Don't be horrified by the idea of messy play, it gives young children the opportunity to explore materials in a unique way and reaches out to all their senses. Buy a 'messy tray' that you can use for messy play and carry out these fun activities outdoors or on a tiled floor in the kitchen or a conservatory:-
Yellow Brick Road
Buy a cheap roll of wallpaper or lining paper from a DIY store and roll it into a long 'road' in the garden. Roll up trousers and prepare plastic plates of finger plates. Have your little ones step in the paint and then walk down the road creating a footprint collage. Use sticks and other implements to make other marks.
Buy some plastic creepy crawlies and make up a jelly, inserting the creepy crawlies while it is still setting. Give the bowl to your little ones and have them look at the creepy crawlies and dig in with their hands to pull them out. If your little ones won't like creepy crawlies then use other small plastic toys.
Repeat the jelly game but using a packet mousse instead. This time your little ones won't see the toys hidden inside so they must do everything purely by touch. Help them squidge the mousse through their fingers and even let them taste the mousse so that they use all their senses.
On the Pulses
If sloppy is too messy for you, encourage playing with pulses and pasta. Mix together dried beans, lentils, pasta and rice and encourage tactile play. Sort the foods into shapes, types and colours. Make a collage by gluing the dried foods to paper.
Cook up some spaghetti and add a small amount of cooking oil to it to prevent it from sticking. This makes a great treat to play with - try combing the spaghetti like hair, separate strands out, or bend them into pictures.
Messy Play is a fun and important part of play - babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers are always delighted to get their hands stuck in to some messy play. They get to feel and touch items and substances they wouldn't normally handle. But, it is also useful for the beginnings of mark-making and ideal for observing their world and how different ingredients change when mixed up. Most importantly - it is fun!
Get a large tray such as a baking tray with fairly deep sides to use when doing messy play. Add some ingredients to the tray and encourage the little ones to mix and feel and play with the substances.
- Flour: Place some flour on the tray. Get some small toys to drive through the flour to make tracks. Mix with spoons and sprinkle with glitter to make it sparkly.
- Flour and water: Add some water to make it slushy and really messy! Great fun!
- Oats: Add three spoon and bowls and some washable teddies and act out the tree bears story!
- Shaving foam: A cheap can of shaving foam can be sprayed on the tray and used to make patterns and marks with spoons and tools etc.
- Jelly: Make up some different colours and cut them up with blunt knives, mix them and squelch them together.
- Pasta: Different shaped pasta and rice can be mixed, sorted and sprinkled. Let the children use their imagination. Make necklace by threading onto string if you have time.
- Cornflour: Mix cornflour and water to make a heavenly gloopy, sticky messy substance to play with.
- Sand: Make a beach, add water in a bowl for sea and mix it all together. Make letter shapes and patterns in the sand or drive through some favourite toys or cars.
- Water play: Put some water in a sink or old baby bath and use it to play! Fill containers, make showers, sprinkle with glitter, use spoons and ladles and have fun! Add ducks or some dolls to wash.
Remember to protect clothing, floor, tables and keep any valuables away from the mess. Have fun!
Now that another Halloween has passed, the shops will be looking to offload their surplus pumpkins as quickly as possible to make way for Christmas; you may have thought that pumpkins are good for nothing but carving, but actually you can make turn them into pretty tasty treats. Here are just a few pumpkin recipes to introduce this unusual food to your children:-
- Toasted pumpkin seeds: Scrape out the seeds from the middle of a pumpkin, dry fry them in a heavy based frying pan for 4 to 5 minutes and eat! For adults, add a little bit of olive oil and salt, but leave unsalted for children.
- Pumpkin Puree: Perfect for babies! Cut your pumpkin in half, cover each half with foil and bake in the oven for an hour. Blend the flesh and freeze into ice cube trays.
- Pumpkin Soup: Cook the pumpkin as above, add to a pint of chicken or vegetable stock and blend.
- Pumpkin Pasta: Cook some pasta, dice some pumpkin and sautee it in a skillet with a lid for 3 - 5 minutes. Toss into your cooked pasta, add a tablespoon of creme fraiche and serve.
- Pumpkin Curry: follow any traditional chicken curry recipe substituting diced pumpkin for the meat.
We tend not to consider pumpkin as a food, rather a novelty item to adorn Halloween, but actually it's very versatile and can be used in lots of different ways! Look out a pumpkin in the post-Halloween sales and see for yourself!
There are times when you need to be getting on with preparing the next meal and you have your little ones snapping around your ankles getting ever so slightly in the way - if you can sit them down at a table or on the floor and keep them occupied, then you'll find that you can get on with your work that much more easily! Here's a great idea to help occupy your toddlers in the kitchen...
Take a mixing bowl and add a small handful of three or four different types and shapes of dried pasta - bows, tubes, spirals, twists and so on. Mix them all up. Give your little one a muffin tray and have them sort the pasta back into the right shapes, filling the cups in the muffin tray with each of the different types of pasta. Hopefully this will keep them occupied for some time and they will enjoy this as much as doing a puzzle.
For older children you can make the challenge a little harder by using rice, lentils and other smaller dried foods amongst the pasta.
This is a great activity to let your children loose on every time you want to cook in the kitchen and they want to 'cook' too! This activity incorporates shape matching and encourages their fine motor skills as they have to pick up small pieces of pasta and place them in the right place.
Get outdoors and have some scavenger hunt fun: it's ideal for all kinds of situations and places! It takes just a little bit of preparation and the children all love scavenger hunts whether in a small garden or a huge park. Here are some ideas to get the children inspired outdoors no matter what their age!
Colour Hunt: Gather some things from round the house: toys, blocks, balls etc that are 4 different colours: red, green, blue and yellow. Show the items to your child and sort them into piles by colour. Keep one of each item and without your child looking, hide all the rest around our garden or around the park. Send your child off to search for all the red items, then all the yellow etc.
Buried Treasure: collect some pebbles or pieces of dry pasta and cover them with silver foil to make them into shiny treasure. Count them, and then hide each of the pieces in the garden. Send your child off to find them and count them all back in at the end! Perhaps if they find them all they win a piece of real treasure: a foil wrapped biscuit or a foil pouch of summer fruits to eat!
Shape Hunt: Make 16 cards and draw 4 coloured squares, circles, rectangles and ovals onto them. Give one of each to your child and hide the rest. Ask them to hunt for the others, matching them and naming them as they find them.
Letter Hunt: Write some letters on a page and ask your child to go off into the house or garden and find things beginning with that letter. For A find an apple, for B find a ball, for C find a toy car etc.