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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Brain-boosting games and activities for 2-5 year olds.

Play is fun, and learning though play allows a child to learn in the natural, relaxed way that suits them best. With your support and gentle guidance, a small child can feel confident though not to give up at the first hurdle. Lack of stimulation has implications for brain development, but that does not mean all stimulation is good. Care should always be taken to fit the activity to the child's personality and to their current mood. Last of all, remember that if a child is pushed too hard by their loved ones, their only option is to switch off. Ambition must come from within. It is always better to attract a child to an activity because they cannot resist rather than push them into it so they cannot avoid it. If they do not wish to play the game today, then leave it. There are lots of tomorrows.

Talking and listening to your child helps to bring you closer together. Talking is not only essential for good communication but is also linked to effective reading and writing.

Find a rhyme
Can your child think of a rhyming word?

  • Think of a word such as 'box', and ask your child if they can think of another word which rhymes with it.
  • If they find this difficult, give them a clue. For example: say: "I know a word which rhymes with 'box' - it's an animal with a long bushy tail."
  • When they have found a rhyme, let them think of a new word for you.
  • See how many rhymes you can think of for just one word, for example, 'box', you could have 'fox', 'socks', 'locks', and 'clocks'.
Follow the trail
Learning how to follow spoken directions is essential to a child's development. 
  • Hide a small toy or book where your child can reach it.
  • Explain that they can find some 'treasure' if they move exactly as you tell them.
  • Put a red sticky dot on the back of their right hand and a blue sticky dot on the left.
  • Describe each movement in precise detail, using the dots to help your child.
  • Once they are in the right room or area, give them some false directions first. Then, give true directions and praise them when they find the 'treasure'.
My feelings
Help your child to understand and express their emotions.
  • Tell your child that you're going to think of something that makes your feel happy.
  • Name the thing and say why it makes you feel good.
  • Ask your child to name something that makes them feel happy. Encourage them to explain why it makes them feel good.
  • Repeat this game with other emotions.
What if?
Giving a favourite story a new twist will challenge your child.
  • Read your child a story that they know.
  • When you have finished it, go back to some key points in the plot. For example, the moment Cinderella loses her shoe at midnight, or the part where the three bears find Goldilocks asleep in Little Bear's bed.
  • Ask your child what might have happened if Cinderella hadn't lost her shoe, or if the bears hadn't spotted Goldilocks.
  • See if you and your child can come up with a whole new ending for the story.
Mad sentences
Create sentences and have fun playing with words.
  • The aim here is to make a sentence that sounds fine, but doesn't really make any sense. Start off with your own made sentence. It could be something like "My talking dog eats chunky chips for breakfast."
  • Then ask your child to make up a mad sentence. If they find it hard, help by suggesting a few opening words.
  • For an older child, make the game more difficult by saying he has to include words which rhyme.
Alphabet snap!
Make your own pack of cards to encourage your child to recognise the letters of the alphabet.
  • Cut out 52 small cards and divide into pairs. Working through the alphabet, write a letter and draw a corresponding picture on each pair.
  • Shuffle the pack of cards, then divide the pack into two. Keep one pile and give the other to your child, face down.
  • Take it in turns to lay down a card.  If two are the same, shout, "Snap!" (allowing your child plenty of time) - whoever shouts out first keeps the pair. At the end, count up the pairs and the person with the most pairs is the winner.
  • For children who are new to this game, you could use fewer letter pairs and build up to the full alphabet.

Gaining confidence with numbers will give your child a great head start when it comes to more formal leaning at school. Keep it simple, giving them lots of opportunities to play with numbers, patterns, counting and sorting.

Bricks galore
You can adapt this counting game to match your child's improving number skills.
  • Help your child to sort the building bricks into sets of colours.
  • Ask if they can build a red tower with two bricks.
  • Then ask if they can make a blue tower with three bricks, and so on, depending how confidently they can count.
  • You could also build a row of towers made with different numbers of bricks, and see if your child can count how many bricks have been used in each tower.
  • Finish by taking turns to add a brick to the tallest tower in the world, counting aloud as you go. Whose final brick will send the tower toppling?
Guess how many?
Learning to make a sensible estimate is a useful skill that you can help to develop with this fun and easy game.
  • Find a clear plastic jar and a mixture of small items to put in it. For example, shells, pebbles and paper clips.
  • Show the jar to your child, and ask them to guess how many things there are inside.
  • Once they have guessed, tip all the items out onto a tray and count them together, to see how close their estimate was.
As tall as ten
This game helps your child to compare the size of familiar objects.
  • Find some bricks that can be stacked easily.
  • Then, find a large toy, such as a teddy and stand it up against the wall for support.
  • Stack up the bricks next to the teddy until your tower is the same height as the teddy.
  • Together with your child, count how many bricks it takes to be as tall as the teddy.
  • Play again with a different toys of various sizes, taking away or adding more bricks as appropriate.
Calendar countdown
If your child is looking forward to a special event, such as a birthday party or a trip, this activity will increase their sense of excitement.
  • Find a piece of paper and a pen. Help your child to draw a row of boxes to represent the number of days left until the big day. Seven to ten days is a reasonable amount for a five-year-old.
  • Mark each day with a number from '10' to '1', counting down to the final box; which is the big day.
  • For the big day, your child could draw a picture to show what it is you're planning to do, such as a birthday cake for a party or a suitcase for going on holiday.
  • Your child can tick off each day as it passes, or colour in the box.

