Masking tape vehicle tracks – quick, cheap and lots of fun

tracks no kids IMG_8614

I saw the idea of using masking tape to make vehicle tracks a while ago and have since seen many people’s examples. Some have the tape going up and over chairs, mats, couches and all through the house. All you need is a roll of masking tape and some cars to drive on it. Let your imagination go wild as you design roads all over the place or in a more civilised fashion in just the one room.

s with teddies IMG_8618

We added our wooden construction blocks for houses, bridges and buildings but you really don’t need to have anything like this, the tape alone is interesting. Allow your budding builders to design the layout with you and they will be hooked. Apart from the visual display, there is nothing to trip over so the roads can be left out indefinitely. Having said that, after a long time masking tape does get a bit trickier to get off. We played it safe and pulled ours off in under a week but I’m sure it would have been fine for longer than that. j car under bridge IMG_8617

This is a great activity for a rainy day or during quiet time when younger siblings are napping, or perhaps younger children could play while older siblings are being homeschooled. We did it as a family activity with all the children together and constructed a whole city. The younger children returned to it over and over again in the next couple of days and were disappointed that we had to take it off. We will definitely use this again another day.

(I have also seen a role of masking tape with a small car attached and instructions for this activity as a birthday party gift. It would make an inexpensive gift that any young boy would love. Or put it on your stocking stuffer list!)

Other posts you may like:

rainy day activity: balls and stockings

101 mostly stay at home family night ideas

sensory tub ideas for toddlers and preschoolers

homeschooling with toddlers and preschoolers

Making pack-away time fun

Junior spy!

We do have chore systems in place and regular daily responsibilities but some days the house just looks like a bomb has hit it and needs a concerted family effort to pick-up and tidy away; a “house sweep” as we like to call it. (A house sweep is also useful when visitors call unexpectedly to tell you that they are just around the corner and will be dropping over in a couple of minutes.)

A house sweep is when we all start at one end of the house and sweep through every room one at a time, picking up and putting away everything that is out of place. Little ones are sent off with simple objects to deliver, middlies are given a specific task in each room and adults and older children work on whatever else needs to be accomplished to get the room looking good. It is not deep cleaning or vacuuming/mopping type of stuff, just tidying, straightening and delivering until it looks good at a glance.

It is quick and easy and with everyone working together it is not too tedious or difficult to do. Some rousing music to sing along to while we work helps to make a positive atmosphere.

A while back though we tried a different variation on the house sweep which was lots of fun and we must do again sometime soon. After a spy birthday party was attended there was lots of talk about spy missions and spy-type activities, so I capitalised on this interest and held “the spy games.”

First mission: Collect ammunition for subsequent missions (aka pack up time.) I had the children wait around the corner while I hid their ammunition (Nerf bullets) all throughout the mess in the games room. The rules were that every item they touched while searching for bullets must be returned to its proper place regardless of whether ammunition was found or not. The spy with the most bullets when the room was tidy was promoted to head spy. The room was picked up in record time – amazing!

Second mission: Defuse the bombs. Moving on to the next mess; the toddler toys, which after mat time were spread half way around the kitchen and dining area and had not yet been cleaned up by said toddlers. (2 toddlers = 2 mats = 2 times the toys to clear up.) Although we usually require the twins to pack up their own mat toys, it can be a long process and as mat time comes just before dinner, we sometimes skip it in favour of everyone getting up to the table while dinner is still hot. The spy mission was to collect all the bombs (toys) in each spy’s designated area before they detonated and place them inside the super strong bomb proof boxes (The toy crates and/or shelves.) The egg timer came out (counting down to detonation) and the bombs were set. Again, clean in record time.

Third mission: Couriers. Spies are given top secret information disguised as ordinary household objects and must deliver it to contacts in a variety of locations before safely returning to the collection point. The contacts of course must remain anonymous so the top secret info has to be delivered to it’s usual place for collection at a later date.

Fourth mission: Bug sweep. You never know where enemy agents have left their listening devices. Areas must be meticulously clean in order to spot the tiny bugs left  for spying on the spies. Blue glass jewels hidden throughout the room provided the impetus for tidying up with the same rules as mission number 1 – if you touch it you must put it away regardless of whether there was a bug or not. The spy with the most jewel bugs is rewarded with a spy knighthood.

Fifth mission: Under attack. This one was just for fun but with a devious purpose. These rainy winter days and coughs and colds mean that no one is getting much outdoor time and excess energy always seems to show up just around bedtime. This one wears them out so we can get them into bed early to catch up on much needed rest. Out came the beanbag missiles (small, hand-held bean bags like you used to use at primary school.) Your mission; to make it from the lounge to the kitchen door in safety while Mum and Dad launch beanbags in all directions. We moved couches out from the walls to create some cover and had at it. The kids giggled uncontrollably the whole time and we had a ball bombing them with beanbags as they crawled, ran and weaved their way through the furniture to safety. We will definitely do this one again, it was a blast.

