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Creative play and learning in the early years!

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    Create an easy birthday countdown with balloons containing little surprises, ready to be popped in the lead up to the big day!

    I don't know about your kids, but when mine are approaching their birthdays the excitement is palpable and it almost feels like they're going to burst before the day comes! In order to help with the anticipation, we set up a count down system to begin one week beforehand, using just balloons and a few extra additions!
     I wrote out some really easy-to-achieve activity ideas for each day of the week preceding the birthday, including one really special outing (the cinema with Daddy!) For the final day, on Birthday Eve as we call it, the note said we would have a movie night with popcorn and open one present from under the Birthday Tree!

     I found some small sweets (you could use healthier snacks too, of course) and some stickers that I could fold up. Into each balloon went one surprise ticket/note, 2 sweets and 2 stickers. To get them in they needed to be rolled up and slipped into the neck of the balloon before inflating.
    Then the numbers were written on from 7 down to 1, using a permanent marker. They were stuck up from the ceiling using some blu-tac, ready to be popped each morning to discover their hidden contents!
     The first thing that Cakie mentioned every morning was her birthday surprise balloons and she came rushing downstairs, asking to pop them! The great thing about doing this before they can read, is that you can change your mind about what the papers say if needed!

    Have you ever done a birthday count down at your house? What did you do? I'd love to hear about it!

    You may also like to see our Birthday Tree tradition too!

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    Add an exciting range of loose parts to the sand box to increase the creative play possibilities and stimulate some open-ended, child directed learning at the same time! 

     One of the most neglected areas of play space can be the humble sand box with a simple bucket and spade and sand moulds often being the only toys included.  But with a few added extra play ingredients it can become the most wonderful setting for imaginative play, building, landscaping, counting, pattern making and story telling!

    Here's a checklist of a few new added extras that we introduced to expand the play possibilities this summer:

    large range of buckets, tubs in different sizes:
    for filling, emptying, moulding, building, construction, transporting etc

    large and small spades and rakes:
    for digging, patting, moulding, levelling, scoring, tunnelling, channelling etc
    shells and pebbles: 
    dfor adding details and decorations, making paths and tracks, counting, sorting, pattern making, creating land art etc
    duplo lego blocks:
    for building and constructing, pattern making, printing in damp sand, town building, counting, sorting etc
    pine cones:
    for representing people, fairies and trees in imaginative play, counting, sorting, pattern making, land art etc
    fabric flowers, petals and plants:
    for decorating sculptures, adding to land art, sorting, making trails, imaginative play additions, making flower pot cupcakes, garden role play etc
    water is so often overlooked and very often sand boxes and play tables only offer dry sand. There's SO much more that a child can accomplish using damp sand rather than dry, from constructing castles to digging water channels and making drip sculptures (as above.)

    cars and trees:
    for making roadways, parks, cities and other imaginative play-scapes.

    Here is a roadway city-scape that we made together using a spade to flatten out the roads and other ingredients to create the scene for the cars to drive through!

    Here is a beautiful land art sculpture made by Cakie with shells and flowers!

    Other ideas:
    toy dinosaurs, insects, wild animals
    sticks and twigs
    pieces of material
    dry powder paint
    forks, sieves, colanders
    large and small leaves

    Have you tried anything else new in the sand table? Feel free to share an idea or a link!

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    Here are 5 wonderful activities which promote fine motor development in young children, as well as promoting sorting, matching and problem solving skills! 
    These were all ideas linked up to It's Playtime last week!

    Clockwise from the top:

    15 Fine Motor Ideas for Toddlers from Mummy Musings and Mayhem

    Woollen Pom Pom Weaving by Crafty Little People

    Sorting nuts and bolts by Adventures at home with Mum

    Were you featured today? Grab a badge!

