Setting a creative environment

Setting a creative environment in Early Childhood, will empower our tamariki through Play by exploring and putting their imagination into action, and strengthens the emotions during and after transitions. Tamariki can experiment and be introduced to working in groups to share and use materials together in new and innovate ways.

This will create and develop concentration, practicing skills especially fine motor skills, a sense of belongings, and to have the ability to solve problems and confidence to take risks. To understand concepts, shapes colours, numbers, say one or two more words, using self-expressions in lots of fun, enjoyment with different activities set up. For example: messy play, painting, gloop, water and play dough.

The purpose of this is that our tamariki gain new skills by understanding and achieving good positive behaviours and will continue to influence their learning throughout life.

Ministry of Education (2017) says that Providing a rich environment for the tamariki where they are able to see themselves as explorers.

Why is scissors cutting skill so important?

In the Tui room, all the tamariki have access to the scissors at any time of the day. They can easily grab it from the art corner with a magazine or a piece of paper. Cutting is a fun, relaxing activity that the children love to do, whether is cutting out a picture in a magazine or simply cutting a line or shape on a piece of paper. The educational outcome from cutting with scissors is much more than just fun. There are so many benefits that a child can get from cutting with scissors.

Fine motor skills

Cutting engages three fingers at the same time, thumb, forefinger and middle finger. It requires children to open and close their hand continuously while holding onto the scissors with these three fingers. This motion creates a perfect workout to build up the muscles in children’s hands. It is important to work on these muscles because they are also used for holding a pencil or pen to learn to write and draw.

Hand-eye coordination

Cutting involves seeing, analysing the visual input, and hand-eye coordination to cut out the outline of an image. It boosts a child’s hand-eye coordination which plays a crucial part in self-help skills such as feeding themselves, putting on their shoes and clothes.

Bilateral coordination

Bilateral coordination is the ability to control both sides of the body at the same time in an organized way. It is tricky for a child because each hand is understanding its own task. Cutting, in this case, requires a child to use scissors with one hand while the other hand is holding onto a piece of paper and turning it around to get the right angle. Practising bilateral coordination is beneficial for a child’s self-care skills such as zipping up a school bag or jacket.

If your child is transitioning to primary school and has showed interest in writing, cutting would be an excellent activity to build up the foundation for writing skills. Start with something easy like cutting a line and then move to cutting out some shapes with smooth angles. Please remind your child to hold the scissors properly, and always have the thumb pointing up.

Easy cooking activities for toddlers

10 easy cooking activities your kids will love!  

At Play Learn Grow our teachers are experts at getting creative, having fun and providing messy play environments for our tamariki.    It is much easier in our West Auckland ECE environment where we have the resources, the space and plenty of patience!  But there are also fun ways at home you can introduce cooking and food to your children that don’t involve so much mess! Below are 10 fun activities that also help to develop your toddlers fine motor skills, literacy and numeracy too.

  1. Measuring

Pull out the measuring spoons and teach your children how to use them.  You can do this with any ingredients in the house and your kids will love it – compare sizes and weights (small/large/heavy/light etc)

2. Pouring

Learning to pour accurately is a great tip to learn and works our fine motor skills.  You can do this with water or any other liquid you have in the house.  Play a game and try not to spill any water when you pour between bowls and vessels.  You could even try making ice blocks which they can enjoy once they freeze.

3. Stirring

Stirring ingredients is a basic cooking skill children can learn while they are young. If you get them involved while they are young, this is always a good task for them.  It also gives their arms a good workout!  Any recipe will do that involves mixing with a large spoon.

4. Preparation

Find an easy recipe and read it aloud to your child.  Then you can walk through the preparation steps with them before baking gets under way.  Understanding the importance of preparation before starting an activity is an essential life skill to learn.

5. Planning

Talk and include your children when it comes to meal planning.  Ask them about the meals they eat– breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks etc, and then have them help you write the shopping list or check the fridge/pantry to see what ingredients you already have.

6. Food washing and preparation

Get your children to help washing or peeling vegetables or other ingredients.  The more hands-on experience they have with certain foods the more likely they will be willing to try it.

7. Recipe creativity

Talk with your children about the food tastes that they like, and let them come up with some creations themselves. My children love to add cheese to any savoury meal, and love coming up with different smoothie ideas and crazy names like the ‘green monster’. 

8. Try something new

When you go to the supermarket, ask them to chose a new fruit or vegetable that they can add to a recipe.   Let them select one new thing to buy – on the condition they have to try it!

