Thursday, 26 September 2013

Shredded Paper


Just what it sounds like really. Inspired by the shredded paper sensory activity onboard the Play Talk Read bus, I made our own one at home. I filled up a box with shredded paper and added a pack of artificial pink petals and some 'treasures' to find in amongst it all (just some small toys). As it turns out, the petals and treasures were completely unnecessary as they were completely ignored. Honestly, all the girls wanted was a big box of shredded paper. 

Over the last three days they have come back to this box time and time again. We did start off with a smaller plastic box but have gravitated towards the larger cardboard one because they like to get in with the paper.

It has become a car, a bath and a bed. They don't seem to be getting bored with it! Sometimes I find piles in places, like in the back of Poppet's car, or neatly placed on top of the sofa, and wonder what they were thinking of. 

It invariably ends up everywhere but Poppet is quite helpful in tidying it up (Little, not quite so), and it is not so hard to gather together in handfuls and pop back into its box as it is in long strands and not little pieces. So, in conclusion, it makes your house looks very messy but is quickly rectified.  

I do have to spend quite a bit of time pulling shreds out from Little's mouth; her tendency to eat anything and everything is showing no sign of waning yet. 

Poppet: 2yrs 8mos
Little: 11mos

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Play Talk Read Bus

The girls had their first experience on the play bus and it's safe to say it was the most exciting thing that has ever happened to them, judging by their reactions. The pictures in this post are a bit rubbish but you get the idea.

The bus

Play Talk Read is an initiative run by the Scottish Government that gives tips on how best to play, talk and read with your wee ones. There are two buses that travel the length and breadth of Scotland and if one is visiting your area it is well worth a visit.

We heard that the bus would be passing through so put the date in the calendar and forgot all about it until we were sitting having breakfast one morning and realised today was the day! So it was a mad dash to suitably attire the girls whilst trying to explain the concept of a playbus to Poppet who was most concerned as to whether the bus would wait for us. 

Our speedy departure paid off and we were the only ones on the bus! This is what I was hoping for by going early as Poppet can get a bit overwhelmed by lots of other children. We had the place to ourselves for a while and then other children arrived at intervals so it was easy for her to adjust.  There were two play workers on board and a driver who were all most friendly and helpful, giving us a quick tour of the downstairs and pointing out the different activities. I didn't get many photos as I didn't want to look like a weirdo but it all looked very inviting. There was a couple of craft stations (one exploring symmetry using lollipop sticks and one to make paper plate mobiles), a water play experiment exploring things that float, sensory play with sand and shredded paper, and the walls had lots of play ideas and velcroed bits to play with as well. I liked that all the activities were free or very cheap and easy to replicate at home. The windows were blacked out so we could see out but people could not see in, but we did have one old gentlemen right up at the glass with his hand cupped trying to see what was going on in this purple bus!

A major concern of Poppet's once we were on board was where we were going and she took a bit of convincing that it was a special bus that doesn't move. I overheard a couple of other mothers have the exact same conversation with their little ones so it is obviously a common concern. 

Sand and shredded paper sensory play

There was 'treasure' hidden amongst the shredded paper to find; Little loved being dangled above it and grabbing at the paper, and obviously trying to eat it. While they were playing, music started being played over the speakers of the bus and it just so happened to be Poppet's favourite song of the moment, 'A Whole New World' from Aladdin. I think this might have been when she decided she was never going to get off this bus.

Sink or float experiment
There was a basin filled with water and a tub filled with a variety of objects and you had to guess which would float. Poppet outsmarted me on this one and correctly guessed that the wooden cube would float while I guessed that it would sink. I really hope no one overheard our conversation.

Craft table

The (blurry) photo above shows the paper plate mobile making station; this craft really appealed to Poppet's current scissor fascination. It was very simple to decorate a plate then cut it out in a spiral (Poppet had some scrap paper to try and cut while I cut the plate for her). She proudly carried her mobile all the way home.

Downstairs I had carried Little the whole time, upstairs I could put her down and let her run free. It was very baby friendly, with a door to stop children falling down the stairs and lots of soft furnishings. The front half was full of different toys and activities, from farm toys to dressing up to cars to homemade sensory bottles. The back half contained comfy seating and lots of large animal soft toys, books and a special baby play area.

