Category Archives: Seasons

Fun with Water Play

Pinterest is full of these – and ours is a humble effort.  But it only took an hour or so to put together, and gave us an afternoon of fun.  Plus it is a temporary fixture, so can be changed, adapted, and ultimately removed.

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We used a variety of empty plastic bottles and containers, which I had made holes in with a craft knife to produce a variety of watery effects – big splashes, tiny trickles, and shower-head type effects:

  • an empty juice bottle with lots of small holes made in the bottom for a “shower” effect.
  • a bottle cut in half to make a long channel, like a drainpipe (I’ve seen guttering used to great effect in water play.
  • The neck of a bottle sliced off to make a funnel.
  • empty hummus and cream cheese pots with holes – some bigger, some smaller
  • a milk carton with a tiny hole in the bottom, to fill quickly and empty slowly
  • the lid of an ice cream tub to make a water slide.

I gave L, N and F some containers for pouring, catching and carrying water, filled the water table with coloured water (with a drop of food colouring added), then set them free!  N’s cry of “Wow, this is fantastic Mummy!” made me feel this was going to be a success – and it was.

L and N fetched and carried water, as part of a game involving feeding N’s very thirsty horses, in which she enlisted L’s help.  Whilst doing so, they were working out which containers carried the most water, pouring water from one to another and comparing capacity.  They were both surprised when the tallest container didn’t hold the most water.

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They also experimented with how quickly the water would flow from different containers, and how to make it trickle from one to another, directing the flow of water in different directions, at different speeds – some very early physics was happening!  The great thing about using pipecleaners and trellis was that L and N could easily move things around the wall as they wished, allowing them to experiment more than would have been possible had the bottles been nailed to the wood.

We used coloured water in blue, red and yellow, which reinforced colour mixing and allowed them to experiment with making “magic potions”, which included some leaves and twigs from the garden too.

F enjoyed watching the water flowing, and also splashing in the coloured water in the water table (although I only managed to get a very grumpy looking picture!).

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We also ended up “painting” with the water, which was hugely popular, and all three children could join in with – in fact, F loved it most of all and it was lovely not to have to mind where she “drew”!

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Wildlife Fun in the Garden

We were inspired today by our weekend visit to the RSPB Headquarters at Sandy, Bedfordshire.  I came away full of plans to make our garden a little wildlife haven, and we made a start today by creating a simple bug hotel.

We had seen a very impressive one at Sandy – the Ritz of Bug Hotels.  Ours is more of a Travelodge but was great fun to make using things we already had at home, and got the children thinking about different habitats.

We used a large planter turned on its side as a basic framework, and added plant pots containing various materials – dried leaves, pinecones, stones, mud, grass, twigs.  We added a brick stuffed with vegetation and mud too.

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The great thing about using small plant pots was that L and N could carry them around the garden and be responsible for creating their own little habitats in each one.  This really got them thinking about the conditions bugs and insects would like (cool/warm, damp/dry, dark/light) and investigating the properties of materials as they tried to create those conditions.  L had the idea that butterflies and moths wouldn’t like getting wet and so we had some dry areas too – and this led to the idea of planting some wildflowers too, to attract bees and butterflies.

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ImageL filling his plant pot with leaves and sticks

F had a go at filling a pot too…and emptying it…and refilling it…Image

Another challenge for L and N was to fit the plant pots, stones and bricks into the larger planter – a bit like a jigsaw using natural materials :-).  Here are L and N showing off the finished product:

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Our plan is to keep a journal with pictures and a bit of writing about the insects that visit our “hotel”.

Seeing as we had already collected sticks and leaves, and made mud, I challenged L and N to play at being birds, and use these materials to make a nest.  It involved getting very messy indeed!

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We experimented with weaving sticks and leaves, shaping them, bending them, sculpting mud – alil great fun and involved some real planning and problem solving for the childiren, as well as a little science lesson in understanding how birds make nests.  We discovered that our most effective way to build a next was to use mud as a glue and leave it to dry.

I was pleased that F could join in.  I have been finding it harder to include her ithan I did when she was tiny. She is now at an age where she wants to be in on the action, but doesn’t quite have the skills or concentration to match her enthusiasm – it’s a difficult balance between letting her experiment, and not letting her destroy things carefully constructed by the older ones.  In the garden, she was free to roam with supervision, and seeing as the point was to get messy and experiment, it was right up her street.  Pilus it was novel enough to hold her interest that bit longer than usual.

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Finally, we fed the birds and put together a very basic makeshift bird bath using two planters:

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We plan to make the birds some food tomorrow, like we did here.

