10 simple activities you can set up, using things you already have!

Sometimes all these Pinterest ideas can seem a bit far flung, or that you need a Blue Peter style cupboard of tricks to be able to set them up. This can put you off before you even get started. For me, there’s nothing worse, as both a parent and a teacher, than spending a long time setting up an activity for the children to use it for all of five minutes, or for it to take forever to clear up after that 5 minutes of fun. Here I’ve put together some quick to set up, minimal clean up activities you could do the minute you’ve finished reading this post because you will likely already have everything you need.

Colour Sorting

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Wonderfully simple. To set up you can use a large sheet of paper, lots of small sheets, hoops, starter objects – just something to mark where to put objects of certain colours. You can do as many or as few colours as you like. For very young children you could take them on a hunt for one specific colour, taking a basket or bag to fill along the way.

For pre schoolers you can begin to talk about which colour has more/less objects. You can count up and tally how many each group has. You can open up ideas about where to put an object that has more than one colour on. Lots of naturally evolving numeracy links – sorting, classifying, counting and comparison. Plus it’s so pretty!

Weaving

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Now I know not everyone have a box full of ribbons – but hold on! You can weave with anything really, so long as its long, thin and flexible. Strips of carrier bags or old unwanted t-shirts, wool, string, leaves, feathers…. go mad! We used our cooling rack to weave through, but a shelf from your oven will work just as well. You could always go bigger and weave through the garden gate.

There’s lots of fine motor practise in here for little ones, meaning all those little finger muscles needed to manipulate a pencil and other tools such as scissors are being exercised and strengthened. You can see in the last picture that Squidge is using both hands – perfect for pre writers who are yet to decide whether they are lefties or righties (not in a political sense ;)).

Water Play

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Water play is a really easy one, you need a tub – a washing up bowl is perfect, and something to put in it. Anything can be used, when Squidge was tiny and we didn’t have a collection of bath toys, I used to use any plastic containers I could find such as baby bottles and tupperware. You can add sieves, colinders, giant spoons from your cutlery drawer, ladels, whisks – anything so long as you deem it safe. I often colour our water with liquid food colouring, chuck in some glitter or just a squirt of soap.

My two always get in the tub – always. So be prepared with a towel and a change of clothes. If you try this one indoors put a towel underneath your tub so you’re not worried about the splashes. Boo loves water play and there’s a whole post dedicated to this session here.

Kite flying

Now you cannot get much simpler than this one. A carrier bag and some string – tie your two carrier bag handles together, tie a loop at the bottom as a little handle et voila, you have yourself an awesome kite. Can be made in a breath as soon as the wind picks up – or if you’re an avid weather watcher, you could make your kite in advance and give your little ones the opportunity to decorate it.

Squidge loved flying this one, and when the wind died down she would run the length of the garden to get it flying again. Great exercise and plenty of giggles. There’s lots of opportunity to talk about cause and effect and the weather. You could also talk about what happens to your body when you run fast – “Feel your heart beat, is it pumping fast or slow? What do you think is happening inside your body when you run fast?”.

Puzzles for letter and number recognition

This little activity took 5 minutes to set up and kept Squidge busy while I made tea. Squidge had completed this jigsaw quite a few times before I introduced this match up activity. She doesn’t know the name of many of the letters yet. We play with the sounds much more – ‘Oh look you’ve got k, k, k, can you say that k, k, k?’. Playing with and listening for sounds in the environment is the step before actual phonic knowledge. So have a play, make animals sounds together, stop and listen in different places, at home, the park, near a busy road, and ask what they can hear.

This activity will obviously work with numbers too. You could draw around different shapes, draw around the bottom of familiar toys and see if they can match them up. I’ve seen some great ideas for matching colour patterns with buttons and pegs (red, blue, red, blue etc). Just look what you have around you and see if you can turn it into a simple game – a new use for what you already have.

Jump the River

This quick and simple game came from Fiona over at Coombe Mill. They use two large sticks, each child jumps across the ‘River’ in turn. In Fiona’s video there’s a line of children, varying in age, and by using the sticks they were able to quickly adapt the breadth of the river for each and every one. We didn’t have any sticks, so I used a piece of fabric. We started with a slim river and I made it wider and wider. A great one for gross motor skills.

