Dinosaurs

This has been our most exciting theme so far. It seems all children love dinosaurs, maybe it’s because they are a bridge between make-believe monsters and real-life animals that could (and did) exist!

Here is a round up of all the fun we had during this two week theme:

Dinosaur Eggs

At the beginning of the first week, we set up our dinosaur eggs to be discovered by the girls – they were absolutely fascinated by them and they threw up so many questions and discussions – What could be inside? Where did it come from? Will it hatch? What will hatch – an owl, a spider, a baby?!

After about three or four days, the eggs started to break and the slimy dinosaur baby was hatched! The girls were amazed as it had kept us wondering for so long.

Food

Of course, any excuse for a bit of baking for us! First up, we made some rock cakes, then some simple dinosaur cookies, fossil biscuits and some egg-shaped egg sandwiches!

We love baking, cooking and preparing food. Not only does it mean we get the chance to enjoy some tasty treats, but the girls learn so much from the process. There is measuring and naming ingredients, following instructions, mixing, stirring, rolling, stamping, icing, spreading, the list goes on!

Small World

We got lots of use out of our toy dinosaurs during the two weeks – we set up a small world tray (in a baking tray) with some artificial grass samples, small stones, old cut flowers and dinosaur toys. Then we used them to practise some early maths with counting and ordering by size. We went on a dinosaur hunt in the garden – some were very well hidden! And finally, we set up an invitation to play with dinosaurs, playdough and some stones and conkers.

Creative Play

We really enjoyed getting the paints out and doing something a little different. First of all, we taped bubble wrap to the girls’ wellies and had a dinosaur stomp. They thought it was hilarious! Then we sheltered from the rain and gave the girls the opportunity to paint using the dinosaurs’ feet but they soon got their own feet involved!

We also got creative with saltdough and used out dinosaur cutters before painting them the next day – lots of fine motor practise for us all!

Photo 21-02-2018, 19 49 11

Sensory Play

We made a dinosaur swamp using shaving foam and food colouring; had a dinosaur stomp in a tray full of flour (!); and mixed up some dinosaur soup, using mouldable foam soap and food colouring, before giving the dinos a good clean!

Playdough

We made use of our vast playdough collection for this theme. We created dinosaur eggs,  by hiding dinsosaurs inside playdough for the little ones to discover. We also printed the small dinosaurs into the playdough, creating a home-made puzzle as the girls tried to match the dinos to the imprint.

Visit

We were so lucky that during our dinosaur theme, there was a ‘Jurassic Kingdom Tour’ of huge lifelike dinosaurs, which was at a park local to us in Leeds! Despite the freezing cold, damp weather, we had such a great time. The sounds coming across from behind the trees really was quite realistic and the models moved as we got near – a little bit scary at times! We ended the trip with a dig, and the girls got the chance to see what it is like to be a paleontologist or archaeologist!

We had such a great time throwing ourselves into the dinosaur theme – the girls really enjoyed the small world aspects, which they were just beginning to become interested in and started to focus on each activity for longer stretches of time.

Advertisements

Maths

I have personally enjoyed this week more than I had anticipated. There are so many possibilities: maths is everywhere! It’s been incredible how in just a week my biggest girl has really made progress with her counting which is just the best feeling.

Maths can be fun and it’s so important to instil this in our little people early on. Here’s how we approached this weeks theme:

Counting

We began with some simple counting. We used some magnetic numbers and a bun tray to help count accurately.

Next, we used a book with numbers! This is a really good way to develop an interest in counting and numbers. This one was all about dinosaurs and we used some small figures to help with our counting.

We love duplo!! So versatile. Using something that your children have daily access too is brilliant as it means they can revisit it whenever they like.

This was so simple but so inviting! Basically pom-poms and an egg box. Lots of fun, and like the bun tray it really helps little ones to begin to count.

Number Recognition

We made some number biscuits! What better way to get little ones engaged with number than with sweet treats!

Using biscuit cutters we did some painting. Exposing children to numbers in as many ways as possible will really help them to begin to recognise them.

