Thursday, December 29, 2011

Active Game Using a Smart Phone

Here is a simple game that combines the fun of using a smart phone with physical activity. Print out the QR code hunt from Cut out the 8 QR codes. You will need to download any app that will read QR codes (just search the app store and some free ones will come up). Tape the codes in different locations indoors or outdoors. The object of the hunt is to find the QR code that states WINNER when scanned.

I recommend that you have the children find one code at a time. They must bring it back to the smart phone and scan it. If it is not the winner, they must return the code to its original location. Obviously if it scans as the winner you win the game!

You can give a small prize for finding the winning code.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Rules for Adults During Play Time

During this time of year, children usually have many new toys and gadgets to play with. Parents can play a supportive role in encouraging play skills and get in some fun bonding time. Here are several tips when playing with children:
1. Turn off all cell phones, televisions and computers while you are playing with your child. Set a good example by ignoring your electronic devices while you play.
2. Follow the child's lead. Let the child decide what to play with. If the child is playing pretend play along and follow their directions.
3. Play at the child's level. If the child is playing on the floor, get down on the floor to play with him or her.
4. Do not have a plan. This is the hardest to follow. With all the routine and rushing in today's lives, it is very hard as a parent not to have a plan. Just sit and play even if it is just for a few mintues. The child will appreciate your undivided attention.
You can print out this flyer to hang up in your playroom to remind parents how to "behave" during playtime.

Friday, December 23, 2011

DIY Whiteboard and Felt Board

Children love to play school. Here is a simple recycled project using an old picture frame to make some props for pretend school. If you have some younger ones in the house, they will enjoy these for regular playtime instead of props. Go to for the step by step directions to create your own felt board and white board.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Build Your Own Balance Beam

This was a great activity we did last week. The kids have been very interested recently in using real tools. At first I was hesitant but figured why not try it. I guess I better mention use all tools with adult supervision. So they decided they wanted to make a balance beam. We had lots of scrap wood lying around to make one.

They started out by picking a 2x4 that was too long. Out came our first real tool - the saw. Working together they were able to saw through the 2x4 with almost no help. I was really impressed by their hard work and determination. Even they were surprised when they finally made it all the way through.

Next came the hammer and nails. They hammered in a few nails on each end to keep the beam on the wooden blocks.

And, voila the beam was completed. She was so proud. After a few times across though they wanted to add on. So using some other scraps they created some bridges up to the beam (see photo below).

This play time encouraged:
  • sense of accomplishment
  • eye hand coordination
  • bilateral coordination
  • spatial awareness skills
  • balance skills
  • lots of physical activity outdoors

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Balloon Fun with a Bicycle Pump

Here is part two of activities with the bicycle pump (see here for Part One - Straw Rockets). After making the straw rockets, the kids realized that you could pump up balloons using the bicycle pump. Not just any balloons, the kinds that you can twist into objects (as you know these are impossible to do with your mouth). So it started out blowing up the few balloons we had around to twist into what they hoped to be amazing animals. All their small hands could handle was some hats but they were proud.

Then they just started blowing up more balloons.

But someone's very special balloon popped and of course they were a little sad. Then I remembered what I saw on Pinterest. Put glow sticks inside balloons! Since it was dark out this was amazing. The kids played with the glowing balloons forever.

This super activity encourages:
  • upper extremity strengthening with all that pumping
  • eye hand coordination
  • bilateral coordination (using both sides of the body together)
  • FUN!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Homemade Straw Rockets

Today the kids had hours of fun with a bicycle pump and some straw rockets. All we did was cut a plastic straw to about 6 inches. An adult used a glue gun to put a dab of glue on the top of the straw to seal it shut completely (make a few extra, each straw only lasts for a few launches). Now, pop the straw on the end of a bicycle pump (yellow nozzle) and watch it fly. After experimenting, we found out that the longer the straw (within reason) the farther it went in the air. We also found out that this project was better outdoors after we kept hitting the ceiling.

This was a super fun activity that encourages:
  • muscle strengthening of the shoulders and arms
  • science experimentation
  • cooperation (you need one kid to hold the straw and one to pump)
After using it for awhile just to shoot off the straw the kids added on a racing game - who could get to the straw rocket first!

