Finishing Off My Week With Ed

My week of setting up activities for Ed ended with some racetracks and some art work.

On Thursday we got out one of my husband's old Hot Wheels racetracks for Ed to play with. I took a few minutes to put it all together and he played with it for a couple of hours. The great thing about where he is at at the moment is he loves to add to things I set up. He is constantly thinking about what he can add to what he's doing. This is why it's great to have a whole range of toys accessible to children from about 2 years and up, particularly toys and accessories that are open-ended and stimulate imagination, curiosity and exploration.

On Friday we were watercolour painting. This is one of my favourite types of painting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it involves a lot of thinking. To get a good result, the brush needs to be washed in water before it's put into another colour. The brush also needs to move around on the colour chosen for a little while in order for the water to mix with the paint. This means it can take a little bit of time and thought, instead of instant result being achieved like when arcrylic paints are used. It's also great for younger children like Ed too, though, because it almost always leads to a sponatneous exploration of colour mixing, which is something Ed really enjoyed on Friday.

Lastly, it is super easy to clean up and doesn't stain anything it gets on, which is a huge plus in my book. You can see in the photo, I use a really old sheet to protect the table and recycled yoghurt and fruit containers to hold the water in. Only one brush is used and this is really easy to wash out and the paints can be rinsed under water if the colours get too mixed up. Because it's so easy to clean up, I even let my kids do it indoors, although I wouldn't recommend this for first timers!

Drawing on Wednesday

Ed and I were out all day yesterday, catching up with friends, and so play needed to wait untl well after school. But, determined to follow through on my quest to set up a play experience for Ed everyday this week, I got a few things out just as I was about to prepare dinner.

Our dining room adjoins our kitchen, so the kids love to set up something for themselves to do at the dining room table while I cook. They can be busy and I can be busy, but we can still talk to each other and be together.

Last night I got some paper and crayons out for Ed and some transport stencils I bought from the supermarket. He has used these stencils before and really enjoys them, but he usually uses textas.I thought I would make the experience slightly different this time by adding crayons instead. Changing drawing implements like this allows your child to use difefrent skills. They need to hold the implement differently, apply different amounts of pressure and renegoiate a task that they are familiar with. These things work fine motor skills and cognitive skills.

While I was getting things organised last night, I discovered an extra bonus of my quest to set things up for Ed this week. It's something that I hadn't really reflected on, but is probably the most developmentally beneficial learning point of all. As I said to Ed, "I'm going to set something up for you to do, come and sit up here", his face lit up with excitement and his sister moaned "Oh, can you set something up for me too?"

As I got them both set up and made my way to the kitchen to start preparing dinner, I replayed what had just happened over in my head and realised how affirming it is for the kids when I take the time to set something up for them. It sends such a powerful message of "I value you, you are important to me and I want you to grow and develop and pursue your interests and creativity". What a wonderful boost to their self-esteem.

What we did on Tuesday

I'm committed to setting up a play experience for Ed everyday this week and I have to admit, yesterday was a real challenge. I work on Monday and Tuesday morning at the local community centre where I run a couple of play-based kid's activity groups. Ed comes along to both of these groups and so by Tuesday afternoon, we are both exhausted.

He put himself to bed as soon as we got home and slept for 2 hours before we had to rush off to get Em from school. After school, we headed off to the library to get some more car and truck books (I can't believe he's not sick of them yet - we keep getting the same ones!!) and then home to make dinner and have a bath.

I decided to squeeze his activity into bath time. There are so many lovely activities you can set up in the bath and most children just love playing with water - it is one of Ed's favourite things to.

I collected up a bunch of plastic containers big and small as well as some disposable plastic plates I had left over from birthday parties. I then got together some plastic animals of varying shapes and sizes. I just put them on the edge of the bath and left the kids to work out what they wanted to do.

Of course, Ed complained that there weren't any cars, but he was happy to just play with the animals for a change. I sat for a while and we talked about sinking and floating and how many animals could fit in the container. We explored concepts of heavy and light, sinking and floating, in and out and large and small, by just letting the kids experiment while we talked about what they were doing. When the experimentation was over, Em and Ed created their own imaginative play game where the animals would travel in their boats to get to an island. The big animals were the 'Mummies" and the small animals were the 'Babies'. Here, they were working on their social skills and developing their self-esteem and sense of self. There is so much learning and developing to be had in imaginative play games and the wonderful thing about siblings is that they learn so much from each other (with a little help from mum of course!).

The Second Time Around

I've been feeling a little guilty lately that I don't seem to take the time to set up the activities for Ed that I did for Em when she was his age. I'm a lot busier these days with work, writing, school and a lot more play dates than when I was a lonely mother of one, yet to enter the wonderful social world of Kinder and school. But I'm being a bit tough on myself because play is important and it really matters, so this week, I'm committed to setting up something for Ed to do everyday.

He does play everyday now, but a lot of the time it's initiated by him. With Em, I would set up things that would stimulate her interest, imagination and curiosity. Sometimes I feel like my boy doesn't get the same opportunities. So, I've said 'no' to lots of things this week, and we have some home time planned.

I work on Mondays and Tuesdays, so I will have to have pretty basic activities for the first two days of the week, but sometimes it doesn't take much to set up something exciting.

Today, I went with water play. It's a lovely sunny day here in Melbourne, so I got a plastic basin full of water and put it onto a child-sized table on the deck. We added some plastic cars, toothbrushes, facewashers,a water wheel and a cup - and hey presto! we had an instant car wash. Lots of learning and fun for very little time.