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)

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

“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”

“Noah’s Big Boat” by Bob Hartman & Janet Samuel (or other retelling of Noah) Rainbows!

noahI did this activity for the under 5s at Church, so I’ll write it up like that, but obviously, if you’re just doing this at home, pick the bits you want. Noah’s Big Boat is a great rhythmic telling of the story of Noah. You could use any retelling of Noah though.

Begin by giving the children instruments to make rain sounds. We used rainmakers, shakers and an emergency blanket to crinkle. Explain to them the repeated pattern that comes up on every page of the book “Rain and rain and rain and pour” and say to make rain noises with the instruments as they say it.

Read the story, making the rain at the appropriate points.

We then got out several toy Noah’s arks (a plastic one, wooden one and a soft toy one) for the children to play with, they re-enacted the story. Ideally I would have got water play out as well at this point, but I’d done water play a couple of weeks previously and whilst it had gone well, none of the children had spare clothes, and ended up soaked, so I thought I’d better not do it again without pre-warning the parents.

My focus for the story of Noah was on God’s promise not to flood the world again and His sign of that promise: The rainbow. Rainbow activities are fantastic, here’s what we did:

Rainbow salt tray – I taped together 2 sheets of card to cover the bottom of one of my cat litter trays (I don’t have a cat, but bought some trays years ago, when teaching, as they’re great for messy play and crafts) then I coloured the card in in bright coloured stripes. The stripes didn’t look that neat, which I was disappointed about, but actually, once you poured the salt in and drew patterns, that wasn’t noticeable at all.noah (1) It looked really effective. I wouldn’t use a salt tray with under 2s as they might eat it, so I kept it up high and the older children knelt on a chair to use it. I provided paintbrushes, though fear that was a mistake and sticking to just letting them use a finger to draw in the salt might have been better as the paintbrushes encouraged flicking of the salt all over the table.

noah (3)Rainbow rice – rainbow rice is amazing. It looks so inviting when you first make it and set it up with stripes of each separate colour, then as soon as the kids get into it (and Bean literally does, she climbed straight into the box, monopolising it for most of the session) it gets mixed into a beautiful combination. To make rainbow rice, you basically need dry rice, food colouring and lots of shaking. I put the rice in batches into an old ice cream tub, on this occasion I added kool aid powder and a drop of water (because I wanted to make it smell nice too) and then shake vigorously. Once the rice is dyed, spread it out to dry overnight (just put it in the box the children will be playing with). I put a bit too much water in the red batch, it was still wet in the morning when we were due to take it to church. However, a quick blast with the hair dryer sorted that.

On previous occassions, before I discovered the joys of Kool Aid, and forced my parents to export it to me in large quantities, I dyed rice using food colouring, this does work just as well, do it in the same way as described above, but using drops of food colouring instead of the Kool Aid powder, but you don’t get the added bonus of the scent. You could consider adding spices if you want a nice smell.

With the rainbow rice, I provided spoons and jugs. A note on safety. Whilst coloured rice is edible, it would be very bad for children to eat much dry rice, so please do monitor children to ensure they don’t eat it. Oddly, Bean has never tried to eat it. I remember Jumbles did when he was about 2, but spat it straight out.

If you are still concerned about your child eating uncooked rice, an edible alternative is coloured breadcrumbs. Which takes a lot more preparation, but is just as much fun. I have a batch that we’ve had for the last 11 months, the kids still love playing with it. It breadcrumbskeeps well. To make coloured breadcrumbs, get a loaf or 2 of the cheapest white bread you can find (or if you’re like us and no one likes crusts, save all of your crusts in the freezer till you have loads) lightly toast the bread, blend it in batches in a food processer (or in my case a smoothie maker as we got one free once and use this for all blending) blend with a couple of drops of gel food colouring and a tiny amount of milk (I don’t know why milk not water, I keep meaning to try again with water to see if it works, the site I saw it on said to use milk, so I obeyed) then spread the crumbs out on a baking tray and toast under the grill, but be careful not to burn (though actually, I burnt some a bit and it was ok).

noah (4)Paper Plate rainbows – I saw this idea somewhere, but the link was broken, it looked simple though, I just decided to make it double sided instead of identical on both sides. Draw an ark in the middle of the plate, cut out, but leave the edge of the plate to make a rainbow over the top, repeat with a second plate. noah (5)On one plate stick tissue paper, or colour to make a rainbow at the top, draw a hill under the ark etc. On the other stick clouds on the top and colour blue under and around the ark to represent water. Glue the bottom and sides of the two plates together to make a basket. Fill with animal biscuits.

Rainbow ribbons – This was just an extra that I did with my kids at home. Tie long strips of ribbon to a wooden curtain ring, or one of those plastic links for babies. It is best if you use very long pieces of noah (11)ribbon, double them over pulling themselves through so that they can’t come off, but my ribbon wasn’t long enough, so I just tied the ends on. Use the ribbons to dance to music.