Outdoor activities: more water play ideas

How do you keep little ones entertained and playing happily outdoors for extended lengths of time? Opening the back door and simply sending several young children out is not always a very successful method. Without direction to their play it is very likely that you will be dealing with bickering, squabbles and otherwise less than useful use of their time.

Spending 5 minutes getting them started on an absorbing and appropriate activity very often makes for a harmonious time as they happily go about their play in a focussed way. This 5 minutes at the start of playtime often saves me many minutes umpiring disputes and redirecting poor choices. More ideas will follow under the heading of outdoor activities, but today it’s more water based ideas.

In the warmer weather I find it so much easier as all my children from the youngest to the oldest love water and sand based play. All water based activities require some supervision so I choose tasks to do that allow me to oversee what is going on either from a distance or close by depending on the activity. Our water table is a favourite, as are the following:

Water painting

  • Buy a couple of different sized house painting brushes from a hardware (the cheap sets are fine) and a small bucket. Fill the bucket with water, give some directions as to which outdoor areas; furniture, fences, paths, walls etc. can be painted with water and let them at it! My children, especially the younger ones, love water painting, particularly if I occasionally admire the lovely new “colours” they have painted everything.
Sprinklers
  • I know it doesn’t fit into the water saving category but if it is your watering day, set up a sprinkler on the lawn and let everyone run about in it. Old as the hills, so easy and great exercise.
Paddle Pools/sandpit shell halves
  • I’ve mentioned this before, but an inch of water or even a couple of pots and pans full of water for scooping, tipping and pouring while sitting in half of a plastic sandpit clam shell or paddle pool is good fun. Combine it with a little sand and it becomes great fun.
Sandpit
  • Point the hose into the sandpit and turn it on just a little so a trickle comes out. That’s it! Provide cars, boats or whatever else you have in your sandpit toys.
Puddle Kingdom
  • Sometimes we empty out our outdoor storage containers and put a bunch of them together on the grass. We then fill each one with a little water and again, free play! Jumping from one to another, making “houses” or whatever they fancy makes this an interesting pastime.
Water trampolining
  • We occasionally set up the sprinkler underneath or near  the trampoline for wet bouncing fun. This isn’t so good for the younger children though as it does get quite slippery. The 3 year old and up are steady enough on their feet to make this loads of wet fun.
Water slides
  • If your backyard has a slope, then a long sheet of black plastic with a little detergent and lots of water is a wonderful slide and wears those energetic youngsters out.
Water Chasey
  • Not quite our usual outdoor activity as this involves me, but when it is really hot we play water chasey with the hose. Simply put, the kids run around like crazy and I spray them with the hose, watering the garden in between.

Paddle pools and slide

  • Another one that requires adult supervision is the paddle pool properly filled up or with a small amount of water and the slide from our little plastic castle into it for the children to climb up and slide into the pool. When they’ve had enough sliding we bring the sandpit toys over and everyone sits down for a play.

Camping with little ones, heat and ticks.

School holidays are upon us. For those of you who are heading off camping with your families over the school break, well done! You are creating memories that will last a lifetime and taking one more step towards building a strong family identity. I thought I would post the following story which I wrote after a camping trip with my family at the beginning of the year . With five children 7 and under at the time, it was an interesting experience and yes, we will do it again over the Christmas break! (Just without the ticks this time.)

After 2 days of planning and organizing around all the usual daily activities, we woke early and were on our way by 8.30am, which wasn’t a bad start as it was only 30 minutes after we had hoped to leave. We drove the 1 ¼ hour distance to the Neergabby campsite and were pleasantly surprised at how close it actually was. We pulled into the driveway to be greeted by Nan and Granddad and the rest of their 4 wheel drive club and informed that the campsite was riddled with large ticks. After some debate it was decided that it may be best to set up camp away from the trees and longer grass as there appeared to be less of an infestation there. (This of course meant that we were in the full sun on a 31 degree day.) We set up camp without much assistance from the children who were eager to get out and meet the gang and begin events for the day.

We enjoyed a pleasant day of games and craft with the whole group, young and old, lunch on the verandah, cups of teas and chit chat – while looking after our 5 of course. The twins found several willing hands to be passed around to and the older children had a couple of other playmates to run about with. They received an extremely generous Christmas bag from a club member and copious amounts of lolly bags and chocolate prizes throughout the day to give the kids that sugar rush we parents always love.

The late afternoon was filled with sliding down the plastic sheet waterslide pulled by a rope which was enjoyed immensely but ended tragically as the soldier ants whose nest we had apparently disturbed finally came out to find out what was going on over their heads. Several children (including 2 of ours) suffered painful stings. We cleaned up for a sumptuous Christmas banquet under the beautifully decorated rotunda. Mum and Dad were camp directors and had knocked themselves out making it special for everyone and didn’t sit down the entire weekend.