Washing Line

Do you have one of those drawers in your house, you know the one with all the odds and ends? Have a peep and see if you have any loopy picture hooks – we had a few so I used them and my never ending ribbon supply to make our washing line (String and drawing pins will work, but may be more temporary). I hooked it up to Squidge and Boo’s Wendy House so they could extend their role play (Boo is a bit little for this yet). I put out pegs and some of their old baby grows and more or less left Squidge to it. Using pegs is another great fine motor exercise working that pincer movement. Squidge did struggle at first, so this meant she had to persevere to get her clothes hung on the line.

I’ve also added a washing line to my slowly developing number area at the other side of the garden. We’ve used it a couple of times to hang flashcards on (which I got in a charity shop for 50p!). Hanging a certain number of pegs is another task we’ve tried.

Peg Number Match

Sticking with the peg theme, we used wooden pegs on a piece of card with numbers written on both. Admittedly if your pegs aren’t wooden ones you may find this more difficult – a permanent marker may work, but if not, you can pick up 100 pegs for just over a £1 in the bargain shops – then you don’t need to keep stealing them back for the actual washing!

The same applies to this activity with the fine motor skills as well as number recognition. You can adapt this activity in many ways, try putting coloured dots on and match patterns. You could add letters to match up their name or to spell simple words. We’ll definitely be trying other ways of playing.

Baking

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Now if you’re anything like me, this one may fill you with dread, but bear with me. When you do attempt baking do not set yourself up to fail by expecting to have Great British Bake Off worthy cakes. If you purely focus on the process – with so many maths opportunities, the chance to see the change as different ingredients are added and another change as it bakes – then the product at the end really doesn’t matter. Also have in the back of your mind, if they made it, they’ll love it anyway.

Back to the maths opportunities – counting how many eggs you need, weighing out ingredients (I like to draw a mark on the scales and get Squidge to tell me if I need more or less – she’s getting good at it, “More, more, a tiny bit more Mummy”), patterns with the bun cases if you happen to have coloured ones and possibly counting or pattern making with any decorations you add. Really worth it, even if your wares are not entirely edible.

Ice Attack!

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Another easy one assuming that your little person is as obsessed as Squidge is with teeny, tiny toys. If not you can use bigger ones in a larger tub – an old ice cream tub works great and I used one as well as the tray (that is a little Blue Petery – apologies). Throw in the toys, whack them in the freezer, you can forget all about them. Careful though, as anyone not in on the idea who looks in your freezer may think you’ve gone a little mad.

I got this one out on a hot day in the garden, less mess, virtually no clean up. I introduced it with a bit of a dramatic “Oh my goodness, look! Someone has frozen your little dudes!”, Squidge saw through this Oscar worthy performance in a nano second “It was you Mummy”. Gutted, I was fully prepared to carry out a whole drama about ‘Iceman’, a heinous villain with a dastardly plan to take over the world, but never mind.

The girls loved this one, they played for ages trying to rescue the little figures. They were delighted every time one was freed. They decided in the end that chomping and sucking the ice was the best way to get them out (obviously I was closely supervising). And yes, that is Boo climbing into a tray of ice cold water… she was perfectly content in there…

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So there we have it. 10 simple to set up, almost mess free activities that you can try. After looking through them, how many could you realistically have a go at? Which one do you fancy trying first? I’d love to know. I’d also love to hear about activities you’ve tried and loved in the past. If I’ve gained nothing else from joining the whole blogging community, I’ve definitely racked up a whole boat load of new ideas… maybe I’ll have to do a list of those I try and test!

As always, lots of love, Cat, Squidge and Boo Xxx

 
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Marble Painting

On a meander through the bargain stores the other day we picked up a huge bag of marbles for a pound. I wanted them for the Water Wall  and I knew we’d be able to use them for Marble Painting

For this activity you will need:

  • Paper (we used the last of our big roll from Ikea, but A4 will work just as well)
  • Tray/box
  • Paint
  • Marbles
  • Double sided tape (or my favourite trick, a short piece of normal tape, rolled back into a loop, so it’s sticky on both sides ;))
  • A bucket of soapy water and a towel (for the clean up)

I decided we’d use all the colours in the first go – I have a thing for rainbows. I thought if it came out as well as I was expecting it could fill some of the magnolia/beige walls in the playroom. This room has been dubbed the most liveable since we moved in a year ago, so it’s last on the list for decorating. This means Squidge, Boo and I have to jazz it up any way we can.

