Activity Ideas

Childminders adapt activities

Below are a few activity ideas based on recent or forthcoming festivals and celebrations. You can obviously include them at any time!

Please contact us if you have festival related activity ideas and we will try to include them here (and acknowledge you as the source!) in coming months.

Chinese Dragon Dance

Chinese New Year falls in January or February each year. It lends itself to a great project for children of all ages to work on and get involved in.

In Chinese culture, dragons are a symbol of power and strength and they bring good luck to the community. The longer the dragon dances, the more luck it brings. Dragon dances form part of traditional Chinese New Year celebrations.

Why not get all of the children to work together making the dragon costume. We suggest you use a medium sized cardboard box for the head and a long piece of material – perhaps a sheet – for the body. All the children can join together to decorate the head and the body with bright coloured paints and feathers etc. Remember to talk about the shapes needed – e.g. triangles for the teeth. Once dry, attach the body to the head and start practising the dance! The children should hold the head and the body above their heads and dance to the music. Get the children to take it in turns to be the head, leading the other children in the dance.

Download some Chinese festival music to add to the celebration.

See if the children can dance at different levels (high, low, crouching) or following different paths (circle, zigzag, square) or at different speeds (fast, slow, still).

Make links to individual children’s important celebrations and traditions – for example Hogmanay, St Georges Day or Diwali.


PSED – Self-confidence and self awareness, Managing feelings and behaviour, Making relationships
CL – Listening and attention, Understanding, Speaking
PD – Moving and handling
M – Shape, space and measure
UW – People and communities, The world
EAD – Exploring and using media and materials, Being imaginative


Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) is the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the start of Lent in the Christian calendar. During Lent, some Christians remember Jesus by giving up ‘luxury foods’ such as chocolate or biscuits. Ahead of this period of abstinence, on Shrove Tuesday Christians traditionally make pancakes with a variety of fillings to use up all their sugar, fat and eggs that they won’t be eating during Lent.

When talking with the children in your care about Shrove Tuesday, make links with other religious festivals that observe abstinence and/or fasting, e.g. Yom Kippur (Jewish festival) and Ramadan (Muslim festival). Are there any children or families in the setting who can share their experience of these? Are there any children or families that will be trying to give up any luxuries for Lent?

Across the country, there are many traditions of pancake races – people dress up and then race, flipping their pancakes as they go.

Pancakes are a great, easy recipe to make with the children. Get them involved in the weighing, measuring and mixing. Let them choose some fillings. There are many recipes for pancakes on the internet. If you have children in your setting with food allergies or intolerances, you might want to look up these from the BBC:

Remember to use cold pancakes and pans in your races! Or, if you don’t want to use pancakes, you could use pieces of cardboard – ask the children to decorate and to cut them out.

You could have traditional pancake races, with the children running and flipping their pancakes or you could try obstacle courses while keeping the pancake in the frying pan. Who can throw their pancake the highest? Who can catch their pancake? Introduce a dice – throw the dice and then the children have to toss their pancake the corresponding number of times


PSED – Self-confidence and self awareness, Making relationships
CL – Listening and attention, Understanding, Speaking
PD – Moving and handling
M – Shape, space and measure, Numbers
UW – People and communities, The world

It’s a Wrap!

Wrap paperSchemas are patterns of repeated behaviour, through which children play, explore and find meaning in what they are doing in order to understand the world around them. They are what motivates them as a learner during a certain period of time. Some children may exhibit more than one schema. As an Early Years practitioner, your observations of children will help you to understand and recognise when a child is showing schematic behaviour, which will help you plan to meet their interests and extend their learning. There are a number of different types of schema. Schematic (repetitive) behaviour could be observed, for example, through a child that loves to move things from one place to another (transporting schema), tie things up (connecting schema) or line things up, perhaps in order of size or colour (positioning schema). Children that love wrapping things up with different materials or enjoy covering or concealing objects (or themselves) in material, or perhaps repeatedly fill bags could be exhibiting an enveloping schema. Children with an enveloping schema will love our ‘it’s a wrap’ activity!

