Robot Rumpus (Sean Taylor & Ross Collins)

robotrumpusThis is an entirely child chosen and led activity. Jumbles is starting to get into this whole doing an activity based on a book thing, yesterday when we were at the library he chose his books and really liked this one, we had to read it twice in the library and again as soon as we got home. Then he insisted we did an activity on it, he wanted to make robots. Thankfully, making robots seemed fairly easy. Though I’m not sure I did quite the scale he had in mind, he was talking about giant robots for us to get inside, but whilst we have a lot of giant boxes, that is due to the fact that we are imminently moving and I didn’t really want to sacrifice any of them, maybe we’ll do that after we’ve moved. So for now I made him rummage through the junk modelling collection, which is great as we could really do with chucking it all in the recycling before we move.

robot (3)Anyway, for robots, boxes and tubes are perfect. I was quite pleased, Jumbles selected everything that he wanted to use, choosing yoghurt pots for feet, tubes for arms, and deciding to repurpose a creation that he’d made at preschool to become the robot’s head, I have no idea what the thing from preschool was originally, and Jumbles doesn’t seem to know either. I quite wanted to add dials using some of the lids that we’ve been collecting, but he didn’t want to. He glued the boxes together with PVA, but I wanted it to be playable with immediately, so I reinforced the joins with parcel tape. I was then hoping we could do some papier mache over the top of the whole thing and paint it. However, Jumbles said he loved it just as it was and didn’t want to do any more to it. He has named the robot Emmet (after Lego movie Emmet) and zoomed him around all evening (apparently the feet are rocket feet).

Robot making is such an easy and fun activity, even for kids like Jumbles, who aren’t that keen on craft, we did this after dinner, while Bean read books with Daddy, it took about 15 minutes, but led to a long play session with the robot. You could make mini robots, giant robots, whatever. Just remember, it doesn’t matter what the finished robot looks like, my gut instinct is to try to make crafts look realistic, but it is much more important to let your child have ownership of it. He probably had a lot more fun with his robot that if I’d made it look better, not to mention that he’d have had to wait for it to dry overnight if we’d done papier mache on it.

As to the book itself, I didn’t think it was anything remarkable, but obviously Jumbles enjoyed it, but any robot book would be fine.

Oh, also, while you’re doing this, why not try pretending to be robots, this is something we do as a family a lot, sing songs as robots, do robot walking etc. very amusing to small children.

External Links:
Borrow “Robot rumpus” from your local library
Buy “Robot Rumpus”

“Biscuit Bear” by Mini Grey (or Use The Gingerbread man)

biscuitbearChoosing this book is a bit odd really, as there’s no reason why you wouldn’t do this activity with the Gingerbread man. However, this is the book we used, so it seemed dishonest to write it up as the Gingerbread man.

The story is about a boy who makes a bear shaped biscuit and decorates it, every time he tries to eat it his Mum stops him (it’s too hot, it’s nearly dinner time, he’s just cleaned his teeth). So instead of eating it he goes to sleep with it on his pillow. Then Biscuit Bear gets up while he’s sleeping and has adventures.

Blogging this is a bit silly really, because it’s just such an obvious activity. However, I was quite excited that Jumbles actually asked to do baking, he normally refuses, but we’d read this book earlier in the day and he wanted to make some biscuit bears himself. Plus I thought it’d be a chance to share my favourite easy biscuit recipe. I love this recipe for a few reasons:

1) Unlike gingerbread, you don’t need an egg – I’m not too worried about the kids eating raw egg anymore, but often we are unprepared and have accidentally used all of the eggs when we decide to bake.

2) These biscuits don’t spread when you bake them, so they keep the shape that you were aiming for. We use cutters, but we also love using chocolate moulds, I have a collection of interesting shaped ones, our favourites being the lego man moulds. We do make gingerbread a lot, but it does spread quite a bit.

3)There is nothing complicated to do, you just mix everything together

Easy non spreading biscuits:
150g plain flour
50g caster sugar (or whatever sugar I can find at the time)
100g marg (butter tastes nicer, but it’s much easier for kids to rub marg in)
Optional flavouring, this time we used a big squirt of butterscotch flavoured syrup, but you can add vanilla, cocoa, choc drops, raisins, nuts etc.

1. Rub the main ingredients togetherduckmuck 005
Yes, that really is it, you can then just roll it into a ball and break bits off to bake if you like.

2. Add optional flavours

3. Squash into a ball. Then roll out flat.

4. Use cutters or chocolate moulds. If using moulds, just push the dough into the moulds, then either bake in the mould, or turn out onto a baking tray, they should stay intact.

5. Bake at 170/Gas mark 3 for 15-20 mins

6. Cool

7. Decorate – the method used in this house is to make a few bowls of coloured icing and spoon it over the biscuits, while not very secretly also eating lots, then pour an entire packet of sprinkles on topduckmuck 008. I also tried this time with a couple of cocktail sticks, for adding detail, this didn’t really work, but Bean liked poking the icing with hers.

You may note in the photos that Bean was not involved in the baking, I did feel a bit guilty about this and did baking with both of them a few days later to make up for it, at the time Mr Monkey Juggling and I had decided to take a child each for an hour. She rejoined us for the icing. I have to say though, baking with one child is much less stressful than having both of them, I am not very good at baking with them both, it all tends to get a bit hectic.

After you’ve made your biscuits, you might like to do some imaginary play with them, we just ate them though.

External Links:
Borrow “Biscuit Bear” from your local library
Buy “Biscuit Bear”

“Duck in the Truck” by Jez Alborough (Rainbow muck)

ducktruck This book has been a firm favourite in our house for the last couple of years. It’s actually grown on me, simply based on how much the rest of the family love it. It’s just this book everyone loves, not the rest of the Duck series though. The story is that a duck is driving home in a truck, the truck gets stuck in the muck, various other animals come along and try to help. The book is a very simple rhyme, with vivid illustrations and good use of humour.

