Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Following Santa on his sleigh.

It's nearly time for Santa to make his yearly trip. If you want to follow him, I found a fantastic website that allows you to track where he is. The website also teaches your child about different countries, therefor developing their knowledge and understanding of cultures and other countries around the world. It is definately worth a look. Happy Christmas!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Favorite play dough recipe

During my years working with children, I have tried and tested many home made recipes for playdough. I must admit, I do cheat from time to time and buy it from the store, but nothing beats a fresh, warm and sweet smelling batch of dough. This recipe can keep for up to a month (sometimes longer) if stored in an air tight container or zip locked bag.

Who can play?
Children one year plus will love this multi sensory activity.

What do you need?

1 cup Flour
1/2 cup Salt
2 tbsp Cream of tartar
1 cup Water
1 tbsp oil
Chopping board 
Optional Food colouring and essence to enhanance play

You can double up on the ingredients for a bigger batch however, I have found that the dough gets stuck onto the pan during the cooking stage. 

What do you need to do?
1. Add all the dry ingredients to the pan.
2. Slowly pour in the wet ingredients whilst stirring. Stir until the ingredients are blended together.
3. Place on the stove (low light) constantly stir the mixture so that it does not stick to the pan.
4. When the mixture comes together and begins to look like dough, take it off the heat and place on a lightly floured chopping board.
5. Kneed the dough until it is just warn and has the texture of play dough.
6. At this stage you can add herbs, food colouring or any essence that is needed. Be careful when adding essence as too much will make the dough go soggy. 
7. If you find the dough becomes a little bit sticky over time, just add more flour.

What can your child learn?
  • communication and language- talking about what they see, smell and feel. Listening to and following instructions.
  • Physical development- Hand eye development. Small and large physical development when pinching, pulling and stretching the dough.
  • Personal, social and emotional- Fun and enjoyment. Spending quality time with you will encourage self esteem and bonding. Playing with the dough can also have a therapeutic and stress relieving effect.
  • Mathematics- Shape and capacity. Counting out ingredients.
  • Understanding of the world- change of state 
  • Literacy- Reading ingredient list 
  • Expressive arts and design- creating models and designs with the dough and equipment.
Follow up activities:
1. Explore the dough with just your hands or with tools and utensils 
2. To develop scissor skills, encourage your child to cut the playdough
3. Make pretend food for a shop/restaurant 
4. Bake in the oven on a low heat for several hours to create ornimants or play food etc.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Surprise Christmas books

There are so many lovely Christmas ideas circulating social media and the Internet at the moment, that there are not enough days in December to cover them all! One idea that I came across on ( They had the idea of wrapping 24 christmas/holiday themed books up for you and your child to read before bedtime, over the holiday period. I loved the idea and decided to make this a Christmas tradition for my family.

                            Our Christmas tree with the wrapped up books, waiting to be opened.
Who can play?
Children and adults of all ages. It has been proven that even reading to your baby can increase their ability to talk, read and have a greater understanding of language and literacy.
This is also a lovely activity for a school. Each child could bring in their favorite book that has been wrapped up and the teacher could read a few each day.

What do you need?
1. Wrapping paper
2. Cello tape
3. 24 holiday themed books. I used books that Bee already had and a few that I found at the thrift store. During the month of December we also celebrate Hanukkah, so I have added books that feature this festival too.

What do you need to do?
1. Wrap up your chosen 24 books and place them underneath your Christmas tree on the evening of the 30th November but, don't worry if you start it later... Your child will still love this activity whenever you start it.
2. Each night before bedtime ask your child to chose a book to read together.
3. Unwrap the book and enjoy it. Bee loved the excitement of finding out what the book was and especially the surprise of finding a new book.

What could your child learn?
  • Communication and language- talking about the title and what they think the book will be about encourages understanding of books and develops inquisitiveness. Reading together will encourage the development of speaking and listening skills.
  • Physical development- when taking off the wrapping paper and turning the pages of the book, your child will develop their fine and large manipulative skills.
  • Personal, social and emotional- Fun and enjoyment. Spending quality time with you will encourage self esteem and bonding. The children will also love the excitement of unwrapping the book everynight until Christmas and hopefully develop a love of books.
  • Mathematics- counting how many books are underneath the tree and the numbers on the pages of the book. You could also talk about the sizes of the books and their shapes.
  • Understanding of the world- learning about festivals that are celebrated around the world, such as Christmas and Hanukkah. This encourages diversity and knowledge, compassion and understanding of different cultures.
  • Literacy- pointing to the words as you read and talking about the pictures will develop letter recognition.
  • Expressive arts and design- you could also create your own christmas book together.

What could be done next?
1. This activity could become one of your families holiday traditions.
2. You could do the same activity but on halloween or easter.
3. Write the numerals 1 to 24 on the parcels and either ask your child to count down from 24 to 1 or unwrap the numbered gifts according to the date.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Pencil wand

Needing encouragement for your child to write/mark make? Why not try making this fun wand pencil... Fit for any Witch or Wizard.

