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

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

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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