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.

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

Mini Post – Valentine’s Water Resist Pictures

It’s still only January, but in true blogger spirit I’m thinking ahead to Valentine’s. Watercolour resist pictures can be used on any occasion really and my girls love an excuse to get the paints out. This activity is such a simple one but it’s always a hit.

What you’ll need:

  • Paint (We used watered down poster paint 1:2 parts approx)
  • Paper (We used the newspaper print type, to soak up the water)
  • A white wax crayon
  • Aprons
  • A trusty bucket of soapy water & towel

As this is the first time Squidge and Boo have tried this one, I added all the wax crayon doodles to the paper before they started. I wrote simple messages and love hearts  sticking to the Valentine theme.

Both girls got stuck straight in. Squidge managed to spot the white crayon marks glisten on her paper as she was next to the window – “Ou look Mummy, I can see letters”.

They both had completely different approaches to the activity, which is more indicative of the difference in their age than their personality. Boo splodged the paint on thick and fast, circling the middle of her paper until it had all but disintegrated. I gently encouraged her to fill the edges, but she wasn’t too fussed. Squidge was very careful and precise, filling the entire paper all the way to the edges. She was slow and steady. As ever with our messy sessions, Boo stuck around for 10-12 minutes, completing 5 pictures in total. Squidge spent a good 20 minutes (possibly a little longer) completing her 3 pictures. She was happy to wash up the mess afterwards too. 

The next time we do this activity I’ll be encouraging Squidge to do the white crayon drawings and letters. We’ll likely start with writing her name and drawing simple shapes. I’ll let her experiment with what works well so she can modify it as she explores.

This is a great activity for reluctant writers – ‘Secret messages’ are much more inviting to write than regular writing.

A little tip for this one – make sure you’re colours are watered down well, if your paint is too thick or dark, the wax crayon won’t show through (Our red paint was a little too thick).

Have you tried this activity before? Will you try secret messages this Valentines?

Lots of love, Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

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