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* 

 

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.

IMG_4682

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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Sticky blocks

I’m really getting into this whole blogging thing. My favourite part of it all so far is the sharing. Through Instagram and the various links, I’m getting to see so many different and wonderful ideas. This block activity is something I have done before, but in school we always used shaving foam. This works really well for older children as by the age of 4 and 5 the majority of those you tell not to eat it don’t. There is always that one child that just wasn’t listening and then that other one who didn’t quite believe you when you told them it really doesn’t taste as good as it smells. I’ll admit at this stage I once tasted a shower gel as it just smelt soooo delicious and I was curious – so I’m guessing I was once that kid. The squirty cream stroke of genius (one of those – Why didn’t I think of that?! moments) came from @play.hooray on Instagram. She’s got loads of lovely ideas, go give her a follow but read until the end first.

For this activity you will need:

  • Wooden blocks
  • Squirty cream (whipped will work just as well)
  • Something to spread it with
  • A tray
  • As ever, the trusty bucket of soapy water & towel

blocks-31

First thing in the morning Squidge chose to play with the blocks and build towers, I decided this would be a good time to give it a go. The weather was beautiful so out we went. Once I opened the doors her interest in the blocks waned and she was off. It took me a while to coax her into building again with just the blocks, I had planned to wow her with the cream so she could compare with and without, but she didn’t stick around long enough! I left her to play where she wanted for a while, I wanted her to fully enjoy the task.

I’m glad I waited, once I showed her the cream (a little melty from hanging around on the windowsill) she couldn’t wait to give it a go. She scooped up and spread the cream like butter. She enjoyed pressing the blocks on top and watching the cream bulge out of the sides. She took her time over each block. The tower on the left belongs to Squidge, the one on the right is mine – I had to give it a go! As you can see Squidgey’s tower fell over – she was shocked and looked from the blocks to me and back again. I think as she’d been so careful building it, it was a little more upsetting than a regular tower falling. I showed her that I had put cream at the bottom of mine to help it stick. I was keen to see if she would alter her approach on her next attempt.

A little later, armed with a fresh bowl of cream, Squidge built another tower and she started with a blob of cream underneath. Once again she took her time. The best part of this activity for me was when Boo joined in, it was so lovely to watch Squidge encourage and show Boo what to do. She was using a higher pitch in her voice, possibly mimicking me… but I hope not. I’d like to think I speak normally to children. Tiny babies and animals I’ll happily do the gooey, cooey voice, but when children are learning to speak I really believe they should be immersed in excellent vocabulary. They are little sponges and there is no reason not to teach them the ‘long’ words.

Squidge encouraged Boo every step of the way and was so patient. She even cheered when Boo had done it. She helped by stacking the blocks on in between spreadings. Together they added a couple more until Boo had had enough. It’s such a treat watching these two play with one another.

blocks-11

Now this activity definitely passed the taste test, several times! Be warned at least half of the cream will be eaten. Overall I’d say Squidge got a good 30 minutes out of this activity. It may have lasted longer in cooler weather. We shall certainly be doing it again. I’ll also be trying squirty cream in other activities. I still can’t believe it hadn’t occurred to me before.

Let me know what gems you’ve spotted when liking and pinning!

Lots of love, Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

For a whole host of other activity ideas that anyone can try there’s my Top 10 post here 🙂

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Our fairy garden

If you’ve read some of my previous blogposts you’ll already know that this summer’s project has been our garden. It’s been a long, but rewarding task. We had a general plan in mind when starting, but as with many projects some things have evolved along the way. When relaying our patio we had planned to have the path curve and lay grass right up to our existing driveway. However, much as hubby tried with the cutter he had, he could not cut through the slabs straight, let alone on a curve. We had to re think the plan.

We put forward various solutions and asked family, that visited in the interim, what they thought. We agreed ending with a straight edge would look neater. That left us with a small, awkward triangle on a bit of a hill. The whole point of renovating the garden was to take out the trip hazards so we decided we’d turn it into a flower bed so the girls would need to walk around.

Here we were with this extra flower bed to fill and I’m no gardener, there’s not even a tinge of green in my fingers. However, I am pretty creative and I have seen so many gorgeous little fairy and sensory gardens on my late night Pinterest trawls. Plus Squidge loves all things small and she is role playing more and more.

First off we needed a trip to the garden centre. I wanted to choose plants that offered variety from a sensory point of view. I’d tell you the names of the plants I chose if I knew them all, but I’m afraid I don’t. I did warn you I’m not a gardener. The first in the series of photos is a rockery plant and a ground spreader. If it manages to flower they will be a gorgeous shade of blue. I chose this one as I think it has the best chance of living in a shallow bed plus the leaves have quite a rubbery texture. The next one is my ‘show stopper’ huge yellow blooms against dark green leaves- it attracted Boo instantly. She keeps attempting to pull all the petals off and you can see her below imitating Mummy ‘Noooo’. Perhaps I need to retire the pointy finger?!

There’s lavender and rosemary, both there to add scent. We may use some of the rosemary to cook with and I’m almost certain you can add either of these to play dough for extra sensory fun. The little conifer has spiky leaves and is meant to smell like lemon, though I’m yet to be convinced. I love that this is a miniature version of a larger tree. I will be tracking down tiny baubles at Christmas.

With all the plants in pots I did what I have seen real gardeners do (my parents included) and I placed them around the flower bed, I moved them a few times – trying to get a balance of colours and heights. When I was happy with the layout I planted them all, making sure to split up the roots so they could bed in well. I gave them a good watering when I’d finished too.

Whole levelling the garden we cand across an assortment of pebbles and I kept them to one side. I chose the largest, best shaped ones to use as little fairy houses. I painted them using poster paints. It took a few coats particularly for some of the lighter colours and for adding the details. Onice they were dry I coated them with a PVA/Water mix as a varnish. I’m not sure they will last in our delightful English weather, but it won’t be terribly upsetting if it washes off. We can try again with acrylics and I should probably let Squidge have a go!

I placed the houses and remaining pebbles around the garden. This looked ok, but there was definitely something missing. We had some left over pebbles from filling in the side of the patio, I decided these would make a perfect little path between the houses. I also raided one of my vases for the glass beads in the bottom, knowing they would male a perfect fairy pool.

Boo was straight in! She loves the glass beads and has been transporting them all over the garden ever since they went in. She also likes to remove all the pebbles around the edge. I don’t mind as the whole idea of this little patch is that the girls are allowed to play with it. Nothing in it is irreplaceable.

As the days have passed we’ve added a couple of other bits, mini solar lights, which I have placed along the paths. A little wooden flower windmill which also fascinates Boo, the spinner and the little beads underneath. I certainly think we’ll keep adding to our fairy garden, whether it’s bits we buy or things we make – I’ve already started hoarding lolly sticks with grand plans of mini fences and benches.

I’m really pleased with the result and the girls have definitely been making the most of it, both in their individual ways. Boo mostly moving pieces and touching and feeling the plants. Squidge with little role play sessions using small world characters and the spare pebbles. She has also been helping to water the flowers and noticed that one of them has flowered.

Please do me know what you think, or feel free to send me a picture or links to your own fairy gardens!

Lots of love Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

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