Pack and unpack

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.

Simple.

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Clothes peg play

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.

You need:
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.

Jelly: shapes and cars

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Jelly is a fantastic, versatile sensory material. It is, of course, wibbly wobbly. It’s also a whole lot of bouncy, squishy, fun!

First, while Elly napped, Zeph helped me make jelly hearts, jelly cupcakes and a jelly slab. Any jelly mix will do, but I chose to use gelatin powder, water and food colouring to avoid a sugar shot in the case the kids decided to eat the lot. This is super simple – just follow the instructions on the gelatin packet, or try the method at the end of the post. Zeph was really interested in the effect of mixing the powder into cold water, and then watching it disappear (dissolve) when it went into the warm water.

Once the jelly was set and Elly was awake we chose our preferred implements: forks, spoons and chopsticks for experimentation and mark making; shapes from our shape sorter to use like cookie cutters (Zeph really enjoyed this); and, as always, cars!

The play started out with poking and prodding at the jelly and proceeded with Zeph cutting out shapes and Elly digging in wih a spoon. They tried turning the moulds upside down and tipping or shaking it out, they squished it between their fingers and bounced it on the ground. They tipped or scooped squished pieces from container to container. Elly tried picking it up with chopsticks but not with much success. Finally they drove cars through in and buried them underneath it.

This activity was a success with both boys: Zeph can do things like this for up to an hour, and though Elly normally gets bored more quickly he probably spent fifteen or twenty minutes happy with this. With some of our messy play he’ll tell me ‘finished’ in sign language and then try to go and get into the bath after about three minutes as that is one of his favourite parts of anything!

It is quite a messy activity, especially with my kids, who almost always get to a point where they want to throw things around! We do things like this on the verandah where it’s a little more contained and I can wash it down easily, but an outside space would also be perfect if you have one available.

To make jelly with gelatin

Ingredients
1 tablespoon gelatin powder (extra gelatin increases how solid the jelly is)
475mls warm water
3 or 4 tablespoons cold water
Food colouring

Method
Add the gelatin to the cold water. It will become a lumpy semi-solid.
Dissolve the gelatin mix in warm water.
Add food colouring.
Pour in into moulds and refrigerate until it sets.