As their parent, you are your child’s first, most fundamental teacher. And who says you can’t have fun with it? We’ve put together a list of our favourite learning activities for kids at home – all of which are easy, entertaining and set up with everyday objects around the house.

If you’re reading this, you likely already know and care about how important it is for parents to play a positive role in their child’s early education. In fact, research suggests that when families and schools collaborate in the learning process, children become more engaged and better behaved in the classroom. What’s more, high levels of parental involvement have also been shown to lead to long-term socio-emotional and economic benefits!

In short, parent engagement in early education matters. That’s why we’re here to help you spark your child’s creativity and fuel their socio-cognitive development outside of school.

With this list of fun learning activities for kids at home, your little one can strengthen their social, sensory, motor, linguistic, creative and problem-solving skills as they play. From kitchen-friendly science experiments to egg painting and bowling, these engaging games will hold their attention and get their tiny bodies moving! But our favourite part? None of these activities require an electronic device, so you can swap screen time for play time.

Let the games begin!

1.  Teddy Bear Adventure – (3-4 years)

Little girl playing with toys

This activity works just as well using a dinosaur, spaceman, unicorn or any favourite toy. The key here is to encourage creativity through storytelling and nurture literacy skills. At the end of Teddy Bear Adventure, your child will have their own homemade book which they can use to practice reading. 

What you’ll need

  • A favourite toy
  • A smartphone or digital camera
  • A printer
  • A stapler

How it works

  1. Your child picks their favourite toy, which will be the star of their very own adventure story.
  2. Support your child to create small scenes with the toy. You could sit them on the dining room table with a small plate in front of them to illustrate the toy having breakfast, or take the toy outside into the garden and place it in some long grass to show it exploring the Savanna. The key thing to remember in this step is to let your child imagine what is happening in each scene. Let their imagination run wild! There are no wrong answers here.
  3. Use your phone or a digital camera to take photos of the scene. Show them how to take the photo and support them to frame the shot themselves. If they can’t operate the phone/camera, you could still ask them for direction on the angle or framing of the photo. And if they can take the photo themselves, even better!
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 at least four more times. If you and your child have the time, energy and inclination, you could repeat these scene setups as many times as you like.
  5. Print out the photos with enough space left on each page for writing.
  6. Get your child to tell you the story of each scene and write it in the space below each photo. Just one sentence is fine.  Encourage your child to link the scenes together into a story. 
  7. Staple the pages together into a booklet and read the story through together.

Learn more.

2.  Thirsty Toys Science Experiment – (2-4 years)

Little girl playing with pebbles

Young minds are full of wonder. Feed your little one’s curiosity and build their knowledge of nature with a simple yet fascinating science experiment. This fun, indoor-friendly activity will develop your child’s understanding of water displacement – all while playing with their favourite toy!

What you’ll need

  • Your child’s favourite plastic toy
  • A water jar or any other see-through plastic container
  • A permanent marker
  • A handful of pebbles

How it works

  • Fill the jar halfway with water, marking the water level on the jar with a permanent marker (this will help you keep track of how much the water level rises!).
  • Place the toy on the rim of the jar.
  • Point out the water level mark to your child and tell them that the toy wants a sip of water but can’t quite reach, so it needs your help.
  • Ask your little one what might happen if they add rocks and stones to the jar.
  • Get your child to drop some rocks and stones into the jar and watch as the water level rises.
  • Keep encouraging them to add rocks and stones until the water is within reach of the toy – then celebrate when it can finally take a sip!

Learn more

3.  Bowling With Numbers – (3-4 years)

Little boy playing with a ball

Strengthen your child’s hand-eye coordination and mathematical ability with this fun, physical bowling game. By creating your very own bowling alley with plastic bottles, you’ll help to teach your little one to recognise numbers and count – both of which are key foundational maths skills. 

What you’ll need

  • 10 empty plastic bottles marked with numbers 1 to 10
  • A small ball

How it works

  • Make a triangle with the bottles, placed by number as below:

         1

      2    3

  4     5    6

7    8    9    10

  • Tell your child to knock over these bottles by rolling the ball towards them.
  • Show your child which numbers they knocked over. For instance ‘You knocked over number three and number nine!’
  • Together, count how many bottles are knocked over and how many are still standing.
  • Take turns repeating this process.
  • The player who brings down the most bottles wins! 