    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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  • 09/11/12--07:39: Willy Wonka Birthday Party!
  • Create a magical birthday party based on the wonderfully whacky story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl, filled with colour, sweeties and crazy invention games!
    Approximately 5 minutes after Cakie's 3rd birthday Fairy party last year, she declared that she wanted her 4th birthday party to be "all about Charlie and the Factory!" She absolutely adores the 1970s version of the movie and was very excited about the idea of a garden filled with sweeties and chocolates, and it did seem like a great idea for a party! So here is what we did....
    On the wonderful eBay, I found pre-made Wonka bars, complete with Golden Tickets tucked inside! These formed the invitations and on the back of the ticket I wrote the details. I admit that I was pretty excited about these myself (who didn't want to get one of these as a child?!)
    The food was laid out on a table with green coconut "grass" to represent the chocolate garden. In the middle was a chocolate fountain to represent the river and waterfall with fruit and marshmallows to dip into it (no Augustus Gloop to push into it, though I did contemplate it!) 
    I used spheres of florists oasis to become little trees in pots, growing various foods to pick off and eat! There were tomatoes, savoury snacks and lollipops, as well as other things in bowls.
    Little signs with quotes from the film and lemonade in lovely bottles re-labelled as "Fizzy Lifting Drink" to make you fly after you drink it!
    The cake was a 6 layer rainbow cake covered with jelly beans, which seemed crazy enough to be very Willy Wonka indeed! I've seen this cake around for a couple of years now and have always wanted to make it. It was surprisingly manageable (following my corner-cutting, lazy method!) I will post a separate cake how-to soon. I told her there was a surprise wanting inside her cake and, thankfully, she loved it!
    It was such glorious weather that the whole party took place in the garden, and we nearly didn't need any party games in the end because they were happy in the paddling pool and with all the activities that were set up! There were giant cardboard circles stuck on bamboo canes and ordinary balloons on sticks placed all around the garden, to represent lollipops.
    There was an Invention Room where the kids could design and decorate their own sweets and cupcakes using a fabulous range of craft supplies from Yellow Moon (one of my favourite go-to places for all things creative and fun!) 

    We had pipe cleaners, coloured buttons, cupcake foam stickers, beautiful ribbons, speckled feathers, pom poms, glitters, glitter glue and PVA glue, as well as sweet shapes cut from card and cup-cake templates to decorate. There was a competition to design the most fantastic sweet (worthy of Slugworth's envious eye!) and the winners chose prizes from the prize tub.
    Around the lawn there were little play stations to keep them busy and engaged. There were some purple water beads and neon cups for scooping and pouring, a large tub of coloured rice and tape-wrapped cardboard tubes for turning into sweetie machines, churning out coloured sweets through the pipes! This was a really popular area, with the girls' cousin ending up sitting in it to play for quite a while.

    On a table there was some Wonka play dough with coloured buttons, candles, cup-cake cases and empty chocolate trays, for creating some fantastical and delicious sweets and chocolates to play with! You can also read this post about making weird and wonderful Wonka dough and ideas of what to add into it.
    We ended up playing very few of the planned games in the end because there was no need, but we did play a couple.

    Golden Ticket Treasure Hunt was a hit and everyone got a prize! I painted a large piece of cardboard with gold paint and cut it into tickets, adding numbers with glitter glue. These were hidden around the garden and each child given a number to go and hunt for. Once their ticket had been found, they traded it for a wrapped book in the prize bucket (The Book People sells sets of 10 popular children's books for £9.99, so less than £1 each!)

    The Golden Egg Race was simply an egg and spoon race, split into 4 runners at a time, using plastic gold eggs. My trusty chicken sat in her basket nest and watched to see if her eggs would be "good or bad" (I know, it's a goose really but I didn't have one of those!) Lots of simple fun!

    Piñata: At the very end of the afternoon there was a number 4 piñata, filled with felt tip pens and plastic gold coins to collect after it was broken open, scooping the treasures into individual paper bags.
     For take home gifts there were bags of Wonka's Scrumptious Chocolate Play Dough and giant lollipops, as well as party hats and blowers. See how to make easy no-cook chocolate play dough here.
    I had lots more games planned, including throwing bean bag "bubble gum" into Violet Bauregard's mouth (a hole in a cardboard box!) and jumping across the chocolate river (an old golden curtain) but we can save those for another time! The birthday girl had a wonderful day and we were very lucky to have such lovely friends come and share it with her. Thank you all!
    Like birthday party ideas? You may enjoy these ones too:

    Please share YOUR party ideas too! I LOVE parties!

    Thank you to Yellow Moon for supplying the craft supplies for this party!

