Saturday, 29 March 2014

Which one makes a sound? ~ baby play

Babies love to explore new things and this is a fun little game any tiny tot will enjoy!!

Suitable ages:
6mths- 2yrs (at the end if the post I will give some examples on how you can extend this for toddlers) 

Learning opportunities:
Exploring their senses
Fine motor control

To set this little game up I used four old film canisters. These particular ones have great lids that are very difficult to open and well sealed. Inside one if the canisters I 1/4 filled it with rice but you could use a small bell, dried lentils or anything of that nature. You can also use any small containers. Just make sure your baby is able to grasp the container easily and that it is well sealed so the contents do not be one a choking hazard.

More often than not any new item goes straight to the mouth. This is your babies preferred way to explore items. Encourage your baby to 'shake' the container. Model this and reward your baby with your facial expressions and voice. When your baby finds the container that makes a 'sound' congratulate them. Let them discover how some don't make any sound but this one does. 


When your baby is holding one container try passing them another one and observe what they do. Do they drop the one they have to hold the new one or do they grasp the new container with their spare hand? Your baby may pass the container back to you in a little passing game.

Bubba Finn enjoyed banging two canisters together!!
To Extend on this
For older babies and toddlers increase the learning opportunities by adding colours to the containers so they can discover which colour container makes a sound. You could do this with shapes and numbers also.
Use more containers, have two with the same objects inside for your child to match up. For example you could have two with rice inside and two with a bell inside. Ask your child which two make the same sound.


Play and Learn


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Spaces for playing and learning in the home for a Preschooler, Toddler and Baby


I thought it was about time I shared the spaces for playing and learning in our home.
Having three young children, aged 6months, 2years & 4years who are at home full time means having practical, fun, open ended, inviting and safe areas to suit all their different ages, interests and needs.
The other important factor for me was our budget. Being a single income family with a large mortgage means we live off a tight budget and luxury items are off the wish list. The furniture and resources I collect are always well thought out. My children are very very blessed with highly generous Grandparents, family and friends who have given them many lovely toys for Birthdays and Christmases over the years.  
I am constantly altering and rearranging these spaces for my children, I can't help it, the teacher in me needs an outlet lol and I see so many possibilities, however, following is how I have set up our play areas currently.
We are so blessed to have a games area in our house, which I made sure was on the plans when we were picking houses to build.
View walking in to our 'play room'.
This area is suitable for all three of my children, however it is toddler and baby friendly and the toys and resources chosen are suitable and safe for my boisterous 2year old and soon to be on the move 6 month old. The fact that Bubba will soon be crawling around is very much in my mind and I have made this space as safe as possible. I would always supervise my baby while playing, especially when the older children are also playing. My older children are able to play independently in here with me in the next room- this room comes off our open plan living area including kitchen and lounge and is visible from two wide door less entry points.
I love having large clear spaces of floor so the children can spread out their play. I love watching them laying down absorbed in their play as it grows and spreads across the room. We are lucky to have the space in our house.
The Construction Area
Plenty of uncluttered space to build whatever takes your fancy.
I picked up this rug on clearance. My Husband worked out that it had been cut the wrong way for the repeating pattern on it, but you'd never know. To be honest, my children only occasionally acknowledge what is even on it and I actually prefer the blank surface for imagination. The rug does provide for a different texture but I'd be happy enough with a plain one. Hman loves cars so I always have a selection of vehicles amongst other bits and pieces I rotate depending on their interests.

On these shelves we a basket of 'jenga' blocks $5 from K-mart, these cute little wooden bug skittles I found at a market, our beautiful sensory light and sound rainbow blocks and our Home Made Familiar Block People. On top I have out some African animal figures for small world play and dramatisation. We swap things around as often as suits the children however, I try not to do it too consistently as sometimes it may just take them a little while to fully discover the toys or how they can use them in play.
Our Small World Table

