Category Archives: Pretend Play

Car Track

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Simple items for lots of fun!

Simple items for lots of fun!

Duct tape is a very useful thing to have about the house. This time it came in handy to transfigure our rug into a roadway for the boys to drive their little cars all over.

Duct tape car-park

Duct tape car-park

I rolled out long strips of duct tape and stuck them to the rug to make a circuit with some cross roads and a car-park at one end. I used a permanent marker to add details to the road, such as marking out the car spaces and placing dashes for the centre lines. L made the boys a car-wash and joined it to the road with another piece of tape.

The car-wash.

The car-wash.

We used Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars, small CAT diggers and some other small vehicles we found in the toy-box. There were even a few wooden trains riding the roads! T1 particularly liked parking the cars, while T2 made many of them crash. He also used a small bulldozer to move some of the cars off the road. L and A enjoyed using the car track too, and spent a lot of time “washing” cars in the car-wash.

Once we were finished playing, I pulled up the tape and threw it out. There was no sticky residue left on the rug, and we’d had a great time playing cars!

Driving cars.

Driving cars.

Parking cars.

Parking cars.

Crashing cars.

Crashing cars.

Washing cars.

Washing cars.

Flower Lei

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IMG_5633Summer is coming! Warm weather, sun, sand, surf… The thought of the beach put me in the mood to make flower leis with the kids.

Fabric flowers.

Fabric flowers.

This is a very simple lacing activity using fabric flowers and cut up plastic drinking straws. I bought the flowers from Educational Experience, an online educational supply store. These flowers have little holes in the centre of each one, perfect for threading. You could also make your own fabric flowers from fabric scraps, or use paper/tissue paper for the flowers.

Threading flowers and straws.

Threading flowers and straws.

We cut pieces of yarn roughly a metre long, and tied a big knot in one end to prevent the flowers from slipping off. The kids alternated flowers and straws until they had filled their yarn up. I helped them tie the ends together to form a loop, and the leis were ready to wear.

The younger kids had some trouble keeping the plastic yarn needle on the yarn, so I tied the needle on for them. This allowed them to focus on the threading without the frustration of needing to re-thread the needle all the time. Once they were finished, we just cut the needle off and tied the ends together. The boys (who are only two) did very well with this activity, carefully threading their flowers and straws on. This is a great activity for fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and concentration. And it makes some lovely, bright leis for dressing up with!

 

Playdough

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Shapes cut out of the dough.

Shapes cut out of the dough.

My kids all love playing with playdough, it is fun and great for fine motor skills and creativity. The toddlers have even mostly stopped trying to eat it now! I prefer to make my own playdough as it is easy to make and cheaper than the store-bought products. I almost always have all the ingredients in the pantry too, so I can make it whenever we like.

Ingredients.

Ingredients.

I’ve always felt that the playdough recipe on the side of the cream of tartar tin makes the best playdough. It needs to be cooked, but it is smooth, soft and long lasting every time. We added blue food colouring for the colour and vanilla essence to make it smell nice. A helped me to stir it in the saucepan until it began to clump together, then we turned it out onto a cutting board and kneaded it for a couple of minutes to make sure it was nice and smooth.

Mixing all the ingredients in a saucepan.

Mixing all the ingredients in a saucepan.

Fresh blob of dough.

Fresh blob of dough.

Once the playdough was ready, the lids sat up at the table to use it. They moulded it with their hands, cut out shapes with cookie cutters, and rolled it into balls and snakes. T2 enjoyed just squishing it between his fingers, while L made people models. A and T1 made lots and lots of cut-outs. They also used some plastic scissors to cut the dough, rollings pins to flatten it, and plastic rollers to make patterns on the dough. Fun was had by all!

Making cut-outs.

Making cut-outs.

Squishing the dough.

Squishing the dough.

Using a roller in the dough.

Using a roller in the dough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we were finished, I stored the playdough in an airtight container in the pantry for next time.

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Book Week 2015

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Book Week was last week and the girls dressed up for a parade at school. They both took a long time to decide on who they wanted to dress up as this year. There were various fairies to consider, Grug, the witch from Room on the Broom, Thelma the Unicorn…. Finally A decided to be Lauren the Puppy Fairy from the Rainbow Magic Fairy books by Daisy Meadows, and L chose to be Esau from Esau the Paw by Chris Gurney and John Bennett.

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A as Lauren the Puppy Fairy.