Who can play?
I would recommend this activity for children aged 3 years and above.

Scissor safety

What do you need?
1. Pencil
2. Scissors
3. Card, preferably black or silver.
4. Glue
5. Glitter and sequins
6. Cello tape
7. Paper 

What do you need to do?
Draw a star shape onto a piece of card. Black and silver make the best colour. Depending on your child's age and stage of development, you can encourage your child to draw and cut it out. For younger children, you can always do this part for them.

Next, apply glue to the star and shake on some glitter and sequins.

Once the star has dried, attach it to the pencil with cello tape or glue. 

It is then ready to use. Children need to write for a purpose, so why not place the pencil on a clipboard with some paper. Leave it next to a cauldron with plastic creatures, to encourage your child to make marks/recognisable letters whilst writing a spell.

My daughter loves using her wand pencil and says it is magic and helps her write... If it encourages her literacy skills then that is food enough for me. 

The wand pencil doesn't have to be just for Halloween, it can be used all year round. 

What can be learnt?

What could be done next?
1. Use the wand pencil to mark make/write recognisable letters whilst writing a magic potion on paper.
2. Draw Halloween creatures with the pencil

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Witches gloopy brew

With Halloween looming, Bee and I decided to make a spooky witches potion. We decided the main ingredient would be Gloop, you may also know it as oblique or silk. If this is the first time you have made gloop, you will be amazed at the end result and it will have you questioning is it a solid or a liquid. 
To add an extra dimension to the gloopy witches potion, we added creepy crawlies, witches fingers and anything else that you may find available from the dollor store/pound shop. 
If your child loves slime and exploring different textures, this activity is for them. Bee played for a solid hour with the gloop. I am not going to lie...this activity is messy, but so worth it!


Who can play?
Children of all ages will love this activity. For younger children, I would recommend removing the small toys and just playing with the gloop.
As with all activities you must take into consideration your child's age and stage of development.

Encourage children not to eat the gloop. Even though it is edible substance, I would not recommend eating it. With babies and young children, you could always use their pacifier/dummy if they have one, to discourage them putting the gloop in their mouth.
Constant adult supervision is needed.
Ensure this activity is not carried out on a slippy  floor, as spills are likely.

What do you need?
1. Blanket to protect flooring and for an easy clean up
2. Cornstartch/cornflour
3. Water
4. Food colouring
5. Bowl/cauldron
6. Spoons
7. Cups
8. Halloween items such as witches fingers, bones cut out of card, spiders etc.
9. Witches costume (optional)
10. Brush and shovel for clean up
11.Clipboard, paper and pencil

What did we do?

The first thing you need to do is prepare the area and equipment. I placed a blanket on the floor and brought all the required ingredients outside. We talked about what witches would like to eat and thought of things they would possibly put in their cauldron. Bee's imagination was in overdrive.

Our next job was to make the gloop/oblique/silk. We emptied one box of cornstarch/cornflour into a bowl. Slowly we added a cup of water with your desired food colouring to the mixture. It is important to add small amounts of water at a time, as you need it to be just the right consistency. You will know when it's right. Too little water will make the mixture feel dry and too much will make it runny and you will not be able to pick it up.


Now for the fun part...playing and experimenting with the textures of the gloop. It feels so strange. One minute it feels like a solid and you can pick it up, and the next it is like a liquid, dripping through your fingers. Bee loved making it into a ball and then watching it slowly drip from one hand to the other. It seemed to have a therapeutic and hypnotizing effect.


Once you have finished exploring the gloop on its own, you can add your halloween items to encourage role play and creative development. Bee loved making "Witchy cups of tea" with plastic witch fingers, bones and spiders...mmmm. She counted out the ingredients into the cups developing her mathematical skills and concepts.


When cleaning up the gloop, I find that if you let it dry, it can be easily shook off the blanket and brushed up. This is why I highly recommend you exploring the gloop outside.
Once the activity has finished you can store the dried gloop in a container and if you wish to do the activity again, just add water.

 What did we learn?
  • Communication and language- Talk about what they are doing and what they see and feel. Learn new descriptive words such as sloppy, slippy, solid and liquid. Making rhymes up with the objects and witch songs
  • Physical development- Fine and large manipulative skills when mixing the ingredients together and manipulating the gloop, by pinching, pulling, scraping, mixing and letting it drip . Hand eye coordination. 
  • Personal, social and emotional- Fun and enjoyment. Developing sensory skills. Self help skills afterwards when washing her hands and tidying up. The activity can also have a calming effect on your child as watching the gloop dripping and moving it from one hand to the other can be quite therapeutic.
  • Mathematics- Learning about spacial awareness and capacity. Counting how many fingers and spiders etc they are adding to the witches brew. Counting out ingredients and measuring.
  • Understanding of the world- Change of state and investigating the properties of a solid and liquid. Developing an awareness of the world around them. Problem solving when the gloop gets dry, investigating what you need to do to make it become 'gloopy' again.
  • Literacy- Developing the fine manipulative skills that are needed for holding writing tools. Mark making in the gloop. You could also use the clipboard and pen to write down the ingredients you need to make your witches brew.
  • Expressive arts and design- Designing their own witches brew and role play when pretending to drink it.
What could be done next?
1. Create a Witches tea shop. This will encourage creative play and mathematical too as the children count out money and use addition.
2. Washing the equipment is just as much fun as playing with the gloop. This teaches independence, self help and your child will aldo enjoy playing with the water.
3. If your child is not so keen on the messy gloop, try just making the witches brew with water and spooky objects.

