Halloween Trio of Treats

Halloween is here! I love the fun and games to be had whenever there’s a festival. I’m not really one for doing things weeks and months in advance, so the week leading up to Halloween is plenty of time for a few activities.

Today we had some fun with a sensory tub. I made coloured rice especially. I have tried to colour rice using poster paints before, but it went horribly wrong so I tried a different method this time. It was very simple and worked well. You add a few drops of food colouring, a decent squirt of hand sanitiser and long grain white rice together in a sandwich bag. Shake it all up, add more colour if needed then leave it to dry overnight on a couple of baking trays.

 

On the Halloween theme, I made some eyeballs using polystyrene balls coloured with felt tips. The gravestones were made from a cereal box, glued back to back for authenticity. The skulls, bones and pumpkins were made from felt, with felt tip used to add details. Then I glued the lolly sticks together to make fencing for the pumpkin patch.

I then had a dig through all our craft and scrap bits. I decided to stick to a colour theme and put in anything and everything. I didn’t really have a plan for how they’d use the different bits, I liked the idea of letting them explore the tub open ended. If I had no plan in mind, I was less likely to lead them in my pre determined direction.

Squidge’s eyes lit up when she saw the tub all arranged. She had seen me preparing the rice yesterday and was already eager to play with it, “Is it ready yet Mummy?”, “Will it be dry now?”. Both girls were straight in, both equally careful picking up different pieces, examining them closely before placing them back in the tray. You can see them both using their fingertips in the pictures above.

Both Squidge and Boo found their own way to exercise their fine motor skills in this activity. Squidge buried a sparkly pom pom and placed a straw in the top of the rice mound to mark it. She then threaded the plastic beads onto the straw.

Grammy was with us for the afternoon and she managed to spot Boo ever so quietly concentrating on getting the tiniest green pom pom delicately balanced on top of one of the black beads. She was proud of her efforts and walked it round to show me – a feat in itself! She also enjoyed sprinkling lots of the rice with her fingertips.
halloween-sensory-03Once Boo had had enough and Squidge was let loose on her own, she made up her own game of hide the pom pom. She buried it and dug it up several times herself before inviting me to find it. We took turns and she was delighted every time she uncovered it. As the tray wasn’t very big, I hid it in close proximity to the tray a couple of times. After a couple of sneaky ones, Squidge was adamant I should keep it in the tray.

I tried to make it more difficult by tying it inside the ribbon, hiding in the orange hoop with the help of some pumpkins and then inside the surprise egg. When Squidge found it difficult there was a good opportunity to use some positional directions to help her find the pom pom.

Both girls enjoyed this one, Boo played for a good 10-15 minutes and Squidge was there for over half an hour. They both revisited again towards the evening. I plan to set it up again tomorrow and see what interest there is. All the bits I’ve made can be saved for other activities and the tidy up was simple – a good hoover!

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The second activity we’ve tried this week is a playdough invitation to play – Pumpkin faces!

A really simple one to set up, orange playdough, googly eyes, circular shape cutters, pieces of ribbon and felt shapes for eyes, noses and mouths. Squidge also requested a rolling pin.

This one inspired Squidge and she made all kinds of different faces. She spent a long time rolling and squashing the playdough before cutting her circles. She added eyes and shapes and each one looked like a pumpkin. Boo on the other hand spent all her time very carefully placing every single remaining googly eye into her lump of playdough. She was meticulous. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of their wonderful creations, I guess we’ll have to do it again!

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However I did manage to catch a quick snap of Squidge the next day, using the playdough to create a face on our big pumpkin! I thought this was a fab idea! It’d look even better with black playdough so it’s on the ‘To do list’ for next years’ activities.

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The final one to share on this post is our window pumpkin, which I put up a short while ago. It’s made using electrical tape (I think – the plastic, stretchy type stuff which I pinched from hubby’s tool box) stuck on the window in short strips to make the outline. Then in the tub there are various pieces of orange cellophane and foam, plus a couple of paintbrushes and some water to stick them up with.