Birthday cards are a great resource. Bright, usually with a large number on and lots of child friendly images included. I set up a birthday card making area which was really well received.

Sensory Play

We explored magnetic numbers hidden in some coloured rice. Children love finding hidden treasures and using chopsticks or tweezers adds a further challenge.

We all got together and explored some sensory number zip lock bags. This was a great way to engage all four girls aged 1-3.

Shape

We went on a shape hunt! I think my three year old was better at this that me! A great activity which allows you to sit and have a cuppa whilst they are busy looking for shapes.

We are always talking about how much we love jigsaws and puzzles. There’s loads of fantastic maths puzzles around and they are great for a whole range of skills, from hand eye coordination to problem solving skills.

Roleplay

Shops/cafes are a fun way to explore so many maths topics! From counting to weighing, they can learn so much whilst they play.

Fractions

Who would have thought you could do fractions with such young children?! But you totally can! In fact you probably already are!! Use the correct mathematical language around your children and you’ll be amazed about what they take on board.

I feel like we have just scratched the surface with this theme and I’m sure we will do another maths week before too long. We hope we have inspired you to try some of these activities at home.

Autumn

Autumn is quite possibly our favourite time of year – the weather isn’t so horrendous that you can’t venture outside; there are so many free resources to be found in the way of conkers, leaves, twigs; and nature comes alive with colour!

Here’s a few of the activities we got involved in this Autumn:

Autumn Walks

We set ourselves a target of going for an Autumnal walk every day for a week. We visited local parks and woodland and kept ourselves entertained along the way.

We splashed in muddy puddles, read up on the local wildlife, collected treasures and ALWAYS made sure we had a big flask of hot chocolate!

Natural Resources

Leaves and Sticks – We collected leaves and sticks, laminated the leaves and put them in size order before making a mobile for our window.

Conkers – We collected enough conkers to sink a battle ship and used them for so many activities; we made faces in playdough, mixed special potions, counted them into egg boxes and rolled them in paint.

Sensory Play – We used cornflour gloop and pine cones for a fun sensory experience on the tuff tray; made up our own batch of lavender playdough; and collected rainbow rice in conker shells!

Using the natural resources was such a lovely experience, everything was FREE! We really enjoyed getting out in the great outdoors, made lots of memories and can’t wait to see what next year brings!

Water

Water play is often dismissed as something for the summer months, pushed to one side until we are blessed with a hot summers day. Anyone else living in West Yorkshire will confirm how rare those days are! We LOVE playing with water. All our girls just can’t get enough of it. Water play isn’t just for summer, it can be done all year round, indoor or out, and there is such a lot of learning potential. Here’s what we got up to over the past two weeks:

Visits

We went on four trips out over the past two weeks and nearly all of them were free! First of all we visited West Leeds Country Park Visitor Center, where we learnt about the fish that live in our local waterways. Then we took a trip out to Pets At Home, which I highly recommend on a rainy Wednesday in January! Then we visited a local reservoir, where we followed little streams and met some ducks. Finally, we took a trip to Tropical World in Leeds, reasonably priced and lots to see!

Bath time

Baths are a great place to start with water play if you are unsure. Use some food colouring, have a tea party or throw in all your Lego! We played with all our balls this week and also had a random day time bath to mix things up a bit!

Fishing

We went fishing in our kitchen! Twice! Just a storage box, some sea creatures and a colander!

We mixed it up with food colouring for round two!

Mark Making

Mark making with water is fantastic for children from quite a young age. There are lots of different water drawing books and mats on the market which are excellent for getting those little hands making marks.

Books and Posters

Our girls loved reading about sea creatures. Just look how cute they are!! Books are a great way to spark interest in any topic.

Posters, photos etc are great to stick up to get some discussions going. We used some washi tape to stick our free Blue Planet poster on the wall and it’s sparked lots of conversations over our dining table.

Bubble Painting

This is so simple and makes the prettiest pictures. Just paint, water, washing up liquid and some straws. Which toddler doesn’t love blowing bubbles?!

