"Children don't need more things. The best toys a child can have are parents who get down on the floor and play with them." Bruce Perry.
A child starts to learn language from birth - they watch the shapes you make with your mouth and copy the sounds. Keep background noise to a low level, such as the television, so that your child can clearly hear your voice. Sit facing each other to sing nursery rhymes. Pre-school aged children need to build up the number of words they use. Involve them in lots of conversation within your daily life to increase the their communication skills and knowledge of the world.
Physical development is so much more than running around. Pre-school aged children need to build their strength. To be able to hold a pencil, a child needs the muscle strength in their hands and arms to hold it.
Let your child carry things to increase their strength; can they help you put the shopping away?
Play dough is excellent for hand strength. Let your child make it themselves to increase the fun; flour and water kneaded in a bowl, add food colouring or herbs to stimulate their senses.
Numbers are all around us in our daily lives. Before you turn the page of their bedtime story book, point to the number at the top of the page for your child. Point out the numbers on front doors, car registrations or price labels at the supermarket.
Help your child learn to count; how many plates do we need on the table? There are two spoons, how many more do we need?
Shapes are all around us too. Help your child to recognise shapes around your home. What shape is the window? Can you see a rectangle in the kitchen?
Children learn best when they are able to discover for themselves.
Help them learn about gravity by rolling a ball down tubes. Placing water in dishes into the freezer, taking them out the next day and feeling them melt will help them understand how properties can change.
Lift up plant pots or stones in the garden, how many creepy-crawlies can you find under there?
Packets of cress seeds can cost little. Place some cotton wool in a small dish, scatter on some seeds. Every day, let your child moisten the cotton wool with a little water. Watch the cress grow, let them cut it and eat it, perhaps put into a sandwich.
Although it's good fun, art doesn't have to be messy paint.
Create pictures using dry pasta on a tray or twigs and leaves on the path.
Use decorators' large paint brushes and water to write on a brick wall or ground.
Children love junk modelling. Don't throw away those tubes, small boxes, plastic bottles, foil dishes or plastic tubs. Give children a roll of masking tape as it's easier for them to tear.
Keep some of that annoying junk mail. You could let your child cut out the pictures, with children's scissors, and use a glue stick to stick their cut-outs onto card. No card? You could use the back of a cereal box.
There is nothing more special than reading a book with your child. A time to sit close and follow the Gruffalo through the woods, run with the Gingerbread Man or hide from the Wolf in the brick house with the Three Little Pigs.
Books can be low cost from charity shops or free from the library. We have our own library here at the pre-school; borrow, swap or donate.
Dads and Granddads can have a huge influence on getting children, especially boys, interested in reading and writing. How often does your child see you reading and writing? With your child alongside you, you could write a shopping list, a to-do list, write a letter to yourselves and post it or keep a family journal.