9. Fastfood at home

There’s no avoiding the love most children have for fast food, but you can adapt this by making a ‘happy meal’ at home.  I do this with the children’s lunch box – cooking chicken nuggets or mini burgers using other things I have in the house.  It’s much healthier and the children are just as excited by their lunch box dinner as they are by a trip to McDonalds!

10. Colours of the rainbow

Have fun by finding all the colours of the rainbow in your kitchen – they can be in food, utensils, appliances, plates and bowls..anything that you can find.  Be careful of the sharp objects with little ones though.

The benefits of learning a second language

Here at Play Learn Grow we embrace biculturalism, multiculturalism and diversity at our centre.  There are so many ethnicities found in our suburb of Kelston, it provides a wonderful opportunity for our tamariki to learn about them. Language is often the best place to start.

We are so proud to have staff and children from many different cultures and that speak more than one language (Te Reo, Samoan, Tongan, Chinese, Hindi, Fijian, Russian – just to name a few!). 

We incorporate Te Reo into our daily life at Play Learn Grow and our children love it, especially the singing.  There are so many benefits to introducing our children to different languages and cultures.

And it is never too early to begin learning a language: it’s fun, it promotes healthy development, and the many cognitive and social benefits will last a lifetime.

As a parent, you do not need to know a second language yourself, there are so many online resources to help you.

Here is a helpful link for te reo for example:

Write out simple words, post them around the house and use them when communicating with your child.   Learn a few expressions yourself and use them in everyday life at home.  Remember singing is a great way too to teach our children, so google the most popular toddler songs in the language of your choice.  You should find yourself some great catchy examples, even some well-known English songs that have been translated into other languages. 

Here are just some of the reasons why learning a language puts your child at a significant advantage:

1)It gives them a head start

Children who are exposed to another language before age five use the same part of the brain to acquire that second language that they use to learn their mother tongue. Younger learners are also uninhibited by the fear of making mistakes, which is sometimes an obstacle for older beginners.

2)The earlier they start, the longer they stay!

The length of time a student is able to devote to learning a language has a direct and positive correlation to cognitive development. Longer sequences also provide the opportunity for learners to grow alongside the additional language and culture, developing a deeper connection as they mature.

3)Feed Their Brains

Research shows that learning a second language boosts problem-solving, critical-thinking, and listening skills, in addition to improving memory, concentration, and the ability to multitask. Children proficient in other languages also show signs of enhanced creativity and mental flexibility.

4) Boost Their Academic Achievement

The cognitive benefits of learning a language have a direct impact on a child’s academic achievement. Compared to those without an additional language, bilingual children have improved reading, writing, and math skills, and they generally score higher on standardized tests.

5) Nurture Their Curiosity, Cultural Sensitivity, Empathy, and Tolerance

Children who are exposed early to other languages display more positive attitudes to the cultures associated with those languages. The experience of learning a language introduces them to the world in ways they might otherwise have not experienced.

6) Don’t Hesitate: Go for Two… or Three

Surprisingly, young children are not confused by the introduction of multiple languages at the same time. Not only do they naturally navigate multilingual environments, but acquiring a second language early in life primes the brain to learn multiple other languages, opening a world of opportunities for later on.

Bored Jar

Kia ora whānau.  Auckland is in level 3 lockdown again. If you like a sanity-saver to keep your child entertained, the bored jar can help you out.

Kaiako has create a list of  30 activities that our tamariki love to do at preschool. They are fun and easy to set up. You could create a bored jar with 30 ideas or simply let the children pick one fun thing from the list.

Kia kaha! We will get through this. Take care everyone.

