Tag Archive for: learning through play

Sensory Activities for Babies & Toddlers
Sensory play ideas to help babies and toddlers during early learning and development.In our last post, we examined the importance of sensory perception in under-fives. It was clear how incredibly important such sensory perception is for young children and how their very survival relies on being in touch with their senses. Through these senses, they learn about the world and everything around them. This also trains their bodies and brains to recognise the stimuli and automatically react. It helps them to know what’s good or bad for them, keep themselves safe and be able to live and communicate successfully in the world. With that background in mind, we follow up today with a look at some examples of sensory play activities that can help babies and toddlers during their early learning and development.

SAFETY FIRST: Always supervise your baby or child, so they don’t hurt themselves, touch or ingest anything that could harm them.

Sensory Activities for Babies & Toddlers

Bubbles are a feast for the sensesBubbles

Watching colourful bubbles floating in the air is sure to be a big hit with babies and toddlers alike. You can almost see the sense of wonder in their expressions as they watch them float. To them, bubbles are magical as they hang in the air with their wonderful rainbow colours gently moving around on the surfaces. Babies will be even more delighted when a bubble lands on their skin. They’re a feast for sight as well as touch at the moment the bubble lands and delicately bursts.

Sensory Foil

Sensory foil is a massive hit with babies and makes a variety of sounds that they find fascinating.There is a type of safe sensory foil blanket on the market that you can buy for babies. It’s been a massive hit with babies and makes a variety of different sounds that totally intrigue them. What’s more, it doesn’t have the sharp edges associated with some types of paper. Babies can simply lie and roll around on the foil blanket to enjoy the sounds, or scrunch them with their hands to have more control or to hear louder sounds. It’s a great way for them to hone their hand-eye control, fine motor and listening skills. They’re also great visually, particularly if there are any coloured lights or objects in the room that will reflect on the foil in magical ways. Generally speaking, babies are mesmerised by sensory foil, so give it a try if you haven’t done so.

Parents can introduce babies to a variety of pleasant natural scents by securing things like herbs or lemon peel in muslin or gauze 'pods'.Scents

Parents can introduce babies to a variety of pleasant natural scents by securing things like herbs or lemon peel in muslin or gauze ‘pods’ (see photo example). Simply waft near your baby’s nose to let them enjoy the wonderful smell of lemon, mint leaves, and so on. Be mindful of possible pollen allergies and toxins, though, so do your safety research on any contents before exposing your baby to them.

Black & White/High Contrast Cards & Books

Black & white images will allow young babies to see and recognise shapes more clearly as well as synchronise those images in both eyes together.Did you know that high contrast images are great for young babies? That’s because lower contrast images, especially pastels, may be lost on them as their eyesight isn’t yet fully developed. Also, with relatively poor eyesight and eye coordination when they’re first born, high contrast black and white images will help babies to match the images they perceive in one eye with the same image in the other.

Babies will not recognise the full spectrum of colours that we see as adults until around five months of age. That’s another reason books or cards containing images in high contrast black and white are becoming more popular in recent times for this age group. They allow infants to see and recognise shapes more clearly than lower-contrast alternatives as well as having the aforementioned eye/image coordination benefit. This visual sensory stimulation is also thought to help their brain syntaxes to develop faster in a kind of beneficial ‘feedback loop’.

Sound Activities

Babies and toddlers will enjoy — and benefit from — sound-making.Babies and toddlers will enjoy — and benefit from — sound-making. This type of activity will allow them to experiment with different ways to make sounds, stimulating auditory senses as well as helping them to develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. It’ll also help them to understand cause and effect more clearly, i.e. to associate sounds they’re making with their causes.

In the most simple approach, babies and toddlers can use something like a building block as a ‘drum’ and a wooden spoon as a ‘drumstick’ and gradually learn to tap away. Babies aren’t born with great coordination, so this is a good first step to give them more control over limbs. Taking it a step further, a responsible adult can make them sound shakers by half-filling clean plastic bottles with dried rice, pasta or similar and then sealing securely. Once safely sealed, babies and toddlers can have fun shaking them to hear the different sounds that can be made through their own actions. Such sensory activities will help them learn in so many ways, both in terms of physical skills and coordination as well as making new brain connections and associations.

