encourage them to trace over it. A little practice each day is best.

A few more suggestions

  • Use some old magazines and glue to make some collages with your child. If you have some school scissors, older pre-schoolers could be encouraged to cut paper with careful supervision. Otherwise, ripping and scrunching before gluing paper down can be ideal. It doesn’t have to be just magazines either, old wrapping and tissue paper could work really well too.
  • Use old containers, and tubs with rice in to make shakers to play along to your favourite nursery rhymes when you sing them.
  • If you have pipe cleaners and a colander, see if you can get your child to thread them through to develop their fine motor skills.
  • Change up lunchtimes a little by having an indoor picnic. Your child could invite a few of their favourite teddies or toys along for some pretend play while your at it.
  • Make a den with your child and pretend that you are camping – you could even sneak some snacks and books to read in there.