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”

“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

God knows all about me by Kate Toms

image

This rhyming text is a great read aloud book for preschoolers. I did this for the under 5s at church after being very disorganised and realising an hour before I had to leave for church that it was me on the rota. Thankfully, I remembered this book and realised it was an activity in itself and I could easily come up with other linked ideas. The book talks about how God knows every part of us in every situation.

Read the book as an action rhyme, pointing at the correct body parts as they come up, jumping, spinning or pretending it’s raining etc, for snow we pretended to throw a snowball.

20150419_201533We then played with salt dough, letting the kids make what they wanted for a while, keeping a very close eye on the children, as the salt levels are dangerously high, in theory it should taste foul and your child should spit it out, but children are odd things, so you can never be sure. Anyway, after they’d played enough I rolled it out thin and made handprints in a heart shape to remind them that God loves them. My apologies for the terrible photo quality. I’ll try to replace it when I’ve found the camera.

Salt dough recipe:

2 parts flour
1 part salt
1 part cold water
Mix dry materials, add water in small amounts, mixing after each addition. Do not let the mixture get soggy, stop when it’s clumping. You probably won’t need all of the water. Start kneading it into a dough. Thankfully this is ridiculously quick recipe, handy if you’ve forgotten to prepare a craft like me.

I find very thin salt dough creations are the best as thick ones never seem to dry out in the middle. To dry them bake in the oven on as low a temperature as possible for 3 or 4 hours, or you can air dry them for several days. If you cook on too high a temperature they will bubble up. Some people have success in the microwave, but I never have, if you do try microwaving, do it in very short bursts.

If you’re not keen on salt dough, a great alternative, which I would have done today, had I not run out of bicarb, is white clay. Check The Imagination Tree, for the recipe.

External links:
 Borrow “God knows all about me” from your local library
Buy “God knows all about me”

“Oliver’s Fruit Salad” by Vivian French & Alison Bartlett (or use any fruit book, e.g. Handa’s surprise or very Hungry Caterpillar)

oliverThis is a less well known book, I’ve picked it as Jumbles really likes it, and it makes a great springboard for fruit activities. However, if you can’t get a copy, really any book about fruit could be substituted. The most obvious would be The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but I wanted some variety.

Begin by reading the story, the book is a story about a boy who keeps telling his Mum about the fruit he picked in his Grandpa’s garden when he stayed there, and how Grandpa didn’t have tinned  or packet fruit. Oliver is a picky eater, but in the end eats fruit salad. I’m not going to say this book will help your picky eaters, but it’s a helpful springboard for playing with fruit.

After reading the story, head to a somewhere that you can buy fruit. Allow your children to choose some fruit to buy.

Activity 1: fruit printing – much like potato printing, but more edible

wildthingsandoliver 045Mix up some paint. We used homemade edible paint, mainly because I figured that Bean would eat the fruit whether it had paint on or not. There are a variety of edible paint recipes. Unfortunately, my favourite involves Kool Aid, which you can’t get in this country (or  if you can it’d be crazily overpriced). Fortunately for me, my parents live in The US, so when they visit I get them to bring sachets over. If you have Kool aid or similar, then mix it with water and flour until you have a thick, vibrant paint. The reason I love this paint is it takes seconds to mix and smells and looks great, plus it is of course totally edible.

If you don’t have kool aid, simply mix flour and water with food colouring (gel colours are best for vibrant tones).

This craft is really process art, that means it’s about the process, or activity itself, not about creating a finished product to keep. These paints have no preservatives in, so I don’t know how long they would last, so wouldn’t recommend if you are planning to keep the art for months.

Cut up the harder fruits (apple, pear, pineapple) into large pieces, suitable for your childwildthingsandoliver 046 to grasp.

Depending on the age of your children, they may be able to help cut some of the fruit. Jumbles (3) cut the apples using an apple slicer. Sometimes when printing, my more artistic husband will carve intricate designs into the ends of the potatoes, carrots etc for them to print with, but today we were happy just using the whole fruits.

I tried to demonstrate how you could make flowers by using the apple slice to print petals. However, smooshing down the top of the pineapple proved to be the most popular with both children, closely followed by swirling the paint around using the fruit.

wildthingsandoliver 067Whilst they were busy painting, Daddy cut up the rest of the fruit ready for the fruit salad, ensuring that he let Jumbles slice the banana and put all of the bits into the big bowl. Then let them help dish it up and enjoy, add yoghurt if you wish. I must admit, both of mine love fruit, so I can’t comment on whether doing this will improve fruit eating levels.

External Links:
Borrow “Oliver’s Fruit Salad” from your local Library
Buy “Oliver’s Fruit Salad”

“Elmer’s Parade” by David McKee (World Book Day special)

elmerThis was one of the 2015 World Book Day books. So since a lot of people will have a copy I thought it’d be good to do some activities on it. If you don’t have a copy, any Elmer book will do for the first two activities.

