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:
  • www.parents.com 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.
  • www.bathactivitiesforkids.com 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. www.familycenterweb.org 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.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Frozen themed coconut, blueberry and yogurt ice pops

As Parents/Carers we are always trying to find alternative healthy and nutritious treats for our children. Bee loves ice cream, but due to shop bought ice creams/pops having a high sugar content as well as other suspicious ingredients, we decided to make some delicious, healthy and cooling ice pops at home.  By making your own you know exactly what ingredients they contain and it is a great learning opportunity for your child.
We decided to make our ice pops fit for Queen Elsa and Princess Anna (from the Disney movie Frozen) I am sure they would love to feast on these chilled beauties
To give them a Frozen theme we used only blue and white ingredients. For nutritional purposes we added coconut water as it contains;
"minerals like calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and zinc...B-complex vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pyridoxine, and folates. These vitamins are essential in the sense that the human body requires them from external sources to replenish...      electrolyte potassium. 100 ml of water has 250 mg of potassium and 105 mg of sodium. Together, these electrolytes help replenish electrolyte deficiency in the body due to diarrhea " found on www.nutrition-and-you.com  


Who can play?
Children aged two and above

If children are involved in the cutting up of fruits, ensure that you only provide a blunt knife, to prevent cuts.
Ensure that you and your child wash your hands prior to making the ice pops for hygiene reasons.

What do you need?
  • Ice pop molds
  • Freezer
  • Yogurt (any kind that you have available in your fridge) 
  • Coconut water
  • Blueberries
What did the critique have to say regarding the activity?
"It's yum and cold" By Bee aged three.
What questions could be asked?
  • Where can we put the ingredients to make them go cold and freeze?
  • What do you think will happen to the fruit and liquid once it goes into the freezer? 
  • Does it feel hot or cold?             

What did we do?
Firstly we washed our hands, fruit and the table.
Bee then placed the blueberries half way in the ice pop mold. As a guide, I used a dry wipe marker and made a line half way up the mold

Marks made half way down the ice pop mold as a guide
We then poured in the coconut water. Bee decided to put the coconut water to the top of one molds and said that it was "full" .She did not pour any into the end mold and said "I'm just going to put yogurt in that one". This showed that she was designing her own ice pops and experimenting with the combinations. At this point she also passed a comment about the blueberries floating, so we spent a minute or two talking about floating and sinking and why she thought this was happening.


We tasted the water and fruit as we went along and talked about the berries being sweet.
During the activity I questioned Bee as to how we were going to make them cold. At first she said the fridge and then the freezer because it is "even colder".
Next we placed them in the freezer for around 4 hours (or until they were frozen)
Finally we added yogurt to fill the rest of the ice pop mold. They were then placed in the freezer for another four hours or until frozen.


All that was left to do then was...enjoy...and we did! 

What did we learn?
  • Communication and language-Speaking and listening. Following instructions. Explaining what she is doing.
  • Physical development- Fine and large manipulative skills, coordination. Healthy food choices and talking about foods that are good and bad for you.
  • Personal, social and emotional- Making relationships and developing social skills. Becoming aware of hygiene rules, by having to wash hands before the activity and encouraging self help skills.
  • Mathematics- Counting out the fruit and measuring out the liquids. Talking about full, half full and empty. Measuring liquid space concepts.
  • Understanding of the world- Learning about technology for example, the freezer is run by electricity and makes things go really cold. Developing an awareness of temperatures and change of state. Floating and sinking concepts as the blueberries floated in the coconut water. Developing the senses by tasting and touching the cold ice pops.
  • Expressive arts and design- Creating her own style of ice pop. Making patterns in the ice pop by adding layers.
What could be done next?

  • Experiment with different fruits 
  • Make different colored fruit pops by adding strawberries and raspberries to one and blueberries and blackberries to another.
  • If you want to make your own yogurt ice pops, but do not own ice pop molds, insert a spoon into the lid of a yogurt pot and place it in the freezer for a few hours. P
  • Place tubes of yogurt in the freezer. The end result is a frozen yogurt bar.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Shape shooting pom pom game

Whilst looking on Internet the other night, I came across an activity found on funfamilycrafts.com. They used a cup and balloon to project pom poms into the air. What a brilliant idea. I just had to try it out with my daughter... probably because I wanted to have a go too.
For an additional educational twist, I thought it would be a great opportunity to introduce shapes on the ground (made with masking tape) Bee would have to aim at them, promoting not only shape recognition, but space and measurement skills. I suppose this activity could be adapted by making letters, numbers and colours on the ground too.

Who can play?
I would recommend this activity for children aged 3 years and above, depending on the age and stage of development of the child.

I would only recommend using soft items in the pom pom shooter, such as pom poms or cotton balls. Harder materials could cause damage.
This activity required adult supervision, especially because of the use of balloons. They can cause a serious risk of choking.

What do you need?
  • Paper cup (I got mine free from the local coffee shop:-)
  • A balloon
  • Tape
  • Scissors to cut the cup and balloon
  • Pom poms or cotton balls
Questions you could ask:
  • Why do the pom poms shoot out of the cup when you pull the balloon?
  • Can you shoot the pom poms high/low/to the left or right?
What the Critique had to say about the activity:
"It's like the 4th July" Bee aged 3 thought the pom poms flying in the air, resembled fireworks.

