Play, Chat and Learn at home

The more we play, chat and learn with our children, the more we help build their brains. 

Any time, anywhere, whether at home or out and about, it all adds up.

There’s no need to buy lots of toys or have big days out. Wherever you are, simply chatting back and forth, answering your child’s questions and sharing special moments together all help their brain to grow and develop secure and strong connections. Just what they need to get off to the right start at school.

The Start for Life website is packed with simple ideas from other parents on how to build these little moments into each day. It includes lots of examples of tips and activities for you to do together with your child at different ages. 

This film explains how children’s brains develop during the early years, and the crucial role parents play through all the little moments they spend together with their child.

Activities to try at home


Getting outside and talking about what we can see is very important for children’s language development and learning about the world around them. Children can spot letters, numbers, shapes and colours in their local area, shopping centre, park or out and about. Spotting things they recognise such as a favourite cereal packet or familiar supermarket sign is helping to build skills for reading and recognising letters later on.

You can play I-Spy and look out for things whilst walking or travelling along.

You can point out road signs, street names, shop signs, logos and house numbers as you walk around your local area. You could count how many you’ve spotted.


Sharing books helps you connect with your child and helps to grow their imagination. Hearing lots of words and reading the same stories over and over supports children’s brain development and learning new words and sounds. Sharing stories together helps to build a love of reading and skills for learning to read at school.


There are many ways you can share stories with your little one. You could…

  • Visit the library
  • Borrow books from the library/nursery/school
  • Make up your own stories or tell tales from your childhood
  • You could create your own story book
  • Make a den and share stories inside
  • Bedtime stories – share a story and a cuddle before bed


Den building is an exciting way for children to work together and create secret areas to read books, relax and have fun in. Building a den creates great opportunities for children to problem solve, work collaboratively, engage in imaginary play and create a sense of adventure.


You can create a den using any material you have at home like bed sheet, towels, table cloths etc. Use pegs to attach them to trees, fencing, washing lines, chairs, sofas to make a secret hiding place for children.

They can be used for shade during sunny days and cosy nooks during colder days/evenings.


Toddlers love to hear their favourite nursery rhymes over and over again and this helps them to learn new words and sounds. Rhyme and repetition helps to build children’s vocabulary ready for learning to read later on.

Joining in with actions can help children’s physical skills (gross and fine motor) and hand eye co-ordination which are really important when growing up. Children also learn which movements go with which words and can join in with counting rhymes as well.
Singing and enjoying rhymes together supports bonding between you and your child and can help everyone to relax and enjoy time together.


• Share nursery rhymes with your little one daily
• You could make up your own song with a familiar tune – this can help with daily tasks such as tidying up, getting dressed and brushing our teeth.
• Most playgroups have a song time within the session
• Learn new nursery rhymes online to share with your little one


Making marks with lots of different things is essential for children to develop skills that lead onto writing in later life.

Through making marks children build their curiosity, creativity and develop the muscles and strength in their arms, hands, and fingers. It also encourages hand eye coordination and is a lot of fun!


There are lots of ways to make marks outside and inside here are some ideas:

  • Water painting with brushes or rollers
  • Using thick or thin chalks outside
  • Using sticks to draw in mud or sand
  • Crayons or painting on paper and cardboard boxes


Bubbles are an excellent way to help children develop visual skills as well as supporting their physical movement and balance.


Popping the bubbles, with a hand, two hands, a foot or toes all involve the development of hand-eye coordination. These early movements form the basic building blocks of the catching, hitting throwing and kicking skills involved in ball sports.


Encourage children to blow their own bubbles. It is great exercise for the developing muscles in the jaw and mouth. This also helps with confidence and mastering a new skill. Learning to blow bubbles isn’t as easy as it seems and it may take a while to work it all out.

Try this at home….Making your own bubble solution and wand

What you’ll need:

• 50ml washing-up liquid (one part)

How to make it:

• Measure the washing-up liquid into a container and slowly add in the water then gently stir the mixture together.

• Let the bubble mixture rest before using it for a little while.

• Dip your bubble wand into the mixture and start blowing bubbles!

If you haven’t got a bubble wand here are some ideas:

• Biscuit cutters

• Funnels

• String tied in a circle

• Slotted spoons


Getting outside and explore the garden and the park is a fantastic way to be active and get fresh air. Looking for bugs is an exciting way for children to get up close with nature, encouraging them to use their observational skills and be hands on with wildlife.


Lift logs and peek under stones to find woodlice and millipedes. Peer into cracks in trees and tree stumps to discover beetles and spiders. Look closely at leaves and in flower beds to see caterpillars and ladybirds. Poke your nose into long grass to spot ants and grasshoppers.


Homemade binoculars to make the hunt even more exciting. Simply attach two cardboard tubes together and decorate. Add string to hang them around your neck.

Useful links

  • Tiny Happy People is a BBC service for the parents and carers of the youngest learners. The one minute, one message films offer tips and activities for language learning through play, plus films that show babies’ brains development and why parents are so important to that development. 
  • Book Trust: Reading tips, activities, story-time videos, book recommendations and more
  • National Literacy Trust: Milestones, tips, resources and advice for parents to support their child’s literacy development
  • Institute of Wellbeing: Advice to support literacy development and wellbeing kits to help parents take care of their family and their mind
  • Speech and Language UK: Support for parents who are worried about their child’s language development
  • Early Years Alliance: Practical tips for parents to support their child to learn through play