Category Archives: Playing

Leaf Printing

Rabbit and I have been planning to do some leaf printing all through the Autumn, but somehow we have never got round to it.  So yesterday morning, when we had some time together while all the boys were out, we decided it wasn’t too late for one more Autumn craft session, before moving on to Christmas crafts.

leaf printing 1

Rabbit really enjoyed organising everything exactly the way she wanted, and having all my attention, though she didn’t really need my help.

leaf printing 2

She loved experimenting with the colours, mixing red and yellow to make orange, and adding glitter glue to brown paint to make it sparkly.

leaf printing 3

When she had finished printing with the leaves, Rabbit painted a picture of a shark in the sea, and then we went to collect Tiddler from Pre-school.  After lunch, we carried on painting, and both the children had fun mixing all the colours together and getting their hands messy.  We had a lovely time, and I think the activity could have easily carried on all day, but we had to tidy up because it was time to go and visit Father Christmas at the Garden Centre.

After painting in the garden most days in the summer, we haven’t had the paints out much this Autumn.  I’m glad we finally got round to it, and the children had such a good time, so I’m going to make sure we don’t leave it so long again.  Winter paintings next week!

Number Playdough Mats

We used these lovely number playdough mats from twinkl ages ago, and I have been meaning to write about them ever since.  Playdough is always popular with our children, and using mats is a very simple way to give the activity a different focus from time to time.

number playdough mats 1

We took our playdough with us when we went to stay at my mum’s house, and Rabbit and Tiddler had a lovely afternoon playing with it.  They both enjoyed making the numbers and copying the pictures on the mats.

number playdough mats 2

Rabbit made a couple of her own creations at the end too!

I’ve just been browsing on twinkl and there are lots more playdough mats to choose from.  I think we’ll be trying out these Christmas ones next.

We were given a free subscription to twinkl premium for the purpose of reviewing this and other resources.

Messy Play with Flour and Cornflour

I was so pleased when I saw that Jennie had relaunched her Messy Play for Matilda Mae linky last week.  I needed the motivation to get the Tuff Spots out again and let the children play with the flour which they had been saving since we played the flour cake game at Halloween.  We invited our friends from 3 Kids and a Gluestick round and had a wonderful time.  This was over a week ago, and we missed the linky, so I am determined to get this post written up now before the next one closes.

messy flour 1

We started off by playing the flour cake game again, and once we had finished, the children added some vehicles and farm animals and played happily with the flour all afternoon.

messy flour 2

Owl and Rabbit chose to play with cornflour in the other Tuff Spot.  They had a bowl each and mixed it with water before adding green food colouring.  Then Rabbit added vanilla essence to hers and Owl chose lemon flavouring for his.  I accidentally overdid it on the lemon, but the smell was delicious.

messy flour 3

I think they decided it was a wizard’s potion which probably explains Owl’s choice of hat!

messy flour 4

It was a very successful afternoon, though once the children started walking in the flour we thought we’d better bring it to a close.  That sort of thing works well in the garden in the summer, but it’s a bit harder to manage in a small area indoors with seven children.

messy play 5

The perfect way to finish was of course to turn one of the Tuff Spots into a car wash.  The children did have a lot of fun with this.  Owl made some holes in the bottom of a milk carton and used it to sprinkle water on the vehicles.  We used sponges to clean the cars and then lined them up to dry on trays covered with tea towels.

We never get bored of playing with flour and cornflour and it was the best way to get our messy play going again – we are back in business!

Design and Drill – Review

It’s taken me a little while to get around to reviewing the second item we received at the Junior Scholars event which was a few weeks ago.  We quickly reviewed the Magic Science kit, which we loved, and then we took the Design and Drill set away with us when we went to stay at my mum’s house.  I was really looking forward to this one, as I’ve wanted to try it for a long time.  The children were all very excited too, and we had to work hard to get them to take turns as they couldn’t wait to get started.  We had a little trouble with the drill at first, as it was wired up incorrectly so forward meant reverse, and vice versa.  However, once we realised what was going on it was easy to work around.  Unfortunately though, after about ten minutes of playing, the drill stopped working.  The children were obviously disappointed, but I told them I would find out about getting a replacement drill and that we would probably be able to try it out again at home.

I emailed the team at Junior Scholars and got a very prompt and helpful response.  They mentioned that it was unusual, as Learning Resources products are generally very reliable, and in my experience that is certainly true.  It was obviously just a faulty batch, and they quickly arranged for a replacement drill to be sent out.  We received it over a week ago, and tested it out the weekend before last, so most of the delay has been caused by illness, being too busy and me struggling to keep up with my mountain of overdue posts.