Polystyrene Rainbow:

icandy 024Drat, I just realised that I missed off this one. This definitely requires a lot of supervision as it involves giving the kids cocktail sticks. Again, I did this with just my kids at home, I wouldn’t do it with a large group. Anyway, poking cocktail sticks into polystyrene is great fun for toddlers and preschoolers. I drew basic rainbow lines and then Jumbles and Bean did some colouring on it, then poked cocktail sticks in and threaded coloured bottle tops (I save the ones off baby food pouches, actually, I don’t even use baby food pouches, but I make a friend save hers!) We also tried pushing tissue paper into the polystyrene – you tear off a tiny bit, poke it in with the stick, then pull the stick out, leaving the tissue paper in. I must confess, I ended up doing a lot of the threading here, and certainly all of the tissue paper, I think it would work nicely with older children, but mine were a bit little, they did enjoy putting the sticks in and stacking lids on though.

I have so many more rainbow things I want to try, that I may well have to do Noah’s ark again soon, but for now I think I’d better stop.


After the activities, sing “The Arky Arky song” or “Mr Noah” plus other water songs like Row Row Row your boat.

In fact, I think I’ll use this opportunity to list as many verses of Row, Row as I can think of, to help you with inspiration, as there seems to be a growing number:

Row Row Row your boat,  Gently down the stream
Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, life is but a dream

Row Row Row your boat, Gently down the stream
If you see a crocodile, don’t forget to scream

Row Row Row your boat, gently to the shore
If you see a lion, don’t forget to roar

Row Row Row your boat, Gently down the river
If you see a polar bear, don’t forget to shiver

Row Row Row your boat, out across a puddle
If you see a teddy bear, don’t forget to cuddle

Row Row Row your boat, Gently down the Nile
If you see your Mummy there, don’t forget to smile

Row Row Row your boat, out across the creek,
If you see a tiny mouse, don’t forget to squeak

Row Row Row your boat, out across the bay
If you see a pirate ship, sail the other way (Arrrr)

Row Row Row your boat, quickly to the shop
If you see a kangaroo, don’t forget to hop

Rock rock rock your boat, gently to and fro
Watch out, give a shout (or, I have also heard wibbledy wobbledy, wibbledy wobbledy), into the water we go

(There’s also a verse about a rowing over a bump, seeing a monkey and not forgetting to jump, but I can’t quite think how it goes)

Now, those of you who have seen me lead story and rhyme times might understand why I don’t sing all of the verses I know!

External Links:

Buy “Noah’s Big Boat”

Borrow “Noah’s Big Boat” from your local library

“The Gruffalo” by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

gruffaloThere are so many amazing books to choose from, I wasn’t sure where to start. So I’ve gone with a request, for something everyone has: The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. A fantastic book for reading aloud and acting out.

This book really lends itself to sensory play. I thought we’d do a barefoot walk. Now, I am doing this in the winter, and don’t fancy letting them freeze in the local stream at this time of year, so I brought the woods to our garden, but it would be much more fun to do this out in the wild, if you have woods with a stream and rocky area, then plan out your own walk, but if likeJan2015 265 me, you’re needing some indoor activities, read on:Jan2015 262

First, take the kids out for a walk somewhere where you can collect lots of sticks and stones, despite living in the middle of a city, we were able to do this fairly easily.

I am fortunate and have a carport so that we can do messy play out there, if you don’t, cover your floor as it will get messy:

Set up a trail across the room, with different stations, I like to use underbed storage boxes, they can be closed up or stacked when not in use, plus they clean really easily:

Jan2015 267

1. The deep dark woods – fill a box with, or just place on the ground the twigs/leaves/pinecones, collected on your walk
2. Rocks – fill a box, or just an area with rocks and pebbles
3. Stream – use a silver emergency blanket to represent the stream, weigh it down with small stones. If you’re in the UK, poundland sell twin packs of these in their camping section, I would highly recommend buying a pack. If you don’t have any, use foil or some blue material.
4. Lake – a paddling pool, or box of water, or, if you have nowhere suitable for water play, end the trail at your bathroom.

Make a path from one station to the next, perhaps vary the materials of the path to give variety for walking on. If you’re spreading the trail across a long distance e.g through the house to end at your bath, consider making some paper arrows, or footprints to follow.

Suggestions for the path:
Jan2015 264Sand
Astroturf (get free samples online if you’re cheeky enough)
Greengrocers material (buy on ebay)
Mud or compost
grass cuttings
bark chippings

Optional extras to improve the experience:
Jan2015 271Print off and colour in animal masks for the characters in the story, tape these to sticks and prop them by the correct part of the trail (fox by rocks etc) then children can hold masks to act out story if they wish. Or make finger puppets, the official Gruffalo site has a Gruffalo mask, finger puppets to print and other activities.

Depending on their age, children may enjoy helping to set up the trail.Jan2015 274

Running the activity:
Tell the story once through before starting, pointing at the different areas where the mouse meets the animals. Then retell, or have the children retell, the story slowly as they move through the trail. Don’t rush them, they may want to explore one station for ages, talk about the way the different materials feel.

Keep towels nearby and once they’ve finished exploring, use the lake to wash hands and feet.

Links printable activities includes mask, finger puppets, recipe.
Colouring sheets
Borrow The Gruffalo from your local library
Buy The Gruffalo online