Naturally, this was another Christmas oriented activity (not 'orientated' - no such word folks), which was a cinch to throw together.
A few bits of coloured cardstock and a tub of foam stickers is all that's required. Riot Art 'n' Craft had a tub of Christmas themed foam stickers on sale for just a couple of bucks, which I picked up on my most recent raid of their shelves.
Looking to keep your tot's hands busy as you frantically wrap pressies? Grab two sheets of paper, write 'Big' on one and 'Small' on the other, and give your child a stash of those ribbon gift-bow thingys in two sizes (big ones and small one, as you may have guessed). Easy-Peasy-Mac-and-Cheesy!
Inspired by big sister Eden's recent play time with shells (see here), I put the biggest shells in our collection into a sturdy shoebox and set my little Ava baby up in front of it. She was so excited, lots of foot wiggling and hand waving!
Naturally, the shells went straight into the mouth for some dribbly fun...
At some point this week, try a game or activity with your little one that you've never played before, which involves sticky tape. Once again, I think we'll all have a bit of this lying around in the lead up to Christmas. For a baby, you might wad some tape up into a ball out of sticky tape for them to play with (and watch their little faces as they explore the 'stickiness' of the ball) . For a toddler, you may teach them how to wrap pressies using some newspaper/catalogues and a few boxes, or you could get them to put bits of tape on you as you call out the names of various body parts (eg: "can you find my nose/mouth/toes/elbows?") - good for younger toddlers. Please post your game in the comments attached to this post, so we can inspire other parents with our ideas!
I love Christmas! Always have, always will. Now that I have children of my own, I may tend to sometimes, perhaps, possibly go a tad overboard. I don't mean by buying lots of pressies for my girls or anything, I mean *drumroll, please* CHRISTMAS CRAFTS!!!!!
Such a simple activity! Eden loves to clean. I mean, this girl LOVES to clean. So, I set her up with a shallow tub with some water in it, a pouring cup, an old toothbrush (for scrubbing), a face washer (for drying) and a container with shaving cream in it ('cause let's face it, shaving cream is fun to play with!), and laid a towel on the floor to mop up any spills.
Initially I was going to make Christmas ornaments with my girl's handprints on them, but as we made them I realised that I wanted to see these keepsakes every day, so they now have a permanent spot in our bedroom. They would make a nice gift for grandparents too, if you're so inclined.
I simply made up a batch of cornstarch clay with Eden's help (see here for the recipe), divided the clay into portions, and rolled it out nice and evenly. Eden and Ava 'smushed' (E's words, not mine) their hands into the clay to leave an imprint. Once they were in bed, I went back and smoothed the imprints out a little - Ava had dug her fingers in, so hers actually had holes in it! I filled it in and smoothed it out, but retained the shape of her hand. I also tidied up the edges of the shapes - Eden's is on a circle, Ava's is on a square with rounded edges - and poked a hole in the top of each shape using a straw (this is for threading some ribbon through later, so you can hang it up).
At some point this week, try a game or activity with your little one that you've never played before, which involves wrapping paper. I figure that around Christmas time, we'll all have some of that floating around the house.
For a baby, this may be wrapping a box (from your recyclables stash) in some scraps of paper, and then letting them tear the paper off and have a good play with it. For a toddler, this may be teaching them how to wrap presents, or adding their own decorative touches to existing wrapping paper (with a potato stamp? Some glitter paint? Christmas stickers?), or making a crown - like the ones the wise men wear in the nativity scene - with leftover bits of paper and some cardboard. Please post your game in the comments attached to this post, so we can inspire other parents with our ideas!
To make these pretty hanging decorations, I cut out two circles of clear contact paper, one slightly larger than the other, and taped the smaller circle to the table, sticky side up. I also had a little bowl with some tissue paper squares, shiny wrapping paper, bits of ribbon, Christmas stickers, and pictures cut from old Chrissy cards in it.
For my Ice: Play Time Challenge, I decided to put little 'treasures' into a silicone muffin tray, cover with water and freeze. In the morning, they were my ice treasures! I had some shells, a rubber ball and some coins for Eden's money box inside, and it was her task to find a way to get the treasures out.