A’s costume was easy. We just went through her drawers and came up with some pink cord pants, pink shoes, a pink singlet and pink fairy wings from the dress up box and she was done. She used a pink pencil with a gem on the end of it for a wand, and took one of her toy puppies along too.

L's cat tail.

L’s cat tail.

L’s costume needed a bit more work. Esau is a very furry cat that needs to be shaved because his fur becomes matted. L vacillated between wanting to be Esau prior to the shaving, directly after or when the fur was beginning to grow back. She eventually decided on the latter, wearing grey shorts and a furry hoodie with joggers. I made her a skinny grey tail with a big fluffy end from yarn, and used the same yarn to create a headband with fluffy, grey cat ears on it. I attached a loop of thick elastic to the tail so that L could wear it around her waist comfortably. To finish her outfit, we used face crayons to give her face more of a catty feel.

They both had a fun time at the parade. We like dressing up for Book Week!

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L as Esau the Paw.

Snowman Costume

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IMG_2845Most people with younger kids have probably heard of a little Disney flick called “Frozen”… At some point your child may have been invited to a “Frozen” themed birthday party, or insisted on having one themselves. For most young girls this is a small matter of putting on a store-bought Queen Elsa or Princess Anna dress and popping along to the party.

When our family was invited along to a recent “Frozen” party, A was set, as she already had costumes. L thought about going as Olaf the snowman (whom she loves) or perhaps as Sven the reindeer, but settled on me finding her an Anna or Elsa dress. Thus, on the morning of the party, I had two little girls going as Princess Anna. About an hour before the party was supposed to start, L suddenly decided she didn’t want to go as Anna, she would much prefer to be Olaf!

Couldn’t she have mentioned this the week before? Or even the night before? Of course not, and now with an hour to go, if she doesn’t go as Olaf, it will be the worst day ever…sigh… Can I just take a moment to curse the merchandisers for not producing Olaf (or Sven) costumes? A last minute dash to the store might have been manageable, but instead I was faced with a likely meltdown from a child suffering from generalised anxiety, which could lead to a late arrival or complete failure to attend the party, as well as many tears and screams, and much patient coaching of relaxation and calming techniques masking irritation for the tantrum, and a deep sadness for my child. Averting the crisis is always easier than settling her, so I quickly put on my creative solutions hat and dashed off to the craft drawers for supplies.

A carrot nose.

A carrot nose.

The easiest and most obvious place to start to turn my child into Olaf, was to give her a nice carrot nose. She wanted to strap a real carrot to her face, but quickly realised that it would be too heavy. Instead, I used a square of orange paper rolled around to form a cone, and tape to secure it. We added a piece of white paper to the carrot nose to simulate Olaf’s big front teeth.

A tooth and some air holes.

A tooth and some air holes.

Elastic was used to keep the little mask on L’s face, and a couple of breathing holes were made on the underside of the nose for a more comfortable wear.

Black buttons.

Black buttons.

While I formed some coal buttons out of black tissue paper circles, L went to her room to find some white clothes. She came back with some long white shorts and a plain white singlet. These clothes were perfect. I attached the buttons to the front of her singlet with double-sided tape.

Tissue paper folded back on itself and taped to form a button.

Tissue paper folded back on itself and taped to form a button.

Olaf has big black eyebrows and twig hair. I thought I could do something with black pipe cleaners (chenille sticks), but wasn’t sure what to attach them to. L suggested using a swimming cap, which was a great idea, except that all our swimming caps are blue. After wracking my brain for several minutes I went to search through the drawers looking for inspiration. I found a soft knit belly band from when I was pregnant with Baby T. I fastened this around L’s head, scrunching the excess band into a hairband, and then smoothing the front back over her head. To this I attached two small pieces of pipe cleaners above her eyes as eyebrows with double-sided tape. We used several pieces of pipe cleaner to fashion his twiggy hair, as close to the picture of Olaf as we could get. Taping this to the top of L’s head in a way that stuck up was the hardest piece of the costume, and if I’d had more time, I would have liked to stitch it down, but we were plumb out. Luckily L really liked the costume and we got off to the party in time, and had plenty of fun.

My little Olaf ready for the party.

My little Olaf ready for the party.

Shaving Cream Play

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Shaving cream in a tray.

Shaving cream in a tray.

A very easy activity for kids is letting them play with shaving foam. It’s easy to clean up with water and is lots of fun. It’s not good to eat though, so I prefer not to let Baby T near it, but L and A love squishing their hands into it.

