Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Toddler Time - Simple Sensory Path

Need a quick toddler activity indoors to burn off some energy?  Set up this simple sensory path.  Gather objects from around your house.  We used some bath mats, the top of a ottoman, rug grippers and a baking cooling rack.  Off came the shoes and down the textured path the toddler went.  We practiced following simple motor commands - go and stop.  After repeating several times, the toddler decided to crawl along the path getting some wonderful sensory input to the hands as well. 

Super easy, super simple and fun idea to get your toddler moving and exploring the senses. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

How to Make Activities Reusable with Wipe Off Markers

Do you have mazes, worksheets or maybe pretend pages from GrowingPlay?  Check out these ideas to make some simple alternatives using wipe off markers and cheap supplies from the office store instead of lamination or loads of color printing.

When we tested them all out, we found the binder slant board and the report book worked the best.  They were the easiest to write on and erase.  The laminated sheets were the hardest to erase but you could still erase them.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pretend Play Plus Sensory Play = FUN!

Combining pretend play with sensory exploration is loads of fun.  We love to add pretend props to mix up sensory activities.  Today, the dried beans were "cooked" on the cardboard stove top and mini bean muffins were "baked" inside the oven.  As children get older they can expand their play repertoire and you can help by adding props with the sensory materials.  Here are a few examples:

  • add small pots and pans to "cook" different sensory materials
  • add small dolls or characters to explore the materials ie make mountains to climb or tunnels to explore
  • add real items ie ice cream cones with play dough
  • add cupcake liners and beads to make cupcakes to sell at a pretend bakery
The opportunities are endless when you combine pretend play with sensory materials.

Check out GrowingPlay for more pretend play ideas and some free printables.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Toddler Time: Semolina Sand

Here is a quick, simple recipe to make play sand.  Grab some semolina flour from your pantry and mix in some cooking oil to make it a consistency of wet sand.  That's it!  Stick your hands in and start building sand castles.  Just use kitchen utensils to play with your sand and to build castles.  Measuring cups worked great to make three tiered cakes.  I would have photographed a cake, but each time we made one the toddler "cut" it all up before we could get a picture.  Oh well, fine by me it entertained the toddler for quite some time.  I do suggest playing with it outdoors or put a sheet down before you start.    

Monday, July 23, 2012

Do It Yourself Amusement Park

Looking for something to do?  Suggest to the kids to make their own amusement park.  My children invented the games above: twisty swing, sled carry and the roller rider.  They created their own fake tickets to sell and gave the younger kids rides all afternoon.  In addition, they opened up a snack bar with signature drinks (lemonade and sunny D was popular with a splash of seltzer).  Some nice free outdoor fun created by kids when left alone.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pretend Play Makes Better Thinkers

Recent research from the University of California Berkeley indicated that children who were better at pretend play were better at thinking about different possibilities.  By imagining the way things will work, children try to predict if what they are doing will work.  Then when done pretending they can compare their results to real life experiences.  The researchers speculate that pretend play is what helps make humans so smart.

Reference:  Gopnik, A. Let the Children Play, It's Good for Them! Retrieved on 7/18/2012 from www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Let-the-Children-Play-Its-Good-for-Them.html#ixzz212949FPk 

Check out GrowingPlay for loads of ideas to play pretend.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"But I am good at it on the Wii..."

I had an interesting observation today while playing with two of my children.  We decided to make some bow and arrows that we found on Pinterest from Craft, Interrupted.  We changed it up a bit but not much from her original directions.  Using blue plastic piping, PVC caps and some string we made the bow and arrows (which we had a lot of fun creating).  We headed outdoors to test out the new devices.  After two failed trials both of my children seemed super frustrated.  This made me a tad frustrated.  How did they expect to be good at something right away and especially archery.  I gave a little "it takes practice" pep talk.  Then my daughter states "but I am good at it on the Wii"! I continued to remind them that it required practice and they plodded on.  After many trials they were able to do it and they were extremely proud and quickly showed off their new talents to their older sisters.  But, I am sure that had I not encouraged them to continue they would have given up.

Later in the day this gave me something to think about.  Does video gaming, particularly active video games, influence children's abilities to learn "real" motor skills?  The Wii and the iPad are relatively easy to control with a very small learning curve.  You can have success with many games after very little practice.  Perhaps you do not have 100% success but you can improve rather quickly with practice.  