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I squirted blobs of paint in a diagonal line to try encourage the girls to roll the marbles all over. It took them quite a while to figure this one out. I explained to Squidge that the marbles needed to roll through the paint, after some serious contemplation she picked up a marble and threw it in. I let her do this a few times so she could explore what happened. Boo was also keen to pick out the marbles (then run off up the garden with them! Cheeky monkey).

After some exploration (and a few laps of the garden chasing the marble thief) I pulled out my favourite starter ‘I wonder… what would happen if you lifted the box up?’. I’ve mentioned ‘I wonder…’ statements before but if you’re visiting for the first time, I’ll rave about them again. By thinking aloud as the adult, you are introducing an idea to a child, without them having to take it. There is no push, no command for them to do it, it’s their choice to take the idea and try it out or dismiss it. Most times children will give it a go and you’ll get a much better response than if you simply tell them what to do. These type of statements can promote and challenge children’s thinking in all kinds of situations. Give it a try, I’d love to hear how you get on.

Once I’d introduced the idea, Squidge did indeed lift the box. Both girls squealed as the marbles made trails through the paint. I helped Boo lift the box from the other end. Neither of them seemed to like it when the marbles got stuck in the blobs so they kept stopping to fish them out. I tried to reassure them that they’d roll out on their own eventually, but they were having none of it.

Squidge really got into it and was running from one end of the box to the other to lift it. Picking out marbles that got stuck and dropping them back in. Boo observed from the sidelines, encouraging Squidge with her giggles and squeals as the rainbow grew.

Once most of the paint had been rolled, we took out the marbles and washed them in the waiting bucket of soapy water and dried them on the towel. I asked if Squidge would like another go, she said she did. This time around I let her choose which colours she’d like and gave her a few options as to where she’d like the blobs.

Before we started Squidge wanted me to take a picture – she too is getting into this blogging frame of mind! Then she threw in the marbles. I left her to this one, no intervention or suggestions needed on my part at this stage – she was free to explore.

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When Squidge had finished I hung both masterpieces on the washing line to dry out. They looked fab blowing in the wind – even if my neighbours think I’m crackers. They are both now pride of place in the playroom. Hanging children’s work can be a good reminder of what they’ve done in the past. Sometimes you may need to draw attention back to it ‘Do you remember how you made this?’, as after a while anything hung on a wall will become wallpaper, no longer noticed.

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In hindsight, it may have been better to try this activity on a small scale first, so Squidge and Boo could really manipulate the marbles, rolling them in different directions. I think I will give it another try in a smaller container, perhaps with one blob of paint in the middle and only a few marbles. It would be nice to see the difference in what they produce. We could then move onto two colours, with a challenge of trying to mix them.

The idea with this activity is that they enjoy the process, it doesn’t matter what they produce in the end (even if I did make Squidge wash her hands half way through after she squashed her hand in the pink and I wanted it to look pretty for the wall…I think she forgives me now she can see it up there).

What do you think, will you give this one a go?

Lots of love, Cat, Squidge and Boo

If you enjoyed this post check out this messy play delight – squirty cream is involved 🙂 

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Water beads

If you are yet to discover these little balls you are in for a treat! I first discovered them on Pinterest (where else?!). Their intended purpose is to keep flowers hydrated I believe, but they can be put to much better use in play. I purchased mine from a famous shopping site on the internet. You can get a small bag for just short of a pound, but it’s definitely worth purchasing a few at once. They are available to buy in multi colour packs, single colours and clear.

To begin with the water beads are tiny and look a little like cake sprinkles. You immerse them in water and they expand over a few hours as they absorb it. If you have patient children – or plan on having a ‘Here’s one I made earlier’ it would be worth letting children see this process. It may also be worth letting them see them dry out again. Questions will naturally occur that promote the science behind these awesome little things.

After a good couple of goes in our ‘on loan’ paddling pool (Thanks Uncle M, love S & B), I decided this would be an ideal place to play with our water beads outside. They are incredibly bouncy and I wanted the girls to be able to play without having to chase them every two minutes. They are also likely to collect dirt from the ground as they are wet to the touch – though I have nothing against a little dirt during outdoor play, I didn’t particularly want in mixed in during this activity.

