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We built a zoo…

Inspiration often strikes when we have a billion tonnes of recycling to use up! After so many trips to IKEA recently, we have a serious surplus of cardboard. Whilst we always recycle, it seemed like a shame for these huge canvases to be immediately consigned to the yellow bin.

With another baby on the way, I’m not as up for massive messy projects (literally really, since I can no longer hoist myself off of the floor!) so we made use of the dining room table to make ourselves a zoo. This project was inspired byDiscovery Table Week 8: Zoo! Continue reading We built a zoo…

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An invitation to play: muddy farmyard

You might’ve guessed by now that I HATE wasting materials! I recently used coco powder as a writing tray for one of my students and since it was then destined for the bin immediately after, I decided to turn it into mud instead! Continue reading An invitation to play: muddy farmyard

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Instagram: Making Parenthood Less Lonely

Parenthood can be a pretty lonely gig at times. Whether you’re swamped with endless feeds and nappy changes in the early days or if you have a busy toddler who just WON’T sit still in a café so you can catch up with a friend, it can be all too easy to go weeks without having a proper ‘grown-up’ conversation.

When we moved from the UK to Australia for my husband’s job three years ago, I knew that making friends would be quite a challenge. The main reason being that I’m actually an introvert. I’m not a fan of huge social gatherings plus my eldest (and only child at the time) was going to be in school. Not that I really minded as that meant I wouldn’t need to go to playgroups!

Fast forward one year and I had a newborn in tow. After a flurry of visits from grandparents I found myself itching to get back to some level of normality.  I’ve always been a creative type and I was also really missing my job as a classroom teacher so I needed something that would help me make friends and keep busy at the same time.

This isn’t to say that I am friendless, I have a great group of friends who have gone to great lengths to make me feel welcome here in Australia. However, when people are busy with work, their own children and other friendships, I can’t rely on them as my sole source of social connection.

Here’s exactly how Instagram has helped me navigate my way through parenthood – perhaps it will help you too!

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Never knowingly without a coffee in my hand!

Firstly It’s all about community rather than selfies…

When I first signed up as Teach Investigate Play on Instagram, I had no real idea whether there was a community that would suit me. There’s the common misconception that Instagram is all about selfies and arty shots of lunch dates (which I actually love!) but there’s also a deeper level of connection, especially when you find your community. My page has grown at a gradual pace but it’s just so much more than how many ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ I get, but the genuine connection with real people.

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Instagram has really helped me regained my creative side.

 

I managed to find my tribe

Ok that sounds kind of possessive but it’s a great way to describe the awesome accounts that I’ve found as a result of joining Instagram. Through trial, error and the correct hashtags, I’ve managed to find a group of educators, parents, foodies and creatives that I connect with. This has resulted in friendships with people from all over the world.

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Craft projects such as Craftmas, 31 Days of Love and HOPfest have helped me to connect with like-minded people from all over the world.

 

I’m able to get some really awesome advice from people who have been there and done that…

The fact is, as a family, we travel A LOT. I don’t have my parents on the same continent, let alone in the same city so when times get rough, I can’t automatically turn to them for help. When Zoey was literally waking every 30 minutes at night, I turned to my Instagram followers for advice. A Lulla sleep doll, Lush Sleepy Time cream and a night light later, we are finally getting somewhere! I love that there is always someone out there who has lived through a similar experience and is able to share how they dealt with it.

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With baby number 3 on the way, i’m continually looking for hints and tips from other Instagrammers!

The accounts I follow help me to fill our days with education and fun experiences…

One of the main reasons I signed up was to share some of my teaching ideas. I didn’t know if this was a ‘thing’ on Instagram or not, but it turned out that thousands were doing similar. This in turn encouraged me to become more creative and try new ideas.  Whether you’re a teacher or parent, a quick scroll will help you find an idea for an activity, pronto!

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Instagram is a place where I love to share ideas and be inspired in return!

 

TIPS FOR FINDING YOUR OWN INSTAGRAM TRIBE

My guess is that most of you reading this already have an Instagram account but if you don’t or are just getting started, here’s a few tips for you!

Share what you feel comfortable with:

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? However, this can be a major reason why people don’t have public Instagram accounts.  Plenty of the teacher/ parent instagrammers don’t share photos of their kids. If you don’t feel comfortable with it, you can opt to solely share your activity ideas or do overhead shots where your child’s face isn’t visible.

