Tag: Sensory play

Dino Dig Sensory Play

Dino Dig Sensory Play

A “Dino Dig” is something I have been dying to try with my boys. Making our own dino fossils has been top of my “wish list” but I just havent had the time or energy to do it. Recently though I paid a visit to our favourite “Plastic Land” (I feel like that’s a bit of a swear word these days), and when I saw a pack of plaster of paris I quickly grabbed it for my fossils.

I had to write an actual blog for this activity because initially, It was an epic fail. It was my first attempt at using Plaster of Paris, and clearly I hadn’t put much thought into it. I just mixed and poured, and well, it did require some pre planning.

There are a few things you should know if you use this method:

  1. You CANNOT pour Plaster of Paris down the drain, it will break your pipes (thankfully I didn’t), and it sets almost immediately. Which means you have to work very quickly, it also means, use something disposable when mixing it so you can do an easy clean up. That was mistake number 1 for me, I mixed it up in a baking bowl with a wooden spoon; and I then had to try dissolve all of it with Bicarbonate of Soda (which actually worked very well).
  2. Use moulds that you can break or peel away. I had found some playdough moulds at Toyzone that I thought would make the perfect dino fossils, except they didn’t 🙂 I couldn’t get the plaster of paris out of the mould and had to almost break my brand new playdough cutters.

So after I failed one night of trying with the plaster of paris, and getting utterly frustrated, I ended up making good old salt dough fossils the next day. They were super quick, easy, and the boys always love to play with salt dough so it certainly wasnt a waste of time. I just wasnt happy with how they looked in comparison to the “Pintrest” pretty fossils I had seen. I turned to good old You Tube and caught a video where they used plastic around the playdough which was then just cut off and thrown away.

Make your own dinosaur fossils (Plaster of Paris):

Ingredients:

Plaster of Paris

Water for Mixing

Playdough

Small Dinosaur Figurines

Paper Muffin Cups

Method:

Roll out your playdough and cut into shape with your muffin cup, placing your playdough at the bottom of each cup.

Insert and press down with the dino figurine to leave an imprint into your playdough (remove your figurine).

Mix up your Plaster of Paris (In a disposable cup), and pour into your cupcake/muffin cups on top of the playdough. You want it a bit thicker as if it’s too thin it will crack and break easily.

Once set, peel away your paper muffin cups/plastic, whatever you used. Peel away the playdough from underneath and Voila! Instant Dino Fossils! You will notice the playdough does get a little sticky when you peel it away, so I just took a slightly damp tooth-brush to brush away and clean up the playdough.

If you are really OCD and want a smoother fossil, you can sand down your fossils, but this mama does not have time for that!

Sensory Play

Once I had my fossils ready I pulled out some of my old moon sand/ cloud dough, which is just a combination of flour and oil, you can view my recipe here. If you have a sandpit even better! I “hid” the fossils under the sand and got some old paint brushes, a magnifying glass and some dino books for us to read. Once the boys had found the fossils, I whipped out the original figurines and we made a bit of a puzzle out of it, matching the figurine to the fossil, and then learning about that dinosaur! It was a great activity and really did keep them occupied for quite some time.

The best part is everything is saved and packed away for another day of play!

I would absolutely love to hear your feedback. Have you tried making your own fossils before? Let me know what you think of the two different methods and what you prefer. Happy playing!

Life Cycle Of A Frog – Squishy Sensory Bin Fun

Life Cycle Of A Frog – Squishy Sensory Bin Fun

My eldest got some tadpoles at school the other day, and the excitement was very very real! Everyday when I fetched him he would show me their progress and point out the ones that were growing. I had been waiting for the perfect moment to use my Toobs figurines from Kid-Ease, and this was it!

My youngest still is fully absorbed by sensory trays so I always try and combine them with a little learning for my 5 year old now as well. We picked out a froggie book and got to making our “pond” habitat.