Encouraging Boo’s love of pouring and scooping I added spoons, scoops and various containers. To develop Squidge’s fine motor skills I included a couple of pairs of tongs.

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Squidge was first to dive into this activity. She and I have played with water beads on several occasions before, so she knew what was in store. Boo observed from the sidelines for a little while before getting in. I’d been reluctant to let her have a go with these up until now, as she still has a tendency to mouth things and water beads are not safe to eat. Both girls spent a good length of time just feeling the water beads, holding a few in their hands, letting them fall, picking them up individually and squeezing them gently.

Both Squidge and Boo were completely immersed in their play from the minute they started. It was hard to capture the delight on Boo’s face as she barely lifted her head. The girls were both playing, but were doing so independent of one another for the majority.

Squidge tested out the scoops and spoons first, scooping and pouring from each item a couple of times before moving on to the next.

She went on to try out the first set of tongs and was so proud of herself when she managed to grip one of the beads. She did return to the tongs later on during her play and used them to transfer a few of the beads. It was time consuming, so I was quite impressed she persevered for so long!

Boo made use of one the scoops in a different way to her sister, she filled it  with the little beads, one by one. Her pincer grip is brilliant (you should see her eat peas – a definite nod to baby led weaning). She then transferred the beads by pouring them from the scoop to a larger pot. This theme continued throughout the rest of her play.

Both Squidge and Boo kept switching utensils to move the beads. The blue scoops (one from a protein shake bag, the other a baby milk scoop) and the silver bowl type scoop (from the children’s utensil set sold at my favourite Scandinavian store) were definite favourites for them both. They happily swapped between themselves, still independent in their play, unconsciously mirroring one another.

Boo then began pouring from one container to another, over and over, losing a couple of beads here and there. She would watch them bounce away, collect them and add them back to her haul. Her concentration level still remaining high.

She stirred her pots a few times, though not always with an appropriately sized spoon. Notice how she uses different hands, and both at one point to gain more control when things didn’t work as expected.

The highlight of Boo’s play for me was when she attempted to fill the smallest blue scoop with an extra water bead than I’d have expected it to hold. I’d have been happy to carry just one bead in such a small scoop, but Boo wasn’t going to be satisfied until she had three in there. In the series of pictures, it looks like quite a straightforward task, but it took Boo at least 5 minutes to get them to balance. They are quite slippery to handle and pop out of little fingers and scoops when squeezed too hard. Several times the top bead fell out, with the second one being dropped a few times whilst trying to retrieve the top one! This didn’t phase Boo. She was determined and patient – traits that I feel are part of her character.

Meanwhile Squidge happily filled and emptied the various containers. She loved shaking the clear egg box and watching the beads bounce around in the tub.

It wasn’t until the very end of this session of play that Squidge and Boo played together. Squidge pouring the beads, making funny noises as they tumbled, Boo trying to catch them as they went.

This play lasted us a good 45 minutes outside. Both girls developed their fine motor skills in various ways. They both persevered with a difficult, self chosen task until it was complete. They were both deeply immersed in their play. Not bad for £2 and a bunch of tubs and utensils.

We’ll be playing with water beads again very soon, there are so many different ways to use them. Have you used them before? Have I tempted you to give them a try? Let me know!

Thanks for reading,

Much love, Cat, Squidge and Boo Xxx

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Water Wall and Pebble Drop

As many of you will know by now, Boo loves water. Pouring it, watching it as it trickles, catching it, anything to do with the flow of water and she’s fascinated. In my recent post  ‘Just add water‘ I thought a good next step for Boo would be to use a water wall. I also wanted to try out a version for dropping pebbles. I’d seen ideas for water walls on Pinterest and it all looked pretty straight forward.

To build a water wall/pebble drop yourself you will need:

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  • Trellis – (any size you prefer – though bear in mind the height your child can reach)
  • Pipes
  • Cable ties
  • Screws and a drill if attaching it to a wall/fence
  •  Saw (if pipe needs cutting into sections or shortening in places)

Hubby was tasked with sourcing the two pieces of trellis. I wanted them to fit to the height of our low fencing. He managed to get two pieces for £14 from B&M.

