Garden Camping

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This week Jumbles and Mr Monkey Juggling, headed off on a Dads’ and kids’ overnight camp that Mr Monkey organised for church. We deemed Bean to be a little young, plus as Daddy would be busy organising everything he’d struggle with 2 kids of his own. So Bean was a little left out. We did have some fun crafting while they were gone, but decided to do some camping in the garden when they got back (it rained a lot while they were camping,  so we waited for a better day).

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I was surprised at just how long garden camping kept them entertained for. We read “Maisy goes camping” (If you want a different camping book to read, check the links, there’s a lot available on Youtube), I put up a beach shelter and rocket tent, plus some cushions and let their imagination take the lead. I’m completely rubbish at role play, so letting kids lead is necessary at our house, but it’s also good for them.

Hopefully your kids will be creative, but if you need some ideas, this is how we spent around 3 hours:

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  • Watching a show at the cinema – unsure of the logic here, but Jumbles and I were eating imaginary popcorn in the tent, watching Bean perform a film on the trampoline, the film consisted of her singing “Moana” while jumping.
  • Exploring the moon. – this took ages and was the most fun as it involved “flying” in the rocket tent, then landing and setting up base camp in the purple tent. The rocket tent is getting a bit battered from 3 of us rocking around Star Trek style.
  • Lunar picnic – If planned in advance I might have come up with appropriate food, but we just ate sandwiches and fruit outside
  • Lunar colonisation – they were unimpressed at my attempt to steer their play into a bit of gardening. I did manage to pull up a few weeds though, and they did go looking for lunar fruits to pick, but we’d already harvested everything except for a few blackcurrants
  • Nap time – they don’t nap anymore, but there was a short period where we pretended to sleep in the tent and I genuinely thought 1 of us might nod off. This was my favourite part, the few minutes of peaceful snuggles was worth the pain of all of their weight coming full force onto me on their knee or elbow occasionally.
  • Stories in the tent – mine love stories anywhere, but it’s nice to do them outside occasionally.

    I got the fire pit out, but in the end didn’t use it, as we didn’t have marshmallows or anything, and I decided we’ve had a lot of fires lately (we’ve been trialling a sort of “Forest Church” activity for families), so they probably didn’t need another.

    On this occasion I didn’t want us to properly camp out, because I had things to do in the evening, so I didn’t put up one of the proper tents, but that’s definitely the plan for another time.

    Affiliate Links for camping books:

    Buy “Maisy goes camping” from Wordery (free worldwide delivery) – Simple story, a bit young for my 2 now, but they still enjoy it. Maisy and her friends all go camping, but can they all fit in the tent?

    Buy “Bailey goes camping” from Wordery (free worldwide delivery) – very relevant story for this situation, the older siblings have gone off on camp, leaving Bailey at home missing out. So his parents make a camp for him at home, making a sheet tent,  toasting marshmallows, going on a bear hunt.

    Buy “Scaredy squirrel goes camping” from Wordery (free worldwide delivery) – I really like the Scaredy squirrel books, with the ridiculous things he’s scared of, and the labelled diagrams detailing his plans for getting what he wants whilst avoiding perils. Plus, in each book he learns that it’s better to enjoy life close up, than view it from afar.

    All 3 of the above books can be watched on Youtube, just have a search.

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    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.

     

    Links:

    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)

    Shark in the Park (Nick Sharratt)

    sharkparkNot to be confused with the inferior Usborne phonics book of the same title (apologies to that book, but this one is outstanding); This is one of my favourite books for reading with young children, it works well both with individual child and with groups.

    The basis of the story is that a little boy is in the park looking through his telescope, he keeps thinking he sees a shark through it, but it always turns out to be something else, not a shark’s fin. This is done through holes in the pages, so first you just see a small part of the picture, which looks like a shark’s fin, then you turn the page to reveal the big picture. The book works for quite a wide age range, from toddlers who just love putting fingers in the holes in the pages, to primary school kids, who get what’s going on and love spotting the shark that Timothy misses at the end.

    When telling the story, I always get the children to use their hands to make a telescope over one eye, then as we do the “He looks at the sky, he looks at the ground, he looks left and right, he looks all around” bit, I get them all looking in the right directions.

    As kids get to know the book, they will start to join in on the “Shark in the Park” bit. Encourage this, pause slightly and make it obvious when it’s time to say it.

    The book has bold illustrations, it’s funny and has a great rhyme, which flows well, though children will chime in shouting “bird” instead of crow if they aren’t old enough to understand that it has to rhyme (and quite long after that actually).

    I have done an activity for this in the past, when I used to work in libraries which was a simple character hunt in the park, I photocopied pages of the book, with the peephole page covered over them, so children run around the park searching for “sharks” they can only see if they are sharks or other things (crow, Dad’s hair, cat etc) once they lift up the top cover to reveal the full picture. Hiding sharks in the park is a great fun thing to do and should probably be the activity you take from this blog entry, unless you want to spend a lot of time struggling over bits of plastic and tubes and producing something that is not overly impressive and only keeps the kids busy for 10 minutes. If that sounds your cup of tea, then read on!

    This time, I decided to make telescopes as our first activity. Now, it’s very easy to make a telescope for a young child, you get a kitchen roll, or the inner from cling film or wrapping paper or something, you tell them it’s a telescope, you get them to decorate it, they’re completely happy. For some reason though, I didn’t do that, I decided to try and be clever and make a telescope that actually folds the way a telescope does. This took ages, both kids got very bored and I ended up making it entirely by myself and it resulted in something that looks, not that much like a telescope, but Jumbles was pleased with it (though completely unimpressed by the fact that it closes up, and in fact being no more pleased with it than if I’d handed him a cardboard tube). I have decided to blog anyway, and maybe someone out there will be impressed with my effort, if not the result.

