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Creative play and learning in the early years!

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    We all know that play dough is fun and popular with young children, but apart from making a mess what is it really good for? Here are the fabulous benefits of allowing kids to play with play dough and the many learning opportunities that happen along the way!

    article benefits of play dough kids
    Using play dough (or in fact any type of dough) with young children is beneficial in so many ways. Here are some ideas of how fabulous it is, divided into the areas of development that it helps:

    Fine motor development:

    The malleable properties of play dough make it fun for investigation and exploration as well as secretly building up strength in all the tiny hand muscles and tendons,  making them ready for pencil and scissor control later on. 
    Poking in objects and pulling them out of play dough strengthens hand muscles and co-ordination
    As part of simple, tactile play it can be squashed, squeezed, rolled, flattened, chopped, cut, scored, raked, punctured, poked and shredded! Each one of these different actions aids fine motor development in a different way, not to mention hand-eye co ordination and general concentration. And as soon as you add another element to it, the list of benefits and creative play possibilities continues to grow!

    play dough tool kit ideas
    These are the materials that we have to hand ready for any play dough free-play session. We keep these stored in jam jars in the cupboard and the girls can request any or all of these to add to the dough. [See more in the photo below!]


    Having a wide range of additional extras to use while playing extends the investigation and play possibilities endlessly. Poking in sticks provides a challenge and a new physical skill. Squeezing through a garlic press leads to wonder and amazement at seeing it change shape, as well as using a gross motor movement to accomplish it. Sticking in spaghetti requires a delicate hand and can lead to threading and stacking pasta shapes or beads over the top. 


    Providing boxes and containers with various shaped compartments can lead to cooking play, sorting, matching, ordering and counting, all naturally and without pressure to learn. 


    By providing objects from nature with a wide range of textures, colours and shapes, children can have multi-sensory experiences and engage with the world around them in a whole new way. 
    play dough pizzas kids
    Using leaves and herbs from the garden with some pasta and spices to make play dough pizzas!
    List of additional extras needed to create a play dough free play kit!


    This is by no means a comprehensive list, but all of these elements can be used to create plenty of exciting, open-ended play times:


    toy creatures
    straws
    rolling pins, plastic knives, scissors, pizza cutters
    cupcake cases in different sizes
    coloured and natural feathers
    pine cones, sticks, bark, leaves
     muffin tins, egg cartons, chocolate boxes,
    small cups and shot glasses
    alphabet, number and shape cookie cutters
    pasta shapes
    shells
    buttons
    glass pebbles
    toy vehicles
    wooden letters and numbers
    fabric, netting and ribbons
    match sticks and lolly sticks
    play dough ideas for learning

    Imagination and Creativity:
    As soon as you introduce open ended play items to add to the mix, play dough becomes the perfect medium for numerous types of imaginative play and can represent so many things in a child's eyes.

    A jar of candles and cupcakes cases leads naturally to birthday party role-play, counting out candles and singing! Glass pebbles can lead to sea-side imaginative small world play with story telling about sea creatures and mermaids!


     It can be chocolates and sweets in a sweet shop, cakes and bread in a bakery, grass and mud in a garden centre, sand or ice cream in a beach scene, soil, pebbles, ice or snow at the zoo/ jungle/ farm/ ocean and so on! The list is as endless as a child's imagination!
    play dough candy store sweet shop play
    Play dough sweet shop imaginative play with chocolate, strawberry and vanilla scented play dough!

    List of additional flavours and textures to add to play dough:


    scents and colours
    cocoa powder
    ginger
    cinnamon
    turmeric
    fruit juices
    food colouring
    food flavouring
    essential oils
    kool aid
    paint


    textures
    rice
    cous cous
    coriander seeds
    poppy seeds
    sesame seeds
    sawdust
    sand
    pebbles
    rock salt
    tiny pasta
    glitter 
    glitter glue
    sequins


    Calming and soothing:
    As any adult who has played with dough can tell you, the effects of all that squeezing and pummelling are great for stress relief and can feel extremely therapeutic! Little children can struggle to express their emotions and using dough while talking and singing can really help that process. 
    How about adding some essential oils to create the ultimate aromatherapy experience for little ones too!


    Maths and Literacy development:

    In more focused play, play dough can be used as a fantastic way to practise letter and number work. Children can form letters of the alphabet, spell out their own name, make numbers, form 2D and 3D shapes, compare lengths/ thicknesses/ weights, count out rolled balls to match numeral cards, match and sort by colour and SO many more ideas too!

    alphabet play dough
    Creating letter impressions in play dough by pushing in wooden letters, then decorating with beads!
    Science and Discovery:


    The actual act of making the play dough together with your child can lead to lots of questioning and prediction skills. Here we have some solid materials (flour, salt etc) to which we are going to add some liquids (oil, water.) What do you think will happen? What can we make? The child gets to explore and observe the changing state of materials in a hands-on way, and be filled with wonder as the bowl of unrelated ingredients comes together to form a sticky then smooth and squishy ball of dough! We often take these things for granted, but in the eyes and hands of a child that's quite some transformation! 


    Following a recipe and instructions, counting out cups, stirring and mixing and just being able to spend time on a collaborative project with an adult are all meaningful and important experiences too!


