Stop the brain drain

Do you worry that your child’s development has packed its bags and taken a holiday during lockdown? For children right at the start of their educational journey, 10 weeks is a long time. Some children will now be back at nursery or school, but they’ll probably be a bit rusty! Others won’t return until September which is a huge gap to catch up on. Don’t worry! We have some fun strategies for brushing up your child’s skills, and a helpful ‘ready, steady, go’ guide for September school starters.


Educational research suggests that children could potentially lose much of what they have learned if they do no reading, writing or numeracy for six weeks. Children at the end of Year R are particularly susceptible to this ‘brain drain’ because they have just started formal learning.

But parents can help at home by introducing activities which reinforce children’s literacy and numeracy learning, as well as encouraging them to be independent learners. Here are some easy and fun ideas.

Make a holiday diary

Buy your child an inexpensive scrapbook, some new pencils and crayons and some wrapping paper to cover the book. Collect postcards, tickets or leaflets together, and add them to their scrapbook. Your child can practise scissor control by cutting out parts of leaflets. As well as sticking these into the book they can practise reading some of the words. Children can reinforce their numeracy by working out the price of two tickets, for example. If your child is highly numerate you might ask her to work out change from £5 or £10.

Tell the time

Ask children to work out how long it is until lunchtime, or until daddy gets home. You can make an analogue clock and some clock hands from cardboard together, adding the times on the clock. Get them to point the hands to times which are important in their day. Even if your child does not understand time completely, it’s a good way to help introduce the idea of using a clock.

Shop at the supermarket

You can cover a lot of numeracy whilst shopping, rather than ploughing through books of sums. A lot depends, of course, on how much your child can already do. If you choose some items that cost whole numbers rather than pounds and pence, adding up can be fun. You could, for instance, take three items worth £1 each and ask them what the total will be. Giving your child some money to spend is also a great way to teach number values. A £1 or 50p coin is a good starting point.

Organise a cook in

Making cakes or cookies is a great way to practise numeracy. If you make biscuits or cupcakes, get your child to help with weighing the ingredients. Ask them to measure something for you, such as an oven sheet, using a ruler or tape measure. Ask your child how many cupcakes you have made, and how many might go on the sheet.

Have a storytime session

Ask your children to draw a picture of one or more of the characters they like in a story they have heard. Collect them in a folder. If they are able, suggest they write a line about each character underneath.

Go outdoors

The great outdoors is the perfect learning playground and you can incorporate learning into whatever you do. Playing with balls and bats will improve your child’s gross motor skills and coordination. Beach or countryside can provide opportunities to classify and research:

On the beach

  • Collect shells or stones. Count and sort them.
  • Draw shapes in the sand: triangles, circles, rectangles and name them.
  • Write words in the sand.

In the countryside

  • Collect wild flowers and find out what they are at home in books or on the internet.
  • Take photographs of birds, flowers or animals and research them.
  • Draw pictures of anything you have seen.


  • Track your route. Ask your child how many white houses she see en route, or red cars, or traffic lights.
  • Play I-spy. A great way to keep children occupied on long car or train journeys and it helps their phonics.

Use it, don’t lose it!

Try to introduce fun activities that involve the following skills on a regular basis:

  • Writing.
  • Numbers.
  • Art.

Easy ideas wherever you are:

  • Shopping – reading and counting.
  • In a cafe – reading and observing.
  • Travelling – time, signs, fares.
  • At home – painting, cooking, reading, writing a diary, sticking in scrap book.
  • Outdoors – collecting, sorting, writing postcards.


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