Wednesday 17 December 2014

Fun Things to do With Toddlers - Candy Cane slime (Ooblek)

Last time we played with corn flour and water it was a big hit, so it was no surprise when this festive version went down a storm. Boris played with it for ages and was totally engaged, just feeling the mixture with his fingers and mixing up the colour.

I filled the bottom of the dish to a few mm thick with corn flour, then added enough water to make the right consistency and some peppermint flavoring for an added sensory experience, then Boris added the food colouring with a little dropper. Such a great activity for my little man, he obviously responds well to this sort of sensory experience so I am going to have a go at making some more types of slime in the future. 

Sunday 7 December 2014

Counting down to Christmas

I love counting down to Christmas and this year added a new calender to aid in our festive proem. It's  a little Christmas tree made with matchboxes.  I decorated the draw of each box and the sides of the tree with a pieces Yuletide themed scrapbooking paper, and had wrote the numbers on,  I then put some chocs or sweets into each one for Boris to enjoy every day till Christmas. 

We still have our usual calender up with new activities to do each day:

 Here are our activities for this year:

Monday 1st – Sensory activity, blue ice stars in salt
Tuesday 2nd – Make and play with Christmas play dough
Wednesday 3rd – Make special Christmas cards
Thursday 4th – Write Christmas cards
Friday 5th –Visit Christmas common and buy a new ornament,
Saturday 6th – Bring in Christmas tree and decorate, 
Sunday 7th –  Do Christmas puzzle,
Monday 8th – Send Christmas cards
Tuesday 9th – Make a Christmas wreath,
Wednesday 10th – Make Christmas tree ornament
Thursday 11th – Make Christmas biscuits
Friday 12th – ,Make a snowman of Boris’ name.
Saturday 13th – Make mince pies
Sunday 14th – Christmas discovery baskets,
Monday 15th – Play with peppermint ooblek
Tuesday 16th – Make ginger bread house
Wednesday 17th – Watch the Nativity service
Thursday 18th – Play with play snow,
Friday 19th – Wrap Christmas presents
Saturday 20th – Watch it’s a wonderful life
Sunday 21st – Drink hot chocolate with candy cane stirrer
Monday 22nd – Make peppermint creams,
Tuesday 23rd – Play with peppermint sensory rice.

Wednesday 24th – Make Christmas cake, attend Crib Service. 

Are you doing anything different for your Christmas countdown?

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Autumn Activities Roundup

So Autumn is officially over and it seems no sooner has the calendar ticked over from November to December than the weather suddenly turns chilly.  But we are fully embracing the change of the seasons and joys of Christmas that come with it.  This year is just that bit more exciting with a toddler who is very excited about anything Christmas related and another who likes anything shiny!
But before I move on to our Christmas activities and challenges I wanted to share some of the Autumnal ones which missed out from having a post all to themselves. 
So here is my Autumn Roundup, starting with a little look at a small learning space I set up which includes a couple of discovery baskets, some autumn books and a few other bits and pieces. 

Cork Painting:
I painted a basic outline of a tree and Boris filled in the leaves by stamping the end of a cork into the paint then onto the paper. He learned about colour mixing and he used fine motor skills. I learnt that I need to explain activities really well for him to understand what I have in mind.  He began the activity by smearing a big red blob across the bottom of the trunk!

Autumn Discovery Baskets:
These were for Biscuit and I left them out on the shelves for him to use periodically throughout the season.  These included pom poms, some bought and some made from some yarn I had lying around in seasonal colours. 
Faux Autumn leaves (I bought a pack of 400 like some crazy fool, from ebay, I am not sad to have packed these away), pine cones, conkers and some scented string balls from a potpourri set.
Wooden pegs.  Biscuit used his fine motor skills, improved his understanding of the world, textures, shapes, weights etc and stimulated his senses.

Sponge Leaf Printing:
I bought some leaf shaped sponges for Boris to paint with.  He created a lovely falling leaf scene which I put up in the kitchen.  Again he learnt about colour mixing and he improved his fine motor skills. This activity also helped him (along with lots of walks outdoors pointing out the falling leaves and that they had changed colour) understand that leaves change colour and fall from the tree in Autumn.  At one point he was getting very excited about any tree with coloured leaves and shouting "that tree is Autumn Mummy".  So cute.

Pasta threading:
Boris threaded Autumnal coloured pasta onto Autumnal coloured pipe cleaners. Improving fine motor skills and had eye co-ordination.  And learning about colours.