The afternoon “flew” by (ha ha) and even thought the weather wasn’t as lovely as expected, the fresh air certainly was – we came in tired, happy and muddy, which is always the sign of a good day!!

Easter Crafts and a Rhyming Egg Hunt

…Better late than never!!

Easter happened during our break from blogging – but rather than leave it out, I’ve decided to share the things we did so that we have a record for ourselves, and ready to share ideas next year!

Easter wouldn’t be Easter without an egg hunt – I also think that less chocolate, more fun  is a better balance.  Not that I’m opposed to chocolate but at Christmas and Easter the levels can get ridiculous if unchecked!  So our poor deprived children shared a bag of mini eggs which they found hidden around the house, by following clues.

L had been writing poetry that week, using a rhyming words bank, and so L’s clues involved finding the rhyming word.  N’s clues were simpler, and involved a very basic riddle.

Just for fun, here are our treasure hunt clues:

Once upon a time, there was an Easter bunny

Who thought hiding his eggs was funny!

On Easter morning, while we were out,

He left L** and N****’s eggs hidden all about!

 

 

 

And then he wrote a little rhyme

So they could find their eggs in time –

“I’ve hidden your eggs around in twos

To find them you must read the clues,

First L**’s turn, and N****’s then,

Then back to the beginning – L**’s again!

So off we go, let’s have some fun,

Your treasure hunt has just begun!”

 

 

The first clue is for L** to read,

I know he is a good reader indeed.

This clue is tricky, that’s for certain

Look behind the living room *******.

 

 

 

Aha – you found them!  Now N****’s turn

To look in the place where a fire might burn.

 

  

For L**’s clue, get down on your knee

To find out where those eggs might be.

Get down on the floor, if you are able,

And look under the kitchen ******.

 

 

N****, look inside your bed

–         You’ll find your eggs where you rest your head.

 

Quickly L**, zoom, zoom, zoom,

The next one’s still in your bedroom.

You’re doing well at this hunting race

–         Go and look in your book ****.

 

 

Hello N****!

Splish, splash, splosh!

You’ll find the eggs where you have a wash!

You’re so close, Leo, they’re near the floor,

Just look behind the bathroom ****.

 

 

Think hard, N****, and have a peep

In the place where a baby girl might sleep.

 

Look around, L**, look up and down,

You’ll find eggs in Mummy’s dressing ****.

 

 

N****, this is your last clue

They’re near the front door, where you keep your shoe!

 

You’ve found most of your eggs by now

Just one more clue to tell you how

You’ll need to look where your clothes get clean

The eggs are inside the washing *******!!

 

Well done, little girl and boy!

I hope these eggs have brought you joy.

They’re made of chocolate, delicious and sweet,

And now it’s time for you to eat –

Don’t let them melt

(They’ll go all runny)

 – With lots of love from the Easter Bunny!!

L and N arrived home from church to find that Daddy had got into the spirit of things – a rabbit greeted them on the doorstep, along with two baskets, and the eggs had been hidden around the house.

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The great thing about the egg hunt was that it required co-operation.  L needed to help N read the clues, and also practise the skill of restraining himself from giving the answer on her “turn” (and he really does need to practise this!).  It also required sharing, and a little bit of maths as they divided the eggs between them after each clue.

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At the end of the hunt, the children discovered for the first time the joy of Kinder Eggs – I’m sure there must be fine motor skills benefits to opening them and playing with the tiny toy!

The other great thing about the Easter Egg Hunt – a morning’s fun for the grand total of £3 between the two children – an egg hunt kit from poundland, plus the mini eggs!

Also at the end of the hunt, each child found a home made game.  That sounds slightly more impressive than it actually was, but they loved it anyway and we have used them quite a bit since.  They consisted of cut out Easter egg shapes, then cut in half, with a little bit of fun learning.

N’s game was designed to teach her to recognise capital letters, and it’s actually worked brilliantly – she can recognise them all after playing the game a handful of times.  We played this one as a game of “pairs”, matching upper and lower case letters.  Snap would work equally well.

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The game was also good for L in that it allowed him to practise turn-taking, sharing, concentration, observation and again that valuable skill of not correcting N and being kind to a younger child who is still learning what he already knows.

L’s game involved number bonds to ten:

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 Unfortunately, I haven’t got a good picture, but it involved egg halves which needed to be matched to make a total of ten – 0 and 10, 1 and 9, 2 and 8, etc, etc.01042013(006)

It was a good game, but one that needed to be played with L alone.  When N interrupted and became frustrated by not being able to understand it, L declared it “too boring” and wandered off, but when I brought it out again as a special quiet time activity, he loved it.

