Tag: early learning

Small World Play – Aussie Outback

Small World Play – Aussie Outback

It’s no secret we are pretty big fans of small world play in our house. One look at my Instagram page and you’ll see a number of different “mini worlds”. They fuel mamas need for creativity and they meet the boys needs to play, make a mess and learn 🙂

Whether its styled more as a sensory tray set up, or a more structured mini world, I always try to tie in a little story or learning to it, and you would be surprised by how much knowledge kids absorb while “playing”. We have done a number of themes over the years including Pirates, The lifecycle of a frog, farmyard play with chocolate mud, swamp life, the Artic, and Dinosaur land .

Small world play allows children to act out scenarios (scenes from real life, stories they have heard and/or from their imagination) in a “mini world” created with small figures and objects from around the house. I’ve seen my kids start slowly first we learn about the “theme”, and then I stand back and give them space to play. Once they tucked into this Aussie Outback for example, they soon became “adventurers” and “zoo keepers”, they played for about an our and eventually the playdough “Uluru” rock was cut up and became “lion food”. They are the ideal platform for nurturing children’s imagination from a young age. This play provides them with an opportunity to explore new materials, act out scenarios from real life and gain an understanding of the world. Small world play is often used in play therapy as well by providing children with opportunities to re-enact certain experiences, you are helping then to reflect on feelings and events in life, in a safe “world”.

So how do you start?

Choose your theme – I often will base a theme on the time of year or an important event, or if I have recently bought a really cool figurine set 🙂 next decide on your base layer – whether its artificial grass, felt, rice, gloop or sand start by “laying the foundation”.

Select Accent Features – bits and bobs from around the house or garden that could tie into your theme.

Add your characters – lastly add in your “main act”, your characters or figurines. I then call in the kids and before I “let them loose” I explain what the “world” is, and all the different characters. I’ll often sit with them for about 5 minutes to describe or explain anything, and then its free reign 🙂

For the Aussie outback; I first made up some easy cloud dough and added in a bit of cinnamon to make it brown. I then coloured some sand with red food colouring and made up some orange playdough to form the Uluru (Ayers Rock). Some grass bits, leaves and rocks were found in the garden and I scattered around some brown lentils to add a little more interest.

It really is that simple! My youngest son has designed his own one to do next weekend, and its going to involve lots of slime and jello so have a look out on my stories on Sunday for a gloopy mess 🙂 Until then, happy playing !

Learning To Read : A Whole New Chapter

Learning To Read : A Whole New Chapter

There are many noteworthy milestones in a child’s life, but learning to read has to be right up there. The whole “learning to read” process is incredible and something that is so unique to each child. To see everything just slowly starting to click is wondrous, an entirely new world opens up and I cannot wait till we fully dive into it. My eldest (5) is learning phonics at school at the moment. When his class teach mentioned in the beginning of the year that me may even be able to read by the end of the year, I thought she was joking, he’s only in grade R, but let me tell you, phonics are an INCREDIBLE THING!

Each week they have a different “focus” letter at school, “curly kuh” or “kicking kuh”, “annie apple” or “harry hat man”. Activities are then related to that letter and each time they speak about the pronunciation of it. We have to duly cut out pictures being with that letter every weekend and art for the week is focused on it. Just a few weeks ago Aadam read his very first word! R-E-D, he saw it on TV and said “Rra – ehhh – daaa”, “RED mama” !! I want to pause that moment in time forever. My heart was so proud it could have exploded! We are far from reading properly and I am in no way going to force him, but since then he has “read” a few other words by himself as well, “sun” , “dog” and “mat”.

I am by no means a teacher, I’m not a professional in any way, but we’ve done a few activities over the years at home that have focused on letter recognition and I think at this age it all starts coming together. Reading and writing go hand in hand and by practicing letter recognition with some fun activities, reading can quickly follow.

Here are a few fun activities you can do at home to practice letter recognition. It’s all learning through playing so your child wont feel like they are “working” in any way.

Spray the letter

Write out letters randomly on an outside wall with some chalk and give your child a spray bottle or water pistol. Get them to “spray” out the letters from words such as their name or other simple 3 letter words.

Letter hunt

I purchased some crafty foam letters and flash cards from our favourite book and stationary store, CNA , and hid the foam letters in some rainbow rice. Place a flashcard out and get your little one to dig through the rice to find the matching letters. As they are matching the letters, sound them out individually. The 3 letter words are always an easy start.

Word Tubes

These are so ridiculously easy to make and such a fun way to learn. We have made 2 different kinds before. The first is done simply by taking two paper cups. On one of them write out common endings like “at”, “all” and “it” and on the other write out letters like “m”, “f”, and “s”. Cut a window through the outer cup and twist to form the words. It can also be easily done with plastic eggs (I told you those little guys are versatile). Again on one side write one letter and on the bottom write the common endings. Sit with your child as they twist the egg and sound out each word.

Read Read Read

As simple as it may sound, but reading to your children is the best way to teach them how to read themselves. Making books part of your daily life is so important. They watch your lips move and form words, improves language skills, shows them that words represent sounds and concepts, words are read from left to write, and stories continue when you flip the page. Start from as young as possible to foster a love for reading with bedtime stories or library time. CNA has some great phonics books, in additional to all their reading books for kids, if you are interested in diving deeper into a more structured learning approach at home.

Writing out letters

Whether its tracing them out in a wipe and erase book, or using more Montessori type activities such as writing them out in Sand, using a brush with rice or even shaping the letters out of playdough. Its all about recognition and muscle memory. Sounding out each letter as you go and then practice by linking the sounds.

Watching a child enter this whole new world of literacy is just so magical. I am in awe of how quickly children can pick up on things and how many doors of opportunity this will open. Though i know on the other hand its going to open up a whole new ball game in parenting. Newspaper and magazine headlines will bring numerous questions and conversations but I cannot wait! There are some fantastic resources available to help us on this journey as parents, free printables online or books and learning aids from stationary stores. Reading is truly one of the greatest gifts for a child to learn and one that every single child should have a chance to learn.

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by CNA

Halloween Sensory Bin

Halloween Sensory Bin

We always have fun making themed sensory bins. Its one of my favourite things to put together and often creates hours of fun for the boys. It’s often the simplest ideas and activities that are the biggest hit in our household.

Set up for this sensory bin was easy peasy:

I coloured some rice with a perfect pumpkin orange (you can click here to find out how)

I had some creepy crawlies lying around the house from last years sensory slime tray

Plastic Storage bin

Some cups/ containers/ plastic tongs to dig with

Turn it into an activity

Usually sensory bins are about open-ended play, exploration and curiosity. With some of the more simple ones I turn them into a task. To encourage fine motor skills, there is nothing better than scooping and pouring. I gave my youngest an empty cup to fill in and encouraged him to pick up the crawlies with the tongs and transfer them to the bowls and jars.

We used it as a scavenger hunt – I hid the bugs in the rice, and to encourage counting, told the boys they had to find : 5 spiders, 3 centipedes, 5 cockroaches (you get the picture.)


Have you ever made sensory tray’s with your children? Whats your favourite “theme” or base to use? Id love to hear your feedback.