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Fishes in the water, fishes in the sea…

Do you ever just get inspiration from totally random objects? This is exactly what happened here!

With a surplus of cardboard thanks to a recent IKEA binge, I had been desperately wracking my brains on how to use it. Then I noticed the fish themed ice cube tray lying on the draining board, waiting to be refilled and the idea sparked. So here is our fish pond… Continue reading Fishes in the water, fishes in the sea…

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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

split pea tray

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

felt

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

carrots

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

feathers

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

pompom eggs

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!

sticky eggs

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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Three Ideas for Winter Themed Play

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…

Winter Wonderland 

winter wonderland 4.jpg

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:

  • uncooked rice
  • flour
  • white tinsel confetti
  • cotton balls
  • pompoms

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

IMG_20171129_174116.jpg

 

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.
  • Silver stars
  • 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

IMG_20171130_155943_559.jpg

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!

Happy playing!

Sian x

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.’

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Small World Play: FAQs

How old should my child be before I start small world play? 

The answer to this really depends on a few things. Is you child likely to try and ‘mouth’ items provided? Are they able to sit unaided? Are the toys suitable for your child’s stage of development? Has your child shown an interest in imaginary play?

We started Zoey on small world play when she was 12 months old. In the beginning, we only used Fisher Price Little People (which are suitable from 12 months). She showed a real interest in imaginary play over the coming months so we proceeded to using rice, lentil and other items as a base – we also knew that she was past the stage of putting everything in her mouth!

Is small world play safe for my toddler? 

As with any activity that you decide to do with your toddler, keep them supervised at all times. Don’t use items that they are likely to choke on and try to use toys that are age appropriate.

I want to give small world play a try, how do I choose the themes?

Really, I just follow Zoey’s lead. If she’s been obsessing over her Little People farm, then i’ll relate the theme accordingly or if we’ve just visited the zoo, then i’ll create a small world based around our trip. The best thing to do is use this as a guide, but go with what your little one is interested in.

What kind of foods could I use?

Rice, lentils, flour cocoa and even Froot Loops have made their way into our small worlds. I never buy products specifically: it’s usually just what needs using up in the kitchen! If you want to make coloured rice, click here. If you have any concerns over choking or if your toddler is always putting things in their mouths, please bank these activities for a later date.

Food and play seems like a lot of mess, why should I create small worlds for my little one? 

Small world play helps both imagination and creativity. The act of moving the animals and people around whilst using a ‘voice’ is a fantastic way of developing language skills. For Zoey this is simply learning animal names and making their noise, but in time she will act out whole conversations from the perspective of the people or animals in her small worlds.

What toys can I use in small worlds?

Plastic toys that are easy to wash are best. Our absolute favourites are the Collecta animals from Oh Ivy. They’re durable, realistic and also ‘softer’ than competitors, making then perfect for toddlers. We’ve also used Little People, HappyLand and Star Wars characters!

 

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May the Fourth Be With You! 

If you’re reading this on May 4th, Happy Star Wars Day! We simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to celebrate, especially since the seven year old is Star Wars crazy – so much so that I went completely overboard with his party theme last year!

Anyway, for those embracing the day with full abandon, here are 5 Star Wars activities to try with the kids.

1. Sith Slime 

Wicked fun and easy to make, this quick activity with a science element is perfect for a post- school activity.

All you need is:

  • 250g cornflour
  • 60ml shampoo
  • Purple or black food colouring
  • Glitter or stars
  • Star Wars characters
  • A plastic container or tray.

Method:

1. Measure out 250g cornflour

2. Add 60ml of shampoo and mix together

3. Slowly add some water

4. Mix again, lift the spoon out of the bowl to check. You will want it to be runny.

5. Finally add droplets of food colouring.

The science bit: 

The molecules of the starch react when mixed with water to give the slime its viscosity. So when you (gently) lift the slime, it will be runny like liquid. However, if you press the slime more firmly, it should feel solid.

Essentially, the experiment assists with learning around solids and liquids. Depending on the age of your child, you can introduce this scientific vocabulary to them.

2. Ice Escape! 

Getting fully involved with the latest experiment

Ok so remember with Darth Vader freezes Luke Skywalker in Carbonite? This experiment is losely based on that.

We froze several of our Lego Star Wars characters in an ice-cube tray (alas our Luke was nowhere to be seen!) and left overnight.

We then set about planning our experiment. We wanted to find out which Star Wars character could escape the quickest.

We placed them in 4 locations around the house and garden (heater, fridge, outside and window) then made predictions.

We monitored the characters over 10 minute intervals to find out their progress. Which location do you think proved the quickest for escape?

If you wanted to, you could get your child to put the final results into an ‘er’ sentence. For example, “The warmer the location, the quicker the escape.”

We placed the characters in small plastic containers around the house

3. Design your own spaceship

Make life easier with a Lego activity!

If you have more Lego than you know what to do with like us, challenge the kids to build a Star Wars spaceship.

We first did this activity at Harrison’s 7th birthday party and even made prizes for the winners. This is fantastic if you have some Master Builders in your midst. What’s more, it’s so simple – even if you’ve totally forgotten about Star Wars day, it’s an easy one to quickly set up.

4. Star Wars Small World 

We used red lentils for Jakku

This sensory experience is great for a range of ages- even Zoey joined in on this one!

Which planet you choose will determine the base of the sensory tray. We used flour, water and cornflour for the snowy habitat of Hoth. A few weeks later, we repurposed our ‘Red Centre’ small world to become Jakku.

To make this more educational, you could ask a range of questions:

Which countries/ habitats are the Star Wars planets similar too? 

Which Earth animals do you think could survive here? 

Alternatively, just let the kids play. Small world activities are brilliant for language development!

Flour, cornflour and water was used to form Hoth.

5. Read a Book!

So many Star Wars books to read!

There’s a plethora of Star Wars books out there – trust me, I think we have them all! From the brilliant Jedi Academy series to Lego Star Wars encylopedias, there’s certainly going to be something that will appeal.
On a more serious note, it was the DK Star Wars books that first got Harrison really passionate about reading. Tapping into interests is just so important in the early years and we embraced his enthusiasm wholeheartedly. In the first instance we read to him but now he has moved on to the more advanced Jedi Academy.

I hope you will try some of the activities I’ve suggested. Please comment below if you do, or share any alternatives you may have! Below are some photographs from our Star Wars party last year: 

The incredible BB8 cake!
Jedi Academy
Guess who?
Bubble wands make great lightsabers