Materials Used:

Waterbeads

Jelly type substance – you could make some goop up from cornflour and water, but I used Sno Ball from Zimpli Kids and added some blue food colouring to it

Logs/sticks

Pebbles

Leaves

Frog figurines or any other figurines found around a pond

I also used polystyrene cut into the shape of a lily pad because I didnt have any other suitable “lily pads”.

Explore the Life Cycle of a Frog

I always have to hold my kids back a bit before they dive right into a sensory tray. So I began by pointing out the various different stages of a frog and asked Aadam which order he thought they belonged in. As soon as he touched the sensory tray it was over and they both were too excited to play. We combined it by reading one of our favourite “frog themed” books, frog on a log. We also spoke about what other animals you would find around a pond like dragonflies, fish, butterflies and turtles. We also spoke about how the frogs lay eggs in groups and that they need to be in the water or they will dry up and not hatch We also discussed how the frog changes as it gets bigger and how it slowly loses its “tail”.

Its so much fun to learn when you get to play and explore as well!

I never know whether to turn our sensory trays into blogs or just post the pictures up on instagram. What do you prefer? Whichever way I hope you got some inspiration, and happy playing!

How To Make Frozen Oobleck

How To Make Frozen Oobleck

Hot Summer days are the perfect excuse to be outside with messy play. Frozen oobleck is such a perfect activity for this and it literally doubles the fun and play time of normal oobleck. “Oobleck” is just a fancy term for good old cornflour and water and with the help of some silicon moulds this is one super fun activities and absolutely safe for younger babies and toddlers to experiment with.

You’ll Need:

  • cornstarch
  • water
  • liquid watercolors or food coloring (optional)
  • ice-cube trays, silicone molds, or a container to place in the freezer

How to Make the Frozen Oobleck:

  1. Add about 1 cup of cornflour to a bowl.
  2. Slowly add about 1/2 cup of water. I found with this you want to almost double the amount of cornflour to water, because your freezing it, to make sure it melts into a proper gooey oobleck. Less water is better!
  3. Add food coloring or liquid watercolors. Obviously for younger kids you would want to use food colouring as its non-toxic.
  4. Pour the oobleck into molds. We used our favourite Mickey shaped moulds, because someone turns 90 on the 18th of November!
  5. Place the molds in the freezer for at least a few hours.

Take it outside! This activity was perfect and the boys banged about trying to break up the frozen moulds for ages before getting stuck into the gooey mixture afterwards. it goes without saying its messy, but that’s why we were in our swimming suits ready to rinse off in the pool afterward. Interest was held for much longer. Once melted, It has properties of both a solid and a liquid depending on the amount of pressure applied. When you press down, the cornstarch and water mixture acts like a solid, but when constant slow pressure is not applied, the mixture acts like a liquid.

The perfect activity for summer holidays coming up!

Rainbow Rice For Sensory Play

Rainbow Rice For Sensory Play

I often get asked, “but what do you do with rainbow rice”; It may look pretty , but how does one incorporate it into “play”?

First, lets look at how to make it.

It is super easy and you can choose whether to use paint or food colouring. There are two ways to make it, I chose to use paint as my kids are a bit older and I know they won’t “eat” the rice. For younger kids, use the vinegar and food colouring method. I just find the paint makes a more vibrant colour.

1 cup of uncooked rice ( I used 2 for a larger batch)
Sealable bag / container
A blob of paint

Place your rice into the bag, with a good blob of paint and seal your bag. Rub the paint around until all specs of rice are coated (I got the kids to do this). Lay out to dry on a flat tray in a warm area for about 2 hours. You don’t want the paint transferring on your hands.

Vinegar Option
1 cup of rice
1/2 top vinegar
A good few drops of food colouring

Use the same method as above but you may need to dry overnight.

How do you play with it?

