Whale gets stuck


My apologies for the extended absence. I have been struggling with motivating myself to blog, particularly since my laptop broke, and trying to blog on a touchscreen is so tedious. We have a PC, but I don’t want to sit in the office. Anyway, this is an activity we did a few weeks back, it’s very simple, but requires set up the day before. This is a great activity for a warm day and can be done with or without being linked to a book.

The book we used isn’t anything amazing, so don’t go trying to find it just for this activity, it’s about a whale who gets stuck on top of a sheet of ice. His friends try various things to free him, until eventually the warmth of the sun and their bodies melts and breaks the ice. So it lent itself perfectly to an ice melting activity.

Prep in advance:
-Grab a large container (I used a silicon cake tin) and fill it with water and sea animals (or other toys, e.g use dinosaurs and do some dinosaur excavation)
– Freeze the lot
– Wait for a warm enough day (I prepped this approx 6 months in advance and kept forgetting and then being annoyed at the freezer space it was taking up).

Set up on the day:

Tray with your ice block of frozen animals
Blunt knives
Pot of salt
Jug of warm water

Basically, just let the kids play around, hammering etc. trying to release the animals from ice. Mine loved watching the ice crack and melt when I poured hot water on (have them stand back for safety reasons). Using the salt wasn’t fast enough for my kids, but you could set this up as a proper science experiment, with one lot of ice with salt on and one without so they can see the difference.

This was a crazily simple activity for now, to try to get me back in the swing of blogging, I’ll do something more creative soon.

Buy Whale Gets Stuck – affiliate link


Oi Frog continued

Having played with our oi frog cards this week, I’ve refined and come up with games that work best for toddler-preschool age:

Rhyming bingo:

Split cards into 2 piles (one – things that will sit on, second pile, the things to be sat on)

Divide the animal pile (things that will be sitting on) between the players. Around 4 each works well.

Spread the second pile face down on the table. Laying them in a grid can help memory.

Take it in turns to turn over a middle card, if it rhymes with one of your cards, then keep it, if not, put it back. Other players remember where the cards they need are, so they can pick on their turn.

Look and find:

Again, split the cards into 2 decks (ones to sit and ones to be sat on) spread one deck out face up on the table, take it in turns to turn over the top card of the other deck. Look for something that rhymes with that card, as soon as you spot it, grab the rhyming card from the face up grid and shout the pair (e.g. you turn over Yoda, scan the table looking for something that rhymes, spot Skoda and put your hand on it, or grab it, shouting “Yoda sits on a Skoda”) you can play as a competition, winning hands, or work together, seeing how quickly you can get them all.

Oi Frog (Kes Gray & Jim Field)

oifrogThis book has captured our whole family’s hearts. It’s a very funny book, in which a cat tells a frog that he must sit on a log, because he’s a frog. He can’t sit on a chair as hares sit on chairs. The cat goes on to explain all of the different, ridiculous pairings of where animals sit. I realised how much everyone loved this book, a little too late; we returned our bag of library books just before Christmas, and neither child asked to renew any of them, then at bedtime, Bean excitedly asked for “Oi, Frog” and collapsed in tears when I said it was one that had gone back to the library. She’d obviously thought it was one of our own. We’ll have to buy a copy soon.

Anyway, the activity for this has evolved naturally, and been very much child led. We’ll be wandering around and suddenly one of us will shout “Oi frog, sit on a log” and we’ll all start calling out animals and things for them to sit on. Bean (2) doesn’t get the rhyming, but has memorised couplets from the book and throws these out. Jumbles (4) is getting good at coming up with his own rhyming pairs, and trying to catch us out with things that are very hard to rhyme.

So for today’s activity, simply read the book and play the verbal rhyming game. Or print out the cards I’ve made.

oi frog cards

There are 2 ways to use them…

1) Just use the animal cards, go on a family hunt sticking them on things around the house which they rhyme with
2) Play matching pairs with the cards, turn them all upside down and on your turn, turn 2 of them over. If they rhyme, you’ve won that pair. Note there are a few which have more than one matching possibility.