Outside Water Play

It may be January but you can still play outside with water. In short bursts it’s good fun and you can warm up with some hot chocolate when you get in. Children don’t generally mind playing in the cold, it’s usually the adults that cut outdoor play short.

Role play

We have pretended to be pirates this week! The three year old has really started to take on the role of a character in her imaginative play and the one year old is just happy to follow her big sister. By using simple objects from around the house children can be taken almost anywhere with their imaginations. Be prepared to get stuck in and follow their lead!

Baking

We love to bake and this week we made boat biscuits! Really simple for little hands and delicious too.

Playmobil

Playmobil is fantastic. This particular set really supported our theme this week. We discussed what a flood was with our older girls and practised our animal noises with the younger ones.

Ice

Playing with ice is great for getting little fingers moving. This activity also involved some shape sorting and kept her engaged for quite some time.

Whilst we will move onto a new theme next week, water will always be something we regularly use in our activities.

Cafés

We were given the idea of a Café theme by a friend of ours, who had been having a mini tea party with her little one! What a great idea, we thought, our visit can be to a real-life café where we can drink hot coffee and chat… we forgot about the children for a moment there! It really was a great idea though, it gave us lots of opportunities for diving in to the world of work – running a café, cooking food, serving customers, taking money, opportunities for writing, counting, role play, the list goes on!

Here are some of the activities that kept us busy throughout the week:

Role Play

Overnight, we both set up cafés in our houses, using all the things we already had. We made sure there was space to serve customers, a till and a book and pen to take orders with.

Adding real food gave the children’s play a whole new dimension and the girls got stuck in straight away.

Creative Play

We used playdough and pom poms to create currant buns for our café – this gave us a chance to practise our fine motor skills, experimenting with different tools to see how they affect the playdough.

Photo 22-01-2018, 21 12 48

We got creative and used fabric pens to create our own tea towels for the café – this was a different, more difficult, chance for mark-making and also gave us the opportunities to name colours and shapes.

Sensory Play

Photo 22-01-2018, 21 15 10

We had a cereal party! This was such a big hit, it kept the 2 year old and 9 month old busy for the best part of an hour. Who knew that a selection of old cereal and some spoons and bowls could be so entertaining?! Lots of scooping, talking and tasting opportunities going on here.

Photo 28-09-2017, 15 46 42 (1).jpg

We experimented with some (very old) herbal tea bags that we found in the back of the cupboard. Putting them in the water tray added a different perspective to water play and created a different sensory experience. We loved making tea that smelled like fruit!

Baking

We couldn’t let a week pass by without indulging in some baking! Off we went to the shops to buy the ingredients – giving us the chance to experience real-life shopping for a purpose and using ‘grown-up’ things like scanners and tills. When we got back, we made a lemon loaf cake as a contribution towards a much anticipated Tea Party!

We also made some scones to share at the Tea Party – an opportunity to get messy and build up those hand and arm muscles!

On the day of our Tea Party, we all met up in the park, enjoyed a ‘babyccino’ in the real café and then headed back to the house to have hot chocolates, sandwiches, lemon cake and scones, all made by the children!

This was such a great theme – the children really got stuck in and enjoyed every moment!

How To Meet Up With Friends Who Don’t Have Kids

When your baby isn’t on the move, meeting up with friends that don’t have children isn’t too tricky. Your child is portable, doesn’t move from your lap and is usually pretty happy wherever you are. However, as soon as they begin to crawl/bum shuffle/walk, the days of actually sitting down and having a chat are over.

This isn’t so bad when you’re meeting up with other parents. You generally approach the meeting with a mutual understanding that drinks won’t be drunk and conversations won’t be finished.

The very suggestion of a coffee with a childless friend with both girls in tow fills me with dread. It just isn’t fun for anyone involved and even with the use of bribery- how long does a chocolate bun last?!! Not very long with my girls.

