I'm Playing Along at Childhood 101

Christie at Childhood 101 has created "We Play", as a special part of her great blog. It's a weekly link up where people can share their play experiences and ideas. I think it's a wonderful idea and I'm glad to be a part of it.

Christie says in her post introducing the idea that she believes play is a child's 'work'. I absolutely believe that too. It's what they do to grow, learn and develop. It also gives them a sense of purpose and helps them to work out their place in the world, just to mention a few of it's benefits.

But, as parents, I also believe it's kinda our 'work' too. When we bring these wonderful, sweet beings into the world, it's our job to care for them, to love them and to help them grow. So, it's our work and responsibility to take play seriously, to encourage it, allow time for it, to value it and nurture it and to advocate it's importance at every opportunity.

So well done Christie and everyone else who is getting involved. Here is my favourite play experience from our house this week.

What's going on here?

I made these 'roads' last year sometime. They usually live outside, but with the weather being so cold and wet here in Melbourne at the moment, I've let a few outside toys come in. This has given these roads a new lease on life. They have been used as roads/ramps/bridges and platforms leading down from our stairs.

The kids have put various things underneath them as support (you can see a couch cushion here) and have used small and large cars, animals and trains with them.

These two humble pieces of wood have led to many discussions about scientific ideas (physics mostly) and how to solve problems. These discussions have naturally arisen as the play has gone along and my two don't even really realise the learning that is going on.

You see, big cars don't drive so well on the narrow pieces of wood, so their configuration needed to be modified for that. Some cars veer off, so that needed to be fixed with some angle adjustments. Sometimes Ed wants the cars to go fast, other times slow and again, modifications need to be made. He has solved all of these problems on his own or with a bit of help from his big sister and while doing so has cemented a foundation for scientific learning later in his life.

All the while, the kids have been strengthening fine motor skills while moving the objects around, building on language skills while talking to each other about what might happen, what has happened and how things need to change. Not to mention working on social skills as use of equipment is negotiated and conflicts are resolved.

So, two pieces of wood sanded and painted equals lots of learning and lots of fun.

Come over and play at the 'Childhood 101' 'We Play' link up

We Play

'Zingo'!, It's Another Giveaway!

I have a good friend who is a huge party plan fan. I've been dragged along to candle parties and linen parties and there's even a lingerie party on the horizon. Not that I mind. That's what friends are for after all. But last Friday I went along to a get-together for 'The Learning Ladder', and I really liked what I saw.

According to the 'About Us' part of their website,
The Learning Ladder is one of Australia’s best and most-respected educational direct sales companies, and is a wholly owned company of the Pearson Australia Pty Ltd.

We are dedicated to the business of introducing parents to books, toys, games and puzzles that offer children of all ages wonderful opportunities for exploration, discovery, play, fun and learning. We also offer an irresistible range of family reference books and books for parents.

So you can probably guess why I was so interested. The catalogue is really outstanding, with lots of great resource, information and story books for young children as well as fantastic toys and games that promote learning and development. They source their books from the publishers who work under their umbrella - well-respected names like Penguin, Puffin, Ladybird and DK.

So, what did I buy? I bought a school dictionary aimed at children aged 5-8. I thought we would use it a lot in our house. Em will love reading the meanings of the words and Ed will love the tables of information in the back. It had a lot of lists in the back of things childen find interesting - colours, seasons etc. I know he'll really enjoy looking at the words and matching them with the pictures.

Then I got these resource books because they hold lots of information that both my kids will find interesting and the photos are really eye-catching and dynamic. 'WOW Earth' is by John Woodward and 'WOW Animals' is by Richard Walker. The photos in these books will get my boy in and the interesting information will make my girl happy.

I also bought this great fun game that we played on the day. It's called 'Zingo' and as the catalogue says, 'it's Bingo with a Zing!'. I know my kids will really enjoy this game. They love to play games by themselves and the simple format of this one will allow them to organise and play it on their own. It also has clear pictures and words, which both Em and Ed will be able to easily decipher.

Jade Lam is a long time reader of 'everyday play' and is also an Independent Advisor with 'The Learning Ladder'. She has generously donated a copy of 'Zingo'(RRP $36.50) as well as a 'Tiny Rockers:Car' (RRP $12.95) book to give away to a lucky reader of my blog. To be in the running to receive this great gift, please leave a comment below. The give-away will run until next Friday the 7th of May at 5.00pm EST and is open to Australian residents only.

If you're interested in booking a presentation, fundraising enquiries, business opportunities or even one off orders with 'The Learning Ladder', you can email Jade at jade@donnielam.com or contact her through her great blog (it's well worth a read) play.learn.love . You can have a look at 'The Learning Ladder' catalogue yourself by clicking here .

May Practical Parenting

I have an article in May's Practical Parenting which is out now.

It's all about "Doll Washing" which is a great fun thing to do either outside or at bath time, with lots of learning opportunities involved. It's also especially relevant to young children who have just had a baby brother or sister come into the home.

