Mud construction and race track

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.20180412_1557481236869581.jpgElly 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.

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Bubbling mud kitchen

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.

You need:
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
Flowers
Sticks
Stones
Birdseed

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.

 

Wet chalk drawings

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.

Little kitchen helpers: homemade ice cream

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.

Ingredients:
Should fill a 6-part ice lolly mould but may vary a bit depending on the size of mould you are using.

100mls milk

1 large banana

1 handful of strawberries and/or blueberries

Or

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.

Method:

Put all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

Pour mixture into an ice lolly mould.

Freeze until solid.

Slowing down in the day to day

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.

Salty letter writing practice

Here’s a simple, engaging activity for practicing letter or number formation (with bonus sensory stimulation!). All you need is a tray of salt and some letter guides – I’ve written the ones Zeph is using here on card with a pencil line at the bottom of the letter, an orange dot showing where to start writing it and an orange arrow showing the direction of the initial pencil stroke. You could use flour instead of salt if you prefer, but I find salt is less messy.

Today we focused on the letters used to write Zeph’s name. First we sounded out the letters and blended them to read the word and then we took them one by one to try writing them in the salt. At the moment this is a hands-on activity for me, both showing Zeph how to form the letters and talking him through it again as he does it to make sure that he is writing them correctly. I like to take advantage of the times he has interest in learning letter formation and he enjoyed this, but it did pretty quickly transform into playing in the salt with cars!

Perler beads with boys

Perler, or ironing beads are good for fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, focus and concentration. Let the kids make up their own patterns or use preset ones as a guide.

A couple of weeks ago Elly had fun dismantling some perler/ironing bead creations at a friend’s house… oops.

We’ve since seen them at the supermarket and in a couple of other places and Zeph was asking to try them. I wasn’t quite sure – he’s only four, would he manage or just get frustrated? Was it just something he wanted because he’d seen but wouldn’t care about anyway? We’d have to keep them out of Elly’s way both before, during and after or it would be disasterous…

Zeph remembered, so I ordered some for him online: he chose the flower pattern and was very excited about opening his box during nap time the day it arrived. I gave him some scissors and left him to it: that bought me a good 20 or 30 minutes to make lunch while he negotiated the sticky tape on the packaging, cut open the packet and made an initial exploration of the contents. The only intervention I ventured was to pass him a messy tray to spill the beads onto. (Though I did bite my tongue a bit to keep from mentioning the possibility of them spilling EVERYWHERE).

And after lunch we settled down together with it. I helped pick out beads and did one or two with him as he got started, but he intuitively grasped the idea by himself anyway. I did keep hold of the pattern for him under the pegs so it didn’t move around and by the end I’d probably contributed around two petals worth of beads, but he did most of it himself, preferring to use his fingers rather then the tweezers.

Finally we ran the iron over it together… I left it a bit long as it was a first for me: the beads ended up a bit more melted together than I think they ought to be, but he was pretty pleased with it and himself I think.