Activity 1 – Elmer Suncatchers

Materials needed:
Cardboard
Pen
Shireseal (The clear sticky backed book covering stuff, I think it’s called contact paper in the US)
Tissue paper cut into small squares (I used a paper cutter to save time, but easily done with scissors if you don’t have one)
scissors

Draw an outline of Elmer (or have your other half do it for you if you’re like me and not confident in your drawing abilities) onto a piece of card, try to have it fill most of the space, but make sure you leave enough of a border for sticking the shire seal on.elmer 003

Cut out from the middle, making sure to keep the border intact, i.e. the scrap is the elephant shaped piece of card, the bit you’re keeping is the outer edge of the card with an elephant shaped hole.

Now, sticking shire seal without getting air bubbles can be tricky. However, I know some tips as I used to repair books when working in the libraries, and on our book repair training, we were taught the best way to apply shire seal. Cut a piece of shire seal the same size as your card, with the short edge lining up with the straight edge of the roll (so that when it rolls itself back up it is the short edge left showing, with the long edge rolled, sorry I’m finding that very hard to describe, look at the picture).

elmer 008Lie your elephant card down in front of you, profile way around. Peel the backing off one of the shorter edges and carefully stick it down on top of a short edge of the card. Use a ruler to slowly push the rest of the roll of shire seal down the card, it will open out and stick as you do this, note, as there is a hole in the middle of your project, it will also stick to the table, but I didn’t find this to be a problem, it will just peel off after. If your shire seal starts to bubble, try to unseal it and rejig, or you can burst bubbles with a pin, don’t worry about bubbles in the open space.

elmer 032Once your shire seal is attached to the card, turn the card over (peeling it from the table). Then give it to your child, along with a box of small tissue paper squares to stick on. Be prepared for a lot of exploration of the tissue paper, it’s a fun sensory activity by itself, the kids mainly put in on their elephants by showering it from above, rather than placing it. I also allowed them to throw it all on the floor at the end, as I didn’t see the harm in it, though I did tell them they had to help clean up too.

Once they have finished sticking the squares on elmer 035Elmer, stick it to a window or glass door for the light to shine through. Depending on how much sticking your children did, you may not actually need to use anything to stick it to the window, there may be enough gaps in the colour for enough shire seal to be poking through, that you can just press it to the window and it will stick, that’s what ours did.

 Activity 2 – Patchwork Parade

When I asked Jumbles what activity he wanted to do based on this book. He said we needed a colourful parade and had to dress up in bright colours. We went upstairs to raid the dressing up box, but didn’t actually have many things that would work, and whilst they have brightly coloured clothes, it was hard to show lots of colours at once, so I suggested we use some of my sewing stash. Jumbles loved this idea and wanted to sew some clothes for him and Bean to wear. Now I’ve done hand sewing with him before, using a plastic needle and netting type of material with holes to sew together, but he had never been allowed near the sewing machine before. I decided that he was old enough for very closely supervised operation of the machine.

So, I cut out several large squares of different colours of material for him to sew together. Then we sewed them…

Using a sewing machine with a preschooler:

1) The safety talk – I explained how the sewing machine could hurt, and pointed out the sharp needle, explaining that while Mummy had to touch it to thread the needle, he must not put his hand near it. I would only touch it when it was off. I also said that once we started, he mustn’t sew until I said go, and must stop as soon as I said stop.

2. Explaining how the machine works – with the machine still turned off, I showed him how the thread went through it. Then I placed material under the foot and showed him how turning the dial made the needle go up and down and the material move, I tried to get him to manually turn the dial, but he couldn’t quite manage it, so we did it together.

3. Operating the pedal – I decided to get him to use the pedal with his hands instead of his feet, this was for 2 reasons, firstly because his feet couldn’t reacelmer 041h the pedal from on the chair, secondly, because this way one hand at least was being kept busy and couldn’t go under the needle while the machine was on. I couldn’t get photos of him sewing as I needed to be supervising too closely, so this is a staged shot to show you how I set it up with the pedal on the desk, I was obviously closer for the sewing and blocking his other hand from being able to get near the needle, not that he tried.

I was a little nervous about how this would work, but actually it worked brilliantly, I think he really appreciated being trusted to do something so grown up. He was really sensible about it, double checking when he was meant to start, trying to stop instantly when I said stop etc. He loved experimenting with pressing the pedal harder or softer to speed up or slow down, I did find that a bit tricky as he’d suddenly shoot quickly to the end after being slow. However, I was ready with one hand guiding the material and the other poised near the off switch, which I never had to rush to use (I did use it between each square, just in case we accidentally pressed the pedal while I was getting the material in place).

