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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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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Summer you say?

Ahh, British Summertime, my favourite! I’ve always been a fan of Summer, I’m not sure if it’s to do with being a Summer born baby myself but everything about it just makes me smile. Sun (well sometimes!), all the beautiful flowers, the buzz of people’s lawn mowers, putting washing on the line and being able to smell summer when you open your wardrobe in a morning, open windows, flip flops, light evenings, summer parties in the sun, paddling pools, I could go on and on!

The threatening dark clouds didn’t put us off playing out this morning, I had faith they would pass (and a trusty weather app to confirm my belief). With our new flower bed awash with fallen petals, today we were going to make Fairy Soup and a little drizzle wouldn’t stop us.

All you need for this activity is:

  • A jar
  • Some ribbon (optional but oh so pretty!)
  • A drop of food colouring
  • Fallen (preferably) petals and other bits from the garden
  • A big imagination
  • Oh and a spoon of course

I’d explained to Squidge that to get fairies to come to our garden we had to make them something to eat, and of course their favourite thing to eat is Fairy Soup. I handed her a jar filled with pink water and tied with a ribbon and asked her to put in as many different ingredients as she thought the fairies would like.

Off she set in search of delicious treats for the fairies, she filled the jar with a few purple and pink petals and then demanded a spoon to mix them up – how could I forget a spoon? She watched as the petals whizzed around the jar and floated back to the top.

She went about the garden adding more petals and whizzing them up each time. After this she decided to add some pebbles, we could hear them ‘plop’ as they went in the water and a ‘clink’ as they hit the bottom. An ideal opportunity to introduce the idea of floating and sinking. ‘I wonder what will happen when you stir it this time?’. She tried and watched the results.

This activity kept Squidge busy for around 15 minutes (and cleared some of the petals from the garden *Bonus). It then attracted another little lady….

More mixing and adding to the Fairy soup from Boo with a little pouring here and there!

My intention with this activity is to leave a fairy trail in the garden – glitter footprints and accompanying letter to thank Squidge for her delicious soup. In this letter the fairies will ask Squidge to build them a little garden of their own.

As the garden work is almost finished (Hooray!) there are finally bits and pieces the girls can help with. When digging out the flower beds and emptying my existing pots to be refilled, I’ve come across lots of large pebbles that I plan to re-home somewhere in the new garden. Last week we washed the first few and the girls enjoyed it immensely! As the weather brightened this afternoon, it was the perfect chance to get out some soapy water and give them all a scrub.

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My two girls got different things out of the same activity. While Squidge was focussed on her mission to scrub the rocks and make them clean, Boo was happy to hold them under the water and pull them out all wet. Squidge noted that the water had got dirty and wanted fresh half way through.

Water play would definitely rank highly (possibly top) on both my girls lists. I can see the attraction myself, Water play is just so versatile. I must admit, I much prefer it outdoors where they can splash and spill with true freedom. As much as I like to let them free play indoors, it’s hard not to rein it in when you know you have to mop it up and change them both after.

So the sun did eventually shine and it feels like the garden being finished is imminent. We also managed to get out our new painting Easel – but I’m saving that for a whole blog post of it’s own (I’m that excited about it!). I hope you’ve enjoyed your ‘first’ day of Summer as much as we did.

Lots of love Cat, Squidge & Boo xxx


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