Different Materials & Textures

Your baby can also be introduced to different materials and textures like this feather example.Your baby or infant can also be introduced to different materials and textures (suitably supervised for safety, of course, and any choking hazards avoided). Whether it’s a piece of velvet, faux fur or a feather, babies and toddlers will be very intrigued by the look and feel. So, think about introducing them to a variety of materials, both man-made and natural, that perhaps contrast each other so the child can learn how to connect the look of something to the feel of it. These are basic skills, but ones we each had to learn at a very early age.

Food

Once your baby or toddler has been weaned onto solids (e.g. as purée or liquidised foods), they can explore different tastes and food textures. They may be more likely to do so if you give them a spoon, so they can learn to control which food they taste, perhaps from a variety of options that you have prepared for them to try. When they’re suitably dextrous, a variety of finger foods can also be given to them to try. Take precautions, of course, in regard to possible allergens, so choose food types with caution and do your research.

In these ways, various senses will be stimulated in new ways and fine motor skills will improve. Also, exposing them to a variety of different foods and tastes early may give them a broader set of food preferences once they’re older i.e. potentially make them less likely to become fussy eaters.

Nature

Babies and toddlers find nature simply wondrous.Babies and toddlers find nature simply wondrous. There’s something amazing to see, hear, smell, touch and feel everywhere (under close adult supervision, of course). Flowers, with their scents and beautiful colours, will amaze them. Or, have you ever noticed the different smells after it rains, or the warm breeze brush past your face on a sunny day? These will all be new to babies and a feast for the senses. Indeed, nature is the ultimate tool for sensory awakening for babies and toddlers. That’s one of the many reasons that Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery is also a Forest School (learn more about our Edgbaston/Birmingham Forest School here).

Sensory Activities at Leaps & Bounds Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16

Leaps & Bounds Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted.At Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, we fully understand the importance of sensory play, so build sensory-based activities into the learning and development plan for every child. Each child has access to multi-sensory play equipment and we even have a sensory zone. Stimulation of senses at this early age does so much to help in early years development. It helps integrate a comprehensive view of the world into children’s very beings and reinforces their safe place within it. It helps to build new pathways in the brain and vastly improves cognitive skills. It aids physical development including coordination and motor skills and so much more. We hope some of the sensory discovery ideas above are useful for parents/guardians to use as part of their child’s home learning activities. Next time we’ll look at sensory activities for preschoolers.

Nursery Places in Edgbaston/Birmingham

For more information about a nursery place at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, please get in touch. We’re a high quality nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham, near Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick.

Fun Counting Activities for Under-5s
Giving children an early start with their numeracy is shown to increase outcomes for them generallyIn our last blog post we discussed how young children can and should be encouraged to master the art of counting early in their lives — ideally in their pre-school years. To recap in brief, giving them an early start with their numeracy is shown to increase outcomes for them generally, including a greater likelihood of staying in education for longer, a better chance of finding a job when they leave education and increased earning potential during their adult careers. The article also reminded readers of the profound importance of parental involvement in their children’s educations.

Here in this new post, we follow up with some fun number, counting and maths-based games and activities that preschoolers can enjoy at home with parents. These will make counting and numeracy fun for under-fives. After all, learning through play really is the best way for them to learn. Indeed, we use precisely that approach ourselves, at the nursery here in Birmingham.

Making numbers look like characters makes them more fun‘Number Order’ Games

Get your child to write numbers (e.g. between 1 and 10 or 1 and 20), each one going on a different sheet of paper. These can be small sheets, perhaps the size of playing cards, or A6 (a quarter of A4). The numbers can be simple or fancy — perhaps you and your child could get creative and make it colourful and illustrative, so it’s more fun. Numbers could even represent animals or characters, with faces, like our example. Once you have separate numbers on separate sheets, jumble them up and ask your child to put them into the right order. You could ask them to order them first from 1 upwards (perhaps start with 1 to 5 initially), then later in reverse order. Work your way up to 20 or more once the child is doing well. Soon counting will be second nature. Check how they do and help point them in the right direction if needed. Consider giving your child a reward for good effort.

Reward your child for good effort.

When they’re more advanced or a little older, you could even introduce simple addition and subtraction or progress to simple multiplication and division.

‘Number Matching’ Games

‘Number Matching’ Game: Dominoes

Helping very young children to learn how to match numbers or quantities will be very helpful as it’ll help them understand the concept in the real world. One of the very best ways to introduce this is to teach them how to play dominoes. With this game, the number or dots needs to match on adjoining dominoes, so it really is a simple, fun and effective way to introduce the concept of matching numbers or quantities to children. It’ll help children count more confidently and be able to recognise the number of dots instantly, after a little time practising. And, if you don’t have any dominoes, they’re easy to make on bits of paper or card and indeed children may enjoy making them. Dice are another option.

