Thursday, June 28, 2012

Using Play Dough to Make Train Accessories and other things

I recently decided to make an effort to bring more play dough into our playtime after being inspired by The Imagination Tree (again!).We play a lot with trains, we talk a lot about trains and train are often the first choice for ramdom You Tube video watching. We have a train set but often find we have accessories missing as our games develop. So we started making train set accessories out of play dough.

Here is our first creation - a crossing:

Play Dough Level Crossing with Plastic Light
 We used this no-cook recipe (scroll down a little!) for the ramps and the gate holders, a cocktail stick for the gate, and a foam bead from a threading set with a broken cocktail stick for the hinge. I was really impressed with our work and wanted to make more. However, my nearly three year old had moved on to other things. So we made some random objects:

A stick, a spacecraft, an imprint of something I can't remember and a couple of wiggily woos*

But we'll be adding to our train set soon. We need a lot of accessories as the train stories just keep on growing. Do you have any ideas? Please comment and let me know.

In addition to the marvelous wonders of play dough, which you can read about via the links above, we also:
  • talked about height and width as we measured the parts
  • discussed the purpose of gates and hinges
  • waited for parts to dry before we could play with them
  • extended the possibilities for his pretend play 

For more play dough ideas, have a look at others who took the PLAY DOUGH PLEDGE

*We read about Wigglily Woos in this Sir Charlie Stinky Socks book by Christina Stephenson

Monday, June 25, 2012

Improve your children's listening skills with pieces of paper

Do you know what paper sounds like? What can you do with paper to make a noise? How much noise do you think you can make with one piece of paper? These are some of the questions you can ask to initiate exploration of paper, or you can leave them around, discovery box style, for the child to find and listen to. Either way, the preparation is pretty similar and can be adapted for children of any age ready to refine their listening skills.

Cut some differing pieces of paper to the same size. (A4 works well as it is small enough to handle and big enough to do a variety of things with.) Find ways to make a noise with them, comparing as you go. Simple. Your child will practice listening to quiet sounds and subtle differences in sound, both good for focussing better in school and becoming a good conversationalist.

We used ordinary printer paper, tissue paper, grease proof paper, tin foil (OK, I know it’s not paper, but it makes a great sound), thin packing paper and a piece of kitchen roll. Use anything you have available. My two year old looked at me oddly when I asked him what he thought paper sounded like, but was soon listening intently to the differences as we shook them. 

Are you ready to listen?
Then we listened carefully to the quiet sound made when you put thumb and fore finger on either side and rub in a circle. Holding the paper close to the ear we heard a very different sound. He was enthralled.

Flicking the paper produced lots of giggles as he saw the paper move quickly towards him as I hit it from the other side.

Next we ripped the sheets up. Some paper sounded the same as other sheets, and some very different. Then we just had loads of fun ripping it all up!

Paper Ripped Noisily!
For an almost three year old, that was enough. We learnt a lot and had lots of fun. An older child may want to do more and talk about the how and why of the different sounds. A larger variety of materials would also be interesting, for example different thicknesses of card or other materials like plastic.

Here are some things you could do:
  • Rip
  • Shake
  • Rub
  • Flick
  • Draw on - with different types of pen
  • Screw into a ball
  • Walk on (especially on carpet)
  • Have a pet walk on
  • Hang on a line and throw a ball at
  • Drive cars or other vehicles over

Any more ideas? I’d love to read your comments.

Most of the sounds here are very quiet, especially in a child’s world, and are a reminder that sometimes it is worth holding your tongue and paying attention to what’s going on, just so you don’t miss anything.

And we didn't waste the paper...

Add glue and coloured card

 We made an interesting picture:

Recycled Paper Art

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Driving Cars on Corrugated Card

I’m not sure if this is an activity or just a really easy way to fill some time, or both! We started off looking for some cardboard to frame a couple of photos. B chose the corrugated sheet and was immediately engrossed with it. He scratched it, poked at it, twisted it. We had used corrugated card before, but it was a while ago, and I could see a new fascination with it.

It seemed counterintuitive to stand and watch or give comment. So I left him alone. A long while later I found him driving his cars from one end of the room to the other, across the corrugated card to a parking lot on the carpet. He had also drawn on the card since I had left. He looked very happy and completely engrossed in his work.

Later, as I took photos, he told me all about the cars’ journey and how they went bumpity bump across the card.

Completely Engrossed

Bumpity Bump Bump!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Windmills on Clothes Pegs

Windmills are always lovely to look at. We wanted to make some of our own and tried a few different types of paper. The best ones by far are made with our own design from painting in a tub which we did a few weeks ago.

I found this page to have the simplest instructions to follow however I didn’t like to put the windmill on a straw as the pin came right through. So we experimented with different holders. We tried pencils, lolly sticks, door frames… but our favourite are clothes pegs. It makes them wonderfully mobile.

Mini Windmills on Clothes Pegs on a Plastic Cup   

The craft was a little difficult for my nearly three year old to do well, but he enjoyed trying and loved the final thing. He liked that we used paper from an old painting activity, that we did something worthwhile with it. He marvelled at the transformation from flat piece of paper to a moving 3D shape. The clothes pegs were a great work out for his little fingers. We peg them outside in good weather and quickly bring them in if it rains.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Singing for Listening

Listening well is important for so many reasons. This is one of my personal favourites for helping children of all ages to open their ears.

Singing a song or saying a rhyme in different voices gives the ear motivation to listen better. Small children will giggle in delight at a funny voice and older children will focus more and give more time to what you are saying. Extra practice in song and rhyme will exercise the ear for more important words.