Squishing and squashing.

Squishing and squashing.

Whisking.

Whisking.

We used a couple of plastic trays on top of a muck mat, in an attempt to contain the shaving foam. It’s nice to do this outside if the weather permits, where we can just hose the area down. L and A each had a tray with shaving cream in it. They used various utensils to mix and scoop it, but mostly they just liked to feel it, squish it and squeeze in through their fingers.

Mixing and spreading.

Mixing and spreading.

L pretended the shaving cream was part of her cafe and she made me a smoothie. A whipped her shaving cream up with a whisk, and somehow managed to get shaving cream all the way up her arms and on her face.

We have previously used shaving cream to practice writing spelling words in too. We just smooth a layer of shaving cream in the bottom of a tray, and then write the words using a finger to form the letters.

Messy fun!

Messy fun!

 

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan

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IMG_1396Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan, hardback picture book, published by Lothian Children’s Books in 2013.

Two brothers navigate the landscapes of their imaginations in a series of rules as learnt last summer by the younger brother. Never step on a snail or eat the last olive or drop your jar because you never know what the consequences might be!

A magical story about the power of the imagination, and the childhood belief that anything is possible. Rules of Summer reminds me of that old rhyme “Step on a crack and break your mother’s back” that we would sing as we jumped over cracks in the pavement as children. These rules are similar to that rhyme, with nature overtaking the lounge room if the backdoor is left open, a giant red bunny appearing when a sock is left on the line, and a tornado appearing when a snail is squished. As adults it’s easy to say that these things will not really happen, but in a child’s vivid imagination these are only some of the possible outcomes if you break the rules.

With the most engaging illustrations, it is easy to lose yourself in the pictures and re-ignite the spark of imagination and curiosity that may have floundered on the way to adulthood. Sharing this book with your child is a special journey for both children and adults, and is especially good for children in primary school.

Rules of Summer is a reminder to us all of the power and beauty of the imagination.

 

* Rules of Summer was the winner of the 2014 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year in the Picture Book category.

Hand Shadow Show

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One night last week we had a blackout after dinner. The kids were a little frightened to start with, but then we pulled out torches and candles. This led to the kids putting on a shadow puppet show to pass the time.

A shadow bunny.

A shadow bunny.

We set up one of the big torches aimed at a clear space on the lounge room wall. The kids stood off to one side and used their hands and arms to make different shadow shapes on the wall. They mostly made animals, adding sound effects, and telling some short stories. Big L made some shadows too. They had lots of fun performing their shadow show, and sooner than they would have liked the lights came back on.

A making a shadow dog.

A making a shadow dog.

L making a shadow animal.

L making a shadow animal.

Playing Eskimos

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It’s mid-winter and the weather is cold, especially at night. Unfortunately we get quite cold with lots of wind, which brings down the apparent temperature, but it doesn’t often snow 😦

Last week, Big L had told off A for something or other minor, so in reaction, she told us that she was going to move onto the deck, and that’s where she would sleep. Our deck is covered, but not enclosed, so it was really cold out there, and windy. The temperature was probably hovering around freezing, but she insisted. We decided to let it play out to see what would happen next.

A pulled out an old cot mattress and blankets and set them up as a bed. At this point I insisted that she put more clothing on. L also got involved then, as they decided to play Eskimos. I helped to dress them both, with tights, track pants, two pairs of socks and slippers, singlet, long sleeve shirt, jumper and parka, as well as a beanie and mittens. A couldn’t find her mittens (she has three pairs, yet none could be found….), so she put an extra pair of socks on her hands. They were complaining that they were too hot while they were still inside, but I explained that they would need it outside.

Ready to play.

Ready to play.

They took some toys with them and headed out to the deck. Big L and I could see our breath billowing out as we helped get them set up in their bed, snuggled together and piled up with blankets. They were using a giant white bunny toy as a pillow. We pulled their hoods up over their beanies, and tucked them in. I was feeling very glad I wasn’t camping out in that cold.

Snuggled in their bed.

Snuggled in their bed.

Big L and I went back inside and waited. We could hear them talking and playing on the deck, but after about ten minutes they both came in and said they didn’t want to be Eskimos any more. They would really much rather sleep in their own beds in the warm house! They might not have lasted long, but they had fun while they were playing out there, despite the cold. They are both so imaginative, and they love pretend play.