Category Archives: Activities with the kids

Outside over there


I’ve borrowed the title of this post from one of the greatest writers for children, Maurice Sendak.  You only have to read ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ to see that there was an author and artist who really understood the relationship between the real and imagined worlds of children.  There’s too much to say about that book here, and its not what I want to write about, but it seems fitting to borrow a title of another of his books to describe a post about a boy, his play and the natural world.

A couple of weeks ago, we had a family holiday in Brittany where OH parents have a house.  It’s on the top of a hill with super views and even lovelier gardens, all lovingly created and tended over the years.  There’s lots of outside space including veggie patches, mature trees, lawned areas and an orchard.  Such space needs a lot of mowing and for that, Granny has a tractor!  This was little boy heaven!

tractorAs the tractor was parked right next to the house, Toby’s first job in the morning was to go out and make sure that it had enough petrol and to ‘drive’ it for a bit.  When Pops was up and about, he and Toby would spend hours loading the ‘trailer’ (really it was the grass cutting bit, but to T, it was simply the Trailer) with logs.  Together they talked about the different sizes of log and how, if they were knocked together, you could here if they were dry enough to burn.  They stacked according to size and shape and Toby felt that he had done a really important job by the time he came in for a snack.  This happened every day for 10 days!

Then there was the beach on a wet day with lots of digging, floating of toys and clambering over rocks.  We peered into the sea looking for fish and felt the seaweed between our fingers.

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  Then there was the land drain! Granny and pops had a rather long bit of pipe and a slopey garden, so what else would you do but run boules down it and catch them in a bucket!  Toby enjoyed hearing them thump into the big bucket but best of all was when we added a loop the loop and listened to them going down the tube before they jumped out of the end and into the bucket!  This, literally, had us all at it for hours. land drainThe outside fun did not stop there.  There were trees to climb and swings to swing, carvings to sit on and another tractor to play on…


There was also a sound sculpture that Granny had made:

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Toby only came to this a couple of times but it all added to the sensory experience.

One of my best outings was to the local chateau where Toby just had a ball rampaging through the grounds and running up and down the ‘castle’ steps.  He thought it was amazing to be at a real castle and has since pointed out any building with a turret, calling it a castle (or ‘Carrsuwl’).  In the grounds there was an amazing living willow sculpture and lots of beautiful wooded and planted areas.  Toby and I had fun looking for the Gruffalo, creeping up on him and tip toeing past so as not to wake him!


Little Harry had lots of outdoor fun too…

HarryHe saw the sea for the first time

What an amazing outdoor adventure for two small boys.  Little things became big things and time was elongated.  Daddy was there to see both boys playing and learning and a great time was had by all!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall


Sound and water play


This is something we did a while ago but I am linking up with Jennie for ‘Messy Play for Matilda Mae’ and her theme this week is water play.  And yes, it got messy (well, my house was a bit soggy!).

Toby just loves water play and its a fail-safe way of keeping him busy for long periods.  This time I decided to spice it up by adding some yellow food colouring and a few drops of bergamot essential oil to create a citrusy feast for the senses. I used an Ikea underbed storage box raised on a small table.



In it I had put a range of containers, a colander and the metal plate that sits on my scales.  Toby wanted to add some his Playmobil people to make some stories: they ended up on a boat that was sinking (a plastic container that veg came in!).

I then extended his play by encouraging him to listen to the sounds that the objects made when struck with various implements.  So we hit the colander with the balloon whisk and tried the metal plate with a wooden spoon.  Through this we discovered that lowering the metal plate into the water whilst it was being hit altered the pitch of the sound.  Toby found this fascinating.


He also enjoyed the sound it made when he pushed it into the water at speed!


In his own play, he concentrated on pouring and story-telling, but this is something we will come back to.



Cracking the fear of mess…with very clean shaving foam!


I’ve mentioned before about how it seems that boys, certainly mine, are often more reticent about getting messy than their girl counterparts.  I haven’t had time to research whether this is anything more than anecdotal, but in any case, my little lad just couldn’t resist the temptation (and clean smell!) of shaving foam … eventually!

I started out by spraying the foam into the letters ‘T’, ‘M’, ‘D’ and ‘H’ and we talked about these (a current interest).  I’d also put out some implements for him to use to manipulate the foam, rather than having to use his hands, thanks to Ghostwritermummy and this post.

Toby immediately picked up a paintbrush and wiped out the letters, even daring to poke the brush with his finger to try it out.

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He asked for me to get it off, but I said that I had some on my fingers and I thought it was fine, which satisfied him and he continued.  I made a T in the foam



But he wasn’t yet ready to make marks with his fingers himself.