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    Create some beautiful art work with kids, inspired by the great Van Gogh, using just paint, fingers and paper! Easy, child-centred, open-ended and stunning!

    We've been inspired by the great artist Vincent Van Gogh for our latest Kids Get Arty project! The children had a look at The Starry Night in our art books and at pictures online and we talked about the effects he created in the night sky, using swirls and dabs of paint.
    Vincent Van Gogh- The Starry Night

     It's important to start by just looking and talking about great art before creating, and finding out about the subject matter and how they approached it is great for adding context and a bit of art historical understanding!
    We decided to have a go at simply swirling and mixing colours using paint and fingers and then using the patterns created to lift off prints! Pop poured some blue paint onto a baking sheet covered in tin foil.
    Next, she added white and yellow (the other colours we could see in his night sky depiction) and used both hands to swirl around and make marks with her fingertips.
    WE carefully laid a piece of paper over the top and lifted it off to reveal a lovely pattern had been left as a print. The first couple were a little paint-heavy, so by the 3rd and subsequent prints they turned out really clearly and beautifully. We left the first prints to dry with plans to return!
     Later we came back to add more layers of print over the top, to create further dimension and detail to the swirly night sky. This time she poured a darker blue straight onto the baking sheet and repeated the process.
     We added gold for some reflection of the stars and moon and by the time we had finished we had about 4 layers of print over the top of each other. The results were stunning!
     These are going to be framed in pride of place in our home near our creative area. This art was very much inspired by Van Gogh and not an attempt to copy his picture in any way, thus leaving the focus on developing artistic skills with an open-ended result, not aiming for a finished carbon-copy.

    We will definitely be returning to this easy-peasy finger printing method with lots of other bright colours very soon. I feel a huge, collaborative wall art project coming on!

    Red Ted Art

    Pop: 2 years 5 months

    Have you created ART with your children recently? Tell us about it or, even better, link up your post below! Check out Red Ted Art for more about this ongoing project!

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    It's officially nearly Autumn and I'm excited because I just adore everything about this season! Here are 5 fantastic ideas for playing and creating with kids as the leaves start to change and the conkers fall.

    1: Very creative autumn leaf stained glass window art from Taming the Goblin

    2: Lovely collection of Autumn play ideas from SunnyDayTodayMama

    3: Beautiful autumnal rice sensory box from Play Through the Day

    4: Adorable, natural autumnal mobile from Red Ted Art

    5: Wonderful sensory experience with autumnal cloud dough from Playful Learners

    Were you featured today? Grab a badge!

    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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    What do super-hero masks, great imaginative role-play, Kodak and BritMums have in common? A fabulous set of free Avengers printables to download, coupled with a great competition to enter, that's what!

    To celebrate  the release of The Avengers on DVD, Kodak has come up with a fantastic, printable party kit to extend play and creativity opportunities at home! It includes character masks, invitations, place cards, posters and fold out figures. When we were asked to test them out we jumped right in and had a lot of fun!

    We printed out the masks using the Kodak 7.1 Hero printer which produced superb quality images on photo paper (even my hubby was impressed), the colour cartridges for which are great value too (bonus!) I cut them out and attached some string to them, then the girls donned them for some super-hero play time. Pop wore the Captain America mask, but quickly became known as her alter-ego Captain Adorable instead! Cakie loved the gold colour of Iron Man and strutted around in that mask, calling herself Golden Girl (suits her to a tee!)
    We attached the ugly Incredible Hulk mask to our giant orangutan toy and he instantly transformed into the baddie who needed to be defeated. They also decided it would be brilliant fun to jump out on Daddy from behind a door with it, roaring and frightening him silly! I wish I had that moment on film because it was pretty funny! The masks are now stored in their dressing up box for more super-hero play times in the near future.

    Ready for the FUN?!
    Here's the exciting part! There's a seriously fun and easy competition to enter over on the
    BritMums Blog with a chance of winning £500 for the top prize, or a brand spanking new Kodak 7.1 Hero Printer for 3 lucky runners up! All you have to do is take a photo of your child wearing their Avengers mask, blog about it and link it up to the BritMums challenge (all details, terms and conditions are on their site.) The most creative and innovative entries win!
    You can download your own fantastic Avengers printables kit from the Kodak website and print them out to use straight away! Who will you choose to become?

