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…
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!
Here’s the oobleck farm we made with it:
This went down an absolute storm with Zoey! She played with it for an hour at least. She made the animals muddy, scopped the mud into different containers and finally washed them clean with water. In toddler terms, i’m sure that you can all agree than one hour of engaged play is HUGE!
What is oobleck?
Oobleck is a fabulous introduction to STEAM. Mixed together, the combination of cornflour and water has some really interesting properties. If you were to prod it with a spoon or your fingers, it would act as a solid, but try to pick it up and its liquid like in consistency! This is activity I tend to do with my youngest (2) as a safe alternative to slime.
You will need:
Farm animals or similar
Container for the ‘mud’
I’m not going to give you quantities for each ingredient since this will depend on the size of the container you use. My advice is to add each ingredient gradually!
Invitation to Play:
I set up the container, utensils and farm animals as an ‘invitation to play’ so that Zoey could choose the direction of play herself. We’re constantly doing sensory activities so she knows exactly what she wants to do HOWEVER if this is the first time you’ve ever tried something like this, you may want to help out a little!
The little scoops found in washing powders are a fabulous way for young children to practice hand-eye coordination. Zoey enjoyed moving the mud from one to another then ‘feeding’ her farm animals with it.
Once the novelty factor of the mud had worn off, we extended the play session by adding water in squirty bottles (the one in the photo is an old honey bottle) to wash the mud off!
Then we just keep adding water with the introduction of warm, soapy water in a bowl. I actually think that Zoey loved this part the most and it also saved me the job of cleaning up – win!
If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know that we love, love, LOVE messy play. Zoey has reached the stage where toddler tantrums are on the rise and the calming effect messy (or sensory) play has on her is instantaneous. If you’re in a similar boat to me, give these ideas a try…
Using our trusty tuff spot tray, we recreated a beautiful winter village complete with a family of reindeer. For the snow we used a combination of:
white tinsel confetti
It was messy and it was wonderful because it occupied both children for ages! Definitely check out your local craft store for accessories such as the trees and wooden houses (which are actually tree decorations). We usually wait until the seasonal stuff goes on sale, so there’s a pro tip for you!
Shaving Foam Snow
This is such an easy option! Not only is it relatively quick to clean up (especially if you were to set it up in the sink) you don’t need a heap of resources either. For our version, we used:
Sensitive shaving foam (better for young skin)
Peppermint essence for a nice Christmassy feel.
An assortment of toy animals that would be at home in the snow and ice!
Not only does this set up have a calming effect, but it also smells so lovely too!
Polar Bear Rescue
So this option might depend on where in the world you live! As we’re in Australia and dealing with 30c days (it’s still officially Spring), this play idea comes as a welcome relief! To recreate this at home, simply put some miniature polar bears, or animal of your choice, into a bowl of water and leave to freeze overnight.
Prior to play, leave the bowl to thaw out a little to remove the icy dome. This will take between 30 minutes and an hour so a little patience is needed!
This actually turned into a nice little STEAM based activity for my eldest too. He loved trying to figure out what would make the ice melt quickest. It’s always such a major win for me when activities can bridge the 6.5 year age gap!
As always, I love seeing your versions of these ideas so please tag me in on either Facebook or Instagram!
For more reasons on why you should embrace the mess, check out the blog post ‘Why Mess is Best.’
Here’s a quick guide to how we cope on sick days. This was a post I was going to write last week, but ironically I was feeling too ill to write it! It’s been a pretty rubbish few weeks in the Thomas household: first I was hit by a yucky virus, then the boy ended up in hospital with breathing difficulties. All of this meant that our usual schedule of days packed with process art, long walks, trips to the zoo and detailed play set ups went by the wayside.
Admittedly, it’s not been an easy few weeks. All I’ve honestly wanted to do is veg on the sofa whilst binge watching season 7 of Game of Thrones, but that just isn’t possible with a busy toddler by my side. As for the 8 year old, all he’s really wanted to do is watch Stampy Cat and iBallistic Squid videos on repeat which is enough to drive anyone insane. So whilst most of these activities are targeted at toddlers and preschoolers (who are more likely to be with you when you’re sick, a lot will work for big kids too!)
Whether you’ve got winter blues, flu or even morning sickness, here’s a few activities that have worked for us over the last few weeks. Although as a big fat disclaimer here, we do watch our fair share of Disney Pixar movies on sick days – I would hate to pretend otherwise!
Here are 10 activities you can try with the kiddos whilst you (or they) are sick, along with some sneaky educational skills that will take minimal effort on your part. That’s what I call a parenting win!
Small World Play
On a weekly basis, we change up our small world scenarios but on sick days we like to keep it simple. There’s probably nothing better than getting out the trusty Fisher Price Little People play sets. Zoey’s had hers for almost a year now and it’s still a firm favourite whenever we play with it.
This beautiful fairy grass from Little Sprout is another big winner: all you really need to do is add in fairies or woodland creatures and you’ve got a gorgeous play set up all ready to go.
