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.

Autumn/Winter Ideas, how many can you tick off?

All activities should be supervised by an adult. 

Go for a walk to pick apples, make a simple apple crumble. Make a picnic and eat it together (inside if its too cold). Have an autumn scavenger hunt, looking for fir cones, conkers etc. Make a sensory box using the items found on your scavenger hunt. Kick your feet through crunchy leaves. Create a pet using a fir cone and googly eyes. You can make it a bed using a box and leaves.
Go for a walk and collect leaves then make a picture with them. Make a drum kit out of pans and spoons. Go on a bug hunt. Snuggle up and share a book together. Visit your local library. Learn a new nursery rhyme.
Jump in muddy puddles. Make a rocket using a toilet or kitchen roll.  Close your eyes and listen to all the different sounds you can hear in your house. Make jewellery from dried pasta and string, you can paint them too. Sit together on the floor and play with toy cars and vehicles, you could draw a road on some paper—how big can you make it?  Sit on the floor and draw together.
Sing nursery rhymes and dance together. Made a model with rubbish from the recycle bin. Do a jigsaw together. Snuggle up and watch a film together. Choose a letter and see how many things you can find in your house starting with it. Make some play dough.
Go for a walk and listen, what sounds can you hear?  Play a game of snap. Go on a conker hunt. Make a shaker out of a bottle and rice. Find 5 things that are brown. Plant some bulbs in the garden or in pots.
Play I spy. Bake some cakes and decorate them. Find 5 things that are red. Wrap boxes and items out of the recycle bin in wrapping paper or newspaper, then unwrap them. Paint a picture using washable finger paints (recipe below). Go to the park
Make some worms from spaghetti. Make decorations with no salt dough (recipe below). Build a snowman (fingers crossed for snow). Make an indoor den and read inside it. Bake some simple biscuits.  

Messy Play ideas

Messy play is essential to children’s development. Children love to play in water, with paint and to explore different textures. This is messy play! It helps children develop their senses and their imagination as they play freely. It is also good for their physical development as they prod, poke, squeeze and roll with their hands and wrists. So dress your child for mess and let them learn as they have fun!

No Salt Dough


  • 3 cups of self-raising flour
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • Food colouring/food flavouring

What to do

  • Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix
  • When it forms a dough, tip on to flour covered surface and knead
  • Add more flour or water as required

Washable Finger Paints


  • 1 cup of plain flour
  • 4 cups of water
  • Food colouring

What to do

  • Mix the flour with one cup of water in a saucepan until smooth. 
  • Add three more cups of water and cook on a medium heat until it thickens and bubbles.  
  • Reduce the heat, simmer stirring constantly.  
  • Add food colouring and allow to cool.  
  • Put into a bowl and use as finger paints.

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.

Use your local library services

Libraries are open for you to choose your own books again! 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.

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, 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.