Did it outside to save mess.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Hand print Autumn trees

I love the Autumn/Fall season. There are so many fun holidays (Harvest festival, Halloween, Thanksgiving etc) but I simply enjoy the changes that the season brings. The weather gets cooler and the colours displayed by the trees are so beautiful. 

After going on an Autumnal walk with my daughter, we were inspired to paint our own tree, using a paint brush and our hands. It was a bit of a messy activity but, so much fun.

Who can play?
Children aged 1 year onwards would enjoy this activity. With younger children the activity is more about the process, where as with older children it will be about the process and the end result.
All activities depend on each individual child's age and stage of development. 

To protect clothes, I recommend the use of an apron and newspaper on the floor/table.
Ensure your paint is non toxic and for younger children you could always substitute paint for yoghurt and food colouring.
I always keep wipes and a damp cloth close by, to clean up any paint spills, to prevent slipping.

What you need:
1. Newspaper for the floor/table (wherever you chose to do your painting)
2. Apron
3. Wipes and damp cloth
4. Paper
5. Cello tape to secure the paper to the floor/table
6. Red, brown, orange, yellow and green paint (Autumn colours)  

What we did:
Once we had put on our aprons and protected the floor with newspaper, Bee and I talked about the different coloured leaves that we noticed on our Autumnal walk. We discussed why we thought the leaves changed colour (due to the weather getting cooler and the leaves dying) and briefly touched on the effects that Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer have on us and our environment.

Our next job was to create our Autumn tree picture. We began by talking about the tree trunks and what they look like. Bee painted a thick brown line and then some twigs coming out of the top. I asked her did her tree have routes and she said yes, and painted two small curved lines at the bottom.

We then set out mixing our paints to make the colour orange and dark red. Using her finger, Bee very carefully made prints with the paint ontop of the tree, to represent leaves. She commented on the colours merging together to make new ones.

Bee really loved putting the red paint on one hand and the yellow on the other. she would then bring both hands together and mix the two colours to make orange. 
We talked  about the texture and properties of the paint when it was on our fingers and hands. This promoted Descriptive language such as slimy, wet and cold and sensory development. 

Once the activity had finished we washed our hands, cleaned the area and paint pots. When the painting has dried I plan to put it in a frame.

What we learn?
  • Communication and language- Talk about what they are doing and what they see and feel. Learn new words such as trunk and photosynthesis.
  • Physical development- Fine and large manipulative skills and coordination when rubbing the paint together on her hands, using the paint brush and her finger to make daub marks to represent leaves. Hand eye coordination. 
  • Personal, social and emotional- Fun and enjoyment. Developing sensory skills. Self help skills afterwards when washing her hands and tidying up.
  • Mathematics- Learning about spacial awareness and patterns. Counting how many fingers they can see on their hand prints.
  • Understanding of the world- Change of state and talking about weather conditions and seasons. Developing an awareness of the world around them and their local environment. Learning about the anatomy of a tree.
  • Literacy- Developing fine manipulative skills that are needed for holding writing tools. Mark making.
  • Expressive arts and design- Learning different painting techniques. Creating patterns and designing. Painting a tree from memory. Exploring paint.

What next?
1. Place the Autumn tree in a frame and during Winter, Spring and Summer make another one.    Discuss the differences and changes that each season brings.
2. Make prints from real leaves. This can be done by painted the back side of a leaf and pressing it down on a piece of paper.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ever changing fall collage

During our Autumn/Fall walk we collected lots of natural objects from our environment.
The idea was to use them to learn about Autumn, textures, colors etc and for creative purposes too. 
We made sticky pictures with them, which my daughter loved doing. However,  for an ongoing project, I created a tray with soil and the found objects. 
The beauty of this activity is that not only can you create pictures and patterns again and again but, the resources are free and readily available in your local environment. It also makes a welcome change from playing with all singing and dancing plastic toys.     

Who can play?
Children aged 3 years and above, according to their age and stage of development. 

There is a risk of choking with this acivity, due to small objects. Constant adult supervision is highly recommended.

What do you need?
1 Tray
2 Soil
3 Natural objects such as, leaves, twigs, stones etc
4 Container to store objects
4 Picnic blanket or table if playing outside

What did we do?
To set up the invitation to play, I placed a picnic blanket on the grass, with a tray of soil and a container with our objects that we found on our Autumnal walk.
Bee used the objects in many ways. At first she arranged them to make a face...
... And then she practiced her sorting and classifying skills, as she separated the objects into groups.         