Watch the video here:

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post with another activity using a bicycle pump.

Teacher's Pointer or Magic Wand

Today we made a simple teacher's pointer to use when playing school. It can also double as a magic wand. Let your child's imagination and creativity decide what it is. Perhaps they will play wizard school. Read more about this easy project at

Saturday, December 17, 2011

FREE Santa's Workshop Download

You can get a free download of printables to set up a great Santa's workshop this week before Christmas. There are several signs, toy design sheet, reindeer testing and toy testing ideas to get children's creativity flowing.

Set up the space with a construction area (i.e. blocks, tinker toys and legos), invention area (loose parts, print toy invention sheet from packet), reindeer testing area (balls, small obstacle course, print reindeer testing sheet from download) and naughty and nice area (interview children using printable from download).

To get the download you need to "like" us on Facebook. Head on over to our Facebook page to get the Santa's Workshop download.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Play Outdoors Flyer

Print this Play Outdoors flyer. Children can tear off the activity ideas for suggestions when they head outdoors. Hang it by the back door to remind the kids (and parents) that children need play time outdoors. Visit GrowingPlay to download the flyer.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Nightime Reflector Hunt

It is chilly here this time of year and it can be hard to think of things to do outdoors with the kids. There is only a dusting of snow on the ground but the grass is covered. Thanks to ActiveKidsClub, we played a super fun game this evening. We modified their suggested hide and go seek activity wearing reflectors. Instead I picked up some inexpensive mini reflectors at the hardware store ($3/pack of 8). We stuck each reflector on an index card, punched a hole and added some string.

Once it was dark out, I headed outdoors and hid the 8 reflectors. I hid 2 of the same colored reflectors in the same spot. We divided the kids into two teams and provided each team with a flashlight. Off they went hunting for the reflectors. The first team to find all 4 of their colored reflectors was the winner.

This game was a huge hit that encourages:
  • physical activity
  • visual perceptual skills
  • team work
Happy hunting!

Scavenger Hunts

Get 150 Scavenger Hunt cards to find.

Only $4.99.

Get more information.

Sock Tag

This kids came up with this simple twist on tag. Ball up two socks or one missed matched sock. Head outdoors and start a game of tag. Run until you get hit by a sock ball. If you get hit you have to sit out for a count of ten and then you can join the game again. Or break up into teams, if you get hit you are out. The last team with any members who have not been hit is the winner.

If the weather is miserable outside you could play indoors. Each child should set up a fort to hide behind. The fort could just be as simple as a chair sideways - just something to hide behind. Ball up at least 4 socks per player. Start a snowball fight with the socks.

This activity encourages:
  • physical activity
  • eye hand coordination
  • strategy

Have fun!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Finished Product

Starting out with some recycled cardboard, duct tape and a broken toy truck, they completed their homemade robot. They were super proud of themselves as was I.

They were able to stick the refurbished car inside the cardboard robot. Where the wheels used to be on the car, they attached some pipe cleaners with handy dandy duct tape to make the arms spin. This was a great project that encouraged:
  • creativity
  • fine motor skills
  • open ended play
  • basic understanding of how an electronic toy works
Here is a video of the robot in action. Look how proud they are!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Great Project for Boys (and Girls)

I occasionally find it hard to think of projects to keep my son busy. My daughters will frequently do craft projects when bored but he is not always interested. So we came up with playing inventor. My son and daughter have been working on fixing a toy truck. The truck was broken so they decided to take it apart and try and fix it. They did get pretty far and almost fixed it. The one part of the truck had a broken piece of plastic so they could not fix the gears. They did have loads of fun trying though and were super proud that they even got the truck apart. Checking out the inner workings of the toy was fascinating to me as an adult as well. There was a mini circuit board, basic switches and gears (I know I am a science nerd).

Anyway, when they could not fix it they decided to re-purpose it. Now they are trying to fit it inside this "robot" they made so it will make noises and hopefully make its arms move. We shall see. They took a break after an hour of working on it. I will post a picture of the finished robot if they complete it. Regardless, they were entertained by themselves for an hour - already a winning situation.

