Child playing in backyard

Our top 10 ideas for backyard play

Unstructured outdoor play is the best for children in the early years.  

If you have a back yard at your home, take your child outside for as much of the day as weather permits. If you don’t, follow social distancing recommendations while enjoying some outdoor time.  

Why not try some of the following activities while soaking up all the benefits of outdoor play?  

  • Half-fill a large basin/bucket with water and add an old paintbrush. Encourage your child to make patterns on the concrete with the water. Add bubbles for some messy fun!
  • Make a mud kitchen, using old pots and pans or utensils that you no longer use in the kitchen. Encourage children to play and get messy
  • Provide your child with pavement chalks and explore and create some street art for your back yard. Or make your own chalk puffy paint with our recipe here. [link to learning hub resouce]
  • Blow and chase bubbles together using a dishwashing liquid and water mix, experiment together to get the right mix, and items with a bubble-blowing hole. Design and make a bubble blower out of some straws or wire or pegs. 
  • Play games together such as ‘What’s the time, Mr Wolf?’
  • Go on a listening walk, listen for the sounds and guess what these are.
  • Search for caterpillars and butterflies, along with any other bugs you can find. You could use your phone to research the names of these with your child and even set up a ‘bug hotel’ in your garden to encourage bugs to come and visit. 
  • Create a fairy garden or a gnome garden, inspiring imagination and creativity (look at Pinterest for ideas). 
  • Make your own obstacle course using simple items that are available, such as hula hoops, play tunnels and stepping stones. Set up different stations and make it a challenge for the whole family!
  • Start your own vegetable garden together, taking inspiration from the vegetable gardens at some of our own centres, and making sure to take regular care of the plants together. Children love anything that can be picked from the garden and used in meals, such as herbs, tomatoes and strawberries!  



child playing

What your child learns when they play

By: G8 Education Team 

For children, play is serious learning. Play gives children time and space to explore, experiment, and create. Through play, your child learns and practices literacy and numeracy skills, physical skills, vocabulary, and cognitive skills including concentration, memory and problem-solving.  

Playing with blocks or Lego™ is a common activity for children at home and in childcare centres. While fine motor skills usually come to mind in terms of the benefits of block play, there are many other benefits for your child such as developing foundational numeracy and scientific skills, along with new vocabulary. The many benefits of block play for your child’s learning and development can be seen here:  


Blocks and Lego™ are examples of open-ended materials. Children are naturally innovative and creative, and love to play with materials or items that are open to plenty of possibilities.  

Cardboard boxes become planes, cars, trucks, swimming pools, spaceships, zoos, hotels and so much more. Sheets or towels become cubby houses or hammocks. Stones, leaves, sticks and other natural materials become artworks as children arrange them within a frame or out on a footpath or grass. Wool or string become a maze as children stretch and tie long pieces across the lounge room, hallway or the backyard to move over, under, through and around. Everyday activities involving play with open-ended materials provide foundational skills for later learning in a range of areas.  

Your home is full of rich materials for children to explore; from pots and pans in kitchen cupboards, to small boxes your child can fill with treasures. Allow your child to lead the play and delight in their discoveries. Listen to their ideas and questions and use everyday moments to help them make connections in their learning.  

It is important to slow down with young children. Listen to what your child is saying through their actions and words and consider how you might respond to support your child to extend their interest or to think deeper.  

Children are always learning when they play. As an adult, you play a critical role in facilitating and building on play opportunities to help your child develop foundational skills for learning and their overall development. You are your child’s first and most important teacher. Play provides both of you with the vehicle or context through which your child learns best.  


Staying healthy & active while working from home 

By Karla Gilbert 

Karla Gilbert is a former Ironwoman, a mum of two girls and a certified Level III and IV Fitness Trainer. She knows exactly how to keep your whole family active, even in difficult times! Enjoy her top tips below… 

While we move indoors to manage the threat of coronavirus, working from home with limited time outdoors has brought a significant dose of new challenges. Dealing with work deadlines, juggling home-schooling and keeping your insanity in check can send the best of us into routine meltdown.  

