Squidge flipping her pancake in the Pancake Cafe Role Play

Pancake Cafe Role Play

With Pancake Day just around the corner and Pancakes being one of our favourite treats at any time of year, a Pancake Cafe was an easy option to introduce some role play into Squidge & Boo’s kitchen. Role play is something children develop quite naturally in their play. During pretend play you’ll hear them imitate what they see around them at home or on television. They can mimic actions, mannerisms, voices with intonation and phrases with near perfect accuracy. Sometimes with hilarious results!

There are a couple of key ways you can help your child to develop language through role play at home. The first is to play with them. Involving your child in a two-way conversation where you are both in role is very powerful. By being in role they have the freedom to try words and phrases they wouldn’t usually use. They can be whoever they want to be and often show more confidence than they would in real life situations. Involving yourself in their play, giving them responses, developing scenarios through interaction, encourages their thinking. They also have opportunities to empathise with different characters.  Another way to enhance role play and the language opportunities they create is to add props to create specific scenes and settings.

We have had a play kitchen since Squidge’s first birthday, Knowing the value in imitation play for a long time it was on my must-have toys list early on. Our original little kitchen was moved out to the Wendy House during it’s summer makeover. Luckily, Santa brought us our new kitchen and lots of wooden accessories this Christmas. Our play kitchen seems to get played with in bursts, it’s either in constant use or gathering dust. As it’s lustre seemed to have lulled a little now it’s no longer new, I decided that adding some extra bits was a good way to entice the girls back to it.

Pancake Cafe Role Play set up and ready to play.For our Pancake Cafe I added:

  • Empty kinder eggs – they are fantastic when pretending to crack them open.
  • Milk – Water and white paint mix in an old vanilla essence bottle (glued shut!)
  • Bluberries and Strawberries – simple shapes cut from felt
  • Sprinkles – fancy paper straws, cut into small pieces all in an empty oil bottle
  • Pancakes and syrup – also cut from felt, inside an empty tea bag box
  • Squidge’s apron & hat
  • A sign ‘Squidge & Boo’s Pancake Cafe’
  • A menu – one on the window and a paper one on the table. The menu included really simple prices so Squidge could ask for the right amount.

 

As soon as I started putting together the bits and pieces Squidge was excited and wanted to play. I like to make the bits while she’s there to see, as that way she can see the effort that’s been put in so she’s more likely to look after it. She also gets to see how simple it can be to make your own things to pretend with.

Once everything was in place, Squidge decided she would be a customer first and I could be the chef. I donned the hat (as best as I could, it isn’t very big!), took her order and like any good waitress, I up sold the drinks. I modelled how to use all the things I’d added to her kitchen, cracking the kinder eggs, pouring in milk and flour before twirling the whisk. I fried the felt pancakes and topped them with her choices. I brought her and Boo fresh tea and then served their delicious fake pancakes.

Squidge and Boo enjoying their pancakes in the Pancake Cafe Role Play

Squidge was certainly on board with the whole charade and tipped the contents of her plate down her jumper – into her tummy of course! I had already totted up her bill and charged her appropriately, or not, as the prices are a little extortionate with everything increasing by £1 for simplicity!

Once the plates were cleared Squidge couldn’t wait to get started as the chef. She took mine and Boo’s orders and set to work in the kitchen. She cooked up a storm and narrated her actions as she did so. I love watching this type of play unfold. I caught a few bits on film and put them on my Insta stories. She really was entertaining. ‘Oh no, why won’t my eggs crack?!’, ‘Do you want strawberries and blueberries too, it’ll be super yummy’.

Squidge showing off her pancake and toppings in the Pancake Cafe Role Play
Showing off her ‘Super yummy’ creation!

When asking how much things were from the menu, Squidge was carefully looking down the list to try give me the right price. We added simple pictures so she could find the right items herself.

Having words on objects wherever possible is a great way to introduce and encourage early ‘reading’. By that I mean, Squidge can see that the object is milk, therefore she knows the word on the side says ‘Milk’. She can play at reading this word, but it’s also going to become more recognisable as she sees it more often. Soon she’ll spot the same word on an actual milk bottle, then in the supermarket. She may also pick out the initial letter and sound and transfer this to other things. We’ve been playing with initial sounds a lot lately – but that could be a whole post in itself.

Squidge loved this game and insisted Daddy play with her when he got home from work. He happily obliged, parking himself on the tiny chair and pouring himself a pretend tea while she put sprinkles on his pancake. A memory I’ll certainly treasure. We’ve played again today after having real pancakes for breakfast. I’m certain we’ll keep up the momentum for a few more days. I may add a notepad next so Squidge can write down her orders.

We did do a little bit of addition together to add up prices. This and the writing are certainly ways you can develop this play for slightly older children. Another idea you could try would be to write recipes for the chef to follow, including the steps to make the pancakes and specific numbers for the toppings. This would lead nicely into following real recipes and creating their own versions.

What types of role play do your children enjoy? Have you got into character with them? How did it go, I’d love to hear about it!

Thanks for reading, love Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

If you liked this post you might also enjoy Squidge and Boo’s self-chosen investigation ‘You gotta roll with it’

 

My first book of dinosaurs front cover

My First Book of Dinosaurs by Mike Unwin

This book is on loan from the local library, we go on a fairly regular basis. Our library does a free weekly craft session that we’ve attended a few times and enjoyed. If you have a local library and you haven’t been with your littles yet, I must insist you go!