We enjoyed experimenting with the designs and practiced our creativity skills.

After the activity had finished, we brought the objects and the tray (minus the soil) inside, so that Bee had the opportunity to revisit the activity later in the afternoon.

What did we learn?
  • Communication and language- Learning new words and talking through what they are doing.
  • Physical development- Fine and large manipulative skills and coordination when picking up leaves etc and placing them on the tray.  
  • Personal, social and emotional- Fun and enjoyment. Developing sensory skills. Making decisions when selecting which items to use in her masterpiece.
  • Mathematics- Learning about space and measurement. Comparing and measuring leaves and talking about sizes. Counting objects, learning about patterns and spacial awareness. Classifying and grouping objects.
  • Understanding of the world-  Change of state and talking about weather conditions and seasons. Developing an awareness of the world around them and their local environment. 
  • Literacy- Developing fine manipulative skills that are needed for holding writing tools. The natural objects could also be arranged into letter formations. 
  • Expressive arts and design- Creating patterns and designing their own picture with natural objects.
What could be done next?
1. As mentioned above, the activity can be recreated inside minus the soil
2. Using the found objects make pictures of autumnal animals
3. To encourage literacy skills, encourage your child to make letters with them.
4. Encourage sequencing skills, by asking your child to copy a sequence you have made for example, acorn, leaf, acorn, leaf.

Autumn/Fall sticky pictures

During our Autumn/Fall nature walk, we collected some interesting natural items that we plan to use during our craft projects this month. One activity we had in mind was to create pictures using the objects, paper and glue. 
Not only were the resources in this activity free and readily available but, were interesting and created lots of discussion too.

Who can play?
As with all activities it depends on your child's age and stage of development however, I would recommend it for children aged 2 years onwards.

Due to smaller children exploring objects with their mouths there is a risk of choking due to small objects. Younger children will also want to put the glue in their mouth too so, I would recommend adult supervision at all times. 

What do you need?
1. Paper
2. Glue
3. Natural objects that have been collected on your nature walk.
3. Apron to protect clothing.

What did we do?
To set up the activity, I placed the leaves, acorns etc in a container on the table and a protective mat. As soon as Bee saw the natural objects she said "we collected them the other day!" I invited her to place glue on the paper and arrange the items as she wished. 
Bee loved squeezing the glue bottle and making swirls and patterns with the runny glue. She then selected her items and placed them on the glue.

We talked about the texture, shape and size of objects and developed spacial awareness and creativity when arranging the items on the paper. Bee even made a face out of some leaves, acorns and a twig.

What did we learn?
  • Communication and language- Talk about what they are doing and what they see and feel.
  • Physical development- Fine and large manipulative skills and coordination when picking up leaves etc and placing them onto the paper. Squeezing the glue from the bottle and hand-eye coordination skills.
  • Personal, social and emotional- Fun and enjoyment. Developing sensory skills. Making decisions as to what items they would like to use and pride from finished product.
  • Mathematics- Comparing and measuring leaves and talking about sizes. Counting objects that you place on the paper. Learning about spacial awareness and patterns
  • Understanding of the world- Change of state and talking about weather conditions and seasons. Developing an awareness of the world around them and their local environment. 
  • Literacy- Developing fine manipulative skills that are needed for holding writing tools and an opportunity to make letters out of the natural objects.
  • Expressive arts and design- Creating patterns and designing pictures with the glue and natural objects.

What next
1. The finished products can be displayed on the wall, for a fall decoration. This will give your child a sense of pride and make them feel important and like they are valued.
2. Take a photograph of the picture because, as time goes by items may fall off and this way you will have a copy of it forever.


Autumn/fall nature walk

What could be more fun than going on a nature walk, to learn about the effects of Fall/Autumn and collect treasures along the way?! 
My daughter loves picking up twigs, leaves and stones all year round, she says that they are her special gift. We collect them all in a large vase near the front door, from time to time she likes to revisit the vase and make patterns with the natural objects inside. Playing with the natural objects inspired me to take her on a little Autumnal walk. 
Our aim for this activity was to discuss the changes that Autumn brings and collect natural items to explore and create future masterpiece's with.


Who can play?
Children of all ages would love this activity. Obviously the level of involvement will be different for each child as it depends on their age and stage of development. 

This activity is a great opportunity to learn road safety rules.
Be aware of what your child is picking up, especially if it is near an area where dogs go to the bathroom.
You will need constant adult supervision when your child is handling the found objects, as they could potentially be dangerous or cause a choking risk to small children.