I added names to my set, with photo’s of the children, as Bean’s real name rhymes with something. Jumbles’s doesn’t, so I called him Jumbles (and rhymed with apple crumbles) if your child’s name rhymes, add it in.



Buy “Oi Frog” from Wordery (affiliate link)

Borrow “Oi frog” from your local library

Picture book gift suggestions

With Christmas coming up, I thought I might give some suggestions of brilliant books to give kids. I’m intentionally going to avoid classics e.g The Gruffalo, Very hungry Caterpillar etc. Simply because they are so popular that chances are the child you’re buying for already has them, I’m sticking with picture books as I think these make a great present for any age, if you go for reading books you need to be more sure of a child’s ability, with picture books a wider ability and age range can enjoy them. There are excellent picture books out there for older kids, so please don’t think that once a child can read chapter books they have to move on from picture books entirely, or they will miss some excellent reading opportunities.

A quick note on age recommendations. I personally hate having ages on books, a good book will appeal to a wide age, the best books are fun for adults as well as kids and suggested ages can be very restrictive. That being said, I appreciate that for present buying, you want to be sure that a book will be appreciated by the child you’ve chosen it for. So I’ve decided to put suggested ages in this list. Please don’t take these as gospel. A child outside these ages will probably love these books, they have wide appeal, but these are the ages I’ve successfully used the books with, and where I think you might have the most success for gift giving.

A note to friends- if I usually buy your child a present, please double check before buying your child a book off this list!

Note 3 (sorry this is getting so long winded!)- I have used affiliate links on this page, mainly because I was finding that not all of the books I’ve been trying to find were available on the more ethical site I have been linking to. So I am sorry, I’ve just done the easy thing and gone to Wordery, which has free worldwide postage. If you buy following one of these links I will get a small percentage.

Press Here by Herve Tullet(2-6ish)
My 2 and 4 year old both adore this book. The book starts with a yellow dot on the page, and the instruction “press here and turn the page” then on the next page another dot has appeared. The book progresses with children being asked to rub dots, shake, tilt or blow the pages.  It is a lot of fun, and very different than normal books. There is a sequel of sorts by the same author called “Mix it Up” where the dots return, but this time it’s all about colour mixing. We haven’t managed to get hold of a copy yet (hint, hint to any present buyers) but imagine it will also be great fun.

The Book With No Pictures by B.J Novak (4-11)
Another unusual book, as the title says, there are no pictures at all, so it perhaps shouldn’t be in this list. However, the writing is decorative, and the style is of a picture book, for reading aloud, the premise is that the reader has to read it exactly as it’s written, which means the adult saying all sorts of ridiculous things, sure to make kids fall around laughing.

Morris the Mankiest Monster by Giles Andreae (6+ and only if parents don’t mind)
This is a rather disgusting tale of a monster who lives in a house made of dung. I will happily read it to groups older than about 5, but have seen very disapproving looks from some adults. The kids love it though, but be sure the parents won’t be offended at toilet humour.

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (Picture Puffin) by Jon Scieszka(5-12)
Fantastic alternative fairy tales. An older book, but I don’t find that it has dated at all. I used to love reading these to year 5 and 6 (aged 9-11) on visits to the library. It is fun for younger children too, but they do need to know the original fairy tales well in order for them to get the most fun from the book, as well as have a well developed sense of humour.

Barry the Fish with Fingers by Sue Hendra (4-9ish)
If you can find a copy of this with a CD, it’s read by Rik Mayall, and definitely adds to the story experience (We got our copy from the Works in one of their 10 books for £10 deals). It’s a very silly story, with slightly tongue in cheek humour. In fact, you probably wouldn’t go wrong with any Sue hendra books for young children, my other favourites are “Dave” and “No-Bot, the Robot with No Bottom” but I think Barry is funnier to adults and older kids.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klasson (2 – adult)
Ok, this is definitely more appreciated by adults than kids. It’s very funny, dark humour. However, sadly kids don’t necessarily appreciate it as much. A great gift for friends with a young child though, where the present is really for them, not the baby.