  1. Water the plants/lawn.
  2. Clean the toys and keep all the germs away.
  3. Make a magic potion from things you find in the garden. Think about its magic power.
  4. Get a paint brush and a bucket of water. Paint with water on the fence, outdoor wall or concrete.
  5. Use chalk to create a hop scotch on the drive way.
  6. Take a walk outside and pick up some rocks. Bring them home and paint them.
  7. Make a paddle out of paper plate and stick. Blow up a ballon and play ballon tennis against each other.
  8. Get a bucket of soapy water and a sponge/cloth to wash the car/bike/scooter.
  9. Lie a blanket on the ground outside and watch the clouds. See what kind of shapes or pictures you can make out of each one.
  10. Make a mask out of paper or paper plates.
  11. Build a fort with blankets and chairs.
  12. Tie dye an old t-shirt.
  13. Lie down on the ground and draw around your shadow in chalk.
  14. Create a collage painting with old magazine, newspapers, scissors and glue.
  15. Do some yoga poses or meditation.
  16. Fizzy science experiment with baking soda, vinegar, food colouring and droppers. Mix vinegar with food colouring and then drop it into a tray of backing soda.
  17. Do you know the box of LUX flakes at the supermarket in the laundry isle? Whisk that with warm water and leave it turns to slime!
  18. Make play dough.
  19. Crush chalk and add some water. Use it to paint concrete/ fence. It can be washed off with water.
  20. Shut curtains, turn some music on and have a dance party/ disco.
  21. Find different kind of leaves and grass and bark, put on a peg and use to paint with.
  22. Wheels day, draw starting lines, middle lines and park on the concrete for a track.
  23. Put plastic animals/ dolls in warm soapy water for a bath (added bonus of cleaning them).
  24. Ballon painting, put a bit of water in a ballon then tie it up with a piece of string and use it to stamp paint.
  25. Fill a spray bottle with some coloured water. Spray onto a piece of paper to create artworks.
  26. Listen to an audiobook.
  27. Laser game. Tide strings around the furnitures to create an obstacle course. Crawl, roll, jump around the laser but do not touch it! Play mission impossible theme on the background.
  28. Find a cardboard box and make it into something really cool (robot, house, a ramp for toy cars to run ect).
  29. Go for a bug hunt in the garden.
  30. Scavenger hunt. Make your own scavenger hunt or print one off online for free.

Cold water play dough



Measuring cups


Two cups flour 

One cup salt 

tsp oil (cooking oil of any kind)

Colour of your choice/or no colour 

One cup of water from the tap (cold). 


Pour two cups of flour in a bowl, add one cup of salt and then mix with your hands together. Add oil (1tsp) and mix again, add colour (if you want colour) and then one cup of water. Mix all together. 

An easy recipe which is great for home, especially when it can be difficult to keep young children entertained on a wet day and it’s something different from technology! You can use utensils, baking equipment and items around the house for children to roll, make shapes and craft the play dough into different things. 

We find that our children love to help make the play dough here with the teachers, and often want to part take in every step of making the play dough. 

When making the play dough, if you find it’s too sticky just add a little more flour, and if too dry just add a little more water and your on your way!

Let us know your feedback on how you went if you made the play dough at home! We would love to see your photos. 

Tracing with leaves

Tracing leaves:

This is a fun art activity you can do with your toddler that doesn’t involve much mess!  All you need are some leaves, paper and crayons.


Collect leaves of various shapes and sizes. You can use fresh leaves or dried fallen ones.


Place a leaf with its bottom side facing up.


Put a sheet of paper, preferably thin or lightweight, over the leaf.


Rub the side of a crayon gently on the area over the leaf.   As you do this, you’ll see the coloured areas start to take the shape of the leaf.


Remove the leaf from under the paper. This completes the basic steps for making a leaf tracing.


Make more leaf tracings using other colours and different leaf shapes.

Celebrating Chinese Language Week with Young Children

New Zealand Chinese Language Week was being held in 2020 between 20 and 26 September. Here are some learning experiences that we engaged with our children in the celebration of Chinese Language Week.

Learning simple Mandarin phrases

Mandarin is the official language in China and also the most widely-spoken language in the world. Our tamariki in the preschool room are keen to learn some simple phrases that could be used in the daily conversations. These phrases are 你好 Nihao – Hello,  再见 Zaijian – Goodbye, 谢谢 Xiexie – Thanks, 不客气 Bukeqi – You are welcomed.

Experiencing paper cutting

Chinese paper-cutting, or jianzhi (剪纸), is a folk art that originated in China around the sixth century AD. Our tamariki love being able to fold the papers and then cut out any shapes they like. When they open up the papers, they become beautiful paper cutting artworks that could be used to decorate the windows. Kaiako are blown away by tamariki’s creativity.

Drawing Chinese zodiac animals

The Chinese zodiac, known as shengxiao (生肖), features 12 animal signs in this order: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. The characteristics of the animals are said to influence the personalities and behaviour of the people born in the year that animal represents. Our tamariki learn about their zodiac animals which are Monkey(born in 2016) and Goat (born in 2015). They enjoyed drawing their zodiac animals and reading the  animals’ personalities.

