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Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Hanging Up the Washing: Matching Uppercase and Lowercase Letters

With just two weeks to go before we move out, I decided to take advantage of the clear shelf space to set up this activity - a washing line with clothes (each marked with an uppercase letter) for Wugs to hang up (using the matching lowercase letter peg).   Everytime I take the washing out of the machine, the boys rush outside and "help" me hang it up.  Dooey likes pressing the buttons and Wugs is especially interested in the pegs, so I thought this sort of activity would appeal to them.

What we used:
Coloured felt sheets
Wooden pegs
Cord (we used the stretchy type)
Black marker pen

I created the clothes by drawing on card first and creating templates.  Then I drew around the templates onto the different coloured sheets of felt and cut them out.  I drew the letters on the pegs and the clothes using a black marker pen.  I extended the cord across the length of the shelf, tying it at both ends.  (Be careful, if copying this activity, of the dangers of hanging cords or attach one end with velcro so it pulls away easily).

The weight of the clothes in relation to the weight of the pegs matters for this activity. To ensure the clothes sit vertically on the line and do not swing upwards, the pegs shouldn't be too heavy or the clothes need to be larger and heavier.  Mine were just teetering on the edge so I might re-make the pegs using slightly smaller ones.  

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Play Therapy for Families Living Apart


When I first began researching and setting up activities for Wugs 18 months ago, I was especially interested in the idea that children can express their thoughts and feelings and experience healing through play.  What a wonderful, natural capacity to have at our disposal!  Back then I couldn't see how it would apply to my own children.  That is, until a month ago...

My husband's job in Singapore draws to a close in just three weeks time and it was about a month ago that I started packing up the toys to be included in the shipment to the UK.  It was whilst doing this, that I discovered that Wugs had associated certain Duplo figures with members of our family. Our family are in Malaysia and the UK and the children see them only once or twice a year. On this particular occasion, my husband's family had visited us in Singapore and their departure was especially distressing for Wugs.  I used this as an opportunity to talk about the family members - what Grandma, Uncle R and Auntie T would be doing back in Malaysia. During this activity I uncovered a whole world of emotions that Wugs doesn't readily express.  I decided to put aside some of the Duplo figures, other figurines and accessories and bring them out again for some more play to help him understand our move to the UK.


We revisited this activity today as my husband's family paid a final visit at the weekend and Wugs has been asking where they have gone. Also we skyped my parents yesterday evening, so Wugs has overheard a lot of conversations about our impending move.

I set up the play worlds using two Duplo baseboards - one representing the Malaysian family and one representing the UK family.  Each baseboard was divided up into different scenes that reflected the typical activities carried out by the family members.  There was Grandma cooking and going to work at the doctor's surgery (we had the doctor Duplo figurine so that was helpful!), Dadda watching telly, Uncle R and Auntie T shopping for toys and cakes. There was Nanna trying on new clothes in the bathroom  (Wugs discovered the joys of clothes shopping and make-up during Nanna's last visit.  I included the toilet as Wugs is being potty-trained at the moment so he is fascinated by it), Grandad sitting in the garden with the cat, Kitty, having a cup of tea, Uncle M and Auntie J looking at a map (they enjoy travelling) and cousin G sleeping and using his slide in the garden. I added a couple of other activities to the play in case Wugs didn't want to use it in the way I intended - in Grandma's kitchen we used a couple of bottle tops to represent saucepans and bowls and gave Wugs some Fischer Tips which he moulded to create the food that Grandma was cooking.  Wugs filled the bowls with "chicken rice and kai lan" and "ice cream" and gave it to Dadda.  The other activity I included involved making clothes for Nanna to try on.  We used tissue paper and stickers to create the clothes and glittery pipe cleaners to make jewellery.  Wugs also decided to dress up Uncle M and we made a glittery collar for Kitty.



I set up the baseboards on separate tables with a Duplo aeroplane on each so we could "fly" to Malaysia and the UK, hoping to convey the idea that each family was only a plane ride away. Thankfully Wugs doesn't appreciate distances yet!   

The real value in an activity like this isn't really in how it looks visually (although I've included lots of photos - mainly for my family who may be curious to discover which Duplo figure they are!  The only ones I influenced were Grandad and cousin G), but in the conversations we had.   Wugs used words like "sad",  "enjoy", "I'm worried", "I've lost [person's name]" and took charge of the flights from one country to another.  It made me realise that another important aspect of play was Wugs' control over what happened during it, in a way that he cannot necessarily control the upcoming events in real life.  I would imagine that this type of activity could be beneficial for children whose families are experiencing divorce or the loss of a loved one as well.

In some ways, what we did wasn't any different from a normal free play session.  The difference is in the detail.  The items included in the play worlds were specifically aimed at evoking positive memories or preparing Wugs for what he will see in a few weeks time - giving him a chance now to work through these changes before they actually occur.  As he was talking away, I didn't direct the conversation, but let him talk about both the positive and negative emotions he was experiencing.

What we used:
Duplo/Happyland Figurines and Accessories
Duplo Bricks and Baseboards
Bottle tops
Fischer Tips
Coloured tissue paper

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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Autumn Sensory Tub

Our autumn sensory tub is proof that you can salvage something from an activity that went spectacularly wrong!  Ever since my husband went to Bangalore, I've felt inspired to create a kolam (a picture that is drawn on the floor of Indian homes using coloured powders).  Instead of using powder, I coloured some salt with food colouring and the result was some very pastel-looking colours, not quite the bright colours I had seen in the images of kolams from India.  The colours incidentally turned out to be very similar to the colours of Autumn at this time of year in the UK, so I decided to convert our activity into an Autumn sensory tub.  