Set up a gift wrapping activity area with wrapping paper (perhaps made by the children), sticky tape, scissors, gift tags, ribbon, pencils and rulers. You could perhaps provide the children with the ‘gifts’ to wrap, or you could let the children find things to wrap themselves. Talk to the children about times they celebrate with their families and when they exchange presents. Through letting the children investigate the activity and engaging in sustained shared thinking with the children, you can encourage them to describe problems they encounter and to suggest ways to solve the problems:

  • “How can we get the correct size paper?”
  • “Which shaped present would fit in here?”
  • “I wonder what sort of present Mummy would like”

Key words you could add: wrap, unwrap, under, over, around, cover, visible, invisible, half.


PSED – Making relationships
CL – Listening and attention, Understanding, Speaking
PD – Moving and handling
L – Writing
M – Shape, space and measure
UW – People and communities
EAD – Exploring and using media and materials


Traffic light image Road Safety Week falls in mid-November.

The AA report that over a third of pre-school children who are killed or seriously injured while walking or playing are accompanied by an adult while one third are alone. It is therefore vitally important to help children learn about road safety from a young age.

This simple game will help children learn to listen to your instructions and understand the meanings of “STOP!” “WAIT!” and “GO!”.

Start by telling the children that they have to listen very carefully to what you say.

Explain what the following ‘commands’ mean:

  • STOP!” – stand very still;
  • WAIT!” – stay still, but get ready to more;
  • GO!” – jog on the spot.

Get the children to find a space and use the commands above with the children to ensure they understand. You may need to demonstrate by also joining in with the actions.

Once the children are reacting quickly and accurately to the commands, you could encourage them to walk around when you say, “GO!”.

Use the commands “LOOK!” and “LISTEN!”, using exaggerated actions to convey meaning, after using the “WAIT!” command and before telling the children that it is safe to “GO!”.

On the command of, “GO!”, get the children to hop or jump or skip or run. Ask the children, “When is it easiest to stop safely and quickly?” Talk with the children about how much longer it takes them to stop when they are moving faster and explain that this is why it is important to walk when you are out next to the road.

You could extend the activity by using:

  • traffic light colours, red, amber and green, in place of the stop, wait and go commands;
  • tricycles, ride on toys etc;
  • an old cardboard box to make home-made traffic lights.

Listening is important skill when the children are out and about to judge the speed and direction of traffic. From the web resources below, use some traffic sounds to use to get the children to stop.

When you are next out with the children, talk about the speed the cars are going and remind them how long it took them to stop when they were running – it will take the cars even longer.

Encourage the children to listen as well as look at the traffic. When you are standing near the road, get the children to close their eyes and listen. When they can hear a vehicle coming, ask them to point in the direction they think it is coming from. Are they right? From sound alone, how fast do they think it is travelling?


PSED – Managing feelings and behaviour
CL – listening and attention
PD – Moving and handling

Web Resources

Don’t just talk about road safety with young children – the peak age for road accidents is 11 to 12, with an 11 year old being twice as likely as a 10 year old to be killed or seriously injured in a road accident on the way to/from school. Some of the above resources are aimed at young people aged 14 and over.

Think imageFree educational resources for road safety for children from ages 3 to 16 are available from Think! 

Apple Day HeartAPPLES!

The bountiful harvest of apples has been celebrated for years, but 21st October as official “Apple Day” started in 1990 in Covent Garden. It is now celebrated across the country. As well as being a celebration of the harvest, Apple Day is also intended to demonstrate the varieties of apple that we are in danger of losing.

How could you celebrate Apple Day?

Apples GrowingAre you able to go and pick some apples from a tree? If not, perhaps you could visit a market / shop and look at the different varieties, discuss the different sizes and colours. Try to buy one or two of several different varieties, perhaps including some cooking apples, to take back to your setting to explore.

When you get the apples home, it’s time to wash them– but wait! Will they float or sink? What do the children predict – and why? Who was right? (They will float because the air in them makes them less dense than water.)

You could next examine and identify the various parts of the apples. Remember to get the children to help chop the apples with you (risk assess this according to the children you look after).

What happens if you chop the apple across the middle instead of lengthways?

Sliced Apple       Apple Star

Look at the various parts of the apple – flesh, seeds, skin, core, stem, seeds? What are they for?

