Flower dolls for dolls houses

IMG_8293The last addition to our homemade dolls houses is complete. These peg doll style pipe cleaner and bead flower girl dolls are my favourite and were so easy that this whole set took only around an hour to make.  IMG_8289

The method is exactly the same as the peg dolls in my previous post, with the only difference being that the flower dress clothes are made from cheap artificial leis. I just cut the string and pulled the flower segments off, sliding them up the pipecleaner bodies and hot glueing them slightly apart from each other to cover the body.

Because the pipecleaners are bendy, the girls can make the people sit down in the clothes peg furniture we created or take on any manner of positions and expressions. Combined with the shoebox dolls houses, they make a wonderful travel activity and are great for room time, table time or when you are out and about and need to pack something portable to keep little ones interested.

Read-alouds, audio books and dramatised stories.

6 kids in car roadtrip 2 IMG_7073-001

We have just returned from a family holiday which involved much driving. Having chosen not to go down the road of DVD’s in the car, we instead loaded up the IPOD with a stack of classic audio books and listened to those as a family.

I am very aware of the value that comes from spending time reading aloud to my children. Exposing them to great literature is a priority for me but the reality is that I am just not getting around to it as much as I would like. One of the side effects of this is that the quality of play that the children are involved in has dropped. Gone is the Little House on the Prairie winter house with “Pa”(my eldest son) out protecting “Ma” and the “kids” from wild bears and other wildlife, gone is Captain Hook’s pirate ship and so many other wonderful imaginings that characterised their outdoor time together.

During our holiday we had a wonderful time listening to “The Swiss Family Robinson” while we drove around looking at the beautiful scenery. Conversations have abounded about survival skills and how we would have fared in a similar situation and best of all, our first day back saw the 4 eldest children together outside building a pretend sled to carry their tools, weapons, horses and other survival gear as they set out on an imaginary adventure together.

I have also downloaded and burnt a bunch of classic stories to CD for the children to listen to during their daily room time, over lunch when conversations are getting silly, on beds during rest time (for those no longer sleeping every day) or occasionally at bedtime. Five of the children shared a room at our farm-stay accommodation during our time away so having something to listen to as they were falling asleep helped cut down (but not eliminate!) the silly excitement of being in the same room together and allowed the little ones to get to sleep while the older ones could lay awake a little longer listening to the story.

Visit librivox.org for literally thousands of books that are in the public domain and therefore absolutely free. Volunteer readers (some better than others) have recorded these stories and all you have to do is download them for your listening pleasure. Other sites I have not yet used but offer a similar service are gutenburg.orgaudiobooksforfree.com and verkaro.org,

Many dramatised audiobooks are available through online booksellers such as bookdepository.comFocus on the FamilyLamplighter and others. We purchased “Sir Knight of the Splendid Way” from Lamplighter and after stopping at our destination only part way through the story were barely back in the car before I heard “Aren’t you going to put The Splendid Way back on?” – from my husband!

Ziploc activity bags for toddlers and preschoolers

Noodle threading is always fun, just remember to tie one on the end to stop all the others sliding off while children are threading. When they have had enough of threading they can pretend to cook the noodles for dinner.

Ziploc activity bags are simply self-contained activities for toddlers, preschoolers and young children that include everything necessary for the child to complete the activity. Thus named because they are often stored in Ziploc plastic bags that are readily available from the supermarket. These bags have a plastic zip-style closing system that is easy for young children to manipulate, however we haven’t found them to be very long-lasting. Shoe boxes, trays or other containers are of course equally suitable but not so easily transported. Press-loc or snap-loc plastic bags are not as good because young children are not able to re-seal them independently, but if you don’t mind a few seconds to close each bag when they are done, they seem to last longer.

The kind of activity you can include is endless and their uses wide and varied. Some Mothers save them for school time activities while the older children require their attention. Others use them to take on holidays, while travelling in the car or when visiting with friends. They are useful for meals out in a restaurant, at home for mat time, blanket time, highchair time or table time activities. Whenever you need to keep a young child happily occupied these can be whipped out for hours of entertainment.

So what do you put in them? Almost anything really. Ideally they wouldn’t contain anything too messy if you want them to be easily transportable, but for home use anything goes.

Department stores have packs of paper shapes in the scrapbooking section which are great for gluing.

  • Glue stick and paper shapes for gluing

    When young toddlers first start to draw, tape one page at a time onto the table or highchair tray. For two reasons – it won’t keep slipping around and every page of the colouring book will not end up with a single blue line down the middle!

