Fun activities for toddlers: Water

Toddlers love water – pouring, stirring, splashing and even throwing it! A paddling pool in your back garden is great fun, but sometimes the weather just isn’t warm enough or you don’t have the time to set it all up then clean up afterwards.

Here are some quick and easy water activities that you can try even on cooler days. Just put on waterproof clothing if it’s a little chilly outside.

1. Bucket of bubbles

This simple activity keeps my toddlers amused for ages. Get a clean bucket (adult-sized) and half-fill with water. Add a good squirt of washing-up liquid and stir the water vigorously with a hand whisk or similar. Keep going until the bubbles are getting near to the top of the bucket then add a selection of cups, bottles, spoons and funnels in various shapes and sizes. Toddlers love scooping up bubbles, pouring them, trailing them across the ground and even making cappuccinos!

2. Water containers

Fill a selection of bowls and buckets with water and place around the garden. Add some cups, pans and bottles and your toddler will carry cups of water from one to the other. You could even put a few spots of food colouring in the buckets.

3. Water painting

Give your toddler a bucket of water and a clean paintbrush (the type you’d use for decorating your house), then let them ‘paint’ paths, fences, walls or anything else they fancy!

4. Washing dolly’s clothes

Have a miniature wash-day with a bowl of bubbly water and dolly’s clothes. Then give your toddler some pegs and a washing line to hang the clothes on.

5. The bath

If the weather is just too cold, give your toddler an extra-long bath-time instead so you can both stay warm!

Have you got any quick and easy water-play tips for toddlers? Please leave us a comment!

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Reading with toddlers: why it’s essential for lifelong learning

It’s never too early to start reading with your child. The Bookstart scheme (which provides free books at three key stages before a child starts school) has shown that parents who introduce their babies to books give them a head start and advantage over their peers throughout primary school. Young babies love the warmth of your company and the sound and rhythm of your voice, long before they can understand the words. Babies can start to learn to enjoy books from birth as you show them brightly coloured pictures and name the objects or sing a rhyme about the picture.

Once your baby becomes a toddler, you’ll find that books become ever more important. Let them pick the stories they want you to read to them – often they’ll want their favourite books over and over, but this is important as they grow and learn. Link what is happening in the story to your child’s own experience: “Look, there’s a train. Do you remember we went on a train the other day – where did we go?” As your child gets older, ask them to describe what is happening in the story, to help develop their own storytelling skills.

Studies have shown, time and time again, how early encouragement of reading leads to improved language and literacy, which in turns leads to academic success and lifelong social and emotional wellbeing.

It’s a heart-wrenching statistic – over half of teachers say they have seen at least one child start school having never been read a story before. The odds are stacked against such children succeeding in life – parental encouragement of reading is the most important predictor of literacy, more so than social class, household income, family size and parental education.

Here are four tips to encourage an early love of reading

1)    Start early – from birth and make reading aloud part of every day

2)    Be a good role model.  Let children see you read to learn information (e.g. a recipe) and see you reading for pleasure. That includes Dads, too – fathers’ reading habits can have substantial influence on their children’s ability to read, their levels of interest and their reading choices.

3)    Have a wide variety of books always available to your children. Wherever possible, choose a children’s bookshelf where the books face forwards as toddlers select books by looking at their covers.

4)    Join the library and visit regularly. Encourage your child to choose what books they would like to take out.

Encouraging an early love of reading provides the best possible foundation for lifelong success and happiness. Curling up together and sharing a book is a hugely rewarding activity that creates a lasting bond and lays down precious childhood memories.