Can you compare flavours and textures of different apple varieties? Which is the crunchiest? Which is the sweetest? How is a cooking apple different from an eating apple? Which is your favourite?

Encourage the children to explore the apples with all their senses:

  • SEE – colours, skin/peel, flesh, seeds, shapes, stem
  • HEAR – crunch as they bite the apple; noise as the apples are sliced
  • TASTE – sweet, sour, juicy, crisp. How is the skin different from the flesh?
  • SMELL – fresh, fragrant, sweet, scented
  • FEEL – compare the different parts of the apple: smooth, hard, sticky, wet

Apple StructureOther activities could include:

  • Building structures with apple chunks and cocktail sticks
  • Apple prints
  • Use large tongs to pick up and transfer apples (a simple activity for hand-eye co-ordination and to also strengthen hand muscles as a precursor to writing)
  • Read the story of the Story of the Apple Star – available at
  • Make your own healthy apple juice


PlaydoughNational Play-Doh Day is observed annually on September 16th.  Play-Doh inventor Joe McVicker actually sold it originally as a wallpaper cleaner but the world had another use for his product.  Play-Doh was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 1998.

We all know that Playdough is great fun – and a brilliant learning experience – at any time of year. We therefore thought we would use the opportunity of National Play-Doh day to add some different recipes for you and the children to try!

Remember, where possible, children love to join in measuring the ingredients and making the dough too – make sure it is cool enough that they don’t burn themselves.

To all of the recipes below, you could increase the sensory experience by adding, for example:

  • essential oils
  • herbs/spices – e.g. rosemary or cinnamon
  • glitter
  • gemstones
  • shells
  • rice
  • grains
  • …the list goes on!

Remember, unless you want to harden your creations to store playdough in an airtight container. Most recipes include salt – this acts as a preservative and adds texture. It can dry the skin, though, so be careful with children with sensitive skin. Ensure children are not allergic to any of the ingredients used.

No Cook Playdough:

  • 2 cups of bread flour
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar
  • ½ bottle of food colouring
  • 2 dessertspoons of vegetable oil
  • 2 cups of BOILING water

Mix the flour, salt and cream of tartar together.
Pour in food colouring and oil.
Pour in boiling water and quickly stir thoroughly.
Turn straight out onto work surface and knead until it becomes a pliable dough.
Problems can occur if you use too much food colouring, water that is not boiling or cheap flour!

Gluten Free Playdough:

  • 1 cup of white rice flour
  • 1 cup of cornflour
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 4 teaspoons of cream of tartar
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil
  • Food coloring, if desired

Mix ingredients.
Cook and stir on low heat for 3 minutes or until it forms a ball.
You can knead in the food coloring a bit at a time after it cools.

Salt free playdough:

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • ½ cup of oil
  • Food colouring
  • Water

Add the oil to the flour and mix thoroughly.
Mix food colouring with water.
Add and mix in enough of the water to make a soft dough.

Sand Dough: 1 cup of clean sand, ½ cup of corn flour, ¾ cup hot water. Mix ingredients in pan. Cook until very thick.
Let models air dry for 12 hours.

Sand Dough: 4 cups of clean sand, 3 cups of flour, 1 cup of water, ¼ cup of cooking oil. Combine all ingredients together in a bowl. Knead until it forms a ball.
Variation: Add a little golden syrup to change the texture or use sawdust instead of the sand.

Salt Dough: 2 cups salt, 4 cups of flour, 1½ cups of water. Mix the flour and salt. Gradually stir in the water. Mix well until it forms a dough. Make your creations! Leave to harden or cook in the oven at 180C. Paint!

Cloud dough: 8 cups of flour, 1 cup of baby oil. Mix together. This dough is soft and holds together like wet sand!

Oatmeal Dough: 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of water, 2 cups of oatmeal. Mix all the ingredients until smooth and knead until it forms a ball shape.

