The 10 easy activities to help your kids learn through play.

Victoria Government
Thanks to our brand partner, Victoria Government

Did you know that by your child’s fifth birthday, their busy brains have sped through 90 per cent of their development? 

That’s what makes those precious first few years so important, and why, as parents, we should be jumping at the chance to feed their curiosity, nurture their creativity and set up the foundations for well-rounded kids to grow into well-rounded adults. 

There is Australian and international research that supports the value of play-based learning in preschool (known in several states as kindergarten). Data from Finland shows that 15-year-olds who attended play-based early education performed better overall than their peers who hadn’t attended. A groundbreaking longitudinal study out of the University of Melbourne also showed that students in third grade who attended kinder programs were 15 to 20 weeks ahead of their peers.

Watching my little one develop an aptitude for leadership and become part of a new community has been the best part of our early learning adventure. Having seen him go from sitting back and watching before joining in, to now leading the smaller children into activities, it just drives home the power of small children developing big skills in these rich learning environments.

It's undeniable that in a preschool environment, little ones can develop a strong sense of belonging in social structures essential for life well beyond childhood. Enter Free Kinder, Victoria’s funded three- and four-year-old kinder program.

Families who enrol their kids at a sessional kinder get a free program — which can mean a saving of more than $2,500 per child each year. Families who also access a kinder program at a long day care get a fee offset of up to $2,050 each year. Kinder gives children the space to learn through play, art, music and dance, and learn to express themselves in a safe, inclusive and caring educational environment.


The brilliant thing is, you can also support learning through play in your home and during everyday activities. Often they don't require a complicated list of materials to set up for your little one — in fact, most of these activities require no more than a sense of adventure.

Going on a bug hunt

This mini garden expedition encourages a connection with nature while introducing some basic facts about the little critters living among us. It helps to develop empathy for small creatures and increase your child's vocabulary. 

What you’ll need:

  • All you need are your senses and some outdoor space to explore. 

How to play:

Slap on a hat and some sun cream, and take your little one/s outdoors singing “we’re going on a bug-hunt” (to the popular tune, we’re going on a bear hunt). As soon as you or your child spots a bug, stop and observe it. Ask your little one three key questions each time you see a new bug.

1. What bug is that? (if they don’t know, you can tell them the name and practise saying it together)

2. Does the bug have legs/wings/feelers and what are these used for?

3. What does that bug do? (this is a great chance for you to introduce various bug behaviours, for example in the case of bees, you might say "bees fly and make honey, but we don’t want to get too close because they can also sting"). 

Smoothie time

Involving your little ones in food preparation can be wonderful for their sense of independence and relationship with food and nutrition. 


What you’ll need:

  • A blender or stick mixer

  • A range of fruits and/or veg

  • Yoghurt, frozen yoghurt or ice cream

  • Milk

  • Ice

How to play:

Bring the appliance down to a low table or allow your little one to stand on a learning tower up at the kitchen bench with you. Allow them to use child safe knives to roughly chop up fruits, let them pop ice cubes and scoops of yoghurt or ice cream into the blender and ask them to press the button to whizz up your smoothie, or to help you hold the stick mixer. You can talk about the different types of fruit — recognising their colour and shape. You and your child could also count how many pieces your child is cutting each fruit into and how many altogether. You can then share the smoothie together and talk about how yummy fruits and veggies can be, and how their textures change once they’re blended up and mixed together.

Touch the rainbow

This game will get your little one moving while learning about colours and objects around the home. It’s a version of Eye Spy that helps develop spatial awareness and it can be easily adapted for age and ability.

What you’ll need:

  • Just your beautiful bodies!

How to play: 

The idea of the game is for your child to identify an object based on a given descriptor like colour, size or purpose. They will then run to touch the object and back as quickly as possible. For example, you might say, “Run and touch something rough/smooth/fluffy/alive/wet/crinkly!” and they can quickly search for something in their environment to match that description.

Jar-lid boats 

This craft-based play is great for introducing the concept of buoyancy, exploring modes of transportation and encouraging sensory exploration. 

What you’ll need:

  • Any old lid from a jar, or for smaller boats you can use milk bottle lids

  • Blu tac

  • Small twigs with a little leaf attached

How to play:

Fill a large shallow container with water, like a baking tray. If you have access to a pool or pond, even better! Take the jar or bottle lid and flip it upside down, stick some blu tac in the middle and push the twig into the blu tac to create a mast and flag for your little vessel. Gently place them in the water and watch them float, or for older kids create a race where you blow your little boat across the water. If any sink, talk about the differences between them and the floating boats. Are they lighter? Did they use the blu tac in the middle or the edge of the lid? Was the twig crooked? And then try again!

