Inspiring play ideas for young children

Published on Wednesday, 26 February 2020
Last updated on Monday, 24 February 2020

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If you’re looking for fun ways to entertain and educate your under six, then look no further. Australia’s leading parenting website, RaisingChildren has updated its suite of free activity guides to provide new play ideas for parents, and enriching experiences for children. Although this is an Australian website, these ideas are equally applicable to families here in NZ, so let’s see how the site can inspire play at your place. 

What is the thinking behind these activity guides?

RaisingChildren is a partnership between The Parenting Research Centre, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, so instead of just listing indoor and outdoor activities for ages zero to six, the experts have thought about the specific ways that each activity benefits youngsters and how the activity will play out in practice. 

Play is vital for children’s physical, cognitive, social and emotional development, and because children play differently as they grow from baby to toddler to preschooler, the activity guides are written with different ages in mind.

Each activity guide explains:

  • Why the activity is beneficial for your child
  • What you need for the activity, e.g. craft materials, household items, books or nothing at all
  • How to do the activity
  • How to adapt the activity to your child’s age

What types of activities can you try with your child? 

The experts behind these activity guides hope to provide parents and early childhood educators with ‘creative new ways to stimulate children’s play,’ and some of the new ideas cover:

  • Counting, e.g. counting steps as you walk or dogs you see along the way 
  • Child-led play, e.g. noticing that your child is building a block tower and asking to join in, or rolling a ball back to them if they roll it to you
  • Talking and listening, e.g. asking them open-ended questions and reading their body language 
  • Washing fruit and vegetables 
  • Cooking, e.g. discussing ingredients, showing your child different techniques and sharing their dish with the family
  • Drawing, scribbling and writing
  • Learning about emotions, e.g. naming and showing emotions 
  • Playing a memory game where objects are hidden under a cloth
  • Peg play, e.g sorting pegs by colour or dropping pegs to experiment with sound
  • Reading, e.g. practising page-turning or asking your child to name things in a book

There are lots of other games to play (e.g. I Spy and Guess the Animal), things to make (e.g. collages, cubby houses and cardboard box builds), and places to explore (e.g. nature walks, treasure hunts and museum visits), so click here to get some inspiration from over the ditch.   

As well as building connections in your little one’s brain, play also builds the parent-child relationship, so whether you’re at home or out and about, these activity guides are a great way to learn, bond, share and have some easy, affordable fun.    

Additional reference

Parenting Research Centre 

Further reading

The lifelong benefits of play

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