I searched every term I could think of for bendy pipes, I could not find what I was looking for. I text a friend who had some in her garden and found out their actual name is ‘Twirl Tubes’. This makes total sense if you use them for their intended purpose – twirling them around your head so they make a noise. We gave that a few goes, I gave up after getting over adventurous and trying to twirl one in each hand and hitting myself right on my brow bone. Seriously. We tracked the Twirl Tubes down in another B&M store, they were £1 each and I got six. We also purchased a set of 3 jugs so they could be used specifically for the water wall and we weren’t always borrowing from the bath. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what these cost.

The girls and I walked to a local DIY store for the drain pipes and cable ties. The man in the shop was quite curious about what we wanted it for – I mustn’t have looked like a plumber with Squidge and Boo in tow. I explained what we were building and he was really helpful, cutting all the pipes to the right lengths for us there and then. I’m really glad he did, I have no idea how I’d expected to walk back home with a huge length of pipe. We’ll repay his kindness with future visits for more crafty projects! The total cost for the pipe, connectors and the cable ties was just under £15.

I already had an old washing up bowl that I use for outdoor play and a piece of black piping that I’d kept with this project in mind.

Putting it all together was quite straight forward. I laid out the rigid pipes first making sure they fit around each other. I had to saw the black pipe to get it to fit onto the trellis. The Twirl Tubes were next to go on, I tried to tangle them as much as possible and have them finishing in different spots. I put the cable ties on loosely to start with until I was happy with where I had everything. It also meant I could easily spin them to the back of the trellis before pulling them tight and snipping off the ends. Hubby then attached the trellis to our existing fences. One up in the pebbled area and the other next to our driveway, within a reasonable distance of a water source.

Squidge was the first one to get stuck in with the pebble drop. After a taster while work was still in progress, she knew what the deal was. She selected stones from ground and dropped them in the different tubes.

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The fun really began when one of the stones didn’t come out at the bottom. She put in another, no, still nothing…

You could hear her brain in motion. “Huh, where did it go?”. She looked in the bottom, she looked from the top. “Mummy, where has it gone?”. I told her that maybe it was stuck. She wiggled the pipe at the bottom, nothing. Then she bashed it, not aggressively, persuasively we’ll say. Out plinked the first stone, followed by the second.

Squidge revisited the pebble drop again the next day, she was quickly joined by her little sidekick. They played alongside one another for quite some time. When Boo had had enough Squidge happily continued by herself. Her bashing technique working a treat each time a stone got stuck.

Squidge was also first to try out the water wall. As soon as Boo spotted what was going on she wanted to join the fun. Squidge was very encouraging once again, directing Boo where to pour the water. Boo found it quite difficult reaching and tipping the jugs to start with.

She observed Squidge and kept trying. She wasn’t always getting a lot of the water in the tube because she was pouring from the side of the jug. Squidge had more control and could use the spout to get all the water in. It may have been quite difficult for Boo to replicate as Squidge is most definitely left handed, and she has been developing a preference for her right.

When Squidge had moved on and Boo was beginning to lose interest as not much water was coming from the bottom, I poured some in for her. She was delighted every time water gushed or dribbled from the pipes. She tried to catch it in her hands, just like the pouring from the cups in the previous activity.

Once she got home today Squidge asked me for water for the water wall. Boo was quick to join her again. They play well alongside one another at this activity, even though it’s quite a tight space.

If you look closely, you can already see Boo developing her pouring action and trying to use the spout more carefully. You may also notice she is imitating Squidge very closely, even favouring her left hand. The magic of mixed age learning.

All in all, I’d definitely say these two activities have been a hit. They are a semi permanent feature in the garden, so the girls can revisit them as and when they wish. I’ve seen another version you my like to try where you attach trellis together to form a triangular stand so it can be moved or stored away.

To change up this activity in future, I may add something different to drop down, such as dried foods, marbles or buttons. I’m quite certain the glass beads from the fairy garden will migrate over at some point!

Lots of love, Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

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Sticky blocks

I’m really getting into this whole blogging thing. My favourite part of it all so far is the sharing. Through Instagram and the various links, I’m getting to see so many different and wonderful ideas. This block activity is something I have done before, but in school we always used shaving foam. This works really well for older children as by the age of 4 and 5 the majority of those you tell not to eat it don’t. There is always that one child that just wasn’t listening and then that other one who didn’t quite believe you when you told them it really doesn’t taste as good as it smells. I’ll admit at this stage I once tasted a shower gel as it just smelt soooo delicious and I was curious – so I’m guessing I was once that kid. The squirty cream stroke of genius (one of those – Why didn’t I think of that?! moments) came from @play.hooray on Instagram. She’s got loads of lovely ideas, go give her a follow but read until the end first.