I’ve only been a mum for three years so I’m by no means an expert, but here are some things that I’ve found useful to remember when I do meet up with my friends that don’t have children:

1. Invite your friends to your house.

You have all the toys and all the snacks. Only downside is you have to clean your bathroom.

2. Go to their house.

Now this is fine if your friend is pretty relaxed about their soft furnishings. I recently went to my friends very stylish new house. She has a blue velvet sofa. BLUE VELVET. Luckily, I didn’t take my then not-very-toilet-trained toddler but I did take my very grabby, snotty, into everything baby. I had to move about five vases (remember when you could have flowers in vases on coffee tables?!) and basically had to redesign her living room. Luckily I have great friends and she was completely fine about it. We got to chat and even had a very civilised brunch!

3. DO NOT SUGGEST SOFT PLAY.

Let’s be honest, soft play is shit when you have kids so imagine how hideous it is when you don’t.

4. Go for a walk that ends at a café.

The café bit might be short-lived but you should have had a chance to talk whilst you walked.

5. Meet at a park that has a café.

Here everyone wins! (Can you tell I like cafés?)

6. If your friend insists on meeting for food, suggest a time that suits you.

This is really important. I personally hate meeting for lunch when I have the girls with me as someone is always ready for a nap immediately after eating, making for a very short meet up. Don’t agree to meet up with someone if it’s really going to mess up your child’s routine.

7. Meet at your parents’ house.

Now this is genius! I haven’t utilised this enough. My parents live halfway between me and many of my friends. It basically means someone will watch the children whilst I drink their tea, eat their biscuits and catch up with a friend! Amazing!

8. Meet at a museum.

There’s usually plenty of space for the little ones to move around and lots for them to look at. The National Media Museum in Bradford is great for this. Free to visit too!

9. If you really must meet at a time/place that doesn’t suit you TAKE SUPPLIES.

Whether that’s food, toys or iPads, I’m not judging you. Meeting up with friends doesn’t happen enough once you start having babies so do what you can to make it enjoyable. I’ve completely been that idiot that hasn’t packed my rucksack full of all the good stuff to keep the baby happy and suffered the consequences.

10. Try not to be disheartened if you meet with a friend and it goes to pot.

It’s not your fault and it’s not the baby’s fault. Sometimes, even with lots of planning, these things just don’t go well. If your friends aren’t shit they’ll be fine about it.

On the Farm

For our first theme, we got stuck into life on the farm. There’s so much to learn – from animal names (and sounds!) to all about where our food comes from.

Here are some of the activities we got involved with:

Visits

During our 2 week theme, we headed to lots of different farms – this gave the chance to get up close and personal with a huge range of animals. We were able to stroke rabbits, bottle-feed baby goats and give carrots to the donkeys. We also had the opportunity to see tractors working on the farms and talk about where eggs come from.

Exploring Books

As with all our themes, we raided the bookshelves and visited the library for some books so we could find out more and become immersed in all things farming.

Food

Photo 22-01-2018, 20 53 45

Once we’d found out where our eggs came from, we couldn’t get enough of them! We enjoyed them for breakfast and used them in our baking.

Small World

We used our toy animals and Duplo sets to engage in small world play. We had a Duplo working farm, categorised animals, gave our pigs a mudbath and explored playdough with the animals’ feet!

We left our mudbath for a few days (water, corn flour and cocoa powder) and came back to a much drier texture – this was great for exploring and quickly became a material to use for a tea party!

Exploring Materials

Finally, we got creative using different materials. Sticking feathers in playdough was a great opportunity to practise our fine motor skills; we used cotton wool to create a sheep and loved the texture of it; and while we went on our visits to the farms, we collected leaves and feathers to make a collage.

On the Farm was such a great theme for us – our little ones were 2 (and three quarters!), nearly 2, 10 months and 9 months and they all loved the experiences. We can’t wait to do it all again next year, when there are 4 toddlers to feed the animals!

Construction

Building is so great for the development of young children. From problem solving to physical development, maths to developing their imaginations, the learning potential is limitless! Building can even strengthen their self confidence as they see their ideas come to life.