As we adjust to this new norm, working remotely takes some planning, self-awareness and a certain amount of flexibility to retain the lines between work and personal life. Getting your work done is important for businesses, but staying mentally and physically healthy is just as important for at-home workers 

Here are some strategies to survive... 

Be realistic 

With young children in the house, it can be challenging as it requires us to be hands-on. Aim to be flexible with your work hours which may mean beginning the day a little earlier than usual, before the kids are up, to get a head start on things. 

Set up a craft activity station next to your workspace so your child can actively (and hopefully quietly) amuse themselves while replying to emailsand save the screen time for periods in the day you prefer not to be interrupted, perhaps a conference call. 

Pantry dilemmas 

Have healthy snacks on hand such as fresh fruit, herbal teas, boiled eggs, yoghurts – and enjoy a snack with the children or take lunch out on a picnic rug in the garden to reconnect before diving into work again.  

Schedule breaks 

Take regularly 15-minute breaks to refresh your mind.  Bounce on the trampoline, catch up with a loved one on the phone, or just simply step outside and take in the sunshine. Try to refrain from staying seated in front of a screen all day and don’t lose sight of still trying to reach your targeted steps in the day through incremental movements. An easy way to keep track of this is to set reminders on your phone or downloading an app such as the ‘Work Break Timer’. 

Create a sustainable workspace 

If you don’t have a dedicated workspace and need to remain mobile around the house to be close to your child, remember to think long term.  Laptops may be versatile, but they are generally placed much lower and we tend to bend forward at the waist and curl over to look at the screen, which causes lots of back and neck issues. Over a period of time, this can lead to muscular strain which is not ideal.  

If you use a laptop then it’s important to raise the screen up to eye level, even if that means using a pillow while aiming to keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees.  

Don’t forget to move each day 

Realistically we now may have more time up our sleeve each day as we are not commuting, taking the children to extracurricular activities or attending meetings. Prioritizing some physical activity whether it is an online yoga class, walking the dog, visiting the beach for a run or swim (1.5m distance) is important not just physically but for mental health to retain a perspective on what may be an overload of information during these times. 

Click here to check out some of the best online work outs to do with the whole family. [link to other hub piece]  


5 clever ways to tempt fussy eaters  

By Karla Gilbert   

Karla Gilbert is a Nutrition and Health Coach, a mum of two girls and a certified Level III and IV Fitness Trainer. Enjoy her top tips below… 


The fussy eater. It’s a story as old as the hills and something that touches most of us during the early years of parenting. In fact, winning over fussy eaters is almost like a parenting rite of passage.  

It seems hard to swallow (pardon the pun) that something as simple as eating can be such a laborious, time-consuming, energy-draining event. We expect the art of putting food in their mouths to come easy to our little ones, but like any other life skill – whether it’s potty training, walking, reading and writing – eating the right foods is a learned behaviour that requires guidance, direction and perseverance.  

Here are my five top tips to tempt the fussy eaters in your family, especially during times where you might be spending more time at home, getting frustrated over meals.  


Make it familiar 

Have you ever heard your child say ‘I don’t like it’ when they haven’t even lifted a morsel to their mouth? This is usually in fear of something new.  

Begin to introduce your children to new food in a different way before you serve it on the dinner plate. So, for instance, use celery bases for dipping into the paint and making flower shapes, or beetroot to cut shapes into and use as a stamp. Let them get messy and personal with all their senses to increase familiarity.  


Watch the sugar 

Fussy eating can be mistaken for simply not having an appetite. The first thing to do is cut down on sugar between meals.  

How will this help, I hear you ask?  

Well, kids riding a sugar high is a rollercoaster we need to stop. When your kids eat something sugary, they end up hungry again after 30 minutes as glucose/insulin levels rise on eating and then quickly fall once the sugar has been digested, so they ask for more food. This continues up until dinnertime as parents give into the child’s repeated requests.  

Keeping up a running supply of food during the afternoon spoils the chance for them to be genuinely hungry enough to enjoy a nutrient-dense meal – a meal which would hold their satiety levels well until the next meal or scheduled snack.   


Plan your attack! 

