Guess How Much I Love You in the Spring by Sam McBratney

‘Guess How Much I Love You’ has to be one of the sweetest books you’ll ever read to your child. I’d decided long before the girls arrived that it would be a favourite bedtime story and I wasn’t wrong. Along with the classic original, Sam McBratney has written this seasonal series which continues the tales of Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare.

The ‘In the Spring’ book is a perfect introduction into this wonderful season as Big Nutbrown and Little Nutbrown spot plants, caterpillars, tadpoles and birds eggs. Big Nutbrown gently intiates conversation about each living thing they come across. Little Nutbrown, as inquisitive as ever, wants to know more.

Guess How Much I Love You in the Spring Inside Pages. Book review and Spring Activity.

Squidge says: “It’s about bunnies and tadpoles that turn into frogs!”

Suitability: Ages 2 – 5 years

Length:  5 minutes

Related topics: Seasons, changes, growing, love and relationships

Published by Walker Books

ISBN 978 1 4063 0452 7

Spring Activity

There are so many activities that could be inspired by this book and the season of Spring. Squidge, Boo and I have already been out in the garden planting our Spring bulbs after they’d sprouted in the shed! Today we went on a walk to spot some of the flowers already growing. Squidge spotted Snowdrops and Crocuses, but we couldn’t see any Daffodils blooming yet.

For our follow up activity, we dug out our transient art tree. If you’re an avid reader you’ll remember the tree from our Noticing the changes in Autumn post. It’s been safely stashed away ready to be used in each new season. We used pink and pale green buttons to symbolise the new leaves and blossom. The tree itself is drawn with felt tip onto the back of a place mat, a paper version would work just as well though. Both girls enjoyed this activity, Boo enjoyed it so much I couldn’t get a picture without her little hands coming back into the frame!

I suggested in the Autumn that you could try using different media to complete your tree if you were worried about buttons going into mouths. This time round we also tried ribbon, knotted for a better effect, and felt leaves. I think it looks just as pretty!

 

This activity is great for working that pincer grip, perfect when working towards writing with a good pencil hold.

What activities have you got planned this Spring? and which are your favourite Spring themed books?

Happy reading!

Love Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

(This is not a sponsored post)

If you enjoyed this review and activity you might like My First Book of Dinosaurs 

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’

 

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

Noticing the changes that Autumn brings

I love the summer, but Autumn is such a beautiful follow up. We decided to head out on an Autumn walk and see what we could notice. It took Squidge a short while to warm up to noticing what was around her on our walk. I may be to blame for this as many times when we are out walking we’re on our way somewhere, so we whizz past all the wonders that nature has offered us. However, with a few yells of “Wow what’s this?” and “Ou what can you see over there?”, she soon got into the swing.

After we’d found a few acorns and added them to our collection bag, Squidge spotted some orange berries. We had a talk about their colour and what/who might eat them. Next she had a go at one of my favourite Autumn activities, crunching through the leaves. The top layer made a lovely crunching sound, but Squidge noticed that the layer underneath was all ‘Soggy and squelchy’. Good job she’d worn her wellies!

Just around the corner from where we live we found a single, magnificent conker tree. The delight of finding those little spiky balls could be seen on Squidge’s face, and I won’t lie even I still find myself getting excited. Possibly the teacher in me, or maybe I’m still just a big kid. We found a few and added them to our collection, along with a variety of different leaves.

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Once home we tipped out our wares and put the best of it together with some of our logs. I decided to leave the berries out of the display, just incase Boo found them too tempting whilst unattended.

Squidge recalled where we’d found most of the objects and began to compare what we had, “Look at this leaf Mummy, it’s longer and it’s yellow”, “This conker is the biggest”, “We have lots of leaves but we didn’t find a lot of sticks did we?”

Simply noticing things on a short walk had sparked so much talk already.

 

Later I added some magnifying lenses, a mini telescope and a prism viewer. This gave Squidge an opportunity to take a closer look and notice things from a different perspective. The lenses we got from the local scrap store, which I’ve raved about to you before. Seriously, have you been yet?

 

img_6671I had a few ideas in mind to follow up our Autumn walk. After talking to Squidge about the different colours we’d noticed on our walk, I added crayons to the leaves we’d collected with some paper so the girls could have a go at leaf rubbing. This unfortunately wasn’t their idea of fun, I was left colouring all on my own! Oh well, this happens. I didn’t push it and decided to leave the colours and paper out incase they changed their minds or wanted to explore in their own way. Boo was the most eager to do this and revisited the Autumn collection and drew often.

Another activity which I’ve seen on Pinterest in various forms, also linked well to the colours we had noticed. I knew as it was messy they’d both love it and it would make a lovely piece to add to our display. We made an Autumn tree. All you need for this is large paper, paint in various colours and something to stamp with, we used corks (another scrap store find).