  • Drawing
  • Playdough
  • Stamping (stamp pads and ink stamps)
  • Lacing, threading or beading
  • Puzzles
  • Books
  • Construction toys
  • Pattern blocks
  • Stickers and sticker books
  • Small tea sets and mini teddies

    Finger puppets work best when the characters represent well knows stories that the children have heard you tell before.

  • Finger puppets
  • Mini whiteboard and eraser
  • Small chalk board and duster

    Simple stacking pegs are interesting once toddlers have the dexterity for it. This one kicked in at about 2 years when they could handle the quite stiff pegs.

  • Peg boards
  • Board games
  • Dot-to-dots and mazes
  • Colour-by-number
  • Stencils

You could include learning activities for basic maths and language skills. Starter Styles are a maths activity that cover a variety of beginning language and mathematical skills.

There are heaps of brilliant websites and blogs with an abundance of ideas for Ziploc bag activities;

Chasing Cheerios is one of my favourites with lots of wonderful toddler activities.

Natural Parents Network has some good ideas, including coloured pasta beading, pasta sorting, mini-books and stickers, lid sorting, playdough, cut and glue collage bag, and mini-playmats with cars and things.

Intrepid Murmurings has preschooler activity bags here.

There are lots of ideas for what they call “tote bags” here – just scroll down. They get better as they go.

Travelling with young children – tomorrow!

We leave for our 5 day holiday tomorrow. The bags are packed and carry-on luggage is stocked with snacks and activities to keep the children happily occupied on the plane.

I had a look back at my previous selection of travel activity ideas and packed several, added those the older children made for the twins, plus two new activities below.

This is our magnetic play set. I stuck a bunch of small pictures cut from old activity books onto adhesive magnet backing (found in the photo section at department stores for making photo fridge magnets or salvaged from the back of junk mail fridge magnets and glued on.) The underside of the tray has the entire collection and when the children have chosen what they want to play with they take them off and flip the tray over to play on the back.

They will also be great once we get home to use for keeping my toddlers interested while I homeschool the older children and could double as a highchair or mat activity.

Our second “new” activity is zip-lock bags with a pile of cereal to thread onto wool and make necklaces with, which of course will be eaten 5 minutes later. I threaded the wool with large, blunt, tapestry needles to make it easier to poke through the cereal, knowing that many of the holes were closed over. They could just eat those ones straight away I guess!

I think we are all set for a smooth flight with 5 happy little munchkins. Now I can’t wait to see the look of horror on the face of those we will be sitting next to! Hopefully by the end of the trip they will be pleasantly surprised.

Birthdays and travelling with toddlers

Our wonderful twins turned two today. It’s amazing to look back at their birth photos and remember how it all began.

Our three eldest chose to make gifts rather than visit the Mummy and Daddy shop and as we are travelling via plane to Melbourne this week we thought activities to keep the toddlers occupied while travelling were a good idea. They will also be good to add to the homeschooling activities for when school starts again as there will be no morning nap to keep these little ones occupied while I school the older children anymore.

Our 6 year old used coloured contact paper to cover a small box to make this Montessori style practical life activity. A bunch of straws to post through the hole at the top and a small window on the side to shake them back out again did the trick. It was a hit immediately and I had to hide it away to ensure that the novelty hadn’t worn off before we even got to the plane as our youngest lady seemed determined to repeat the activity over and over!

Our 8 year old designed this one completely on his own without any input from me at all. He covered strips of cereal box on both sides to make them look attractive and pulled out a plastic money-box to post them in. Another Montessori style practical life activity for the plane trip.

This was the four year old’s creation. Strips of contact around a baking powder tin, several length of ribbon tied together and a cross shape cut into the lid to pull it through. Again, it was a great hit with the ribbon being pulled out and stuffed back in (by a grown-up) at least 5 times in a row. This one is more a baby activity but will keep their interest for a while. For many more ideas for keeping children happy and content during a plane or car trip, check out this post on travelling with young children. We will be making up our snack bags and pulling out the water painting, drawing and other ideas again and hopefully this trip will go as smoothly as the last one did.

Travelling with young children – plane trips

Earlier this year we took a plane trip with 5 children aged 8 and under. While our children are generally well behaved, it was not without some trepidation that we embarked on this experience, particularly when we thought about the long hours with TWO 15 month old toddlers to keep entertained.

We also had 5 days at a conference once at our destination and although there was one session per day of children’s activities planned, we had potentially a lot of time throughout the remainder of the day when we would have to keep the children quietly entertained. What to pack?? Here is our survival list, both for the plane trip itself and for quiet times throughout the day.

