Activities and ideas

Short videos and simple, fun activities that you and your children can do together.

We’ve broken down the activities by age, but no one knows your child better than you do. So you could pick and choose the ideas that feel right for you, adapt our suggestions or even come up with your own. And you can use whatever language you feel most comfortable with.

Your local council may offer activities to help your child improve their communication, language and literacy skills.

How to help your child develop

Play with your child with things they are interested in. Get down to their level and follow their lead while playing together.

Notice what your child is looking or pointing at and talk about it. Try to do this before their attention moves on to something else – that might be within a couple of seconds for babies and toddlers.

Picture books introduce your child to new things they haven’t seen yet in real life! For younger children, point to the pictures and say what you see. For older children, ask them to tell the story to you, or talk about what the characters might be thinking and feeling.

Take turns to make noises or speak. Even with young babies, you can respond to their babbling by copying back the sounds you hear and then waiting for them to take another turn. Older children can hold longer conversations, so slow down your speech, give them plenty of time to respond and listen carefully to what they have to say.

Make reading, singing and playing fun by using lots of actions and, different voices. Young children learn a lot from singing the same song or looking at the same book again and again.

Talk to your child in short, simple sentences. This helps them understand what you are saying and makes it easier for them to have a go at copying when they’re ready.

0 to 6 months

Watch this dad copying the noises of his newborn baby. They are having such a good chat!

Let your baby play with the water at bath time. Talk about the water and the sounds it makes. Say the same words and do the same actions over and over – splash the water saying, ‘Splash, splash, splash your hands.’

At nappy change time, try and guess what your baby might be thinking or feeling and put it into words – for example, ‘You are very smiley today. You look happy.’

Stick out your tongue and see if your baby can copy you. Try scrunching up your nose and making funny noises with your lips.

Say or sing rhymes with actions where you touch your baby – for example, songs like ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’.

Have fun with your baby and play ‘tickles’. Tickle them gently while smiling and laughing with them. Use simple words like ‘tickle tickle’.

Play together with fabric books that have different textures. Try moving the fabric or stroking baby’s hands with the fabric. Name the objects you’re playing with and talk about how they feel.

Copy your baby’s noises and react to what they’re doing – try saying things like, ‘Oh, you’re talking to me,’ or, ‘Oh, you can make funny noises.’

Try singing lullabies that are simple, soothing and repetitive like Rock a Bye Baby.

6 to 12 months

Watch this mum and baby sharing a story together. The baby loves hearing her mum describe the animals in the zoo.

Use actions that go with what you’re saying – like waving when you say ‘Bye bye.’ You can do this every time you leave your child and when visitors leave too.

At bedtime try looking at a very simple picture book with your child, notice what they are looking at and describe it.  For example, ‘Oh, see the car,’ or ‘Look, a ball. Just like your ball!’

Play peekaboo games using a scarf or your hands to hide your face, saying things like ‘Where are you? There you are!’

Act out actions in songs. Sit opposite your child holding hands moving forward and back to Row, Row, Row Your Boat.

Get some noise-making objects like spoons to bang on saucepans. Watch what your child does then copy it and describe what you are doing using action words like ‘bang bang’ or ‘shake shake’.

Put some everyday items (for example, a toothbrush, an apple, a sock) in a bag and get your baby to find what’s in there. Talk about what they are as your child pulls them out (for example, ‘It’s a toothbrush’, ‘It’s a sock, for your feet’).

12 to 24 months

Watch this mum sing to her child. Songs are a great way to help your child learn about language.

At mealtimes, give your child choices, so that they can hear and understand more words. For example, ‘Do you want some grapes or a banana?’ – showing your child the food items at the same time as naming them. Make sure you give them time to answer.

Say the names of the foods your child is eating and talk about what they’re like, using words like ‘sweet’, ‘sour’, ‘round’, ‘smooth’ ‘cold’, ‘warm’. Pretend to be a rabbit as you bite into a carrot, or a mouse nibbling some cheese. Make sure that both you and your child have some food to try!

At bedtime try looking at picture books together. Give your child time to point out things to you. Talk about what they can see using words for actions as well as for things – for example, ‘the baby is sleeping.’

Draw simple pictures for your child and encourage them to add marks and colours. Talk about the pictures and colours for example you could draw a house and point to the door and windows.

Sprinkle some flour on a table and encourage your child to make marks in the flour with their fingers. Praise their efforts even if it might not look like much to you.

Make a puppet out of a sock – all you need is a couple of circles of paper to stick on as eyes. Make the puppet talk to your child or tickle them! Take turns to ‘feed’ the puppet different food items – sometimes they might like them but sometimes they might say ‘yuck’!

Make ‘musical instruments’ and sound makers using things you have at home – an empty bottle filled with rice makes a great shaker.

Include a favourite toy during daily routines to start developing your child’s pretend play skills. For example, have a favourite teddy or dolly sit next to them at mealtimes and pretend to feed them some toy food. Or, put teddy into bed (which could be a cardboard box) at the same time your little one is going to bed.

Combine water play with pretend play by giving dolly a bath. Talk about her body parts while washing her like ‘Wash dolly’s legs, wash dolly’s tummy’. When she’s all clean, dry dolly off and get her dressed again, talking about your actions at the same time.

Play repetitive games like pretending to go to sleep and wake up again. Lie down, start ‘snoring’ and encourage your child to ‘wake’ you up. Your child will delight in repeating this game again and again! You can extend the game by adding in a teddy or another toy who falls asleep and you and your child take turns to ‘wake’ them up.