Both girls really enjoyed this activity and it is one we’ll definitely do again. I’ve seen a mini version using cotton buds which looks like it’d be great fun to try, a test of perseverance and good fine motor practice. It also inspired the next actovity.

img_6633Our button tree. Now I know not everyone has a huge collection of buttons in their cupboards, but I do, I love buttons. There are other ways you could make this activity yourselves at home, you could try using pom poms, felt or foam shapes, or paper leaves would work as I suggested over on my Instagram. You’ll have to be sensible in your choices if you have a little one who’s still mouthing things.

For the tree itself I drew on the back of a place mat with a felt tip. I love the different texture it offers and it’s a bit more sturdy than paper. I’m planning to reuse the tree with different colours come Springtime. I may also try some of the ideas I suggested above.

Both Squidge and Boo had a go at this one. I wasn’t sure how long they’d persevere with it, but they both spent a good length of time adding buttons. I supervised closely to begin with, but felt it could be left out for them to play with and revisit. The magic moment that came from this activity was when Squidge dragged all the buttons to the bottom and exclaimed “Look all the leaves are falling down off the tree!”. If this had been a glue and stick it activity she may not have had the same chance to explore and play. All our talk about Autumn must be sinking in!

Have you been on a noticing walk? What did you find? What activities did in inspire?

You may have noticed I have mentioned noticing a lot in this post ;). This is one of the learning behaviours of Building Learning Power (BLP). This philosophy is something I worked on with students whilst working in my last school and I believe it to be a very powerful way of helping children to become successful learners. It’s all about how we learn. It’s something I have adopted at home to help my own children engage in learning. I’m hoping to link a few of my posts to BLP, exploring the different behaviours and how these can be developed from an early age.

Cornflour Goop

 

Cornflour_01You need to try this stuff, even if you don’t have small people. Seriously, it’s the strangest substance ever, even I can’t quite get my head around it.

You will need:

  • Cornflour
  • Water
  • Tray
  • Utensils (optional)
  • Hot soapy water and a towel for clean up

Squidge and I started out with the just the cornflour in our tray. She had a feel and a play, sprinkling it and squashing it together in her fists. It feels much softer than plain flour but when you squeeze it, it kind of crunches and squeaks. If you’ve tried it you’ll know what I mean, if you haven’t, now you’ll have to just to see what I’m talking about. It almost holds it’s shape like cloud dough, but it’s just too soft. Squidge also had a go at drawing in the flour. In the picture it looks like she’s perfected writing letters from the alphabet, but it’s just a doodle.

After an initial play with the cornflour, once I thought Squidge had an understanding of how it felt and what it was like to handle it, it was time to add the water. I had a fairly good idea of how much water we would need (you don’t want to over do it to start with as you’ll just end up with a milky liquid), so I brought a jug and encouraged Squidge to add the water a little at a time. If your child is a bit younger you might want to have smaller amounts to start with just in case – you can always add more. You could always get older children to test different amounts of water, getting them to measure the liquids and recording what happens.

I’d encourage you to let your child be the leader in the play as much as possible. As you can see we did this outside with an apron on, this is a good way to stop yourself taking over and being controlling because you’re worried about the mess. If you have no option but to play indoors, then cordon off the area where they’re allowed to let loose. Our indoor messy area is the kitchen. I can shut the doors and everything in that space is wipe clean. I still like to have the warm water and towel on standby. Once play is done, the children get cleaned up and kicked out first and then I can sort the mess afterwards. It’s manageable if it’s contained! You’ve just got to be at peace with the fact that they’ll make a mess, but it’s always worth it if they’re having fun and you know they’re learning.

‘I wonder what would happen if you put a little of this water in….?’ and so she did. You can almost see the glimmer of delight on her face as she mixed it in with her finger. This is where the magic really starts with this stuff. Once you’ve added just the right amount of water, it becomes something else… it’s a liquid and a powder and sometimes a solid, but still a liquid. It’s crazy. You can pour it like a liquid, then when you press on it or push it, it becomes a solid and feels dry and talcy again. It’s completely baffling. Squidge enjoyed adding the water bit by bit with the large spoon and mixing it in, finger tips first, then a whole hand in to grab what looked like a solid again.

The whole process of adding and mixing took Squidge a good 15 minutes. She added a small amount of the water each time and mixed it completely before going back to add more. She began to scrape the mixture with her fingers, as soon as the lines appeared they were melting away again, she was fascinated. I’m not going to lie, I kept getting stuck in too.

This activity would be perfect for pre and early writers. To extend this activity and use it again with Squidge I plan to use some cards with pre drawn simple patterns, shapes and letters on, so she can have a go at writing them in the goop, then watching it melt away again.

Have you tried this activity before? What did you (and the children of course) think of it?

Lots of love Cat & Squidge 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

 
This post is linked with #Sharingthebloglove & #TheList

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Marble Painting

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

For this activity you will need:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of love, Cat, Squidge and Boo

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

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Water beads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Much love, Cat, Squidge and Boo Xxx

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Water Wall and Pebble Drop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of love, Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

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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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