    I used 3 different diameter tubes, cut to around the length of a toilet roll. Then I cut circles about a cm wider than each tube from a plastic milk bottle.sharkinpark (4) sharkinpark (5)I fringed the outside and the inside of the circles, being careful not to cut through. Then stuck the circles onto the ends of the tubes, the fringing on the outside just helps it to bend round and stick onto the tube, the fringing on the inside is to help it to grip the tube that slides inside it. This is the really fiddly bit, trying to get the circles stuck on and ensuring that the middles are fringed enough that the next tube can slide through it. I am sure there are countless easier ways to make the tubes slide within each other, but this was the only way I could think of. When it’s actually finished, the sliding mechanism is really satisfying.

    Once all three tubes had the plastic on, I used parcel tape to properly secure it. sharkinpark (6)The plastic actually helps to add dimension to the telescope in the areas where Timothy’s telescope is coloured yellow. You will note I’ve also added some string. I did this so that the telescope couldn’t be over extended, I taped string through the inside, securing it at the end, so that you couldn’t pull the 3 parts apart. sharkinpark (16)It didn’t work very well, the tape is not strong enough to stop someone doing that and so it ended up with the string flopping down inside blocking vision after it had been pulled wrongly, so I wouldn’t bother with the string again. Just put it back together every time it gets pulled out too far.

    After the telescope was complete, I covered it with white paper, so that Jumbles could decorate it, he never did. I’m not sure why I’m surprised by that, it was clearly my craft, not his! He did enjoy playing with it though. I think maybe it looked better before I put the white paper on.

    sharkinpark (11)Just to prove that it does indeed telescope in and out, here is a pic of it closed:

    I’m convinced that this method for creating a telescope could create a fairly realistic looking toy if executed by someone with more patience and better crafting skills. If anyone wants to have a go I’d really love to see your results. However, I am now rethinking using this as a craft activity for the 4-6s that I’m leading in our church’s summer club, which is why I was making this prototype.

    Anyway, once I’d made the telescope, the idea was to look through the telescope at things and try to guess what they are from just a small part of them. This is quite tricky, because obviously your child will just use his other eye, unless you cover it up, but that is often disliked, your other option is to utilise the method of the book and obscure most of the item using a piece of paper or such like. In the end, I had taken so long to make the telescope, I couldn’t really be bothered to come up with an inventive way to view small parts of things, so we just ran round with the telescope looking at things and pretending to see sharks. If you want to do a bit more. Why not prepare a few pictures of just a small section of a well known object and get them to guess what it is, enlarged is even better. I’m thinking something like this: Extreme close up quiz

    There is a sequel to this book “Shark in the dark” which is the same premise, but Timothy is looking out of his bedroom window at night time and sees things that he thinks are shark fins, sadly as is often the case, the sequel is not as good as the original, the rhyme doesn’t flow as easily. However, that is partly made up for by the fact that it is glow in the dark.

    External Links:
    Buy “Shark in the Park”
    Borrow “Shark in the Park”

    “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

    “Where the Wild Things are” by Maurice Sendak

    imageIf you haven’t read this book before, then please do, it’s available online free as a read along audio book, here. It’s a classic book, that has aged well. As you probably know, the book is about a boy in a rage, who is sent to his room, from there he enters the realm of “The wild things” he becomes their king and leads them on a wild rumpus, before calming them and heading back home to his supper which is still hot.

    This is a great book for talking about emotions and anger and how to deawildthingsandoliver 042l with difficult feelings. The wild ones are also a great example of monsters, which are not too scary for small children. As an aside, the film that came out a few years ago, is nothing like the book, it is very surreal and I don’t think I’d show it to small children. I didn’t enjoy it much myself and think they’d find it confusing and potentially scary.

    Activity:
    Brief descriptionwildthingsandoliver 038
    Read story.
    Make masks using paper plates
    Take masks out to explore the woods, playing in the “new land” you’ve discovered, taking bark rubbings, collecting souvenirs.
    Have a “wild rumpus” in the woods.

    Write up of how it worked for us:wildthingsandoliver 001
    I decided to make “wild thing” masks. Paper plates are a great basis for making masks, it was very simple to poke some holes in for eyes, draw on nose, beard etc. Cut off some of the top to leave horns, then tape paper sticks (see tips) on the back. Jumbles mostly likes to cut at the moment, so he cut his mask in half, then got sad that his was smaller and swapped it with Daddy’s. You will have to excuse my terrible artwork, but this shows that even if you can’t draw you can make crafts your kids will like. Jumbles and Bean both loved their masks. wildthingsandoliver 078Though for Bean, she was trying to use it as sustenance rather than a mask.

    Once we had the masks, we had a quick rumpus at home, before setting out for the woods. In the woods we had a lot of fun squelching through the mud, tripping over brambles (possibly, we should have done “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” instead) searching for wild things and taking samples (pine cones and sticks) of the woods to take home. We also tried out bark rubbings with some crayons we took with us.

    We didn’t actually use the masks while out, but the plan was to dance around with them. We were having too much fun just playing.wildthingsandoliver 014

    External links:
    Buy Where the wild things are
    Borrow “Where the wild things are”
    Read along online free version

    “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
    Sawdust

    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

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