Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Toddler Time: Hide and Seek

I am all for keeping it simple and this activity certainly keeps it simple. No materials or preparations are needed. All hide and seek requires is your time. When you stop to think about all the benefits of hide and seek it is really a learning game for little ones:
  • visual perceptual skills - the child must visually scan an area looking for you.  If they see just a little bit of you they must use his/her visual closure skills to determine where you are.  
  • counting skills - when someone is hiding, counting out loud to any number helps to establish early math skills
  • emotional health - you and the child are separated for a time and then back together again in a  fun and playful manner!
  • auditory skills - maybe you need to make a noise to help them find you.  The child needs to use the ability to listen closely to find you.  
  • motor planning skills - the child must plan which direction to go to find you and then execute that action
  • physical activity - all that running and hiding is a great aerobic activity
  • helps to develop a sense of autonomy - the toddler is left alone and must determine how to find you.  Once the child is successful in finding you, the pride and independence shows on his/her face.  They did it themselves!
So it might be simple, but for no money and just your time, your little one will experience a multisensory cognitive, emotional and physical activity.  And, you thought hide and seek was just a game.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Surfing on Dry Land

Watch this quick video on how the kids came up with surfing on dry land.  This was a lesson in engineering, design, balance skills, imagination and loads of fun!!!!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Playing to Get Ready for a Doctor's Visit

If your child is fearful about going to the doctor here are a few tips to prepare your child through play for a doctor's visit:

1.  Play pretend - Start off by using a pretend doctor's kit (homemade or store bought) to check a stuffed animal or a doll.  The child can watch you check the doll or let the child check the doll.  The next step for your child is to observe you checking another person, perhaps an older sibling or another adult.   Let the child have a turn being the doctor checking stuffed animals, dolls and people.  When the child is ready, role play that you are the doctor and check your child.  While you are role playing make sure you explain what you are going to do before you do it.  This will help to eliminate fear in the child.  

2.   Read books - Read books about going to the doctor such as Curious George goes to the Hospital or The Berenstein Bears Go to the Doctor.

3.  Write a story - Write a story about going to the doctor.  You can use google images to add pictures for your child or simple illustrations.  The text can include phrases such as:
  • We are going to see Doctor _________.
  • They will bring you into a room.
  • They will weight you and check your temperature.
  • He/she will look in your ears, eyes and nose.
  • The doctor will listen to your heart and lungs.
  • They may give you a shot.
  •  When you are done you will get a sticker.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Toddler Time - Giant Abacus

Next time your toddler needs something to entertain him or her, try setting up this giant abacus.  All you need to do is grab items from around your kitchen that have a hole in them.  Here we used cookie cutters, paper towel tubes, measuring spoons, cups and pastry brushes.  Lace a string through all of the items.  Tie the string to two large chairs to hang the abacus.  Make sure you hang it above the toddlers head so they do not get entangled in it.  Also, be sure to remind the toddler not to pull on it or the chairs will fall over.  

Once all set up, the toddler can enjoy sliding the items along the string while you count out loud as the items are moved.  

This is a nice early math skill activity that you can sneak into play time.  Not too mention all the physical activity, coordination and motor control that is involved in reaching, grabbing and sliding the objects. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Homemade Play Dough You Can Eat!

This edible play dough was actually created out of necessity.  My littlest one is currently crazy about using play dough but we were running low.  We decided to make a new batch but realized I did not have enough salt.  I did have lots of butter though!  Why couldn't we make cookie dough to look like play dough.  We used a sugar cookie cutter recipe adding a little extra flour.  I am sure you could use the pre-packaged Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie mix if you wanted to make it even easier.

Once the dough was mixed, we divided it into four sections.  Adding about 10-15 drops of food coloring per section we colored the dough into four different colors.  Use a spoon to mix in some of the food coloring first and then mix with your hands to really knead in the color.  Be sure to use that spoon first though or you will stain your hands with food coloring.

After we were done coloring the dough we wrapped up each section in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for two hours.