    Would you want to meet him in a dark alley? Me neither!
    Check out what Red Ted Art did with the masks!
    Check out what The Alexander Residence did with theirs too! Be inspired!

    I am an ambassador for the BritMums #superherocrafts project, sponsored by Kodak. I was paid for this post.

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  • 09/14/12--15:57: How to Make a Rainbow Cake
  • Here's how to make a beautiful, jelly bean rainbow cake for an exciting addition to a colourful, birthday party! Fun and unique and not as hard as it looks to create!
    When I first saw this rainbow cake idea a couple of years ago I was amazed by it, but completely put off making it because of the complicated instructions that I found. Most seemed to suggest freezing layers of cake, cutting the tops off and other labour intensive stages that seemed much too difficult! But when Cakie decided she wanted a Willy Wonka birthday party, this seemed to fit the theme perfectly, so I decided to just have a go and hope for the best! It really wasn't as hard as I expected and I cut corners with an easy cake recipe and by using store bought icing! 

    Here's what I did:


    I trebled my trusty go-to Victoria sponge recipe, with the aim of making 6 thin layers of cake. It's lovely and easy because it is mixed all in one- perfect!

    9 eggs
    540g self- raising flour
    540g softened butter
    540g caster sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla essence
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    gel food colouring
    dash of milk
    • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and grease two 7 inch cake tins with removable bases
    • Mix all the ingredients (except the food colouring) in a large bowl until smooth, using using electric beaters
    • Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions, each in a separate bowl. (I did this by eye, by first splitting it into 3 portions, then dividing those in half. Of course you can do it however you like, but this seemed easier and a good way to ensure each portion was the same size.)
    • Add 1 teaspoon of gel food colouring to each bowl of mixture and mix in really well. I used Wilton brand and they were really vibrant! I used red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. (Yes, I know food colouring isn't healthy, but I do think birthdays are special, one-off occasions! The natural colourings, though a much better option, just don't look as vibrant at all.)
    • Bake two cakes at a time for 25 minutes. Insert a metal skewer to the middle of the cake to see if it comes out dry. If it still has doughy cake mixture on it then leave it for 5 more minutes and try again. You don't want these to over-cook as that will increase the crumbliness, which makes the decorating difficult.

    • When cool, place the purple layer on a cake stand ready to start the sandwiching of the layers together! I borrowed a tip I've seen on You Tube in the past, of tearing 4 strips of paper and sticking them under the edges of the cake (as you can just make out in the photo above). This is great for catching icing mistakes, as when you pull the paper out later it takes all the mess with it!
    • I totally cheated and bought 3 tubs of Betty Crocker's vanilla buttercream icing/ frosting as I didn't want the stress of getting the perfect icing consistency and knew that I could mess up a beautiful cake by getting it wrong! Icing IS really easy to make though, so if you're not as lazy as me, try this recipe from all
    • I used a small amount between each layer of cake to sandwich them together and secure them. Make sure you use enough so that it can be seen when cut, as this adds to the visual impact! 


    • When all the layers are sandwiched together, create a "crumb coat" of icing over the entire cake, i.e. a thin layer of icing that will catch all the loose crumbs. It doesn't matter if this first layer is a bit messy, just ensure it's fairly even.
    • Either put it in the fridge (if you live somewhere hot) or leave out on the side for a couple of hours, to dry out and set a little. Then come back and add the final layer of icing. By keeping it simple and white it really adds to the WOW when the colours are revealed inside!
    • When it as completely covered I added a packet of jelly beans all over it and made a quick number 4 topper by writing the number in glitter glue on some card and sticking it to the middle of a lollipop. 

    The birthday girl was thrilled with her whacky, jelly bean rainbow cake and completely amazed to see the colours inside it! This cake was MUCH easier than I thought it was going to be and I would definitely make it again. Cutting corners by using store bought icing and not bothering to freeze it in-between icing definitely removed some of the stress factor and made it a manageable morning's project.

    Have you ever tried making an unusual birthday cake? Please share your ideas in the comments!

