Life can get pretty hectic, right? Some days I feel as if I have only just stepped out of bed and already half the day is gone! That's why I have put together these 5 minute play ideas! All of them can be set up in under 5 minutes, while still engaging and developing key skills for your toddler.
They're also perfect for when life gets in the way and you need a few minutes to fold the washing, unpack the dishwasher or finish that coffee before it gets cold (yeah, right!)
Each one features some of our wonderful wooden animal resources, but you could of course swap them out for whatever your child is interested in, such as cars, dinosaurs - whatever you have!
Grab a few animal figures and some paper (brown paper, newspaper, old letters, used wrapping paper… anything will work!). Wrap each animal in paper and present them to your child for unwrapping.
Unwrapping each figure requires the ability to grasp a tiny part of the paper (using a pincer grip) and pull. This develops muscle strength and fine motor control, both of which are necessary for mark making and writing.
If your child is older, you could use some brown tape to tape the paper down (like a birthday gift). This will make it more challenging.
Matching an animal to the outline.
Simply hide some animal figures in a box of sensory ingredients, such as rice or shredded paper and ask your child to search around and find a figure. Once they have found one, they can match it to the correct outline on the paper. You can draw around your own figures onto a sheet of paper or to save even more time, print off our ready-made templates!
This is a great STEM activity (if you aren’t sure what that is, check out our blog post on the subject) because it helps build on the mathematical knowledge of shape and size. It’s also a fun way to explore different sensory textures and works on fine motor control as they carefully position each animal on its outline.
To adapt this for older children, you could draw around only part of each shape or include an extra one and ask them to find the ‘odd one out’. You could also use tools to pick out the animals such as tweezers. This helps develop hand strength.
Who lives here?
Create two different sensory bins to represent two different habitats. This could be as simple as blue rice for the sea and green rice for the land, plain white rice for the Antarctic or sand for the beach, leaves for a forest and blue paper for the river... the possibilities are endless and you can make use of anything you already have at home!
Gather some animals from each habitat and ask your child to sort them by putting them in the correct bin. This helps develop problem solving skills and is great to build vocabulary as you discuss with your child exactly why each animal belongs in each place.
For older children, try using animals such as a crab which would go in the water or on the land. This will be a great talking point! You could also throw in some anomalies that do not belong in either and see if they can spot the mistake.
Grab a selection of nature items such as sticks, leaves, cut grass, dirt etc. Allow your child to transform them into a play scene to play with. For example: Can they create a forest for their deer to hide in?
This is a great way to explore colours, shapes and the world around them. Would we see grass up here in the sky? It is also a great way to explore how habitats change through the seasons or to compare different animals. For example: start with a deer and then swap to a rabbit. Where would the rabbit go in this picture? Why? Deer live above ground, rabbits live underground!
For older children you could allow them to add their own objects by drawing them onto paper. They could also collect the items themselves on a family walk and use them later for the activity. It is also possible to use an empty box with a side cut away to make a 3D model instead of a 2D representation.
You can add a selection of loose part resources to make it even more engaging!
Let’s get stacking!
Balance a few animal figures on top of each other and take a photo (or use our range of FREE printable stacking photos), then present your child with a copy of the image (you can display it on your phone if you don't have a printer) and a selection of animals. Their job is to recreate the photo by balancing the correct animals on top of each other.
There are so many skills being used in this activity! First, they need to identify which animal is featured first in the image. This takes a lot of cognitive power as they examine shape and colour and compare a 2D photograph to a 3D image! Secondly, they then need to use visual and special awareness as well as fine motor skills to balance the correct animal on top of another one.
For younger children, you could ask them to identify just one animal from the image. As they gain confidence, you can move on to balancing two animals one on top of the other, then onto three animals and so on. They will love the challenge of recreating your stack and eventually the stacks can become a lot more complicated! You could even build on different surfaces such as the arm of the sofa without letting them fall off!
I hope this gave you some ideas of quick and easy play set ups you can use every day! Have any other ideas? Leave a comment below!