Easter Discovery Box

27 03 2012

Easter is coming and I’m getting fat. Well actually I’m not as I’ve been walking to and from school and preschool three times a day so it means I can eat the children’s Easter eggs without any guilt and during the brighter lighter evenings we’ve been having! Brilliant.

I thought this was another opportunity to get all the Easter things out and put them into the Discovery box for LBM and BBL to explore. The Easter books aren’t read much the rest of the year so it’s great to have them all in one place and make sure they do get read – they include ones about bunnies, eggs, spring and farms as well as the Easter Story and a factual book about Easter and it’s traditions. It’s sort of combined with spring too as there are some activities to do that include making or doing things for the outside. This box includes:

A Djeco egg and chicken memory game

A recipe for bird’s nest cakes which will use up the desiccated coconut in the cupboard

A nature palette where we can go and look for spring colours on our walks as the daffodils and blossom start showing their colours.

Some seeds and grass to grow including vegetables and flowers.

Easter decorations including signs, tree ornaments and an egg shaped lampshade.

Chocolate because I like Easter egg chocolate more than any other. I think it’s the thickness I find so appealing.

Nesting material for birds which we will put into a netted bag and hang up in the Grandad or Grandpa’s garden for them to decorate their new nests.

And finally – the ingredients for an egg sensory box. I had looked into imitation grass but the one I could find was rather pungent and would have been an overpowering and unpleasant sensory experience. In the end I found some wool in the Tiger shop and we cut it up into smallish pieces and put it in the box with some coloured eggs from Poundland. Inside each egg was either a small chick or an animal candle and BBL had such a great time learning how to pop the eggs open and find out what was inside. He ended up loving one yellow chicken so much it started to get misshapen and greasy with all his fingering. At the moment there are no plans to take him to a farm to meet the real thing because I fear they wouldn’t enjoy the experience as much as him!

I really love this idea of putting everything together in one place. It creates an ever changing set of things to look at and brings a range of activities, toys, puzzles and games together in one place. It also means it’s much easier to find the chocolate when I want it…



Indoor Water Play

13 12 2011

Yesterday afternoon we went to a friend’s house to play and she has lots of toys which involve adding water to them –  enchanted gardens, swimming pools etc. I don’t have any of these toys (which is a big gap I must remedy but that’s the problem with boys. You don’t always think there’s a gap in your toy repertoire involving unicorns and Playmobil people in swimsuits!) It didn’t take long before there were a couple of wet children and a slightly slippery kitchen floor but lots of fun. So today instead of putting my kids in the bath for water play I thought I’d set some up for them indoors.

The arctic animals were sort of linked to the time of year and I gave BBL some warm water in a deep plastic box. He was ecstatic at being able to play with water and took the animals out, threw them back in to make splashes. Took the out and threw them on the towel and had a great time. LBM ended up with a carwash which included some bubbles and sponges to make the washing bit fun and a duster or two to wax and polish afterwards. It took a while for BBL to realise that LBM had different water to play with and once he discovered the bubbles (tasting them for good measure) he turned the car wash into a bath for his animals. Luckily his older brother is understanding and left BBL to play with  both water stations who switched from one to the other rinsing his animals off after covering them in bubbles. It was a really simple play idea and they both had fun. Our carpet also got  little bit cleaner when BBL eventually tipped the water out missing half the towel. Great fun though!


Dark Den

26 10 2011

As it’s building up to Halloween all the shops seems to be selling glow sticks and I wanted in on the action. I’ve often thought about using a cardboard box to build a dark den (as the ones you can buy from educational retailers are astronomical) but having a box big enough requires buying something big and expensive. Not having a big box was a problem until I realised I had something just as good – the travel cot covered with a dark quilt and put up in a room with the curtains closed during a cloudburst this afternoon. No real planning or expense required and only a small reliance on dark clouds adding to the atmosphere.


LBL, BBL and a friend were more than happy to climb in and see what was going on. I didn’t have any books about dens so we read a book called When Darkness Slipped In by Ella Burfoot. Not directly relevant but I always love an opportunity to get a story into every activity and it was about darkness. All I added were a few packets of glowsticks purchased from the supermarket – and let the children try and crack them on their own. Pretty successful and very rewarding as their den was suddenly filled with different colours which glowed interestingly. This was the hard part to photograph so I didn’t bother. The best thing about this activity was that BBL could get involved. The packet says not suitable for under 5’s but without using the plastic bits to turn them into bracelets I couldn’t see what damage he could cause. The addition of a piece of bathroom plumbing from the Boyf’s cupboard under the stairs also allowed for interesting colour mixing which I could photograph. I’ll be doing this again and plan to stock up on any reduced glow sticks following Halloween. I only wish I could have fitted in there too.

