Tag: lego south africa

Why we should start embracing messy play

Why we should start embracing messy play

A whopping 49% of parents in South Africa, according to the latest LEGO Play Well report – aren’t quite on board with the muddy, sticky play that most children love. Most parents shudder at the thought of cleaning up all the mess, but I want to give you a few reasons WHY you need to start embracing messy play, in all its glory, and why it is so essential for our children. If you ask me to picture my childhood, it was running around outside in the dusty Botswana sand, barefoot, making forts under trees. It was happy, it was carefree. Life has changed a lot in the last 30 years, and in today’s world, a large majority of children don’t get to play outside like I did. This is one of the reasons messy play is so important.
Messy play incorporates all of the senses and allows children to explore, the benefits of messy play are huge and totally worth the minimal inconvenience.

By using different materials to explore various textures, children get used to different sensations using their hands and fingers or even toes and feet! Some children are more sensitive to different sensations, and messy play is a great way to ease them into new experiences without overwhelming them.

Messy play fosters creativity and imagination, encourages language and communication skills, practices concentration, and promotes physical development. Ive watched my 15 month old daughter play on her own for hours, exploring the concepts of pouring sand out of a container and filling another with water. Watching them mix and create mud, its early science and it is so exciting for them! These are all brilliant occupational therapy skills and are crucial for physical development.

Here are a few ideas for messy play:

1) “Jelly Cubes” – Make these up either with real Jelly or with a Gelatine and food colouring mixture, as I did here (that way there is no added sugar). Cut up the Jelly into ice cube sizes and let your children go wild! Some will mix, some will squish, others may choose to “bake”, whatever they do let them have fun and go wild. It washes out easily πŸ™‚

2) Rainbow Spaghetti – One of the best “first play” ingredients to give to baby – Rainbow spaghetti is colourful, sticky, and tons of fun to play with. The more that ends up in the hair the better πŸ™‚

3) Edible “Beach Sand” – If you don’t live by the coast – bring the coast to you! Place some flour on a baking tray and bake in the oven on low. Mix in a little oil when it’s done and crumble up to resemble beach sand. Place into a large tray with a few utensils like a fork, cup and watch baby feel the sand sensation and play.

4) Edible “mud” – the next best thing if you don’t have access to the real deal – you can do this two ways; either mix up a little chocolate pudding with some water and flour, or you could mix cornflour, water and cocoa powder together. Incorporate some learning into it by setting up a farmyard scene or throwing in some diggers and delight in the squishy sensation!

5) Baby safe slime/ Oobleck – My ultimate “go to” activity if the kids are whiny around dinner time. With just two ingredients, cornflour and water – this is the basis of a lot of our messy play. Let the kids mix and bake away and watch in amazement how this “magical” fluid can turn from a solid into a liquid in seconds!

6) Chickpea foam / Aquafaba – One of the best discoveries I have ever made. Using an electric beater, blend up the brine left over from chickpeas. Add in some colour if you like, but blend up until it forms a meringue like consistency. The kids will love playing with this. If you don’t have any chickpeas on hand you can do the same with a little dishwashing liquid and water, it just won’t be as stiff.

7) Rescuing objects from the Ice – You can do this with anything including toy cars, animal figurines, but we have chosen lego, of course. Place your selected objects into a large container, or choose to freeze them individually into ice cubes. Once frozen place them on a tray and let your children try to “release” them. I give the kids plastic syringes, spray bottles and containers to pour water over the ice to see if they can melt it.

8) Painting with lego – using your lego or duplo blocks, let the kids dip them into some paint and create paintings with the different shapes. Remember with messy play, there is no end goal in mind, so whatever they choose to paint or create, that is up to them! Some children are more structured, and others are completely abstract, let them have fun, explore the different shapes and get messy.

9) Lego and shaving foam – Shaving foam is another essential in our messy play cupboard. With just a few sprays you can turn anything to an adventure. I literally chucked in some Duplo blocks for my 1 year old, adding in some shaving cream and let her explore. I keep a bucket of clean water by her side, so she can cover the blocks and then rinse them again, but it was fun to watch her explore.

10) Create Sensory Worlds – This is fun for slightly older kids. I choose a theme and then we create a world around it with messy play items. Rainbow coloured rice, salt sand or cornflour and water. We then chuck in figurines like fish, or space themed objects and create a world to explore and play in. It incorporates structured learning with messy fun and they love it. Their top 3 worlds have been a crocodile swamp, the lifecycle of a frog with squishy water beads and a space themed tray with black rice and different substances for the planets.

This article was written in partnership with Lego South Africa, for the full article and more detail click here.