Holding and controlling a pencil comes naturally to some children, while others need plenty of practice.

Finish it off
Recognising patterns is a valuable pre-maths skill.
  • Draw a very simple pattern, using two colours, such as a line of alternative red and blue circles.
  • Explain how the pattern works, and then ask your child to continue it.
  • If they can do this easily, introduce another element, for example, a third colour, or a blue circle followed by a red triangle.
  • Continue creating new patterns for your child to follow, then see if they can design one of their own.
Use child-safe scissors for this activity that encourages hand-eye co-ordination.
  • Draw round a plate on white paper and cut out the circle.
  • Ask your child to fold the paper circle in half, and then in half again, so it forms a triangle shape.
  • Using scissors, show them how to snip little sections from along the sides of the triangle, including the curved edge along the bottom.
  • When they have finished, they can open out the circle to reveal a beautiful snowflake.
  • An older child could colour or paint through the holes onto a fresh piece of paper to create another picture.
Brass rubbing
It is fascinating for your child to watch a complex pattern emerging through paper.
  • Find an object with a clear pattern or marking on it's surface, such as a coin.
  • Put a piece of paper on top of the coin.
  • Using a soft pencil or wax crayon, show your child how to rub over the coin gently, without letting it slip around under the paper. Make sure you rub over all the outside edges so you get a complete outline.
  • Try other items, such as dried leaves or shells.
  • Your child might enjoy making a display by cutting out each of their brass rubbings and sticking them on to a piece of paper or card.
My name's Dot
Learning how to write their own name is a skill which gives a child great satisfaction.
  • Use a pencil to write out your child's name in large letters on a piece of paper.
  • Go over the letters with a crayon or felt-tip pen, but use firm dots instead of a continuous line.
  • Give your child a crayon and ask them to draw over the dots so that they write their own name. Try to encourage them to start from the right place by putting an extra-big dot at the appropriate point on the letter.
  • Once they are confident with this, they might be able to try writing their own name without the help of dots.

A good memory is a great asset that's invaluable throughout life.

Tell me the story
Read a story, then ask your child to retell it.
  • Read your child a well-known story, such as Little Red Riding Hood.
  • When you have finished, close the book and ask your child if they can remind you of the story.
  • If they have trouble starting, give them a clue by saying: "Let's see, the little girl had to go and visit her grandmother, didn't she. Now, who didi she meet in the forest on the way?"
  • If they get stuck half-way , go back and look at the pictures in the book to remind them of what happened next.
Use Snap cards or traditional playing cards to play this matching game.
  • Lay all the cards face down on the floor.
  • Let your child turn over any two cards to see if they match. If they do, they can keep the pair and turn over two more cards. If they don't, he must turn the cards back over.
  • Now, you turn over two cards - keep them if they match and put them back if they don't.
  • Continue until all the cards have gone. The person with the most pairs wins.
  • With younger children, use a smaller number of pairs.
All about me
Make a book about your child so that they can look back on their childhood.
  • Take a few sheets of paper, stack them and fold them all in half to make a 'book'. Add a coloured cover if you wish.
  • Find some photographs of your child as a baby and a toddler and stick them into the book.
  • Ask your child what they would like you to write under each photo as a caption, for example, 'when I was a baby, I wore a nappy'.
  • Draw around one of your child's hands on one of the pages, and around their foot on another.
  • Finish off with a list of your child's favourite things, such as their favourite colour, food, toy and game.
Places I've been
Keep a record of special trips or events to keep the excitement alive.
  • Every time you go on a trip, for example, the zoo, a farm or on holiday, collect a few mementoes to take home. For example, a tour guide, some postcards or a leaflet; or just some shells, leaves or bark.
  • When you get home, stick the mementoes in a scrap-book with a big tittle page for each occasion and perhaps some family photographs and a drawing or two.
  • Put the scrap-book on your child's bookshelf and every now and then, take it out to look at instead of reading a story.

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