    What an incredible substance play dough is! Let's all start using it as part of our daily play and learning times with the young children in our care!

    making cupcakes with play dough

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    Here's a recipe for wholegrain play dough which has a wonderful texture and is perfect for baking imaginative play!

    We adore play dough in our home for all of it's wonderful developmental and educational benefits, as well as being easy to set up and a great time filler on rainy days. It also leads to wonderful imaginative play, with many opportunities for language development and storytelling, so is just perfect with preschoolers.

    This week we made some wholegrain play dough to experience a new texture in our dough and to extend the pretend play possibilities to include a bakery and cooking play!
    Here's the recipe we used:
    2 cups wholegrain flour
    1/2 cup salt
    2 tbsp cream of tartar
    2 tbsp vegetable oil
    1.5 cups boiling water

    Method:
    Place all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Stir in the boiling water and keep mixing until it comes together well and becomes a little harder to mix. Turn it onto the surface and knead it for 3-4 minutes. As you knead it will lose its stickiness and became soft, smooth and pliable. If still too sticky add a little more flour until just right.
    We laid out muffin tins, small casserole dishes, rolling pins, plastic knives, a mini loaf tin and some bowls of seeds. We used pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and poppy seeds as these are often used while baking real bread.
     They loved exploring the texture and the wonderfully evocative bread-like smell as they played.
    The seeds were investigated and tasted, forming a healthy snack as well as providing some dexterity practise while using them to decorate the bread.

    We even had a go at plaiting some loaves and Cakie rolled and twisted dough to make pretzels.

    The imaginative play developed naturally as they played. First they just explored the dough and seeds, then they rolled bread rolls and formed loaves and seasoned them. They took them off to bake ten in the oven, which on this occasion was the space under the art easel. It's somewhere different each time, even though they have a real toy oven!
    Then Cakie pulled out the yellow play dough and used it to make butter to spread on her freshly baked bread, using a knife. We were all served our food and had an indoor picnic, delish!
    The beautiful scene of focused, imaginative, intentional play!
    Learning Links:

    • creativity: using imagination to take on a role and character, using one item to represent another in play
    • literacy: storytelling through imaginative play, learning and using new vocabulary, following instructions 
    • maths: cunning out ingredients, sorting and matching, filling containers/ compartments, weighing etc 
    Cakie: 3 years 9 months
    Pop: 2 years 2 months
    Bean: 16 weeks

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    Here are some wonderful presents to make for Father's day that the children can do themselves! I just LOVE It's Playtime for the amazing wealth of ideas that are linked up! Just brilliant. 

    10 Things Kids can do for Dad from B Inspired Mama
    Hand Print Grill Apron  and 6 other gift ideas from Happy Whimsical Kids
    Adorable Pop Up Card from Multiple Mummy 
    Decorated Bowls for Dad from Hands on as we Grow



    What have you been playing or creating this week? Please link up below!

    It's Playtime is a collaborative linky hosted by:


     * Anna : The Imagination Tree

    Rachel and Holly : Kids Activities


    * Rachele : Messy Kids


    Have you got a playful or creative activity to link up? We'd love to see it!

    Please include a text link or a button (in the sidebar) so that others can find the linky easily! Thank You.


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    We all know that play dough is tactile, fun and great for all multi-sensory early developmental play. But it can also be used in creative, playful ways to promote early literacy and numeracy skills in a hands on way. There really is no need for worksheets when we have such a great resource to hand!
    Here are some super easy play dough mats that I made for the kids to practise counting, measuring, sorting, comparing, ordering, matching, letter recognition and formation and general creative good fun!
    I started off by making some really simple numeral cards. I used the rainbow paper garlands that we made for Pop's Rainbow party and simply wrote a number on each piece, from 1-20. Then I laminated them and cut them out and they make a nice, sturdy set of cards for reusing in many different activities.
    To make the literacy and numeracy mats I drew a range of creatures and objects that could be interacted with in an open-ended way, using the cards alongside them.