After a bit more brushing, he got a bit bolder…

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…and then painted mummy…



…and then his knee!



He was then in the tuff spot and discovered how slippy the foam is.  This he found hilarious and particularly enjoyed making marks with his legs and feet while Daddy held him:

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I then took Edspire’s lead (here) and involved him in the tidy up bu giving him a bowl of warm soapy water and a sponge…

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…just as much fun and job done!

I’m feeling positive about our messy play today and am glad we are no longer shaving foam virgins!

Sensory play with the baby


Most of my posts have been about Toby and his play but Harry has also been enjoying some sensory play.

He enjoyed the sand pit in the sunshine

He has loved playing with the green rice.  I only had to dissuade him from eating it at the beginning, he then found other interesting things to do with it.

He picked it up in his fist and dropped it,

he kicked his feet in it,

and used different objects to swipe at it and marveled when they tipped some rice out.

He used his whole body to feel the material and he listened to the sounds that it and the tins, whisks etc made.


He has also enjoyed some fibre optics (thank you  Fred and your mummy!)…



and watching his brother look at a glowing bath toy in a bowl of water beads



Lots of sensations to fire up those 7 month old neurons!

Fizzing ice and painting with ice – part 2


I’d seen this idea on ‘Growing a Jeweled Rose’ here, and thought we’d give it a go! Unfortunately, we were low on materials and my bicarb of soda was a bit out of date (this is a bit how it has been recently, need to be more organised!).

The night before, I prepared a mixture of bicarb and water (1 part of each) and poured it into the ice cube tray.  I then dropped some food colouring over the tray to create blobs rather than a mixed colour.  The bicarb makes the water cloudy and, therefore, the ice white so the ‘blobs’ looked quite good.

The next day, we tipped them into the tuff spot.



Toby enjoyed picking them up and then dropping them, liking the sound they made.

We then put them into a bowl and Toby squirted them with vinegar…at which point they erupted and started to fizz!



We listened to the fizz and wrinkled our noses at the strong smell of the vinegar.

Then Toby made a connection back to when we had played with ice before and wanted to pour water over them. So we filled up his spray bottle, poured it out and watched…



Toby talked about the ice melting (yes, he remembered the word!) and that the water had stopped the fizz.

We then tipped the contents of the bowl back into the tuff spot and Toby realised that the powdery residue could be used to make marks.  Just recently, he has been recognising ‘T for Toby’ everywhere in the environmental print and so he requested that I make a T


We then did the same with an ice cube.  He also asked for the letter for ‘Mummy’



I’m loving watching all the theory that I know turn into practice with my own little man.  As a teacher, I have taught about the importance of exploring environmental print with young children and just playing with the things that take their interest, but when you can actually see the cogs turning in your own little one, day to day, it’s nothing short of amazing!

Anyway, we then got the ice paint back out of the freezer (I’m so rubbish at doing freezer cooking…probably a good job as there’s no space for food!).


He blobbed


He dunked them in water


He put them in and out of the tin, matching the colours


More blobbing


Then blobbing and stomping in the blobs!


Creating quite interesting patterns…


And getting really quite messy!

Then it was back to the ice cubes and this time, he wanted to put them all back into the tray – counting as he did!  He has just got one to one correspondence (pointing at each object as it is assigned a number and so realising that objects count as 1 and can only be counted once until a total is reached) but we got a bit stuck at 12!



This really was quite an extended play for Toby, full of fun and learning. I loved it!

Painting with Ice – part 1


We had a brief glimpse of summer over the May bank holiday weekend and so our messy play could finally move outside.  For this activity, we froze some ready mixed paint in a muffin tin with string hanging out to keep hold of when frozen:



We then released them from the tins by standing it in some hot water for a few seconds.  Toby then had an explore.

He dabbed and dragged, likening the marks to train tracks and the blobs to Tidmouth Sheds

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Unfortunately, potty issues were taking up a lot of his thinking at the time and so this was as far as we got.  Though I refroze the ice paint blocks  for another try…


Birthday Bubbles




Today is Matilda Mae’s 1st birthday.

We, like so many others, wanted to show how much we care

Some chose words, beautiful words;

Some said it through play, of the messy variety;

some with cake and birthday teas.

And we,


blew bubbles


But there are no pictures of bubbles floating high as all I could do when they had been set free was to hold my little boy, who blew them, and kiss his cheek.  I wish so much that Jennie could do the same to her birthday girl.


Happy Birthday little one and thank you for shining happily on your family today x