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’

 

Squidge making her second playdough love bug

Love Bugs – A playdough invitation to play

As it’s the last post in our Valentine’s series this year, I thought we’d go for a playdough activity. Playdough is always a favourite in our house. Though we occasionally have the official stuff, I usually make our own playdough as its really simple and cheap to do so. You can make a large batch and add any colours/smells/sensory bits that suit your planned activity. I’ve added a simple no bake playdough recipe to the bottom of this post.

As it’s approaching Valentine’s I decided we’d go for some pink and purple playdough to make our Love Bugs. We usually use Morrison’s liquid food colours to colour our playdough. They are only £1 each andMorrisons gel food colours in pink and purple a bottle will usually last us 2/3 lots of playdough. (I also like to throw it in the bath occasionally for a bit of extra fun! Except the red one, that turns the water a murky brown – ick). The liquid colouring seems to have had an upgrade lately and I’ve been really impressed, it certainly goes further. However, they don’t tend to have a large range of colours available, so this time I decided to give their gel colours a go instead. They are also only £1 and they had more exciting colours on offer. For each batch of playdough we squirted in an entire tube of colour. I was really impressed with the pink, but the purple is a little bland. So I think I’ll stick to the liquid in future.

With our two colours of playdough ready to roll I put Pink and purple balls of playdough and craft pieces to make love bugstogether a tray of bits and pieces to help create some exciting little Love Bugs. I included buttons which Squidge helped me sort into red, pink and purple. We had foam wing shapes, two kinds of straws and some of the pieces from Mr & Mrs Potato Head. We’re fresh out of googly eyes or they’d have featured!

Squidge got stuck straight into the playdough, squeezing and rolling it, but watched carefully as I made my first Love Bug. Once she’d seen me make one she decided she was going to make herself a spider.

Squidge was really good at counting out how many legs she needed for her spider. We talked about how many would need to go on each side and she shared them out carefully on the table before pushing them into her ball of playdough. She initially chose some red button eyes, but then asked if she could swap for the Mrs Potato eyes that I’d used. She was very proud of her girl spider and decided to make a boy one to match!

In the meantime, Boo was happy exploring by twisting off chucks of her playdough until she had a large pile on the table. She kept leaving to play with other toys, but would return intermittently to explore something else. Her next mission was to empty all the buttons out of the tray, she enjoyed the noise they made as they bounced onto the table. Later she came back and took her time carefully putting straws into the top of her playdough, like birthday candles. All these activities worked her little fingers, so though it wasn’t planned, it was still very valuable fine motor work and exploratory play.

Squidge made her second spider much like her first, adding Mr Potato features, pulling them out to readjust them to the right position. She added eight legs, four to each side like before. Once she’d finished she made them talk to one another, the conversation was highly entertaining and resulted in both spiders being squished. Ouch!

I’d been busy making a playdough caterpillar, attempting to show Squidge how to use antenna, before Boo came and de-legged my poor creature. She did give him a new smile though so it wasn’t all bad.

Boo giving the playdough caterpillar a new button smileThis activity kept the girls busy for around 30 minutes and has been brought back out this morning to keep them entertained as I write this… Boo has tipped the entire contents of the tray on the floor though, so closer supervision needed if you’d like it to be a tidy activity! 😉 I can always turn it into a sorting activity.

Playdough Recipe

  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar (we don’t always have this in, you can use vinegar as alternative, but I prefer to just leave it out. It just means your playdough won’t last as long).
  • Food colour – optional
  • Glitter – optional

(Cup here = 1 child sized mug almost full!)

  1. Add the flour, salt & cream of tartar to a bowl & mix.
  2. Add the oil, mix.
  3. Add your colouring to the cup of warm water.
  4. Add the coloured water to your bowl gradually, you don’t always need the full cup.
  5. Once it’s formed a dough, take it out of the bowl and knead it well.
  6. If your dough is sticky add more flour/salt – I go for 1 spoon of salt to 3 spoons of flour.

If you keep your playdough in an airtight container it will last a couple of weeks. For the activity above I made two full batches.