Lately, Eden has been hanging off me every time she sees me using scissors. It's like a moth to a flame. She hovers at my elbow and tries to sneak her fingers on top of mine so she can pretend she's the one cutting. Time to learn how to use them, methinks!
She has a small pair of safety scissors which I bought a few months back, thinking that she was ready to learn back then. Unfortunately, every time she tried to cut paper she got so frustrated by my attempts to teach her 'scissor safety' that the whole undertaking ended up being shelved. When I say 'scissor safety' I mean things like "AAAHHH! Don't cut your hair! Or Ava's! OR MINE!!!", and "Honey, scissors aren't for eating with [instead of a fork]" and "Put the scissors down BEFORE you dance!"...You see the problem.
When I was painting some nursery art for a friend, I put miss E. next to me at the table with a little canvas board and some of her own paints so she could do one too. Kids are such little mimics, aren't they? Check out the concentration on her face...
At some point this week, try a game, a craft or an activity with your little one whch you've never done before with a Christmas theme.
Please post your game in the comments attached to this post, so we can inspire other parents with our ideas!
Who says babies can't fingerpaint? A little ingenuity and a willingness to see your child (and floor, and any adjacent surfaces) covered in muck, and you'll have yourself a fun-filled half-hour or so with your little munchkin.
Although non-toxic poster paint/acrylic paint is, well, non-toxic, I still feel apprehensive about letting Ava anywhere near it. Especially whilst she's in the 'how-can-I-fit-everything-in-sight-into-my-mouth' phase. So I mixed a bit of plain flour with some water and food dye, and came up with my own version of fingerpaint which is safe for babies. It's not a substitute for actual fingerpaint though (ie: the stuff you would use for your toddler, or for use on paper), but it served my purposes just fine.
I wish I had thought of this earlier! On a warm day recently, I put a bit of water into a shallow container, popped baby Ava into her highchair and added some bits and pieces for her to play with: plastic toy food, a rubber sieve, measuring spoons, wooden spoon and a spatula. Then, I stood back and let the splashing begin!
I had an absorbing task to do the other day (finishing a painting for a friend's little girl) and I needed to sew some detail onto it. Now, Eden likes to copy everything I do so normally I'd wait until she was asleep to do this. This time, however, I had a different approach: teaching Eden how to sew!
I grabbed a meat tray (side note: keep your meat trays, they're so handy and they make the best paint palettes) and punched a few holes through it with a skewer. Then I threaded a wool needle with some red yarn, tied it off, and handed it to my lil girl. Look at this:
Strange name, strange substance. Oobleck defies Newton's third law of motion (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction): if you pour oobleck it behaves like a liquid, but if you hit it, it behaves like a solid. In other words, you could slowly immerse your hand in it (would be liquid), then try to pull your hand out again quickly and you'd have trouble (would be solid)!
At some point this week, try a game or activity with your little one that you've never played before, which involves ice. Putting ice in your child's drink doesn't count. Sorry. For a baby, this may be putting crushed ice into a ziplock bag and letting them bash it with a plastic hammer (that's what we'll be doing!) For a toddler, it may be ice-cube painting: simply add some food colouring to the water when you fill up the ice trays. When frozen, lay out some paper (maybe with a towel under it) and let your tot slide the coloured ice around on it. It will paint as it melts. Please post your game in the comments attached to this post, so we can inspire other parents with our ideas!
When my floors get dirty again, I'll give this another go. Unfortunately, Eden did not play at it for long, but I think it's because I offered it at the wrong point in the day - just before her nighttime routine. Not a good idea. Nevertheless, I think she'll enjoy it if I set it up earlier in the day.
Hi all! It's that crazy time of year again, when it seems as though time is in short supply. I apologise for my neglect, I am doing my best to juggle all of my responsibilities but with many things demanding my attention the blog, sadly, has to be shelved sometimes.
On to more important stuff...PLAYTIME!