Learn more

4.  The Memory Magician – (3-4 years)

Little boy touching nose with thumb

One of the key milestones for every preschooler is learning to listen to and follow multi-step directions. This entertaining game will advance your child’s understanding, concentration and awareness of numbers, helping to get them ready for classroom learning. Not only will your little one enjoy practising their listening and memory skills, but they’ll also have fun telling you what to do for a change!

What you’ll need

  • Your imagination

How it works

  • Present the game to your child as follows: ‘Time to play “Memory Magician”! I’m the Memory Magician and you must do as I say. If you follow my directions, you’ll become the Memory Magician in my place! Ready?’
  • Once your child is on board, begin your turn by declaring that you’re the Memory Magician and you want your child to touch their nose.
  • When your child completes the action, tell them that they’re the Memory Magician now and so must give you two actions to perform.
  • Help your child to announce that they’re the Memory Magician and whatever two new actions they come up with (hold up your fingers to help them keep count of these instructions)
  • Once you’ve followed your child’s directions, take another turn as Memory Magician but give them three new instructions instead of two.
  • Keep building upon the number of requested actions with each turn!

Learn more

5.  The Box of Wonders – (1-3 years)

Box of toys

Once your little one can grab and hold onto things, you can help them to experience the world through sight, sound, smell, touch and even taste with a sensory box. This easy and exciting activity will introduce your child to the feel of various textures, while supporting colour recognition and hand-eye coordination.

What you’ll need

  • Several household items with differing textures
  • An empty container like a shoebox, ice cream tub or toy box

How it works

  • To create your sensory box, gather heaps of interesting household and outdoor items with various textures. Think pine cones, pieces of fabric, dried leaves, sponges and feathers. Have fun with it, but make sure none of these items have sharp edges or are small enough to be swallowed by your child.
  • Place your chosen objects in a container like an empty shoe box or ice cream tub.
  • Bring the box over to your child and watch as they explore, examine and enjoy the items. Describe aloud each item they pick up.
  • To keep your child engaged, limit the number of and switch up these objects every once in a while.
  • As your child grows and develops, get them to close their eyes while they pick out and guess what various objects might be.

Learn more

6.  Egg Decoration – (1-7 years)

Little boy painting eggs

Who said egg decoration is reserved for Easter break? This hands-on activity is fun all year round, unleashing your child’s creative side as they paint and play. This craft time will also help your little one to develop and refine their motor skills as they design and decorate their dream egg! 

What you’ll need

  • Eggs
  • Paint
  • Paint brushes
  • A water jar
  • Old clothes
  • A table cloth you don’t mind getting dirty!

How it works

  • Hard-boil a few eggs and let them cool down
  • Change your little one into an apron or some old clothes
  • Get painting!

Learn more

7.  The Hungry Monster – (3-8 years)

Little girl eating apple

When it comes to playtime, sometimes less is more. Simple, mind-based games are a great way to help your child develop new skills! The Hungry Monster game strengthens memory and language skills, teaching your child when to use ‘a’ versus ‘an’. It can be played wherever and whenever the mood strikes, with the more players, the merrier!

What you’ll need

  • Again, just your imagination will do

How it works

  • Introduce the game with the following instructions: ‘Let’s take turns to be the Hungry Monster and think of a food that s/he would like to eat. The Hungry Monster gets hungrier with every turn we take, so we’ll need to add a new item to the list each time.’
  • Start off by announcing, ‘I’m a hungry monster and I want to eat … an orange.’
  • Help your child to repeat and add to the sentence. For instance, ‘I’m a hungry monster and I want to eat an orange and a cupcake.’
  • Continue taking turns and expanding the list!
  • Once your child is familiar with the game, try adding adjectives to each object. For example, ‘yellow banana’, ‘wobbly jelly’ and ‘smelly cheese’. Not only will this build your child’s vocabulary, but it will also offer extra cues to prompt their memory.

Learn more

8.  Bookshop Boss – (3-6 years)

Little girl reading book

Getting your preschooler familiar with books will help to prepare them for classroom learning, while promoting a love of reading and storytelling! With this fantastic activity, your little bookworm will advance their language, comprehension, and social skills.

What you’ll need

  • Your child’s favourite books
  • A ‘bookshop’ space, such as a bookshelf or tabletop

How it works

  • Ask your little one to be the shopkeeper of their very own bookshop.
  • Now it’s your turn to act! Pretend that you’re a customer, browsing the books and asking your child to tell you a bit about their stories. This will encourage your child to remember and share various storylines, which is a great way to build their comprehension skills.
  • Make sure to pose questions that will get your child truly thinking about each book. For example: “Who was this story made for?”, “Is this book like any other books?”, “Who is your favourite character in this story?”
  • If your child is older, encourage them to make signs showing the prices of their books – this is a fun way to practice their number writing skills!

