Valentine’s Sensory Tub

Messy play is always lots of fun, though the thought of it may fill you with dread. I’d say the easiest place to start is dried foods as they’re really easy to clean up. For this ‘Valentines Messy Play’ we used plain rolled oats and some coloured rice, to create a contrast in colours and textures.

I’ve tried a couple of ways to colour rice and by far the most successful way for us has been to put white rice into a tub with a squirt of hand sanitizer (alcohol based – making this non-edible) and a reasonable sized glug of food colouring. Give it a shake, then leave out on greaseproof paper to dry. In a warm room it’ll only take a couple of hours to dry out. If you’re just using the coloured rice you’ll be able to store and re-use it over and over.

Before starting the activity Squidge and I shared a story that links well to our Valentines theme, ‘Pig in Love’ by Vivian French and Tim Archbold. The story tells the tale of a Pig who falls in love with the lovely Piggie. In the beginning, he brings her lots and lots of roses, she is smitten, but Pig must prove his love to her Father before he’s allowed her hand in marriage. Will they end up together?

When setting up the messy play tray I added two pigs and some small bunches of paper craft roses so that Squidge could reenact the story if she wanted.

 

Once the tray was out, Boo was the first in swishing the red rice with a mini whisk. She spotted the buttons and kept pulling them out to show me “Look”. Squidge took a little longer considering which of the utensils she wanted to use. She chose to scoop and pour with the spoon. I initiated a conversation with the pigs, Squidge humored me and joined in playing Piggie. However she clearly wanted to explore the materials.

 After scooping and pouring for a while, Squidge began to fill the boat. She patted down the oats for her ‘boat cake’ each time. Boo joined her play, filling the chimney of the boat. They worked together happily until Boo upturned the boat to empty it again. Squidge didn’t protest too much and just begun filling and patting again.

It’s funny listening to Squidge trying to instruct Boo on how to play, her voice goes up an octave which makes me wonder if she’s picked that up from me. I’m glad that she’s encouraging rather than telling off. We’re currently working hard on ‘sharing’. Squidge can find it difficult if Boo wants to join her mid game, particularly in role play as Boo isn’t quite at the level to talk and follow her lead yet.

Boo, as ever, was first to climb into the tub. She grabbed handfuls of rice and oats and sprinkled them back into the tray. A few stray bits landed on the floor, making a kind of tinkly sound, cue Boo dropping handfuls straight to the floor instead of in the tray! Squidge was next in the tray, copying Boo and dropping handfuls, but letting them land on her outstretched foot and hand. Eventually both girls were in the tray

This play lasted for a good 25 minutes. It was everywhere when they’d finished, but Squidge was on hand for clean-up duty, helping me to sweep. The tray, though now mixed, is still full ready for another days’ play.

What activities have you got planned in the lead up to Valentines? Do you fancy giving messy play a try?

Lots of love Cat, Squidge and Boo

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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Just add water

Boo loves water! I’d love to think it was because she was born in the pool (second time around I got my dream birth plan – I must’ve earned extra birthing points after Squidge’s birth). However I think it is more likely linked to the trajectory schema she is displaying constantly in her play.

When it’s warm enough I like to let the girls loose in the water. I’ve had a few blow up paddling pools and they never last long. This box is a perfect size for water play and so many other things – it fits under beds, it fits over my sand tray to actually keep it dry (the lid is completely useless), I use it for sensory activities too. If you’d like one, this one is from a certain scandinavian furniture store you may or may not have heard of. Knowing full well she’ll end up in the water, I’d usually strip Boo off beforehand, but with a blogpost in mind I kept her covered up. She did end up totally nudey dude by the end!

As you can see I’d got a few of our water toys out, they’re some of the bits we’d normally have in the bath. Boo went straight for the cups. She selected the cup she wanted and pushed it into the water, letting it fill from the hole in the bottom. She tipped it out and filled it several times and also had a few sips! The water is coloured with food colouring so it’s perfectly safe to drink. She then gave the cup to me.

I knew she wanted me to lift the cups for the water to trickle out. This is her favourite thing to do in the bath, just look at her little face. When the water is falling her face will light up, she puts her fingers into the stream. When we first used to do this she would try and catch the stream with her fore finger and thumb, in a pincer. It took her a while to fathom that she couldn’t hold it like a piece of string.

Next Boo chose two different cups and filled them in the same way, then lifted them high to watch the water drip, drop. She repeated this several times over. She went on to pour from one cup to the other, over and over until there was none left and she had to fill up and start again.

After a good 20 minutes worth of scooping, pouring and transferring Boo carefully inspected the bottom of a couple of the cups. I’ve never seen her do this before. She could be making a link to how quickly the water trickles out, or why some only have one stream of water and others are more like rain – but I can only speculate. She went back to pouring for a short while, but as you can see, by now the water had seeped right up her top and she wanted to strip off.

Boo uses these methods of pouring in other forms of play. I can’t leave any drink, even her own, unattended as the minute she gets chance she’ll pour it out! I’ve tried different cups, even the ones with the twist up tops – she works them out faster than I can find a replacement. She was pouring left over tea from one cup to the other the other day. This idea obviously fascinates her at the minute.

To move her thinking forward I plan to build a small water wall for her to play with. There’s a few ideas on Pinterest which I like. I have bought a piece of trellis already. Next I need to source some tubes, pieces of guttering, connectors, funnels, buckets, watering cans – and anything else I spot! The plan is to attach the trellis to our existing fence panel at a good height for Boo. Then attach the pieces with cable ties. The tray or washing up bowls can be placed at the bottom to catch the water.

I’d also like to make another version to attach to the fence near the large shed where all our pebbles are so she can try the same process with the pebbles. We could try putting lots of different materials down if she finds it just as fascinating!

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I’ll be sure to write a blog post all about it!

Lots of love Cat & Boo xx

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