Now that you have made it, lets look at all the different things you can do with it, apart from admiring the pretty colours. The benefits of using rice in sensory play are second to none. From an OT point of view its great for kids that have low tactile input, the rice stimulates receptors on the skin so they can interpret sensory input more accurately. It’s the perfect medium for fine motor skill development. For those kids that avoid any tactile input completely (your kids that don’t like to walk barefoot or don’t like to get messy), because they can play in a controlled manner. Place it into a smaller container/ tray lets them control their experience more.

Here’s a couple of ways we use our rainbow rice to give you some idea’s:

Sensory Trays – any rice makes a fantastic base for sensory trays. It’s a bit like sand in that you can grab it, dig in it, scoop it etc. We use rice in a lot of our sensory fun. I have used it in themed sensory bins like our valentine one, or our outer space adventure.

Imagination Play – rice is perfect for “cooking”, making potions and baking. My boys like to stir it about in pots or “sprinkle” onto cupcakes.

Scavenger hunts – using the rice as a base for treasure hunts. Hide their favourite toys or treasures inside and make a checklist for the kids to dig through and find.

Scooping and Pouring activities – Great for fine motor skill development in little ones. Give them a try with the rice and some pouring jugs and let them scoop and pour away.

Letter recognition – add in an extra dimension by chucking in some magnets and a wand, magnetic letters are a great way to start letter recognition. Another exercise is to place the rice on a tray and get your child to “trace” the letters of the alphabet (from pictures), this is a great way to get them used to the shape of letters for recognition and to prepare them for writing.

“I-spy” Bottles – create personalized little “I-spy”bottles like this one over at lalymom.com , these are great for long car or plane journeys to keep little ones entertained.

Use it for art – ever tried sticking rice onto glue? It makes a fantastic piece of artwork for kids. Let them get creative with their glue sticks and create masterpieces with the rice.

Music Makers – If you have babies or young toddlers, you can also put the rainbow rice into bottle or plastic egg. The baby can then shake, shake, shake the bottle like a maracas.

I hope some of these idea’s helped you with some inspiration. The beauty of coloured rice is once you make it you can literally store it in an airtight container for life. We pull ours out quite often. Be careful though, rice does get everywhere. I always put done our messy play mat (a plastic sheet) and take it outside. Happy Playing !

20 Outdoor Activities To Do With The Kids

20 Outdoor Activities To Do With The Kids

Yaaay for warmer days and longer hours of sunshine. I’ve missed outdoor activities with the boys so much and in the past two weeks every day after work we try to fit in some “play time”.

Most of these can be done in a smaller outdoor area, so if you’re in a high rise with limited balcony space, worry not! You can still get creative.

Here are my favourite outdoor activities to do with kids:

  • First and foremost, I just like to sit back and observe. Let their imaginations work. Get them outside and let them make their own fun. On their own accord they have been countless hours “building” forts, making houses behind trees, turned into imaginary chefs mixing up soup with leaves and their ultimate is to pretend they are gardeners. Whilst I’m a huge advocate of doing things with them, trust me, my absolute number one thing to do is just to let them do their own thing. It’s a magical thing to watch.
  • Set up a “Mud Kitchen”- All kids, no matter what their gender love to spend hours mixing and creating. Give them a couple of old bowls and spoons with a jug of water and some soil and you’ll be amazed at the creations put in front of you to sample.
  • Paint with Ice Lollies – a lot of my outdoor activities include paint, because to be honest, I much prefer the kids painting outdoors than in, in the interest of keeping my walls and floors paint free of course. This is super easy. Mix a little paint with water (you can also use food colouring and water) and pour into an ice container. Once the cubes are partially frozen add in your Popsicle sticks and take out when completely frozen. Yes it’s just paint, but it adds a completely different dimension and texture to painting.