What do you need?
1. Depending on the climate of the country, you will need sensible clothing and shoes
2. Stroller for babies and younger children (in case they become tired during the walk)
3. Clipboard, paper and pencil (attached with string, so that you do not lose it)
4. Basket or bag to collect the objects you find
5. Camera
6. Magnifying glass or binoculars 

Things to do on your walk
Babies: Go for a walk with your baby in the stroller and stop for a while to point out the leaves on the trees and floor. Just being out in the fresh air can also have a big impact on your babies overall development. 
Toddlers: Talk about the different colored leaves that they see. Count the leaves and encourage your child to pick them up and place them in a bag/basket. This not only encourages mathematical skills, but physical too. Discuss temperatures and weather conditions, for example is it hot, cold, windy etc.
Pre-schoolers and Kindergarten/reception: Talk about the changes that happen in Autumn for example, it gets cooler and darker earlier in the evenings. Discuss the changes in the colour of leaves and why they fall to the ground. Compare the leaves that they find and discuss their shape, size and what type of tree they have come from. 
Observe wildlife, such as squirrels harvesting nuts for winter or the different birdlife that Autumn brings.
This age group will also enjoy taking photos of what they find with a camera. My daughter Bee, enjoyed drawing a picture of a tree and an acorn on the clipboard, whilst we were on our exploration.


What can be learnt?
  • Communication and language- Listening to and following instructions
  • Physical development- Fine and large manipulative skills and coordination when picking up leaves etc and acing them in the basket. 
  • Personal, social and emotional- Making relationships. Fun and enjoyment. Developing sensory skills. Making decisions as to what items they would like to collect.
  • Mathematics- Learning about capacity concepts. Comparing and measuring leaves and talking about sizes. Counting objects that you collect.
  • Understanding of the world- Learning road safety. Change of state and talking about weather conditions and seasons. Developing an awareness of the world around them and their local environment. 
  • Literacy- Developing fine manipulative skills that are needed for holding writing tools and an opportunity to write on the clipboard the names of the objects that they find.
  • Expressive arts and design- Looking at patterns and designs in the environment.
What next?
Display your natural items in a bowl to encourage future discussions regarding Autumn. If you found man made items whilst on your walk, talk about litter and the importance of placing it in the bin/trash.
There are so many ways that you can play and be creative with the items you have found. Here are a few ideas:
1. Maths concepts could be encouraged by making sequences with acorns and leaves. 
Making patterns with natural objects. This can also be done by using them as counting resources.
2. Autumn/fall sticky pictures
3. Leaf printing
4. Bark rubbing trees

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Frozen themed sensory bottles

My 4 year old daughter is still obsessed with the movie Frozen, so most of our activities have featured elements of the movie and it's characters. Following a theme or something that your child is really interested in helps them become involved and excited to learn. 
For a great sensory experience we decided to make some Frozen themed sensory bottles. With some water, glitter and food colouring we created a glittery snowstorm. Some children may find the bottles  relaxing as they watch the glitter travel down the bottle (once shaken) and I have heard that they can be therapeutic and used in situations when your child needs to find a way to calm down.

Due to Bee's upcoming birthday, that obviously had a Frozen theme, we decided to make extra sensory bottles to give out as favors, for the babies that were attending.  

Who can play?
Children of all ages will love the sensory bottles... Even grown ups.

Like with all activities adult supervision is recommended at all times.
Ensure that the lid on the bottle is securely attached, to prevent children drinking the contents or spilling it. The liquid can also stain fabric.
I recommend that an adult uses the glue gun as it can burn skin and damage work surfaces etc. 

What do you need?
Clean plastic bottles
Food colouring
Glitter glue and glitter

You can make the sensory bottles with just the items mentioned above, or if you wanted to make them extra special you will need:

Glue gun

What did we do?
Firstly we placed a jug of water on a tray (to catch any water that could possibly spill)  Bee then carefully dropped some blue food colouring into the water. She commented on how it looked "swirly". Using a spoon she stirred the liquid to ensure the food colouring was fully mixed in. 
We talked about how the clear water had changed colour.
Once Bee was happy with the mixture, she poured it carefully and slowly into the bottle, showing a lot of concentration and hand eye coordination.
Next was the fun part... Adding the glitter. We chose glitter glue and regular glitter. Bee's theory was the more the merrier! 
She showed a lot of physical development as she shook the glitter tub carefully in the bottle and would squeeze the glitter glue dispenser. We loved watching the glitter glue slowly fall to the bottom of the bottle like a snake. Then we had to give it a really good shake to mix it in.
Our next job was to screw on the bottle lid and ensure that it would stay there by wrapping tape around the lid and neck of the bottle. 
You can either stop here or go ahead and make them look extra special. To do this I cut a circular shape out of felt, that was just big enough to go around the bottle top and neck of the bottle.
Using a hot glue gun I attached the felt to the bottle and the cap. Bee could not participate at this point due to a high risk of burns. She watched from a distance and we talked about being safe. I showed her how the glue sticks melt and come out as liquid from the other side of the glue gun.
All that was left to do was tie a piece of blue ribbon around the neck if the bottle. Bee loved shaking the bottles and watching the glitter fall. For me, I found it quite therapeutic and relaxing. 
The end result looked really cute and I cannot wait to hand them out at the party.
What did we learn?
  • Communication and language- Listening to and following instructions
  • Physical development- Fine and large manipulative skills and coordination when filling the bottles and shaking them.
  • Personal, social and emotional- Making relationships, making a gift for others, social skills, fun and enjoyment. Developing sensory skills and relaxation.
  • Mathematics- Measuring out the water, food colouring and glitter. Learning about capacity concepts.
  • Understanding of the world- Change of state and talking about weather conditions such as snow and ice.
  • Expressive arts and design-designing and making your own sensory bottle 

