Mini-world invitation to play – arctic playscape

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Mini-world play continues with our ice and snow landscape. Some wadding over rocks to create snow-capped mountains, plastic dishes for icebergs, glass jewels for water and ice-flow and a selection of plastic penguins, polar bears and a killer whale complete our scene. While not technically correct (for instance polar bears and penguins do not live in the same pole) it looked inviting and was something different.

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As is usually the case for our mini-worlds, the older girls set up the scene repeatedly and the younger boys provided them with many opportunities to do so as they wrecked it almost immediately, with polar bears and killer whales eating penguins and beaching themselves on the mountains. Surprisingly the scene didn’t really interest the children long term, but was revived when they collected some boats and divers from the bath toys and NOW the little boys had some interest. Penguins dived into piles of jewel water and divers crashed their boats all over the place, fighting off killer whales along the way.

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My 5 year old made a snow dam with a white blanket and spent quite some time building towers with the small plastic iceberg bowls and jewels. While the boys didn’t use the scene as I had imagined, they enjoyed it in their own way.

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The 2 year old just wanted to tip and pour the jewels and insisted on taking them off the step and onto the carpet for her play. She also loved the bears and wanted to put them in her handbag and take them away to her bedroom, chucking a big tantrum becoming rather unhappy when told they needed to stay in the scene.

Target and Kmart now have a range of realistic plastic animal models similar to the Schleich brand but much more affordable and that is where I sourced this selection. Later on I will put them out again with some frozen sheets of ice in trays and a variety of ice blocks in the water trolley; perhaps in the summer months I think!

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Toddler activities: flower arranging

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My friend Kristy has come up with another simple and captivating activity for her 2-year-old to use for highchair timetable time or blanket time. An upturned colander, a couple of vases and containers and a variety of cheap artificial flowers gave her little one some creative fun while she practised her fine-motor skills as she carefully poked the flowers into the holes.

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I’ll be adding this one to my “to do” list for the future.

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Mini world invitation to play – dinosaur kingdom

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Imaginative play is important in the early years and small world play gives children plenty of opportunity for creativity in an open-ended setting. It also gives us a defined play area that can be included as part of our daily routine. As the rainy weather kicks in it is helpful to have an activity that the children can do when outside play is not an option.

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I let the little kids help me set it up this time, which they enjoyed immensely. We used large rocks from someone who was cleaning out their garden and small pebbles and river-stones I have previously purchased as the base of the scene. A small off-cut of artificial grass and some tattered bits of well-used artificial plants give it some greenery and green, blue and clear glass jewels serve as our swampy river area. The dinosaurs were the cheapest I could find in our local discount variety store and just to make it more fun, I hid them around the house for a dinosaur treasure hunt before we started.

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While the mirror background is certainly not necessary, it does give an added dimension to the set-up. It makes our world look twice as big, allows the children to see their play from a different perspective and they enjoy watching their own reflections! Plus, it just looks good and provides a nice backdrop while defining the space.

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Hands-on maths; solving for the unknown tray activities

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(Free printables below!)

Success in higher level maths requires mastery of basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division concepts. The answers need to come quickly, without requiring mental effort to work them out, otherwise the more difficult problem solving is slowed considerably and errors result. Working through simple problems over and over cements the answers in children’s heads and helps them stay in long-term memory. Lets face it though, page after page of the same kind of problems in a maths textbook can be… well.. boring!

My solution is to gather a range of attractive materials and allow the children to complete problems repeatedly, but in a way that means they hardly notice it is the same skill over and over.

These are our ‘solving for the unknown’ trays and like the addition trays, the cards are in sets. This cards all have the same end total, for example 0+_=3, 1+_=3, 2+_=3 and 3+_=3. Containers of the same number as the answers are filled with 2 distinctly different types of materials to illustrate the problem shown on the cards. The children can start with the smaller numbers and work on them until they no longer need manipulatives and can compute them almost instantly before moving on to the larger numbers.

The materials are attractive and any cards they can already do they simply tell me the answer to and set aside so that they are not wasting time practising combinations they already know.

Not all learners love hands-on activities. My 7 year old book work lover is happily working through page after page of these same problems in her maths text. She finds manipulatives frustrating and thinks that they slow her down. When she meets a problem that she cannot do in her head or on paper, she pulls out the relevant materials and works it through until she can move on – in her book. Children have different learning styles and maths is one subject that can easily be adapted to suit.