    First I made a simple bumble bee, without stripes, for the girls to add the appropriate number of stripes to. There is an extra challenge that can be added in here for an extension activity, of making the stripes the correct length to fit across the width of the bee's body! Cakie picked a number card as part of a fun game, put it on her playmate, then rolled and added the correct number.
    Next she added apples (or any chosen fruit) to an empty tree, using a numeral card in the same way as before. She had to go back and recount these a few times to make sure she reached the right total. Play dough is great for practising 1:1 counting correspondence as it can either be moved or squashed as it is counted, helping the child to know they have already visited that object.
    We used black play dough to create the right number of spots to add to the ladybird's wings. As an extra extension activity you could ask the child to make the spots match on either side to create a symmetrical pattern. You could also use this to make number bonds to 5, 10 or 20 in a variety of combinations.
    Cakie's favourite play mat was, of course, the empty cake! We used this to roll out candles to add, but it could have strawberries, sprinkles or any other topping instead. Open-ended fun!
    The snake family are a fun way of comparing lengths and C. found it quite a challenge to roll the correct length of dough to match each one. She had to go back and adjust lengths by removing or re-rolling each time and it was very interesting to watch her thinking skills as she worked.
    Similar cards could be made for exploring thicknesses, heights and sizes.
    The empty clock face is a simple way of introducing the time to young children, as is another good way for practising making short and long lengths of dough when creating the hands. This could be used to match times on another clock face, match numeral cards or create times that go with certain times of day e.g. ask your child "can you show me bed time/ school time/ lunch time?" etc
    I made a whole set of alphabet learning mats by simple drawing bubble letters for each grapheme in both upper and lower case. These are great for talking about letters, recognising and sounding them out and for re-creating using a very tactile, hands on method. To fill in the blank spaces Cakie had to roll out the dough into thin sausage shapes, then curl and bend around on the mats. 
    And the final mat was just for pure good fun! An empty head shape for creating funny faces, hair and emotions. Cakie said "this man is peeping out at us!" It could be used for creating long/ short hair, different coloured eyes, or counting out additional extras such as teeth, earrings or hair bows!
    Learning links:
    • literacy: recognising, naming and sounding out letters, grapheme/phoneme correspondence
    • maths: comparing and sorting by length, thickness and size / counting out objects up to 20 / counting reliably using 1:1 correspondence 
    • physical: fine motor co-ordination while rolling, squeezing and balling up the dough

    Cakie: 3 years 9 months
    Pop: 2 years 2 months
    Bean: 16 weeks

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    What a wonderful play dough week we have had!

     NurtureStore, Sun Hats and Wellie Boots and The Imagination Tree teamed up to share as many new and exciting ideas for play dough as we could each day, via our blogs and Facebook pages. And we loved the ideas you shared with us too, thank you!

    Now it's YOUR turn to link up all of your best ideas below. Let's create an amazing collection together! Do you have a post about a play dough flavour, colour, texture? Have you created an imaginative play scene or role play idea? Can't wait to see them all!

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    Here's how to make the most wonderful sensory play material for mark making, pre-writing, fine motor skills, sensory investigation and relaxing playtime fun!

    A while ago we posted about making pink salt for mark making and letter practise, which was a fantastic learning and sensory play experience.

    To build on that play time we created some new sensory salt, this time adding purple colouring, lavender essential oil and silver glitter. It truly is the most marvellous sensory material ever! So wonderfully soft and smooth, it pours so well between containers, feels lovely between your fingers (and toes!) and can be raked, drawn in, moulded, smoothed and used to create patterns and impressions.

    How to make sensory salt:
    •  pour some fine salt into a zip-loc bag
    • add a few drops of liquid food colouring (or gel colouring mixed with a few drops of water)
    • shake it up and mix with fingers through the bag until all colour is combined
    • add glitter and a few drops of essential oil and shake again
    • PLAY!!
    • Store in an airtight container indefinitely


    We poured it out on a table top that had been lined with tin foil, with a little edge created all the way around by scrunching up the foil to form a barrier. This gave it a shiny underlay that would reflect beautifully when marks were made.

    To the salt we added feathers, a potato masher, a little rake, forks, cups and fingers!
     
    The masher created wonderfully deep impressions in the salt, with ridges that could be traced like a finger-tip maze!
     Hands made lovely swirls and patterns, as well as an opportunity to practise letter and name writing for Cakie.
     The feathers were great fun for mark making and creating wavy, zig-zag and line patterns. They are easy to hold and can't be used or held wrong, making them a great pre-writing tool for young children.
    As well as the learning and play benefits, it is also a lovely way to calm down and relax, because of the therapeutic nature of playing with a sensory material and the effect of the lavender oil. It's almost a mini- zen garden for kids! Great for the end of the day when tiredness is setting in!
    Learning Links:

    • literacy: mark making, copying and following handwriting patterns, holding and using mark making tools, pre-writing skills
    • physical: strengthening hand muscles for fine motor development, gross motor "sweeping" skills, developing dexterity and hand-eye co-ordination through pouring, scooping, filling and emptying
    Cakie: 3 years 9 months
    Pop: 2 years 3 months
    Bean: 17 weeks

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     A fun and active way to learn letter names and sounds with 

    young children- noisy letter jumping!

    This is a game we used to play a lot while I was teaching Reception classes (4-5 year olds) and was always a favourite in our outdoor play area. There's research to show that if children can connect an action or movement while learning something new it is easier for them to retain that information. So action games linked to learning are brilliant for young children!
      It is extremely simple to create, requiring just chalk and the ground, yet is a great way to consolidate phoneme-grapheme correspondence in an active way. It's also a great assessment tool to quickly see which letters they are not so secure on and need to become a target for practise.
     To play this game with my 3.9 and 2.3 year olds I used only the letters from their own names, "mummy" and "daddy" (most of which overlapped anyway. With pre-writers/ pre-readers it's important to begin with the letters that are most relevant to them and which they will be learning first. Theres no need to introduce letter sounds in alphabetical order!
     We played this in 2 ways. The first was for Cakie to jump from letter to letter, noisily shouting out the sound (not the letter name) as she landed in it. She jumped on the S and shouted "Sssss Ssssss Ssssss." We changed the volume to add to the fun, so the next time she had to whisper, say it s-l-o-w-l-y, squeaky, scared etc.
     The next way we played was more of a challenge, and very fun for jumping too! She chose a place to start and I called out a letter sound she had to jump on next. She looked for it, checked she was right and jumped!
    Pop joined in by jumping and laughing along with us, occasionally calling out sounds when she heard them used by me or Cakie. Soon she will learn them too!

