Help get your child ready for school with chat, read, sing and play.

Chat, read, sing and play

A child’s language development begins long before they start school and is shaped by the people and places around them. Every interaction between you and your little one is a great opportunity to fill their world with words to support them to learn. Bath time can be a great time to sing a song together, sharing a story at bed time can settle them for sleep and a trip to the library will enable you to choose a book to take home and share together.

They love it when you chat, play, sing and read with them, even when they’re too young to understand everything.

On this page you’ll find ideas for simple activities to do with your child from when they are born and as they get older, right up to being nearly school age.


Babies are learning as soon as they are born and love the sound of human voices. All babies start babbling from an early age – it’s their way of communicating with you. Encouraging this helps them learn to speak. At this age, your baby will like repetitive games, moving about with you and listening to you responding to their babbling.

Chat - Speaking to your baby helps them learn about the world around them. It also prepares them to learn to chat back. It’s never too early to chat.

Read - Reading to your child helps them learn to talk. Looking at books together is fun for your baby, even when they are very little.

Sing - Songs help your baby learn about language. Try singing during routines that take place throughout the day. Observe your baby’s responses to music played at home - does the music comfort them and encourage them to move?

Play - Your baby starts exploring the world straightaway through tastes, sights and sounds. Playing helps them get stronger, become more coordinated and learn new things.

Fun activities to add to your routine

Let your baby splash at bath time. Talk about what's happening and how it feels. Say the same words and do the same actions over and over - things like pouring water on their feet and saying, 'Wash, wash, wash your toes.'

As your baby approaches their first birthday, they’ll start enjoying songs with actions, rhymes and picture books. These help them learn to speak, move and observe things.

Chat - Help your baby get used to the world around them by talking about it while you’re out and about. 

Read - Even before your baby can speak in sentences, reading to them helps them develop. They learn to concentrate, look at pictures, and start building their vocabulary.  Picture books help your baby learn about the world while having fun.

Sing - Sing regularly with your little one and use a wide range of songs and rhymes.

Play - Bubbles are a fun activity for curious babies.

Fun activities to add to your routine

Play together with fabric books that have different textures. Try scrunching the fabric to get your baby’s attention or stroking their hands with the fabric. Name the objects you are playing with and talk about how they feel.  Sing lullabies which are simple, soothing and repetitive – for example, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Twinkle twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are

At this exciting time, your baby will be learning to say words and maybe starting to walk. This is a good time to comment on what your child is doing to help them learn new words and help them choose toys and games.

Chat - Babies and toddlers can understand a lot more words than they can say.

Read - Looking at books together helps to get your child chatting.  You can support your child's interest in books by letting them choose their favourite and reading it together.

Sing - Allow time for your little one to anticipate phrases and actions within familiar songs.

Play - Playing ball games helps your baby with their coordination and eyesight.

Fun activities to add to your routine

Say or sing rhymes with actions where you tickle and touch your little one – for example, songs like Round and Round the Garden.

Round and round the garden
Like a teddy bear
One step, two steps
Tickle you under there

Toddlers learn a lot during this time, so it’s good to listen to what they are saying and talk to them, let them make choices about what they like and encourage them to play nicely with others.

Chat – Meal times are good opportunities to get your little one chatting about what food they like.

Read - A quiet time in the evening is a good chance to check in with your child.

Sing - Repeat songs- children learn songs through repetition.

Play - Looking at toys together - during play time, see if you can get your child chatting and paying close attention to toys.

Fun activities to add to your routine

Simple activities like playing ‘I spy’ in the car or on the bus can really help set your child up for school – you can see their imagination light up.  It also makes long journeys more fun.