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    Are your kids always perfectly behaved, listen to everything you tell them and respond immediately? Yeah, me neither! That's because they're normal children and we are still on a steep learning curve as new parents. Well, there's GREAT news on the horizon with a fantastic free webinar from parenting expert Amy McCready this week!
    Here's all the information you need!

    Get Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling
    Why is it so difficult sometimes to get kids to listen? You know she heard you, but she ignores you. You ask again and still . . . no response. If you’re tired of nagging, reminding and yelling to get kids to listen – this session is for you! The Imagination Tree is excited to partner with Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions & TODAY Show contributor to offer a FREE LIVE training on Wednesday, September 19th at 9PM UK Time.
    [Use this handy time calculator to find out what time it will be in your part of the world and come and join us!]

    Join us to learn easy to implement strategies to correct misbehavior and reclaim the calm voice you had before kids.
    Discover proven tools for your most frustrating discipline dilemmas including the 5 R's of Fair & Effective Consequences.
    All you need is your computer. (No webcam required.) You'll see and hear Amy on your screen and you can even ask questions and she'll make them part of the presentation. Parents RAVE about this session.
    RSVP today and then kick back and learn from the comfort of your home.
    Webinar seating will be limited so learn more and RSVP now! I'll look forward to welcoming you.
    About Amy McCready
    Parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and a "recovering yeller." She is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well -behaved kids. Amy reaches a worldwide audience with her Positive Parenting Solutions Online course and is a frequent guest on the TODAY Show and has also appeared on Rachael Ray, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, and elsewhere. In her most important role, she is mom to two teenage boys.


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    Make some stick puppet story-props using the free Avengers prinatbles from Kodak to do some story telling and super-hero dramatic play!

     To celebrate  the release of The Avengers on DVD, Kodak has come up with a fantastic, printable party kit to extend play and creativity opportunities at home! It includes character masks, invitations, place cards, posters and fold out figures. [You can see how we played with the masks in this post, plus find details of an incredible competition to enter too!]

    We thought it would be fun to make some story-telling props using the character cards, for making up super-hero stories together! They were really easy to make and great fun as an afternoon activity.
     We printed out the character cards using the Kodak 7.1 Hero printer on photo paper. Then we cut them out,  folded them in half and stuck them onto coloured lolly sticks with pritt stick glue. Cakie then stuck each one into a blob of blu-tac to keep them standing up on the table during play for when she wasn't using them.
     To make it into a play scene, I cut a simple skyline scene from a cardboard box which they coloured with black crayons. Then we stuck on windows from tin foil and voila, an easy-peasy backdrop to set the scene for the superheroes!
    Don't forget! There's a seriously fun and easy competition to enter over on the
    BritMums Blog with a chance of winning £500 for the top prize, or a brand spanking new Kodak 7.1 Hero Printer for lucky runners up! All you have to do is take a photo of your child wearing their Avengers mask, blog about it and link it up to the BritMums challenge (all details, terms and conditions are on their site.) The most creative and innovative entries win!KodakAvengers
    You can download your own fantastic Avengers printables kit from the Kodak website and print them out to use straight away!  What would YOU make with these character cards? Maybe a game of Snap? Memory? Decorate a lunch box? Get creative!

    I am an ambassador for the BritMums #superherocrafts project, sponsored by Kodak. I was paid for this post.

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  • 09/19/12--01:27: Paper Plate Number Spinner!
  • Make an easy, fun resource for counting and number recognition using paper plates and foam number stickers!

    math number spinner paper plate counting
    As part of our new Playful Maths series we will be making some of our own numeracy resources for simple. fun maths play at home. This number spinner was extremely easy to make and a great resource to have ready for some counting fun and number hunt games!
    Using 2 colourful paper plates left over from a birthday party, Cakie stuck foam number stickers around the outside edge of one plate. On this occasion I helped her by showing her how to space them out evenly so that they could be seen properly when used with the viewing window. They both also went on to decorate a few extra plates with numbers in any pattern and order that they liked as well!
    Then we simply added a ball of blu-tac in the centre of the plate, cut a small rectangle on the edge of the second plate, and stuck it over the top. I pushed a drawing pin (push pin) through the middle and onto the blu-tac, although a split-pin would have been the perfect tool for the job (use one if you have one!)
    Ta da! All finished very quickly and ready to play! Some ideas for questions include:

    Can you find the number that shows how old you are?
    Can you use the spinner to count around the circle from 1-10 and then 10-1 again?
    Show me the number that is 1 more than 2
    Show me the number that comes before 10
    Show me how many fingers/ toes. hands/ feet eyes you have etc!
    These would be a great resource for numeracy time at school or nursery too, or out as part of playful investigation in a maths area of the classroom.
    Learning Links:

    • maths:  Ordering numbers, counting up and down to 10, finding 1 more and 1 less than, basic addition and subtraction, ordinal and cardinal numbers etc

    Cakie: 4.0
    Pop: 2.6
    Bean: 6 mos

    See more of our Playful Numeracy series here!

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    There were some fun ways to play with letters linked up last week! Have a try of these activities!

    A fun name recognition sensory tub from Creative Family Fun

    Matching upper and lower case letters with spoons! from Praises of a Wife and Mommy

    Simple fun with an alphabet treasure hunt from Highhill Homeschool

    Were you featured today? Grab a badge!

    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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  • 09/21/12--15:42: Autumn Leaf Spin Art Garland
  • Celebrate the beginning of Autumn by creating some beautiful fall leaves using oils pastels, paint and glitter to make a spin art garland!

    Creating spin art is one of the girls absolute favourite ways to create pictures. It is easy, achievable by all, virtually mess-free and produces vibrant results that are different every time. Just perfect for an open-ended, experimental art project for young kids (and adults too- I love it!)

    At Easter time we made a funky spin art Easter egg garland to decorate the living room, so now that we are entering Autumn we decorated some leaf shapes in a similar way to (finally) update our decor and bring some seasonal warmth and colour inside! They absolutely LOVE having their art on display.
    These are the simple steps:
    * cut some leaf shapes from card and invite your children to colour and decorate them using oil pastels,   crayons, pens or pencils (or a combination of them all)
    * attach to the inside basket of a salad spinner using a blob of blu-tac
    * squirt paint and glitter glue onto the card
    * spin really fast (a great gross motor development skill!)
    * add more colours of paint and glitter, then re-spin, to create a great build-up of overlapping layers
    * when dry, sew through the leaves using needle and thread, taping the back of each leaf to keep them in place on the garland
    * hang up and admire!

    This activity is great for developing these skills and concepts:
    creativity, independence, colour mixing, mixed media, layering, achievement, collaboration, leaf names and shapes, changing seasons

    Cakie: 4.0
    Pop: 2.6
    Bean: 6 mos

    See our Fireworks spin art here!
    See our colour spin art here!

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  • 09/24/12--08:30: Coffee Shop Role Play
  • Set up a coffee shop dramatic play scene for some great role-play, language development, story telling, money play and emergent writing! Fun, creative and educational too!

    Pretend play scenarios are some of the richest and most enjoyable playtimes we have together and they can offer great opportunities to practise playful reading, writing and maths in a real life context. In my classroom while I was teaching we changed our role play area often, from a space rocket to a house, flower shop to an Indian takeaway! Whatever the real life setting, try and use as many real objects, images and implements as possible to create a true to life experience for acting out. 
    We set up a little table and chairs with a tea towel table cloth, a vase of paper flowers, china plates and tiny cups, a toast rack, a ceramic tea pot, real coffee pot, paper napkins and our wooden cake set. Then we made some herbal tea, frothy milk with chocolate sprinkles and brought out some real cakes on a dish.

    Cakie made a menu by using emergent writing marks, from left to right across the pages in zig-zags and squiggles, mimicking the style of adults. She narrated what it was she was writing as she did so, "cakes and hot chocolate and sandwiches and drinks." The girls then took it in turns to be the waitress, holding a notepad to scribble down the orders, and going away to bring back the drinks and serve them up. Creating context-ricj scearios for "real writing" with a purpose, is a fundamentally important stage in the early literacy process and it shouldn't be rushed or dismissed as unimportant. It's how they come to understand the value and purpose behind words!