What could be done next?
1. Experiment with different colours of glitter and food colouring. 
2. Change the items in the bottles, for example add Pom poms or rice etc. This will extend sensory development and can also be used for musical instruments.
3. Use as a relaxation bottle for challenging moments

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

OK to play kitchen draw/cupboard for crawlers and toddlers

Does your baby/toddler love to empty the draws and cupboards in your kitchen? Do you worry about if they are going to hurt themselves or break things? I went through the exact thing when my baby began to crawl and pull out objects from our kitchen draws. I remember having to tell her "no touch" and her response would be given in tears. My solution was to transform a draw or lower shelf in a cupboard just for my curious daughter. It was so nice to say "have a play" rather than "please no touch"
 My daughter loved keeping busy by emptying the contents and putting them back in again. It not only made her feel as if she was able to explore, make connections, be entertained whilst I worked in the kitchen, but it actually gave me some time to prepare her meals.

Who can play?
Babies that are crawling and toddlers

Ensure that the objects in your baby/toddlers allocated draw are safe.
Only include items that are not sharp, glass, breakable or heavy.
Supervision is highly recommended at all times.
Be mindful that little fingers can get trapped in doors/draws.

What do you need?
The first thing you need to find is a bottom draw or lower cupboard shelf in your kitchen, that you do not need and is in easy reach of your baby/toddler.
A selection of objects that are safe for your baby to play with. Here are a few examples:
  • Empty cereal boxes. Bee loved empty porridge tubs because she could bang on them with a spoon.
  • Pan lids
  • Wooden and metal spoons
  • Wooden egg cups
  • Tupperware containers of various sizes
  • Lemon/limes
  • cups  
  • empty tin boxes
  • whisks
  • sponges
  • brushes
  • metal bowls
  • mini brush and shovel for older toddlers
  • Small books
To give your child a visual clue, that the draw is OK for them to play in you could place a photograph of your child on the front.

What do I need to do?
Choose a draw in your kitchen/shelf preferably the bottom one) Ensure it is clean and place in a few of your chosen objects. You can always add more objects as your child grows/develops. 
I would also recommend changing the items on a regular basis to keep your baby/toddler interested. 
Once your child has finished playing, encourage them to help tidy up. This helps them learn safety rules and self help skills. At this stage you also need to check and discard any broken items. 
My daughter Bee explored with the objects in lots of different ways. Here are a few ideas;
1. Banging objects with a spoon
2. Putting smaller objects inside larger objects
3. Banging pan kids together
4. Placing spoons in cups
5. Stacking books and boxes

Possible learning outcomes:
  • Communication and language-Speaking and listening. Talking about what they are finding and what they are doing.
  • Physical development- Developing fine and large manipulative skills when picking up objects. Hand-eye coordination.
  • Personal, social and emotional- Making relationships, social skills, feelings and self help
  • Mathematics- Shapes, space, measurement, number counting and recognition
  • Understanding of the world- learning about their community and the world around them. Learning about different tools and their uses.
  • Expressive arts and design- creativity and role play when pretending to cook etc.

What could be done next?
This could be done in other rooms in the house, for instance a lower draw in the bathroom could include rollers, empty shampoo bottles (minus lids) and brushes.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Heuristic/treasure baskets

Heuristic and treasure baskets are widely used within the Early Years settings, in the United Kingdom. The English dictionary (Collins Gem) describes the word Heuristic as;
                        "Serving to find out or to stimulate investigation" 
The main purpose of a heuristic/treasure baskets is to add only natural, metal, material and wooden objects. This not only provides a pleasant break from the all singing, dancing and brightly coloured plastic toys, but enables your baby/toddler to explore with all their senses, in a quiet, calm and relaxing manner.
The objects that are used are open ended and there is no need for an end result, just the fun in experiencing the textures and qualities. Babies/toddlers will enjoy mouthing, touching, smelling, tasting, listening and looking at the objects, helping make connections and future identification skills.

Who can play?
Babies who can sit unsupported and toddlers

What do you need?

Most items you can find within the home, but if you are struggling for inspiration then here are a few recommendations of objects I used in my daughters basket:

  • Wooden objects- A few building blocks, napkin rings, dolly pegs, spoons, spatula, rattle, bowls, castanets, mug tree, bangles and coasters
  • Metal objects- Bunch of keys, chains, jar lids, whisk, a spoon and a clean CD
  • Natural objects- Large feather, fir cones, large shell, lemon and a lime
  • Materials- Ribbons, hair rollers, small cardboard boxes,bath plug with chain, piece of fur and a leather purse
  • A fluffy blanket to sit on and cushions for extra support and comfort
  • For older children, who do not mouth objects, try adding lavender in a small pouch to develop their sense of smell and promote relaxation.
To store the objects you will need a low sided basket, so that your baby/toddler can gain easy access. I found mine at a local thrift store and just cleaned it up.
It is also important to note that you should change the objects inside the basket once in a while. This will keep the interest of the child, stimulate his learning and exploration skills.