The Design and Drill Activity Center is aimed at children aged 3 to 7, and it certainly appealed to Monkey, Rabbit and Tiddler (aged 7, 5 and 3).  Owl (aged 9) liked it too, although it didn’t hold his attention for quite as long.

The set includes an activity board with 100 holes, 10 double-sided pattern cards, 100 plastic bolts in 5 bright colours, a combination spanner, a junior power drill with reverse function, a hand drill and 3 different drill bits.  The power drill requires 3 AA batteries, which are not included.  At £29.95, I think it is really good value for money as there is a lot of things that the children can do with it, from simple drilling to complicated designs, so they won’t get bored of it easily.

design drill contents one 1

design drill contents two 2

design drill contents three 3

Second time round, it was a great success.  All the children loved it, and this time there were no problems with the drill.  Tiddler really enjoyed using it and spent some time practising putting the bolts in and taking them out.  The older children were quite patient while he did this, and they used the small hand drill to add and remove some bolts as well.  After a while, Tiddler had had enough, and then Monkey and Rabbit had a chance to create some pictures.  (Owl had a go too, but couldn’t wait for Tiddler to finish, so he went and found something else to do.)

design drill one 1

They used some of the picture cards, to create a flag and a flower, before designing their own picture of a train for Tiddler.  They worked really well together on this, and it was clear to see that this toy has a lot of potential for a wide range of ages, as it can be used in different ways.

design drill two 2

Despite our initial false start, we are really happy with this set, and I’m sure it will be used by the children for several years to come.

We were given the set for free by Junior Scholars.  All opinions are our own.



Messy Play: Oat Cuisine

Apologies for the terrible pun but we play with oats so much that it is getting hard to think of a different title for each post.   For our latest messy play session, I started off with the idea of creating a messy kitchen.  I wanted to keep it fairly simple but as always the children had other ideas!

oat cuisine 1

oat cuisine 2

I gave them some measuring jugs, spoons, scoops and funnels and Rabbit added a cake tin and cases and a lot of cardboard tubes. She started off by making cakes, which included pouring the oats down a tube.  Tiddler had fun experimenting with the funnels and discovered it was much easier to get the oats to go through the big one.

oat cuisine 3

Monkey took the play in a totally different direction when he added two Lego Minifigures, the Dark Knight and the Conquistador, who had a battle over some gold in the oats.  After that he played with the last spare pack of rolling icing left over from the Birthday season, and of course he needed some flour to go with it.

oat cuisine 4

While Monkey rolled and cut out lots of different shapes, Rabbit and Tiddler made some circles to put on their cakes.

oat cuisine 5

Rabbit and Tiddler decorated their cakes with foam hearts and candles.

oat cuisine 6

Owl experimented with the flour and discovered that if you pack it tightly enough into a plastic cup you can hold it upside down for ages.  I’m glad it worked!   And then he made castles with the flour.  Rabbit made a hedgehog using yellow icing and straws, and Monkey went back to playing with the minifigures.  The Conquistador defeated the Dark Knight convincingly by knocking him into a yoghurt pot and covering him with oats!

oat cuisine 7

Then a lot of things happened at once.  Rabbit poured some oats through a funnel and down a tube, somebody (Owl?) made a Hello Kitty bow out of icing and Tiddler made a – thing – out of icing and flour.  And Owl and Monkey played together with the oats and the Lego minifigures.  There was some complex engineering going on with straws and wool but I’m not sure exactly what they did!

oat cuisine 8

The thing acquired a flag, and Monkey did some tipping and pouring.

oat cuisine 9

The Dark Knight emerged from the flour, and suddenly a lot of other minifigures got involved and there was a scene of devastation left at the end.  (Guess who cleared it up?!)

Messy Play: from Oats to Moon Sand

Looking back through my photos of the Summer holidays so far, it is clear that of the many posts I wrote in my head, the majority never made it to the blog.  A couple of weeks ago, we decided to play with oats which is one of our favourite messy play materials.  I knew that the little ones would want to add water and get into a lovely sticky mess, but Monkey would not enjoy it.  So I divided the oats between two Tuff Spots and made it clear that one was to remain dry.  They managed to keep them separate, so all the children had a wonderful time playing in the way they wanted.