Little 'woof woof' ing

The girls couldn't quite believe their eyes and Little's barking went into overdrive at the sight of all the stuffed animals. It was lovely and warm and the perfect spot to read the girls a couple of books and let them play together.


There was a selection of sensory bottles that both girls liked exploring, filled with oil and coloured water, pasta, rice etc... I've been meaning to make my own for ages but never have suitable bottles. After an hour it was time for us to leave and I envisaged tears but Poppet (reluctantly) left without any temper tantrums, partly placated by the activity pack she was given as we left along with a big sticker. Stickers are a great weapon against toddler tantrums. The whole way home she kept saying "I want to go back on the bus" so it definitely was a memorable morning for her. I wonder if she will remember it when she is all grown up like I remember my trip onto the playbus as a little girl! 

I think the next time we go on a bus it will be a real anti-climax.

things to take home

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Rice Sensory Play (with tubes and cars)

We have to do this type of activity when Little is down for her naps as she has a tendency to eat everything she comes across. For the few days after we put this tray together, Poppet would ask for it as soon as I had taken Little upstairs!

I bought a kilo bag of rice for £1 and poured the whole lot into a tray and added some trucks and cars we bought from a carboot sale for 25p each, along with some cardboard tubes, scoops and a funnel.

Poppet started off running the rice through her fingers and pouring it from hand to hand. Uncooked rice has a lovely sensation and it is very therapeutic to play with. I think Poppet liked it because you can play with it like sand but it doesn't stick to your skin and make a mess like sand. Eventually she tried fitting the cars and trucks into the tubes, figuring out which ones were 'too big' and which rolled down. She liked declaring "it fit mum!".

She made roads through the rice, picked up and deposited mounds of rice with the trucks, used the scoops to fill up the tubes to the top with rice; so many different ways to play with rice! A lovely little sensory play activity. I'll reuse this rice for another playtime but I think I'll dye the rice next time to add an extra element to it.

The next day I got the megablocks and cellotape out and got Poppet to help me try to make some kind of truck-filler-upper. My first attempt wasn't very good and collapsed to which Poppet observed "it not very good mum". Our second attempt worked better although I don't think it would win any architectural prizes.

We turned another tube into a tunnel that Poppet could drop cars down, which got a lot of use. A lot of rice did escape the tray so you do have to have a dustpan & brush handy to clean up after this activity but it's more than worth it!

Poppet: 2yrs 8 mos
Little: 11mos

Monday, 16 September 2013

Invitation to Play: Handkerchiefs and Ribbons

This is a little invitation to play I set out for the girls; the idea is to provide a random selection of materials/items and let the children play with them freely i.e without direction or a specific end goal. It can be hard at first to sit back and let them discover on their own but it can also be great fun seeing what they come up with from what you have provided.

On this occasion I had a bundle of 20 beautiful vintage handkerchiefs that I bought on a whim from Ebay for very cheap (I had vague plans to do something crafty with them one day), so I put them into a basket along with our ribbon collection to see what the girls would come up with (I say girls, I mean Poppet, as I can be pretty assured that Little will just try to eat anything I give her).

I had guessed that Poppet might use the ribbons in her hair and so on, and that the handkerchiefs would become bedcovers for teddies as that is what she normally does when she finds a scrap of material, but no, Poppet had other plans. As soon as she saw the basket she exclaimed "Presents!". I had not seen that coming and it was lovely seeing her put the basket to use as she set about wrapping things up from around the room. She even had a go at wrapping up her car.

She concentrated so hard on wrapping the handkerchief around an object (here she is wrapping up a saucepan lid) and then very carefully laying the bundle on top of a ribbon and trying to tie it up. She would cross the ends over and fiddle with them for ages and I don't know how but she did manage to tie a few 'knots'.

A Poppet knot
Then she very kindly set about distributing her presents, giving them to Little and to me, but she also wanted to give some to some far away family members!

Giving her little sister a present
She didn't get bored of the present wrapping all morning, it kept her occupied and engaged for ages. This activity was also great for strengthening those all-important fine motor skills.

She may have got her own way and family-members, if you are reading, a couple of these 'presents' may have been posted and could be winging their way to a letterbox near you! If you are not reading then you might be wondering who on earth has posted you a conditioner sample wrapped in a handkerchief.