I had some leaf-shaped pasta in the cupboard so I added some more yellow food colouring to this.  I noticed that the food colouring hadn't been absorbed evenly throughout each pasta leaf, but this actually contributed to the autumn theme as it looked as though each leaf was changing colour from yellow to orange.  

I arranged the coloured salt into a tub together with the pasta leaves and some scoops and funnels and let Wugs experience, for the first time, the colours of Autumn.  

What we used:
Green, orange and yellow food colouring (Brand: Bake King)
Le Fantasie Pasta Shapes
Ziploc Bags (the pasta and salt was placed inside together with the food colouring and some distilled white vinegar)
A tablespoon of Distilled white vinegar per colour

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Parable of the Sower Small World Play

Today we attempted another bible-related activity and this time it was one that both Wugs and Dooey could participate in.  For me, this means a bit of thought regarding the materials that Dooey (the child who eats everything!) could safely use.  The idea to create a small world play around The Parable of the Sower came from observing Wugs' interaction with a jar of play dough and modelling tools that we have collected over the year.  One tool in particular that he uses all the time reminded me of a plough - hence the agricultural theme.

The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23) is a story about a farmer who goes into a field to sow seed, some of which falls on rocks and eventually withers away as it cannot form roots, some falls on the path and is eaten by birds, some falls amongst the weeds and thorns and is choked and some falls onto good soil and grows into a bountiful crop.  The "seed" in this parable is the message of the Kingdom of God and how it is either fruitful or unfruitful to the listener.  Although my boys are too young to appreciate its significance, I'm hoping that "playing in the parable" will form a memory or impression that they can link back to when they are older or at least an experience that makes this stuff fun for them now.

In Wugs' small world, we used the following:
Playdough for the soil (following this recipe) and the green was leftover from a tub we bought
Brown food colouring
Saga seeds
Cotton buds
Yellow Felt-tip pen (to colour the cotton bud)
Yellow Paint (to colour the cotton bud stick)
Fake flowers
Bird Figurines
Lego Figurine
Cardboard (for the path)
Grey acrylic paint
Tools (I've mentioned the tools we used at the end of the post)

The saga seeds were an interesting addition to this small world because it connects the activity to South East Asia.  The saga seeds have traditionally been collected as counters by children or turned into jewellery.   Saga seeds were also used in ancient India to weigh gold (as each saga seed is of a similar weight, 4 saga seeds:one gramme).   There is even a Singaporean legend behind the saga seeds.  My husband used to collect the seeds as a child and we collected ours at the Singapore Botanic Gardens a few months ago.

I started the activity by reading The Parable of the Sower to Wugs and showing him a video clip from you tube.  Once the small world was brought out, he started scattering and planting his seeds using his play dough tools to make a hole and then covered up the seeds.  Some of the seeds fell outside of the soil onto the weeds, rocks and the path.  The seeds that had fallen onto the soil were then given a crop or two.  Wugs played with this for two hours - first with his box and then Dooey's!

For Dooey's small world play, we used the following:
Playdough for the soil (following this recipe)
Brown food colouring
Lollipop/popsicle sticks (for the crop)
Fake flowers
Grey and black Fischer Tips (made from potato starch)
Bird Figurines
Happyland Figurine
Cardboard (for the path)
Grey acrylic paint
Tools (See the end of the post)

As Dooey didn't really follow the story, I scattered his raisins for him.  It wasn't so much the birds picking up the seed and eating them so much as a 15 month old boy gobbling them up!  He used the tools and enjoyed jabbing the lollipop sticks into the dough.  The sensory side of the small world play was fully appreciated by him and he happily played with it for about 30 minutes before going off and finding a London bus and Singapore taxi to drive down the little grey path!

For those interested in the play dough tools we used.  Here is a photo of them:

The tools on the top row are a selection from the Early Learning Centre Soft Stuff Bumper Activity Jar  (here's a bit of free advertising for them!) and the bottom row are a selection from Melissa and Doug Shape, Model and Mold kit

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Painting with Greaseproof Paper and Food Colouring

Our crafting fun has ground to a halt this week as I'm knee-deep in laundry after embarking on the dreaded toilet-training with Wugs and dealing with a sick Dooey.  The craft I'm posting about today was carried out one rainy afternoon a few weeks ago.  I got the idea to shine light through greaseproof paper whilst writing up my post about how to make a light box.

I unrolled a large sheet of greaseproof paper and sellotaped it to the worktop.  Then I added a few drops of food colouring (I used red, yellow and orange for Dooey) to separate containers and added a few drops of water to dilute the colour slightly and to ensure it lasted longer.  I passed the paintbrush to Dooey and off he went - happily painting away! This was his first proper painting session and the first time he has carried out an activity in the play tower.  He looked so proud of himself!

Once he had finished, Wugs had a turn and chose this colours (green and yellow).  Once the boys had finished, we headed off to the coffee shop for a treat whilst the paintings dried.  Later, I hung them up on the balcony doors where the colours caught the light.  I have thought about turning this artwork into something, but at the moment I'm enjoying the paintings for what they are.

What we used:
Large sheets of greaseproof paper
Food colouring
Paint brushes

Note: Although food colouring stains the hands, I discovered that if you wipe the hands as soon as the children have touched the food colouring, it takes out the colouring almost completely. Thankfully both boys used the paintbrush throughout most of the session!