Foamy Fun

If you've never squirted Shaving Cream onto a table and let your kids go wild with it, it's something you have to try at least once in your pre-school parenting (or caring) life. The fun and absolute delight on the faces of the children involved is priceless.

We did it at playgroup last week and the children loved it so much, I think we may do it again this week. They were rubbing their hands through it, rubbing it all over their arms and bodies (which were thankfully covered in water-proof smocks), clapping their hands together to make the foam explode sideways ad generally having a good old time.

The great thing is, even though this activity seems like a bunch of harmless messy fun, it is actually a great developmental activity. When doing this activity children
- feel really good about themselves and life in general because they are having fun
-are developing their sensory awareness which has proven benefits for brain development
- are using their motor skills to move the foam around
- are constantly thinking and experimenting with what they can do the with the foam next
- are talking to the people around them about the fun they are having which is developing language skills
- can work and have fun together, thereby enhancing their social skills.

There are a few precautions you can take to minimise the mess
- do it outside!!
- use a table that can be wiped down or hosed down easily
- have a warm soapy bucket of water nearby to clean off as well as a clean, dry towel
- have spare clothes outside to change into
- always use a waterproof smock that can be put straight into a bucket
- roll sleeves up!

Leaf Stew, Anyone?

I have just started running a structured playgroup at the local neighbourhood centre (we have spare places, so if you're in Melbourne and interested in coming along, drop me an email and I can send you the details). One of the activities we did yesterday, that was a hit with most of the children, was cooking with leaves.

Autumn leaves are everywhere at the moment in this part of the world and I love to include them in play whenever I can. I really believe that play is far more beneficial and relevant to children when it brings in their everyday environment.

Here are the materials we used. I got a plastic basin and filled it with leaves. then added some tongs for the children to use to move the leaves into the yellow plastic saucepan and stew pot you can see in the picture. The tongs need a lot of muscle strength and eye hand co-ordination to manipulate, so it's a great way to build on motor skills. I also added some wooden spoons, which strengthen the muscles in the wrists when used for mixing. I got all of these materials from my kitchen and the local $2 shop (my favourite place!)

I also added a pretend wooden oven so that the children could move the leaves from the table onto the oven and talk about cooking and baking while they were doing it.

It's a really simple activity, but very effective. The children who enjoyed it played there independently for long periods of time (which is a great benefit for parents!) and the activity is really effective in building language skills, life skills and motor skills. It's also a great way for the children to act out situations they see in real life which helps them to process social rules and make sense of their world, which, of course, is of great benefit for them.

Learning about Cars

Like many almost 3 year old boys (and many almost 43 year old boys!) my little Ed is obsessed with cars. He has been since he could first sit up, but his interest has seemed to hit an all-time high recently.

About six months ago, we purchased a very cheap car calendar from the $2 shop. The calendar had a lot of vintage cars in it and on each page it described the make and model of each car. One of his favourite bed-time 'stories' is to go through this calendar and listen to the names of each of the cars. He started to memorise them for himself and has learnt to identify each of them just by looking at them.

One of his favourite vintage cars was an old Mercedes (he has good taste - he gets that from his mum!). We were out shopping with my mum and she bought him a model Mercedes which he named Bertie - bless him! Since then he has loved all Mercedes and can spot them at a hundred paces. He started pointing them out everywhere, recognising them from their badges.

This interest in badges has spread to all cars and if you see a car crawling through car parks, with a crazy woman pointing at the back end of each car in the row and a small boy with a look of absolute glee on his little face, then it's probably us.

It is his favourite thing to do at the moment, and so to help him develop this interest and build on his memory, recall and language skills, I have put together a little sheet for him of all his favourites.

It was a really easy thing to do, I just copied and pasted a heap of pictures from a MSN images search onto a Word document and typed in the name of each of the badges.

It's a really simple thing but he absolutely loves it and it's something that you can do to promote any interest area your child has.

A Lot of Play for Very Little

I found these small plastic shot glasses in the supermarket a few months ago and just knew they would be a hit with the kids. They're quite small and have an unlimited amount of uses which means they get incorporated into lots of different games and activities. Amongst our favourites are sand play, water play, playdough and imaginative play games (they are just the right size for a teddy bear tea party!), but by far, my kids' favourite use for them is at bathtime.

We have a heap of them in the container of bath toys and it seems their uses are endless. I think that's the beauty of giving children open-ended resources like these - the children are able to constantly reinvent what the cups can be used for. They have been used as under-water helmets for Barbie, drinking cups for cars, hats for rubber duckies (see below!) shakers, pourers, containers, goggles and boats, just to name a few.

Not long ago, my nephew was here to stay with us and he even found some new uses for the cups that my kids hadn't thought of before. My nephew is seven and a half and these small little cups that I grabbed for under $3 entertained all three children for half an hour. Just goes to show you that when play items are open ended and children are able to direct their own play, lots of fun and learning can occur at their own developmental level and their own pace