June Practical Parenting

I have an article in 'Practical Parenting' this month, so check it out if you get a chance. It includes some 'Rainy Day Play Ideas' for both babies and toddlers.

It can be tricky trying to find play ideas that suit a wide variety of age groups. I had my own dilemma last week when I had Em home with a cold, Ed, of course, and my 15 month old god daughter to look after.

I got them busy doing a group drawing. I put a large sheet of cardboard onto the ground to provide a firm backing for the paper. Then I spread out a large sheet of paper so that there was plenty of room for everybody. I grabbed Em's texta bucket to share and left them all to it. They were just in the dining room while I was in the kitchen, so I was close by if I was needed.

They all had a really great time and there were no dramas. Em helped my god-daughter with the texta lids and also talked a lot about colours and what everyone was drawing. Ed helped out too.

It was a great activity to keep them busy and help practice drawing skills, but it also provided a great opportunity to build on language skills and encouraged social skills like peer-teaching, considering others and sharing.

The Rock Box

Do you like collecting things?

We do, big time!

One of our favourite collections at the moment, something we all seem to be interested in, is Ed's rock collection.

His interest in rocks began at a very young age when he would seek them out and try to eat them. Needless to say, I wasn't encouraging this interest too much when he was sampling the objects of his interest, but as soon as he stopped putting them into his mouth and started to admire their colours, sizes and textures, I started to help him look for his little 'treasures' at every opportunity.

To encourage his interest along, I bought him a special little rock box to keep his rocks in. As you can see from the photo, he has outgrown it and next time we're out, we need to find a new box to keep them in.

Collections like this are great because
1. When you're collecting items from nature, they're absolutely free
2. It gives us something to bond over. We find them together and talk about them and it's nice.
3. It encourages him to notice what's around him and helps him to appreciate nature
4. He loves to look through his rocks, remembering where he got them from (great for his recall and language skills)
5. He likes to sort through them and group them according to size, shape and colour (and sorting and classifying are great pre-numeracy skills)
6. They always get included in his play (building on imagination and creativity)

What do you like to collect at your house?

Making 'Clothes'

I used to take pictures of the kids at play long before I started this blog. I've always put a lot of thought and effort into the toys and materials I provide for them and I liked to look back on the fun things we'd done. The other day I stumbled across this photo of Em and remembered a great fun activity I used to set up for her.

It was around the time when had just turned four and her favourite things to do were to play with her soft toys and plastic animals and do art and craft activities (nothing's really changed!).

I used to get all of her larger plastic animals out onto the kitchen table, along with textas, stickers, long strips of paper, scissors and a stapler.

She would 'dress' each animal one by one in the decorated strips of paper, designing, sticking and stapling as she went.

Then she would line them up in an "Animal Fashion Parade"

Of course, she could never resist making something special for Hamley too.

This activity is not only great fun, it also
- helps her to master the use of sticky tape, scissors and staplers
- gives her practice in measuring and estimating
- works on creativity and imagination
- builds spatial awareness and eye-hand co-ordination
- helps her to practice her drawing skills
- builds on her language skills as she talks about what she is doing
- and gives her yet another way to express and explore her interest in animals

I was thinking it would be great to use wrapping paper as well. I wonder if those trains and cars would like some clothes too?

Come over and play at the 'Childhood 101' 'We Play' link up

We Play

More Teddy Bear Fun

As I mentioned last week, Hamley (Em's teddy) and Yarji (Ed's teddy) had been dressed up and dragged into Em's 'school' game which has been on the go, morphing, changing and evolving for well over 6 months.

A new chapter has begun with the inclusion of the teddies, a spin-off of some sorts called 'The Teddy Bear Game' (original, I know!). It seems that dressing the teddies and getting them off to school every morning has inspired Em to create more of a story about where they live and how they get ready and so the new game was created.

As soon as the inspiration hit, I had to drop everything and help her to get out an old baby nursery that she used a lot from about the age of 2 til about 5.

We set it up in the loungeroom and she rummaged through a plastic container full of baby care items I had put together when she was going through her 'baby play' stage. It includes baby nappies, bottles, bibs, baby jumpsuits and cardigans, booties, empty baby food jars, spoons, and blankets.

She set herself up and included Hamley's dress up clothes. She was so excited and I was struck by how enthusiastically she resumed the same kind of play she used to engage in at a much younger age. Of course, the play itself has changed. Her story is much more involved and the play is far more organised and sophisticated, but all the materials are the same.

Em's play here is such a great example of how toys and play materials that are truly open-ended, can be adapted and used to suit a wide range of developmental stages and ages.

What toys do you have that will/or already do stand the test of time?

Come over and play at the 'Childhood 101' 'We Play' link up

We Play

Zingo! Winner

Thanks to everyone who entered my Zingo! giveaway.

The winner is ..... Steff!!! (Comment number 1 - thanks to the True Random Number Generator!)

Congratulations!! Steff, you can claim your prize by emailing Jade directly - jade@donnielam.com

Jade also has a book to giveaway to anyone who books a "Learning Ladder" party through her for May or June. There are great discounts for people who agree to host a party, so it's well worth considering. You can contact Jade by emailing her via the link above.

Two of Our Favourite (Play) Things

Em and Ed both have teddies that they adore. This is Hamley (Em's teddy on the right) and Yarji (pronounced Yar-gee,on the left, who belongs to Ed). I have posted about Hamley before, when, after a trip to the craft store, Em came up with a new outfit for him. Well, there have been many outfits in-between, but I couldn't resist this photo yesterday, after the children had dressed their bears ready to go to Em's pretend school.

We have a small suitcase full of teddy clothes that I have collected on my trips over the years. I just love coming accross little things to add to the collection because teddy clothes are generally pretty hard to find. We have some great hand-made cardigans and beanies and my mum knitted the little scarves you can see above. My favourite find would have to be these teddy underpants I found at the local market. The children love them too.

I often call these two teddies my other children. They go everywhere with us, they are involved in a lot of the children's games, they are an absolute necessity at bedtime and as you can see, I shop for them as though they belonged to me.

They both have their own little voices and personalities too. "Hamley" can be a bit short tempered and only likes to eat "cakes and lollies and biscuits" which results in Em having to encourage him to control his temper and constantly educate him about nutrition. "Yarji" can be easily frightened and is often a little cheeky when he's meant to be behaving himself. Ed is constantly reassuring him when he's scared and reminding him how to behave.

So they are not only great friends and companions, encouraging comfort, thoughtfulness and empathy, but also great teaching and learning tools as well.

Does your child have a furry friend they wouldn't be without?

Come over and play at the 'Childhood 101' 'We Play' link up

We Play