This was a great activity that encourages fine motor skills, science skills and exploration. I am sure you have some battery operated toys lying around that no one plays with anymore. Let the kids have at it by themselves and see what they can do with it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Indoor Physical Activity Fun

The days of running around neighborhoods freely and walking to school seem to be a thing of the past. Instead, children sit in front of a television or computer screen for hours a day. When the weather outside is bad, the television hours increase even more. Because of this, children lead more sedentary lifestyles than ever. Parents must make an effort to provide daily physical activity opportunities for their young children. Here are five fun indoor fitness activity ideas for young children using basic items from around the house. Remember, have fun and be safe!

1. Paper Towel Path: Place 10 paper towel squares in a line on a carpeted floor. The child can practice jumping from square to square. Separate the squares further. Jump again from square to square. Continue separating the squares to encourage the child to jump further distances. Try playing the game hopping on one foot.

2. Paper Cup Conditioning : Gather at least 12 small paper cups. On a carpeted surface, place 4 paper cups next to each other upside down. Several feet away, place 4 more paper cups in a line. Repeat. You have set up a small hurdle course. The child can practice jumping over the paper cups. Place the paper cups in a line with each cup about 2 feet apart. Try weaving in and out of the cups. Stack the cups in a pyramid shape and throw a soft ball at them. Use the cups as bowling pins. When done, try smashing all of the cups with your feet or hands.

3. Time It: Using a stop watch or kitchen timer, time how long it takes your child to complete various tasks. For example, ask your child to walk upstairs to your bedroom, come back down touch the couch and skip back into the kitchen. Go for the best time over three trials. Try different movements such as hopping, jumping, crab walk and crawling.

4. Dance Party: Crank up the music and dance. Here are some variations on just dancing: play freeze dance, invent a new dance and teach it to a friend and put on a dance show.

5. Shoe Box Trail: Gather up old shoe boxes. Scatter them around a carpeted floor. See if the child can step from one side of the room to the other only stepping in the boxes. Try pretending to skate or ski around the room wearing the shoe boxes as skates or skis. Use the boxes as targets and throw wadded up pieces of paper into the boxes.

6. Create an indoor obstacle course: Use couch pillows and chairs to create an indoor obstacle course.

7. Action Charades: Play charades acting out only sports or any physical activities. Play it as reverse charades. Someone who is not playing can write a sport on a name tag. Put the name tag on the person's back. The partner looks at the person's back and acts out the sport. The person has to guess. Play again with the guesser having the name tag on his/her back.

Allow your children to be creative with the activities. See what games they can create with the materials as well.

Ideas for Playing Pretend School

Children, especially young girls, love to play school. Whether it be friends, dolls or stuffed animals for students kids will instruct anyone if given the chance. Sometimes they just need a little push to get the game going. The next time your child comes to you saying they are bored perhaps you can help set up a pretend school to spark their imagination. Try some of these ideas:
1. Set up a table for the head teacher. Put some paper and pencils on it.
2. Put some pillows on the floor or small chairs for the students.
3. Children love to use tape, hole punches and staplers. Put some on the teacher's desk.
4. If you can hang a dry erase board in your play room it will be money well spent. My children spend so much time with this cheap "toy". Whether it be pretending to be the teacher, writing song lyrics or drawing targets to throw a ball at the white board gets a lot of use.

Sometimes children just need a little push to get started and then take off with the idea. Check out our Pretend Play - School Packet for forms and signs to supplement playing school. This is a great way to encourage literacy while your child plays. If your child is old enough to read and write they will love all the prompts to use while playing. If your child can't read yet, they will see how words associate with pictures.

Playing Pretend - School

Get 28 forms and signs to play pretend school.

Visit GrowingPlay for more information.

Welcome to Growing Play

Growing Play (a division of Your Therapy Source Inc) has a mission to bring back play time to our children. All too often, busy schedules, the push to drive academics at a young age and organized sports interfere with traditional playtime. Our books and activities are great resources for parents, teachers and other professionals to help children develop, learn and grow through play.

Follow this blog to take children's play one step further.