Christmas Gift Guide – Educational Toys

Christmas Gift Guide – Educational Toys

I have to be honest, my kids have A LOT of toys. The boys have all gone through phases of being obsessed with digger, trucks and cars to superheros and NERF guns, but the thing is, that’s exactly what it is. A phase, and soon I know those toys will be lying in the toy bin forgotten or not played with, like a sad tale from Toy Story.

That is one of the reasons why I am such a huge fan of educational, open-ended toys and sets. Play items that are designed to encourage imagination and creative play. Toys that teach and that can provide endless years of return play. Here is a list of SOME of my favourite educational toys this Festive Period.

From Top left to right:

  1. No educational wishlist is complete without some LEGO. The possibilities are absolutely endless and it is something that is enjoyed by all ages. I have to say this is the first year my kids REALLY got into LEGO, aged 5 and 6. Let me rephrase that, they didn’t just “get into it”, they are OBSESSED. From cars and cities, to forts and Superhero towers they will spend hours happily creating. I have one son who is a “rule follower”, he follows that instruction manual to the last detail, but struggles a little with more free play. I have another son who is the complete opposite. DO NOT give him a manual πŸ™‚ He can take those bricks and turn them into anything his heart desires. It’s so incredible to watch.
  2. Safari Ltd from Timeless Toys – It’s no secret how much I adore making “mini worlds” for the boys. The reason for this is because it combines sensory play WITH learning. My eldest has moved on a little from “normal” sensory play, and buy using figurines and by creating “Mini Worlds” our adventure begins again! The toobs sets from Safari Ltd are my absolute go to. They are a great size and you can purchase any theme you life, from the lifecycle of a frog or butterfly, to “Amazon”, “Africa” or “Antarctica”. These make great stocking stuffers! From R250.

3. Double sided Alphabet Tracing Set from Harper and Sloane. This beautiful wooden alphabet tracing board is a great way for young children to practice their letter recognition, letter formation and writing skills. I love the fact that the board is double-sided with lowercase letters on the front and capital letters on the reverse, all too often only one case is focused on which causes problems when school starts. R525 .

4. Melissa and Doug lock board available from Eden Kids.This was the first “puzzle” that I ever bought for my eldest child, and it is still going strong 7 years later! Its my 18 month old favourite puzzle at the moment, everyday she pulls my arm and says “tome” for “come” and makes me sit with her to open up the latches and look at the animals. Its a classic, and if its baby’s first or second Christmas, this one is worth it!

5. GeoSafari Jr Talking Microscope – Ok this has been on my wish-list for YEARS and I still haven’t gotten around to getting one for the boys. It comes with 12 slides of commonly found insects to deepen your child’s love for learning and exploration.

6. Spelling Card Box from Shop Mums Palette – I adore this box set and wonder why I didn’t stumble across it sooner! Such a fun, creative way to assist spelling and matching and at an incredibly affordable price! R230

7. Logarithmic Montessori numbers available from Takealot.com . I love everything about this set. It has counting, matching, fine motor skills you name it. It is great for hand eye coordination and I think is going to be one of our newest additions to the playroom!

8. All in one kits from One Two Play – making life easier for parents all across the country! One Two Play creates pre-packed kits to make sensory play and exploration that much easier. From Dingo Digs to Swamp Adventures, you can buy a pre packed box with everything you need in it for some sensory fun. While you’re at it, add some of their story blocks to your cart for some super fun, open ended play.

9. Card Machine Till – A till is more then just a till – Its the beginning of an entrepreneurs journey, its endless hours of shopping, counting, learning. Its maths. I bought a cheap plastic one for the boys about 4 years ago, I didn’t particularly like it at the time but it was the best I could find and that thing is one of the MOST used toys in our house! Its gone with us to market days, the boys set up shop at home and try to resell me food I’ve bought just to try to increase their pocket money πŸ™‚ A good quality till is an investment, a masterpiece, and this one from Timeless Toys is just beautiful.

10. Imagimags – When I saw Marie-Louise post about a South African brand of magnetic tiles I jumped for joy! We were gifted our magnetic tiles a few Christmases back from my aunt in the USA (and they are a lot cheaper there). I’ve been wanting to add to ours for ages as the kids genuinely play with them a few times a week. Imagimags are proudly South African and trust me 108 pieces is a fantastic amount and the hours of play would be endless! This would be a gift that keeps giving year after year!
108pc Magnetic Building Tiles Set R 1,599.00.

11. Mega Blocks Sustainable Forest Friends these need a special mention, because these blocks are made from plant-based plastics, yep you read that right, a sugarcane based renewable raw material. Even their packaging is 100% recyclable and has FSC-certified packaging, made from both recycled and sustainably-grown materials. They are the perfect fit for little hands, and I love the fact that you have to “match up” the animals.
My 18 month old was able to comfortably stack and take apart the blocks with ease.