Avoid the Robots

One of the major downsides of Instagram is the fake accounts or perhaps even worse, the people who pay companies to do their likes/ comments/ follows for them. On the upside, you quickly learn to avoid those accounts like the plague! If you get a comment like ‘nice shot’ or ‘best of the day’ that is 100% coming from a bot, so just ignore them. Likewise, if you get followed and unfollowed by the same account several times over, just block them. Might sound kinda harsh, but it also means that you can get a more genuine Instagram experience.

Follow an account that you love, then check out who they follow

When you’re first getting started, this is a great way to make connections. This is exactly what I did: stumbled upon some big accounts that I loved and went from there. In time people will follow you and if you like their style, follow them back. Liking and commenting on posts that you genuinely love will also help you build connections too.

Use the hashtags…

But definitely not #followforafollow etc if you genuinely want to engage with people! For my blend of education, creative, parenting and travel posts I go for ones that suit those themes. Check out what the bigger accounts that you love are using and try giving those a follow, it won’t be long before you find a page that gives you major heart eyes! Alternatively, send me a message and I will give you a list of some of my favourites.

Be Authentic:

Although I do take pride in my photographs and I have a certain style, I like to keep it real. We share photos of chaotic messy play sessions, craft fails and toddler mood swings because I would hate for anyone to think we lived a perfect life! (we definitely don’t!)

 

Want more?

Check out my Instagram  and Facebook

Or the following posts might be of interest:

How we’re raising readers

Our New Play Space

Travel with Kids

 

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Easter Themed Sensory Activities for Toddlers

Easter already?! Christmas only seems like it was a moment ago but as we can’t resist a good themed activity, here is a round-up of six of our favourite sensory activities for Easter.

As always, please never leave your child unattended during these kinds of play experience. These activities are intended to be something you can do together!

 

Egg Transfer

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We used yellow split peas, feathers, plastic eggs, pompoms and those little bunnies and chicks that you get at this time of year to work on both fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination! Our egg carton was pre-cut after reusing items from a craft, but a large egg box at the side would work well too!

Felt busy bag

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We love making busy bags to take along to cafes! Simply cut a piece of A4 sized felt into quarters, then create Easter themed shapes. We just went with Easter eggs, but I reckon building a chick or bunny would look cute too! This is another idea that works on fine motor skills whilst encouraging creativity too.

 

Digging for Carrots

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We painted up some carrot sticks (just paddle pop sticks painted orange) with numbers on the end for a bit of fun number recognition work. Here we used chia seeds as the mud but just use what you have in the house! With older children, you may want to try ordering the numbers too.

 

Sensory Nest

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We had sooo many coloured feathers left over from last year – they made a brilliant gigantic nest for the tuff spot tray. Zoey hunted for the plastic eggs which contained a variety of sensory items. Because the feathers are so beautiful and soft, you may wish to try this as a ‘calm-down’ activity for a fractious little one!

 

Easter Egg Hunt

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Here is a small scale Easter egg hunt for toddlers, although this one doesn’t feature chocolate! We used a bed of green-dyed rice as ‘grass’ and added in pompoms and plastic eggs to the mix. Zoey used her fine motor scooper to catch the eggs and transfer them into the egg carton. Again, this activity is brilliant for fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. There’s also the opportunity to introduce basic capacity through scooping and pouring.

 

Sticky eggs!

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Here we reused the eggs from the busy bag, but you could just as easily use paper, card or even those paint chip cards to create an Easter themed sticky craft! I taped contact paper to the window (I had thought it was more transparent than it turned out to be), then let Zoey loose with the pre-cut shapes.  Here is another opportunity for your little one to boost their creativity and perhaps learn more about colours and shapes too!

 

Want more?

Check out the following posts:

Funny Bunnies

Why Mess is Best

Rainbow Rice Recipe

 

 

 

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Discovery Table Week 1: Baby Clinic

Welcome to a brand new series of weekly blog posts! I’m really excited to be launching this weekly series and hopefully it’ll provide some inspiration at home too.

After having a mass re-organisation of our play space, I realised that a lot of toys and books we had were being left neglected. This, combined with Zoey getting older, meant that is was the perfect opportunity to introduce toy rotation and weekly themes. The coffee table that we originally used to stack an untidy heap of toys became the perfect ‘discovery table.’

