Thank you for visiting our website!

Playing and talking together, having fun, a listening ear and loving kindness – that’s all our young children need from us to learn and develop right now. This website has lots of ideas for play and learning, or for if you have concerns about a child’s development too.

These pages are created by people living and working in the Highlands of Scotland, but everyone is welcome to use them. You can find out more about us using the About menu

Play ideas

If you are looking for ideas how to help young children learn at home through play, scroll down! Or search using the tags.

Help with children’s development

If you are looking for more general information about early child development and how to support this, then please use the menus above, or go to this link

Ready for school?

Starting school is a big change for a child – and for their family!

People often wonder or worry if they will be “ready”

But we don’t need to worry. In Scotland there is a single stage of curriculum that covers both nursery and P1 so there is less change involved than people often think.

Also schools are experienced at getting ready for the children, and many now use much more play as part of the learning process, with just as good results

Keep calm and ditch the worksheets!

It’s also the time of year when supermarkets start selling “phonics kits” and boring worksheets with sums to do and letters to copy

Don’t bother with these! Instead here are some fun and playful ways you can help your child prepare for school

You can find them on these posters – there is one each for reading, writing, maths and wellbeing




Wellbeing & Health

Try it on!

Most families have some clothes they never wear at the back of the cupboard. It might be an old coat, a hat, or a jumper.

Children love dressing up and trying things on. Especially things that don’t fit well (a huge hat can keep them laughing all morning), or that help them imagine.

You don’t need to buy expensive costumes. A blanket can become a cloak, a knotted scarf a pirate’s hat

There is a lot of learning going on. Children try out different roles, different versions of themselves. Being brave as a soldier, or caring as a nurse.

And there is lots you can do to deepen the learning just by talking about what you see, and adding vocabulary. “What a scary ghost!”

Touch and feel!

Think of all the different surfaces and textures you encounter every day

There is the cold, smooth feel of a saucepan; Or the hard but also giving feel of a packet of pasta.  Or the way different temperatures of water feel, or frozen peas, or the squidge of a cushion

You’d be amazed how long your child can be happy playing about with some pasta shapes on a table top or the floor (you’ll need to decide whether you can cook with them later, probably not!).  Or making some mud shapes and pies outdoors in a bucket or a puddle.

But also how much they can learn.  Not just about how the world feels, and the different shapes.  It also develops their finger and hand skills – very important for helping you cook the pasta, but also the foundation of later writing and all that comes with that!

Anything will do.  If you can set up a sand or a water tray, fine.  But just exploring some of the things you have around is just as good.  If you can chat with them about what they feel and help them compare, then even better.

Don’t worry about mess (although do plan where and how you are going to make the mess).  Your child will enjoy, and learn from, helping you tidy up and getting everyone clean again.

Keep an eye out for safety and don’t let under-5’s explore small things independently in case they try to swallow them!

Being choosy!

Every day we make hundreds of choices without even noticing – getting out of bed, having another cup of coffee, or deciding the potatoes are probably done

What adults forget is that children need to learn to choose.  Otherwise we get stuck, or flit about, or feel out of control

So today’s post is all about how to be choosy.  Offer your child small choices they can manage.  “Do you want apple or banana?”  “Show me how much milk you want”

And look at what toys etc you have out.  Is there so much it is hard for your child to choose what to do, so they keep changing?  Or are they making a mess looking for the one thing they want?  Can you help them say what it is, and to find it?

A great place for learning to choose is outdoors.  There is so much interesting to do, to look at and to chat about.  So if the day seems to be getting stuck, get the coat and wellies on and out you go!

Small chefs, big learning

It is sometimes easy to feel that the work of feeding children is never done

No sooner have they claimed they don’t have room for another bit of veg, than they want a snack

As well as fuel, snacks are great ways to learn.  Here are just two things:


It’s a good chance for a chat.  Sitting next to each other, or at the table, is a great way to talk.  Doesn’t matter what about, let your child lead and respond to what they have to say

You can find some tips for chatting here if you want to know more


The second thing?  Preparing the snack develops those fine motor skills.  Maybe they can help lay out the things, or stirring.  Or have a go at cutting some fruit or veg, or opening the packet.  It might take longer or need a bit of tidying up, but it pays back in learning and in being together

A bonus bit of maths

OK, a third thing!  Putting out one cup for each person, or one spoon for every plate is a brilliant foundation for later maths.  It’s called one-to-one correspondence and is used eventually in counting and even in algebra

Tastes good, too

Snuggle and squeeze!