Here’s some of the activities we have explored.

Building a minibeast house

One of our girls had a sudden interest in tools and building, which helped us decide on our theme. Following your child’s interest is great for helping them to engage with activities.

Duplo

We love duplo and it is great if you have younger and older toddlers to entertain at the same time. We had ours out on the living room floor and in the bath!

Tuff Spot Building

This was such a simple activity. Just lots of bits from the recycling bin that quickly became a car!!

I always have some ice ready to use for activities in the freezer. I added a few more random shapes the night before I set up this activity. Building with ice was met with enthusiasm from both the one year old and three year old

Construction Sites

It is great to get outside and see real examples of what you are teaching at home. Visiting construction sites really helped the girls to make links.

Messy Play

Using food is a great way get started with messy play, especially if your little one wants to put everything in their mouth.

Making tracks with cornflour and water was great and encouraged a lot of discussion about our theme. We also moved the “mud” on our imaginary building site!

Kinetic sand is excellent for building with and you can pick up a set relatively cheaply.

Building with jelly was a new one for us but was really well received. Great messy play activity!

Painting

We love to paint!! Making tracks with a construction vehicle was a welcome change from our paintbrushes and made brilliant patterns. It also allowed us to practise our gross motor skills.

Tools

Exploring tools was a lot of fun. They enjoyed using their wooden tools to make their own tool bench.

The girls were also really excited to look at some real tools! Again allowing the children to see these helped to broaden their understanding of the theme.

Choosing the correct tools to build things allows children to develop their problem solving skills.

Baking

Baking can definitely be described as a construction activity. We think so anyway!! Mixing, moulding and melting! Lots of learning and delicious! 😋

We managed to fit all this into two weeks but there is so much more that could be explored here. We do hope this has inspired you to build and construct with your little ones.

 

The Play at Home Mummas Gift Guide

Buying gifts for children can be fun – the choice is endless and everything looks so cute! What can be tricky though is finding gifts that will be used more than once, and that can stand the test of time (and toddler usage!).

Here, we bring you our gift guide for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers. All of our suggestions have been tried and tested by our own children!

1. Push-along trolley with blocks

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 10 51

Given to us before our eldest was even born, this has served us well over the last 2+ years. We are big fans of toys with multiple uses and this is a perfect example. It has been used as an aid for early walking, a shopping trolley, a pushchair for teddies and dolls, a ride-on… and that’s just the trolley. The blocks have been used to spell names, for a pregnancy announcement, for building towers and knocking them over, for chewing on… the list goes on! There are lots of different ones out there to suit all budgets.

2. Paintbrushes

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 11 11

This is a gift that can be used from newborn right up to preschoolers and beyond! The can be used as part of a sensory box for babies – think tickling those baby hands! Then from 6 months onwards, they are great as part of a treasure basket, once they are sitting up and grabbing. Then from age one, water painting is a safe way to get children mark-making without the worry of them eating the paint! Let them paint the outside of the house or paving stones with a larger brush – our biggest girl loves doing this! We love painting here – we do it nearly every day and it is so good for developing those mark-making skills.

3. Stacking Cups

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 11 35

These little things have been in our toy box since our eldest was about a month old and they have so many uses: stack them up and knock them over (great for tracking in young babies); use them in the bath to sprinkle water, practise pouring and filling, rinsing shampoo off little heads; use them for colour-sorting; emergency glue pots; bang them together to make music; have a tea party… there are many more things you could use them for! These were from Ikea and cost just £2.

4. Play Tents

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 11 56

What we love most about tents is that they have so many different possibilities – they come in all shapes, sizes and styles and can be used from birth to 3 and beyond. It could be a sensory tent with twinkly lights for babies or a musical tent where you play and listen to different instruments! Ours is currently a quiet spot for stories with teddies but we’ve had tea parties in it and used it in role play activities, where it has become a house or a shop. The price range of these things vary massively but you can pick one up fairly cheaply or, if you are feeling creative, there are lots of guides online on how to make one if you have the skills!

