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hungry minds


Many little things light up hungry little minds. Kids take everything in, and even the smallest things you do with them can make a big difference.

 They love it when you chat, play and read with them, even when they’re too young to understand everything. Whatever the time and wherever you are, you can turn almost anything into a game.

 And every little thing you do together will help set them up nicely for the day they start school.

Ideas: 0 – 6 months

Simple ideas and activities to try with your child:

In your routine

  • Let your baby splash at bath time. Talk about what’s happening and how it feels. Say the same words and do the same actions over and over – things like pouring water on their feet and saying, ‘Wash, wash, wash your toes.’

 On the go

  • Stick your tongue out and see if your baby can copy you. Try blinking your eyes and making funny noises with your lips.
  • Copy the noises your baby makes. React to what they’re doing – try saying things like, ‘Oh, you’re telling me a story,’ or, ‘Wow, you can make loud noises.’
  • Have a guess at what your baby might be thinking or feeling and put it into words – for example, ‘It looks like you’re sleepy.’

Other ideas

  • Play together with fabric books that have different textures. Try scrunching the fabric to get your baby’s attention or stroking their hands with the fabric. Name the objects you are playing with and talk about how they feel.

Ideas: 6 – 12 months

Simple ideas and activities to try with your child:

In your routine

  • Try doing actions that go with what you’re saying – like waving when you say ‘Hello.’ You can do this every morning when your child wakes up.

 On the go

  • When you are out and about or looking at a picture book with your child, notice what they are looking at and describe it. For example, ‘Oh, see the dog,’ or ‘Wow, she’s jumping.’ Try to do this within a couple of seconds, before their attention moves on to something else.

 Other ideas

  • Put some everyday items in a bag and get your baby to find what’s in there. Talk about what they are and how they feel.
  • Play peekaboo games using a scarf or your hands to hide your face, saying things like ‘Where are you? There you are!’
  • Gather a few noise-making objects like spoons to bang on saucepans. Watch what your child does and copy it and describe what you are doing.
  • You could also act out actions in songs. Try patting your palms together or on your legs to the beat of Pat-a-cake, Pat-a-cake. See if your baby will clap along with you.

Ideas: 12 – 24 months

Simple ideas and activities to try with your child:

In your routine

  • At mealtimes, say the names of the foods your child is eating and say what they’re like, using words like ‘crunchy’, ‘squishy’, ‘sour’, ‘cold’, ‘warm’.
  • Give your child choices, so that they can hear and understand more words. For example, ‘Do you want an apple or an orange?’ Make sure you give them time to respond!
  • Try playing pretend games. For example, you can make meal times fun by pretending to be a dinosaur eating trees as you bite into some broccoli, or a monkey enjoying a slice of banana. Make sure that both you and your child have some food to try!

 On the go

  • When you’re out and about, notice the different noises your child responds to. Talk about what they can hear – for example, ‘The birds are saying tweet-tweet,’ or ‘It’s a car, vrrrrrrooom!’
  • When your child starts using words respond to what they say and make it a conversation using words for actions as well as things, for example, ‘Mummy? Yes, Mummy is kicking the ball.’

 Other ideas

  • Look at picture books together. With each new page, 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 monkey is eating.’

Ideas: 2 – 3 year olds

Simple ideas and activities to try with your child:

In your routine

  • Do daily tasks with your child. Talk about what you are doing and why you are doing it. When hanging up the washing, you could say ‘The clothes are wet, let’s hang them up to dry.’ Give them simple tasks like passing you the socks. Praise them for helping.

 On the go

  • When you’re out and about, build on what your child says about what they can see – so when they say ‘Big bird!’ you can say, ‘Yes, it’s a big, noisy bird called a crow’.
  • Talk to your child about what has happened so far in the day – for example, ‘We went to the shops this morning, didn’t we? We bought some apples.’ And talk about what is going to happen next – ‘After lunch we’ll do the washing up.’

 Other ideas

  • You could make a photo-book of funny, or memorable, family events and talk about it with your child.
  • Sing songs together that encourage your child to use their imagination. For example, try singing The Wheels on the Bus and ask your child to suggest other things on the bus and describe what sound they make.
  • Read picture books together. Talk about the things they can see and how we use them. For example, ‘A bed is something we sleep in.’
  • Use books to talk about your own experiences, and theirs, giving them time to respond. ‘Oh look, the boy is at the park. We went to the park yesterday with Granny.’

Ideas: 3 – 5 year olds

Simple ideas and activities to try with your child:

In your routine

  • Try sharing familiar books at bedtime. Pause when reading so that your child can join in. Talk about the sounds at the beginning of words and words that start with the same sound (like words beginning with P).
  • Encourage your child to recall what has happened in the story. For example, ‘Why is bear feeling sad?’ Ask them to guess what might happen – ‘What should they do next?’ – or how the story might end – ‘Do you think they’re going to find the treasure? Where could it be?’

 On the go

  • When you are out and about, talk to your child about what they can see. 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.

 Other ideas

  • 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.
  • Play teddy bears’ picnic. Put soft toys in a circle and give your child a few cups and spoons. Give your child a chance to tell you what to do like, ‘Stir teddy’s tea.’
  • Plan a treasure hunt game, where your child has to listen to your instructions to find a clue or an object. For example, ‘Try looking behind the sofa’.