    Learning Links:



    • literacy: phoneme-grapheme correspondence, letter recognition, learn significant letters (from own name and family)
    • physical: jump with 2 feet together, co-ordinate body to move to a selected location
    • maths: (use numbers instead of letters) recognise and name numerals, count in order up or down to 10
    Cakie: 3 years 9 months
    Pop: 2 years 3 months
    Bean: 17 weeks

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    Here are some wonderful beach related play ideas that were linked up to It's Playtime last week! I love the range of scales and materials used in each one that's featured- just perfect for summer time fun!

    Raise a Boy created a wonderful beach themed sand box from a tyre!

    Deceptively Educational created waves in a bottle!
    Rainy Day Mum created the most ingenious and inviting, edible beach sensory tub!
     If you were featured today please take a button for your site!

    It's Playtime is a collaborative linky hosted by: Anna  at The Imagination Tree, Rachel and Holly at Quirky MommaJamie @ hands on : as we growRachele @ Messy Kids and Jenny @ Let the Children Play. We're all about PLAY!

    Have you got a playful or creative activity to link up? We'd love to see it!


    By linking up you are giving us permission to feature your post with one photo on an future featured post.

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    Make some cup cakes from pink cloud dough as a fun way to retell the popular picture book Pinkalicious!

    One of the many joys of blogging is the community that develops around the readership and fellow blog authors. I have loved getting to hear about other people's customs, traditions and ideas and also seeing the favourite books talked about in each country. 
     I found out about the very popular picture book, Pinkalicious, in this way and my girls LOVE it! If you are not familiar with it, it is a deliciously silly story about a naughty girl who eats so many pink cupcakes that she turns PINK! (cue hilarious laughter in this house, every time!)

    One of our favourite things to do with stories is to being them to life through pretend play, puppets, story boxes or other creative methods. We combined our love for sensory play with a new idea to colour cloud dough and create some cupcakes, Pinkalicious style!
     If you haven't made cloud dough before you really must try it and it couldn't be easier! Simply stir half a cup of vegetable or baby oil into 4 cups of any type of flour. Mix it together until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, then use your hands to make it smooth. It can be moulded and formed like wet sand, but is half the mess. Perfect!

    This time we coloured the dough by adding 2 tablespoons of bright pink powered paint and it instantly transformed into a vibrant play substance! (If you read the seaside cloud dough post you'll remember I couldn't get the dough to colour using food colouring. I bought some powdered paints straight after as I was determined for it to work and it does!) We bought our powder paints on eBay but most educational suppliers will carry it too.
     The girls set about forming little cakes with their hands and placed them into pink cupcake cases in muffin tins. Incidentally, this is great for sorting, counting, ordering and logical though processing skills!
    They decorated them with Hama beads for sprinkles (my favourite use for Hama beads at the moment!) and added candles to the top. Then they used them to retell their favourite parts of the story, where Pinkalicious makes and eats the cakes until she turns pink. They also LOVE the surprise ending where her brother Peter eats the final cakes and turns pink himself, so that part was acted out with lots of giggles!

    Have you tried bringing a story to life before? What did you do?

    You may also like  to see our Goldilocks Pretend Play and our Little Red Riding Hood Story Box

    Learning Links:
    • literacy: retell stories in thte correct sequence, use storybook language, take on a familiar character and remain in role during play, understand the key elements of a story
    • maths: counting, sorting, ordering, pattern making
    Cakie: 3.9
    Pop: 2.3
    Bean: 17 wks


    For more fantastic Pinkalicious ideas check out these pink play dough cupcakes from Juggling with Kids and this whole list of fun learning activities on the same theme to try from Creekside Learning!

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  • 07/02/12--05:08: Fibre Optic Sensory Cave!
  • Create a wonderful sensory experience for young children using glowing lights in the dark!

    We love turning cardboard boxes into fun places to play as they are free and can be turned into anything! They also make great tunnels, dens and caves. A while ago we used a long box to create a dark area for exploring with glow sticks and torches. 

    This time we did something similar by creating a dark cave and inserting fibre optic lights through the roof for a wonderful, sensory-rich experience for both the big girls and even baby too!
    I bought 3 of these easy function fibre optic lights from eBay, for just 99p each. They are operated by a simple button that changes the colour of the light each time it is pressed. The final option is for the lights to cycle continuously which the girls absolutely LOVE! These are great for early ICT skills and promote lots of thinking and discussion about how exactly they work.
     
