kids

6 fun, brain-boosting activities to do if you've got kids under 5 at home.

State Library Of QLD
Thanks to our brand partner, State Library Of QLD

Never has there been a more important time to have a selection of fun, brain-boosting activities to keep your kids engaged and occupied at home.

With the coronavirus pandemic finding many families in self isolation at home, parents are often working/parenting/teaching their children from there, which can easily turn into, well…chaos (come on, we’ve all seen the memes).

But the State Library of Queensland has a potentially lifesaving program that will keep those curious minds of kids under five occupied for hours at a time. And the best bit is they will not only boost brainpower but bring a smile to their faces too.

First 5 Forever is a free early literacy program where you can find tips, ideas and activities to help you get the best out of your child’s first five years. Subscribe to their weekly tips (they have 300 of them in total) and you’ll get tips tailored to your child’s age and areas of interest.

Since I am one of the thousands of parents who has chosen to keep the learning happening at home during the pandemic, I was very eager to sign up to access more resources for my two girls.

Right from the first step, as I subscribed, it was clear First 5 Forever was inclusive and personalised. Via a small series of questions, I was asked for my daughter’s name, month and year of birth and also her gender (with an option for gender neutral) which were used to generate tips that would be relevant to her.

Along the way we have tried many but here are six of my daughter Milla’s favourites (and mine too).

1. Change the rhyming word.

Milla LOVED this game! She had been learning rhyming at school B.C. (before coronavirus) so she loved singing familiar rhymes – like Hickory Dickory Dock – and substituting the words for others.

For example, instead of ‘clock’, it was ‘wok’ or ‘sock’ – it was something she could already do confidently, plus she found it hilarious (and to be honest at times, so did I).

first 5 forever
Here's our first email tip. Image: Supplied.
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2. Draw your understanding.

Another tip that really drew on Milla’s strengths, was drawing about what she had just read.

The task is pretty straightforward but gets younger brains ticking and it can also take a while to do, which can be an added benefit when you have your own tasks needing to get done.

With this activity, you read a book together, then once you’ve finished, get out some pencils, pens or crayons and draw about it. It can be anything related to the book - from drawing a scene, or one or two of the characters, really anything they found the most interesting.

You can then follow this up by asking your child about their picture and writing down their words.

This simple extension of the book experience will deepen their understanding and give them a chance to use any new words they learned. It’s also great if, like me, you have a child who loves to draw.

3. Talk about yourself (yes, really).

This tip was one of my own personal favourites (I don’t know what that says about me).

By sharing stories about when I was young, you know, “back in the olden days” – from my first kiss when I was five to the time I was learning to ride my bike and I fell into a cactus and looked like a human echidna, often these stories are the most engaging and intriguing for our own children to hear. It is also super brain-boosting because talking, listening, reading and writing are all connected.

Another bonus is that you don’t need any other materials or resources, just you, your memory and your voice so you can do it anywhere. If you don't feel like talking about yourself, you can even make up a story together - this is great for creativity and bonding.

4. Make little books about a family event.

first 5 forever
A combination of creativity and memory. Image: Getty.
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Similar to a photo book from a wedding or a holiday, having your child make their own mini book about a personal experience like a birthday party or ‘my favourite day’ is a really engaging, hands-on activity for them to do.

By using photos or drawings and then writing down your child’s words as they recount the experience, you are working on literacy skills while also reminiscing about something fun. Plus, you can look back on it later.

And in my family’s case, it was something we could all do together.

5. Combine singing with reading.

While no one in my family is going to be the next Celine Dion, embracing our singing voices to read normal stories sure is fun regardless.

From In My Heart to Where the Wild Things Are, any book can be sung, instead of read, and sometimes this can be a much more interactive and engaging way to get your children (and yourself) involved in the reading process.

6. Create your own rhyme card games.

Like a lot of the ideas from First 5 Forever, this one really engages kids on a deeper level.

Instead of buying a pre-made card game, why not get the kids creating their own cards with pictures of things that rhyme?

Then you can play games like snap, memory and bingo, while also involving your child in the creative process. It's a great idea to get those early literacy skills firing up.

For more ideas, visit First 5 Forever and sign up to their free weekly tips.

Feature image: Supplied.

State Library Of QLD

In their first years of life your child's brain forms over a million new connections every second. Talking, reading, singing and playing with them every day helsp to make these connections strong. First 5 Forever is a free early literacy program for families with children aged zero to five, where you can find tips, ideas and activities to help you make the most of your child's first 5 years. Find out more at slq.qld.gov.au/first5forever.

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