We ended Easter Sunday by decorating foam Easter Eggs in the bath!  These were made quickly and easily using craft foam.  L and N did some of the cutting, and we have also used them to explore repeating patterns and geometric shapes.

L and N also used the shapes in unexpected and creative ways – a lilypad for a duck, and to make aliens!

 

 

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We also did (guess what) a lot of crafts over the Easter holidays (any excuse!).  Grandma and Nana were kind enough to send craft supplies instead of chocolate, and the children’s big cousin wrote a lovely letter full of craft ideas!  So we got busy…

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The fun we had was as good as the finished products.  We were in our element, surrounded by goodies such as feathers in all colours, polystyrene eggs, different kinds of paints, googly eyes, papier mache eggshells, and more besides, plus some books of craft ideas!  Even F wasn’t left out – she loved making handprint chicks, finger painted easter eggs, and learning to make marks with felt tips, crayons, pencils… Meanwhile, LI and N practised cutting out, selecting materials, glueing, shape and space, and fine motor skills, all whilst having fun making Easter crafts.

We also made some very simple but effective cards for friends and family, using insulating tape to make a cross on the front of the card, which all three children could then paint over, and the tape was removed to leave a cross once the paint had dried.

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L and N then wrote in  their cards, bringing in some sneaky writing practice for the boy who only wants to email, and giving N practice at forming letters, and writing her name independently.

We also went wild in the kitchen, making our Easter cake, topped with a chocolate coated weetabix nest!

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L and N had great fun with the leftover fondant and some cutters, and were thrilled to be given access to my proper grown-up shaping tools!

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I usually find that when they are trusted, and they know it’s important, they live up to the responsibility.  The novelty of playing with something normally out of bounds made this really exciting, and they both felt very grown-up doing “proper” sugarcraft.  It is full of benefits in strengthening hand muscles needed for writing, fine motor skills (again) and developing creativity.  They also copied some of the animals I had made, so developing skills of observation.  Even F enjoyed playing with some pieces of fondant (and I didn’t have to worry too much if she ate some!)

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And last but not least, this was the year I decided to introduce the story of the Crucifixion.  As a Christian family, we have thought long and hard about this.  How to introduce something that is really beyond our own understanding?  How to convey the meaning of Easter without traumatising the children?  Until this year, we settled on “Easter is when God showed us how much he loves us”.

There could be no introducing it to L without N.  The chances of him not sharing this new information with her were slim to none – so together we watched a children’s DVD explaining the Easter Story, read passages from the Bible, drew pictures, arranged pictures from the story in  sequence, and encouraged any questions from the children.  There were many, and some we couldn’t answer.  But I needn’t have worried about L, who ended up telling me the story, having read it himself in the children’s Bible!  This made me all the more glad we had decided to explore the story together, to allow him to ask any questions he had.

L and N were also lucky enough to make these fantastic Gethsemene gardens at the village church, which I can take no credit for whatsoever, but am sharing because I think it is a brilliant idea.  Here is a blog about something similar.

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Next year, we also plan to try resurrection cookies as a way of exploring the Easter story.

There we have our Easter, we hope you had as much fun as we did!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sensory Snow-Paint

We have been trying out one of the ideas from our top ten snow-themed activities list.  Sensory “snow” paint, made of one part shaving foam to one part PVA glue.  It ticks a few boxes for me:

  • It is multi sensory (smells nice, interesting texture, dries puffy)
  • It gives the children a brand new material to play with, and an interesting effect to experiment with.
  • It’s suitable for all ages (if you’re feeling brave).

I gave L and N a piece of thick black card for their “main” snowy picture.  I also gave them a pile of coloured paper to experiment with.

I gave baby F a brush to play with and let her dip her hands in the paint.  I did show her how to get paint on the paper but concluded that she is a bit too little – she couldn’t have been less interested in making pictures, but I was excited that she enjoyed feeling the paint, as she hasn’t enjoyed the messier kinds of sensory play until now, and getting to this stage will open up a whole new level of exploration to her.  So I tried to curb my need to limit the mess, so as not to put her off with my reaction.  It wasn’t actually as bad as I thought – a change of clothes afterwards and a quick wipe of the floor was all it took.

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L and N didn’t engage with this as much as I expected – they love painting so expected them to be thrilled – perhaps they were tired, or perhaps being asked to paint snowy pictures was too prescriptive and limiting.  They did produce some pretty snow scenes though, and were excited by the way the paint felt when it dried.  The puffy effect feels crinkly to the touch.

