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!

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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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.

The Blessing Buddies have arrived

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The first of December is an exciting day in our house as so many special Christmas traditions get started. The Blessing Buddies arrived with their daily act of kindness to help us focus on blessing others throughout the Christmas season, we began our Jesse Tree readings and started our sugar-free advent calendar jigsaw puzzle.

The children come out first thing each morning and hunt through the house to locate the Buddies and read the little note that will tell them what blessing we will work on for the day. Today we are working on a craft gift to give to the ladies from our church who are coming over for a Christmas high tea on the weekend. The whole event is about blessing others so it fits right in.

We choose not to do Santa (see why here) so we are careful not to replace one lot of pretend with another – the children all understand that they do not really move around by themselves but enjoy the experience nonetheless. This year the Buddies abseiled down from the roof vent instead of arriving in their usual suitcase on the doorstep.

The Buddies bought some epsom salt snow and special Blessing Buddy Christmas trees (LED light-up plastic trees) for the children to play with since we don’t get real snow here in Australia and left them where our nativity pieces can be easily added to the play.

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Our first “What’s in the box?” activity also arrived and although it wasn’t in the official red sparkly box due to it’s size, this Christmas sensory play tub was a hit with the younger ones.

What did you start with your family today that adds to their store of special memories each year? I’d love to hear your ideas.

What’s in the box? Christmas toddler tray activities; sensory tub

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Each day throughout December our older children work on a gift or craft of their choice, however these are often not toddler friendly, so we started this “What’s in the box?” tradition a couple of years ago. Each day the younger children search the house for the sparkly red box that houses an activity for them to play with during highchair/table time while their brothers and sisters are happily wielding needles or hot glue guns and crafting away.

I will post new ideas for these as I present them, but here is one to get you started. (Last year’s ideas start here.) The young ones simply love sensory tubs and I find of all the activities I prepare for them, these are the ones that keep them occupied for the longest times and for day after day. Include something to tip and pour and manipulate with lots of containers to open, shut and fill. Objects to search for and sort and a variety of scoops and utensils for tonging, spooning, scooping and pouring go down a treat. I will add couple of these to this tub once the initial interest has worn off somewhat.

I have many ideas for sensory tubs on this blog so simply type the term “sensory tub” into the search bar to find them. Once you get the idea of how these are put together it doesn’t take too much imagination to create a Christmas version for your little ones.

img_1772With rice and other messy fillers it is a good idea to spread a sheet or mat under the play area to catch the spills. At the end of play time it can be lifted up and simply poured back into the container without a lengthy pack-up, which will quickly dampen enthusiasm for sensory play in the future. I also find that the children always want to take the materials out of the main tub and work next to it rather than in it. Instead of fighting this continuously I now place a large shallow tray (or lid from the tub itself) next to the main tub so that they can set out the material as they please without creating a horrendous mess outside of the box itself.

I also use sensory tubs for mat time rather than in the highchair as the children need to be able to move around and see what is inside the tub without dropping items they are playing with out of reach. Be wary of choking hazards and perhaps hold off introducing sensory tubs to children too young to resist putting items into their mouth.

 

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.

Sensory tubs: pompoms

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Interest in our icecream sensory tub has waned so it is time for something new. A couple of bags of assorted pompoms in a variety of sizes and colours, along with tongs, scoops, chopsticks and a variety of containers to fill, tip, pour and create with complete the invitation to play. The children haven’t seen it yet, but I am confident they will be drawn to this open-ended play opportunity. A smaller version would also make a great mat time,  playpen time or room time activity. Quiet, cheap and easy to clean up – love it!