oats 2

In the dry Tuff Spot, Monkey spent a long time setting up a farm with some help from Owl.  They really enjoyed their intricate, careful play while the two younger children were happily occupied with their messy kitchen.  With help from Supergirl, Rabbit and Tiddler stirred and poured, made porridge and enjoyed the texture of the wet oaty mess.  They also collected apples from the garden and rolled out some pink icing to make cakes.  I love seeing the different ways my children play and the way it reflects their personalities.

oats 3

oats 4

We haven’t done quite as much of this type of play recently as we usually do, but looking through the photos from this activity reminded me how much we love it so we need to get back into the habit.  We have saved the dry oats, so we’ll be playing with them again soon.  And yesterday the children played with moon sand, which they haven’t done for ages.  I was about to put it in a Tuff Spot in the garden when it started to rain, so we came inside and played with it at the table.  They were having such a lovely time that I let them (the younger three) climb on the table and feel the sand between their toes.  It was fun, but without the Tuff Spot to contain it, a lot ended up on the floor so they really haven’t got much left.  I think it will be on the Christmas list, but before then I need to get round to making some because I’m sure it’s not that difficult.

moon sand

I’m linking up with Jennie’s Messy Play for Matilda Mae, a great place to look for ideas and inspiration.

Edspire  Messy Play

Water play with Baby and Bears

One day last week, Rabbit asked if she could give one of her (many) babies a bath.  It was rather lovely.  We filled a jug and poured some water in her baby bath.  I showed her how to check the water temperature with her elbow which she thought was quite funny.  Then she put her baby in, with a couple of Octonauts toys to play with!  She very carefully bathed her and washed her hair, before wrapping her in a towel and giving her a cuddle.  It was very sweet to watch, and she later said to me “I can’t wait to be a grown-up so I can have my babies!”

bathing baby

Tiddler was watching with great interest, and wanted to join in of course.  So I gave him a bowl of water and some toy bears and other animals and people to bathe.  He had a lovely time washing them, and then lined them up to dry, with help from Supergirl.  Next he decided that some of the bears would like to watch a show so the upturned bowl became a stage and some of the Fisher Price people were the performers.

Bathing bears

By this time, Rabbit had finished bathing her baby, and she decided to wash her “treasure”.  Then she built a treasure island out of wooden blocks.

treasure island

Monkey also built a stage out of blocks and set up his own show – I’m not sure what happened to the pictures.  They all had so many ideas, and it was fun to see what developed from the simple starting point of giving a baby a bath.

This is our Messy Play with Matilda Mae for this week – not quite as messy as usual, perhaps, though there was a lot of water on the table and the floor by the time they had finished!

Edspire  Messy Play

Porridge and Stories

On Friday afternoon we combined two of our favourite things – stories and messy play.

A few weeks ago, the children asked if they could have a book day.  Since then we have revisited the idea several times, often on a Friday afternoon, including our story picnic the week before last.  So we have decided to make it a regular weekly event.

On previous occasions, the children have made lots of collections of books and the toys that go with them, but I was aware that they spent more time collecting than concentrating on the stories!  This time I suggested reading just two stories and basing our play around them.  We read Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Magic Porridge Pot and then the children gathered the toys they wanted to play with while I made some porridge.

I recently wrote this post, touching on the ethics of messy play with food.  It has been shared again on twitter over the weekend (thank you BritMums) and discussed in relation to the BigIF London event and the campaign to end world hunger.  I think I need to write another post on the subject to respond to some of the comments on twitter properly, but I wanted to mention it here too.  We are still playing with food, and I believe the benefits for the children are important enough to justify it.  However, I have taken some steps to reduce waste.

When making the porridge, I tried to cook the amount the children would actually eat, and I got it about right.  We did the activity at snack time, and of course some of it got smeared around the Tuff Spot (and on their bodies!) but they did eat most of it.

I am mostly trying to let the children play with food in such a way that it can be eaten as well, rather than mixing edible and inedible ingredients.  However we do still play with flour and cornflour, which I do not encourage the children to eat!

When we play with dry food ingredients, I try to reuse them as many times as possible.  We currently have a mixture of rice and lentils which has been used a lot, and now contains a bit of flour and some sand too!  On this occasion I was not able to save the dry oats that we played with as they became mixed with the porridge.  This was probably because it was raining so we had to play indoors with the Tuff Spots next to each other.  If we had been in the garden, I would have put them further apart so that they were two separate activities.

porridge play 1

For this activity, I made some traditional porridge, and also some instant hot oats.  I used water instead of milk to try to reduce food waste.  Then I started to think about the amount of water we generally play with and whether we need to think about that issue too.  At this point my brain started to hurt from overthinking!

