Learning Through Play

The implementation of Aistear, the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework is a core action of First 5

Aistear is designed to support parents, early childhood practitioners and teachers in planning for and providing enriching, challenging and enjoyable learning opportunities for children. It describes the types of learning that are important for babies, toddlers and young children.

Inclusion is a core element of First 5. The activities below are for all children and can be adapted for all abilities.  For more information on supports for children with disabilities attending pre-school visit www.AIM.gov.ie

Aistear has 4 themes;

Try some of these recipes with the children doing as much as possible.  You will be working on a range of skills in these sensory activities. Some of these skills are concentration, sequencing, memory building, turn taking and fine motor development. Lots of pre-maths and science learning is happening with these activities including; pouring, measuring, mixing, heating etc. 

Gloop recipe;

  • 1 mug of Cornflower
  • Food colouring
  • Water

Mix in a bowl and pour onto a tray and play.  This stuff is a lovely sensory activity.

Recipe for DIY play sand

  • 7 cups of flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1.5 cups of oil

Add oil to dry ingredients and mix with a spoon to combine. Once mixed, use your hands to ensure the oil has made its way through the flour. The ‘sand’ will hold its shape and be mouldable.

Playdough recipe;

  • 2 mugs of any flour
  • ½ mug of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • Food colouring if desired
  • Good squirt of baby cream or conditioner
  • Some warm water
  • Plastic sandwich bag for storage

Help the children to mix the ingredients in a bowl.  Knead until soft.

*Please note that homemade playdough has a high salt content which is poisonous and harmful to children.

Cooking – pizza dough, scones, veggie bean burgers, fish cakes, ice lollies.

Pizza Dough

  • 650g flour
  • sachet easy-blend yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 25ml olive oil

Mix the dry ingredients. Mix up the sachet of yeast per the instructions on the back of the pack in a jug and mix into the dry ingredients.  Turn out onto a clean floured surface.  Knead well for a few minutes.  Stick it back in the bowl and cover with a damp tea towel.  Set it aside for 40 minutes until it has doubled in size.  Divide into 6 small pizzas or 2 large ones (or any way you like).  Set the oven to a high setting. Add passata or any tomato based pasta sauce. If anyone in the family dosn’t like tomato sauce try a pizza bianco, just drizzle olive oil on the base and then add the toppings.  Add any toppings and grated cheese you have and cook for about 12 minutes until golden with a crispy base.

If you don’t fancy making the dough use pre-bought wraps as the base.


  • 450g self-raising flour
  • 2 level tsp baking powder
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 100g butter, softened, cut into pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • a little milk
  • handful sultanas (optional)

Add the flour and baking powder together in a bowl.  Rub in the butter with your fingertips.  Add the sugar.  Beat the eggs and mix them in with a spoon. Add a tiny drop of milk and mix until you have a soft dough.  Turn out onto a floured board.  Shape and pat the dough until it is 2cm thick.  Cut out rounds if you have a cutter or other wise use a glass (dip the edge in a bit of flour).  Place each scone on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper and rub the top with a drop of milk.  Bake at 220˚C for 12-15 minutes until risen and golden.

Serve with butter or jam and cream.

Try adding fresh raspberries to the mixture.

Vegan Bean Burgers

  • 1 can of kidney beans, borlotti or butter beans
  • Leftover cooked veg i.e. carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of sunflower or olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • A pinch of dried herbs/salt if desired
  • Mug of bread crumbs to coat
  • Burger buns or pitta bread for serving

Mix the ingredients in a bowl. Mash well together. Taste, add a pinch of dried herbs or salt.  Form into balls with wet hands and flatten with the back of a spoon.  Cover in bread crumbs and shake off any excess.  Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.  Place in a hot oven for 20 minutes.  Turn once during cooking.

You can make this recipe with chickpeas and roll into small balls for falafel.

Fish Cakes

  • A can of Tuna or Salmon
  • 4 large potatoes peeled and boiled
  • 1 small onion diced (optional)
  • I egg for mixture
  • 1 beaten egg for topping
  • Bread crumbs (stick two slices of bread into a blender or lightly toast 2 slices and grate).

Mix the ingredients together.  Stick in the fridge for 15 minutes.  Break into small pieces, roll into a ball and coat in egg and then in bread crumbs.  Fry.

Ice Lollies

  • 5 carrots
  • The juice of 3 fresh oranges or orange juice

Finely grate the carrots and place in the middle of a clean tea towel. Gather up the towel, and squeeze the carrot juice into a jug, discarding the pulp. Add the orange juice and top up with a little cold water if needed to make up 360ml liquid.  Add to lolly moulds and freeze or use an ice cube tray and add a cocktail stick when half frozen. 

There are endless possibilities with these.  Experiment with mashed avocado, lime and yogurt or invent a new recipe.