Monday, 27 February 2012

Toddler Play: Giant Fuzzy Felt

Fuzzy felt is one of those things I remember having lots of fun playing with as a child.  Little Chick has a couple of my old fuzzy felt sets that she loves playing with, the hospital and farm set are pretty popular, but the pieces are a bit small for Shoeshine.  So when I came across these ex-display felt boards in a skip (it's amazing what you can find in a school skip at the end of the summer term!) I thought they had to be useful for play.

Seeing as Where's that Fish and Ten Friendly fish are a couple of Shoeshine's favourite books at the moment, I made a set of felt underwater creatures with some felt squares from our craft cupboard.  Nothing fancy just the basic shapes. You could really have a lot of fun making different themed fuzzy felt shapes or you could keep it simple and stick to geometric shapes and watch what they create from a load of circles, squares and rectangles.

Shoeshine got busy putting the shapes on the board.  I found that tilting the board made it easier for her to get them to stick.  It took her a little while to realise that they stayed in place just by pressing them on but that if she pulled they would come off again.  She also really enjoyed pointing to all the creatures and trying to say their names - 'oc-pus' and 'fishhhh!'

Almost as much fun as putting them on was taking them off and starting again.


Big Sis also wanted to have a play when she got back from preschool and it was lovely seeing them playing together making collages and pictures.  I can't wait to try some other themes and shapes with our giant fuzzy felt board.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Water Play & Sensory Play: Gel Beads Fish Tank

With our plastic underbed storage box filled with water, gel beads and toy fish, we had some sensory fun swishing and swirling and playing with water.  

I've seen gel beads for sensory play being used quite a lot recently, so thought we'd have a go too.  We had blue and green ones which came from the 99p store.  As the beads are not really toys, this was something I did just with Little Chick as she is old enough to understand these things.  We did it whilst Shoeshine was having her nap as she's not quite old enough to be trusted not to put them in her mouth!  

Little Chick just loved adding all the bits and pieces to the tub and asking for more water and swirling everything around.

We had fun making waves seeing what happened to the gel beads and fish as the waves went back and forth across the tub.  The gels beads are great at illustrating wave formation and movement as they move fluidly, I reckon they would be great to use with older kids helping to explain waves or how molecules move in liquid states and what happens on heating etc, but Little Chick's a bit young for some of that at the moment so we focused on playing with making waves and just watching what happened.

She also went and fetched some of her straws (a favourite toy at the moment, apparently you can make it snow in the house with a packet of straws!)  She was loving blowing bubbles, I had to swim a fish near to her and then she would start blowing bubbles and I would swim the fish away with lots of oohs, ahhs and oh no's much to her delight and then she would say "again, again," amid fits of giggles.

We also did some experimenting with our straw blowing and found that if you blow closer to the surface the bubble noise is higher pitched and when you blow closer to the bottom of the tank the bubble noise is lower pitched.  The bubble blowing also produced beautiful circular radiating ripples.  Again lots of scientific things to learn and discuss in more depth if you were doing this with older children.

We also played with the gel beads out of the water and found them to be quite bouncy.

Little Chick also requested some boats, so out came a few empty cream cheese tubs.

And we had fun adding fish to the boat until it sank.  Great for counting practice and learning about floating and sinking.

This was lots of fun to play together, with loads of scope for early science learning too.  The gel beads added a lovely sensory element for sloshing and swishing around in the water, although the ones we had weren't very robust and several broke, so I don't know if we just didn't get very good ones or if they are just fairly delicate.  Having said that their gel consistency was a lot of fun and they are still good enough to be played with again sometime.  Am also planning to do a water fish tank without the gel beads for Shoeshine sometime soon, so she doesn't miss out on some fun water play.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Toddler Play: Pasta Pouring and Scooping

Following on from our pasta and play dough building site play, I thought it would be nice for Shoeshine, (whose now 19 months), to have her own box of fun for some exploratory toddler play, whilst her big sister is at preschool in the mornings.  One of things she currently loves doing is putting things in and taking them out, whether it's pens from the pen pot, clothes from her drawers or anything really.

So with that in mind I quickly made up a pouring and scooping pasta play box.  I used the pasta from our building site and added a few things from the kitchen cupboards: a set of measuring cups, a colander, sieve, spoons and a cut off milk jug.  

There are so many utensils/pots and pans/bowls and other things you can add, all you need to do is raid the kitchen cupboards.  You could also add all sorts of pasta shapes, dried beans and rice for lots of sensory play.  Although for this one I wanted to keep it fairly simple, so it was easy to get out and easy to put away over several mornings. 

Shoeshine got stuck straight in; first and foremost was the need to get all the pasta out of the box and onto the kitchen floor.  Then she set about picking up the pasta and adding it to various pots.

She was really busy pouring and scooping. The pasta was transferred from cup to cup...

lots and lots of times!

She then got busy mixing the pasta in the colander with the spoon, it made a very good noise.

Then picking out pieces and putting them on a spoon, some really good practice for fine motor skills & hand eye coordination happening here, all through play - love it.

And of course you have to taste it too!

It was lovely watching Shoeshine explore and play independently for a short time, she was so industrious, making lots of noise with the pasta, transferring it from cup to cup.  Big sister also really enjoyed this box when she got back from preschool (she hates to think she might be missing out on anything!)  It took less than 2 minutes to tidy up at the end, but gave some fresh short bursts of playful fun over a few mornings, great for helping fill those long days with a busy toddler. 

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Bob the Builder Play Dough and Pasta Building Site

We're big fans of Bob the Builder in our house and after finding these vehicles for 90p each in a charity shop we simply had to have some fun building site play.  

I used an underbed storage box (£4 from The Range) and added two lots of play dough, some jumbo pasta cylinders, some twirly pasta shapes and a couple of handfuls of split peas and lentils.  I love making up boxes like this for the girls as there is so much opportunity for sensory fun, small world play and creativity with a few simple items from the kitchen cupboards and one of our favourite play items - play dough.

The girls got stuck in straight away.  It was lovely seeing them playing together but each at their own level.

Little Chick loved building with the jumbo pasta and filling up Dizzy with the lentil 'cement'.

Shoeshine loved sticking the pasta in the play dough, making patterns and then taking them all out again.  (Along with drawing and painting, play dough is one of Shoeshine favourite activities at the moment.)

I then got the play dough out of the tub as it was easier for her to play with it on the floor and Roly did a bit of "rock and roll!"  We also looked at what tracks the different vehicles made in the play dough.

Shoeshine also had lots of fun making prints in the play dough with the jumbo pasta cylinders. 

Meanwhile Little Chick was busy mixing cement, laying bricks, pouring foundations, getting Scoop to clear up the rubble whilst talking all the time about what was happening in her story.

This was Little Chick's work, she spent absolutely ages making it.  In case you can't quite work it is (you'll be forgiven if you can't tell what it is), it's a hospital.  Apparently the pink balls are chairs in the waiting room, with the pasta patient on the little bed of pasta and play dough on the right of the picture and of course the tall column is the hospital chimney.  It never ceases to amaze me what is going on in their little worlds.

This box was a great success, they played with it for ages and kept requesting it again over the next few days.  I would recommend using some older play dough as it's impossible to get the lentils out of it after they have been squished in.  Although the girls don't seem to mind now playing with lentil play dough, it does seem to be drying out a bit so don't think it will keep as long as it normally does.  I suppose the lentils are absorbing some of the moisture in the play dough.  Still a good excuse to make some more play dough together soon!

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