All children were bedded down by 8 and quiet when I checked on them (I think they heard me coming) and all was well for a while, until Master 7 appeared to tell us that one twin had been woken up by everyone else talking. We settled him down, got all the others quiet and Daddy stood guard for noise outside the tent while I returned for the raffle draw. The stayers kept on for the guitar led singsong, but we retired fairly early to bed.

We both struggled to go to sleep, being either too hot in our sleeping bags or too cold out of them. The night wasn’t tooo bad – I was only awakened once for the toilet, twice for “I can’t get back in my sleeping bag” (from a previously hot but now cold child who was under the bag rather than in it), once to feed a baby (also awakened by the sleeping bag incident) and finally to push another child back onto her own mattress (she had turned sideways and was trying to get comfortable at her brother’s feet – grumpily telling him “Don’t, stop it, stop it,” as she was kicked in the head while he tried to push her off him in his sleep.) The kookaburras started at 4/4.30am but went away fairly quickly, the first neighbours were chatting around 6am and the first child was awake at 6.30am, needing to go to the toilet.

Breaky of toast, eggs and leftover ham was up on the verandah in a lovely cool breeze and after this leisurely start, we faced the task of packing everything back in the car and trailer again.

We spend 2 hours in the already boiling sun re-packing all the gear into the car and trailer while the twins sleep in their pram in the shade (lucky them!) Miss 3 1/2 completely lost it and spent the whole packing time crying about her sore arm, sore tummy and how tired she felt and the oldest two pestered us continuously to eat more lollies and chocolates from their Christmas bags. Fellow campers flipped camper-vans back together in 20 minutes and enjoyed a cuppa in the shade whilst pondering the joys of being Grandparents rather than parents and packing for 2, rather than 7. We spent the morning wondering whether all our fond memories of camping growing up were due to the obliviousness of childhood and selective memory, however Mum tells me that no, it wasn’t anywhere like this much work for them!

We finished eventually and took leave of the camp-site, electing to skip the car museum trip and simply head home with our tired crew. Master 7(who sits between the twins) was very patient and kept busy giving the twins offers of milk and finger food during the trip while Miss 3 1/2 told us over and over that her tummy and arm hurt until she finally fell asleep.  Twenty minutes down the road, Master 7 informed us that there was a brown substance (that looked exactly like melted chocolate but unfortunately wasn’t) on the baby toy, his hands and oozing out of a twin’s nappy into the car seat. We stopped by the side of road to change said twin, including his clothes, wipe his seat, Master 7’s hand and wrap up the toy to deal with later. We resumed the trip again to hear a yell from the back seat that there was a tick on the feeding pillow. We stopped the car again and I threw the tick out of the window with my bare hands (Mummy to the rescue yet again.) The final tick count for the weekend: 3 off the sides of the tent, 2 off the floor of the tent, 4 off the children, 3 off Daddy, 1 off me and many sightings. God answered my prayers and none actually bored into skin.

Twenty minutes further into the journey Miss 3 1/2 woke up, cried and threw up in her lap. We stopped by the roadside yet again to clean her up the best we could, wondering throughout whether ticks were crawling up my legs or were they just flies I could feel? As we set off yet again, Daddy and I laughed uncontrollably at the absurdity of the situation and wondered what could possibly go wrong next. We FINALLY reached the city and the home stretch, only to hear Master 7 tell us that he needed to go to the toilet and no, he couldn’t wait 15 minutes until we got home. We pulled off the freeway and stopped by a clump of out of the way bushes for longer than would ordinarily be necessary (apparently he really did need to go) and set off again.

At the next set of lights, the guy in the next car wound down the window to tell us that we were dragging an occy strap, so we pulled over once more, wondering what it could be as we don’t have any occy straps?! Turns out to be someone else’s occy strap which has hooked around the trailer lights and pulled them out of the socket (meaning we’ve had no lights for who knows how long) and badly damaging the attachment which miraculously turns out to still work when reattached but will need replacement later. After looping through the South Terrace area to get back on the Freeway we noted that we had taken 20 minutes to go 5 minutes worth of distance.

On arrival home (which we were amazed to see was only 2 hours after leaving instead of the 3 hours it felt like) we fell out of the car, fed lunch to the now crying babies and older children (not crying but complaining at the removal of their lolly bags for later), washed and re-dressed Miss 3 1/2, put twins to bed, send older 3 to room time, spent ½ an hour unloading the car and dumping everything to be dealt with later, ate some lunch ourselves and collapsed in a heap.