1. Snacks

Any parent of young children knows that you never leave home for any length of time without snacks and this was no exception. We bought an assortment of dry snacks and treats that wouldn’t make a mess and shared them out between little ziplock bags. Each bag was labeled with the child’s name and when it was for; one for the plane ride over, one to come home and one for each day of the conference. They included yoghurt coated sultanas, mini pretzels, dried banana, several varieties of cereal, tiny teddy biscuits and a lollipop per bag and as we rarely buy this kind of food they were a real treat.

2. Books

  

A couple of new books (new to the kids anyway) and a few favourites that were suitable for all ages. At one point we looked over and the big burly gentleman that had the dubious pleasure of sharing a row with us was reading one of the books to our 3 ½ year old! Not sure how that came about but it was very cute.

3. Sticker books

Another quiet and absorbing activity and as we were catering for a variety of ages perfect for us. The three older children all love to do stickers, particularly the girls.

4. Drawing equipment

     

Magic markers (they change colour when you draw over the top with the colour change pen) were new to the children and so had novelty factor. A mini whiteboard and eraser is good for even the littlies under supervision and a general supply of gluing, cutting and drawing equipment was useful for when other children wanted to join in.

5. Activity books

Dot to dots, mazes, colour-by-number and other simple puzzles keep the older two busy and number 3 enjoys simply colouring in the pictures.

6. Water painting books

These are brilliant. A small brush and a little water is all that is required and the pictures change colour in front of their eyes. The children especially loved these, although they completed them very quickly and they were fairly pricy considering the small amount of time they occupied. I had a lot of trouble locating any in the shops and ended up buying this set on ebay for around $5 per book including postage.

7. Toddler toys

       

 

I find toddlers the hardest to cater for. They have the shortest attention span and are easily bored with the toys they have already used at home, plus commercial activities often tend to be large and bulky. I have found with my own children that a selection like the ones above of new activities with equipment I can gather from around the house is even better that trying to pack their usual toys and holds their interest longer because they are new. I also capitalized on current interests such as putting on hats, brushing their own hair, Velcro, posting objects etc Obviously, behaviour training is very important and teaching toddlers to sit and concentrate at home during highchair time, mat time, playpen time and other structured elements in your routine pays off in situations like this. If a toddler is not taught to sit still and focus on an activity and to stay where Mum and Dad put them, then a plane ride is not going to be a pleasant experience at all.

8. Playdough

I didn’t get this out on the plane but it was a nice afternoon quiet time activity and was easily shared with new friends.

9. Lacing and sewing activities

    

I purchased the Filo lacing and lacing cards from Skillbuilders, an occupational therapy business. They are excellent for fine motor control but do require more effort. I use these in my homeschooling activities but find that the children would not generally choose to use them just for fun. They were well used on the trip though simply because they were new.

10. Toy cars

Again, good for all ages and compact for travel. We were allocated one item of carry on luggage and one suitcase per person (including the twins), plus a baby bag, a portacot and a twin stroller and we used every single bit of it. The eldest child dragged two carry on suitcases on wheels, the girls had one each plus a jacket and hubby and I had the rest between us plus 2 babies. Moving about was not an easy affair but we did get excellent service as the air hostesses took one look at us and instantly we had pity factor. Especially when we first arrived and hubby went to park the car after dropping us and the luggage off at the entrance. I was asked in horror(?) if I was travelling alone with the children as the bags were carried through and we received one on one attention to get through the queue.

11. Wikki Stix

These are wax coated bendable sticks (also known in Australia as Bendaroos) that will stick to themselves and almost any smooth surface. The children can make models, spell out words, make pictures and put them to a variety of other uses due to their open ended nature. They are clean, quiet, small and easily portable so brilliant for travel. I did read on one parenting forum though that they are poisonous if ingested so without knowing if this is true or not, I am very cautious with the twins not to let them get a hold of them.

Two more activities that we didn’t take this time, but have used for travel activities in the past are:

12. A roll of alfoil.

Yep, that’s it! You’d be amazed at what kids can do with a roll of alfoil; it makes an excellent sculpting material. I trawled the net and found a bunch of pictures and included these as springboards for ideas and they went from there.

13. A packet of pipe cleaners.

Again, I found heaps of pipe cleaner creations on the web, printed them out as ideas and the kids created to their heart’s content.

In the end, we only used half of the activities that we took, but we made it there and back in fairly good humour and the people around us didn’t have much to complain about!

Check out this post and this one for more related travel activities for toddlers and children.