For this activity you will need:

  • Wooden blocks
  • Squirty cream (whipped will work just as well)
  • Something to spread it with
  • A tray
  • As ever, the trusty bucket of soapy water & towel

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First thing in the morning Squidge chose to play with the blocks and build towers, I decided this would be a good time to give it a go. The weather was beautiful so out we went. Once I opened the doors her interest in the blocks waned and she was off. It took me a while to coax her into building again with just the blocks, I had planned to wow her with the cream so she could compare with and without, but she didn’t stick around long enough! I left her to play where she wanted for a while, I wanted her to fully enjoy the task.

I’m glad I waited, once I showed her the cream (a little melty from hanging around on the windowsill) she couldn’t wait to give it a go. She scooped up and spread the cream like butter. She enjoyed pressing the blocks on top and watching the cream bulge out of the sides. She took her time over each block. The tower on the left belongs to Squidge, the one on the right is mine – I had to give it a go! As you can see Squidgey’s tower fell over – she was shocked and looked from the blocks to me and back again. I think as she’d been so careful building it, it was a little more upsetting than a regular tower falling. I showed her that I had put cream at the bottom of mine to help it stick. I was keen to see if she would alter her approach on her next attempt.

A little later, armed with a fresh bowl of cream, Squidge built another tower and she started with a blob of cream underneath. Once again she took her time. The best part of this activity for me was when Boo joined in, it was so lovely to watch Squidge encourage and show Boo what to do. She was using a higher pitch in her voice, possibly mimicking me… but I hope not. I’d like to think I speak normally to children. Tiny babies and animals I’ll happily do the gooey, cooey voice, but when children are learning to speak I really believe they should be immersed in excellent vocabulary. They are little sponges and there is no reason not to teach them the ‘long’ words.

Squidge encouraged Boo every step of the way and was so patient. She even cheered when Boo had done it. She helped by stacking the blocks on in between spreadings. Together they added a couple more until Boo had had enough. It’s such a treat watching these two play with one another.

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Now this activity definitely passed the taste test, several times! Be warned at least half of the cream will be eaten. Overall I’d say Squidge got a good 30 minutes out of this activity. It may have lasted longer in cooler weather. We shall certainly be doing it again. I’ll also be trying squirty cream in other activities. I still can’t believe it hadn’t occurred to me before.

Let me know what gems you’ve spotted when liking and pinning!

Lots of love, Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

For a whole host of other activity ideas that anyone can try there’s my Top 10 post here 🙂

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Our fairy garden

If you’ve read some of my previous blogposts you’ll already know that this summer’s project has been our garden. It’s been a long, but rewarding task. We had a general plan in mind when starting, but as with many projects some things have evolved along the way. When relaying our patio we had planned to have the path curve and lay grass right up to our existing driveway. However, much as hubby tried with the cutter he had, he could not cut through the slabs straight, let alone on a curve. We had to re think the plan.

We put forward various solutions and asked family, that visited in the interim, what they thought. We agreed ending with a straight edge would look neater. That left us with a small, awkward triangle on a bit of a hill. The whole point of renovating the garden was to take out the trip hazards so we decided we’d turn it into a flower bed so the girls would need to walk around.

Here we were with this extra flower bed to fill and I’m no gardener, there’s not even a tinge of green in my fingers. However, I am pretty creative and I have seen so many gorgeous little fairy and sensory gardens on my late night Pinterest trawls. Plus Squidge loves all things small and she is role playing more and more.

First off we needed a trip to the garden centre. I wanted to choose plants that offered variety from a sensory point of view. I’d tell you the names of the plants I chose if I knew them all, but I’m afraid I don’t. I did warn you I’m not a gardener. The first in the series of photos is a rockery plant and a ground spreader. If it manages to flower they will be a gorgeous shade of blue. I chose this one as I think it has the best chance of living in a shallow bed plus the leaves have quite a rubbery texture. The next one is my ‘show stopper’ huge yellow blooms against dark green leaves- it attracted Boo instantly. She keeps attempting to pull all the petals off and you can see her below imitating Mummy ‘Noooo’. Perhaps I need to retire the pointy finger?!