Em took great care of her baby dolls when Ed was born. She fed them when I fed Ed, bathed them, changed them, read to them and loved them, while I was doing the same for her new baby brother. It not only kept her busy and out of mischief, it gave her an opportunity to play out what she was seeing me do, which helped her to process what was going on. It also helped her to understand the love and caring required for a new baby and helped her to feel she was being important and included too. It was easy to interact with her while she was alongside me and we could talk about what we were doing together.

Here is a photo of us sharing bath time at the kitchen sink. Ed was only about 4 weeks old.

A Box with Hole in it

It never ceases to amaze me how children can be kept amused by just the simplest things.

This is the latest 'favourite plaything' at our house at the moment. A cardboard box with a slit cut in it.

It all started on Sunday afternoon when my girl was wondering around looking a little lost. "Are you finding it hard to find something to do?" I asked. "I am", she answered. I started to think about the things she likes to do at the moment - drawing, colouring in? These things wouldn't do, I could tell she was in the mood to do something a little different.

'How about I put together some paper, envelopes and stickers for stamps and you could write some letters?". She perked up, I knew I was onto a good thing. I picked up the cardboard box waiting to go into the recycling. "This could be the post box' I said. She seemed more excited.

"I could be the post lady too" she chimed in. "I could deliver the letters, I would need a hat". She ran off to her room and came back with her visor and her brother's satchel. "What if you were the Queen when you write your letters?" I suggested. (She is quite taken with the idea of being a Queen. The other day she asked me "What do you have to do to become the Queen?" She sets her sights high, my girl!). "Yes!!" she said, "I would need a crown". Of course!

We went to her room and fetched a crown she had made at school last year. We proclaimed her the 'Queen of Art and Craft' and she sat at her royal table writing letters for her royal subjects.

When she had written a few, she took off her crown, put on her visor, sorted through her post box, made a list of the letters she needed to post, stamped them with the special post mark I had given her and went off delivering.

She played this game for over 2 hours and only packed it away for dinner. She grew the game on her own, callng herself "Postman Patricia" when she wasn't being the Queen. She even went and found her own 'black and white cat' and came up with an elaborate story about how Postman Pat was her husband and he was ill, so that's why she was delivering letters with Jess the cat.

Once I had set up the play and got it flowing, she didn't need me at all any more, except to receive my letters and tell me about the latest twist in the game. This is the beauty about setting up a play experience that embodies a child's interest and learning level - they can stay engrossed in the game for hours and will keep going back to it. The box has been brought out every morning before school this week too.

A New Look

My blog has undergone a much-needed revamp as you will notice (unless you subscribe through a Reader, in which case, come and have a look!). I hope this makes it a little easier to get around and much more pleasing to the eye. Would love to hear what you think of my new look.

Holiday Hits

I'm always being told by my husband "You give yourself too many things to do!" and these holidays were no exception. I didn't get through all the things I had planned, but we did have loads of fun doing what we did, and our time away was very enjoyable.

I thought I would share a few highlights:

Easter Basket Making:

A big shout out to Liss from 'Frills in The Hills' for her basket making idea. We put our own twist on it and covered our baskets in felt instead of paper. Em had a great time making these baskets and was very proud of her end result. Ed enjoyed decorating his little felt eggs with fabric paint, but I had to put his basket together for him on the Saturday before Easter. I was waiting for him to show some initiative to do it himself, but he wasn't interested until the night before when Em put out her beautifully prepared basket and his wasn't ready. He's a little bit last minute like his Mum.

Painting Canvasses

Em really enjoyed painting her own designs. She spent a couple of hours on it and had a ball mixing colours and creating effects. These will take pride of place in her room for a while I'm sure. The "Dead Heart" design is particularly interesting ........

Visiting Family

We had a wonderful time visiting our family in Adelaide. Extended family is so important and I am reminded of this more and more as my children get older. The role Aunties, Uncles, Cousins and Grandparents play in the development of self-esteem, a sense of belonging and feeling valued is priceless. Not to mention the sense of security felt when being loved and cared for by a large group of people. My children blossom and thrive when they are with their interstate-loved-ones and I enjoy watching every minute they spend with them.

Free Play Time

We had lots of free play time over the holidays and the children had a ball with it. Much of the play centred around this corner of the lounge room.

As I've mentioned earlier, as part of Em's 'school play', I've set up an office and staff room.

Over the holidays, this area was used as a restaurant, a house and ,my favourite, "Em and Ed's Cafe".

We added some notepads for order taking and the kids played in this area for hours.

What I've Used Here:

A toy changing table as a bench
A kettle
A toaster
An empty 'Weet-bix' box
A toy oven
A plastic saucepan
A collection of pretend herbs, spices and sauces
All the plastic food and toy crockery I could find
A small table and chairs
Paper, pens, textas and notepads
Band-aids (Em NEEDED them?!)
An op-shop handbag and a purse

What fun did you get up to on your holidays?