Lots of Valentine’s love,

Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

We hope you’ve enjoyed our Valentine’s activities. If you’ve missed any the links are just here…

Valentine’s water resist painting

Valentine’s Sensory Tub

Valentine’s Biscuits 

*This is not a sponsored post* 

 

Valentine’s Biscuits

Now I’ll be the first to admit I’m no baker! My Mum, she’s got the gift, she can throw anything into a bowl and as if by magic a tall, delicious sponge cake appears, elegantly decorated with fruit and the lightest dusting of icing sugar. Turns out this is not a hereditary trait or if it is, it passed me by.

The first time I ever enjoyed baking (after many failed attempts) was working in school. My friend and colleague in Reception at the time, put me on the rota to bake. I protested explaining of my curse and inability to make even the simplest of cakes, she was having none of it. She put it in simple terms, it’s not about what comes out of the oven, it’s about the process, all the maths, following instructions, motor skills – the baked goods at the end are just an added bonus. Plus who is going to complain if the kids have made it?!

Well, she was right. When I stopped worrying about what it would turn out like I, along with the Reception children enjoyed the process. What we came out with also ended up being edible, win win!

With this in mind, Squidge and I bake fairly regularly at home. Not quite once a week, but pretty close. We stick to simple biscuits and fairy cakes mostly. Her favourite thing we’ve ever made has been gingerbread men, and one of her favourite things to eat is Strawberry jam. This sparked my Valentine’s Biscuit idea.

We adapted a simple recipe, I’ll add ours to the bottom of this post. As this was my own grand plan, there was some learning to be done about the best method along the way.

When we had cut out our biscuit people, we tried cutting the love heart out of the middle and then transferring them to the tray, but they were far too flimsy and ended up being a funny shape or getting broken. Instead we tried cutting out the biscuit people, transferring them to the tray then cutting out the heart shapes. This worked much better – though they still weren’t perfect. If you were doing this alone as an adult you could keep cooling your dough. However with children, once they’re stuck in, their warm little fingers aren’t going to want to wait.

We baked our Valentines people in batches and paired up the tops and bottoms that were closest in shape – the last couple were way off and sadly missed out on the photo opportunity – but were just as tasty.

Squidge spread the strawberry jam carefully on the bottom halves and sandwiched them together. Once we were finished both her and Boo couldn’t wait to dig in. Admittedly these biscuits were HUGE, with them paired up and stacked, they would equate to a meal on their own! But, just look how pretty they are. They would make a lovely gift for Grandparents (if you don’t eat them all yourselves!).

Our Valentine’s Buscuit recipe…

Ingredients

  • 200g unsalted butter, softened
  • 350g caster sugar (plus some for decorating)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1.5 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 400g plain flour (plus some for dusting and rolling)
  • Strawberry jam to fill

Method

  1. Cream butter and sugar together in a bowl.
  2. Add the two eggs and cinnamon and beat together.
  3. Add the flour in small doses, mixing thoroughly.
  4. Once mixed put the dough into the fridge to cool and stiffen for 15 minutes.
  5. Cut out biscuit person, add to baking sheet on the tray.
  6. Cut out a heart shape from the centre of half of your biscuits (the tops).
  7. Return to the fridge to cool and stiffen for another 10-15 minutes.
  8. Pre-heat oven 180*C (Ours is a fan).
  9. Cook the biscuits for around 12 minutes – sprinkling them with caster sugar about half way in (so it doesn’t brown, but still sticks).
  10. Once cooled, spread strawberry jam on bottom biscuit people and place tops on top.

This recipe made us 6 complete biscuits (6 tops and 6 bottoms with our largest gingerbread man cutter), plus some small heart shaped biscuits out of the leftovers.

Are you making any treats this Valentine’s or do you have any recipes we can try? Please share in the comments below.

Lots of love (and a bit extra as it’s Valentine’s),

Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

Another Valentine’s themed activity you might like is our Sensory Tub.

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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Hot Pink Wellingtons
You Baby Me Mummy

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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Pinterest worthy? If you think so, add this (or any of the other images) to your board. Thank you x

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hot Pink Wellingtons

Something fishy…

We purchased some ‘Twirl Tubes’ for our new water wall the other day. If you’ve never seen them, they are  long, fluorescent bendy pipes – like a giant version of the bendy bit in a straw. Squidge decided that they were fishing rods (besides them being long, I have no idea why) and off she went about the house ‘fishing’.