Gloop: 2 cups of cornflour, 1 cup of water, Food Colouring. Place the cornflour into a large container and place a few drops of colouring into the centre. Mix the water into the cornflour and colouring.  It will take some time to mix together but encourage the children to play with the gloop as it is mixed. If it goes too runny add more cornflour – if too powdery, add more water.
Solid or Liquid? If you squeeze it, it goes hard and forms a ball. Stop squeezing and it drips through your fingers. Put your fingers into the bottom of the bowl of gloop and then try to pull them out – it’s difficult. Hit it with a spoon and it seems solid (hit water with a spoon and it splashes!). Roll a ‘blob’ into a ball in your hand – stop rolling and it oozes between your fingers.
Why? Cornflour is made of lots of long, stringy particles. Adding water does not dissolve them, but it makes them spread out so that the gloop acts like a solid and a liquid. If you squeeze the gloop or roll it in your hands, the particles join together and the gloop feels solid. Stop rolling or squeezing and the particles slide over each other and it feels like a liquid. This is a “non-Newtonian fluid”. Quicksand is another example of a “non-Newtonian fluid”. Water (and most other liquids) are “Newtonian Fluids”.
Variation: Try custard powder instead of cornflour for an extra sensory experience.

Use a variety of resources with your playdough. This could include rolling pins (plain or patterned), cutters, scissors, containers, paper cupcake cases, ‘googly eyes’, saucepans, small world animals/people, cars, scales, feathers, sticks, potato masher, combs,  ….


You can link exploring playdough with all areas of learning and development – remember you can add to this by adding new language, such as:

Push; Pull; Drop; Squeeze; Press; Elastic; Bend; Twist; Roll; Stretch; Squash; Pinch; Flatten; Ooze; Drip; Longer than; Shorter than; The same length; More; Less; Lighter; Heavier; 2D shape names; 3D shape names; Smooth; Lumpy; Warm; Cold; Grainy; Bumpy; Soft; Hard.

Fun holiday!

Book lovers DayAugust 9th is Book Lovers Day, an unofficial holiday that encourages people to pick up a book (or two) and spend the day reading.

How to Celebrate?

  • Evaluate your book and literacy areas ensuring that you have a wide range of books of varied style, content and complexity and that books accessible to children are in good condition.  You can include children in this process.
  • Ideally the types of books available should cover a range of interests including factual and fiction resources on science; transportation; different cultures/religions and imaginary creatures
  • Visit your local library
  • Enjoy a book themed day either focusing on a particular theme ‘Alice in Wonderland’ for example, or books in general.

A few EYFS links:

PSED – managing feelings and behaviours
CL – listening and attention
L – reading
UW – people and communities

Celebrate Difference!

Celebrate differenceInternational Left Handers’ Day has been observed on August 9th of each year by many left-handers since 1976. This this will give you an opportunity to celebrate differences.

As a starting point, perhaps in a circle at the beginning of the day or after snack time, ask the children, appropriate to their age and stage of development, to tell you something that is different about the person sitting next to them.  Then ask them to identify or describe something that is the same.

You could watch clips from the internet that support your message of the day – view them first to check suitability for the children you are working with:

Differences and similarities videos 

Odd Socks – A story about difference and diversity

Odd Socks is a colourful story with pictures and text. It uses the metaphor of ‘odd socks’ to deal with cultural differences, intellectual differences, and physical differences. It was originally written to help the siblings of children with disabilities – however, the metaphor of ‘odd socks’ is broad enough to encompass a whole range of issues relating to diversity.

A few EYFS links:

PSED – making relationships; self-confidence and self-awareness
PD – moving and handling, providing a range of left-handed tools
L – writing
UW – people and communities

This is a great example to document how you are promoting British Values in your setting.


Making friends is an essential part of a child’s personal, social and emotional development. Making friends helps children learn about themselves and develop their own identity and it also helps them learn about others, respect differences and develop tolerance. But making friends is not easy and as childcare practitioners, we need to help children develop the skills they need to make and maintain friendships. The International Day of Friendship gives us an ideal opportunity to celebrate and to talk about friendships with children.

Activity ideas:

Friendship bracelets

Make and share friendship bracelets with the children. For the youngest children, this could involve cutting straws into approximately 2 cm lengths and then threading them onto a string – or even threading pasta tubes onto a string. Slightly older children could use ready-made beads – or some loom bands if you have any left!