Fun things to do this Summer

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Go on a listening walk and count all the sounds Paint a picture Play I Spy Go to the park and hunt for mini-beasts Make homemade lemonade Watch the clouds and talk about what shapes you can see Read some books together
Bake some biscuits Sing nursery rhymes and do the actions together Play a game of ‘snap’ Look and listen for 3 different types of bird Make a drum kit out of pots and pans Get the paddling pool out Mark out a hopscotch in chalk
Pretend to be a mole lying on the ground to get a “mole’s eye” view Bake some cupcakes Build a den Go for a nature walk in the woods Dance to your favourite music Play with a ball in the garden Make a picnic then eat it together
Make a den in the house on a rainy day – outside if fine Go paddling in a stream Find 5 things that are green Have a mini sports day Go somewhere pretty and take some photo’s Make some play dough Play a board game
Choose a new word for today - see how many times you can say it Visit the park Have fun with water! Play dress up Draw pavement pictures with chalk Make models using boxes from the recycling bin Plant some herbs
Play with some toys together Play a game of musical bumps or statues Bake rice crispy cakes Have a ‘treasure hunt’ Have a movie afternoon ‘Paint’ on the outside walls with water and a big brush  

Making Play Dough

You will need:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • Water (cold)
  • Oil (optional to keep it soft)
  • Bowl for mixing

How to make

  1. Mix the flour, salt and a spoonful of oil, in a bowl. 
  2. Add water gradually, kneading the playdough together, taking turns, until it forms a ball. 
  3. Add food colouring, herbs such as mint or lavender or flavourings (from the baking aisle). 

Making Biscuit Dough

You will need:

  • 250g Butter
  • 140g Sugar
  • 1 Egg yolk
  • 2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 300g Plain flour

How to make

  1. Mix 250g softened butter and 140g caster sugar in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, then add 1 egg yolk and 2 tsp vanilla extract and briefly beat to combine.
  2. Sift over 300g plain flour and stir until the mixture is well combined – you might need to get your hands in at the end to give everything a really good mix and press the dough together.

You can also  download a copy of the summer activities table (pdf / 3 MB).

Use your local library services

Reading to and with your child supports wellbeing, develops imagination and has educational benefits too. Just a few minutes a day can have a big impact on children of all ages. North Yorkshire Libraries offer a wide range of books and audio books, from strong brightly coloured board books ideal for babies and toddlers, picture books, easy readers, story and fact books for all ages  and recorded rhymes and stories.

Libraries are open and welcoming families back! You can come along and choose your own books again and even spend time sitting and reading to your child in the library if you’d like to. Regular library activities, such as story-time sessions, will have to wait a little longer though. We are eager to gather you together to share stories again and we will do as soon as we can. Story times are the best part of our day. Children bring libraries to life!

With the pandemic, we know that not everyone is comfortable about spending time in the library choosing their own books, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out. You can request books by calling or emailing your library and one of our library team will hand pick your choices and arrange for you to come and collect them at a time convenient to you. If you aren’t sure what you want, give your library a call and tell us how old  your child  is and we will chose some suitable books  for you. The books will be ready for you to collect from the library entrance and you’ll be able to borrow the books for three weeks.

Opening hours are still limited at some libraries, so please check times at our library and record office services during coronavirus page.

If you can’t visit your local library there is a great Digital Library Service with loads of audio books to listen to and ebooks for you to read with your children. Ziptales is designed to make sharing stories fun and there are also comics for all ages to enjoy. Go to the digital library to see what is on offer.

All you need is your Library Card Number and Pin. If you don’t have this, please call 01609 533878 and we will help.

Don’t forget to follow your local library on Facebook to keep up with what is happening, find out when in-person events start again, enjoy virtual story times and loads of other activities.

Further useful information

You can find more information, ideas and activities from the following websites:

  • Tiny Happy People - develop your child's communication skills through simple interaction and play.
  • Hungry Little Minds Campaign - Simple, fun activities for kids, from newborn to 5 years old.
  • Small Talk – ideas and activities from the National Literacy Trust.
  • I CAN – for more information about children’s communication.
  • A Better Start – for more information about building young brains.
  • NSPCC provides free ‘brain-building tips’ for children.

You can also read some articles that have been written regarding why you should Introduce your pre-schooler to the joy of reading or how North Yorkshire’s Early Years providers are to help young children settle back into childcare.