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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Light table play – coloured shot glasses

Our latest invitation to play at the light table was a simple selection of colourful plastic shot glasses. For the first few days only the glasses themselves were on offer and it was interesting to see the different ways each age group approached their play.

I had to resist the urge to show the younger children how to build with them, knowing that given enough time they would figure it out for themselves. They initially used the glasses to construct in a way I had not thought of; laying them down and creating 2D style robots and spaceships. My 2 year old was quite content stacking and unstacking the cups and sorting them by colour. There was some counting as they wondered how many layers they would need to use exactly 100 cups in a tower.

 

After a few days of playing and constructing with just the cups themselves, I added 3 plastic rulers and some see-through plastic cars. This opened up a whole new realm of play as the older children in particular worked together to make balancing structures and car garages.

There are many simple “hacks” out there for making your own inexpensive light table; see this post for links to my Pinterest page.

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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Light table play – our new toy

 

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We have been blessed this week to acquire a new  light table through our local secondhand buy, sell and trade list – for free!! It does have a crack along one edge of the glass (thus the piece of wood we clamped along one side), but other than that, all it needed was to have the legs cut shorter and a new fluorescent light fitted to make it a working entity (thanks Dad 🙂 )

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We added a couple of different materials for the children to experiment with to get them started and it was a hit. These magnetic construction tiles glow beautifully and pretty much anything plastic or acrylic looks attractive with the light behind it. Of course the boys had a car involved within the first 5 minutes and a Duplo man or two soon joined the mix.

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We tried a few different materials just to see what looked good and my 2 year old spent some time sorting out all the pink items; her “best ones” as she called them.

I wasn’t sure we would use it that much, but after searching through Pinterest I now have enough ideas to keep us going for a very long time. I’ll be posting some more of these as we change what’s available.

If you don’t have a light table but would like to make one, there are several simple “light table hacks” as they are usually termed on Pinterest. They range from altering an Ikea children’s table to putting strings of LED Christmas lights inside crates. They would all make a serviceable light box without too much fuss or cost, depending on your level of handyman ability.

We love it so far and it is just the thing to keep little people productively occupied while I am feeding my twin babies. When we get sick of it I’ll send it off for a vacation at one of my homeschooling friend’s houses.

 

 

 

Christmas traditions in someone else’s house

My friend Kristy is at it again with amazing Christmas activities and traditions for her children. Here is a pictorial compilation that may spark a few ideas for your own family.

Truth in the Tinsel” is another bible based advent count-down to Christmas that is used in the same way as a Jesse Tree count-down. Kristy got together with some friends and did a symbol swap so they each ended up with one complete set for the days of December.

 

Her daughter is loving decorating the felt Christmas tree each morning before breakfast and her MIL is knitting this amazing wool nativity piece by piece for them.

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Kristy’s knock and run nativity is wrapped, labelled and ready to go. Both of us chose the same wooden nativity from Target this year as a fairly inexpensive way to bless a friend/neighbour and share the true story of Christmas with someone who may not have heard it before.

 

While not necessarily Christmas, this pizza shop invitation to play was so inviting that I want to have a go!

 

Kristy is super organised and makes up all kinds of amazing sensory tubs and activities for her little ones to enjoy. A little bit of preparation makes for some peaceful times ahead. Thanks for letting me share your ideas Kristy.

Now, all my other wonderful friends/readers who are busy making amazing traditions happen this Christmas at your house – how about some pics to share on my blog? We all feel inspired when we get to take a peak into what others are doing to make this Christmas season meaningful and special.

Invitation to play

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Once again our pretend play home-corner had become a sadly neglected play choice. Time for a change! Toy rotation is a marvellous thing – I simply packed away the play materials that have been out for some time and pulled out a few items the children haven’t seen in a while. Placing them out in an attractive invitation to play makes all the difference. Even the older children were itching to get in there and have a play once these “new” items were in view and the little ones are now happily “cooking” away.

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.