Monday, February 27, 2012

Miniature Landscapes

Head outdoors and create some miniature landscapes or terrariums.  This activity is definitely about the process and not the end result.  Each child used a container to create a small landscape using mud, moss, grass or whatever they could find.  The end result was meant for them to use with their play figures but they all just enjoyed creating versus playing with it.  When I was a child, we would collect samples for our own terrariums as we hiked through the woods.   

Mixing up some mud to use in her container.

Getting dirty while packing in the mud.

One of the finished products!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pretend Crutches

This is super simple but hours of pretend play. Just use cardboard tubes as pretend crutches. The ones pictured are thick cardboard so they have held up well. You could tape two long tubes together. These make a great addition for pretend hospital.

Need more ideas for pretend hospital check out these pretend pages from GrowingPlay.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pretend Play - Apothecary

The other night the kids had loads of fun creating "remedies".  Not sure why they came up with this word but they concocted many recipes just using water, milk and spices.  It was Dad's job to taste test!  He says he can still taste one that had too much cinnamon.  They did this for an hour the other night without any help (except the taste tasting) and even washed all the dishes.

After listening to them describe their elixirs, they were so proud of each of their remedies created to cure various ailments.  It certainly was a vocabulary lesson for the younger ones who had never heard of words like cumin, oregano or poultry seasoning.

This was a great kid-created, free play activity which encouraged:
  • imagination
  • creativity
  • measuring, mixing and stirring
  • sensory experiences of taste and smell
  • reading skills
Visit for more pretend play ideas.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Jug Catchers

Recently, I saw this milk jug catcher over at Family Fun and it reminded me that I had made a set of these catchers years ago.   They are so simple.  Just cut off the bottom of a milk container and cover with a bit of duct tape for decoration.  Hold the container by the handle and start playing catch with a friend.  I love this activity because even young children can play it.  The opening is large and it is easy to hold.  I prefer this to a game of velcro catch where the ball can be very hard to remove for some young ones.  If you want to make it more difficult for older kids, play with a ping pong ball.  The ball is smaller and it bounces easily out of the container so it is trickier to catch.  

Try playing this game in the water - the milk containers scoop up a lot of water.  Adds a whole new dimension to a water fight!

This activity encourages:
  • eye hand coordination
  • bilateral coordination
  • fun!
I am sharing this post over at the Kids Co-op.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cardboard Box Road Maps

 When all the fun has been exhausted from your cardboard boxes and the sides ripped from all the climbing in and out, flatten out the box and draw some roads for the toy cars to drive on.  Add some play houses to drive up to for more imaginative play.  Creating the road map is usually the most fun. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Glow in the Dark Slime

After seeing this activity on Pinterest, we decided we had to try it ourselves.   We have made slime before (we actually call it Flubber) but never glow in the dark.

Step 1:  Mix one cup Borax with some water in a large jar.  We shook the jar for 10 minutes to mix it up (taking turns obviously).

Step 2:  In another plastic cup, they mixed together 50% glue with 50% water and 2 tbsp glow in the dark paint.  They stirred this up with a popsicle stick.  Then it was time to add the Borax solution.

Step 3:  They slowly poured the Borax solution into the glue/water/paint mixture while stirring.  It quickly adhered to the popsicle stick and started to become a solid. 
Step 4:  They took it out of the cup and kneaded in their hands for awhile.  As soon as it was ready we ran to the closet (which is our go to place to check glow in the dark anything).  IT WORKED!!  It really glowed.  Have to admit once I was in the closet I did wonder why we wanted to make it glow so bad.  We could not use the slime in the closet but it was still cool.  Plus, I can not imagine myself at night, when dark out, saying "time to make some glow in the dark slime right before bed kids".  Regardless, the slime itself was hours of fun out of the dark closet. 

Here is the finished product.  They started using tools with it but I did not take pictures - scissors, cookie cutters and sandwich makers.  The slime held up very well. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Coins in a Water Jar

Here is a very simple activity that engages children of all ages.  Instead of practicing putting coins or buttons in a bank, try putting them in a clear container with water in it.  It is mesmerizing and pretty to watch them float to the bottom.  Lightweight, colorful buttons were fun to watch.  Fake coins were interesting because some didn't always sink.  We moved on to then checking whether items would sink or float.  We found small items that could fit through the slot i.e. beads, coins, popsicle sticks, etc.    The toddler keeps going back to this activity (of course make sure they do not put anything small in their mouths)

 For the older kids, we started a game of whether you could hit an object inside the container with a coin.  We placed one of the magic grow animals (from the dollar store) in the container to watch it grow over time but then started trying to hit coins with it.  If you hit the object with a coin you got a point.  It was lots of fun - not much strategy just luck.
This activity encourages:
  • fine motor skills
  • visual tracking skills
  • science learning

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Let's Play Animal Hospital

Set up a pretend animal hospital.  Be sure to include an examining table, areas for the animals to rest, cages and crates.  The crates in this picture are containers or a storage cube turned on it's side.

Don't forget to include all the props for examining the animals.  Here are some suggested props besides a vet kit:

1. paper towels or napkins with tape to make pretend casts
2. crepe paper to wrap a sprained limb
3. box of band aids
4. small spray bottle - the kids love this. It just gives a little spritz to wash an animal
5. flashlight
6. fake telephone to answer any emergency calls
7.  leashes or ribbons for leashes
8.  plastic bowls to feed the animals in the cages
9.  kitchen utensils such as tongs to assist with examining the animal
10.  Animal forms and signs to encourage creativity, spark the imagination and promote literacy

Monday, February 6, 2012

Water Bottle Shooter

Here is a real simple project that the kids will love. An adult should cut off the top of a water bottle so that you have just the part where you screw the cap on with a little bit extra. An adult should also cut off the neck of a balloon. Now just duct tape the balloon onto the water bottle top. At first we tried it with marshmallows (safety first - haha!). That was fun but not as fun as using small tin foil balls. Go outdoors and shoot the tin foil balls - they go really far! Make sure you don't point it at anyone - it would not hurt too much but you wouldn't want "to shoot your eye out". You can talk about projectiles and try shooting different objects. Observe how objects that weigh more or less travel in different paths.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Pretend Swing for the Doll

Make a simple doll swing out of a cardboard box for a child to play with. Hang it from a door frame or outdoors from a tree branch.  You could use it for stuffed animals as well.

Check out Pretend Play - School to open a pretend doll school.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Hidden Rock Game

The Hidden Rock Game

Here is a simple outdoor activity for all ages:

Find a small rock.  Using paint or permanent marker draw something on the rock.  Go on a hunt for several items from nature that are large enough to cover the rock.  We gathered pine cones, leaves, sticks and tree bark.  Place them in a designated area in your outdoor space about 10-20 feet from a starting line. 

One person will hide the rock by placing it under one of the nature items.  Once the rock is hidden, another person will have to go and find it. 

Start the timer and the person can run from the starting line to the designated area to find the rock by turning over all the nature items.  Once the rock is found run back to the starting line and stop the clock!

See who can get the best time or just compete against yourself to see what is the shortest amount of time before you find the rock and return to the starting line.