I was sooooo tired the other day and I was struggling to think of an activity for Eden which required minimal set-up but which would absorb her for a while (and give me a rest!). My solution was to set up a junk modelling city for and with her.
I made up some 'roads' on a rug using masking tape (easy peasy to remove), and we put boxes and containers all over the place to act as various buildings. Add some dolls and cars and voila! You have a city!
Water play is so therapeutic for littlies and I find it's a wonderful recourse for those days when E's frenetic energy is a little more exhausting than usual. I pulled out both of our old baby baths the other day and whacked an old towel on the floor. Add a bucket half-filled with water, a few cups, bowls, ladles and jugs and a dolly, and you have an absorbing activity to keep your tot busy for a while. Eden is at the pouring stage, so this is a great way for her to pass the time, and at the end of the hour+ that she spends at it, she's a much more chilled out little girl than she was beforehand.
I bought these little drawers for an alphabet activity (which I've yet to set up - stay tuned though!), and in the interim they have served as the perfect foil for Eden's sorting exploits. I have a big container of beautiful shells which we both love to touch, look at and talk about, and which Eden loves to sort into these drawers.
In our home, the alter-ego of the humble shopping bag is the 'Open-Ended Bag' (when I talk about it), or the 'Surprise Bag' (when I talk to Eden about it). I put a stack of related things into the bag and leave it on our rug for her to find, and when she does I give her the space to explore the items and do what she wants with it; much like the heuristic play activities I set up for baby Ava.
Hi all, we've got our very first colour-theme day coming up this Thursday 3rd November 10:00am at Lysterfield Lake, Narre Warren North, please see here for further information. There will be a 'door prize', but no door, for those attending, which will be a customised children's tee and an age-appropriate kids book, valued at $20.00. The prize will be sent to the winner shortly after (since it's customised, I obviously won't have it with me). Please remember, it is BYO everything: food, drink, and activities for kids which they may not need anyway since they'll probably just be chasing each other around the place. Come along, make some friends, green it up and maybe win a prize! We'll see you there!
At some point this week, try a game or activity with your little one that you've never played before, which involves wool or yarn.
For a baby, this may be gluing lengths of different coloured wool to some stiff cardboard as a sensory touch board, or making a large pom pom for them to play with. For a toddler, you might do some wool painting (dip short lengths of wool in paint and get them to slide them around some paper for a spaghetti-like effect) or leaving a yarn treasure-hunt trail around the house (they have to follow the yarn around to find things - I used some marbles, crayons and bits of paper cut into shapes for pasting, as our 'treasure'). Please post your game either in the comments attached to this post or on our Facebook page (where you can include photos if you like), so we can inspire other parents with our ideas!
At the moment, I'm really trying to attune Eden to her sense of touch.
I'm not against TV in general, but really, it's just a whole lotta visual information. I feel it's important to give your children the opportunity to develop their other senses too, and it's so simple to do.
You could incorporate it into your day in a thousand different ways. For example, next time you're at the park, ask your tot to close their eyes and you begin talking to them about all the things you can smell; the flowers, the grass, the soil after the rain, the bark of the play equipment, etc. Use descriptive language, talk about whether the scent is pleasant or not. Then ask them what they can smell, and prompt them of they seem to be struggling to find the right words. So simple!
If you've only got ten minutes to spend doing something with your child and you're looking for an activity that's easy to set up, this is it! I got four items of different textures in a little platter: a flower hair clip, a foam block, a glass perfume bottle and a wooden train. I showed them to Eden and gave the items to her to feel, one at a time. We talked about different words that could describe that item beyond just describing its appearance. For example, the perfume bottle was cold, hard, had straight bits and round bits and smelled 'pretty'. This will give your littlie more words to add to their ever-expanding vocabulary, helps them to think about other properties of an item (beyond only using visual cues) and primes them for the next part of the game.
If you're looking for an activity to promote fine motor skills and introduce your tot to the concepts of transference and volume, then this is it! It was so easy to set up, and occupied Eden for a solid 45 minutes while I cooked dinner.