Most homes have a cushion or two, some blankets or a duvet cover.  Very comfortable, but also brilliant ways for young children to learn

Feeling bad?  Give the cushion a good hug.  Squeeze it as hard as you can, it doesn’t mind.

Feeling overwhelmed?  Make a den out of a sheet and a broom handle, or a pile of cushions.  It can be a place to chill out, feel safe, read a book or watch what everyone else is up to!

Feeling bored?  How many times can you wrap a sheet or blanket around yourself.  How many times round your mum or dad?  They can count along with you.  Oh, and don’t forget to spin as you unwind it

So we’ve learned about feelings and how to cope, about building things and a little science and maths too.  Not bad for a rainy day

Feed the birds!

The weather may have got a bit warmer, but there are lots of hungry birds around

So today’s idea is all about learning about caring for nature – and also a lot of planning and construction skills along the way

There is something about feed birds that makes us feel good too, so once the hard work is done, you can sit and watch the birds come and go.

Don’t worry if your child is not that interested making the feeder (though they may well want to help) – you might have more fun taking bread to ducks, or just putting out some crumbs.

Wiggly Woo!

A chance to get wiggling at the same time as learning all about words and sounds

Lots to explore too – can you find a worm (be gentle if you do)? Where do different animals like to live?

You can draw wiggly worms (really good outside with chalk or on sand or mud with a stick) or make some out of play dough

If you don’t know the tune or words, they are all on the sheet, with some fun videos too.

If the links on the pdf don’t work, then they are here:

BBC cartoon version

Mr Tumble with signing

Making tracks

Something today that you can do indoors or outside and can be done big or small depending on how much space you have to play with

If you’ve got some snowy slush or melty mud outside today, this is a great way to make it useful – or you could make some stepping stones across puddles

Making and then following tracks is a great way to build spatial awareness, and to learn the words and language connected with it.

There are lots of ways to do this – painting with cars on paper, making stepping stones outside – or just watching as a bike swooshes through a puddle

Pancake Day!

Even if we want to, we can’t spend the whole day eating pancakes – I know, I’ve tried!

There is lots of play, talking and fun we can have around pancakes though – planning, shopping, making, making some more …

So today we have some pancake-themed ideas including a couple of lovely stories to help calm everything down.

Walk with your ears!

There are all kinds of things we love to do outside – walking, jumping, running around. But how often do we walk with our ears?

And sometimes we don’t have time for those things, because we have to get to the shops, or are running to get out of the rain!

There is so much going on to notice and learn from, and it takes no more time than what we were doing anyway.

Cutlery Clattering

Who would have thought there was play and learning to find in a cutlery drawer?

First of all, there is curiosity to develop – many children love to have a nose around in a drawer

Then there is classifying, describing shapes, learning to be safe with sharp things, how to wash dishes (that’s a useful skill …)

All by helping you with a boring chore – do it for as long as you or your child is interested

Sing a rainbow

Looking out the window, I have freezing fog right now, so I thought a bit of colour might be nice today!

Rainbows are even more special right now as a sign of hope and the love and care we have for each other

The great thing is, even if there isn’t one in the sky – you can sing your own!

Today we have a lovely song that helps your child learn about colours and rhythms. But it is also a really comforting one to sing or dance to together

Lots of play ideas for drawing and for finding out too. If you’ve still got some snow, then you might enjoy making some Rainbow Snow

Scottish Book Trust have done a nice version with Makaton on this link


Oh no, George!

We all get things wrong sometimes, so today we have a story about a dog who really tries his best

But it just does not go his way. Cakes are so tasty, and mud such fun to dig!

It’s a lovely story to read along with your child and enjoy

While you do this, they will be learning words, how stories work, how to make predictions (science!) and how to have fun by sharing experiences

And you can have some interesting chats about when we are naughty and it is OK to do our best even if we get things wrong sometimes. (Clue – yes, it is)

Or if you just want the story, it is here, with thanks to the Book Trust

Bouncing balls

Something active for what looks like another cold day.

This is not “just” bouncing and passing balls. Your child will learn a lot of science and maths – counting, how things move, forces.

Lots of words as well for describing movements, as they also develop their coordination skills. Great for sports, but also for school – hand/eye coordination is really important for writing, and a sense of space is vital for maths

But that’s for the future – click below for some ideas how to have fun, involve the whole family and learn at the same time. And if you still have a lot of snow about, then making and throwing snowballs is just as good