The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it Was None of His Business by Werner Holzwarth (2-adult)
I came across this in my student days and loved it. Again, it is ostensibly a kids book, but really the humour goes over most little kids heads. Leaving it as an educational book about poo for preschoolers, or a toilet humour book about revenge for adults. There is also a Plop-Up Edition but I haven’t seen a copy, so can’t comment on if it is an improvement to the original.

Shhh! By sally Grindley & Peter Utton (age 4-8)

This is a brilliant lift the flap book that works for an older age than most lift the flap books. The idea is that you have to be very quiet as you sneak through the giant’s castle without disturbing the inhabitants or waking the giant, on each page there’s a flap to look back through to check that the character on the previous page hadn’t heard you. This book is definitely for reading aloud. It’s all about building the atmosphere, so don’t buy this for a child to read themselves. I’ve had classes of children aged up to 9 or 10 enthralled with this, they love the ending. However, for giving as a gift I’d probably suggest under 8. Also, be careful, I have heard of a 4 year old being scared and the book having to be taken out of the house.

This is a really short list at the moment, but I’ve been struggling with the computer, so it’s all for now I’m afraid. If people are interested, I’ll try to do another list at a later date.

Ketchup on your cornflakes (Nick Sharratt)

ketchuponcornflakesWow, sorry that it’s been 3 months since I last blogged, no excuses, I just haven’t got round to it. Anyway, I thought after a long break I’d do a nice easy activity, based on one of our favourite books.

This book is a split page book, where you turn either the top half of the page, or the bottom half, to create different funny combinations. e.g.octnov2015 043

“Do you like ketchup on your apple pie?” “Do you like a duck on your head?”

The set up for this activity is simple, just select as many of the “ingredients” from the book as you are comfortable with, put them out in bowls, cups etc. Then give your children a container for mixing.

Read further down for the boring bit of what I actually put out, but now, here’s the more interesting discoveries:octnov2015 054

Do you like ketchup on your cornflakes?

Yes. Yes they do, very much apparently.

Do you like ice cubes and milk on your toast?

Yes, that too, soggy toast is apparently delicious.

Do you like jam on your chips?

Yes, again, this is a tasty choice.

Do you regularly turn your noses up at a lovely nutritious homecooked meal, only picking at bits of it, then when you got to mix random disgusting combinations together in a messy play tray, eat loads of them as if you had been starved?octnov2015 066

Yes, that is precisely what they did.

Naively, I believed that by doing this activity straight after dinner and pudding, they would not eat the foods. So ensure you use clean containers and only things you’re happy for them to eat. I’m so glad I didn’t let them have the salt or toothpaste, which I intentionally left out.

What I added:

Ice cubes
Water (as my kids don’t drink lemonade, we generally say “water” or “drink” on the lemonade page
Old toothbrush

Things I didn’t add, but could have:

Apple Pie
A wooly hat
Rubber duck

This activity was planned and set up in about 2 minutes, when the kids were quite hyper and I thought they needed an activity after dinner. These were the things I just had available.
You could also add new things, that aren’t in the book.

This was really fun for them, Jumbles (just turned 4) loved mixing the things together to make a weird mush, plus taste testing everything. He was quite careful in picking what he would add next to the mix. Bean (2) mainly liked crushing the cornflakes and dripping ketchup on them. I think next I’ll let them choose weird things from the cupboard to add into their odd combinations.

If you like this book, you’ll also like “Accidentally on purpose” another split page book by Nick Sharratt.

Borrow “Ketchup on your cornflakes” from your library
Buy “Ketchup on your cornflakes” (Wordery affiliate link)

Diggers (Fiona Watt, Rachel Wells)

diggersAny building site book will do for this one, so if your kids are a bit old for a board book, why not try a non fiction book about diggers?

Basically for this activity you’re making something that your kids can use as mortar.