Being a teacher (aka hoarder of all things crafty and/or reusable) and quite creative I decided I’d make her an actual fishing rod with fish to catch. I had in mind a plastic, wind up version from when I was little. The fish would bob up and down, opening and closing their mouths and you’d have to catch them with your magnetic rod. Obviously I couldn’t quite go that far, but the magnets and rods could be done.

For this activity you will need:

  • Drumsticks (or lengths of dowel)
  • Coloured foam and felt (coloured card would also work)
  • Paperclips
  • Magnets
  • Permanent marker
  • Fishing wire (or string)
  • Glue gun
  • Tray
  • Material for decorating/background

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Squidge watched me prepare this activity and was excited the minute she saw that I was cutting out fish. She helped me put the paperclips on each one. She is clearly getting used to me blogging our activities as before she dived in she asked me if I wanted to take a photo!

Once the photo was done, she went straight for the biggest fish in the ‘tank’. She had reasonable control over the rod and line but after about a minute, maybe two, she got annoyed and tossed the rod to one side. This is a fairly regular occurrence at the minute, she gives up really quickly and decides she can’t do it – when we both know full well with a bit of effort she could. Putting on her socks is the one that springs to mind.

At this point I calmly told her it was a difficult game and she had two choices, she could cry or she could try. If she cried, she definitely wouldn’t be able to do it. If she tried, she’d at least have a chance. I then left her to think about it – removing my attention from her paddy. I’d given her clear choices, the rest was up to her. I use this tactic a lot to manage behaviour and the majority of times it works a treat. Two options, the two consequences, leave to simmer and nine times out of ten they come to you with the right choice.

Squidge soon picked up her rod and decided to give it another go. Within a minute she’d caught the elusive fish, her satisfaction ever greater after the initial struggle. Fish after fish was caught, delight on her face every single time. Her level of concentration was so high. There was a little bit of cheating here and there, but I let it go, she was going to need some practice before playing against an all time magnetic fishing champion – Me of course.

With our game faces on, we were off! In this family (my husband’s side in particular – all of them!!) you play to win. This is a good thing to learn early. Hubby took me out of the legendary ‘Hat Game’ at my first major family Christmas Party, being new to it I was an easy target. I’ve never forgiven him. With this competitive spirit in mind I let Squidge believe that I was trying my best. Even if it wasn’t strictly true, she is only 3 and I do have a heart.

She was so excited, you can see it in her face. Every time she caught a fish she was counting up how many she had. Needless to say she beat me several times. I made sure I won a couple – winning every time is no fun either, and learning to be a gracious loser is also an important skill. This particular session lasted a good 40 minutes if not longer. We played again in the afternoon and as soon as Daddy got home she challenged him to a game. She set it all out her self and told him what he had to do. It was lovely to watch.

 

This simple game created plenty of opportunities to practice early maths skills. Counting up how many each person had and comparing more than and less than. When Squidge wasn’t sure who had more (usually 4 / 3) we laid out the fish in two columns side by side so she could see, visually which column had more in.

Since that initial game the other day we have played several times at Squidge’s request. You may have noticed I have drawn different shapes and patterns on the fish. I’ve casually dropped in hints at this so far ‘Oh look that one has stars on it’, ‘I think I might catch the one with zig zags next’. The idea being that at some stage I could ask her to catch a particular fish. Eventually we could add some kind of points system – double points for the fish with stars – whatever we fancy!

An idea when using this with slightly older children would be to have 10 fish. This way you could work on number bonds to 10. You have 4 fish, so how many are left in the tank? We’ve caught all the fish, you have 7 so how many do you think are on my plate? You could also number the fish and use this in different ways. Catch them in order (forwards or backwards), catch all the even ones, give them a calculation and they have to catch the fish with the answer. Anything goes, so long as it’s fun!

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If you have any other suggestions for ways to build on this game feel free to share in the comments.

Lots of love, Cat and Squidge Xx

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Dear Bear and Beany

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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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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