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National Week of Play 2024 – Simple low/no cost activity ideas

Stuck for ideas on what to do today? Choose from one of our simple, low-cost/no-cost activity ideas below and see where the magic moment adventure takes you!


A cloudy day

toddle in jeans, trainers and red hoodie splashing in a puddle

To you, it is a sign of rain that will prevent you from going out, or getting the washing dry.

To your child, it is a puddle maker for sploshy splashy fun outdoors, or a question yet to be answered: “What do clouds do? Where do they come from? Where do they go?”

Take time today to watch the clouds with your child, and if it should happen to rain, get those waterproofs on, and have some magic fun together.


Glorious mud

childs hands squishing mud in a bowl in grass

To you, it is a stain that will never come out, no matter how many times you wash it!

To your child, it is a carefree opportunity to play in glorious mud. To squeeze and squelch it between their fingers, to watch it dry slowly on their hands, to make memories of favourite play that will last a lifetime.

Mud has many benefits – so instead of discouraging muddy play, let your child explore mud. It is good for their immune system, encourages brain activity and stimulates the small muscles in their hands that are vital for pencil control.


Pebbles and stones

child's open hands both holding pebbles

To you, it is just a stone, one of thousands, a potential hazard, not to be thrown, put in the mouth, or taken home.

To your child, it is different from the other stones. Something about it intrigued them enough to want to keep it for a while. Maybe it was the pattern, or shape that made them stop and look? A stone could be a dinosaur egg, a treasure, or something to be concealed in a pocket, to be examined time and time again.

Next time your child picks up a stone, look at it carefully together. How does it feel, what shape is it, what colours can you see, can you find any more interesting stones? Take them home and paint them or make stone creatures with googly eyes. Compare and contrast, count, or just collect, whatever you do will be magic!


Switches, buttons and dials

white mother and child paying with a toy telephone

To you, it’s the umpteenth time you have told your child to leave the washing machine alone.

To your child, buttons and dials are intriguing. They are developing important skills… understanding about cause and effect – if I press this, then that happens!

So let them press the buttons to help you next time and watch what happens after they have pressed it – the sound of the water, the swoosh of the drum turning, and just think of the science they are learning!


A stick

white toddler in yellow winter coat and jeans holding a stick in a wooden den

To you, it’s a hazard, to be handled with caution: it could hurt somebody or damage something; it should be left alone.

But actually, children are really drawn to sticks. They are versatile, with different shapes, sizes, lengths texture, smell, colour which all make them individual and special. A stick can be a wizard’s wand that can transform you into a toad, or make sunshine on a rainy day; it can help you to poke around in a pile of leaves or under a stone and find hidden treasures; it can be a unicorn horn, a walking stick, a conductor’s stick…

To you, it’s a hazard, to be handled with caution: it could hurt somebody or damage something; it should be left alone.

Tie some old string, wool or ribbon to it to make it look extra special!


The beauty of bare feet

toddler child's bare feet on a climbing wall

To you, it’s the umpteenth time you have put your child’s socks back on.

To your child, bare feet are a sensory experience. Just as they use their hands to explore, children use their feet in the same way. Grass and mud feel amazing between the toes, and mud makes wonderful squelchy noises.  And if you are lucky enough to find a puddle or a small steam, feet can be washed before the socks go back on!


The perfect package

Two white toddler children playing and colouring in a large box

Have you ever found that your child is more interested in the box that a toy came in, than the toy itself?

When we think of toys for children to play with, we often think of shop-bought toys that ‘do’ something, but young children have an inborn curiosity which means that exploring everyday objects is just as exciting to them. A box can be a castle, a fort, a spaceship, a house, a den, a fire engine … in fact it can be anything!!



Yuk, a worm!

white toddler in grey trousers and white vest crouched an squishing mud

Worms are actually very important for our environment. But does your child know why?

Worms help to increase the amount of air and water that filters through the soil, break down organic matter and help to create the healthy earth that is needed to grow plants.

You can just look at worms and handle them ……..or you could make your own wormery – Find a large plastic box, with a lid, and put some small holes in the bottom and the sides, and a bit of newspaper in the bottom. Add some earth or compost, then add some food like tea bags, banana skins, vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, best its small or chopped up so the worms can process it faster. Add a bit of old paper or old towel on top, then put the lid on … and wait for the magic to happen!


Starry night

“Mystery creates wonder, and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”

Neil Armstrong.


Look up at the night sky and take a moment to talk about what you see… Can you spot the ‘man in the moon’ or start constellations or patterns? The night sky can open up a world of imagination and possibilities for conversation.

Who lives there? How did they get there?  What will they eat?  What will they do?

Can you put the moon in your pocket?

Or for older children:

Did you know that the sun and the moon seem to be the same size when you look in the sky because even though the moon is much smaller it is the moon is much closer to Earth than the sun…?


Web of wonder

spiders web on black bckground

Find a spider web and look at the patterns, especially with the morning dew glistening.

Maybe you could talk about why spiders build webs or how they make them, see where the conversation goes, can you find more webs?

Can you find any with insects caught inside them?


Pots, pans and percussion

Black mother and child smiling at the camera

Why not make a kitchen band? Use pots, pans and wooden spoons to tap and sing along! It’s a great way to promote children’s communication and language skills while having fun together.

Alternatively, why not have a kitchen disco? Turn on the radio or some music and dance to your favourite songs! Not only is it great physical activity, it also allows children the opportunity to hear the rhythm of music and express themselves, so let your hair down and dance like nobody’s watching!!


Picture perfect

White blonde mother and her child laying down and reading a book smiling

Look at some photographs together, and talk about memories made, maybe look at photographs of you and other family members as babies and talk about what it was like for you as a child, this is a great way of storytelling by reminiscing about memories made in the images.


Pop to the shops

White family with two young sons in supermarket aisle. Both sons in the trolley

For you, it is a chore.

For your child, it is a world of adventure and learning!

Shopping for groceries can feel like a challenge with a young child, but it can be a great way to introduce new words and make it an exciting learning adventure.

For younger children, notice what they are looking at and name them, or ask them to look for, say, a ‘red packet’ … and for older children, give them their own shopping list and ask them to help find things!


Time for a towel

Two Asian boys washing a baby doll in a paddling pool

To you, they are just towels; something to dry your hands on.

To your child, they are a picnic blanket for a teddy bear’s picnic, a trampoline for bouncing soft toys on, a cover for a ‘sick’ doll while the doctor looks at her, a den for the teddies, a cape… the list is endless.

And of course, add a bowl of water and suddenly it’s a bath experience for dolls and farm animals..!


And don’t forget…


Take a moment (or ten!) for you!


As parents and carers, we can sometimes forget about our ourselves, but looking after your own wellbeing is essential.

Take some ‘me time’: read a book, have a bath, go for a run or try something new! Children learn from those they love, and trust so not only is looking after your own wellbeing good for you, but it also models to your child how important it is for them too!


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