Mix wet play sand (we used orange sand as this is what we had) with cornflour in a 2:1 ratioish cement 017(I didn’t measure, but about twice as much sand as cornflour, just keep adding sand till it seems right). The mixing is great fun and you find that you go through various stages, all of which are fun to play with. My favourite is when it’s a lot more cornflour than sand and is very gloopy. Once it’s all mixed, if your sand was a bit wet, like mine was, you may find you have a layer of whitish water on top, just pour it off. You then have a very mouldable fun to work with substance, much like moon sand, which you can use to build sandcastles, or as we did as mortar to hold bricks together.  cement 024Put it in your sandpit, or play bin, add trowels, bricks and toy diggers. Jumbles enjoyed making a tower, though it would have been more satisfying if we’d had play bricks that weren’t interlocking. I tried giving him flat stones, but that didn’t inspire him. Bean wasn’t particularly interested in this activity and took her trowel off to dig in the garden instead.cement

We also experimented with making bricks using our lego brick mould. This was a bit tricky, they broke apart easily, but was still fun.

Borrow “Diggers” from the library
Buy “Diggers”
Buy lego moulds from Amazon
Buy mini toy diggers

The Teeny Weeny Tadpole (Sheridan Cain & Jack Tickle)

987495I have been wanting to try water beads for quite a while now, but was too concerned about Bean putting them in her mouth. I have seen that other people use tapioca pearls as an edible alternative, but they are still a choking hazard. Then I saw basil seeds suggested as an alternative on Fun at home with kids and decided to try it out. The idea is that you soak them in coloured water for 5 minutes, at the end of which you have tiny brightly coloured balls.DSCN2639 However, after soaking my basil seeds, they did not look anything like they were supposed to, they were very faintly coloured, with black blobs in the middle:  they looked exactly like frog spawn, certainly not beautiful vibrant jewel-like balls as in her example. Basically,  the colour didn’t really take, I don’t know if I didn’t use enough, or if the quality wasn’t good enough (I used gel food colouring). DSCN2646For a minute I was disappointed, but then I realised I could work with that. Instead of doing a random activity, I rushed off to find a frog life cycle book, read it with the kids (ok, not true, to my shame, I didn’t have one, we had to watch it on youtube) and then pulled out the tray of “frogspawn”. The activity was a bit slow to start, neither of them wanted to get stuck in at first, but after a few minutes they started loving it. DSCN2652As we haven’t played with water beads, I can’t compare the two, but these are remarkably sticky. They clump together and stick to skin, clothes or whatever, they are quite snotlike. If you do this activity, be warned, they are impossible to remove without washing, they stick to everything. We had them all over our clothes, hair, skin, when we walked inside they got on the carpet and curtains. I expect I’ll be finding them for weeks to come.DSCN2664

We enjoyed mark making in them, sticking them to our arms, drawing with them, flicking them around, dropping big blobs of them. I did of course make it clear to them that this wasn’t really frogspawn and that you wouldn’t play with frogspawn. Jumbles was fascinated with what they were and how I’d made them, so next time I’ll get him involved in soaking them, and I think there will be a next time, it was messy and fun, best done outdoors. I think potentially these would make a great ingredient in some sort of gunk tank, Jumbles is very into the Cbeebies show “Swashbuckle” at the moment and likes the pirates going into the Ship’s mess, I might try to create our own ship’s mess using some of these seeds.

Update: I have now played with water beads (I know, you’re thinking “that was quick, she hadn’t yesterday”, I scheduled this post a week ago, then spent this week running crafts and messy play for the 5-7 year olds group at our church’s summer club, one of which was water beads) anyway, I would say basil seeds are a totally different experience, as pretty if you have better dyes, but water beads bounce and roll, whereas the seeds mainly gloop together and stick to things.



Youtube video of “The Teeny Weeny Tadpole” being read
Borrow “The Teeny Weeny Tadpole”
Buy “The Teeny Weeny Tadpole”
How the mini water bead activity was meant to work if you want to not have it look like frog spawn
Buy basil seeds online (you can also buy them at Asian supermarkets very cheaply)