I've got a great excuse for you to buy some Pringles...you need the container to make a rainmaker! Totally legitinate! Well, that's what we used our empty Pringles tube for. The night before (whilst my girls were sleeping) I pushed some long nails into the sides of the tube, like this:
Numbers is one of those things that many toddlers pick up quite easily. I used to count everything I could from when Eden was less than one year old; cars on the street, letters in the mailbox, books on my bedside table, cans in the cupboard...everything. The upshot of this was that Eden knew how to count to ten when she started speaking, because she had heard me count so often. So now, I'm trying to extend her numeracy knowledge.
I made four cards, wrote the numbers at the bottom of each card (always slipping in literacy whenever I can!) and marked each card with dot/s to represent the numbers.
Toddlers absolutely love being independent. As my daughter's skills and capabilities grow, I'm on the lookout for ways to give her more responsibility (not like chores, just opportunities). The other day I decided to teach her how to set the table, so I got some thick A3 paper, sat down with her, and traced the outlines of our plates and cutlery onto each sheet, with her watching. I explained that this was to help her to know where to put everything.
I asked her to put each 'placemat' on the table, and then I laid out the plates and cutlery on a tray, which I placed near our table. It was very sweet to see her carefully (and very seriously) laying everything out on the placemats for dinner, and she was so proud that she did it "all by myself, Mummy"! Next time I'm at the shops, I'll be looking out for a small water pitcher so that she can start to pour our waters too.
**Note: If you're thinking of doing this with your toddler, remember to supervise! Teach your child how to hold the knives (butter knives in our case) and the plates/glasses properly, and be close at hand to intervene before accidents happen.
Hi all, if you were interested in attending our Green Day themed morning out at Lysterfield Lake, we'll now be holding it on Thursday the 3rd November, same time, same place (see here if you want the details), due to expected rain. Hopefully the weather will be better next week! :D
At some point this week, try a game or activity with your little one that you've never played before, which involves an egg carton.
For a baby, this may be putting a favourite small toy inside the carton, closing it and then opening it again, to teach the concept of object permanence. For a toddler, you might use the cups for sorting (thanks Kim for that idea!) or make a caterpillar out of it.
Please post your game either in the comments attached to this post or on our Facebook page (where you can include photos if you like), so we can inspire other parents with our ideas! Also, a big thank you to Nicki and Andrea who have shared their ideas from Play Time from the past two weeks!
Tomorrow, Tuesday the 25th of October, we will be having a Green Day at Lysterfield Lake in Narre Warren North. See here for full details. Bring your kids along and check out other parent's ideas. We'll be kitting up in some green gear, reading green books, and I'm preparing some activities for Eden and Ava which involve green things! Should be a great day, come along if you can!
If you're an FB kind of person, head on over to our new page Happy Little Munchkins on Facebook.
It's still a work in progress, but you'll be able to see when we have new posts up, be invited to events, post your own photos of your 'Play Time' ideas, and connect to other parents!
Last night, I was struck with a flash of inspiration. I was trying to think of ideas to occupy my toddler during church, and I thought I would make her a mini felt board. In the end, I made her a felt box! I covered a cardboard box with felt, and cut out various shapes from more felt, stuck it inside a ziplock bag and stored the pieces inside the felt box, which closed with a bit of velcro. The whole process took about half an hour, if that, but the result was pretty good.
I tried to make pieces that could be part of a story: a girl, a car and a house, things from a garden, numbers (1-5), etc. She enjoyed it – I just wish she had enjoyed it for more than five minutes! Ah well, I'll pull it out again soon and hopefully there won't be someone with lots of pretty jewellery nearby to enthrall (and distract) her!
Another easy game to set up, although Eden found it a bit too simple. I did some basic drawings of animals on bits of cardboard, all facing the same way, coloured them in and cut them in half. It was her task to match top and tails. I'm going to try to do this game again, but maybe I'll cut the animal pictures into thirds, or leave the pictures uncoloured (to rescind a visual cue).