‘One More or One Less’ Activities

Activities that encourage children to work out whether something has one more or less than something else are a great way to introduce maths terminology into children’s vocabulary. They also help young children to grasp simple mathematical concepts. For example:

  • Learning mathematical terminogy through playAs a first introduction to the very young, make two equal stacks of small, stackable objects (e.g. dominoes, biscuits, coins, empty matchboxes, counters from a draughts game or building blocks — anything, really, so long as it stacks nicely and has a visible thickness). Ask the child to take away one object from a pile, then ask them to tell you which is taller and which is shorter. Also ask the child to count the stacks to tell you how many items are in each. Maybe add or subtract one more item from a pile and repeat.
  • You can do something similar with non-stackable items, for example, fruit. These can be made into less regimented piles rather than stacks. Ask your child to count the items in each pile so that they can ensure that one pile contains one extra item compared to the other. Ask them which pile is larger or taller and which is smaller or shorter. Piles of objects are also a good opportunity to get the child to grasp the concept of estimating.

    Counting fruit in a game of shops

    Once they’ve estimated, they can then count the objects to see how close they were to the right answer. Estimating will be another mathematical term that they now understand and they’ll also have had counting practice to boot.

  • Still working with two piles of objects, ask which one has more and which has less than the other. This is a simple first step towards the concept of addition and subtraction.
  • A similar activity can also be set on top of some weighing scales. Ask the child which pile is heaviest and which is lightest. Adding the element of a readable number, visible on the scales, also gives them a visual link between numbers and quantities of real-life objects.

Play ‘Shops’

All of the concepts above can now easily be put into practice via a game of ‘shops’. Toddlers and children will love pretending to be either the shopkeeper or the shopper. The shop “products” will, of course, need to be counted at the checkout and some items may need weighing — for example vegetables or fruit. Playing shops will focus a child’s mind on the importance of counting and number accuracy at the same time as introducing simple concepts like addition, subtraction, multiplication and even money. Such activities are great ways to teach children about simple maths terminology, in preparation for more complex mathematical challenges when they’re a little older.

Praise Them

Praise children when they put in a good effort, not just when they get it right

However well or badly your child does with the number activities and games, praise their effort when they’re trying. Help them when they get it wrong and try to explain things to them. They’ll pick things up if the mood is light but scolding them when they get it wrong may well put them off numbers and maths completely. As we said in our original article last month, try not to ‘imprint’ any hatred of maths that you might have onto them and don’t ever say anything like ‘I was never any good at maths at your age’ as it may give them an excuse not to fully commit to trying. However well they’ve done in activities and games like the above, always praise them for putting in a good effort. As we said previously, rewarding effort is important and is more likely to encourage them to return to the activities with enthusiasm in the future.

Going Forwards

Start children early on numbers & maths - it'll set the up well for when they're older, at schoolChildren who enjoy maths are usually those who like to learn generally. So, try to encourage young children to bring maths into every day activities. For example, counting their steps on a walk, counting stairs as they go up or down them, counting cars passing and so on. It makes it more fun and they’ll learn to enjoy challenges. Before you know it they’ll be a bit older, coping with numbers will become second nature, and they’ll be nicely prepared for more advanced mathematics at school. You’ll then be able to interact with them in more complex number-based games. Ultimately, these might involve multiplication, where you can test them on their times tables, and eventually division, fractions, algebra and more. It all starts with simple counting, though, so it’s important to make a start early, so they’re not held back.

Count on Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston, Birmingham

Leaps & Bounds Nursery is rated as a Good Provider of childcare by Ofsted.If you are looking for outstanding nurseries, pre-schools and childcare in Edgbaston, or Birmingham, please consider Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery. We are a high quality nursery and pre-school in Edgbaston (B16), near Birmingham, Harborne, Ladywood, Bearwood and Smethwick. We too encourage our toddlers and under-fives with their counting and numeracy using a wide variety of activities, toys, games and interactive equipment. It’s a key part of the curriculum at the setting, in fact. So, by the time they leave us around the age of 5, they are ‘school ready’ with a great grounding and, as such, should enjoy a smooth transition. If our Edgbaston nursery/pre-school is of potential interest, please call 0121 246 4922 for more details, contact us, or book a visit here. Spaces are limited but, at time of writing, we have just a few available places for babies, toddlers and children aged up to five.