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Games to play with your child – aged 2-5 years

Boy flying a paper plane he has madeBy this age, children are getting quite skilled at entertaining themselves and making up their own games and activities. But there are still opportunities for parents to direct play – especially when it is raining outside or kids claim they are bored.

It isn’t always easy to know what games you should play with your children aged 2-5 years. What are age-appropriate games that are simple to set up and to understand? What games can you play that will offer opportunities for learning?

Here is a list of low-cost activities for each stage of your child’s development courtesy of Playgroup Australia.

Games to play with your child age 2 – 3 years

Walk and Stop

A great game for practicing listening skills! This can be played inside or outside and encourages children to try different ways of moving their bodies. Sing (you might have heard this song on Play School):

You walk and you walk and you walk and you stop.
You walk and you walk and you walk and you stop.
You walk and you walk and you walk and you stop.
You walk and you walk and you walk and you stop.

When the children hear ‘Stop!’ they should freeze until the song starts again. Other movements can be sung in the song too, like skip, hop, run, dance, jump, or wriggle.

Making instruments

  • Hooters – cover end of a cardboard cylinder with paper with a hole poked through – children can blow or sing through other end
  • Rhythm sticks – cut two 20cm lengths of dowel for hitting together
  • Sandpaper blocks – cover two small timber off-cuts with sandpaper and rub together

Play your instruments along with your child’s favourite music.

Simple Puzzle

Glue a picture from a magazine onto a sheet of cardboard, and cut the picture into a few pieces. Help your child to learn how to put the pieces back together again to make the picture.

Drawing

Children at this age will appreciate the chance to draw with different materials, such as crayons, pencils, and felt-tip pens. They could also trace around objects such as round plastic cups, or leaves etc.

Games for your child aged 3 – 4 years

Word games

Make a routine activity fun – maybe in the car or while cleaning – by playing word games with your child. Help them think of rhyming words, words to describe an object, beginning or ending sounds, or opposites.

Window art

On a gloomy rainy day, use window paints or wet chalk to decorate the windows. Colourful rainbows will brighten up the day, and will be easy to clean off later!

Potato Prints

Cut some potatoes in half, and then carve some simple shapes into the flat sides (such as a square, triangle, or a star for the more adventurous). Put out a wide, flat container with some different coloured paints and some paper, for some wacky potato masterpieces.

String Magic

Dip a piece of yarn or string into glue and place it on construction paper in an interesting pattern. Let it dry overnight, then your child can colour inside the spaces between the yarn to make an interesting design.

A Bear Hunt in the Park!

Children love to pretend, and this song will give them an opportunity to move around and explore the park or backyard. This can also be played sitting down with the actions in brackets.

Bear Hunt
Let’s go on a bear hunt. (slap hands together)
I see a wheat field.
Can’t go over it. Let’s go through it. (brush hands together)
I see a bridge.
Can’t go around it. Let’s go over it. (slap hands together)
I see a lake.
Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, let’s swim. (arms swimming)
I see a tree.
Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, let’s go up it. (climb with arms)
I don’t see any bears, (look around)
Let’s go down.
I see a swamp.
Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, let’s go through it. (pull hands up and down slowly)
I see a cave.
Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, let’s go in. (slowly slap knees)
I see two eyes. I see two ears.
I see a nose. I see a mouth.
Yikes! It’s a bear!!!
Let’s get out of here. (reverse movements very fast)

Alphabet Fun

This is fun, but not always easy! Help your child to make the letters of the alphabet by using their body. This will help them learn the shapes of the letters, and move their body.

Counting

This activity can help your child to improve counting and fine motor skills. You can use a variety of objects for sorting and counting – buttons, rocks, or pasta. Pasta can be dyed with food colouring for colour matching and counting.

Paper planes

Help your child fold paper planes, and have them decorate the planes brightly. Take the paper planes outside and see how far they can go.

How to make a paper plane instructions

Games for your child aged 4 – 5 years

Natural Object instruments

Go for a walk in a local park and collect natural objects to make sounds eg. small branches, leaves, seedpods, and stones.

Musical Stories

Act out a musical story like ‘There were 10 in the Bed’ – place a blanket or rug on the floor and get children to lie in a line. Children roll off the blanket one by one till they have ‘all rolled out’!

Sand Painting

Provide your child with coloured or black paper, and cotton buds or frayed sticks etc for smearing glue onto the paper – then they can sprinkle sand onto the glue to make interesting patterns.

Branch Weaving

Explore outside for small branches and other objects like leaves, feathers and bark. Children can wind brightly coloured wool around the branch, and then weave other objects through the wool – even scraps of coloured paper and cloth.

What’s the Time Mr Wolf?

For this game, you (the wolf) stand with your back to your child, with your child standing a few metres behind you. Your child says ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf?’, to which you reply ‘xx.. o’clock’, with the time you say being the amount of steps they take towards you. The child’s aim is to get past you before you respond with ‘Dinner time!’, when you turn and chase your child!

Pretend Play

Kids love to pretend, and can make use of a few simple objects to have a great time. You can inspire hours of fun inside or outside by providing various sized cardboard boxes, blankets and sheets (great for making cubbies), hoops, or old dress-up clothes etc. If you’re outside, you could use wooden boxes and packing crates, chairs and tables, or a short ladder etc under careful supervision.

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