If it is holiday time, you may have older children who would like to have a go at making friendship bracelets with embroidery yarn. There are lots of ideas if you Google Friendship bracelets – we liked these:

A few EYFS links:

PSED – making relationships
CL – understanding (following instructions)
PD – moving & handling (handle equipment and tools effectively)
M – shape, space & measure (talk about size (length) and patterns)
EAD – Exploring & using media & materials; Being imaginative

Teddy bears picnic

We love picnics! Get the children to help design and write invitations. They can help plan the menu and maybe even make some bunting or other decorations. Maybe all the children could bring in a teddy from home and talk about them with their friends on your setting and you could all then have a teddy bears picnic together!

Bug Den!

Activity idea bug denIn June, The Wildlife Trusts challenge us all to Go Wild for 30 Days. Also in June, Save the Children hold their annual Den Day  and 5th June is World Environment Day – so why not combine the three and build a fantastic bug den!

Although early autumn is an ideal time to make time to make an insect home as that is when they will be looking for somewhere to hibernate for winter, early summer will be good to as the children will be able to actually go on a bug hunt to see the future residents of the den. Remember most insects like cool, moist conditions, so build the den in the shade.

Let the children be creative with their bug den – they could use recycled or natural materials, or ideally a mixture of both. Ideas include:

  • Corrugated cardboard (rolled up inside a plastic bottle) will attract lace wings
  • Rotting logs will attract woodlice, spiders, fungi, centipedes and wood boring beetles
  • Hollow stems and canes and logs with holes drilled in them are ideal for solitary bees to find shelter
  • Stones, tiles and broken crock pots will make a good home for snails, slug, frogs and newts
  • Hay, straw and dry leaves will provide shelter for insects to burrow and hibernate
  • Use old pallets or planks of wood to provide the different layers within the bug den

Woodland Trust’s Nature Detectives have a number of activity sheets that will help you with your bug identification:

EYFS links:

PSED – self-confidence & self-awareness: Encourage the children to explore and talk about their ideas for the den; offer help when they ask; enjoy the children’s success with them
CL – understanding: Talk with the children about the activity and ask for ideas on what needs to be done, talking through the different stages together
PD – moving & handling: Teach the children to use tools safely
L – reading: Help the children find books or resources to help with bug identification
M – shape, space & measure: Encourage the children to use mathematical names for 2D and 3D shapes as they use them in their designs and buildings
UW – the world: Help the children to understand the world around them and the needs of living things
EAD: being imaginative: Allow the children to design the den and to find the materials they need

As well as the Nature Detectives website above, you might find the following webpages useful:

Lost Sock Memorial Day: The Joy of Socks!

Odd socks activityWe’ve all got them – odd socks! So let’s celebrate them!

Socks are a fantastic learning resource, whether they come in a pair or are the ones that remain after their partners in crime have disappeared who knows where!

We are sure you can come up with some ideas of what you could do – sock snowballs, sock puppets, matching socks, making a Fox in Socks, magnetic sock fishing, turning into clothes for toys, who can wear the most socks…. The list really could go on and on!

Here are just a few of our ideas, each of which we have linked to a single area of learning and development from the EYFS.

Asking questions such as, “I wonder what it would feel like if you were lost?”PSED: Managing Feelings & Behaviour: Children can talk about how they and others show feelings

Using sock puppets for the children to put on a puppet showPSED: Self-confidence & Self-awareness: Children are confident to speak in a familiar groupSock puppet activity idea

Share a story involving socks – CLL: Listening & Attention: Children listen to stories

Pegging socks on a linePD: Moving & Handling: Children show good control and co-ordination in large and small movements

Race to put socks onPD: Health & Self-care: Children manage their own basic hygiene and personal needs successfully, including dressing

What rhymes with socks?L: Writing: Continues a rhyming string

“Ten odd socks hanging on the line”M: Numbers: Knows that a group of things changes in quantity when something is added or taken away

Sock puppetsEAD: Being Imaginative: Children represent their own ideas, thoughts and feelings through design and technology, art, music, dance, roleplay and stories

Children’s Mental Health Week – Emotions

Children’s mental health week falls in February (

In October 2016, Time to Change reported, “Half of teenage boys in the UK would not feel comfortable talking to their dads about their mental health (including stress, anxiety and depression)“. Click here to read more.