What did we do?

The first thing we had to do was make the pom pom shooter. To do this you need to cut the end off a plastic cup
The next thing you have to do is tie the end of a balloon in a knot and then cut in half. 

Then tape the side of the balloon with the knot to the end of the cup.  Bee loved helping out at this part. You are then ready to start the fun.

At first I had to show Bee how to use the pom pom shooter. We filled the container with small pom poms and then by pulling on the end of the balloon and releasing, the pom poms shot out into the air. Bee's expression was priceless, she loved watching them go up and said "It's like fireworks...it's the 4th July!!" She repeated this activity for at least 10 minutes solid. Picking the pom poms up and then re-filling the cup. I obviously had to play too...just so that she did not feel like she was doing this on her own :-) It was great fun!

Judging by this cheesy, excited grin I think that this game is a big hit with her too.

After about 15 minutes of  exploring the pom pom shooter and developing our skills of puling the balloon back and releasing, I introduced some masking tape shapes on the ground, as target practice. I chose a square, rectangle and a triangle for the shapes, as I know Bee sometimes gets confused with their names. We used the pom pom shooters at first and then Bee decided to roll them (inventing her own game) This way she could get more pom poms on the shapes. Once all the pom poms had been rolled, we counted how many were on each and named the shapes.


What did we learn?
  • Communication and language-Listening to  instructions and following them. Talking about what she is seeing. Learning descriptive words such as pushing and pulling etc.
  • Physical development- Fine and large manipulative skills when using the pom pom shooter and refilling it. Hand eye coordination, control and aiming for an object
  • Personal, social and emotional- Making relationships, social skills such as turn taking. Fun and enjoyment. Making her own decisions and coming up with her own game.
  • Literacy- Developing muscles in her fingers, so that she can hold a pencil to write.
  • Mathematics- Learning her shapes, developing an awareness of space, measurement and counting.
  • Understanding of the world- Technology, by helping to make an object to project pom poms
  • Expressive arts and design- Creating patterns on the floor with the pom poms and using her imagination, by thinking that the pom poms looked like fireworks.
What could be done next?
  • Develop recording skills, by using a tally to  show how many pom poms you get in each square.  This could be made on a clip board, dry wipe board or if doing this activity outside with chalk on the floor.
  • Change the targets to letters, numbers or colours.
  • Experiment with different soft objects in the pom pom shooters, to see which one goes the furthest.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Ordering the alphabet by threading alphabet beads

I love to create fun and inviting activities, to encourage my daughter to be interested in letters. I know she loves playing hide and seek, so I thought why not hide some letters in a tray of dried beans and encourage her to find them. The result was an afternoon of fun, hunting for letters, playing with beans and learning about the alphabet.

Who can play?
Children aged three years and above, depending on their age and stage of development.

Children can choke on the beads, so adult supervision is needed.
As a rule of thumb, the threading string should be no longer than 8 inches (so that it can not be wrapped around the neck)

What do you need?
  • Alphabet beads or beads with the alphabet wrote on them with permanent markers.
  • A length of thread
  • Container to hold the beans and beads
  • Bowl to hold the alphabet beads when threading
  • The alphabet wrote on a piece of paper (I chose to use upper case letters, but you could use lower case)
  • Scoops/spoons or chopsticks to promote physical development when searching for and trying to pick up the letters

What did the Critique have to say?
"It's like hide and seek" Bee aged 3 years old

Questions to ask?
  • Can you find the letters that feature in your name?
  • How many letters are in the alphabet?
  • What words can you make? Start with CVC words first, like cat, dog etc
  • Can you thread the letters in the correct order of the alphabet?

What did we do?
The first thing that I had to do was set up the invitation to play. I did this by placing dried beans and the alphabet beads in a tray. I placed this on Bee's table in her playroom, ready for her to come home from preschool.


As soon as she saw the container, She picked up the box and placed it on the floor (maybe so she could easily access it). Soon she began to search and investigate its contents. Bee said "There's numbers in here!" and pulled out a letter B. "this one is in my name". At the moment she gets confused with letters and numbers, but that's OK and perfectly normal for her age. I gently reinforced that they were letters "You found a letter...I wonder what the name of that letter is?"

As we searched for the letters we sang the ABC song. I love the way she sings the 'L, M, N, O, P' part so fast...it tickles me every time.
Bee found the letters that feature in her name by scooping them up, picking them out with her fingers and using the chopsticks. She also enjoyed stacking the beads on top of each other making little towers.

The next thing we did was organize the letter beads on the paper, that I had wrote the alphabet on. Bee matched the letters and developed an awareness of space as she tried to fit them all on.


Once all the letter beads had been found, we began threading them onto the piece of string. This encouraged hand eye coordination, ordering and sequencing. We sang the alphabet song as she placed them on.

Once all the letters had been placed on the string, I tied a knot on the end (ensuring that the beads can not come off) I am planning to put it in Bee's storage unit in the back of the car, so that she can explore further.