This was a bit of a spur of the moment activity, we had just read the book and had a bit of time to kill before dinner, then I remembered that I had some rainbow smash in the fridge which I made as edible paint for a toddler group a couple of days ago and I figured it would work as muck.

Rainbow Smash:

For reasons I don’t quite understand, duckmuck 014whenever we go camping I buy a packet of emergency Smash (instant mashed potato), we never actually eat it, as we don’t really like Smash and can cope without having mashed potato while living in a tent. So anyway, I often have a packet sitting in the back of the cupboard going out of date, and periodically find a sensory play use for it.

You can play with the dry powder, with scoops and water, this is great fun as the kids can see the changes. However, this time we didn’t do that, as I already had batches made up. Either leave it as it is, or add a few drops of food colouring, it colours up really nicely and can then be used simply for exploring texture etc. Or can be used to do paintings.

On this occasion we did one of Jumbles’s favourite activities. Driving cars through something mucky. Now of course, you could just use real mud, or compost, for a more realistic muck to get the toy cars stuck in, but coloured muck adds a bit of interest and has the advantage of being edible, I don’t really like Bean eating too much mud (duckmuck 023she sneaks quite a bit in).

Jumbles was retelling the story without prompting as he played with the car in the muck. I also laid out some paper so that they could paint with the cars on the paper if they wanted, they didn’t really use it though.

Carwash:duckmuck 027
After playing with the cars in muck like this, you might simply clear everything away, but you’d be missing out on possibly one of the best and simplest activities. Simply bring a bowl with a small amount of soapy water and a couple of cloths or brushes (old toothbrushes work well) out and let the kids wash the cars. It saves on clean up for you later and they have fun, Jumbles asks to do car washes quite often, even if we haven’t got his cars dirty.

 External Links:
Buy “Duck in the Truck”
Borrow “Duck in the Truck” from your local library

“Each Peach Pear Plum” By Janet and Allan Ahlberg

imageA well loved classic, this simple rhyming book focuses on spotting fairy tale characters on each page. So we did a simple character hunt. I made cards for each character, then hid them around the house for the kids to find. peachJumbles loves doing treasure hunts and Bean was excited to find cards, Jumbles even passed her some (that’s what’s happening in the picture). If doing this for a larger group or older children, you could put letters or words on the cards to spell out a word or sentence and ask the kids to write down the letters/words they find instead of removing the cards when they find them, this way slower children still get to join in and not have all of the cards found. This is how we used to do treasure hunts when I used to work in libraries.

imageHere are the cards I made for the treasure hunt, simply print off, cut out and hide around. Sorry that I haven’t made better use of the page, I was rushing as always, as I suddenly came up with this activity while Bean was napping, so had to get it done in the few minutes that they were both quiet.

I then printed out several extra copies of 4 of the cards (as I thought all 10 was a bit many) and taught Jumbles to play snap, he enjoyed it, though he didn’t understand why he had to turn the top card over instead of looking through to find a pair. We also played matching pairs with the cards. Now I’ve got the cards I’m planning to use them for other games, like “Go Fish/Happy Families”. Admittedly buying a pack of cards is pretty cheap and less hassle, but we did this while we were still quarantined after the sick bug and I couldn’t find any full packs of cards in the house (mainly because Jumbles loved flicking through cards when a bit younger, sorting them etc, so a lot got damaged), plus I like them being related to stories.

I’m hoping to get the kids to decorate the backs of the cards with stamps or something, to extend the activity even further and to give them ownership of the cards.

External Links:

Buy Each Peach Pear Plum
Borrow Each Peach Pear Plum

Light box continued – “The Little Red Hen” by Paul Galdone

redhenOk, I’ll be honest here, I didn’t use a book for this one, but then I felt guilty and thought I should do and with today’s activity being about flour, The Little Red Hen sprang to mind. Then I started thinking I should probably get hold of a copy before bedtime, so I can read it to them later and remind them about the flour we played with, but the chances of finding it on this short notice seemed slim, so I did some googling and found a youtube reading of it, hooray, so maybe we’ll have some screen time later: Little Red Hen read aloud

Continuing  from the last post, as we hadDSCN2463 the lightbox out still, I decided to experiment with other things on it. I’ve done salt before, for emergent writing, but with Bean still mouthing, I wasn’t ready for her to play with salt. I thought I’d try flour, they loved it. Jumbles started writing numbers, then moved on to drawing pictures and making handprints. Bean just enjoyed patting it and, annoyingly, flourlightbox 008throwing handfuls at me. She also grabbed a pom pom from the easter posting box that we’ve had out again while ill. She pushed it around making roads. Jumbles got a bit bored, till I suggested he got some cars, then he spent ages running them around roads,flourlightbox 002 delivering flour in a truck etc This does make a mess, obviously, but on a laminate floor it cleans easily.  I’ve included a photo to show how the flour does spread, but it really wasn’t too bad. It brushed off everything quite quickly. If I’d thought about it, I could have used an extension cable to move the lightbox away from the sofas, but then I’m still feeling a bit ill after getting the sick bug the kids had, so sitting on a sofa joining in was kind of part of the plan.

I’m not sure how necessary the light box is, but it’s nice revealing light when you draw and just makes a change from having the flour just in a tray. As an experiment, I turned the light box off, big mistake, it immediately ended Jumbles’s play, turning it back on did not regain his interest.

External Links

Buy “The Little Red Hen”

Borrow “The Little Red Hen”

Listen to “The Little Red Hen” read aloud