Work with your kids and plan your attack. We know ourselves how our moods dictate what we feel like eating, so it’s no wonder some meals are met with a turned-up nose by our kids. It also helps to let them choose in the afternoon between two healthy meals for dinner or even just a choice between the carbohydrate component of the meal (e.g. chicken casserole served with brown rice or potatoes).   

This gives them a sense of control over their meal and hopefully enhances their interest in what is being served up. Try and pre-empt their preferences and reactions and this will save a lot of frustration come dinnertime!  


Invite the fairies /superheroes 

Take the focus off ‘you’ serving the meal and make it fun. You could tell your kids, “Spiderman gets his energy from red foods” (tomato, capsicum, apples, etc.) or “The fairies left a special vegetable to try from their own fairy garden!” (lots of greens).   

You can even make up a cute handwritten note and leave it on the fridge pretending to be fairies/Spiderman/Ben 10… whoever your kid most admires. Say something like, “I thought you would like to try my favourite veggie/fruit.” This will help build excitement and curiosity at dinner.  


Get moving 

How much does your own appetite go through the roof after you’ve been running around outside? For most of us, being hungry means a willingness to adapt to new foods or simply just eat any meal at all. Good old-fashioned hunger!   

So go outside and get huffy and puffy with your children – it’s great fun to spend active time together and will increase those feel-good endorphins as well. Get the meal prepped beforehand, then go race around like crazy for an hour or two and come home to a healthy meal.  


A final note  

Food shouldn’t be a bargaining game; constant negotiation doesn’t create healthy attitudes or ultimately change behaviour. Relax a little and your kids will relax too.   

You can’t replace good nutrition, so continue to be a role model and focus energy towards using your words differently. Taste buds need time to adapt or change, so action the two P’s – patience and perseverance!  


Check out some of our favourite recipes to make with children here [link to nutrition pillar

How to set up a virtual play date for young children 


There’s nothing quite so joyful as watching children playing and interacting, gradually developing the social skills that will set the course of their life into adulthood. 

Life in isolation offers fewer opportunities for social engagement. Thankfully, you can set up virtual playdates for your child, inviting friends and family to join in –using the same technology that has allowed our centres to connect with children at home 

Children are incredibly adept at navigating the online world but they still need your help to set up dates and also ensure privacy and security settings are in place. 

We’ve summarised some of the most popular sites for children’s play dates and some of the games they can share virtual time together. Not only are they able to keep in touch with friends but a successful virtual playdate helps to develop the same social skills that apply in real life – consideration for others, sharing, and empathy.

  • Messenger Kids
    This Facebook app is easy to use and has reasonable protections in place. Up to eight people can be involved in a free video call which is more than a big enough crowd for youngsters without becoming overwhelmed or feeling left out. Find it here.
  • Google Hangouts
    Google Hangouts has been used successfully by a number of our centres for virtual activities and story time which children at home. It’s great for one on ones and group chats for up to 10 people. Find out more about it here. 
  • Caribu
    For a limited time Caribu is offering free access to Caribu, a video-calling app that combines children’s books, activities and games. Heavily promoted as a way to keep children in touch with grandparents, sharing story time and a range of activities, it also brings little friends together virtually. Read more about it here



Being virtually connected doesn’t have to mean being a slave to the screen. These simple games that are played in real life can work just as well over video. 

Show and Tell 

Each child takes a turn to show off a craft activity, drawing, favourite, pet or the results of a baking session with question and answer to follow. 

Simon Says 

Play it just as you would in real life, with each child getting a chance to play Simon. 

I Spy 

This favourite road trip game can be even more fun in a virtual world with lots of different objects to spy in each child’s screen. I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ….. 

Musical wobbles 

A variation on musical chairs and statues. One child is in charge of stopping and starting the music and spotting the wobblers. The last child standing takes over as master of music. 