Ensure that the objects are not too small as to be swallowed.
This activity requires constant adult supervision.
Check objects on a regular basis. Broken items must be discarded.
Use your own judgement and only use safe objects, that will not cut or otherwise harm your child.
Ensure the objects are cleaned on a regular basis.

How to set up the heuristic/treasure baskets:
  1. Choose a time when you know your baby/toddler is at their most alert. 
  2. Check the objects prior to offering them to your baby. Discard of any broken or unsafe items
  3. Create a comfy space by placing the blanket and cushions on the ground, and the basket next to your baby
  4. Allow your baby/toddler to explore the objects in their own time. Remember your role is to provide support and help if needed, but not to alter their play.
What could they learn?
  • Communication and language-Speaking and listening. Learning descriptive words such as shiny, smooth etc.
  • Physical development- Fine manipulative skills such as the development of the palmer, pincer and tripod grip. large manipulative skills, such as banging, pulling and dropping. Hand eye coordination, 
  • Personal, social and emotional- Making decisions on what they like and don't like, without the help of an adult. Making relationships, social skills, feelings and self help. Developing an interest. Independence and self reliance. Fun and enjoyment
  • Literacy- Developing the physical skills needed when learning to write.
  • Mathematics- Shapes, space, measurement and number counting.Sorting, matching and classifying objects 
  • Understanding of the world- Learning about the world around them. Making connections in the brain. Examining objects and exploring their textures. Learning through their senses. Exploring gravity when an object falls. Cause and effect
  • Expressive arts and design- Role play.
What could be done next?
  • Instead of using one basket to hold the objects, divide them into groups of wooden, metal, material etc and place them into separate baskets. Below are some examples of boxes that I made up;
Texture basket

Metal and shiny basket

Wooden and natural basket

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pool noodles for goal posts

With the World Cup in full swing, we have been practicing our football skills (or soccer depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on)  
Football is not just a great activity to develop physical skills such as kicking and foot-eye coordination but social skills and spacial awareness, to name but a few.
With two pool noodles, four chop sticks and a football, you can create your own mini football match.


Who knew there would be so much fun to be had with pool noodles! For other fun ideas of how to use your 'noodle' check out the following sites:
  • for how to make obstacle courses and other backyard games. They even feature a football obsicle course, that gave me the idea for the activity.
  • have some really fun games for noodle play in the bath. 
Who can play?
If your child is able to stand up, they can start practicing kicking or rolling a ball.

Be careful with the chop sticks and ensure that the noodles are completely over them. If a child falls on them, they could poke them in the eye etc.

What did the Critique have to say?
"I think it's funny when my shoe flies off, when I kick the ball... I like passing the ball, it's tricky" Bee aged 3 years old.

What do you need?
  • Four chopsticks 
  • Two pool noodles
  • One football
What did we do?
To make the football goal posts, first we had to push two chopsticks half way into the ground

Chopsticks placed into the ground

Taking the pool noodle, we placed each end on top of the chopsticks, ensuring that it reached the ground, creating an arch way.
Place a pool noodle onto the chopsticks

Repeat this again with another pool noodle and two chopsticks if you wish to make a football pitch.
We had a great time playing football. We talked about how in football we use our feet instead of our hands, learnt how to stop the ball with our feet and pass it to one and other. Bee also really enjoyed just practicing trying to kick it through the posts. We developed our social skills too as we took it in turns being a goal keeper and cooperated. 
Have fun and may the best team win :-)                  
The finished product

What did we learn?
  • Communication, language and listening- listening to instructions, developing language by learning new words, such as dribbling, passing and scoring.
  • Mathematical- counting goals scored. Developing Spacial awareness and directional language , such as pass it to the left/right.
  • Knowledge and understanding- playing in the outdoor environment. As it is World Cup season, you could also talk about the different countries that are participating
  • Personal, social and emotional- Fun and enjoyment. Taking turns and cooperating. Being involved in the same theme as someone else. Pride in learning a new skill or scoring a goal.
  • Expressive arts and design- creating the arch with pool noodles. You could also experiment with making other shaped/sculptures with the pool noodles and chopsticks (depending on the child's age and stage of development)
  • Physical- developing leg muscles. Passing the ball and aiming it into the goal. Running and stopping the ball with their feet. 
What could be done next?
  • For older children add two yellow pieces of card, one red piece of card and a whistle. This will develop awareness of the rules of football and role play
  • Try some of the another activities using pool noodles, as mentioned above.
  • Invite friends over for a football match.
  • As it is World Cup season, encorpate art and design, knowledge and understanding and literacy skills by making your own posters or flags of the world.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Messy mud play

Mud is a readily available, open ended and sensory enriched material. Whether using shop bought or just digging around in the garden, this natural material will keep your child entertained and develop their skills for a long time.