What did we learn?
  • Communication and language- Discussing what she sees and finds in the box. 
  • Physical development- Fine manipulative skills whilst threading the beads onto the string and hand eye coordination. Building small towers with the beads.
  • Personal, social and emotional- Making relationships, developing social skills and  pride from finished product
  • Literacy- Recognizing and inking sounds to letters, learning how to read and blend/segment words. Organizing the letters of the alphabet. Spelling out her own name.
  • Mathematics- Ordering and sequencing, counting the letters of the alphabet and developing an awareness of space.
  • Understanding of the world- Whilst using the chop sticks we talked about how people use them in Asia to eat.
  • Expressive arts and design- Singing the alphabet song.

What could be done next?
  • We focused on Upper case letters for this activity, so our next step will be to do the same activity, but use lower case letters.
  • Use numbered beads instead of letters and see if your child can put them in the correct order
  • Make up words with the alphabet beads and thread them onto the string.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Frozen slime

My daughter seems to be just as obsessed with The Disney movie Frozen, as she is with 'squishy/slimy' things. So I thought why not combine the two and make some Frozen slime.

Anna and Elsa having fun in the slime                  
Who can play?
Children aged three years and above, however this depends on the age and stage of your child's development. If your child tends to put their fingers and objects in their mouth and near their eyes, this activity is not for you.

Glue and laundry detergent can be highly dangerous if swallowed or put in eyes, please read the safety and caution labels on the bottles before beginning the activity. Encourage your child to keep their fingers and slime away from their moth and eyes.

What the Critique had to say:
"It feels like a stretchy Giraffe" by Bee aged 3 years old

Questions to ask:
  • What does the texture fell like?
  • What can you see happening to the two ingredients
  • Can you stretch and pull the slime?

What do you need?
  • Bowl and spoon
  • 1 (4 fl oz/118 ml) bottle of non toxic school glue (gradually add this in as you could need more or less)
  • 1/2 cup of free and gentle liquid laundry detergent
  • 1 drop of blue food colouring (optional)
  • Silver glitter  (optional)
  • Anna and Elsa small world dolls or any other small world characters available

What did we do?
Before we started this activity we talked about how we needed to be safe with the slime and its ingredients. I told Bee that if the glue, laundry detergent or slime went in her eyes or mouth she could become very ill, so we had to just use our hands and wash them once we had finished with the activity.
Our next step was to squeeze the glue into the bowl. Bee loved watching it drip. We then gradually added small amounts of the laundry detergent and mixed it into the glue. It did not take long for the mixture to combine and change into slime. Bee got really excited and said "wow, we have made slime...it looks slippy and slimy" She also used other descriptive words such as, cold, squishy, stretchy and wet.
All that was left then was to explore and manipulate the slime.
Bee got stuck in and made finger prints in the slime, let it drip through her fingers and from one hand to the other, let it drip and stretched it. She seemed to be really enjoying this sensory experience. There was lots of language such as "It is getting longer" and  "it's stretching"

I then had the idea to add blue food colouring and glitter to create a frozen theme. Bee loved it! She enjoyed shaking the glitter (nearly the whole tub) and mixing the food colouring into the slime.

Adding glitter and blue food colouring to the slime.
We stretched the slime until it made holes, which Bee would peep through. Whilst looking through the translucent slime she would say "I can see you" I reminded her to be careful putting the slime near her eyes as it could hurt them.
Peeking through the slime
Bee took a straw out of the draw and began pushing it into the slime and said "you can always use a straw if you don't like the texture" I was quite impressed with her resourcefulness. 
Exploring the slime with a straw
I could see Bee was really getting into playing with the slime. She made marks in it by dragging her fingers along it...
...put her foot in it and...

...even rolled up the slime to make letters that feature in her name.

Towards the end of the activity, I asked her if she wanted to add her Frozen figures, but she did not want to. She said she did not want them to get dirty. 
Once Bee had finished exploring the slime, we placed it in an old play dough container to keep fresh for next time...and obviously washed our hands.
What did we learn?                               
  • Communication and language-Using descriptive words such as wet, cold and slippy. Talking about what she is seeing and doing with the slime.
  • Physical development- Fine and large manipulative skills whilst manipulating the slime, by pinching, pulling and stretching.
  • Personal, social and emotional- Learning how to be safe and follow instructions. Bee showed lots of fun, pleasure and enjoyment when playing with the slime. It actually looked therapeutic.
  • Literacy- Developing finger muscles to help hold and manipulate a pencil to write. Creating letters out of the slime and mark making.
  • Mathematics- Measuring out the ingredients and using maths language such as long.
  • Understanding of the world- Learning about change of state and exploring properties of the slime. Being involved in a sensory experience, therefore developing the senses.
  • Expressive arts and design- Creating patterns in the slime.
What could be done next?
  • Experiment with different food colouring and glitters
  • The slime can also be frozen and creates an interesting texture and experience when it starts to melt.
  • You can use a stick if don't like the texture, but still want to explore.
  • I am on a quest to fin a slime recipe that contains more natural ingredients. If you have found one please share or write a comment.