5. Magnetic Drawing Board

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 12 23These are something that can be picked up and put down, as we all know children love to flit between toys. They are brilliant for anything from early mark-making to sketching. The beauty of them is that they can be wiped clean and used again and again. Great portable toys, which can be used in the car, on holiday, sat on the potty, or wherever takes your little one’s fancy! Water-based ones are just as good too.

 

6. Toy Tills

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 12 53We have had ours for a couple of years now and it’s definitely a toy that gets used again and again. We’ve had ours in a cafe, a shop, a hairdressers, a train station – the list goes on! Using the till during role play is a fantastic way to introduce number to your little ones. Keep it simple and use it on its own with some food and shopping bags for young toddlers or extend it for older children and use it alongside paper and a pen or some coins. You can pick one up fairly cheap – ours is from Ikea but Grandma got an amazing one in a charity shop!

7. Books

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 13 13Books are always a good buy in our house. We have lots from charity shops but love receiving them as gifts, as that makes them extra specially. More specifically though, we’re talking about ‘touchy-feely’ books. It wasn’t until we had them all piled up that we realised ours are all Usborne Books. There are lots of others available but speaking from experience, our children love these. From early on, babies love the bold colours and clear definition; when they’re a bit older, they love to feel the different textures and materials; and even older, there’s lots to talk about and new words to learn.

8. Toy Animals

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 13 30We know these can be expensive to buy new. We have been very lucky to have been given a lot by our neighbour but we have also picked up a few from charity shops – we can’t walk past one without taking a look! We use our animals daily. We’ve had them in the bath, the paddling pool, small world activities, frozen in ice, in the bottom of our bag for emergency bored toddler/baby situations! Great for sorting, ordering, role play, animal songs, family groupings, even different countries with older children – so many uses! It’s worth investing in a few and then adding to your collection through eBay/charity shops.

9. Stacking Rings

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 13 50We’ve had these since our eldest was born. It would be easy to dismiss this as something that looks cute on a shelf, but we’ve loved it from day one. Young babies love the colours, as they grow older, they’ll delight in banging the parts together, using them as teethers and piling them up to knock over; even older, they’ll be able to develop their physical skills in putting the rings onto the pole, and they can develop their vocabulary relating to colour, shape, size. This really mustn’t be underestimated, it’s great!

10. Tea Sets

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 14 07We don’t think we have a full set – we have bits and pieces from different sets that we have bought or been passed down by family, but it doesn’t matter – we love them! From when your baby can sit, a tea set is a great gift. It doesn’t need to be wooden and pretty. In fact, plastic is best, as you can chuck them in the bath or paddling pool! Our girls love playing in water and whenever we’ve added a teapot and some cups into the mix, they will happily play for ages. We’ve even used them with rice for a messy tea party! Great for role play and teddy bears’ picnics! You could use your tea set with coloured water or even real teabags to further engage your little one.

11. Playdough

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 14 28Whether you buy it or make it, the stuff is so versatile! Use it to develop the muscles in your little ones’ hands ready for writing. You can make buns; create funny faces; cut shapes; talk about size, shape, number, colour; even start to make intricate models of your favourite animals; use tools to change the texture and practise cutting; make imprints of toys and create a matching puzzle; use it as connecting material to build towers with straws; add crafty bit like pipe cleaners, googly eyes, buttons, feathers to develop those fine motor skills even further… the possibilities are endless and if you get a good collection going with lots of different colours, you can use it for any theme you fancy.

12. Wheeled Vehicles

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 14 52A fantastic gift from when your child is sitting, right up until primary school age and beyond. These can be used on a play mat like ours or you could draw a road on large paper or washi tape on tiled/wooden floors. Great for small world activities, or dip the wheels in paint to make tracks on paper. We usually have a couple at the bottom of our bag to entertain the girls whilst we’re out. Great for estimating with older ones, using questions like ‘Which vehicle do you think will go the furthest? And why?’ Also fantastic for learning about forces when your child is a little older. The movements little ones make when playing with wheeled vehicles is really great for developing muscles that will help when it comes to writing further down the line. We’ve bought our wheeled vehicles from eBay, Aldi, some have been gifts and some from charity shops. An affordable gift that can be used for many years!