  • Paint with Nature – Spring time with all the flowers out is the perfect time to do this. Grab a few flowers, leaves and sticks and get the kids to paint with them. Observe the patterns they all make and which ones are easier to paint with.
  • Pack up your lunch and take it outside. Most kids adore picnics, so instead of sitting inside to eat, grab a blanket and take it outdoors for a bit of an adventure
  • Set up a mini Olympics – This really doesn’t have to take too much thought or effort. We have used things we have around the house. Examples include: drawing a target circle on the wall outside in chalk, get the kids to try and hit the targets with a ball or bean bag. Tying a hoola hoop onto a tree to create a ring to throw through. Place cones out and create a mini obstacle course to run and jump through.
  • Build a Fairy House – Using popsicle sticks, sticks, matchboxes, moss, leaves, and small items from inside your home to build a fairy-sized house.
  • Build a Bug Hotel – My husband hates this one but the boys love it. Find any interesting artifacts lying around. Old bricks, pipes, pots with holes and rolled up newspaper work really well. Layer with straw and leaves to create mulch and make a really interesting little “hotel” for bugs to make their home in!
  • Go on a bug hunt – Look around said hotel ? Take a magnifying glass and create a list of possible bugs in your garden. Encourage the kids to look under pots and logs to try and find the bugs
  • Create a scavenger hunt – I like hiding figurine animals around the garden for this one. You can use a magnifying glass or make a pair of binoculars out of toilet paper rolls. Hide your mini animals all around the garden and let the kids find them.

  • Create a wash station – whatever it is, be it windows or bikes and cars. Get kids involved with a sponge and some soapy water and they are in their element. My boys love washing their bikes, or my windows and ultimately it always turns into a wet, messy affair. You are outside, so its OK ? 
  • Make some bird feeders – Out of pine cones, peanut butter and bird seed. The kids will love making their own feeders and will often keep checking to see if birds come to feed.
  • Paint Stone Pebbles – My boys loved this ! Collect medium-sized stones and arrange them in the garden. Get your kids to paint the stones with acrylic paints of different colours. They can paint anything they like from shapes, to pets and insects. Mum can come in after and draw in any finer details.

  • Create Giant Bubbles – Bubbles are one thing I despise doing inside. The sticky bubbles pip all over the tiled floors leaving a slippery, sticky mess. Outdoors is the perfect place to create bubbles to your hearts content. To make the giant bubbles add one cup of dishwashing soap to a litre of warm water. An extra two to three tablespoons of glycerine, (makes your super big bubbles). Pour your concoction into a flat, rimmed tray, like a sheet-cake pan, and dip in a large DIY wand, made by bending a wire hanger into a loop. Lift the wand slowly and walk backward to let loose a gigantic bubble. Experiment and try different mediums, a fly swat perhaps with large holes. The crazy store has a lot of possible options to use.
  • Collect flowers and leaves and make a magic potion – Using food colours and petals let your kids mix away and create any “magic potion” they desire. I love the pretend aspect here.
  • Sensory Trays – If you have been following my blog for a while you know I’m a HUGE fan of Sensory boxes. Why not make some foam soap, a slimy swamp or a sandbox sensory tray with cloud dough? The possibilities are endless and being outdoors or on a balcony means easy clean up!

  • Go crazy with chalk – I must admit I LOVE chalk. It’s the one time my boys are allowed to draw all over the walls and floor. If we are outside of course. We love to colour in bricks and then find things around the garden to match the shade of brick, or just graffiti the driveway up. Whatever it is, it only takes a rain shower or sprinkler to wash away. Easy clean up!
  • Create a Nature Weave – We have been meaning to try this for ages and it looks pretty simple! You will need to find 4 pretty straight twigs to bind together into a square shape. Take some string (or you could even use bits of palm leaf) and weave close together to form a weave. The kids can find flowers, leaves or any interesting objects in the garden to thread through the “dream catcher” or “Nature Weave”.
  • Make a Water Wall – We have done this a number of ways and its so easy and very educational for little toddlers. The easy way would be to cut out scoops from the middle of plastic bottles. (I used 500 ml water bottles as well as 1l and 2l soda bottles. Attached them to the wall in a descending order, I just used tape as It was a makeshift one. Give your kids a scoop or jug to pour water into the top container and watch in amazement as the water flows through ! My dad then got involved and make the most awesome water wall out of PVC piping for the boys. If you have a good hardware store close by it shouldn’t be too hard. Place a tub underneath to collect all the water and let them play!