Small world play is an important part of the early years curriculum. Here are some of the skills your little one will learn whilst playing: language development, fine motor skills, development of imagination, problem solving, independent play and cause & effect.
We absolutely love a good tea party in our house – the best thing about them is the fact you can sit down too! The dollies and stuffed animals join in for a picnic on the rug – Zoey pours the tea using her super cheap Fisher Price talking teapot and we all have a merry time pretending to eat cake. Although i’m all for real cake too, particularly on sick days!
However twee a tea party might sound, this type of role play is again hugely beneficial for toddlers. It’s a way of learning early mathematical skills (learning to share out food and count); language skills also make a reappearance here – I swear Zoey says please and thank you in the right context because of all the tea parties we have! Again, this is also another way of boosting imaginative skills, fine motor skills and cause & effect too.
Pre-toddler, I never particularly saw the point in stickers but now I see their endless entertainment value. They’ve proven their worth in cafes, on long plane journeys and on sick days too. Zoey loves nothing better than peeling them off and sticking them (repeat x100) With older kids, try something cool like a sticker scene or even a mandala.
Occupational therapists swear by stickers – in fact,The OT Toolbox love them!Benefits include: boosting fine motor skills and hand strength, developing creativity and coordination.
If your toddler is anything like Zoey, then you’re gonna need an art option: the girl cannot go through a day without using crayons or paints! In this instance, we use Micador wax crayons along with a huge pad of paper. We just set up on a mat in the lounge room and have fun doodling away. For the big kid, colouring books always go down a storm.
Fine motor skills (which will eventually lead to pencil grip), concentration, colour recognition and hand/eye coordination.
The inhabitants of Thomas Towers absolutely LOVE felt. Preferably, we make up our own activity, but on the days where we just cannot face creating something new, we turn to our Tiger Tribe safari set. This is a really neat little box that is also ideal for travel and cafes too.
In a similar vein to stickers, felt is great for boosting hand strength, fine motor skills, creative thinking and coordination. The feel of felt also adds a nice sensory element too and if you’re making your own from scratch, you can include scissor skills into the mix.
Our little homemade tent went down an absolute storm with both kids. All I did was gather together some wooden poles with string and attach a bed-sheet with pegs – okay it didn’t last as long as the store bought versions, but it was fun to make and provided a nice excuse to snuggle!
Problem solving is a certainty here! We took quite a while figuring out how to keep the tent stable. It’s also a great way to work on team building skills too.
We are major Lego fans here. We always buy sets as birthday/ Christmas presents and on special occasions too. I don’t mind saying that after Harrison had his stay in hospital, I felt he deserved a little bit of Lego as a pick-me-up. Not only is Lego just brilliant as an educational toy (fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, following instructions), we love that it can be played with in so many ways too.
Lego and Duplo are undoubtedly great for working that hand strength and fine motor skills. It also helps boost problem solving and mathematical skills too. Moreover, it’s a great way of learning to follow instructions along with a lot of creativity too!
Depending on the weather, getting outside might be the last thing you feel like doing on a sick day, but I’ve always found that it makes me feel much happier afterwards – even if it does just end up being a 5 minute respite.
The sandpit seems to have a certain appeal to both kiddos. Whilst the traditional bucket and spade option are always fun, we do like to mix it up with small world scenarios. Both kids worked in harmony (no easy feat with a 7 year age gap) to create this beach rescue scene recently. It took Harrison’s mind off being poorly and meant he got some fresh air without really realizing it!
This is basically another addition to the small world play options, but you can also add the benefits of being outside in the fresh air which will give your wellbeing a boost!
I promise you this is not an advert for Tiger Tribe, but my goodness they do make some awesome occupiers! All of our sets were predominately bought for travel purposes, however they are also brilliant on sick days too. The compact nature of the sets means minimal mess for you – so big thumbs up for when you’re not at your parenting best! Much in the same vein as stickers, there’s something super appealing about the on/ off aspect for toddlers.
Don’t have a Tiger Tribe set? Traditional fridge magnets and a metal baking tray will work just as well.
Again, really similar to stickers and felt with regards to fine motor skills and hand strength development. Depending on which activity you choose, you might also be helping to boost language and numerical skills. The animal set we’re just in the picture below, is pretty much a compact version of small world play too!
If your voice feels up to it, snuggling up on a comfy bed with a stash of your favourite books always works a treat – especially if you can team it up with the nap-time schedule. It makes a nice welcome break from the wackiness of kids television (personally the noise and colours drive me a little cray-cray, especially if i’m the one who is sick!)
Reading is without a doubt one of the best ways to boost language skills. Just the very act of reading and pointing out pictures is one of the best ways of helping your mini one to learn.
So that concludes our activity guide of things to do when you’re feeling like absolute rubbish. Don’t by any means feel guilty if you only want to watch films all day (we definitely do that too). This is just here for those times when you are slowly being driven insane by the mundanity of being sick. Got any other suggestions? Feel free to comment below!