In November 2016, Childline reported on the change in issues being raised by children and this included many relating to mental health – particularly on the subjects of depression, anxiety, unhappiness and low self-esteem. Click here to read more.

Childminders and other early years’ practitioners can help all children learn to express their feelings and continue to feel comfortable and have confidence in finding a significant other to discuss these feelings with.

We are therefore suggesting that you help children to understand and talk about emotions to Children’s Mental Health Week.
Activity Emotion TemplateMake an emotion dice from cardboard. We have drawn some common emotions. Obviously you could use different emotions and / or you could use photos of children or emojis instead of drawings.

Take turns to roll the dice. Talk about the emotion you roll.

Things you could discuss include:
What makes you feel …?
How does being … make you feel?
Where in your body do you feel …?
How can we help someone who feels …?
When did you last feel …?
What does feeling … make you do?
Activity emotion cubeAlternatively, just use the dice to ask children how they are feeling today.
Choose different times of the day to discuss emotions: after lunch a child might always feel sleepy or they might always be happy when they know they are about to go outside!

EYFS Links:

PSED: Managing Feelings and Behaviour (Children talk about how they and others show feelings, talk about their own and others’ behaviour)

PSED: Self-confidence and self-awareness (Children say why they like some activities more than others)

CL: Speaking (Children express themselves effectively)

CL: Understanding (Children follow instructions involving several ideas or actions; they answer ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions about their experiences)

Resources useful in helping children manage their anxiety:

Anxious Child (Mental Health Foundation)
Anxiety and Phobias (Young Minds)
Worries and Anxieties (Royal College of Psychiatrists)
For Children: Types of Mental Health Issues (Childline)

National Science & Engineering Week: Painting Ice with Salt and Watercolours

British Science & Engineering Week is all about getting people of all ages enthused about science. Getting children interested from the youngest age in fun activities will help do just that. There is a wealth of information about different activities and events going on during the week. See ice paint 1

This simple experiment requires you to freeze two containers of water – a sandwich box or ice-cream tub is ideal. You also need table salt, water colour paint and a large white tray / plate / bowl.

When you are ready to do the activity with the children, get the ice out of the freezer and tip it onto the white tray or plate. The ice is going to melt, so make sure you can collect the water. Ideally the tray / plate / bowl will be white, so that the children can see the different colours.

Before you start, talk with the children about what the ice feels like (cold, smooth).

Ask the children to sprinkle one of the blocks of ice with some salt. Listen! What do you hear?

Now, using water colour paint, ask the children to paint designs onto the ice blocks.

What is the difference between the ice with salt and without salt?

You should find that the ice with salt melts faster. The paint then goes down into the crevices that are made as the ice melts, making different patterns within the block of ice.

Talk with the children about what happens when the different colours of paint in the melted water mix – what colours result? What does the ice with the salt added feel like now?Activity ice paint 2

Salt makes the ice melt faster because it lowers the melting (freezing) point of the water. The same principle is used when we grit the roads or paths in the winter.
The noises that are made when the salt is added are the ice cracking. This is because in the areas where the ice melts due to the salt being added, it expands while the bulk of the ice core remains cold and doesn’t expand – resulting in the cracks and crevices. The ice that did not have the salt added will melt more evenly, so will not crack in the same way.

Give the children ice cubes to experiment with and add small world play to extend the learning. You could even make some ice lollies.

EYFS Links:

  • PSED: Talk about:
    • How to keep warm in winter
    • Taking care on slippery ice
  • CL: Language to introduce could include:
    • Cold, colder
    • Slippery
    • Melt
    • Freezing point
    • Smooth / spikey
    • Crevice
  • CL: Follow instructions
  • CL: Respond to what they hear and see with relevant comments and questions
  • UW: Talk about:
    • Why is the ice getting smaller?
    • Melting and freezing – which melts first (salt or no salt)
    • Make ice lollies
    • What animals live in cold places?
  • PD: Control and co-ordinations in small movements
  • EAD: Talk about the colours the paints make as they mix together when the ice melts

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