My first book of dinosaurs front cover

My First Book of Dinosaurs by Mike Unwin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suitability: Ages 3-10 years

Length: 10 minutes

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

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

ISBN 978 1 4729 0545 1

 

 

Dinosaur Activity

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

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

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

Squidge playing dinosaur land

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

Happy reading!

Love Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

(This is not a sponsored post)

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.

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.

Marble-paint-01

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.

Marble-paint-11

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.

Marble-paint-14

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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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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