There’s lavender and rosemary, both there to add scent. We may use some of the rosemary to cook with and I’m almost certain you can add either of these to play dough for extra sensory fun. The little conifer has spiky leaves and is meant to smell like lemon, though I’m yet to be convinced. I love that this is a miniature version of a larger tree. I will be tracking down tiny baubles at Christmas.

With all the plants in pots I did what I have seen real gardeners do (my parents included) and I placed them around the flower bed, I moved them a few times – trying to get a balance of colours and heights. When I was happy with the layout I planted them all, making sure to split up the roots so they could bed in well. I gave them a good watering when I’d finished too.

Whole levelling the garden we cand across an assortment of pebbles and I kept them to one side. I chose the largest, best shaped ones to use as little fairy houses. I painted them using poster paints. It took a few coats particularly for some of the lighter colours and for adding the details. Onice they were dry I coated them with a PVA/Water mix as a varnish. I’m not sure they will last in our delightful English weather, but it won’t be terribly upsetting if it washes off. We can try again with acrylics and I should probably let Squidge have a go!

I placed the houses and remaining pebbles around the garden. This looked ok, but there was definitely something missing. We had some left over pebbles from filling in the side of the patio, I decided these would make a perfect little path between the houses. I also raided one of my vases for the glass beads in the bottom, knowing they would male a perfect fairy pool.

Boo was straight in! She loves the glass beads and has been transporting them all over the garden ever since they went in. She also likes to remove all the pebbles around the edge. I don’t mind as the whole idea of this little patch is that the girls are allowed to play with it. Nothing in it is irreplaceable.

As the days have passed we’ve added a couple of other bits, mini solar lights, which I have placed along the paths. A little wooden flower windmill which also fascinates Boo, the spinner and the little beads underneath. I certainly think we’ll keep adding to our fairy garden, whether it’s bits we buy or things we make – I’ve already started hoarding lolly sticks with grand plans of mini fences and benches.

I’m really pleased with the result and the girls have definitely been making the most of it, both in their individual ways. Boo mostly moving pieces and touching and feeling the plants. Squidge with little role play sessions using small world characters and the spare pebbles. She has also been helping to water the flowers and noticed that one of them has flowered.

Please do me know what you think, or feel free to send me a picture or links to your own fairy gardens!

Lots of love Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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You gotta roll with it!

Some days you can have activities planned out, but the small people have their own agenda. That’s the magic of free play. Like I’ve said at the top, you’ve just got to roll with it. It’s the same as an early years practitioner and as a Mummy. The moments where children discover something new for themselves is like magic. Those moments were the reason I loved my job and why I love watching my own children learn. If you can see them unfolding and sensitively intervene to extend their learning, you’re onto a winner.

This particular piece of magic had actually begun a couple of days before. If I’m completely honest, I’m not sure who started the fun. If you pressed me, I’d guess it was Boo due to her current trajectory interest, but we’ll never truly know. I found Squidge and Boo rolling stones down the slide. Squidge collecting them both from the bottom, giving one back to Boo and encouraging her to roll it again. They were playing together and sharing. Their friendship is really beginning to blossom and I love seeing it happen.

This play lasted around 10 minutes, but the idea must’ve stuck. A few days later, after our new lawn had been laid (it’s lovely, and oh so green!) Squidge returned to this activity. This time around she used the plastic balls from the ‘Pic ‘n’ Pop’ walker (you know the one that clicks incessantly as they push it around and refuses to actually pick up the balls, yeah that one). With the garden being on a gradient and the grass to run on to, the balls rolled so much further than the stones had. This delighted them both. Squidge rolled them over and over while Boo ran to collect them, returned them and watched them roll again. They were having a great time!

When intervening in play, timing is vital. Leave it too long and the moment passes, their interest wanes. Interrupt at the wrong moment or worse still, take over their play and you spoil the fun. At this point while they were heavily engrossed, I darted inside to collect a few other objects for them to roll.

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I chose a larger ball, a plastic egg, cars with different sized wheels (one being the pull back type) and some giant reels (these were from our local scrap store – magical treasure troves if you have one I urge you to go!). I introduced them with my favourite starter ‘I wonder what will happen if you try these’. ‘I wonder…’ statements are a great way to pose a question without actually looking for an answer. They leave the idea open for children to explore, but don’t put them under any pressure.