    I lined 2 sides of the inside of a large cardboard box with tin foil to create a reflective surface. Then I punctured 3 holes in the top of the box using scissors and turned the lights up-side-down and poked them through. 
     Then they took turns to lie inside the "cave", looking at the amazing glow that filled the dark space (hard to show how dark it was with these pictures!) The other child would stand outside and push the buttons to change the colours, putting on a real light show inside!
     We put a sheepskin rug inside and laid baby Bean in there for a short while so that she could enjoy the lights too. She was mesmerised!
    We talked about co-ordinating all the lights to be on the same colour at once and when we did that the cave would glow accordingly and was very effective!
     Cakie loved playing with the lights out of the box too and arranged them, took them apart and quickly found there was a torch shining different coloured lights from the centre. (This was all very safe, don't worry!)
     They then explored the coloured light shadows and patterns they could create on the dark walls and floors!
    Learning Links:
    • ICT: operating equipment with simple functions, exploring how things work and the effects they can create
    • Knowledge and Understanding: light and dark, shadows, torches, using simple tools/ equipment
    • Sensory: explore the world using all of the senses, talk about what they can see and how it makes them feel
    Cakie: 3.9
    Pop: 2.3
    Bean: 18 weeks



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    Here are some fantastic ideas for summer time fun that were linked up last week! Don't forget to browse the entire collection of over 200 ideas for other wonderful activity ideas too!

    Mama Pea Pod has a fabulous Summer Bucket List filled with ideas!

    Play Dr Mom has a wonderful list of ideas for keeping kids busy on car journeys! Very useful indeed!
     Cheerios and Lattes shows us how to make ice cream in a bag! So easy and great for kids.
     If you were featured today please take a button for your site!

    It's Playtime is a collaborative linky hosted by: Anna  at The Imagination Tree, Rachel and Holly at Quirky MommaJamie @ hands on : as we growRachele @ Messy Kids and Jenny @ Let the Children Play. We're all about PLAY!


    Have you got a playful or creative activity to link up? We'd love to see it!



    By linking up you are giving us permission to feature your post with one photo on an future featured post.

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  • 07/05/12--08:24: Baby Sensory Play: Bubbles!
  • Here is the first in a series of simple play ideas for babies from 0 to 12 months. These activities focus on engaging the senses, curiosity, stimulation and early communication between baby and parents! 

    Baby Bean is 4 months old already! The time has flown by faster than ever, and has been a blur of exhaustion and busyness. Her sisters totally adore her and are desperate for her to get bigger so they can play with her, and this simple activity was a great way to foster their interaction with her.

    Here is a fun, simple and engaging activity that requires no preparation or cost, and that all members of the family can get involved in- bubble blowing!
    Activities for young babies don't need to be extravagant or over-planned. After all, everything is a first experience for young babies and the wonder and amazement of watching bubbles form and float, then fall, burst and disappear is totally mesmerising the first time it's seen!

    We lay Bean on the sofa where the girls could get close to her and where she would be safe and comfortable, then we all took it in turns to blow bubbles around her (NOT into or near her face, of course, in case the soap popped near her eyes.)

    She looked startled when she first saw the bubbles appear and stared at them, open-mouthed as they formed around her. She focused on them really intently and followed them as they floated down, watching them change and pop out of sight. As her big sisters became involved she began to laugh and smile, waking her arms with excitement and anticipating what was coming as they lifted the wand to blow each time!
    I love her thoughtful, concentration in this picture. Just imagine what her little mind is thinking and questioning! A whole new world of experiences opening up before her eyes!

    EYFS Learning Links: (birth-11 months)

    • sensory: investigate and discover the world using all of the senses, as appropriate
    • phse: respond to differences in their environment e.g. showing interest or excitement
    • maths: develop an awareness of shape, form and texture as they encounter people and things in their environment
    • physical: use movement and senses to focus on, reach for and handle objects, use movement and sensory exploration to link up with their immediate environment, reach out for and touch objects
    • knowledge and understanding: anticipate repeated sounds, sights and actions

    Bean: 18 weeks

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  • 07/09/12--03:00: Shell Imprints in Salt Dough
  • Create some beautiful,  nature print keepsakes using shells and easy homemade salt dough!

    If you read this blog often you will already know how much we love salt dough and use it often for capturing baby handprints and child footprints for display on the wall! It is ridiculously cheap and easy to make, is extremely versatile and, if done right, can last years on display! 
    To make these we made a batch of salt dough using this simple recipe:
    • 1 cup plain (all purpose) flour (NOT self-raising!)
    • 1 cup salt
    • 3/4 cup warm water

    Stir the flour and salt together then mix in the water gradually until it forms a slightly sticky dough. Knead it until the stickiness disappears and then it's ready to model with! If it remains too sticky add some more flour, if too dry add a few drops of water at a time. It can take a little bit of experimentation but is really very simple.
    The girls are now able to make this nearly independently and love the mixing and measuring of ingredients! Great also for maths skills and early science thinking and questioning about how materials combine and change during cooking.

    Once they had kneaded the dough we rolled small amounts into balls, then flattened them with the palm of the hand. Then they pushed shells with patterned ridges into the top of the discs and carefully pulled them out the reveal the imprint left in the dough. So pretty and delicate!
    When they had made a few we put them on baking parchment and on a baking tray in the oven for 3 hours at 100 degrees C (approx 200 degrees F). In the oven they are hardening rather than cooking, so they may need to be turned over once during that period, or even go back in for another hour or two if still doughy after the time is up.