  • Make Ice Fossils – One of our all time favourite activities. Take any small figurines you may have around the house; we have used “dinosaurs” for dino eggs as well as marine life. Put them into an empty water balloon, fill with water and tie. Freeze the balloons overnight and then cut off the balloon cover. Place out bottles with water, plastic syringes and chipping hammers and let the kids try to uncover their fossils in the ice !

Cloud Dough Sensory Tray

Cloud Dough Sensory Tray

Its been a while since I’ve posted a sensory craft and to be honest I’ve missed the time with my boys. They get so excited when mama pulls out the activity tray and want to help with everything.

At a recent Prima Toy Event on of my favourite toys that launched (stay tuned for a full list of my favourites), was the Treasure X box. A little box filled with adventure and you have to try and retrieve the “lost” bits and pieces by digging through the “soft brick” around it. It reminded me of the some of the sensory activities Id done with the boys around dino excavations and got me thinking it was time to do something new.

Cloud Dough is a perfect base for sensory trays. It’s both mouldable and crumbly at the same time. It has a silky soft consistency perfect for little hands. You can see my previous recipe here, but generally I take about 8 cups of flour to one cup oil (vegetable or baby), this time I added in a few drops of essential lavender oil to add in a calming scent. The mixture of flour and oil is mixed to the consistency of a wet beach sand. It’s the perfect exploratory material for toddlers to play with and is 100% taste safe! The boys are at a fun age where I can start making sensory trays a little more challenging. So with this one, inspired by Treasure X, I made it a pirate theme and hid bits of metallic treasure into the “sand”, they had to find the treasures with a magnetic wand. Add in a couple of scoops and forks and use little shells or containers to mould your shapes. To create a pirate theme i took “treasure” from around the house, glass pebbles and sparkly pom poms as “gems”, plastic beads, gold coins, old treasure chests and pirate figurines.

Most of the time was spent burying their own treasure chests in the sand, acting out with the pirates before creating sand castles and shapes with the easily mouldable cloud dough. After about 45 minutes of beach play we packed away our cloud dough into an airtight container to be played with another day. Cloud dough typically has quite a long shelf life if stored correctly.

 

Have fun with your little pirates and never be afraid to get a little messy xx

Montessori Inspired Activities for Toddlers

Montessori Inspired Activities for Toddlers

I’m a huge advocate of Montessori, in particular in the early learning phases of a child’s life. They say people come into your life for a reason and my friend Mandy did just that. A trained Montessori teacher, Mandy opened up my eyes to learning and development in children. We used to have the most fantastic mum and toddler classes all in a Montessori environment and my little one thrived.

I’ve put together my top Practical/ Life Skill Montessori activities. These are specifically tailored for toddlers aged about 15 months to about 3 years old I would say and  have literally saved me on so many occasions, when I just need 10 minutes. My boys really focus and get involved in the tasks. Most of these materials you would already have either in your Kitchen or Bathroom and cleaning up is a breeze (in fact the kids should do the cleaning up through play).

Montessori activities are life-based. They help children build skills for everyday life,  building upon the necessary foundations needed in academia. Most of Montessori activities are done on a tray. The purpose of having a tray is to concentrate the child’s attention on one activity, to isolate distractions and in a typical Montessori school a child will select their own tray from the shelf, and put it back again after.

Here are 5 quick and easy Montessori activities to keep a toddlers learning mind busy. 