13. Building Blocks

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 15 07We have a combination of Duplo, Megablocks and wooden blocks. They can be built into towers, houses, castle, shops; stacked up and knocked over; repurposed as food in the play kitchen; used to develop language about colours, numbers and shapes… so many possibilities. EJ was given her first set of Duplo at age 15 months when her little sister was born and after some practise, she mastered clicking them together, which she found really satisfying. After being given some sets as gifts, we bought some bundles on eBay and scoured the charity shops to build up a great collection.

14. Musical Instruments

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 15 24A great gift from newborn upwards! Ring a bell or tap a triangle for tiny babies and watch them try to follow the sound. Once your little one is sitting up, bang a drum along to their favourite nursery rhymes, teaching them sounds and the meaning of words as you do! As your child grows, allow them to hit/bang/shake along to music and begin to develop a sense of rhythm. Most children love music so by giving them something to make their own with, you are on to a winner! Our instruments have been gifts or from charity shops. You can quite easily make your own instruments using things from around the house, you don’t need to spend a penny!

15. Babies

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 15 40These are fantastic for role play – they give children the opportunity to act like Mummy and Daddy and learn really important lessons in looking after other human beings. They can give them a wash, dress them (developing those fine motor skills again!), feed them, give them kisses and cuddles, put them to bed… in doing this, they’re learning that it’s not just them in the universe and sometimes we need to think about others too! EJ was given her first one at 15 months (Christmas last year) and since then has gone through phases of ignoring them and being obsessed. We’re currently in the latter phase! The little one has started getting interested too at 11.5 months.

16. Sensory Scarves

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 16 00A great gift from newborn upwards! We’ve played peekaboo with our babies and our nearly 3 year old still plays with them today. We use them as headscarves for pirates or for colour-sorting mats now. These are lovely for sensory play for babies – put them over their faces and the world changes colour! Hide toys underneath for slightly older babies or put them in an old tissue box and let them pull them out. A great multi-use gift that will keep being pulled out of the toy box again and again. Ours are from Amazon but if you’re feeling creative, you could make some of your own using different materials.

17. Fancy Dress Clothes

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 16 28These are fantastic for encouraging role play and helping children to become more independent in dressing themselves. You don’t need to buy expensive branded fancy clothes either – a big selection of hats, bags, sunglasses, furs and fabrics is plenty to get you started!

 

18. Water Play Toys

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 16 58You can start collecting these from when your little one arrives and we can guarantee they will still get use out of them years down the line! The types of toys we’re talking about are watering cans, buckets, spray bottles, pipettes, syringes, jugs… You can begin by playing in the bath with your little ones. They are such a great way to get them to enjoy the water. Watering cans are obviously great for getting them out in the garden, looking after the plants, once they are up and walking, but also encouraging them to let you put water on their head! Most children love playing with water and they don’t care where they do it. If you don’t have a garden, let them play in the bath or at the sink. If you do have some outside space, get outside and let them play! A few simple water toys can really enhance their experience and the learning opportunities are literally endless!

19. Balls

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 17 17You can never have too many in our eyes – start collecting from newborn and they will get used again and again. They’re great for developing eye tracking in young babies during tummy time – turn the lights off and roll some light-up balls around in front of them. Older babies love holding them and carrying them around, there are lots of textured balls and ones that make a noise when you shake them, or try clear ones with things inside. As children get older, they love practising throwing and catching and big, brightly-coloured footballs and rugby balls are perfect for this. All this play encourages gross motor skill development and hand-eye coordination, as well as cooperation and turn-taking.