After the dough chilled we were ready to use the play dough.  Using rolling pins and cookie cutters we shaped our dough into snakes, ladybugs, strawberries, flowers and more.  We even baked a few in small cupcake liners to make pretend cupcakes (which came out very pretty and tasty).

Into the oven they went at 350 degrees for about 11 minutes and onto the cooling rack when done.

Then it was time for the tasting which was the best part!  They were delicious!!!!!   

Read another post about making pretend candy with play dough.


Friday, August 10, 2012

My First Matching Game

Set up a sensory box for your toddler to explore same and different.  Here we collected items from around the house that were all the same.  Some of the items we collected were: paintbrushes, toilet paper tubes, sponges, cups, lids, felt scraps, plastic spoons, popsicle sticks and straws.  The toddler explored the sensory box and attempted to match up the items that were the same.  She also enjoyed just playing with the items especially the paint brushes.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Taking Pretend Play Outdoors

Taking pretend play outdoors can encourage children to explore dramatic play in a whole new way.  Here we created an outdoor tree swing for baby and a slide.  My little one pushed her baby doll in the stroller over to her "pretend park".  She fed baby, pushed her on the swing and helped her down the slide.  All things she sometimes needs help to do at the park but now she got to help baby.

For the young boys there are many activities to facilitate dramatic play.  How about being a forest ranger.  Grab some pool noodles to pretend to chop down trees.  Gather sticks to start a pretend fire.  Hike around searching for animal tracks.  

Keep it simple and just bring some small toys outdoors.  Toy dinosaurs would love a small mud pit.  Push toy motorcycles on a dirt path.  Barbie dolls would love to lounge and swim in a bucket of water. 

Read about more outdoor imagination activities in a previous blog post. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

5 Creative Computer Activities

As much as I want children to play outdoors and experience daily physical activity you also need a balance in life.  Technology is large part of our culture.  Of course, I also want children to be proficient in computer use.   What I mean by proficient in computer use is know how to use the tools a computer has to offer.  I do not mean how to play video games or access social networking sites.  There are so many ways to learn how to use a computer and basically practice is probably the best.  We all learn by doing not by watching.  Learning word processing and keyboarding is a must but that is not always fun or exciting.   Sometimes it is nice to step outside the box and try out different fun tools.  Here are 5 websites to visit for creative computer learning:

1.  MakeBeliefsComix:  This website is awesome.  It is free to use different comic book characters, scenes and props to create your own comic strips.  It is simple to teach yourself and the end result is really professional looking.  My children have used this website to add a fun visual for poster presentations.

2.  Scratch:  If you want to get into the basics of computer programming you can download Scratch for free.  You can create interactive stories, games, music and art.  We have used this to make short movies.  It is definitely for an older child or a child who is savvy with the computer already.  Again, the end results is really nice.

3.   Blabberize:  This website is creative and entertaining.  You can make pictures talk.  It is pretty funny.  My children have used this to make pictures of historical figures speak.  

4.  TheArtZone:  This website allows you to create interactive art online.  You can create animated story boards with pictures that are already available to you.  You can explore many different art forms right from your computer.  This website is simple to use with basic directions.

5.  TuxPaint:  This is a free open source drawing program for children.  What a wonderful way to introduce children to the world of graphic design.

What are your favorite creative computer activities?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Simple Fishing Game

So we made some bow and arrows the other day which you can read about here.   After awhile of shooting arrows, the children took the bows apart and started using them as batons pretending to march in parades and do dance moves.  I love when toys take on new roles.  Well, this morning the toy became a fishing rod.  They attached the string back on one end and placed a magnet on the other end.  After twisting some pipe cleaners into fish shapes, the fishing game was ready to play.  They caught fish, pretended to be in a boat and practiced "casting".  The older kids enjoyed the challenge of catching the fish from afar.   The toddler loved going up close to catch the fish and was so proud she could finally fish like the big kids do when we go camping. 

Therefore, in total, the kids made three toys out of the same materials that originally cost about $2 for the parts.  Now that is some economical problem solving!

One more thing - if interested just came across the cutest free printable to go along with the fishing game - Fishing bingo.