The perennial parlour game, charades can be played virtually without too much difficulty. Children take it in turn to act out a character, animal or TV show and the others have to guess 



The Story Seeds Podcast

The Story Seeds Podcast: Heroes and Queens

This week’s Story Seeds collaboration brings together 7 year old creative rockstar Cici and Aram Kim, Elmhurst Queens-based Korean-American author and illustrator of Bank Street’s Best Children’s Book of 2018 “No Kimchi for Me.” Aram Kim helps Cici grow this story seed about:Electric Kitty, a superhero who floats on blasts of light and fights evil electric things that try to take her superpowers.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

The best online workouts to keep the whole family active

We’re all for silver linings, and the stay home orders provide a golden opportunity for parents and children to be each other’s gym buddieskeeping that motivation pumping. 

Many gyms have taken their workouts online or are offering subscriptions to online classes while others have seen this crisis as an opportunity to offer a free public service. 

We’ve gathered up some of the best resources for you below… 

  • Sam Wood was one of the first to offer free 30-minute workouts live streamed at 9am Monday to Friday. He’s joined by wife Snez with young Charlie running interference in his walker. The comments suggest that there are plenty of families tuning in and loving it!  Find them here.  
  • Sydney Kings basketball player Kevin Lisch has produced a short video demonstrating some fun exercises using children and household items as gym equipment. It’s not quite a full workout, but a little nudge to suggest that this can be fun for all. Click here to find them
  • Popsugar Fitness offers a family cardio workout that incorporates games that children love, and has made their online workouts free for a limited time. Find them here.
  • For the duration of lockdown, Yoga Ed’s online yoga classes are free. Their 20-minute kids’ yoga class for ages three to five is easy to follow and you can also explore the site to find classes suitable for older children and adults. Click here to watch on Youtube.
  • Cosmic Kids offers yoga, mindfulness and relaxation videos tailored to children from age three, and you can sign up for a free two-week trial. You can find them on Youtube here
  • We know Sesame Street all too well from our TV screens, but this children’s favourite has a treasure trove of resources to help families through the lockdown. To find exercise videos and other activities, go here. 
  • Sesame Street also offer up a handy resource that combines movement and games for when you have run out of ideas. Find it here.
  • Sometimes children can be a little reluctant to get moving, but combine it with these Disney inspired workouts and you might just win them over! Click here to find them all. 


How to celebrate the little and big moments while self-isolating

Despite large gatherings events and special occasions being put on hold due to COVID-19, there are some things that never get cancelled – such as love, joy and laughter. 

It’s still important to celebrate the little and big moments while self-isolating, and we’ve seen some inventive ideas come out of our centres at this time.  

Greenwood Frenchs Forest, for example, used Skype to celebrate the birthday of a four-year-old who was staying home. They brought together children in the centre to call in, with children on each side of the computer having a cake and candles to sing happy birthday.  

If you are keeping your child at home during a special occasion for them, it’s worth making a call to the centre to see if something similar can be arranged.  

For other special occasions, whether they’re big or small, here are some other ideas to make it a fun time without a party crowd. 


Create a party house 

Like many big moments in life, half the fun lies in the preparation. Spend time with your little one transforming your home into a party house, putting up streamers, blowing up balloons and maybe even tackling a DIY garland for some extra pizzazz. Make you own banner to pin to the wall, cutting out the letters to work those fine motor skills.  


Get baking 

The kitchen is one of the best places to combine creative fun and education – think maths and chemistry as you measure out ingredients and cook up a party feast. You couldn’t ask for a better science lab, melting solid butter into a liquid, blending butter and sugar to form a delicious cream, beating runny egg whites into a sweet solid mass of meringue, or the drama that baking soda adds to hokey pokey.  

If baking isn’t your forte, there’s nothing wrong with a packet cake mix and a little imagination to make a memorable impact. 

Find some great inspiration for fun novelty cakes via the Australian Women’s Weekly website right here.


Virtual Party 

Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangout and Skype can all be used to bring your child’s friends and relatives together virtually. Try to keep numbers to a sensible size so that nobody feels overwhelmed or left out. If close friends and family have sent gifts, save the unwrapping for a moment that can be shared on video. 



In the absence of little friends at the party, you’re it, so it’s best to plan out games ahead of time. The usual fare like pass the parcel, musical chairs and treasure hunt will be perfect if there are other family members to join in. For a smaller crowd, try hide and seek, tag, charades or adopt a theme of your child’s choosing and spend the entire day in character. 