A posted 'present'!

And here is a shot of Little, who didn't do anything creative or imaginative with the handkerchiefs and ribbons but looked really cute.

Poppet: 2yrs 8mos
Little: 11 mos

Friday, 13 September 2013

DIY Garden Train

Poppet and Little are pretty lucky to have a grandad who is also a joiner - this means that they get cool wooden toys to play with! 

At the weekend we were at Grandad (and Nana's) holiday cottages, which were formally two derelict cottages and after a lot of hardwork from Grandad and Uncle Mike are now two pretty snazzy holiday cottages! They are in the middle of beautiful Perthshire farmland so great for the little ones to explore the outdoors. Take a peek at their website, they have just started to rent them out (shameless plug over)!

Poppet and her Grandad

We introduced Grandad to geocaching while we were there (and got him hooked I think!) although I have my doubts as to whether he will ever figure out how to download an app on to his Iphone.

Anyway, back to the subject of this post, Grandad's latest creation! He had a whiskey barrel, and so did what any normal person would and turned it into a train at the bottom of the cottages' garden.

I think it is safe to say that it is popular with the girls (well more so Poppet than Little but give her a few months!).

It has a bell to ring, windows to stick your head out of, a coal cupboard (I'm sure this has a more technical name) to open and shut, and a ladder to go up and down so is perfect for hours of imaginative play outside! Grandad has plans to add in a bench and some levers and buttons so there will be even more to keep them entertained. C'mon grandad what about some working headlamps!

We were kept up to date with the train's progress while Grandad was making it with picture messages that I had to show to Poppet for creative input and approval. When Poppet saw the circular windows at the front she exclaimed 'It's got eyes!', then 'Where's eyebrows?', so Grandad dutifully obliged and the train gained some eyebrows and a mouth to boot. 

A friendly sort of fellow

You have no idea how long it took to coordinate this photo

Little figuring out the bell

I'm looking forward to giving the girls a picnic lunch onboard the train one day, hiding out in it during a rainy day, seeing them play on it in the snow - I think it will be getting a lot of use over the years!

Thanks Grandad!

Shoulder-carrying is obviously quite an important Grandad function as well

Poppet: 2yrs 8 mos
Little: 11 mos

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Our First Geocaching Adventure

If you haven't heard of geocaching before, it is an exciting way of exploring the area around you, finding new 'secret' spots, and getting the kids (and husband) excited about going on a walk!

Geocaching is a world wide treasure hunting game where you use GPS to locate hidden containers called geocaches. Geocaches are hidden from plain view all over the country ready to be found. Non-geocachers are called 'muggles' and you have to make sure a muggle doesn't spot you finding the cache (it really appeals to my inner dork.... who am I kidding my outer dork as well). Poppet loves going on a 'venture' to find 'treasure'!

 All you have to do is find a geocache near you using, download the details to your GPS device (we use an IPhone), and find it! The cache can be any sort of (waterproof) container, and has a logbook in it for you to record your find, and sometimes a selection of 'treasures' for you to choose from (and replace with a treasure of your own).

Our geocache coordinates led us to a brilliant woodland park really close by to our home that we didn't even know existed. It was a lovely walk on its own but the added element of finding the geocache made it a great walk. We had the pushchair with us but had to abandon it eventually as the GPS led us down a trail through some bracken that got denser and denser and higher and higher. It was a proper adventure. The girls had certainly never gone that 'off-road' before! 

Poppet came prepared with her explorer handbag; she had a pen in it to write in the logbook and a treasure to exchange (a little tin box with her prized shell collection - whoever gets that may be a little disappointed!).

We found the geocache hidden under a big old sycamore tree; it was a Tupperware box inside a camouflage bag (I've blacked out the name of the cache so it stays a secret!).

Poppet chose a little green clipboard from the selection of treasures in the box,  this is now her most prized possession! She even slept with it for a couple of nights.

While daddy filled out an entry in the logbook, Poppet carefully put her own entry on her clipboard.

Little just loved the whole walk apart from maybe the mouthful of bracken. 

In conclusion, try geocaching it's brilliant!

Poppet: 2yrs 7mos
Little: 11mos