Circle Play

21 10 2011

I haven’t done this type of activity very often but actually – it’s really simple, a great idea and helps with a baby’s development. It’s also easy because you’ll probably have lots of suitable things around the house that aren’t even toys. I basically gave BBL a selection of circles to play with and explore. There are so many learning opportunities – big, small, hard, soft (the edges on the cogs are foamy). Cold metal, warm wood, smooth edges, textured edges, cardboard, plastic. Some have small holes in the middle, some have none, some have huge ones. You can see where I’m going with this and include whatever you can find that’s circular and safe. Your baby learns about the continuous line of a circle exploring with their fingers and mouth. This is an exploration in 2D shape which can then be extended if you were to give them a pile of different sized and textured balls – think soft balls, hard balls, oranges etc. This is easier though as they don’t roll away. This type of exploration can be themed with shapes or textures – wood, metal, fabric and allows a baby to fully understand the nuances in colour or texture of the same material. Activities like this are worth repeating regularly and give you an opportunity to help develop language too. Describing how things feel, look, sound, taste and even smell will have positive benefits too.

The circles do still get tested for gravity though and BBL is continuing his experiments just to be sure that when you drop something it does hit the floor – today he’s purposefully dropped pieces of toast, his hat and pine cones. I think he is developing a good cause and effect understanding and can report back that every time he drops something, it hits the ground and it causes mummy to pick it up. Not sure what all this is teaching me though but I think it’s that I don’t have the patience of a saint!

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

17 10 2011

I didn’t like We’re Going on a Bear Hunt the first few times I read it. I couldn’t quite work out who the characters were in the illustrations and I couldn’t read it to a rhythm I liked. Luckily I saw a clip of Michael Rosen reading the story and realised that he had a very specific rhythm to it  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytc0U2WAz4s. In the version I saw he was reading it to a school and had them all involved in the actions. I’ve read it his way since and find it a much more interesting read. I also treated myself to buying it as a big book which adds a different dimension for children picking a story. It makes them look tiny! When we did this I hadn’t planned anything and it was more of an evolving afternoon of exploration.

I didn’t take it to the full sensory experience it invites which I think I’ll do one day in the future. I had a roll of packing bubbles which has been sitting on the fridge for ages. I was cleaning and decided to throw it away. My children then demonstrated why I don’t throw things away. BBL crawled along it having a whale of time with the noises and feel of the bubbles. LBM then rushed up and down it trying to pop the bubbles and the addition of a couple of water pistols brought the splish splashy bit about a river to life.

The next bit I was able to bring to life at short notice was the oozy mud. We only have a small roof terrace but it’s an outdoor space nonetheless (sadly I’m not allowed to use it for childminding which does limit the opportunity for play like this with other people’s children). Earlier this summer I’d created a mud pie kitchen and then we just didn’t get round to using it. It’s now definitely slimy and oozy as green stuff has started growing in it that I wouldn’t expect to find on a roof in the middle of a very urban area. Mother nature is obviously quite cosmopolitan. LBM was so excited to find real slimy mud and poked his fingers in surprised at the coldness of it. After only a few seconds he was digging it, making mud pies, pouring water and having a great time. BBL was keen to get involved too. I had some reservations as he’s still keen to explore the taste of everything and this was no exception. A handful of mud was followed by a taste of the gardening fork. I gave up worrying. He ate loads of sand at the weekend so I’m wondering if he’s now got excellent conditions for a vegetable garden….

Baby Loon on the Moon

17 10 2011

I forgot to add how I involved BBL in the activity this morning. Babies seem to be excluded from a lot of the activities I do but on the whole they can be involved in pretty much anything as long as there isn’t anything small and deadly or long and poky for them to get hurt by. BBL is often part of the activity but it’s tailored to his stage of development. I taped a piece of black paper down in front of his highchair and gave him the cookie cutters to play with. An  opportunity to explore circles, metal and the contrast between the black and silver.

I then drew with some chalk onto the paper and let BBL rub it, pat it and discover that blowing on it created dust. He wasn’t able to blow it himself but followed the movement with his eyes. He did try to lick it and discovered it didn’t taste like cheese. His final investigation was that age old one of gravity. After having dropped the metal cutters and watched to see exactly what they did, he then started ripping the paper and testing that too. And like millions of babies before him he discovered the laws of gravity…that every point mass in the universe attracts every other point mass with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them… and that eventually mummy won’t pick it up again. Q.E.D