It can be hard coming up with ideas to keep your child(ren) occupied. Here are some free and easy activities for pre-school children that you can try together - because childhood can’t wait.

Games to play at home with children

Sorting and matching game

Incorporate sorting and matching into everyday activities. For example, matching socks from the washing basket or sorting which clothes, shoes, or bags belong to which family member. This can help with chores, tidying up, or even lead to a dressing-up activity.

Hide and seek objects

Where’s the object? While playing with toy cars, dolls or soft toys, place one object under a chair, table or another piece of furniture and another object on top.

Ask your child which object is ‘under’ and which is ‘on top’. Do the same with a box or bag to develop the concept of ‘in’ and ‘out’. Or use a shelf unit for ‘high’ and ‘low’. Progress the game by asking your child to place an object under or on top of something.

‘Where’s your name?’

Hide something with your child’s name written on it (use a capital for the first letter of their name and then lower case letters).

See if they can find it before you count to 20. If you have more than one child to entertain, ask an older sibling to help with counting to 20.

Act out book adventures

Use a book such as ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ to talk about and act out the story together.

You could make some of the obstacles in the story; for example, use a blue duvet cover or blanket for the river.

If you don’t have this book, try the idea with a book you do have. Perhaps you could act out being a very hungry caterpillar and trying lots of new foods.

Indoor skittles/bowling

Make skittles using plastic bottles. They can be left empty or weighted down with sand, rice or water.

Find a softball or make one using a pair of socks or scrunched up paper to roll or throw at the bottles.

Stand the bottles up and roll or throw the ball to knock the skittles down.

There are lots of ways to vary this activity. Try writing each letter of your child’s name on to a separate piece of paper and stick one on to each bottle. See if they can knock them down in the right order to spell their name.

Simon Says

Play ‘Simon says’. First, ask your child to follow what you say to do an action.

For example

  • “Jump up and down”,
  • “Turn around”,
  • “Stand on one leg”,
  • “Fold your arms”,
  • “Whisper your name”.

When they are familiar with following instructions, explain that they can only do it when ‘Simon says’. So, if you say, “Simon says touch your nose” then they do that action.

If you just say, “Touch your nose” they mustn’t do that action.

This game can be used to get the child to do activities from a routine – or not to do activities that may be interrupting the routine. For example: “Simon say brush your teeth”… “Play with your bath toys”.

You could change the name of Simon. Perhaps if your child is always good for nanna, ‘Nanna says’ might work in your house! If they are old enough your child can have a go at thinking of actions for you both to do – or not.

You could even get family members to be ‘Simon’ via a telephone or video call.

Making books

Making books is a very effective way of encouraging children to want to read and write. Children love books that are personal to them. Here are some ideas for book styles that you can create together.

Shaped book

Fold a piece of A4 card and draw the desired outline shape (e.g. a car, a spider’s web or a sandcastle) on one half. Then cut it out. Fold at least two sheets of A4 paper in half and place them inside the shaped card. Staple or sew them together. Trace the outline of the shaped card on to the sheets of A4 paper and then cut out the A4 paper so that the inside pages of the book are the same shape as the outside cover. This book can be based around a child’s interest.

Book with lift-up flaps

  • Make a simple paper or card book by folding A4 paper in half and stapling or sewing on the fold. Cut and stick, or draw, a picture in the book.
  • To make the lift-up flap, cut out a piece of card that is a bit bigger than the picture you want to cover. Fold-down a strip about 1cm wide along with one of the edges, and glue this to the page to make a flap that covers the picture.

Photograph book

Use a slip-in photo album to make a book with a photograph on one side and text on the other.

What to put in your book

An ‘All about me’ book

You can include:

  • Name and age – my birthday
  • My family – photos or drawings
  • A picture of me – photo and / or drawing
  • My pets
  • Things I like to do best
  • My special things – a favourite toy or object

Routine book 

Make a personalised book about the child’s own morning, mealtime or bedtime routine. Read a book about bedtime routines, for example, ‘Goodnight Moon’. Use the style of the story you read together to make the child’s own book about their bedtime routine and their bedroom.

A colour book

You can decide on a single colour for your book or use a different colour on each page. Using a magazine or brochure look through it with the child and talk about the different pictures in the magazine. Let the child choose the colour pictures. Cut them out and stick them into the book together. Encourage the child to describe the pictures. You can write their words in the book if they can’t quite do it yet.

A cookery book

A book for your favourite things to eat. This can be very simple, for example, ‘How to make a sandwich’. This could then be used to support mealtime routines.

Collection of your favourite stories

Re-tell and illustrate a favourite story or fairy tale. Or share a story with your child and then ask them to re-tell it in their own words. Alternatively, they can make their own story up about a character from the book you’ve just read.

Further Resources

You can access many websites for activity ideas. Here are a few to try.  

Indoor activities

BBC Tiny Happy People 

This site has activity ideas to try at home with children from pre-birth to age 4-5. They are divided up into age ranges. There are also videos and transcripts for nursery rhymes and songs.

The Literacy Trust 

The Literacy Trust have produced activities divided up into different age ranges to benefit children’s writing, reading and language development.

The Imagination Tree

Activity ideas are divided up into literacy, numeracy, creativity, physical, PHSE and science so there really is something for everyone. Their Covid-19 stay at home survival guide is also packed full of ideas that are fun whatever the circumstances.

BBC Bitesize educational games

These resources are split into ages and then topics, and also nations, recognising our different curricula around the UK. There are educational online games too!

Outdoor Activities

Wildlife Watch activity sheets

There are multiple free to download activity sheets. The activities vary in difficulty and include colouring, animal and plant identification sheets and guides to building bug hotels, wigwams and more.

The Woodland Trust’s Trees through the seasons 

The Woodland Trust have produced some printable ID guides to help children learn about trees. Use them to identify leaves, twigs, blossom and fruits throughout the year.

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