Learn more

9.  Grocery Game – (3-4 years)

Little boy playing shopkeeper

Transform your kitchen into a grocery store by encouraging your little one to become a shopkeeper for the afternoon! This enjoyable activity will help your child to strengthen their maths and literacy skills.

What you’ll need

  • A basket
  • Shopping bags
  • Toy coins or homemade paper notes

How it works

  • Pretend to be a customer, visiting your child’s store to find ingredients for dinner.
  • Browse the store, looking at different products for sale in the fridge, pantry and fruit bowl and placing the ones you want to buy in your basket.
  • As you shop, ask questions about the colours, shapes and quantities of various products. For example, ‘‘Can you please find me three apples?” or “I’d like to buy something round and yellow, does your store have something like this?’’
  • Try challenging your child with more difficult yet age-appropriate equations, such as ‘Right now, I have six apples. If I give two of them to you, how many will I be left with?’
  • Purchase these products, helping your child to work out and count the total number of notes or coins needed to cover all your items. Talk through the process out loud to help them understand. For instance, ‘‘It costs $10 but I’m paying you $15, so you owe me $5 change.’

Learn more

10.  Invisible Letters – (3-4 years)

Hands covered in paint

For a learning activity with a twist of magic, show your little one how to make an invisible letter! As well as being a fascinating and creative craft, this is a wonderful way for your child to practice spelling and writing their name. 

What you’ll need

  • Some paper
  • A candle or white crayon
  • Paint or water mixed with food colouring
  • Paint brushes

How it works

  • Encourage your child to write the first letter of their name on a piece of paper using a white crayon or candle.
  • Get your child to paint over this “invisible’’ letter in their favourite colour.
  • The letter will gradually appear as the paint dries. Talk to your child about the letter’s shape and sound, as well as any words that begin with it.
  • Continue spelling your child’s name out one letter at a time.

Learn more

11.  Hot and Cold! – (3-6 years)

Child playing under table

One of the easiest yet most effective learning activities for kids at home, Hot and Cold is simple to set up, fun to follow and disguises lots of learning in its excitement! As your child enjoys the thrill of the hunt, they’re developing key skills such as:

  • Following instructions
  • Imagining potential outcomes
  • Testing hypotheses
  • Understanding a temperature scale from freezing to burning
  • Using and comprehending comparative language
  • Analysing and adjusting to feedback

How it works

  • Hide an object somewhere in your home for your child to find.
  • Use temperature words to guide them as they move closer to (warmer) or farther from (colder) the object. 
  • Take turns being the hider and searcher so that your child can practice viewing situations from different perspectives. Letting them give the instructions will also help to build their leadership, decision-making and assessment skills.
  • When it’s your turn to do the searching, explain your actions by talking through your thoughts aloud. This narration is a great way to support your little one’s language and problem-solving skills via modelling – as your child observes your behaviour, they’ll learn new words, phrases, descriptions and solutions.
  • When you’ve got the basics mastered, introduce variations of the game to fuel your child’s creativity. For instance:
    • Swap out the temperature scale for another type of comparison. Think happy and sad, high and low, sunny and rainy.
    • Replace words with actions, turning your instructions into Charades
    • Deliver instructions in another language, be it one your child will study in school, one your relatives speak, the indigenous language of our home region or that of your child’s favourite cuisine, book or movie.
    • If you’ve got multiple players, work together in teams to hide and find each object. This will give your child an opportunity to build their collaboration skills,  including offering suggestions, listening to others and making group decisions. 

Learn more

Ready to try some fun learning activities for kids at home?

Now that you’re well versed in a variety of constructive yet giggle-worthy games, it’s time to start giving them a go! Whether your child prefers to be the Memory Magician or the Hungry Monster, a grocery shopkeeper or a bookshop boss, these learning activities for kids at home are sure to put a smile on their face.

For more inspiration, visit Learning Potential Resources for heaps of interactive games that show parents how to transform daily activities into fun learning opportunities that support literacy and numeracy development. 

And when it’s time to send your little one off to the classroom, get in touch with Maitland Kids Preschool and Early Learning Centre. Located in the heart of town, our family-run early childhood education and care service welcomes children from 6 weeks to 6 years old.