Party entertainers 

Organising a party to please your little one can be hard work but there is salvation if you don’t mind spending a little. There are plenty of party entertainers who have gone online to deliver virtual parties, just have a quick Google to find some Aussie favourites 


Mix it up!  

What better way to cap a memorable birthday than to have a sleepover, with all the family sleeping together in the living room or – if you have a tent and a yard – camping out at home 

The best virtual places to visit with your children


Zoos, museum and art galleries may have closed their doors – but with virtual tours, behind the scenes live streaming and activities specially designed for children at home, there’s still plenty of fun to be found in taking an online visit.

With careful selection, you can steer your child from the virtual to actual activities to extend the learning.


  • Mogo Zoo came close to obliteration in the summer of bushfires and its gates were closed before lockdowns began. But zoo keeper Chad is posting daily Instagram videos with some of the cutest critters you could hope to encounter – and big ones too. Find them here.
  • Melbourne Zoo is live streaming animal action from Melbourne Zoo, Healesville Sanctuary and Werribee Open Range Zoo 24/7. Catching activity can be a bit hit and miss. so best to tune in at feeding times when the animals are guaranteed to make an appearance. Click here to join in the fun.
  • You can catch live videos daily of keepers feeding the animals at 2pm on the Reptile Park’s Facebook and Instagram, or on the website, a series of educational and fun videos with Park Director Tim Faulkner. Find them here.
  • Complementing live streaming of animals from Adelaide Zoo and Monarto Safari Park, Zoos South Australia has collated a highlights package and added a few activities for children. A highlight of this site is a section on how to keep pets happy and healthy at home. Enjoy it by clicking here.
  • Perth Zoo has put some serious thought into rounding out its virtual zoo offering for children with videos complemented by fact sheets and activity tasks, and keeper talks. Find all the fun here.
  • In addition to live streaming feeding time at its aquariums and wildlife parks Merlin has a nifty Education Toolbox featuring worksheets, videos and fun activities. Find it all here.

Art Galleries

Most art galleries around Australia have responded to the COVID-19 crisis by offering a range of resources and activities suitable for children online. Below you will find links to galleries where you will find activities to engage your children in a range of arts, crafts, games and videos.


There’s nothing like theatre to really engage young children but with live performances closed that’s a pleasure to be set aside for later. In the meantime, actors and performers have taken their talents online with some offering fare suitable for the under 5s.

Emily Who is hosting the first Aussie Kids Couch concert, featuring 12 children’s entertainers from around Australia, bringing music and dance into homes everywhere. The line-up includes The Beanies, Cheeky Tunes, Lizzy Loo, Penny Pom Pom, B Minor Music, Pevan and Sarah Van Serano. Find it all here .


  • Canberra’s National Museum of Australia has a seriously good catalogue of activities for children at home. While they’re there, they might even find themselves exploring some of the other treasures to be found in the museum. Find all the activities here.
  • The National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour is a family favourite to visit and its online offering will whet the appetite for a return to the “old normal”. Children can play educational online games, access art and crafts and activities, and explore the museum’s library of videos. Click here to access.


Easy soap foam fun recipe

By: G8 Education Team 

Unstructured outdoor play is best for children in the early years. If you have a back yard at your home, take your child outside for as much of the day as weather permits. 

If you don’t have a back yard, enjoy exploring the neighbourhood or the local outdoor spaces together. 

Sit back and enjoy some time watching your child running around, kicking balls and exploring how their bodies move. 

If you’d like to organise an activity for them in the back yard, here is one great idea.  



  • Bubble bath or body wash (make sure it’s tear-free)  
  • Water 
  • Food colouring 



  1. Make a 2:1 ratio mix – 2 parts bubblebathto 1-part water. A good amount to make is 1/2 cup bubble bath with 1/4 cup of water. 
  2. Beat it with a wooden spoon or whisk until it becomesreally foamy. Find a mixer so that your child can join in with this.
  3. Put into a large, flatcontainer, somewherethat mess can easily be cleaned. This can be used on its own for bubbly fun or you could add in containers and toys