We sewed a long line of squares together, I was originally thinking of a basic scarf, but then we looped it together at the end to make a sash. Now, obviously this isn’t going to last long, it’s unhemmed, so would fray, but I’m fairly impressed that a 3 year old was able to do all of the sewing himself. I’d like to encourage you to let your kids have a go, using proper tools is so much more meaningful and such a great experience for them.elmer 045

Jumbles was very proud of his sewing and was keen to show Daddy when he got home from work, oddly though, after making it, he just wanted Bean to wear it and had gone off the idea of a colourful parade.

Activity 3 – Stepping stones

elmer 047This isn’t really a proper activity, just an encouragement to remember really simple things that can be lots of fun. In the story, the animals have to cross a river on stepping stones, so set up a pretend river and some stones, we have a load of broken bits of paving slab, stones and wood in our garden, which we set up as stepping stones across our “vegetable patch” (a patch of mud, which currently has a tarpaulin over it, every year we intend to grow some vegetables, the closest we’ve got was last year, when we planted a few lettuces, which the slugs ate). If you don’t have stones, just use some pieces of card or newspaper. Have the kids cross without touching the ground between the stones. Try spreading them further apart. Even Bean enjoys this at 18 months.

External Links
Buy Elmer’s Parade
Borrow Elmer’s Parade from your local library

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle

veryhungryThis was my favourite book as a child, so I love enjoying it now with my own children. Jumbles loves joining in with the “pop” bit as the caterpillar comes out of the egg. They both enjoy putting their fingers in the holes and we count the fruit. It really is a classic.

There are a lot of activities you can do with this, so I’ve picked a few, which we did over the course of 2 days, but may revisit this book at a later date to do more.

Activity 1 – Fruit Kebabs:hungrycaterpillar 002

I wanted to start with real fruit, I enjoy getting the kids to explore real foods and get involved in food preparation. An activity I’d done very successfully while working in libraries was making fruit kebabs with older children. I thought that this was perfect, nice and simple, but fun, plus if we put a caterpillar face on the end of the kebab then we would make it look like a caterpillar was eating its way through the fruit.

Materials needed:
The fruit from the book (apples, pears, plums, strawberries, oranges)
Wooden skewers
Red paper
Pipecleaner
Pen

1) Prepare caterpillar faces by cutting red circles of paper or card, bending half a pipecleaner in half for antenna and taping it to the back.

2) Cut up fruit (children may be able to help depending on age) into small segments, our children did not help as we stupidly decided to do this at crank o’clock (around 5:30/6 in our house).

3) Either put all of the fruit in bowls in the middle, or, what we did, was count out ready the right number of fruits into a bowl for each child, that way, when Bean inevitably scoffed all of the strawberries before they could be threaded onto a skewer, she wasn’t spoiling it for Jumbles.

4) Give each child (or adult, we joined in too) a skewer and either try to put the fruits on in order, practising counting, or just let them try to poke the fruits on in any order.

hungrycaterpillar 0071 apple, 2 pears, 3 plums, 4 strawberries, 5 oranges

5) Attach the caterpillar face to the end of the skewer (I did this by sticking masking tape to the back, but having a kind of flap, which I then poked the skewer through, not sure this makes sense. blu tack would also work.

6) Eat your kebabs!

Activity 2 – Assault course:

For the Saturday’s food, I didn’t really want to get out real vhungrycaterpillar 018ersions of all of those different foods (chocolate cake, ice cream, swiss cheese etc) so I decided to go with something a bit different and to set up an assault course for the children to crawl through pretending to be caterpillars.

Materials needed:

10 large sheets of paper, or a roll of lining paper
Furniture or large toys that children can crawl through or under
Pens
Tape

1. Draw each of the items from the book onto thungrycaterpillar 014he sheets of paper, have the children colour them in (I am a terrible artist, but I find that even I can copy well enough to satisfy a 3 year old, and the pictures in this book have the advantage of being fairly simple) Jumbles doesn’t stick at colouring for long, and Bean started colouring things she shouldn’t – like the book, then while I was sorting that out, Jumbles drew on the wall, so I put the pens away at this point, hence the not terribly coloured nature of our pics. I think after we take the assault course down (we did it this morning as Jumbles is only at preschool in the afternoon, but he asked me to leave it up for him to have another go after preschool) we will get tissue paper and PVA glue and try to do some collaging on the pics.

2. Arrange furniture around the room in interesting ways, creating tunnels etc. Over each opening tape one of the pictures.

3. Read the “Saturday” page, and have your children crawl around the room pushing through each page to “eat” it.hungrycaterpillar 022

At the end of the assault course, I left a blanket, when Jumbles got there (Bean never completed the course, she mainly tried to pull the things down, though she did crawl through bits) I then coccooned him, which he found very funny, though I did realise that really I should have made a leaf to eat too, I just told him he had to pretend to eat a leaf before I coccooned him, but maybe you could add a leaf to yours.