In addition to the two kinds of cooked porridge, I gave the children some dry oats and instant oats to play with, and some sugar, raisins and cinnamon to add to their porridge.

porridge play 2

The children had a lovely time making mixtures of the various ingredients, using a Lego Duplo truck to deliver them (with a Playmobil 123 driver!) and eating rather a lot of very sugary porridge.  They also discovered that cinnamon was very good for making marks in.

porridge play 3

Monkey made a scene from the Three Bears story with our Maths bears (normally used for counting, colour sorting and comparing ) but it wasn’t long before the bears were swimming in the porridge.

porridge play 4

One of the Fisher Price farm people also went for a dive in a cup of porridge, which Rabbit thought was very funny.  We then did some mark-making and I was very pleased to see that Rabbit can now spell quite a few three-letter (CVC) words, and has definitely moved on to sounding them out rather than just learning each word separately.  I am finding it very interesting to observe the different ways in which each of my children has learnt/ is learning to read.  I think that subject merits a post of its own (I have such a long list of posts I want to write.)

porridge play 5

Monkey and Rabbit are both so good at reading, writing and spelling that I don’t often focus on them quite so much when we are mark-making.  However, Monkey did learn to spell the word “porridge” during this activity!

porridge play 6

We had so much fun with our messy play this week, as always remembering Matilda Mae and her lovely mummy Jennie who has given us so much inspiration for our play and learning.  We are joining up again with the Messy Play for Matilda Mae linky, and also wondering if we are brave enough to start a linky of our own about activities based on books and stories.  So what do you think?  If there was a children’s book- themed linky, would you join in?  If you say yes, then I will have to do it!

Edspire  Messy Play

Mark Making and Planting Seeds

On Sunday we spent the afternoon in the garden enjoying the sunshine.  We thought we would clear some wet sand out of one of the Tuff Spots, and Rabbit and Tiddler enjoyed helping to lift spadefuls of sloppy wet sand into the wheelbarrow.  However, it soon became clear that they were having a lot of fun playing with it, so we changed our plans and let them carry on.  We experimented with making marks in the wet sand and the children also buried their hands in it.  Tiddler got right in there and stomped around in it too.

mark making 1

We then got some vehicles and Tiddler made tracks in the sand, while I drew shapes and Rabbit wrote some words.

mark making 2

This went on for a long time!

mark making 3

And I had as much fun as the children did!

mark making 4

When the little ones had finished, we removed most of the sand and then added our leftover rice and lentil mixture (I think there is a bit of flour in there as well!)  This was more appealing to Monkey, who prefers “clean” messy play, so he and I spent quite a long time making marks in it, while the others dipped in and out of the activity.

mark making 5

The vehicles were added back in and more tracks were made.

mark making 6

And then of course there was the fun of washing the toys!

mark making 7

Meanwhile, in the other Tuff Spot…

mark making 8

Rabbit, Tiddler and I planted some of the enormous stash of seeds leftover from last year.  I know it is a bit late for some of them, but it is such a fun activity and the seeds are not going to improve by being left for another year so we decided to try our luck.

mark making 9

Next we did some mark making and Tiddler drew a snake so I showed him how to write the letter “S” and we talked about how it looks like a wiggly snake.

mark making 10

After that, Owl and I did some more writing and drawing in the rice mixture, while Monkey made mud pies with the compost.

mark making 11

It was a lovely afternoon and once again it reminded me that the best play is often completely unplanned!

Edspire  Messy Play

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Playing with Paint

Almost two weeks ago Rabbit and Tiddler had a lovely time playing with paint in the Tuff Spot.  It was worthy of a separate blog post, but instead it got rather lost in a round up of a busy and somewhat stressful week.  We squirted blobs of paint around the Tuff Spot, and then made marks in the paint with cardboard tubes, cars and balls, and our hands too .  It was a lot of fun, and I would like to do it again soon.  We need to use heavier balls, such as marbles so that we can roll them around the Tuff Spot, and I’m sure we can think of lots of other toys to use for mark-making as well.  I will also experiment with putting paper in the Tuff Spot first, or laying paper on top of the patterns to take prints of them, although I think the process is a lot more important than the product.

Paint 1

Paint 2

Paint 3

After the painting session, we had lunch then headed out for a walk in the woods.  When we returned home, Rabbit and Tiddler decided they would like to wash the cars and balls.  I think if anything this was even more fun than the original activity.  I placed a bowl of soapy water in the middle of the Tuff Spot, gave them each a cloth and let them get on with it.  They had a wonderful time!

Paint wash 1

Paint wash 2

Paint wash 3