20. Puzzles

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 17 41Our two year olds can’t get enough of them and will do the same ones over and over. TK Maxx has some really great ones at reasonable prices, we have also borrowed some from grandparents and got some really good ones from charity shops. They are great! They come in a box to store them in, don’t require batteries, requires a bit of quiet time and fantastic for putting in the back of the car if you are going away. They are also so good for their development – developing hand-eye coordination, attention, concentration and thinking skills, such as matching and problem-solving and they’re brilliant for their fine motor skills. Puzzles can also help to develop language, as children begin to follow instructions when supported by an adult. One of the first things EI says when the baby is napping is ‘Shall we do a puzzle Mummy?’ – great for giving little ones some screen-free time.

21. Trikes, Bikes and Scooters

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 17 58We have a lot of love for our wooden trike – it was given to EJ for her first birthday and has been a permanent fixture in our living room ever since. They are great for developing children’s physical skills – climbing on and off, moving their legs in tandem, steering, climbing on to reach things (!), developing friendships through sharing and turn-taking… as children become more confident, they can start to develop different physical skills when using a scooter or balance bike – all great practise for riding a push bike in future! These things last for years and through lots of children so are great for gifts that last.

22. Craft Materials

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 18 18As you can see from lots of our activities, craft materials are always good to have to hand when the weather is rubbish. We tend to use a mixture of recycled bits and pieces and things we pick up in pound shops and Home Bargains! Best not to have too much of an agenda with young children and just let them go for it! If someone asks us what the girls would like for a birthday or Christmas, we usually say craft materials! They’re not too expensive and we know they’ll get used! Great for developing artistic skills, obviously fantastic for fine motor skills and just a lovely peaceful activity where they get to explore colour, texture, shape…

23. Play Kitchens

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 18 34These are so great for role play, as young children love to copy adults and learn so much from watching us. These kitchens give them the opportunity to practise setting up for tea, making drinks, washing their hands, cooking food, running a cafe, feeding their babies, cutting food… the list goes on! What’s great too is that there are kitchens available to suit everyone’s budget.

24. Mark-Making Materials

Photo 07-01-2018, 20 18 49We’re talking pencils, pens, crayons, chalk… basically anything your child can make marks with! We make marks every single day and have done since our eldest was about 11 months old. Let them scribble, let them use your grown-up pens, let them draw on receipts, on chalk boards, on the ground outside, in the bath! Just let them go for it!

 

Being Healthy

So our first week back after Christmas was about being healthy. This theme was to help us get back to normality after the chaos of Christmas. We were quite glad to get back to it after all the indulgence and lack of routine that this time of year usually brings.

We began this theme with some role play. This works really well with slightly older children (My daughter is three in a couple of weeks) We used a range of foods which I sorted into boxes, some weighing scales, a till, pen and paper, a price list, a purse and some pennies and some shopping baskets. Really simple and it is a great way to get talking about food and discussing healthy choices. This is also a great role play for talking about number, colour, size, shape etc!

Next we took a trip to Eureka in Halifax. Lots to see that fit in really well with this theme. It’s a really great place for a wide range of ages and its a real sensory experience.

Despite the weather we always try and get out the house and this is a great message to send to your little ones. We took a brisk walk to the library and back. Not only was this great exercise, it was also a good opportunity for learning about road safety.

Inspired by our trip to Eureka we set up an impromptu doctors surgery. This is great for thinking about keeping healthy, but also developing a sense of empathy towards others.

Then we moved into the kitchen. Beginning with some hearty minestrone soup….

and finishing with a banana and cranberry loaf. Cooking and baking are great ways to get your children interested in the food they eat.

Who would have thought that something so simple could be developing those fine motor skills??Give those little fingers a workout whilst having a healthy snack.

I took the time to play in our little shop with the baby. She’s really trying to copy sounds and words so we babbled/talked about the food we could see. There was a lot of pretending to eat and emptying and filling baskets. Keep it simple with little ones, it really doesn’t have to be complicated!

I drew around my eldest (which she loved) and then we talked about her different body parts and how we need to look after them (brush our teeth, cut our nails etc) She really enjoyed seeing her outline and drawing in the details.

I hope this summary of our Being Healthy theme gives you lots of ideas for your little ones. It was a really simple and fun theme to begin the new year.