Sorry, it was really hard to get a photo that shows it well, but hopefully you get the gist. You can also do timed laps of this course, if, like me, you’re trying to tire your kids out 🙂

Activity 3 – Coffee filter butterflies:

Materials Needed:
hungrycaterpillar

Disposable coffee filters
Felt tip pens
Water in a shallow container that their fingers can fit in. e.g. takeaway tub.
Pipe cleaners

I love making coffee filter art, it’s so simple, easy to do and looks most effective if children scribble, so it’s great for little ones.

1. Carefully open out a coffee filter for each child onto a protective surface as this may stain your table.hungrycaterpillar 027
Give them felt tip pens and have them scribble all over the filter, you don’t need to do neat colouring, but you also don’t want too much white space.

2. hungrycaterpillar 031Wet fingers and flick water over the filter, this will make the ink run creating lovely patterns. Don’t let them pour the water on (like Jumbles did just after this photo, as you’ll find it actually washes most of the colour off completely, and makes a big mess) a little is all you need, just make sure all of the pen has run.

3. Leave to dry

4. Scrunch up the middle and wrap a pipecleaner around as antennae et voila! One butterfly.

Also, if you need a Mothering Sunday card for this weekend, simply stick the butterfly to the front of a card. It looks very effective.

Stage and Play (commercial activity set)

hungrycaterpillar 034This was a lovely gift from my Mother in Law as she knew I was planning on doing activities for this book. It’s a strong cardboard activity set, and is a very nicely presented, easy to store set, with robust cards and a stage that they slot into. The cards fit in a tray under the stage when not in use, making it very transportable. Jumbles had fun playing with it, Bean was less interested. I gave him pipecleaners to use as pretend caterpillars, and he enjoyed poking them through the holes in the fruits etc.

Unfortunately, I do have a big criticism of the set, which is that it doesn’t have the correct number of each fruit. There are just 2 of each, Jumbles was searching for the rest of the plums etc and realising there were too many apples and was confused. I think that’s a shame, as counting is one of the obvious activities to do with this book. Also, the other foods are double sided, e.g. the chocolate cake is on the back of the swiss cheese, so you can’t set up all of the Saturday food to be viewed at the same time. Again, I thought this was a shame, I don’t know if they did it to save production costs, if that was the reason it’s a shame, as it’s a really well made set, where they haven’t scrimped on quality. It could have been done to save space on storage, but I think having the right number of items would have been worth it being a little less portable. Also, there are several different caterpillars in the set, a bending one, a curled up one etc. I would say these are less necessary than having all of the fruit. We may well make our own fruit to add to it for the next time we play.

External Links:

Borrow “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” from your library
Buy “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”
Buy Stage and Play

“This is the Bear” by Sarah Hayes & Helen Craig

image“This is the bear” is a popular book often used in schools. It has a good rhyming text and an easy to follow story, with a clear structure, making it great for story sequencing activities, which was going to be my second activity, but the first one took so long that I’m putting that on hold and will do it with another book. There are also other books in the series. I wanted to focus on gross motor skills, and trying to get some energy burned off as Jumbles has been going a bit loopy this week and I think he hasn’t been getting enough exercise, so I’m going to work on more active things:

As usual, read the story first, if you don’t have a copy, you can listen to it online: “This is the bear” read aloud (youtube).

Down in the dump(s):dump 002
Fill a large space or box with clean rubbish, a travel cot would work brilliantly as it has mesh sides, but ours is in the loft and I forgot to get it out (or send Mr Monkey Juggling up there) so I used our dump 003sofas, a small table on its side, boxes and cushions, to create a space, I then stuffed some rolled up blankets under the sofa to stop things getting pushed under there. You can just empty your recycling (excluding glass of course)dump 005 into the space, which will make clear up much easier at the end, but I wanted to put some interesting things in there, not just paper and boxes, I used carpet samples, old phones, a footmuff, bubble wrap etc. Find some toys to hide in there, before hiding them, take photos, or draw pictures of the toys, if you’re feeling creative, create “missing” posters, perhaps involve older kids in this step. Once posters are made, hide the toys in the dump without the kids seeing. Even if you don’t want to do posters, at the very least write down what toys you hid, you don’t want to accidentally throw any away when you clear up. Place children in the “dump” and have them search through the rubbish for all of the lost toys.

dump 007Both kids enjoyed rummaging, oddly, Jumbles (3) also enjoyed helping me sort the rubbish afterwards, so tidying up took a lot less time than I thought it would.

External links

Borrow “This is the bear” from your local library
Buy “This is the bear”