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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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!

Car park spelling

I’ve seen this car park spelling activity used as a name learning tool on Mummies and Daddies Facebook page. It’s really simple and perfect for car enthusiasts.

As Zeph has been interested in letters and word-making recently, I decided it was a good time to try it out. I wanted to do his name – it’s always interesting to know the letters for your own name, right? Plus it’s probably a useful bit of information for him to squirrel away before starting school. Though if he doesn’t then he doesn’t. However, we learn letters phonetically and ‘Zeph’ isn’t exactly the easiest phonetic word to start with. Plus, he’s just beginning to get how sound-blending works so I also wanted to reiterate that idea to him with a simple word or two. Now, a long time ago Zeph and I made a set of alphabet letters to stick on our wall and some sound pictures to go with them. So I decided on ‘cat’ and ‘ant’ as simple starting words that I had self-made images to represent.

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Zeph and I made the car park together while Elly was napping. We cut down a cardboard box as you see, used a ruler and marker pen to draw on car parking spaces and wrote in the words.

I had pre-prepared the letters to stick on the cars on squared paper. I liked using the grid instead of plain paper as it can be used like writing practice lines to show where the letter should be formed. My 4 year old is doubtless oblivious to this yet, but getting used to seeing letters properly placed definitely can’t do any harm and will hopefully help to subconsciously ingrain it.

Zeph counted the letters we had written on the car park and then went to find enough cars to match them. We stuck paper letters to cars using bluetack, and he was off.

He was only really interested in doing the parking activity fully once. I think if the car park had been bigger, with more words, he would have continued with them. But that would have been too much in terms of letter and reading practice. I intended to keep the car park piece to bring out and stick new letters/words on occasionally but sadly it proved not to be long lasting enough for my house!

Swamp small world

Up until now, I’ve done a lot of messy, sensory activities with my kids, many of which would at some point involve my oldest asking for his cars (if he didn’t already have them), and using them with any material to make little role plays and stories. What we haven’t done, and what I’ve recently been very excited to start exploring, is small world play.

So here was our first attempt: a small world swamp. The kids helped me make it first, which may or may not have been a good idea… I think they kind of had fun, but I had a particular idea of what I wanted to achieve before letting them loose on it so I was limiting their input and creativity in this stage.

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We used food coloured cornflour gloop for the swamp (mix water and cornflour, super easy); borrowed some of the rabbit’s sawdust as swamp mulch; made some spiky swamp grass by sticking cocktail sticks into polystyrene balls; used green pompoms for swamp bushes; and added some lollipop sticks for logs (some real twigs and stones would have been great, but it’s been freezing and we’ve all been sick on and off… also, as much as my sons would like it, I don’t allow them to keep a stash of sticks and stones in the tiny apartment). Finally we added some insects, spiders and a crocodile.

The first thing both of them were interested in was the gloop. Elly started digging at it with a lollipop stick and Zeph started squishing bugs into it to make prints. Then, they pretty quickly moved on to sprinkling and then tipping the sawdust into the gloop. Zeph’s crocodile started eating sawdust, and after we tipped off the excess, they both had a go at making circle shaped prints with toilet roll middles.

At this point Elly retired for a long milk break. Meanwhile Zeph spent a long time tipping the messy tray this way and that to watch the mulchy gloop sliding around. Now, when I first said activity time and started setting things out, Zeph immediately went and got some cars and laid them out too. I think he was was a little bit confused when I wanted to put them aside for the beginning at least. The cars did get a look in at this point though. I thought it was the end of any kind of themed small world play, but actually they were only out for a couple of minutes before he set them aside again to concentrate on the crocodile and the wonderful swamp mixture he was concocting!

The crocodile went from gloop to sawdust and back again. It got buried, and stuck and sprinkled. It was force-fed sawdust. The spiky swamp grass got pulled apart and mixed into the gloop. Zeph asked for more water to make the gloop more liquid, and he asked for shapes that he used to scoop and tip. Until, finally, he had enough.

Did it stay a small world play activity all the way through? No. But was it lots of fun and a good activity? Yes!

Remote control car-dozer

With Tequila rabbit currently in residence on our verandah (my messy activity area), we have been focusing on more home-friendly things to do. So here is another super-simple, mess-free activity with little to no preparation or clean up required: the remote control car-dozer.

 

We used a set of foam blocks to build towers, and a new-to-us remote control jeep to knock them down. Absolutely fantastic for my oldest, who is both a car-enthusiast, and whose favourite part of any activity is when there is a breaking it up bit! This activity also gets them practicing fine motor skills, honing hand-eye coordination and gives an opportunity to explore the properties of gravity.

You need:
Blocks (can be substituted with anything else stackable – paper cups are a good option, and recyclable)
Remote control… anything (could also be substituted with a ball, or bean bags for rolling/throwing)

Elly did some good stacking – he found the cube shaped blocks the easiest ones to work with, but was too impatient to wait for the jeep to knock things down, preferring to do it by hand. After the first time or two Zeph was more interested in directing Mummy which colours to use and in driving his jeep than in actually doing a lot of buildingĀ  – I encouraged a turn-taking approach, one block each: good for getting him to engage, doing things for himself, and also social cooperation. After a while he decided to try building a wall around his car to turn it into a ‘car volcano’ instead of building a tower.