Elly asked to open the new packet of toothpaste we bought today. Then he spent a good 10 minutes practising his hand-eye coordination and fine motor skill (taking the tubes out of the boxes and putting them back in).
It doesn’t have to be toothpaste – and it shouldn’t be if your toddler is likely to open and eat any. Anything that comes in a cardboard box and can be handled easily would do. And there you have a nicely filled in time gap, or a quick few minutes to get something done.
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.
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.
Before you recycle your boxes (nappies/diapers in this case), open them up and set the kids loose with their crayons, pencils and pens. Add in some stickers or tape for variety, or leave a big box intact and let them get inside to decorate it.
No set up, no mess. Sounds like a win win activity to me.
I don’t know about anyone else, but in my house this is now a well-recognised developmental stage.
It starts with the baby wanting to drink untold quantities of water at night. And continues with the baby wanting to drink untold quantities of water at night. He asks for a drink before lights out, lies down, drinks milk, asks for water, asks again as soon as the cup is put away or the bottle is closed, lies down and wriggles a bit then asks for more water… and it happens night after night potentially for weeks.
With my oldest I was genuinely worried about why he had suddenly developed a need to drink so much water.
With my second I know he’s playing me.