Have a bit of fun with your littlie and turn mistakes into an opportunity to create your own animal: a turtle-lion combo could be a turtion or liurtle (Eden loves doing this). Make up a story with your new creature as the star!
You could also slip in some other information into the game, like what sounds the animals make, what colours they are, what type of environment they live in, etc. Laminate the cards, and you can use them again and again, and make up new games too!
If you're tight on time, this is a cinch to prepare. It took me less than five minutes! All I did was take one of Eden's fave nursery rhymes, Incy Wincy Spider, and break it down into four 'events'; Incy Wincy climbs the water spout, gets rained out, the sun dries him off, and then Incy Wincy climbs the spout again. Draw simple illustrations of each scene onto cardboard, cut into cards, and presto! You're done!
Your child's task is to put the pictures into sequence. To make it simpler, you could begin with only two scenes; or, you could sing the song with your tot as you help them put the scenes on order. To add a bit of difficulty, you could add more scenes; or, you could choose a longer/more difficult nursery rhyme; or, you could have two rhymes (2-4 scenes each) and mix up the pieces so that your child has to sort the cards by song, and then by sequence. I put the pieces into a ziplock bag, and take it with us when we're out and about.
Today I offered Ava a new treasure basket to explore, which contained wooden items. In this 'basket' (which was really a wooden bowl) I put the following: some blocks, two trains, a train track piece, a maraca, a trumpet, some necklaces, some large beads used for threading, a bendy doll, a babushka doll, a rattan ball, a spinning top, the lid of my metronome, a hand massager, a spoon, some puzzle pieces, and a leaf-shaped bowl I got from an op shop for 50 cents! As you can see below, it was a big hit.
Everything went straight into the mouth to be assessed; some were discarded but the ones she liked were grouped around her. My little bower-bird girl!
I struggled at first to find wooden items that were child-sized and gum-friendly, but hit the payload when I was rummaging through the play room. She loved the top (which she is pictured sucking on, above), and was mesmerised by it as Big Sister sent it spinning along the floor. I think I'll keep this one out for a while, Ava seemed to get a lot from it.
Next task: develop a few treasure baskets adapted for my toddler (who's been telling people that she's six years old thank-you-very-much). Wish me luck!
Have you heard of the term 'heuristic play'? If not, it is essentially the concept of offering your child a range of non-commercial, preferably natural materials to explore, whilst you sit quietly and observe. No plastics please! I've said this a thousand times since having Eden: plastic is NOT fantastic! It has its uses, and some plastic toys are fun, but the majority of them are single-use items and most children will discard them after only a few plays. Offering our kids a variety of plastic toys which look different will still feel, taste and smell the same to our babies.
Objects made from natural materials engage your child's senses. They enable their developing brains to make more neural connections which forms the basis of healthy cognitive development in future. They stimulate your child's sense of taste, smell, touch, sight and possibly hearing (depending on what it is). They are, in short, highly preferable!
Heuristic play allows your bubba to choose their own object/s from those offered, and encourages them to construct their own understanding of these items (hence your non-involvement) through handling and mouthing. Your role is to supervise. That's it.
To introduce heuristic play to your little one, collect a range of materials from around the house (about 20-30 items is great) and put them in a broad, shallow container. Round baskets are preferable because the contents are easily accessible from all angles, hence the term 'treasure baskets'. In my case, it should have been called 'treasure roasting pan'. But anyway... In your treasure baskets you could group like items together and offer a basket of wooden things, or metal things, or noisy things, or soft things, etc, or you could offer a jumble of items. There's no right or wrong, just offer variety. I chose to do a 'reflective surfaces' for my first go with Ava.
In my roasting pan, I included: a shiny purse, an unused scouring pad (fairly soft), a metal spatula, a metal whisk, some small lengths of shiny ribbon, a soup spoon, a play saucepan and lid, some of Mummy's bracelets and bangles, a shiny perfume box (sans perfume, of course), a little mirror, a metal mint tin, a decorative gift wrapping ribbon (can't think of what they're called?), a shiny lid from a container, an egg ring, an insert from an old garlic press, and a measuring spoon and cup. Ava loved it! I had to reign in my innate desire to tell her what they're called and what they can do, but I'm glad I did. She LOVED it! Since introducing these sorts of experiences into our playtime, she has become more alert (although she always has been alert) and into everything! I think it's helped with her confidence, and awakened her natural curiosity even more (help! Just kidding!). Look at her cute little face!