    We decided not to paint or varnish these this time as they look so beautiful in their natural state, but salt dough does take paint and gloss very well!

    These are now for examining with magnifying glasses and are being kept with the real shells and other natural items we have collected on nature walks!

    Learning Links:


    • physical development: strengthening small hand muscles by kneading, rolling, forming, squishing, flattening dough, hand-eye coordination
    • maths: recognising and matching numerals, understanding the concept of ordinal numbers (i.e. 1st, 2nd, 3rd) and their practical relevance, recognising and naming 2D shapes
    • knowledge & understanding of the world: history and explanation of the Olympic games, exploring change of materials from dry (ingredients) to stretchy (dough) to hard (finished models)
    • creativity: combining media,  working in 3D, creating relief prints
    Cakie: 3.9
    Pop: 2.3
    Bean 19 weeks

    You may also like to see our Salt Dough Olympic Medals, Baby Hand and Foot Print Plaque and Kids Foot Print Keepsakes


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    Create some wild and wonderful patterned, sparkly and textured play dough to create marvellous candies and sweets in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory imaginary play!

    charlie and the chocolate factory play dough recipe
    This was totally inspired by Cakie who asked me "can we please make some Willy Wonka play dough Mummy?!" She's absolutely in love with the 1970s version of this movie (and I can't wait to read her the book when she's older!) and talks about it a lot at the moment.
    no cook play dough
    Both the girls helped me to make a double batch of our super-easy, no-cook play dough (it takes only 4 minutes!) Then we divided it up and added various colours using 2 tsps of bright powder paint for each. To two of the lumps of dough we added a few tablespoons of cocoa powder (and a few drops extra water) to make chocolate scented dough. (Alternatively you can see our real chocolate play dough recipe here.)
    charlie and the chocolate factory play dough flavours
    To create some fun effects I simply added a few extra elements. You could be hugely creative with these! I added some acrylic crystals and strawberry flavouring to make "Strawberry Whiffle", peppermint flavouring and glitter to create "Mint Fizzwangler", gold glitter to the chocolate dough to make "Chocolate Glitter-Ripple", brown marker pen drawn in straight lines to more chocolate dough to make "Toffee Scrumdidiliumptious", blue and purple marker pen dots to create "Blueberry Snozztastic" and flower print stamps with vanilla essence to make "Golden Poppernickel!"

    These were SO much fun to make and if I'd had more dough we would have made so many more weird and whacky combinations! I'm looking forward to next time :-)
    additions to play with play dough
    We raided our play dough tool kit supplies and found pom poms, cut straws, cut BBQ skewers (sharp ends cut off), Hama beads, acrylic crystal gems, lolly sticks and coloured chips. These were for adding embellishments and more whacky features to any sweetie creations they would make.
     And here are some of our fun creations! I particularly love the Everlasting Gobstoppers (top right corner) inspired directly from the movie, as well as the "swizzwingers" (named by Cakie!) which apparently "go into your mouth and out again and then make your tummy feel all lovely inside." I'd like to try those for sure!
    Cakie was especially interested in making lollipops and we worked together to layer three colours on top of each other and roll them up into a sausage shape.
    She then chopped them into discs and flattened them with her palm, sticking them onto the BBQ skewers to finish them off!
    lollipop play dough
    They decorated the lollies and Cakie got a little jug to display them in at her "chocolate factory" (our favourite toy market stall!)
    They filled up the crates and cups with all their creations and I was ordered to act out her favourite parts of the story as Mr Willy Wonka. Cakie was Charlie and poor Pop got assigned the role of an Oompa Loompa (she does love to sing and dance along with them!) 
    And because it was another rainy day and we were all a bit poorly, we decided to switch on the actual DVD and play along while we watched it. Yes, we enjoy tv and have no problem allowing our kids to watch some favourites, even playing and creating while we do so sometimes. All things in moderation!
    Here are some delicious golden chocolate bubble milkshakes which make you feel sweet and happy!

    I just loved the imaginative ideas and rich, story-based vocabulary that was being used during this play time. Imaginative play based on real stories creates a context-rich, meaningful starting point for young children and can consolidate so many early literacy and creative skills during play.

    Further play prompts:
    • what shall we make together? do you remember any of the candies/sweeties from the story?
    • what does this dough look like? smell like? remind you of?
    • what could this sweetie do? will it make us fly? giggle? hot? cold? is it fizzy? sour? sweet?
    • take on a character and act out parts of the story in role, altering voices and language as you play
    • shall we make a shop to sell these in? let's make price tags, recipts, signs etc 
    • Use a till and play money to count out and role play

    Learning Links:
    • physical development: fine motor skills (pushing, squeezing, rolling, flattening with dough), muscle strengthening through kneading and mixing
    • phse: discussing how something smells and feels, how it makes you feel, making comparisons, identifying feelings and emotions, talking about being calm and relaxed, expressing frustrations etc
    • knowledge & understanding of the world: discussing and comparing textures and scents using appropriate descriptive language, combining materials
    • literacy: descriptive language e.g. bumpy, lumpy, spiky, rough, smooth, soft, shiny etc, use story-telling language and increase vocabulary with descriptive terms such as fizzy, sour, sweet etc Take on a character and remain in role during play
    Cakie: 3.10
    Pop: 2.3
    Bean: 19 wks

    If you liked this you will definitely like our Play dough Sweet Shop Imaginative Play!