We looked around the house and noted that it had not cleaned itself in our absence and was now littered with all the camping gear as well and decided not to go camping again until all children were old enough to carry their own gear and put up their own tent… until the next time that is – got to build those childhood memories! We hear Dunsborough is nice over Christmas time…..

More Duplo Bible Charades

We have been swapping Duplo bible charades photos with family and the children have enjoyed figuring out their cousin’s creations. Here are a couple more of ours (made by adults and a 6 and 8 year old without assistance) for you to guess. Answers are at the bottom of the page – we are trying to make it a little harder so some are more obscure than others! If you have Duplo or Lego at home, give it a go. It’s a fun game the whole family will love. Our 3 1/2 year old did make her own creation; however as it doesn’t relate in any way whatsoever to the bible, we didn’t include it here! Instructions on how to play are here.

 

Adam and Eve being tempted in the garden

People lined up to speak with the prophet Debra

Noah and the rainbow

Daniel and the lions’ den

The tower of Babel

Camel going through the eye of a needle

Wise and foolish builders – house on rock and sand

Jacob’s ladder

Queen of Sheba coming to see Solomon

Keeping the Sabbath – Duplo Bible charades

We have been spending some time lately helping the children to memorize the Ten Commandments using this children’s 10 commandments video clip. At the same time, we are discussing each commandment and how it applies to our lives and specifically, what each one requires of us. We have also focused on how the law acts as a mirror to show us both how God requires us to live and also our absolute inability to keep the law perfectly – therefore our need for the saviour that God provided through Jesus.

 

One of the areas we are working on ourselves as parents is keeping the Sabbath. We find it particularly difficult to make this a rest day and time of focus on God when we have many little ones to get to church, keep fed, dressed and entertained for the day. I will be writing more about this over the next little while, however today I wanted to share one family activity that we have started on Sunday afternoons that caters for all ages, has been thoroughly enjoyed and keeps the focus on God – Duplo bible charades.

 

Duplo bible charades is an absolute winner in our house. Everyone uses the bricks to build a scene depicting a bible event, story or verse. The scene can be still or require animation. Once everyone is ready, we take turns presenting the scene for others to guess. Little ones team up with adults or build their own if they want to.

We are starting to branch out into the more obscure stories now and attempting to make them more difficult to guess. It’s lots of fun and a nice family relationship building activity.

I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which stories are represented in the photos – bearing in mind that the children had no trouble at all working them out!

Beanbag Wars

We think it’s really important to make a deliberate effort to build our family identity, to invest in relationships with our children and to foster a “we-ism” rather than “me-ism” attitude. That takes time and means that we have to plan to spend time together as a family. Saturday is often the day of the week that we make this happen.   

We had our first beanbag war on a Saturday morning a few months back. Surprisingly, it was really great fun. I have to admit, the idea of heading outside to play family games in the backyard didn’t interest me in the slightest, however I was very glad I did in the end. It turned out to be a really enjoyable family bonding time with the added bonus of getting some exercise while we were at it (something I am not particularly fond of normally!)

Who can play?

All ages – it’s a family game. Our youngest ones are a little lost but we simply assigned them to “guard the fort” and call out to warn us when a foe was approaching. They could also collect beanbags for other team members or just have fun randomly throwing their beanbags at anyone in range. My husband and I had a ball chasing after each other (it’s good for your romantic life too!) and if you had teenagers they could really get some strategic plans happening.

What you need:

Two flags (tea towels will do, or home made are fun and each team can design their own)

Ammunition – in the form of small beanbags or newspaper balls. (Scrunch up sheets of newspaper to form tennis ball sized balls and tape together.)

Two forts (we use a plastic kiddy slide at one end and a water trolley on its side at the other – anything will do.)

Game objective:

To snatch the other team’s flag and return to your own fort

How to:

Each person begins with a set number of beanbags (how many depends on the age and number of children playing. In our house, adults get 2 or 3, older children get 3 and younger children get 4.)

Once the battle charge is raised, team members simply have to get to the other team’s fort and grab their flag, returning it to their own fort before the opposing team captures theirs.

Team members are able to throw their beanbags at the opposition at any time and when hit, players must return to their own fort and touch it before beginning their approach again.

Rules:

If you are hit by a beanbag, you must return to your own fort before rejoining play.

If you have been hit and have not yet touched your fort, you are unable to participate (You cannot throw your beanbags at an opposition player)

If you are carrying a flag and are hit, you must drop the flag wherever you are before returning to your fort. Beanbags must not contact above the shoulders

Once bean bags have been thrown, you may collect any available beanbag, but not more than you had to begin with – extras must be left for other players to collect.

Rough play is not part of this game – it is a non-contact activity.

Good sportsmanship must be displayed at all times. All team members will congratulate the winning team after each round.

Poor sportsmanship will result in players being barred from participation and given further consequences if deemed necessary by team captains (Mum and Dad.)