From what I've read on the subject, many people make up a number of baskets and offer them on rotation. However, I use some of the things that I offered Ava (my whisk, thank you little Miss!) and so I unpack the box/basket after she's done using it, and make up another one every couple of days. Personally, I keep offering the same basket 2-3 days in a row, and then offer a completely different one. After all, if there's 20-30 items offered, chances are she's not going to explore all of them in one hit.
Try things like wooden spoons, shells, doilies (fabric ones), fabric off-cuts in different textures, bells, wooden massagers, pine cones, little cushions, little tins (maybe filled with things to make different sounds, like sand or rice), big bits of cork, small cardboard boxes or velvet ring boxes, leather bits, etc. Anything you can think of! Just be sure to supervise carefully, your baby will mouth these items and you don't want them to choke on the beads of a necklace that breaks in their mouth, or something.
Let me know how you go, and what was a success for your little one! ~ L.
One of my daughter's favourite songs at the moment is about elephants balancing on a string:
"Three gray elephants balancing
Step by step on a piece of string,
They thought it was such a wonderful stunt
That they called for another elephant.
Four gray elephants balancing...."
So, I taped a piece of sting onto the floor, and started teaching her how to walk on it, one foot in front of the other. I told her that we were walking on a piece of string over a creek and if we fell, we'd get all wet! She LOVED this idea. One moment Eden's carefully walking along our string, the next she's flinging herself off it, saying "I'm all wet now! I need new shoes Mummy!"; she would do anything for more shoes *sigh*.
This activity is suitable for all walking tots, just adapt your expectations to your child's skill level. It helps develop the large muscle groups in the legs, and hones their co-ordination skills. Tying it into the song helps them learn numbers, or reinforce numbers if your child already knows them. So simple!
*This activity is for older toddlers who no longer put things in their mouths*
I set Eden up with a shaker from the kitchen (could also be a parmesan cheese shaker, or a colander, or a sieve), and some pipecleaners and a bag of hair beads (children of the 90's, remember these?). I didn't even need to direct her at all; she immediately began putting the pipecleaners into the holes in the shakers, arranging and rearranging them until she was satisfied. Then she threaded the beads onto the pipecleaners. Of course, this was the object all along, but I was thrilled that she had figured it out for herself.
She asked me not to pack it away that night, because she wanted to play with it in the morning, and in the morning she went back to it, continued to thread the beads onto it, and declared that this was her 'pretty bird'. So I made a 'beak' with yellow paper, wings from extra pipecleaners and put some blutack on the back of the beak and on the back of some googly eyes. She stuck them onto the shaker to make a face, and taped the wings on. Voila! Her 'pretty bird' is finished and ready for play. I twined the tips of the pipecleaners together to stop beads from flying off as she slid it around the table.
This activity is an opportunity for your tot to use their creativity, imagination, and their emerging fine motor skills. I thought you could also make the pipecleaner-ed shaker into a girl: twist the ends of the pipecleaners over so the beads don't fall off, then bend the pipecleaners down for hair, add a face and there you have it! Make a few, and you've got some puppets who can interact (further stimulating your child's imagination).
This blog is dedicated to sharing ideas for creative play for toddlers, for those times when toys just won't cut it (and there will be those times), for when you've had enough of the telly on in the background, and for anyone who has forgotten what life was like pre-Wiggles. If you're searching for inspiration or resources to occupy your pre-schoolers (especially aged 1-4), I hope this blog can help!
Loving wife of B. and mother of three; preschooler Eden, toddler Ava and baby Zac, and both are roles which tend to keep me happily busy. Moments for 'me' tend to revolve around reading or re-reading my books (which B. refers to as my 'other children').