What learning is happening here?

Our tamariki are fully engaged with the celebration of Chinese Language Week. It is a great opportunity for them to experience Chinese language, believe and cultural practices. It helps our tamariki to develop an understanding of cultural diversity and the appreciation for differences.

Fun with Cutting and Collage

Kia ora .
I would love to share an idea that is easy to set up at home and I have seen children enjoying this activity at the centre.

All you will need is old magazines, scissors, glue, paper or small boxes. Encourage your children to tear or cut pieces of images from the magazines and then glue them onto the paper or a small box.

Children can choose their favourite pictures from the magazines, cut them out and then paste them on a card. They will love to arrange the images to create a special pattern. This is called collage painting and children really like doing this. There is lots of learning happening with this activity,
where children are developing skills like cutting, gluing and sticking, being
creative and learning about design, pattern-making, dimension and
If you want to make this activity more challenging, draw a simple pattern like a heart shape, butterfly or a tree. We can make it look interesting by cutting out lots of small pieces and pasting them onto the paper. We need to be more patient for doing this, but it is great to be creative and practise on their attention span, as well as their fine motor skills, such as where to place their pieces of paper.

Don’t worry too much about the end product. It is more about the process and how they got to the end!

Keeping it simple

The lockdown period has been challenging for everyone.  Some because they are lonely and don’t have enough to keep them busy, and others because their household has never been so busy!  Most if not all of our families will fall into this second category, because besides work and many other responsibilities – parenting is a full-time job in itself.  Having little ones and keeping them entertained can seem completely overwhelming, but there are a few simple rules you can apply when spending time with your children.

The first and most important one is keep it simple!  Don’t over complicate play time.  The simplest activities are often the most enjoyable.  For instance last night I went ‘moon hunting’ with my two pre schoolers in the buggy before their bedtime.  It was the highlight of their day seeing the colours of the day sky meet the night sky and the big bright moon shining up above us.   It was a real sense of adventure for them heading out in their PJ’s after dinner and bath.  15 minutes of uninterrupted time for them to ask me all sorts of questions.  The fresh air also helped me a lot, and I forgot about all the tantrums they’d had throughout the day and the mess they’d made throughout the house.

Some other ideas:

  • Simple Eye Spy around the garden – I spy something that is red, I spy something with wheels, I spy something that needs water to grow….   This can be kept so simple but can entertain little ones for quite a while.
  • Hide and seek (inside and outside). This is always fun
  • Making a face with the garden leaves outside (all you need is a paper plate and some glue or cellotape). Children love collecting ‘treasure’ from the garden, this is all part of the fun.  Just encourage them to look for facial features (hair, nose, lips, eyes etc).
  • Relay exercises. Running to the wall and back, skipping to the wall and back, hopping to the wall and back, crab walk to the wall and back, star jump to the wall etc.    It wears them out and they love it.
  • Making a cubby house with any boxes you may have at home (nappy boxes are a good one).  You can also use chairs and put blankets over as a roof.  This can be fun to play in, and a nice area for little ones to have their lunch or morning tea.

The second rule is the importance of quality over quantity.  When your child is struggling to play on their own, is pulling at your ankles, or even throwing things on the floor and yelling and screaming– quite often they aren’t misbehaving, they’re just wanting some uninterrupted time with you. Sometimes stopping what you are doing (even if you are in the middle of dinner preparation or cleaning the bathroom!) and sitting down with your child for 5 minutes and playing with them will set your child on a different course for the rest of the day.  It’s the ‘time in’ principle.  So often when our kids misbehave, we send them to ‘time out’ when really what they need is ‘time in.’  5-10 minutes of play with you is the fix they need (that’s no phone, no sending emails or facebook, no folding washing at the same time!).  They have your attention and to them that is the most important thing in the world.  By engaging with your child without any other distractions around, they’ll often carry on playing by themselves quite happily as they have had their ‘fix’ of mum and dad that they were so desperately wanting.    And that allows you to get on with other important things.  Remember quality over quantity, 5-10 minutes goes a long way!


It’s important to be kind to yourself parents!  You are doing your very best, under very stressful circumstances and uncertain times.  You are not a trained teacher, and it’s perfectly normal if you feel that this whole parenting gig is not coming naturally.  It is hard work!  We can’t wait to lighten your load when we re open, and help you navigate your way through this new ‘normal.’  Until then – remember to keep it simple with your children, and that ‘time in’ goes a long way.