Play to Learn- little effort games for busy parents.

Last week I shared some fun little activities that we have been enjoying up here in Casa del King.

This week I decided to go a bit more out of my comfort zone, being mindful of trying to reuse, I tried to use existing items to create more fun games and activities. As always, they have a learning intention to fulfil whilst still being engaging enough to create a fun learning experience.

I should also add a good principal I like to stick to: Is it valuable? Will there be a chance to develop their language acquisition? Language is so important to all of the activities I prepare for Charlotte and although most are independent and give me a great wee (well needed) break sometimes, talking about the learning and what happened it so essential for scaffolding any learning.


  1. This was just one fo those ‘right time, right place’ happenings. I was in the kitchen sorting the recycling when I noticed the holes on the empty capri container. Charlottes craft box was sitting beside it with her coloured straws and boom- a little activity to encompass hand eye co-ordination and colours was born. I started by popping a coloured straw in separate holes (as above) then Charlotte had to match and put in the corresponding hole. This turned into a two man game as I wanted in on the action. It was actually really good fun and we ended up playing this for about 40 mins!! I should add Charlotte would have happily just payed this independently If I hadn’t got involved but sometimes its just nice to play. Skills– hand eye co-ordination, colour sorting, dexterity, categorisation, turn taking and problem solving. language to use– talk about the colours, why you are separating, the shape of the holes is circular, the straws are long and thin, your shot, my shot, poking, finger and thumb.
Find the shape

2. I love a wee jigsaw, as does Charlotte. So with shape in mind I used some old coloured paper that was on route to the bin (it got a bit damp in the conservatory!). I drew around some items that were in standard shape and also a pentagon as I think its important to widen exposure as early as possible (again for language acquisition, maths and literacy can go hand in hand!). I included the learning intention and success criteria here just because this is how its done in primary schools in Scotland so the early she gets used to having a wee checklist to ‘make good’ the better. And yes, I know it’s totally daft as she cant even read yet. I’m obviously just missing school. Skills- shape recognition, dexterity, find motor skills, shape/ word recognition. Language to use– circle, square, triangle, pentagon, rectangle, success criteria, we are learning, fit, too big, too small, too thick, round, sharp, edge, thin, long, corner.

3. Charlotte is still a bit young for this but she loved giving it a go. we just used a white board, some play dough and some letter tiles. We used our fingers to trace the c, we tried drawing it and then tried making it with the play dough. We also tried squishing it down. This was a really easy set up, independent activity which could have gone on for longer. We did 10 minutes before Charlotte just wanted to ‘make a ball’ with the dough. i ALWAYS STOP WHEN i see them losing interest as I want it to be fun, selected and never dull. Otherwise it loses its value and appeal. Skills- sounds, letter recognition, mark making, crocodile grip (how a pencil should be held for easy manipulation), rolling, fine motor skills. Language to use– the C sound is c (its so hard but don’t be tempted to add the i sound on i.e ci or the letter name C sounds like see), singing the jolly phonics song ‘clicking castanets c c c’, draw, write, make, say, shape, bend, squish, words that start with c.

chocolate hunt fun

4. This was a little outdoors treasure hunt. Originally for Charlotte, I adapted this and Lewis and his friend to join in. This was a wee idea I got from @fiveminutemum. I used some of the left over chocolate balls from Christmas and scattered them about. The aim was to count as you find but it all went a bit too quickly and all 12 were found in no time (the big ones!!). In an ideal world I would have explained to count as you collect loudly so the next person who found would then have to should out the next number. I always like to make counting activities beyond 10. 10 is such a definative number and we are sort of brainwashed into a count to ten mentality. There is a school of thought now which recognises that in fact counting over the decade should be an ideal for real life contexts i.e 12 hours in a day, dozen, 12 months of the year etc. Children can sometimes find this hard later on so it’s something to start early. TBH I never did this with Lewis though (or many play based learning activities) and his maths is on fire!!! His school teachers have obv taken on my short fall there!!! Skills- observation, counting, out door play, finding, number order. Language- numbers 1-12, count on, count back, find, search, under, below, above, add on one more.

cause and effect

5. Last but not least, this took 1 second to set up. a wee tub, a splash of fairy and water. I set this out so I could make brekkie in peace and she did it for way longer than I needed. Sometimes it’s just the simple ones that are the biggest hits eh? Skills- cause and effect, water play, fine motor skills. Language to use- bubbles, turn the lever, see the water whisking, thats making bubbles, the soap and water mixed make bubbles, splash, wet, water, mix, blend.

I’m back to school tomorrow so my holidays are officially over (although I am off Wed-Sun really!!). Looking forward to planning some exciting learning activities and sharing anything successful for any SAHM who do some first level home schooling.

If you don’t want to wait for my weekly round up, follow me on Instagram for daily updates @mum_in_the_city

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