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I like the abstract blizzard effect!

We have LOADS of this paint left over (a little goes a long way) so I might try again, giving them some different ways of working with it – sponges, spray bottles, water bottles with sports caps to drip-paint, combs to flick or splatter-paint, large paintbrushes (the decorating kind).  I think this paint would work well with a really huge sheet of paper – it doesn’t lend itself to detailed, careful paintings; it screams “huge” and “playful”!  Next time I’ll definitely encourage them to go a bit wilder with it and use their imaginations.  It is more than likely that they will come up with something I haven’t thought of, and probably something even better!

Another idea might be to paint big letters or numbers with the paint, then let the children try identifying them by touch – I think this would be a great sensory activity and reminds me a bit of the Montessori sandpaper letters, only the children can make them, which is always more fun.

Sticking craft foam cut-out feet to plastic bottles would make excellent stampers to produce snowy footprints.  You could even make paw prints of different animals.

To make coloured puffy paint, adding food colouring or powder paint would work.

We could also use the leftovers to make marbled prints like this.

Or get really messy like this (this link also has a variation on the cloud experiments we did before Christmas).

It’s possible that adding cornflour would give you a kind of polymer clay, but don’t take that as gospel, although I would love to hear from anyone who tries it!

 

When the Snow Came…

Finally, we got the snow we have been waiting for!!  Not as much as the rest of the country, granted, but enough to have some proper snowy fun.  I was sad to learn that Daddy, having grown up in the Channel Islands where snow is rare, has never (yes, never ever) built a snowman.  So that is what we had to do!

The rolling a snowball though the snow technique didn’t really work.  This snow was quite powdery and dry, so our snowman, who the children imaginatively called Frosty, was more of a sculpted affair built by collecting buckets of snow from around the garden and moulding them with our hands.  L and N loved this, and I know it will stay in their memories.  It will certainly stay in mine as one of the best times we have had as a family – and although we didn’t analyse it at the time I think there has to be a lot of merit in a joint, co-operative effort that involved the whole family working together towards a common goal.  Mainly, it was great fun.  Childhood memories came back to me of building snowmen with my sister and grandfather, and it felt lovely to be passing those on to my children, and that one day they might do the same.

Daddy's first snowman

Daddy’s first snowman

Yes, this really is as cheerful as Daddy ever gets on a photo 😉 – I just love his expression of childlike joy!

Little F started out in her pushchair wrapped up cosy but soon made it clear that she preferred being in the thick of things, experiencing her first snow at ground level.

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All three children loved jumping on the snowy trampoline.  L and N drew in the snow with their fingers, made footprints, and enjoyed a fantastic snowball fight with Mummy once Daddy and F had gone inside!

Then it was time to paint the snow.  I’ve heard such mixed reports as to what works best.  Spray bottles seem to produce a good effect and probably allow for better mixing of colours.  Some people seem to use food colouring, but watered down paint gives a stronger colour.  We used very watered down paint in water bottles with a sports lid, to drip-paint the snow.  Ideally we would have used the three primary colours for mixing fun, but we had run out of yellow, so our colours were blue, red and green, with a hint of glitter!

L and N with their snowy canvas

L and N with their snowy canvas

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This was a great activity.  As well as producing a completely different effect with paint, it was a lovely way to do some large-scale painting, and there was a freedom to it that the children really enjoyed.

No more snow this morning sadly, but we are hopeful for tonight!

 

 

 

Top Ten Activities for a Snowy Weekend

Just in case the snow does come to our house, I’ve been having a look at some of the best ideas out there for playing with snow – and thought I’d share them with you ready for the weekend.  We started off with a snow-themed sensory bath tonight.

1. Snow Dough from The Imagination Tree

This is basically glittery cloud dough – lovely, silky and mouldable with a b it of sparkle to boot!

2. Sparkly Winter Ice Paint from Growing a Jewelled Rose

A fantastic idea to add fun to a wintry sensory bath, without too much cold!

3. Snowflake Spin Art from Toddler Approved

“Spin Art” painting using a salad spinner is something I’ve wanted to try with the children but haven’t got around to yet.  They enjoyed making and decorating paper snowflakes so this looks lie the perfect twist to keep that activity fresh and exciting, especially as I thought the spin-art might be over too quickly, the cutting and folding should keep it going all afternoon!

4. Snowy Play Dough

Another great one from The Imagination Tree – bright white sparkly play dough seems like the perfect activity once we have come inside from the cold!