 

 

Both girls have had a go at this one. Squidge was quite precise with her water, putting just enough on to stick up each individual shape. Boo was much more liberal, spreading as much water as she could all over. To begin she needed a little help with sticking on the shapes but she soon got the hang of it.

Last year we did some potato prints which I turned into bunting, we may attempt to recreate those this year. I’d also like to do some Halloween themed hand and footprints, I have a few great ones already pinned on my Halloween Pinterest board. We’ve had pumpkin soup and depending on how brave I am we may have a go at pumpkin pie.

This morning I did attempt to make a tape spiderweb for the girls to throw paper balls at, but unfortunately me and the tape had a minor disagreement, some words were said and basically it ended up in the bin. I’m yet to decide whether I’m willing to give the tape a second chance.

What activities are you getting up to this Halloween? Please share, I’d love to have a nosey!

Lots of love Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

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Pick N Mix Fridays

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

 
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Just add water

Boo loves water! I’d love to think it was because she was born in the pool (second time around I got my dream birth plan – I must’ve earned extra birthing points after Squidge’s birth). However I think it is more likely linked to the trajectory schema she is displaying constantly in her play.

When it’s warm enough I like to let the girls loose in the water. I’ve had a few blow up paddling pools and they never last long. This box is a perfect size for water play and so many other things – it fits under beds, it fits over my sand tray to actually keep it dry (the lid is completely useless), I use it for sensory activities too. If you’d like one, this one is from a certain scandinavian furniture store you may or may not have heard of. Knowing full well she’ll end up in the water, I’d usually strip Boo off beforehand, but with a blogpost in mind I kept her covered up. She did end up totally nudey dude by the end!

As you can see I’d got a few of our water toys out, they’re some of the bits we’d normally have in the bath. Boo went straight for the cups. She selected the cup she wanted and pushed it into the water, letting it fill from the hole in the bottom. She tipped it out and filled it several times and also had a few sips! The water is coloured with food colouring so it’s perfectly safe to drink. She then gave the cup to me.

I knew she wanted me to lift the cups for the water to trickle out. This is her favourite thing to do in the bath, just look at her little face. When the water is falling her face will light up, she puts her fingers into the stream. When we first used to do this she would try and catch the stream with her fore finger and thumb, in a pincer. It took her a while to fathom that she couldn’t hold it like a piece of string.

Next Boo chose two different cups and filled them in the same way, then lifted them high to watch the water drip, drop. She repeated this several times over. She went on to pour from one cup to the other, over and over until there was none left and she had to fill up and start again.

After a good 20 minutes worth of scooping, pouring and transferring Boo carefully inspected the bottom of a couple of the cups. I’ve never seen her do this before. She could be making a link to how quickly the water trickles out, or why some only have one stream of water and others are more like rain – but I can only speculate. She went back to pouring for a short while, but as you can see, by now the water had seeped right up her top and she wanted to strip off.

Boo uses these methods of pouring in other forms of play. I can’t leave any drink, even her own, unattended as the minute she gets chance she’ll pour it out! I’ve tried different cups, even the ones with the twist up tops – she works them out faster than I can find a replacement. She was pouring left over tea from one cup to the other the other day. This idea obviously fascinates her at the minute.

To move her thinking forward I plan to build a small water wall for her to play with. There’s a few ideas on Pinterest which I like. I have bought a piece of trellis already. Next I need to source some tubes, pieces of guttering, connectors, funnels, buckets, watering cans – and anything else I spot! The plan is to attach the trellis to our existing fence panel at a good height for Boo. Then attach the pieces with cable ties. The tray or washing up bowls can be placed at the bottom to catch the water.

I’d also like to make another version to attach to the fence near the large shed where all our pebbles are so she can try the same process with the pebbles. We could try putting lots of different materials down if she finds it just as fascinating!

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I’ll be sure to write a blog post all about it!

Lots of love Cat & Boo xx

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