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Play is the way!

Young children learn best when they are playing. Especially when they have chosen the play, and they are leading the play. This is when their little brain is firing-they are motivated and enthusiastic!

If you are not following any of my ideas, but your child is happily playing, then that's amazing! Please don't feel you need to force them into doing anything I have suggested. This will just cause you, and them, too much stress!

The aim right now is that they are happy, healthy and safe. They're not at Nursery, they're at home, and you know best about what motivates and engages them!



Here are some ideas you might find useful for extending play and keeping little ones engaged for longer (giving you 5 minutes peace!) These are things I would have tried with mine when they were little...


  • I would have tried to go on a walk every morning, to the park, or at least go outside in the garden or for a short walk. Then once back kept them going until lunch. After lunch they would have then been tired enough for a nap, or just to watch a bit of TV peacefully…
  • Physical activity! By keeping them active for a while, they’re more likely to be tired later. This also releases endorphins and makes them feel happy! Try putting on different music for them to dance to (Agadoo and Superman by Black Lace are favourites in Nursery) and you could also try any YouTube videos where they need to copy a dance. Tell them they need to practice over and over ready for a show later!
  • Make a den. Children love to den. And all you need is a sheet or blanket. Then encourage them to take toys in there, picnics and books. Once they get bored of it make one in another room.
  • Provide a tinker tray. This could have ANYTHING in. Nuts and bolts, screws, pegs, bottle tops, hair clips, paper clips, old jewellery, buttons, curtain rings. Children love keys if you have any old ones! Empty your bits and bobs draw and have a look. Add and change as children lose interest.
  • Make little small worlds with their favourite toys.  Small world play refers to small figures, vehicles, animals and creatures which represent the world in smaller form. Think animals, Happy Land, cars, trains, superheroes.
  • Dinosaurs

Add dinosaurs, pebbles, leaves, twigs, grass


  • Vehicles

Add transport, pieces of wood, blocks, Lego


  • Farm

Add animals, tractors, mud, pebbles, grass, twigs, resources to make fences (straws, little bits of wood)


  • Home

Add people, any furniture, blocks, Lego


  • Construction

Add diggers, people, pebbles or cereal to dig


  • Trains

Add trains, people, bits of track, wood, pebbles,


To any of these you could also add different scraps of material and paper, foil (makes good ponds and rivers), buttons, bottle tops, small boxes, yoghurt pots.


If you want to contain the play give your child a tray or shallow box to play with the resources in.


  • Go to the bottom of the toy box and get out toys they haven’t played. Put away some other toys to keep for in a few days/weeks. The novelty of a toy they haven’t used should keep them engaged for a while! Do the same with books-put some away for a later date. We are happy to lend out books from Nursery-let me know if this is something you are interested in and I can pop some round.
  • Provide a cardboard box-the bigger the better! Or lots of boxes/containers.
  • Provide pots and pans and spoons. Children will mix thin air! For a sensory but not too messy experience provide dry pasta.
  • Give your child paper and sellotape
  • Get out scarves, shoes, bags and hats for dressing up (adult size)
  • Give them money to play with, and a purse/bag. If you have a money box they might spend a while posting…
  • Make a puddle in the garden or out on the street. Get them suited and booted and leave them to jump. They will do this for a long time…Have you got their wellies at home? Happy to pop them round!
  • Give them a tape measure and let them go measure things
  • Get out photographs of them. Young children love to look at themselves!
  • Make a shop-get out tins and packets and let them set up shop on the table, floor or shelf
  • PLAY WITH WHAT YOU HAVE! Don’t think that this time has to be about making stuff or buying stuff. Just add things you find around the house to your child’s play. Like…egg boxes to put people in, ice cube trays to fill with small items, Tupperware containers (let them try to open and close lids), cake or muffin tins to fill (with anything!) Adding new, “grown up” stuff will keep them engaged as they explore and investigate, giving you a little time!
  • Writing Centre

Set up a writing centre which can be left out or packed away. Add anything you have! for example...

-different paper

-different pens

-old diaries/notebooks/calendars/scraps of paper


-hole punch


-paper clips


-glue sticks

If this is packed away in a box it can be transported outside

Again-we are happy to provide pens, paper, glue sticks, child scissors, paper clips if this is something you don't have at home and can't get right now