Basics you’ll need are:

A large tray/ sensory bin

Two similar sized bowls

Shaving cream

Spray Bottle

An empty bottle

Straws

Kitchen Cloth

Sponge

 

Spray Bottles

These should be a staple in any toddler household. The trigger action is great for development and coordination and the wiping motion helps them cross the midline.  Get your toddler to spray a large window or mirror and wipe it up after. Crossing the body’s mid-line is an important developmental skill needed for many everyday tasks such as writing, hitting a ball with both hands etc.

Shaving Cream Fun

Want to keep a toddler busy for at least 20 minutes? Give them some shaving cream ! The possibilities are endless and as your kids get older it really aids in writing skills as well. I digress, if you have a big window or mirror spray a little cream onto the surface. Taking a plastic fork, or their finger, let your toddler draw designs through the cream. Afterward get them to wipe the surface down with the cloth.

 

 

Sponging and transferring water

Sponging is one of the first basic lessons a child learns in an Early Childhood Montessori classroom.  It works on fine motor development, focus and concentration. They also indirectly learn about absorption. Take two bowls and place a little water into one. Your toddler must place the sponge in the bowl with water and transfer and squeeze the water out into the other bowl until the activity is finished. Then complete moving the other way.

The Spooning Exercise (Transferring)

This activity saves me on a weekly basis. Cooking in the kitchen and have a toddler in your hair? Stick two bowls in front of them and let them work. It develops control and movements in your toddler, learning independence and concentration. ALL toddlers LOVE sorting and I vary this activity with different ingredients. Flour is a favourite but we also use lentils, dry beans and popcorn seeds. In one bowl pour in your ingredient of choice and give your toddler an appropriately sized spoon. My boys are so careful to try and ensure each and every lentil falls into the bowl and they dont stop this activity until each piece has been transferred.

Placing Straws Into A Bottle

This activity is actually perfect from as young as 12 or 14 months old. As your toddler gets older you can also add in a degree of complication by adding in varying factors. For example: Adding in pipe cleaners and sticks to the tray, your toddler must sort them out and ONLY add the straws to the bottle, or get them to list the colour of each straw the place in the bottle. As with each of these activities you’ll have to show your toddler what to do first and then let them take over.

 

Toddlers from about 14 months onward are probably at my favourite age for learning. Everything is fascinating and exciting. These activities are great for calming kids and encourage independent learning. I’ve got a whole lot more to share but I hope these simple activities will inspire you to get your child involved in daily activities around the home. What are your favourite activities?

Edible Sensory Play – Chocolate mud

Edible Sensory Play – Chocolate mud

I’ve been dealing with a bit of “mommy guilt” the past two weeks, feeling like I hadn’t given the boys any fun activities to play or do, though I am an advocate of “let them be bored”.

My eldest is going through a HUGE “arts and crafts” spree and every morning wakes up asking to make some creative concoction. We haven’t done a sensory play activity In so long and I’ve been wanting to do “edible mud” for quite some time. This “Mud” is fantastic for younger kids, all ingredients are edible, in fact they taste quiet good!

It’s a great “taste-safe” play idea and even more effective when paired with a little themed book or song.

Having boys I was so tempted to chuck in some spaghetti worms, or sweet snakes, but decided to go with more interactive toys. We did two set ups, one “farm yard” and one “digger yard”.

All the recipes I found online for this include syrup and sugar, I have no idea why but if my intention was certainly not for my kids to find it “tasty”, so I omitted that.

Ingredients:

I started off with about 1.5 cups of flour

1.5 cups of cornflour

1 cup cocoa

Water to mix.

 

I added and mixed as I went along, until I got a nice thick consistency. I wanted it to be a Newtonian fluid, that became solid as they played.

We kept a water station close by so they could wash their figurines straight after, and we also did this right before bath time 🙂

I am such an avid supporter of sensory play activities like this one as they learn about “clean and dirty”, they learnt about all the different farm animals and where they normally lived, textures and role play.

My youngest was so confused, he kept saying “Its yucky mud” but it smells like cake !

Happy playing!