This is one for the little people: a short, simple activity that gets them practicing their fine motor skills, pincer grip and hand-eye coordination. It’s mess free and can easily be left out for them to find and play with at will across the span of a day.
1. Clothes pegs (ones that can be worked by little fingers easily enough to ward off frustration caused by them being too hard to press open)
2. Something to pin them on (we used a colander, a cardboard box or similar would work just as well)
Elly had as much fun taking the pegs off the colander and putting them in and out of it as he did pegging them around it in the first place.
I had a good mama moment last week, where instead of leaving Zeph to play while I tidied the kitchen, I asked him what he would like to do while I was busy. I mean, he would have played happily enough – his ability and desire to play independently has come on in leaps and bounds since he turned four in January – but still, I felt like it was just the sort of thing one ought to do from time to time when one is doing this mum business well.
First I asked if he’d like the play dough out while I washed up after lunch… but I got that response ^^.
Super messy painting it is. Did he want to paint in the kitchen at the table where I was, or did he want to go by himself to paint in the conservatory? Outside by himself.
So we got out the paints and papers (actually opened up cereal boxes that I’d been saving for him to paint on) and off he went. After a while he called to me: Mum, come and see what I’ve done for you!
And, after finishing the dish I was on and drying my hands, off I went to see (like a good mama again). He’d painted me a cake, with candles, and cherries, and some juice. He called me back three or four times, showing me the pictures he was painting for me. Sharing all the thought and love that had gone into each one. Thoughts and love I might have so easily missed if I had prioritised finishing in the kitchen over going to see what he wanted to show me. And afterwards I went to sit with him, watching, without taking my phone or any other distractions.
Because the quiet moments together are precious.
We did this as a follow on activity a couple of days after trying out a bubbling mud kitchen. It was just as messy, but less structured.
I simply took the mud we’d already used and added a bunch of construction toys and cars for a child-led, messy, sensory play.Elly went back to filling his pots and had a little drive of a car, but distracted by Zeph taking a toilet break, he pretty quickly decided that a bath was the more interesting option.
Zeph meanwhile spent a good long time filling his trucks, creating roads and tracks for the cars to drive on and simulating earthquakes and mudslides to trap them.
This is a gloriously messy, strictly outdoors activity that I saw a version of on The Keepsake Co….Except we don’t have an outdoors and I really wanted to try it. So I threw down a plastic sheet and did it on the verandah – we have a wash-down floor out there which helps with clean-up.
Mud (I used a big plant pot full)
Baking soda (I used around 175g… I have no idea exactly what different proportions would do without experimenting, but we produced some fair bubbling)
Vinegar in squeezy/spray bottles
Optional, ideas of things to decorate the baking with:
Paint powder or crushed chalk
This was premeditated, believe it or not, so I had Zeph and Elly crush chalk for it a couple of days beforehand: we put our chalk sticks in a ziploc bag and bashed it with a rolling pin and a mallet. That went down very well.
For the mud kitchen itself we got out various kitchen utensils, pots, pans and baking tins and started out with the mud mixed with baking soda.Once they’d prepared a few cakes and pancakes and waffles I got out the crushed chalk and some flowers for decorating with.Next they took the vinegar in squeezy bottles and made their creations bubble!Finally, once we filled, refilled and ran out of vinegar, they dumpedthe mud out and played with it a bit more.And then I dumped them both in the bath, locking the verandah door behind us and closing my eyes to the mess for a day (okay, 2) so that we could use it again for this mud construction and race track activity.
This is great as an outdoor activity if you have paved paths or a patio in the garden, but can also be done indoors on tiled floors, walls or even on paper. All you need to do is throw some chalk sticks into water – the chunkier the better, and we use washed out yogurt pots.
The wet chalk draws much more silkily than if it is dry making it a completely different art process, and it is easily washed away after. Outside the clean up should be minimal to non-existent, and even inside (assuming there aren’t any major water spills in inconvenient places) it’s straightforward to wipe up. Another great thing about this activity when it’s done on the ground or walls is that it provides such a huge art space, encouraging crossing the midline and spatial awareness.
My two started out using a fairly conventional drawing style which progressed first to block colouring tiles and then to experimenting with their hands and feet.
My boys love ice cream and with the warmer weather well on it’s way we will probably be eating it pretty frequently. While I have absolutely no objections to buying some every so often, I do try to avoid sugar and additive stuffed varieties being the boys staple summer food. Especially with eczema being an issue for both of them. So here’s a gorgeous, simple homemade treat that has no additives or extra sugar and on top of that is packed full of real fruit.
Should fill a 6-part ice lolly mould but may vary a bit depending on the size of mould you are using.
1 large banana
1 handful of strawberries and/or blueberries
Other fruit of your choice – seedless berries are great because they tend to be soft and sweet, but others will work too depending on your taste.
You can also use frozen fruit if you prefer.
Put all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
Pour mixture into an ice lolly mould.
Freeze until solid.
It’s so easy to get caught up in all the things that need doing. The places that need getting to. The tasks that need completing to coax each child into their corresponding clothes and shoes and out the door. And so easy to then get stressed when the schedule doesn’t run on time. When things are spilled or ripped or lost. When chaos is created in the 2 seconds after some kind of order was restored. And then everyone’s wellbeing becomes secondary to the task or the schedule. The doing overtakes the being.
But that’s not who we are.
That’s not how people are made.
So here are some ways that we slowed down on an everyday trip to the supermarket today. Ways, perhaps, of realising that while we sometimes have to be there now, it’s not always such a hurry. And when it’s not a hurry, we don’t have to hurry.
1. Take a short (or not so short) detour and walk through the park instead of down the road.
2. Look at/smell/pick the flowers.
3. Find a bench and sit down to have a snack together.
4. Look at the live seafood section for as long as the kids want.
6. Stop to throw rocks into the most ginormous muddy puddle.
7. Listen to the birds.
8. Watch the machines on the construction site.
9. Collect sticks and stones along the way.
Do you have ways of slowing down as an individual or a family? Let me know in the comments.