I want to stress right from the start that this is not about forced play. This is all about following interests and allowing Zoey to explore the toys and books provided at her own pace. The introduction of the discovery table essentially just means that the items are much more accessible to her.

Baby Clinic

A baby clinic was our first choice for two reasons: Zoey is majorly into her ‘babies’ and i’m also due to have baby number 3 in April. The table is helping us all prepare for the big changes that a new baby will bring.

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What’s on the table? 

I used the resources that we have in our home. For this series to work, it’s all about finding items we already have or creating them ourselves. I certainly wouldn’t recommend buying items to fit themes. Instead, see what works around your little ones interests.

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The Gotz doll on the right is brilliant because you can also pretend to feed and change her – there is also a boy doll available!

Notice Board

 

I’ve been lusting after one of these noticeboards for ages – they’re all over Instagram! When I saw it for just $12 in Kmart, I knew I had to get one. It’s such a great resource for our discovery table as it can be changed to reflect the weekly theme.

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Big brother has been helping to set up the noticeboards which is proving great for his spellings and fine motor skills!

Key Learning:

The noticeboard is an opportunity for Zoey to have exposure to the written word in different formats. She is starting to identify some of the letters and numbers that are on the board.

Dolls

It goes without saying that we needed dolls on the table for this to work (if you don’t have dolls, a veterinary clinic would work well too). Zoey calls them her babies and nurtures them like a proper little mamma! The smaller ‘Gotz’ doll featured in the main photo is anatomically correct and can even be placed in the bath. Incidentally, bathing ‘baby’ first is often the way we have to coax Zoey into the bath these days!

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This Cinderella was Zoey’s very first doll.

Key Learning:

Having a doll helps children to work on the personal, social and emotional side of learning. She is essentially taking on the role of caring for her baby which in turn will help develop her empathy and understanding

Doll clothes

Most dolls come with clothing that can easily be taken on or off. I provided some spare dolly clothes (thanks granny and granddad!) so that Zoey could practice dressing and undressing. Again this is mimicking real life – when the new baby comes along, Zoey will be able to dress her baby whilst i’m dressing the newborn!

 

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Velcro fastenings makes it easier for little learners.

Key Learning:

This simple role play is a precursor to developing independence in the future. It helps physical development by working on fine motor skills which will eventually lead to essentials such as holding a pencil.

Bottles

We’re all for supporting whatever is best for mum and baby here, so whilst Zoey was breastfed, we have a few bottle options too. Zoey tends to alternate between feeding her babies the bottle and pretending to breastfeed them!

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Multi-tasking mamma at the local cafe!

Key Learning:

Mimicking real life in this role play style helps Zoey to understand the world around her. It’s also demonstrating a caring and nurturing side which will eventually lead to building friendships in the future. Hopefully, it’ll also help her adjust to her new brother when he comes along – i’ll report back on that one!

Books

It turns out we have quite a lot of books relating to the theme of babies! Some have been gifted and other have been bought in preparation for the new baby. We’ve really enjoyed reading these this week – a surprising favourite for Zoey was ‘Peepo!’ by Janet and Alan Ahlberg. Through my eyes it seems pretty dated, but Zoey loved the circular cut-out pages. As there were six books on the table, i’ll run through them all in a separate baby themed book post!

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Displaying the books on the discovery table meant that Zoey had easy access to the books. 

Key Learning

Having access to books from an early age will hopefully give Zoey a lifelong love of reading. The baby books on our discovery table this week should also help her to better understand what little babies are like.

In addition…

Not photographed specifically, but part of the play was a pretend stethoscope and, at one point, a kitchen scales (I didn’t leave this on the table because it contained an accessible button battery). I simply judged a time when she was engaged with the table and showed her how to use the scales.  When I need to visit a real baby clinic with the newborn, I intend for Zoey to come along with one of her babies so that she can feel part of the process.

Once the baby has actually arrived, I will write a post on how we are all adjusting and coping with life as a party of 5!

Coming Soon:

This is turning into a really exciting year for Teach Investigate Play. In personal terms, we are expecting baby number 3 and on a business level, there is an e-book and online course in the pipeline. Please subscribe to my email list or follow along on Instagram and Facebook for regular updates.