This is a train table that came complete with a full train set, tracks and accessories such as bridges, trees, signs, vehicles etc. I like to rotate how we use the table depending on the children's interests or disinterest. When I noticed my 4year old was no longer playing with the trains and my 2year old was constantly destroying any attempts at building the train tracks I decided it was time to use it differently for awhile.
Miss M was very lucky for her first birthday she received a number of fisher price       Little People sets including zoo, farm, fun park, airport etc that we get out and play with sometimes and can be used on this table.
I like mixing it up a bit every day or couple of days to keep their interest and perhaps encourage a different way of playing. For example, I might add a few toy dinosaurs to this scene or a lion etc and watch with delight as their imagination comes out!!
Other ways I use the table are by adding,
*Animals- wild, zoo, farm
*Duplo or other construction materials
*blocks, small parts
*Our Home made block People
*matchbox cars, planes, trucks or similar and ramps
*other toy sets like octonauts or princesses
Changing things around keeps things interesting and inspires kids to extend on their play. My kids love seeing what is on the table and even make their own suggestions of what they would like now!

We also have a sand and water table for small world play outside which we also love!!

Using Closed Containers and Storage to encourage Speech 
Throughout the room I have a number containers that close to store toys in. Most are clear so the contents and be clearly seen. I like to put Hman's favourite toys, or toys I know he wants daily. I do this to encourage two things from him, firstly his speech. Some of the containers he cannot open himself. This requires him to seek out assistance and ask appropriately for help. I also store favourite toys on high shelves- in sight but where he cant reach so he must ask for them. (note- all our shelves are securely fastened to the walls to prevent any tipping in case of climbing). Secondly, some of the containers he can open however they require two hands working together to get the job done. This is another skill we are working on with him.

I do have one container that is a solid colour and they are unable to see inside. I like to put a surprise item or items in their daily. Hman can open this one with some help but twisting the lid.

Lately I've been putting sensory things inside for exploring!

I think this is one must have item for all children. An easel provides such a diverse range of experiences for young children to not only get creative, play and learn but develop essential gross motor and fine motor skills as well. This easel has a paper roll holder, magnetic whiteboard and blackboard.
A child sized table and chairs

For any number of play related tasks a child sized table is invaluable. We did have a round one in here however, ikea had on an amazing offer so we ended up with another and the round one is now in our outdoor play space.

The Baby Zone

I love this mat. It is reversible, non toxic, easily cleaned, soft and grippy. Perfect for babies to roll around on and learn to crawl. So many people have asked me where I got it from. I got it from a baby expo and took it home that day.
You can see I've put out some baby toys on the bottom shelf, some things for Hman and Bubba on the next one up and the rest of the levels are basically just for storing things I rotate around or that I know Hman will want to play with so he has to ask for help to get them down. I also store some of the everyday tools we use like crayons, stickers, stamps, playdough, pencils for quick easy access for when the inspiration strikes.


A mirror is a great addition to any baby area.
Babies love to look at faces even their own. A mirror helps baby to learn to focus, track things with their eyes and explore faces and bodies.

This mirror is securely fastened to the wall and sitting low to the ground making it perfect to encourage tummy time and crawling.
Tent or Hiding Space

Sometimes things just get all too much and children seek the comfort of small secure spaces to unwind and calm back down. I know myself how it feels to just want to hide away for a minute or ten!! Since taking this photo I have removed all the balls as initially the balls were a fun sensation for my kids to lay on however that was rather short lived as they worked out they just weren't that comfy. In our hidey tent we have a comfy mat, some cushions a selection of soft toys and a basket of books. Perfect for taking five! Of course you don't need a tent for this and there are all sorts of ways you can construct little hideaways for kids.

Book Area

A little peaceful corner dedicated to just reading. I have to admit I am a bookaholic and have more children's books than I can possibly display or even store for that matter. All my children have bedrooms full of books. I do try to keep the books in this space displayed nicely and rotate them as necessary.
I have a couple large storage tubs of popular books tucked behind in their for easy rotation of the books and the best bit is on the other side is one of our family couches so we can all snuggle up on the big couch and easily reach books to read.

We have some hand puppets and soft toys who just loved being read to by little girls and boys!!