Choose any nursery rhyme that you know, and preferably the children know too. Sing it in the conventional way, with any actions that go with it. Get the children involved and encourage when they join in. Then, change your voice a little, or a lot, and watch the reaction.

One of my favourite is Incy Wincy Spider as there are a number of variations which work well. For example, you can make your voice go higher as he climbs the spout, and then make it go lower again for when he is washed out, and then up again for when he tries again. Or you can sing about the Great Big Spider in a loud, strong voice, and then a Teeny Tiny Spider in a teeny tiny voice, changing the words where appropriate.

Other ideas for different voices are:
Donald Duck
Big bad wolf
Wide mouth

Don’t feel you have to sing if you don’t like to. Every song is a poem too.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bananas and Knives

Some of the simplest activities involve food. It takes only a minute, or less, to put something in front of a child wanting to ‘help’ and you’re free for a few minutes at least, and if you’re really lucky you’ll get a whole half an hour to yourself.

Our favourite for a long time was a banana and a butter knife. He really enjoyed honing a skill he saw us doing daily. It works with anything soft enough to provide easy cutting for little hands. An over ripe kiwi provides lots of fun even without a knife. Tomatoes are great fun for exploring fingers.

Yes, there will be a little mess, but nothing a damp cloth can’t sort out in less than 10 seconds. You can wash clothes, utensils and hands easily too. Your child will probably eat most of the fresh healthy food so it won‘t go to waste. All in all a very worthwhile activity for your child to play and learn.

And sometimes he can't wait even to take the skin off!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Monday Morning Mess

We just had a great time on the balcony with a tub of dirt, a tub of water, various empty containers and a couple of big diggers. I'm hoping the sun will stay warm enough to dry out the mud so I can sweep it away later, last time it took a few days!

B dried off while inspecting his recently thawed out cars (thank you Imagination Tree for this brilliant idea) and nibbling on a biscuit. He was brushed off and ready for lunch in no time.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Painting with Cars

It’s always all about the cars, and then the bus gets involved and then the train shows up. No matter what we do, something with wheels either accompanies us or distracts us. So one day, to avoid distraction, we painted with cars. It was a huge success. It created an interesting piece of art too.

We have a large plastic table cloth, around 1 by 1.5 meters, which we have been using for a long time for just about anything. We like to work on the floor and this large white water-resistant mat has been our canvas for paint, play dough, colouring, cutting, water play and more. On this day it really was our canvas, and I also discovered that the pizza boxes I had thought perfect for painting on were just too small. This boy thinks big and needs a lot of space.

So, with one plastic sheet, paint and a few vehicles, he was off.

First he assigned two colours to each vehicle...

and then watched the paint move and mix as the buses travelled.

 I gave him one rule: Stay on the mat.

There were some amazing patterns in the tracks. He just kept on going round and round and round.

With cars, colours and a clear limit he was happy to make a creative mess. I left him to it.

This is the finished picture.

A few days later we added more paint (and a few more cars!):

The next time he asked if he could stand in the paint. He had a wonderful time ‘ice skating’ across his painting.

(Pic to come)

We plan to keep adding and adding to it.
So, what was the benefit of this mess?
  • Practicing lots of fine and gross motor skills
  • Watching colours mix and mix again
  • Observing the effect of an solid object moved through liquid
  • Enjoying creating a big piece of art with his most beloved vehicles

Friday, June 1, 2012

Rice Pudding Recipe

This is an activity which involves many different skills. Over all I like the idea that my son can see a variety of materials mixed and cooked to create an entirely different substance, and one which tastes wonderful. I use Delia Smith’s recipe as it is very simple and almost fool proof. Rice pudding is a great dish to make with children of all ages as anything dropped or spilt can be swept or wiped up in a matter of seconds.

This is what you need:
One eager child.
½ cup (110g) of pudding rice
2 dessert spoons (40g) of sugar
1 can of evaporated milk (not the sweetened kind) mix with whole milk to make 900ml
Small amount of butter - around 20g
Ground cinnamon or nutmeg
A large baking dish we use a glass dish, 10 by 20 cm, which is a little large but good for little hands to play in.

Set the oven to gas mark 2/150c/300f

What to do:
1. Give the rice to the child. Let him pour it into the dish. Allow time for the sound and texture to register on the ears and fingers.
2. Ask the child to measure the sugar and mix it into the rice. This will blend naturally in 2-3 minutes as the child explores the difference between the rice and sugar.
3. Show the child how to pour the milk mixture slowly into the rice and sugar. Don’t worry if some spills, it won’t ruin the flavour of the pudding.
4. Next drop some chunks of butter on the top. The butter can be mixed and/or dropped over and over if the child wants. Splashes can be wiped up in a matter of seconds and shouldn’t add too much time to the preparation of this dish.
5. Finally sprinkle cinnamon over the top and watch the look of amazement on the child’s face as the powder settles on the surface. Allow time for the child to play and watch the patterns form on the surface.
6. Place dish in the oven making sure the child stands a safe distance away. With or without the child, stir after 30 minutes, and again after another 30 minutes then remove from the oven after another 60 minutes. Allow to cool and serve.

Some experiences for the child:
  • Hearing the sounds of different substances hitting the dish
  • Mixing and feeling different ingredients - grains, liquid and powder
  • Measuring ingredients
  • Using fine and gross motor skills when pouring, mixing and playing
  • Seeing liquid move in different ways