Whilst working in a primary school, the children would play in the soil/mud for whole afternoons, adding water, digging and jumping up and down in the muddy puddles. This provided a release for emotions/tension and you will be surprised to find out that it develops those skills needed for writing. say that:
Good gross motor skills provide strength, balance and coordination in the body, arms and legs that is needed to support fine motor control e.g. sitting at a desk to color or write
Over the past week, Bee has been helping me in the garden and has started to love playing in soil. This led to a week of exploring the soil and getting very, very muddy!
When her friend 'P' came over for a play date she invited him to experience the soil too (thankfully his mum agreed and had spare clothes) The children loved playing and exploring on their own and then invited us into their play by asking us to taste their mud soup. The hours of fun they had with this activity was unbelievable.
Having fun exploring the qualities of mud!
Who can play?
Children aged three and above, depending on their age and stage of development.

Before playing in the soiled area/tray containing soil, check for animal faeces and potentially dangerous wild life, if you live in countries that have black widows etc.
Encourage children not to put the soil in their mouth as this can cause illness and wash hands after playing this activity.

What do you need?

  • Soil, either from the garden or bought from the garden center.
  • Water
  • Buckets, turkey basters,cups or anything you think will inspire creativity
  • Spoons
  • Watering cans
  • Clothing that you do not mind getting dirty
  • Wipe clean shoes or wellington boots
  • Tray if you are using shop bought soil

What did the critiques have to say?
"I love it... It feels mushy and cold" by Bee aged 3

What questions could be asked?
  • How can we make mud? What do we need?
  • What does it feel like?
  • What could we make?
What did we do?
The first thing that had to be done was to do a safety check on the area. I looked for faeces (animal poop) or any other sharp matter that could have pose a danger. Then I made sure that the children had equipment such as buckets filled with water, spray bottles and spades etc close at hand and ready to encourage exploration.

The children got stuck in to the activity. They made mud pies, mud soup, mud tea and just generally explored the effects that water has on soil.

Bee thought it was really funny when her shoe got stuck in the mud. She was so engrossed in her play, that she just left it and carried on with her task.
Using our hands and feet to explore the mud
The friends took turns and shared the equipment and asked for help when they needed more water. They also used a lot of descriptive language such as wet and slippy and investigated the ants and worms.          
Looking for bugs in the mud and working together as a team
After they had finished investigating the bugs, they decided to fill the patches on the wall. that did not have any leaves on it. They did this by grabbing handfuls of mud and throwing it at the patches on the wall. By doing this they were not only developing their fine manipulative and large manipulative skills but hand eye coordination too.
Grabbing hand fulls of soil and throwing them at the wall.
Once they were happy with their wall, they began spraying the mud with the spray bottles. It was not long before the attention of the mud was switched to me! The children had so much fun getting me wet...and why not?! It was a hot day and sometimes it's worth it to hear their real heart felt laughter.

Lots of giggles and hearty laughs when spraying me with water.
I cannot believe how much they loved getting muddy. They had it everywhere, on their face, hands and even their...
Someone needs a shower down with the hose :-)
...toes. When the mud was at it's sloppiest consistency, Bee and her friend decided to remove their shoes and explore it with their feet. I love this photo of Bee and her friend 'P'! The pure delight in their faces was priceless.
Muddy little toes. 
When the activity came to an end, I finally got my own back on the children, as I sprayed them both with the garden hose. This turned into a water fight, but at least we all ended up nice and clean.

What did we learn?
  • Communication and language-Talking about what they are seeing and feeling. Discussing what they are doing.
  • Physical development- Developing Fine and large manipulative skills by digging and picking up the mud, squelching it in between fingers, throwing the mud at walls and using tools to manipulate the mud and hand eye coordination, 
  • Personal, social and emotional- Making relationships, developing social skills such as sharing and turn taking. Exploring feelings and self help. Fun and enjoyment. Being involved in an activity that involves sensory areas, such as sight, smell, sound and touch.
  • Literacy- Developing the fine manipulative skills needed when learning how to write
  • Mathematics- Learning concepts such as space, measurement and capacity.
  • Understanding of the world- Learning about the world around them. Having a hands on experience at change of state, as the children change soil (solid) into mud (liquid) 
  • Expressive arts and design-Engaging in role play and using their imagination.

What could be done next?

  • Add tea sets to make a muddy tea party
  • Create a tray with soil from a garden center and place animals in it. Fun themes could be dinosaurs, wild animals or fairies. To create a scene add leaves and stones etc.
  • Why not add plant pots to the tray and flowers. Your child may be inspired to create their own flower shop. Place writing equipment near the area to encourage mark making when writing prices or making posters for the shop.
  • Hide letters and numbers in the soil
  • Go on a pirate adventure and dig for treasure.