Lemonade stand

This is perfect for a warm day and helps little ones develop practical skills, fine motor skills, opens a no-pressure dialogue about food and introduces the concepts of sweet and sour.

What you’ll need:

  • Lemons

  • A lemon juicer, jug and cups and a long spoon or mixer

  • Some herbs from the garden or store (mint, basil or rosemary work well) 

  • Some sugar or simple syrup

  • Water 

  • Ice

How to play:

At a low table, set up your ingredients and equipment ready to make your refreshing drink. Encourage your little one to use the juicer, twisting the lemons and watching the juice drip out. Observe how the holes on the juicer allow the liquid through but catch the pips and flesh. Show them how to tear up the herbs, how their smell changes once they’re torn and crushed, and pop them into the jug. Add water, sugar, ice and lemon juice. Enjoy a glass of your lovely creation and talk about the flavour of the lemonade introducing the concept of sweet and sour if this is not familiar to your child. You could even make different versions with other herbs and talk about how each herb adds a different flavour to the drink.

The traffic light game

Teach your little one the basics of traffic rules and road safety in this fun and active game. 


What you’ll need:

  • Just your bodies! 

How to play:

First, have a chat with your child about what the three traffic light colours mean. Next, create a start and a finish line. Some bean bags, cushions, masking tape or teddies can work well — whatever you have on hand is great. At the starting line yell “green light” and encourage your little one to zoom towards the finish line. Next, yell, “red light” encouraging them to stop (even if they’re not at the finish line!). For older or more advanced kiddos, throw in some “yellow light” commands to see if they can respond by slowing down.

Animal dance 

A bouncy way to use movement and music to learn more about the animal kingdom, develop coordination and foster their imaginations and creativity.

What you’ll need:

  • A device that plays music

  • A good-sized space to move around in

How to play:

Put on some fun, upbeat music and dance around the room. Yell out the names of various animals and encourage your little one to dance the way they imagine that animal would. Invite your child to also choose some animals to imitate. See how much they enjoy it when you join in too!

Dress up game 

Perfect for any age, dress ups can be a gentle way for little ones to develop creativity, communication and imagination, plus a deeper understanding of different roles and types of people in our wonderful world.

What you’ll need:

  • A dress up box filled with anything you can find! 

  • Hot tip: take your little one with you when looking in op shops for fun additions and create a fantastic mix of dress ups for them to play with. 

How to play:

Break out the dress up box any time you’re looking for creative indoor play. Dress up with your child, trying on different combinations and discuss who you are both dressed as, what your names might be and share other stories about the characters.


Sort those colours

Ideal for developing fine motor skills, planning and recognition of colours, this game can be modified for different age groups depending on the materials you use.

What you’ll need:

  • Some masking tape

  • Coloured pom poms, chopped-up coloured straws, or balls of coloured playdough

  • Paddle pop sticks

  • Milk bottle caps 

  • Tongs

  • Glue

How to play:

Create squares on a large table (or the ground) using masking tape and place one item of each colour inside the squares. Encourage your child to sort a large pile of mixed up items of different colours into their corresponding square. Your child can use their fingers to sort, try the tongs or make little shovels using paddle pop sticks and milk bottle caps to pick up the items. You could play extra rounds and sort items by size, texture or material.

Go fish

Great for developing fine motor skills and deepening an understanding of nature and colours.  

What you’ll need:

  • Cardboard (like cereal boxes!)

  • Scissors

  • Colouring pencils

  • Paper clips

  • Sticks

  • Fridge magnets

  • Twine

How to play:

Encourage your child to draw some fish, cut them out and attach paperclips. Depending on their age, you might need to assist them with this. Lay the fish out on a blanket — perhaps it’s blue for the ocean, green for a river, brown for a creek or white for ice. Attach twine with a fridge magnet at the end to a stick and go fishing! Take turns and encourage your child to count how many fish each person catches. You could sing the song "One, two, three-four-five, once I caught a fish alive" as you play.

Enrolments for Free Kinder are now open for 2025. To find government approved kindergarten programs, visit Find a Kinder.

Feature Image: Supplied. 

Victoria Government
Free Kinder: Enrolments now open for 2025. Give your child the best start in life with two years of kindergarten.
To find government funded and approved kindergarten programs, visit Find a Kinder.
Look for the Kinder Tick logo when choosing a funded and approved kindergarten program. Anywhere your child attends a kindergarten program, they’ll be learning through play with an early childhood teacher.
Talk to your local kindergarten or childcare service about their enrolment process. Your council may be operating a central registration and enrolment system in your area. To find out more, contact your local council.