    We enjoyed our real cakes, tea and hot milk and when Cakie decided it was closing time (we were kicked out without any warning!) we used our real coins and play till to count up the money we owed and pay up! Great for number recognition, counting and understanding about money.

    This activity promotes: early literacy, early maths, recognising and naming coins, recognising numerals, counting up to a certain amount, pretend reading and writing, mark making, acting in role, taking on a character, storytelling, understanding of how cafes work, talking about the job of a waitress and chef

    See our other role-play scenarios and their learning benefits here:
    Shoe shop dramatic play
    Doctor's surgery dramatic play
    Garden Centre pretend play
    Play dough sweet shop role play
    Play dough bakery role play
    Post Office pretend play

    What's YOUR favourite to make in your home or classroom?

    Cakie: 4.0
    Pop: 2.6
    Bean: 6 months

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    Here are some incredibly exciting, diverse and educational science experiments for kids that were linked up to It's Playtime last week! These are all worth trying out with your own children and teach so much at the same time (for adults too!)

    Top to bottom, left to right:

    Find out about density by making a liquid rainbow! with SugarSnips

    Make elephant toothpaste! with Forgetful Momma

    Explore aerodynamics! with Hey Mommy, Chocolate Milk!

    Watch amazing colour mixing in milk with Pre-School Play

    Make some incredible lava lamps with Science Sparks!

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    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!

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  • 09/30/12--10:59: Super-Hero Writing Prompt!
  • Spark some exciting story writing using a superhero photo prompt to make a book together!
    We have been having lots of fun this past month using these free Avengers superhero prinatbles from Kodak! We played super-hero imaginative play games using the masks and created a cityscape for story-telling with puppet story props.
    This time we used the posters to create an exciting story writing prompt to be put into a little book! We printed out the posters using the Kodak 7.1 Hero printer on A4 photo paper. I trimmed around the edges so that they would fit onto A4 card when stuck down and Cakie chose her favourites to use.
    She stuck the pictures into her book and on another piece of card she wrote some emergent writing all about the pictures using some familiar letters and letter-like marks to represent meaning. Then she read back to me what she had written; "This story is about the goodies and the baddies who were fighting each other!"

    Writing stories using photos and characters as prompts is a great way for children to jump into storytelling with no pressure and lots of ideas to take from the pictures! You could try this with any favourite character or even photos of your own child doing an activity.

    You can download your own fantastic Avengers printables kit from the Kodak website and print them out to use straight away! What would YOU make? 

    I am an ambassador for the BritMums #superherocrafts project, sponsored by Kodak. I was paid for this post.

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    Create some fun, engaging discovery bottle toys for babies and toddlers by using recycled and everyday materials from around the house! These are cheap to make, long lasting and can easily be adapted to create exciting and intriguing sensory play experiences for little ones.
     It has been a LONG time since I first made a discovery bottle for Pop, when she was just 8 months old! Now that Bean is sitting up and dragging herself around on her tummy, she is excited to explore everything from her new vantage point and test out what every object can do! 
    She has been enjoying a homemade treasure basket (much like this one that we made in the past) and I decided to get the older girls to help me create some new discovery bottles to present her with for sensory play and exploration! 
    We found some small, empty water bottles and dried them inside. Next we added simple materials from the craft baskets and kitchen cupboards that are too small for her to handle, but just perfect for safely exploring through the clear window of a bottle!  The items were chosen based on the sound that they create when shaken, for being bright and captivating or for the way they move in liquid, perfect for tiny developing senses to explore.

    These are the different discovery bottle contents:
     (left to right, top to bottom)

    1. Water with brightly coloured Hama beads (pony beads are similar in the US) for noise, colour and movement

    2. Ripped pieces of tin foil for gentle, slow movement and reflection of light

    3. Red water mixed with 1cm of vegetable/ baby oil, for mixing and separation of liquids

    4. Brightly coloured, twisted pipe cleaners for visual interest

    5. Blue water and a variety of sea shells for gentle sounds and interesting objects to examine

    6. Water, plastic crystals and a large amount of silver glitter for noise and beautiful movement and dispersement

    7. Yellow water with a large squirt of washing up liquid (dish soap in US) for shaking and creating bubbles and froth

    8. Mixture of pom poms in various colours and sizes, for visual stimulation and early maths concepts

    9. Coloured, shaped buttons for fabulous noise and exciting colours

    10. (not pictured) Multi-coloured dry rice for fabulous shaky noise!