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    I've been SO exhausted this week that I didn't even manage to post the It's Playtime link up on time, let alone chose any of the wonderful posts to feature! So now that I'm managing it, it seems very appropriate to attach this wonderful poem or prayer for tired parents! I've posted this on my Facebook page before and just adore the touching sentiments within it. It's such a fantastic reminder for these early years of parenting and I hope it will encourage you too!

    Have you created some wonderful memories this week? Got a link to share? Join our kids meme!



    It's Playtime is a collaborative linky hosted by: Anna  at The Imagination Tree, Rachel and Holly at Quirky MommaJamie @ hands on : as we growRachele @ Messy Kids and Jenny @ Let the Children Play. We're all about PLAY!



    Have you got a playful or creative activity to link up? We'd love to see it!


    By linking up you are giving us permission to feature your post with one photo on an future featured post.

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    With just 2 weeks to go until the Olympics are held in our home town, we have been having some Olympic playtime fun with a small world play sports scene! 

    I am a HUGE fan of Playmobil and truly think it's one of the best designed toys for children, young and old. I love the attention to detail and some of their imaginative play sets are nothing short of awesome! (This is not a sponsored post- just my opinion!) So when I spotted these Olympic sports figures for just a couple of pounds each in a local toy store I just had to add them to our growing collection.
     I found some A3 green card and layer that as the grass base. On top of that I cut out and stuck down an oval shape for the race track and used the leftover piece to create the gymnasium. I drew some lanes with white crayon, added a couple of Olympic flags, and used some coloured straws as finish line markers, stuck in play dough.
     I set most of it up as an Invitation to Play for the girls to discover, and it was fantastic to see their faces!
     Cakie added the seating area all by herself, using wooden blocks and various people she could find. I love that Belle has snuck in at the back and even appears to be clapping!There's also a dalmatian puppy, a fairy, a train driver and a couple of Queens, for good measure. Together we attached the Union Jack cake topper flags to their hands, using more play dough to stick them. What a patriotic crowd!
    The long jump was made using coloured salt placed on a little piece of balsa wood. Read more about colouring and playing with sensory salt here.
     The athletes were extremely busy in the gymnasium!
     This guy was obviously showing off!
     The lady gymnast stood on the balance beam with a ball and hoop at the same time- so talented!
     Swinging on the rings! Pop loved to push him on this swing like he was at the park and Cakie soon decided he was better off up-side-down.
     We made a swimming pool with a drop of blue food colouring in water, inside a plastic tub. Cakie made them race up and down in the water but no-one won because "everyone's a winner in this race!" How very modern!
     Pop thought the weightlifter may also want to score some goals, and he was a pretty accurate shot.
     This guy continued to show off ridiculously! I can only presume he won the gold medal :-)
     And Pop was very confident that weightlifter would be able to both run and jump while carrying his heavy load! Didn't he do well?!
    I'm so pleased to have found such relevant toys for such a significant event and the play set up has given us lots of opportunities to introduce how the games work and what will be coming up very soon!

    Have you got any plans for celebrating the Olympics? Which are your favourite events?

    You may also like to see our Olympic salt dough medals!


    Learning Links:
    • knowledge and understanding: be aware of significant events in their own lives and the world around them, names of sports and equipment used
    • creative: use figures and objects to represent things during play
    • literacy: storytelling, take on a character and remain in role, narration
    Cakie: 3.10
    Pop: 2.3
    Bean 19 weeks
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    We are away at the moment and I can't wait to check out your links when I return!
    Have you created some wonderful memories this week? Got a link to share? 
    Join our kids meme!



    It's Playtime is a collaborative linky hosted by: Anna  at The Imagination Tree, Rachel and Holly at Quirky MommaJamie @ hands on : as we growRachele @ Messy Kids and Jenny @ Let the Children Play. We're all about PLAY!



    Have you got a playful or creative activity to link up? We'd love to see it!


    By linking up you are giving us permission to feature your post with one photo on an future featured post.

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    Create a small world play scene using real sensory elements to enrich the fun and  learning experiences for young children!

    Use a farmyard small world scene to accompany farmyard picture books, encourage creativity, encourage sustained play times, learn about animals and introduce facts about farming and agriculture. We made a simple farmyard playscene using our Melissa and Doug barn, an empty wooden crate from one of their toy sets, toy animals, and a few added sensory ingredients for tactile exploration!
    When setting up a small world play scene, I usually place them at child height on a low table top or basket and make it accessible from as many angles as possible. Leaving the small world scene out for an extended period of time (I'd say at least a couple of weeks, but more or less time following the child's lead) gives plenty of opportunities for returning to the scene and adding to it with other elements as their interest grows. Small world play was my favourite area of play to set up for my classroom while I was teaching and I still love doing it now!
    In our farmyard scene we needed a mud bath for the pigs to roll around in, so Cakie filled a tub with soil from her vegetable patch. The pigs had a wonderful time!
    The ducks, swans and peacocks needed a pond to swim on so we put a few drops of blue colouring into a tub of water to make one.