Pumpkin carving:
This was for halloween, I cut leaf shapes into the pumpkin using leaf shaped cookie cutters and a mallett. I liked the effect, it was easy and quick to do, (took a bit of muscle though)  I put the inners of the pumpkin into a ziplock bag for Biscuit to explore. 

Corn sorting:
Boris picked corn kernels off the cob and put them into little pots. Improving fine motor skills, hand-eye co-ordination and counting skills.

Clay Leaf Cutting:
We rolled out some air dry clay, cut leaf shapes out with the leaf cookie cutters, poked holes in them then let them dry. We then painted them and varnished them with PVA glue and threaded them onto embroidery thread with some beads and buttons.  He had a lot of help with this activity, in some ways it was more for me than him, but he enjoyed manipulating the clay and painting them, helping develop his fine motor skills, hand-eye co-ordination and understanding of colour.

So there you have it, a very quick run down of our Autumn activities. I hope you find them useful for doing with your toddler, either now of next year. And here's to the next season and all it brings!

Wednesday 26 November 2014

This Too Shall Pass

Yesterday my Time Hop said "Am feeling brave, like anything could happen".  That was four years ago.  I was in a really magical place with my art, creatively, spiritually I felt like everything was coming together, the house looked great, I was working part time so had lots of time to reflect on myself and my life, I was selling crafts online and getting lots of readers on my (old) blog.  I was enjoying life, going out, going to the cinema, out for dinners, visiting friends and working hard. I felt like I looked good, I even wore make up (some days)! I felt so optimistic and positive about life.  I felt I had so much to look forward to.

Fast forward to four years later and my life couldn't be more different. This month my second child turned one, how did that even happen? I don't know where the time went! And I am starting to get all reflective with the year coming to an end (December approaching) and thinking about how the last year has been, by far, the hardest of my life.

The first year of Boris' life was hard, it was a shock to the system, I went from a teaching job where everything was very predictable, bells rang which told me when I could eat, when I could go to the loo, home time, to a life where nothing was predictable, with a baby that had a mind of it's own (of course they all do, why didn't I know that before?!) night waking, feeding for hours on end, not feeding, not sleeping.  I wanted to fix things, I wanted order and predictability.  How could I get my baby to sleep through the night?  How could I get my baby to go longer between feeds?  How could I get him to sleep in his cot?  How could I get him to nap without me?
My life had been thrown into total and utter chaos, and at about 12 weeks in I lost it, I broke down and admitted defeat.  I asked for help.

(Only on the internet though, wasn't going to admit it to an actual person.)

And do you know what I got told?
I got told to suck. it. up.

Well in not so many words anyway.
A lady on a natural parenting forum told me that I needed to stop seeing my baby's (perfectly normal) behaviour as a problem that needed to be fixed, she said it was only a problem if I thought it was a problem, and to embrace the tiredness! Because this too shall pass.

So I should have been really offended right? No sympathy, no practical advice at all, just "stop making a fuss and get on with it."  But the thing is I am actually so thankful for that lady.  She was honest and what she said was the best piece of parenting advice I have ever been given. It was exactly what I needed to hear. It was definitely an "Aha!" moment for me. It solved all my problems in one fast sweep.  And year one of parenting turned out to be probably the happiest year of my life.

So I thought things were hard first time around, 20 months later I was thrown into chaos a second time, coping with a toddler and a newborn was extremely challenging and I am still finding it challenging now as I enter life with two toddlers.  Their need for almost constant attention,  their squabbling, the sad day when I finally sacrificed the last bit of me time during the day and dropped Boris' daytime nap, their sick days when they are grumpy all day and awake all night, my sick days when I realised that mums don't get sick days, the rainy days where they are climbing up the walls.....and...and...and......Needless to say I am still waiting for my "Aha!" moment.

And I often think back wistfully to the days before children when we would go the the cinema on a whim, see a band play at a moments notice, I would journal and create and make and paint and pour out my soul into notebook or onto canvas.  We were so free and we didn't even know it.   Then I daydream about those days spent in the spring with a baby laid on my chest fast asleep, whilst I watched box sets, white muslins hanging on the washing line, meeting friend's in cafes and chatting for literally hours.  And I think to myself I will never have that, ever again.