    Once the ingredients are inside the bottle, seal it shut with a glue gun or extremely strong sealant. Obviously don't use these around an inquisitive toddler who can unscrew caps,  if they can't be secured.

    We are keeping these in a couple of baskets between the kitchen and living room, where she spends most of her day. She loves to roll them, bash them and watch as the objects move and dance before her eyes! They are also great for 1:1 play with an adult or  an older child, exploring and examining together!

    Bean: 7 months

    Have you ever made any discovery bottles or boxes? 
    What did you add to yours!?

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  • 10/02/12--08:59: Making Art with Oddities!
  • We were set the fun challenge of playing with some Oddities from Jacob's (cute name) and who can refuse both food AND creativity in one go?! Yes please we said!
    These Oddties are a baked snack, formed into various different fun shapes, including animals, bones, stars and rockets! This means they appeal to kids even more, and are fun for playing with, telling stories and creating some incidental art whilst munching.

    We set an additional challenge, just for fun, of learning some maths at the same time! 
    They made some shapes and dabbled in a little bit of sequencing and pattern making! 

     But mainly they just got gobbled up! Thanks for these YUMMO Oddities treats Jacob's!

    This is a sponsored post

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  • 10/02/12--10:06: Cinnamon Play Dough Cookies
  • Make some delicious smelling cinnamon and nutmeg play dough, ready for homely pretend play baking and cooking making together! Easy, no-cook recipe which results in plenty of afternoons filled with creative play and learning together!

     fall and autumn cinnamon no-cook play dough recipe

    I think you know by now that we are certified play-dough addicts! You can read all about the benefits of playing with play dough if you want to know why we love it so much.  One of the things that's so great about it is that it can be made in just 4 minutes and can then be coloured and scented to become whatever your heart's desire might be. 
    cinnamon play dough recipe
    With the beginning of Autumn, home fires and chilly nights, I always feel like baking and hunkering down for the months ahead. The aromatic scents of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla are just perfect for the cold seasons and this play dough smells just like Christmas!

    To make cinnamon and nutmeg play dough, simply follow our best ever no-cook recipe (which takes only 4 minutes, promise!) and then provide a shaker each of cinnamon and nutmeg for little ones to sprinkle liberally over the top and mix in, to create that wonderful smell! We also added a little natural yellow colouring to give more authenticity, as well as a LARGE dose of golden glitter for good measure!
    We dug out the rolling pins and proper cookie cutters and the girls made their own bakery, cutting biscuits, sprinkling with more spices and baking them in the pretend oven! They counted them, lined them up and practised lots of maths skills without realising it. They were then served up to willing customers in a pretend play cafe (inspired by our coffee shop play last week!)
    [This activity is GREAT for: developing fine motor skills and muscle strength (needed for writing later on!), recognising circles, understanding that combining materials can create new substances, sensory exploration, pretend play, imaginative skills, language and role play, understanding basic maths concepts such as money and paying.]

    Cakie: 4.1
    Pop: 2.6
    Bean: 7 mos

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    Enjoy this fabulous selection of pumpkin activities to do with kids this Autumn season! All original, fun, creative and achievable ideas for young kids and great for adding to a Fall bucket list!

    Be inspired by these ideas from our own site and also these wonderful sites that have linked up through It's Playtime!

    Pumpkin Drip Art [The Imagination Tree]

    Sparkly Sequinned Pumpkins [The Imagination Tree]

    Secret Message Pumpkins [Reading Confetti]

    Fist Print Pumpkins [Putti's World]

    Pumpkin Bath Puff [Crafty Journal]

    Personalised Pumpkin Art [Inspired Housewife]

    Felt Pumpkin Story Board [Love, Play and Learn]

    Pumpkin Candle Jars [Momma's Fun World]

    Pumpkin Recipes [Healthy Branscoms]

    Chalk Pumpkins [Preschool Powol Pockets]

    Pumpkin Painting [Art Club Blog]

     Were you featured today? Grab a badge!

    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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