Free printable problem cards for solving for the unknown:

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Guest post: Sensory tub play centres

 

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Kristy is back again today to share about loose play centres or sensory boxes as they are sometimes known. These are a great idea for free play times for toddlers. It gives them an attractive area to play in with many open-ended possibilities while providing a boundary for play at the same time. Depending on the material you have out, it may be helpful to spread out a mat or sheet underneath to catch the spills. Once playtime is finished it can simply be gathered up and tipped back in to the tub to save on clean-up time.

Here’s Kristy…

I’m also inspired by Angela’s idea of using the water table as a loose play centre for children to explore. So far it has become an Iceland and a posting table with pipe cleaners, colanders, pop sticks, gems and bottles with all different opening sizes.

It is now a rice table where my children are loving pouring, filling, scooping and shaking. After the rice table I am going to again copy Ang’s idea and create a pom-pom and tong loose play centre. I love watching my children explore, try new things with what is available, and just have the opportunity to learn at their own pace.

Busy Bag Swap Night

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I have just been blessed by a lovely assortment of table time activities for toddlers and young children from a busy bag swap organised by my friend Kristy. You will be hearing more from her in the next couple of posts, but today I wanted to share the photos she took of all the quiet time tasks put together by the many women who attended. It was so popular in fact that she needed to form 2 groups. For those who are not familiar with how a busy bag swap works, take a look here for some more ideas and an explanation.

Kristy’s cute toddler feeding the tennis ball with a little help from Mum. A great finger strength activity, this is one for the 3 to 6 year olds to do independently. My 4 and 6 year-old boys loved filling Mr Ball to then turn around and have him puke everywhere.

Mix and match superhero picture strips, foam sewing cards, pipecleaner and straw threading and shape matching plate.

The fact that this pizza came in a cute little box was the highlight for my children. The order cards gave lots of options for the children to follow as they completed different customer orders. Other bags included a wipe-off tracing page, mask and stickers and paint chip colour matching.

Open-ended tasks are best for toddlers as far as keeping their interest for the long haul. This pasta and bean scooping tray was popular although it did create a bit of mess. An assortment of plastic lids, frogs and bugs was another open-ended activity that kept my little one going for a while.

This mini eye-spy bottle had some interesting bits and pieces inside. Another idea I have seen is to have a recording page for the children to tick off each tiny item as they find them. My 2-year-old was too young for this as she found it frustrating to not be able to open the container. She did enjoy the pom-pom transfer tray although still refuses to try tongs. The last task was taking elastic bands on and off a cardboard tube with some pattern cards to match and extend for the older children.

Having a bunch of engaging tasks prepared is a must for successfully including highchair time in your flexible routine and the self-control your toddler will learn is invaluable.

Epsom salt snowscape mini-world

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Our latest mini-world invitation to play has been a hit with the children 6 and under. As is usually the case, the older children love setting it up but don’t actually sit and play with it.

IMG_1077Epsom salts spread onto a mirror gives the impression of snow and the mirror showing through appears to be ice. I purchased a selection of miniatures that are actually terrarium decorations very cheaply on eBay and added brushes and some jewels and rocks. I later added a small sweeping brush to keep the salt off the edges of the mirror.

Epsom salts can also be added to a sensory tub for imaginative play or tipping, pouring and filling activities.

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As interest wanes I’ll add a couple of extra items I’ve kept in reserve for further exploration.

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The folding mirror is a new ($10 secondhand!) addition to our school area. The moment it was on the table my two daughters were found seated side-by-side in front of it drawing self-portraits as they observed themselves in it.

Children just love to watch themselves in mirrors and including one behind pretend play areas adds another dimension. There are also lots of ways to use them for symmetry activities, multiplication and art projects where being able to see behind what they are manipulating  is an added stimulus. The Reggio educational approach includes mirrors in many of their classroom activities and I have a host of ideas pinned to try in the future.

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We later added the bulldozer to the snow mini-world which the little boys loved, plus a Lego slide and matchbox sled made by one of the children for the rabbits to pull. I filled a salt shaker with epsom salts which allowed the children to make it snow and a variety of jewels and rocks to build onto the scene. This has probably been one of our longest lasting mini-worlds and the children are still using it most days after having had access to it for more than 3 weeks.