    The animals had a nice field made of hay to roam around in, as well as some grasses, rice and split peas to eat. (Looks like Granny Farmer had a slight mishap delivering the animals' breakfast this morning!)
    I adore these miniature vegetables we have in our Teeny Tiny Things collection (aka a large box of misfits that we've collected from various sets of Playmobil and Sylvanian Families!) Girl Farmer collected all of these crops and arranged them so tidily, before settling down for a rest.
    The girls loved this farmyard and played with it for much longer than they have in the past because it was set up as an Invitation to Play and because it stayed out for a long period of time. The mud and water did get mixed up together and eventually replaced, but all other toys remained within the play scene.
    Have you tried creating a small world scene? What has your child's favourite been?
    Learning Links:
    creativity: create stories using toys and other items to represent new objects
    literacy: use dolls/puppets and story props to retell stories and create new ones
    physical: fine motor skill development though arranging and ordering small objects, sensory exploration
    knowledge and understanding: exploring about farms, names and types of animals, animal behaviours/ food/ habititats/ uses etc Vegetable/ fruit names and types

    Cakie: 3.10
    Pop: 2.3
    Bean: 20 wks

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     Create some beautiful, simple land art using natural materials based on the wonderful sculptures of artist Andy Goldsworthy!

    Andy Goldsworthy is a British artist and sculptor who creates huge pieces of land art in the environment, using all natural objects such as pebbles, twigs, branches, pine cones, mud, leaves and petals. He said "my remit is to work with nature as a whole" and he has gone a long way to shaping the way we view natural art installations today.
    andy goldsworthy natural land art sculptures 
    Here are some examples of his simple, elegant art in nature, using branches, twigs and pebbles. He also said that photographing his work is the perfect way to capture it for a lifetime and to showcase it to others, so that makes it even more simple and effective as an art activity for young children- completely temporary in real life, but captured for ever on film.
    For our Kids Get Arty project this month, hosted alongside Red Ted Art, we decided to have a go at creating our own land art inspired by these works. They are so simple and easy to create that we have been able to do these while on holiday, as they require no additional materials at all! What a perfect way to add memories to a family walk, day out or vacation by creating art together!
    The girls gathered whatever they could find in the garden around the house in Italy. We found long strips of smooth, scented Eucalyptus bark, thin shiny leaves, huge piles of soft pine needles and plenty of round pine cones. They gathered what they could into baskets or by the armful, and set about creating shapes and patterns together on the flagstones.
     
    Between them they created three land art masterpieces! I love how the pine cone sculpture follows the outline shape of one of the flagstones so perfectly. And the "filling in" of the triangle of bark with the pine needles is just wonderful!

    Have YOU ever created some land or natural art? I'd love to see a photo posted to my Facebook wall!

     Check out this beautiful post about land art by The Chocolate Muffin Tree here (and then read the rest of her wonderful site too!)

    Please check out the other wonderful ideas that are linked to Kids Get Arty this month and feel inspired to learn about famous artists with your own children! You MUST see the amazing Hockney-inspired photo montage from Red Ted Art, it's genius!

    If you liked this you may like to see our Mondrian Inspired Collage too!

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    In this next post in the series of simple ideas for sensory play activities with young babies, we took our exploring outside to observe the wonder of the natural environment!

    baby sensory play activity outside nature
    As already discussed in the bubble blowing sensory play post, activities for babies don't need to be complex or overly-planned. After all, everything is a first experience for a baby! At this stage, when they are processing so much new information about the world, people and objects around them, they interpret everything through sensory inputs.
    For  this simple activity we took a rug outside and, together, laid down underneath some trees. I lay next to her and looked up and around to get a sense of her vantage point. How amazing to see things from a different perspective!
    The light made some beautfiul patterns through the leaves and branches of the trees around us, and nearby bushes and leaves sayed in the wind. These also made a lovely, calm sound and the whole setting was perfect for quiet observation together. Big sisters played around us while we lay there, and periodically brought over flowers, pine cones and leaves that they had found which they really wanted to share with baby Bean!
    We are on holiday now so these sights and sounds are different to those we would find back home in the garden or park in our big city. But even at home in the garden, the first experience of toes and fingers in the soft grass are not to be overlooked!

    How about feeling the damp sand at the beach or sand pit, trailing little fingers in water or over smooth pebbles, deliberately standing in the wind, going out at night to see how dark it is and look at the stars together! All lead to a wonderful enriching for little babies and are so vaulable as a way to learn together about the world we live in.
    What new experiences have you discovered with your little one recently?

    Bean: 5 months

    EYFS Learning Links: (birth-11 months)
    • sensory: investigate and discover the world using all of the senses, as appropriate
    • phse: respond to differences in their environment e.g. showing interest or excitement
    • maths: develop an awareness of shape, form and texture as they encounter people and things in their environment
    • physical: use movement and senses to focus on, reach for and handle objects, use movement and sensory exploration to link up with their immediate environment, reach out for and touch objects
    • knowledge and understanding: anticipate repeated sounds, sights and actions


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