In real life this is not the case when it comes to developing motor skills.  Developing the skills necessary to hula hoop, juggle, ride a bicycle or use a bow and arrow require hours and hours of practice.  Do children get frustrated easily since they can do it on the Wii and not in real life?  Why bother trying only to fail or not progress quickly? 

My hope is that children realize that accomplishing the real motor skill is more satisfying and fun.  Unfortunately, this may not be the case.  Children spend less and less time outdoors.  Do they even have to time necessary to work on these motor skills?  In our house, the children have limits on their "electronic time" as we call it.  They average about one hour per day where they can choose to watch television, use their itouch, use the computer or play the Wii.  Based on statistics though, we are well below the average "electronic time" usage for children especially adolescents.  What about the upcoming generation of toddlers who are exposed to tablet devices at such a young age?  Will it influence their frustration levels with print books?  If a digital book can become animated with a touch of a finger, will children eventually dislike plain old print books?

I truly hope all the answers are "no" to my questions regarding the influence of electronic gaming on children.  Nothing beats the feelings of satisfaction when you learn to ride a bike, juggle some balls, read a book or shoot a bow and arrow.   

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Toddler Time: Rides

Need to entertain your toddler for a few minutes?  Bring them on a toddler ride in the laundry basket.  Stop and start the laundry basket slowly which will challenge the little ones balance skills and strengthen the trunk muscles.  You can encourage language by waiting to start the toddler ride until the little one using baby sign language or says the word "go".

When done giving the toddler a ride, find some stuffed animals to put into the basket and the toddler can give the toys a ride. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tiny Toy Land

My children built a small outdoor landscape for their small toys to live in this past weekend.  There was a natural nook in the tree stump to create a small shelter.  After hunting for some furniture (bark and rocks) the tiny toy land was ready to play with.  Most of the entertainment was creating the tiny toy land but it was fun to check on it all weekend to see if any real creatures decided to stop by and make it home.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Animal Detectives - Free Game to Print

If you want to challenge your your child's visual perceptual skills, visual closures skills and encourage physical activity download this free printable game.  The kids will love guessing what animal is hiding in the grass!  You can download it for free at GrowingPlay.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Toddler Time: Dried Bean Play

Of all the things my children have enjoyed playing with through the years the dried bean container is in the top three most favorite "toys".  Toddlers especially like to pour, sort, scoop and touch all the beans.  If you provide kitchen items the beans make a nice plinking noise as you pour them.  You do have to watch closely that they do not mouth any of the beans.  I usually put a sheet down on the floor for easy clean up when done.  Close up the container and save for the next time you need a quiet, engaging activity.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Freebie Playing Laundry Shop Printables

Print these two free fun pages to play pretend laundromat.  This is a functional pretend play activity.  A child can work on sorting and counting laundry while using their imagination to open up a "laundromat".  You can download the pages at GrowingPlay.

This activity encourages:
  • pretend play
  • imagination
  • literacy
  • math skills
  • writing skills
  • functional skills 
  • sorting
  • role playing

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Running Bases Game

Running Bases is a great classic game that I played frequently as a child and my children play now.  Here is how you play:

Preparation:  Head outdoors and find two trees at least 40 feet apart.  If trees are not available, put out two bases or cones.  Grab a ball to toss, something that won't hurt if someone gets hit by it.  

Players:  You need at least 4 players for Running Bases.  Assign two players to be the catchers.  They each stand at a different base.  All of the other players pick a base to start out at.  This game is best suitable for ages 5+ years old.  

How to Play:  On "GO", the catchers toss the ball back and forth to each other.  The players must run to the opposite base.  If the catchers throw the ball back and forth three times all the players have to run to the opposite base therefore running players can not stay at one base for too long.  The object is to get to the opposite base without getting tagged by the ball. 

If you are tagged by the ball you become a catcher.  You can set the rules in the beginning of the game whether you can actually hit runners with the soft ball or whether the catcher has to touch you with the ball.  

So head outdoors this weekend, to play outdoors the classic game of Running Bases.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Toddler Time: Stacking Cups

After stacking all of our cups to see how high we could go, my toddler loved watching us stack the cups so she could knock them all down.  She would wait patiently while we stacked and then knock them down with all of her might.  She kicked them, squashed them and tossed them all over the room.  Nice cheap activity to entertain a little one. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

How High Can You Go?

Try out this challenge... how high can you stack layers of small plastic cups and cardboard and balance on it without crushing it all?  In our house, the 50 pound child was able to stack 4 layers of cups and cardboard and balance on it without breaking the tower down.

This was a great project to explain weight distribution and it was just plain fun!