Squidge and Boo both got stuck straight in. Taking turns rolling, collecting and running back to try again. Boo had a few goes, then a few turns actually going down the slide herself before she moved on. Squidge stayed with it and got involved talking about the distances the objects were travelling “That one went really, really far!”. She was keen to predict which would travel furthest. She was utterly unimpressed when the blue car (the pull back type) got stuck half way down. Just look at her face…

The girls really enjoyed this activity. I’m pretty certain they will revisit it over and over. Hopefully next time Squidge will choose her own variety of objects to try. We could start to think about ways of measuring distance, ranking which object went furthest or what happens if we alter the ramp. I’ll wait and see which way their interest goes…

Thanks for reading.

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Lots of love Cat, Squidge and Boo Xxx

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Caterpillars!

We moved to our ‘Family Home’ a little over a year ago now. We used to live in a chocolate box, 1900’s stone built cottage, wedged along a cobbled street. It was tiny. Beautiful, a perfect starter home but far too small for a family of four. So small in fact, that when people came to view it, we had to hide most of the kids toys in our cars and park them a street away, but shhh!

We’ve done various projects in the new house throughout the first year, but for the past couple of months we’ve been renovating the garden. The ‘before’ consisted mostly of low red brick walls, pebbles, paving slabs at varying levels with steps and corners everywhere. I’d say a toddler nightmare, but they were quite happy – it was me that was in a nightmare. I was following them around franticly saying “Careful”, “steady”, my arms outstretched ready to catch them. All the while envisaging hospital trips where they had chunks missing from their little heads where they’d inevitably fallen and hit a corner.

Our aim in the revamp was to have a level-ish garden, with no deadly corners or serious trip hazards. This has meant a lot of digging, three skips full worth of digging. I have regularly blasted out the Gnomes’ theme from Ben & Holly “Dig, dig, dig, in a garden blah blah blah” (Ok, so I don’t know ALL the words). The point to this whole tale is that with all the time and hard work it’s taken, I’m very proud of the each part of the garden as we finish it. So imagine my horror as I see one of the plants in my new flowerbed has been devoured almost overnight.

I was furious and began my hunt for the horrid little beasts that had been so greedy. Exactly how many slugs and snails was I going to have to get rid of?! My mood changed the minute I spotted them….

Squidge was almost as excited as me. She observed them closely for quite some time. She kept finding more and more and pointing them out to me. We talked about the story ‘The very hungry caterpillar’ and how these caterpillars definitely were very hungry because they’d eaten so many leaves and were still munching!

Eventually Squidge plucked up the courage to gently pick one from the plant. She put him in her palm and watched carefully as he crawled around. She didn’t want him to get hungry so she pulled off a leaf for him to eat. She wanted to go get him a drink from the kitchen, so I explained how they got everything they needed from the plant (I didn’t want a drowning on my hands, or caterpillars in my kitchen to be honest).

Squidge got more and more confident handling the caterpillars and before long she had several in her hands at once. We counted them carefully and this prompted Squidge to sing a new version of one of her favourite number rhymes “Five little caterpillars jumping on the bed….”.

At one point one of the caterpillars did indeed fall off (there are no confirmed reports as to whether he bumped his head). Squidge was very dramatic and exclaimed “The birds will eat him, I can’t watch”. This has sprung from previous conversations as to why worms might like to hide under the soil and why we should put them back in a safe place after we’ve handled them. They really do listen to everything we say – even when we think they’re not paying attention.

Squidge spent the majority of the afternoon playing with the caterpillars. It was wonderful to see her be so gentle and nurturing towards these tiny creatures. Her face in the pictures say it all. Before bed that night she chose to read both copies of ‘The very hungry caterpillar’ by Eric Carle. The original and the finger puppet book.

To follow up from this I’d like to do some fruit printing linked to Eric Carle’s book. I’ll definitely try get some counting out of it, but won’t let it dictate or distract from the fun of printing. If the weather stays nice we’ll go for the big roll of paper in the garden, or the new easel. We’ll also keep observing the caterpillars and see if we can see them making their cocoons. Exciting times at Squidge and Boo!

Thanks for reading,

Love Cat & Squidge xx

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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