And I can't help but wonder if I will look back to these crazy days, the chaos, the endless laundry, the sleepless nights the toys, the mess and wonder why I didn't enjoy it more, why I didn't savor every moment.  Because I know that -  just like that lady on that forum told me in her wisdom - This too shall pass.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Fun Things to do With Toddlers on Bonfire Night

Ok so it's probably a bit late for you to actually do these activities with your toddler tonight, but we did them today so thought I would share.  Maybe you can do them tomorrow as a way of reflecting, or Pin them for next year.

I wanted to do some Bonfire night activities today because we were staying in. (We had terrified both our children sufficiently with fireworks on Saturday)  And I wanted to reflect on their firework experiences thus far. (i.e. try to help them  not to be terrified.)  I hadn't made any decisions about what I would do, but was thinking about something along the lines of flicking paint at black paper and fireworks made of toilet tubes.  But then Pinterest saved the day!

Sometimes activities I do take weeks of planning, ordering items off Amazon, preparing, making parts etc.  and other times they just seems to come together.  I saw this activity on Pinterest literally yesterday, HERE it is, its a great activity, I thought, "yes, I will pop to the shops and get some rice and black food colouring tomorrow and do this activity, BOSH!" 

Then, when I was in ASDA (I went a bit mad I think) and it became abundantly clear that not only could I replicate this marvelous activity I could also enhance it!  With...wait for it....FLASHING BALLS my friends! Oh yes, what could be better for a firework sensory tub than actual flashing spikey balls (in the party section, meant for party-bag gifts I think and on offer 8 balls for £5)!  I also bought parcel bows, tinsel, twirly gift wrap ribbon, and some shiny card. (Did I mention I went a bit mad?!)
This was the awesome result - Fireworks baby!

I made little "Fireworks" by sticking two parcel bows together with two bits of twirly ribbon and some tinsel stuck between them.

And I cut some stars out of the shiney card and glued them together so they were shiny on both sides.

I began the activity with just the balls, then added the rice, then the fireworks, and then the stars.  This seemed to engage Boris more than putting everything in at once. I talked to Boris about fireworks and made firework noises with the little fireworks I made and he mimicked this.

He was very mesmerised by the rice more than anything else and spent a long time running it through his fingers (and pouring it on the floor) and swirling his hands in it. 
If I were to do this activity again I would use a big, low sided tub and put it on the table so that Biscuit (age 1) couldn't get into it (he tried to eat the rice).  I used our water table that we used in the summer for THIS activity. 

In the evening I did this quick activity with chalk that had been soaked in water (it makes the colour brighter!) I said to Boris that we would draw a firework and he did a lovely big circular scribble which I added to with some sparkly type bits round the edge.

Did you do any bonfire related activities with your toddlers?  I have a ton of Autumn related posts to write but they will have to wait for another day.
Hope you are enjoying this (mostly) lovely warm and sunny Autumn.

Saturday 25 October 2014

Fun Things to do With Toddlers - Autumn scents Playdough

Playdough is always fun, adding colour livens it up and adding a scent adds a further sensory element. I decided to create an Autumn themed playdough invitation to play by adding some spices to the playdough and teaming them with some leaf shaped cutters and some pine cones, feathers, twigs and conkers to press into the dough.

I fragranced the dough with ground cinnamon, all spice, ginger and coco powder.  I just kneaded the spices into the dough. It smelt amazing (especially the chocolate)

I didn't need to add any colour to the chocolate scented one because the brown of the coco also added colour.

I bought some leaf shaped cutters from Amazon, I am hoping to get lots of use out of them by using them to make biscuits and with clay.

Fathers from Hobbycraft 9I bought these years ago when I was at uni, not sure how ethical they are or if I would buy them now)

Pine cones gathered from one of our many walks.

Boris stuck twigs into the playdough to begin with, he needed quite a bit of encouragement initially, I am not sure he knew what to do, maybe he was a little overwhelmed by all the different bits and didn't know where to begin. 

 To start with he used to cutters with the playdough balls, but I demonstrated rolling out the dough and using the cutters that way and he imitated me.

 I stuck some of the cut out shapes to the balls of remaining clay which Boris seemed to enjoy, he also stuck some of the cutout shapes on.  He then had a good time mashing it all up into a big doughy mess.

This is the playdough recipe I used:
  • 2 cups plain flour (all purpose)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • Up to 1.5 cups boiling water (adding in increments until it feels just right)
  • Poster paint for colour.
  • Several teaspoons of spices till desired amount of fragrance is achieved, some scents require more spice than others.
I am hoping to do a few more Autumn themes activities as the season goes on.  Are you doing any seasonal activities?  Add a link in the comments.