Just off this area we have another little space in our house that the children's bedrooms and bathroom come off. This space is more designed for my toddler and preschooler.
This is it in it's packed up state. Sometimes it's a house (well rarely a house usually it's a palace ;), sometimes it's a café and we add table and chairs, sometimes it's a shop or shops- whatever they come up with is how it transforms.

The kitchen area
I love this little Tinkerbell kitchen which was a gift.

My little window scene. Of course I want to change the paint here so that it's only blue out the window hehehe but that's my little creative streak!

The baby doll role-play area

The dress-up area

Storage Drawers
Inside these hold all sorts of resources for play!!

Writing Station
Miss M's own little space.
Read about how I set up her writing station here.
Our spaces for playing are always evolving rotating and changing however I feel I've managed to cater to the interests, abilities and individual needs of all three of my children at their different ages. It does get tricky and I'm sure once Bubba is really crawling and toddling around we may have to make a few adjustments. Please remember to secure all furniture such as shelving securely to walls.
I look forward to showing you all our outdoor areas which are by far our favourite!!
Play and Learn

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Balls in a Bowl ~Baby Play

Super simple and super entertaining (for both baby and parent) way to play that you must try today if you have a baby who can sit up unassisted.
Learning Opportunities
Eye Hand coordination
Fine motor development- grabbing
Sensory exploration
Language development
Social development
Suitable Ages
For babies who can sit up unassisted +

Can you catch a ball?
Ooh look at them rolling all around

oops where did it go?
Reach for the ball

Bubba liked taking the balls out.

Where are the balls gone mum?
You could also try
 with pom poms (make sure your supervising and they are a safe size)
add square cubes or blocks
add other sensory items
This has been a favourite with all my babies!
Play and Learn

Hands on Learning while making Scones

Not many kids will ever turn down an opportunity to cook. Not only does it satisfy their naturally inquisitive natures it generally gives them some quality 'together' time filling up those emotional tanks, plus it usually means something YUMMY to eat!!
Parents and educators love cooking tasks with children as there are so many
 opportunities to learn.
I love cooking scones with kids. I find it is a great recipe to do with young children as there isn't too many ingredients or steps and it lets them get really hands in!!
Learning Opportunities
Language- labelling objects and actions, following instructions, retell
Maths- measuring, counting, number recognition, shape
Science- observation skills, recognition of the senses
Fine motor Development
Social - turn taking, sharing
Suitable Ages
The recipe I used for these scones I found here at and I simply displayed it on the Ipad for Hman and Miss M to see.
To start with we measured out and counted 3 cups of self raising flour.

Little fingers getting a workout rubbing the flour and butter together. This takes awhile so my two were very happy to give each other turns.
All you need to do next is measure out the milk and add it.

More hands on fun kneading the dough and rolling it out. My 2yo needed some help with this while Miss 4 was quite independent.

Cutting out circles. Lining them up and counting them. Hman was able to observe big sis get this right and it's just so precious watching him copy her. She is a brilliant teacher!!
We popped them on a tray and put them in the oven to cook.

20 minutes later we had yummy delicious warm morning tea!
Spreading the jam themselves was also lots of fun!

Always supervise children when using an oven
Play and Learn

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Let the Children Play and Follow their lead!

Today was one of those rare but wonderful days. A day to do whatever we pleased, no kindy, no gym, no playgroup, grocery shopping, appointments nothing... Bliss!!

I have to admit I did have some guilt. Guilt that I hadn't organised something amazing for the kids to do on this empty day, some cool activity that I could even perhaps blog about, I hadn't set out any 'invitations' not even organised some sort of baking, by golly what kind of mother was I??? I've wasted a day! Don't you love a mothers brain!!
However, by about midday I began to see that this day was far far from wasted. On this day with no expectations the children played and I observed. I stepped in when appropriate to guide, question, extend and I realised this, THIS is what is important! THIS is what I should share. THIS is far more valuable than some activity!!
THIS is what mothers, fathers, grandparents and carers are doing with children all over the world all day, everyday and THIS is what matters!
So here is our day highlighting how I tuned into my children.