2 to 3 year olds

Watch this grandma and grandson play a fun memory game! They take turns naming different household objects. But can they remember which one has gone?

Talk about your daily tasks. When you’re making the bed, you could say ‘The bed is messy, let’s tidy the sheets’. Give them simple tasks like putting the pillow at the top of the bed. Praise them for helping.

Take photos of what your child does during the day and talk about the pictures. For example, ‘You brushed your hair. You put your coat on’.

While waiting in a queue, try sharing picture books together. Talk about the things they can see and how we use them. For example, ‘A chair is something we sit in.’

Talk to your child about what has happened so far in the day – for example, ‘We did the washing this morning, didn’t we? We hung all the clothes up to dry.’ And talk about what is going to happen next – ‘After breakfast, we will go to the park.’

Sing songs together that encourage your child to use their imagination. For example, sing Old MacDonald had a Farm and ask your child to suggest other animals at the farm and describe what they look like and the sound they make.

Put on some music and play musical statues. Dance together then stop the music – see who will be the first person to stand still and talk about the silly positions you are stuck in!

You could make a photo book of funny, or memorable, family events and talk to your child about what happened and how they felt in these moments.

Build on what your child says about what they can see in the photo book – so when they say ‘hat!’ you can say, ‘Yes, it’s a red party hat’.

Go on a walk and collect nature objects like leaves. Make a picture from all the things you found and talk about what they are like. What colours did you find? Talk about how the objects feel – are they smooth, bumpy, wet or dry?

Playdough is a great way to get creative at home. You can make your own using a simple recipe (do an online search) or use shop-bought playdough. Say words like ‘squish’, ‘roll’, ‘pat’ and ‘poke’ while you do the actions.

Make a game of ‘skittles’ out of some empty bottles and a ball. Take turns to roll the ball and see how many skittles you can knock down. Talk about everything as you go, saying things like ‘You knocked down 2 skittles!’.

Drape a blanket between chairs to make a den. You could pretend you are camping and act out cooking some food and going to sleep.

Make a pretend car out of a cardboard box and some felt pens or coloured pencils. You can stick on paper plates for the wheels and a cushion for the seat. As your child pretends to drive the car, talk about what they are doing and where they might be going, saying things like ‘You’re driving so fast’, ‘Let’s drive to grandma’s house’.

Help your child pretend to be a ‘postman’. You can make a post box out of an old cardboard box with a hole cut in it, and give your child a bag with some envelopes inside it as their letters to post. Talk together about who they might be posting the letters to – you could even draw a picture on each one (for example, ‘This letter is for daddy’, ‘Let’s post one to the dog’).

Act out stories like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Use soft toys and give your child different sizes of cups and bowls. Chat to them as you are doing actions, for example, ‘Let’s give baby bear a cup’.

3 to 5 year olds

Watch this mum and daughter making a paper puppet together. They have so much to talk about and both get involved in the activity.

Encourage your child to recall what has happened in a story. For example, ‘Why is the dinosaur grumpy?’ Ask them to guess what might happen – ‘What should they do next?’ – or how the story might end – ‘Do you think there will be a tiger in the garden? Where could it be hiding?’

Ask your child if they can give possible solutions to problems, for example when getting dressed in the morning can they find their favourite hat which is missing?

Start conversations by using open questions with lots of possible answers, for example, ‘What is your favourite toy?’, ‘What do you want to do tomorrow?’

Talk about the sounds at the beginning of words and think of other words that start with the same sound (like words beginning with ‘p’ – say the sound rather than the letter name).

Play games like, ‘I spy with my little eye something beginning with…’ and say the first sound of the thing that you can see – ‘something beginning with b-b-b-b.’ You can go first and show your child how the game works.

Think of as many rhyming words as you can for different objects you can see. For example, if you can both see a tree, then think of as many words as you can that rhyme with it like bee, knee, me.

Play Follow the Leader. Make sure you talk about what you’re doing and repeat words lots of times! For example, ‘Simon says shake your hands, shake, shake, shake’, ‘Simon says stamp your feet, stamp, stamp, stamp’. Include opposites in the instructions (up/down, stop/go, loud/soft, high/low) and take turns!

Play a make-believe journey game with your child. Make a space rocket out of a cardboard box that you decorate together, or just grab some cushions, pile in a few teddy bear passengers, and blast off on an adventure.

Try role-playing games together such as shopping. Set items out on the sofa, give your child a bag and some pretend money. Then switch roles and let them be the shopkeeper.

Start a simple game with your child by making up a story together about their favourite toy. For example, ‘One day, teddy decided to go on holiday to the beach’. Then encourage your child to take the lead.

Collect some objects together from around your home or park. Encourage your child to describe the object – ‘Is it smooth?’ ‘Heavy?’. Put some water in a bowl and encourage your child to choose an object and put it into the water. Ask them ‘Do you think it will float or sink?’

Obstacle courses are great fun and can help your child to listen and learn new words. You can play them inside or outside, just give your child some instructions. Say ‘Crawl under the blanket’ or ‘Sit in the box’ or ‘Jump to the corner’. Take turns so that they can practice giving the instructions too.


Help with home learning

More information is available about:

Get free education and childcare

Spending time in an early years setting is a wonderful way for children to develop, learn new skills and make friends.

If you have a child aged 2 and you are getting government support, you may be eligible for 15 hours a week of free childcare, while all 3 and 4 year olds in England are eligible.

Go to Childcare Choices to find out more.