5. Paint the Snow

I’ve heard varying reports as to how well this works.  Some sources suggest it works better if you mix paint with water than if you use food colouring (this has the advantage that you could use washable paint).  As well as using spray bottles, you could use water bottles with a sports cap for a “drip art” effect, or paint using big brushes, or using natural materials (leaves, twigs, you name it) dipped in paint.

6. Painting with “Snow”

Snow paint is made using equal parts shaving foam to PVA glue.  It dries puffy, and looks great fun – we can’t wait to try this (watch this space for the blog post!).

7. Make a Snow Kitchen like Sun hats and Wellie Boots

L and N love playing tea parties as well as real cooking.  This looks like something they would adore, and would tire us all out nicely having fun in the fresh air!

8. Make an Ice Mobile like the Nature Detectives

This is something I’ve been waiting to do all week.  We have silver foil trays, and plastic containers of various shapes and sizes, glitter, pine cones, leaves, all ready in the kitchen.  We saved this for a weekend activity and can’t wait to try it (again, look out for the post!).

9. Take a Close Look at the Snow

We did this just before Christmas when we had a frosty day, and it was a great success.  Of course, we will add to the fun by making a snowman and throwing snowballs, which L and N are dying to do.

10. Add a bit of Science

Compare the volume of the snow to the volume of water produced when it melts (from Steve Spangler Science) – for a bit of measuring, and to observe the melting process, reinforcing what happens when snow is warmed up.

Make fake snow with superabsorbent polymers like we did!

Catch snowflakes on black paper or card to have a closer look.  Compare how they look.

Observe what happens to the snow when you sprinkle salt onto it, like we did when we played with ice.

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Enjoy your snowy weekend, and I hope we get enough snow here to try some of these out!

Snow Themed Sensory Bath

A warmer kind of snow play!!

Today, we have been in the only part of the country not to be deep in snow.  We also seem to be a minority in really, really wanting it to snow.  We can’t wait to play in the snow and have an unexpected day off to fill with snow-themed activities… so when a few token flakes fell this afternoon, it wasn’t enough to build a snowman, go sledging, paint the snow or have a snowball fight – but it was enough to get excited!

L and N enjoying our sprinkling of The White Stuff

L and N enjoying our sprinkling of The White Stuff

We did go outside to experience the snow, but without enough on the ground to play with, and with more bitter wind than crisp snow, we found another way to channel our snowman-making enthusiasm…

Snow bath

It has been a while since we have had a sensory bath.  We do often play with different colours in the water, and a coloured bath is a regular Friday night treat.  But today we went one better.

We used snowmen cut out of craft foam to decorate the walls (the foam sticks to the walls when wet, opening up endless possibilities for bathtime play).  Our dress-up snowmen were inspired by this Christmas themed bath from Growing a Jewelled Rose (the veritable Queen of sensory baths, which I thought I’d invented until I discovered her beautiful blog).  We adapted the Christmas tree decorating idea, and I prepared some snowmen for L and N to dress up, with hats, scarves, gloves and buttons in different colours.

L and N played beautifully and creatively.  I like the fact that the bath keeps them focused on the activity, in one place with no distractions, they stay creative and engaged for longer.

Rudolph with Snowman

Rudolph with Snowman

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Rudolph with Snowman

Rudolph with Snowman

There was imaginary play happening, with a snow people’s picnic.  There was a re-enacting of the Snowman and the Snowdog film we watched at Christmas.  Fine motor skills were being developed (I purposely made some of the pieces tiny, with instructions not to give the little pieces to baby F).  There was sorting by shape and by colour, there was ordering of pieces from big to small.  It struck me how much hidden learning is happening in an open-ended playful activity like this.

For an added sensory element, I added blue food colouring to the water, and topped it with shaving foam.  We haven’t played with shaving foam before, so it was a completely new material to play with.  Initially, L and N were suspicious of it, and L was scared to get into the bath!  But he soon learned to love it.

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They used the shaving foam as paint, and as a material to mould – L called it “pudding oil”, and served it to everyone for supper, whilst N used it to further decorate her snowy wall-art.

Little F is now fully involved in bathtime fun.  She enjoyed watching the other two playing, and also explored the shaving foam, felt the foam shapes, and was fascinated by watching them float.  She spent some time taking a piece of foam in and out of a plastic cup.  She was thoroughly enjoying exploring these new and interesting materials, as well as having fun playing with her brother and sister.

F explores the shaving foam

F explores the shaving foam

Investigating foam shapes

Investigating foam shapes

Another activity enjoyed by three children of different ages, with different personalities and interests – and a lovely warm-up and wind-down activity before bed.

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