With the glorious sunny weather we had gone outside to play I had some washing to hang out (Miss M enjoys helping me with this) and Bubba was having his morning nap. Miss M and Hman enjoyed a swing and a bounce on the trampoline the usual stuff. Then Miss M found an orange growing on our orange tree. It's only a young tree and this is the first of two oranges on it. She wanted to know what it was growing on the tree. I asked her what she thought it was and she replied a lime". A great suggestion! We talked about what made her decide it was a lime and then I asked her what type of tree it was and she laughed when I said do you think a lime would grow on an orange tree hehehe!!

 Hman came to look

She wanted to pick it. I said it wasn't ready, it still had more growing to do, we can tell that cause it is still green and hasn't turned orange yet.
We compared it's colour, size and smell to a fully grown orange from the fridge (lucky I had some). 

 While returning the orange to the fridge Hman succeeded in pulling the orange off the tree!! At least there is still another one growing!  Hman threw it, "that's right it's round like a ball". We described it's physical properties - colour, shape, texture, weight and smell. I modelled new vocabulary for them such as bumpy, waxy, citrus, round.

I asked if they wanted to see what it looked like inside which was answered with yes, yes, yes! We made some predictions, such as, what do you think it will look like? Will it be orange? Will it look like an orange etc. 
I cut it through it's diameter so they could see the segments. Wow look at the shapes! They both happily smelled the orange but weren't keen to taste it, perhaps it was it's colour??

 I suggested we could explore the shapes and pattern of the inside more by taking some prints of the orange. "Yeah, yeah mummy!" With lots of jumping up and down.
When I asked what colour we should use Miss M said green and Hman said yes!

As they were making the prints Miss M was chatting, I was listening - "these are the leaves, this is a big big tree".
I quietly added a small tub of brown paint and a brush. 
Together they made lots of trees. I was encouraging Hman to say 'tree' as he has not yet used this word by getting down to his level and gaining his eye contact while modellingI encouraged Miss M to extend her language by describing the trees she had made- 'this tree is tall and skinny,' 'this one is short and round'.

After they were done we cleaned up and had some morning tea. Oranges of course!!

Bubba woke from his morning nap and I suggested we go for a walk and have a look at some trees and see if we could find 'the biggest tree ever'!!
We could go on a tree hunt!!
We did see lots of trees but we also found something that totally enthralled them.
 A construction site. 

We watched the bulldozers, diggers and the trucks digging, scooping, dumping and coming and going for quiet awhile. It was incredibly entertaining and the children were in awe of these big machines at work! 

After awhile it was time to come back home and have lunch. Before the boys nap time we all snuggled on the bed in Hmans room and read 'Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site' by Sherri Duskey Rinker. The children were able to see all the machines from the site in the story and it has such beautiful language. I also remembered a construction puzzle Hman had been given as a gift from his Gran which was the perfect quiet time activity for Miss M while the boys napped.

I quickly did some mopping while she busied herself with the puzzle! 

In the afternoon after the boys had woken up it wasn't long before they were all eager to get back outside. With all the big machines from the construction site still fresh in their minds we couldn't resist turning our sandpit into our own construction site!

Even Princesses in Tiara's couldn't resist this fun!

Bubba enjoyed an orange slice I had put in the freezer for him. His first try of orange and he pulled some funny faces but it was perfect for his poor teething gums!!

And before we knew it, our day was nearing it's end. The best bit and I really love it when this happens was, Daddy made it home in time for dinner and the children, well really just Miss M, was able to tell him all about our day. He wasn't too happy about his precious orange getting picked but he did like the trees we painted with it ;)
Before bed Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site was requested again and we made up some silly little songs about some of the big machines which caused many giggles.
So there you have it, our day summed up and I've no doubt missed loads. A day with no pre thought, no expectations, no set up activities but filled to over flowing with learning and wonder and curiosity from simply following my children's lead. I could have ignored their interest in the orange, kept walking straight passed the construction site and often when we are so busy with activities, outings, errands this can happen. I hope this inspires you to occasionally stop, step back,
let your children play and follow their lead.
Play and Learn