We decided to borrow this book as Squidge and I didn’t really know many of the names for our collection of dinosaurs. We knew the more obvious ones like Tyrannosaurus Rex and Diplodocus but after that we were struggling. Rather than searching the glorious internet I thought we had the perfect opportunity for some good old fashioned style research.

There were a few dinosaur books to choose from, but this one seemed to be the best choice for us as it has a really simple layout, with just enough information for Squidge to digest and a really handy phonetic spelling of each dinosaur name for me.

The illustrations prompted Squidge to go get her dinosaurs from the shelf to match up to some of the ones in the book. After we’d read it, I could see she’d retained some of what she’d found out while watching her play, she kept using the T-Rex to eat all the small her small dinosaurs!

I think we’ll definitely borrow some more dinosaur books on our next library visit to see what else we can find out.

Squidge says: “It’s good, it tells me about Dinosaurs”.

Suitability: Ages 3-10 years

Length: 10 minutes

Related topics: History, Animals, Living things, Food chains

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

ISBN 978 1 4729 0545 1

 

 

Dinosaur Activity

In the introduction to the book the author explains that Scientists know what dinosaurs looked like from looking at fossils. As Squidge has never heard of or seen a fossil before I thought a good activity would be to make some of our own.

To make our Dinosaur Fossils we used salt dough, which is really simple to make. All you need is one cup of flour, half a cup of salt and splashes of water until it forms a dough (just over half a cup). We rolled out the dough and cut circles ready to imprint with our dinosaurs. Once we had a tray full we baked them in the oven on the lowest setting for around an hour, turning them half way through. Both Squidge and Boo enjoyed this activity. As a follow on, I plan to bury them outside in the sandpit, then we can go searching for them with paintbrushes like real Archaeologists!

Before reading this book we’ve played Dinosaur Land many, many times and the photos have featured on our Instagram page. If you’re not following us there yet, I’ve included a photo here. You can have a peep at our Instagram feed in the sidebar and find us at @squidgeandboo.

Squidge playing dinosaur land

It’s really simple to set up as a small world activity. We used storage tubs stacked up and covered over with material for our mountains, shiny material for a lake and the rocks and trees that came in our tub of dinosaurs. Our Ikea rug already looks like grass which is very handy for lots of different types of play. Small world play is always a sure fire way to promote lots of language.

Happy reading!

Love Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

(This is not a sponsored post)

Don the Elf

Ahh the elf, the marmite of Christmas traditions. This year was our first round of elf on the shelf and I can honestly say we loved it! Squidge’s reactions each morning made it more than worth that bit of extra thought (and desperate Pinterest searches) the night before.

Our elf arrived a little way into December and I think this may have been a blessing as I’m sure we’d have run out of ideas otherwise. He brought with him a letter that explained why he was here and the no touching rule. He also said he needed a name. I was a little apprehensive about letting Squidge loose with the naming as lately every time she makes up names in pretend play they’re completely random and always end in an ‘ee’ sound e.g. Songee. Once mid play “Mummy, I’ll be Foogee and you be Mingee ok?”, erm, maybe not Squidge. We struck lucky as she chose to call the elf Don, phew!

I had read a few posts and watched a few Instagram pages featuring the elf, so I had a few ideas ready to go. I tried to ensure that each place we put him was out of reach to start with until the girls got into the swing of it. I also set up a Pinterest board, which was put to good use when it came time for bed and I suddenly remembered, THE ELF!

Every single morning Squidge couldn’t wait to find Don. She searched carefully, room by room, ‘Don are you in here, you cheeky little elf?”. It was so much fun to be a part of, something I’ll never forget as her parent and something I hope she’ll always remember fondly. I love this age where they believe in everything wholeheartedly. I’m hoping the magic lasts a few more years, though I know the influence other school children can have. It only takes one non-believer to pop that magic bubble, no matter how much you try to keep the magic alive, doubt kills it slowly. I filmed a couple of Squidge’s reactions and added them to Instagram if you’d like to see.

I think one of my favourite elf antics was the drawing on photos – Squidge’s reaction was hilarious! She was delighted and then furious! How could he have drawn her trumping? And she DID NOT want to have a mustache. She made me remove all disliked doodles immediately. The ones she liked were permitted to stay. Poor Don got the cold shoulder for the rest of the day!

The knickers on the tree was a really quick one, perfect for that moment you’re laid in bed and you remember that you’ve forgotten, THE BLOODY ELF! The large jar was also a really good way of letting the girls carry him around with them without breaking any rules. Squidge requested we put him back in after the first day, so we used the kitchen tongs to get him back in there.

I think we did well to stick to the no touching rule and I copied a few others in letting them play with him on Christmas Eve – the excuse being that Santa collects him so he no longer needs his magic to get back to the North Pole. On his final visit he left the girls a stocking each. He also left a letter on Christmas morning. Squidge has requested he visit for her birthday – I’m not sure yet whether he might be too busy making toys with Santa but may send her a little gift?

elf_01
Christmas Eve goodbye pressie for the girls

All in all, I’m really glad we joined in with all the elf fun. I’ll definitely re-use a few of the antics we had this year but I will have to do extra Pinterest searching and thinking ahead to come up with some new ones. A friend from my old work once got his elf to eat all the chocolate from the kids selection boxes – brilliant, but a little brutal at this age, maybe I’ll save that for a couple of years!

Did you do elf on the shelf this year? What are your favourite elf antics? Which ones got the best reactions?

Lots of love, Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

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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