Two Can Learn Better than One!

Category: Make Believe

Theme Days

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Make Believe, Kids Activities , Tags: circus, colours, countries, craft, dressing up, games, pirates, theme days, themes

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Theme days offer a great way to spice up the lives of your little ones a bit, and help them to learn new concepts along the way.  If you hold a theme day once a week or once a month, it will also help to mark time for preschoolers who will begin to understand the concept of a week or a month respectively.

Choose a theme, dress up for it, play themed games and undertake themed craft.  There are lots of colourful themes to choose from, here are a few ideas:-

  • Superheroes
  • Emergency services
  • Doctors and nurses
  • Ballet
  • Princes and princesses
  • Fairy Tales
  • Pirates
  • Literary characters (from adult or children's books)
  • Animals (farm, zoo or wild animals)
  • Circus
  • Sports
  • Robots
  • Insects
  • Colours
  • Countries
  • Flowers

The only limit is your imagination, you can even choose really abstract themes - your little ones don't mind, they will simply love the involvement.

Diamond Jubilee Fun

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Kids Art and Craft, Make Believe, Food, Drink and Eating, Kids Activities , Tags: bunting, coin rubbing, craft, queen, silver jubilee, tes party

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As excitement mounts for the queen's Diamond Jubilee this weekend, your little ones are probably just too young to understand the significance of what is going on, but they certainly aren't too young to join in the fun.  Here are some fun ideas to explore royalty and help them learn who the queen is:-

  • Coin Rubbing: Take a selection of coins and tape them to an A4 piece of card.  Place a sheet of paper over the top and rub over them with chalk or a thick wax crayon, watch as the queen appears in front of you.
  • Queen for a Day: Have one of your children act as queen for the day, see what they imagine the queen gets up to in a normal day!
  • Flagging: Draw out the lines for the union flag and have your little ones colour them in.  Stick them onto straws to make a flag they can wave, or attach a number of them to a piece of string to make some royal bunting.
  • Royal Tea Party: Discuss what food and drink the queen might enjoy at a royal tea party and then hold a tea party with all the foods they talk about.  Don't be too concerned, their ideas are probably less caviar and Champagne than jam tarts and sausage rolls!
  • Create a Stamp: Look at some real stamps and show how the queen is always portrayed.  Cut zig-zag lines around an A4 sheet of paper and have your little one design their own stamp; have them use lots of royal imagery such including the queen, a castle, a royal carriage and anything else that a queen might have.

Making Potions in the Garden

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Make Believe, Kids Activities , Tags: daisies, dandelions, imagination, messy play, mixing, potion, pretend play, textures

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Children love a bit of messy play and this spell of fine weather gives the perfect opportunity to make potions in the garden!  Give your little ones a selection of little pots and a large mixing bowl and encourage them to find different ingredients to make a potion.  Stir together sand, water, leaves, some small stones, perhaps some flowers such as daisies or dandelions.  Look for small items around the garden that can all be mixed together.

Talk with your little one about what the different ingredients do?  Perhaps the flowers make it taste sweeter, perhaps grass cuttings and leaves help to turn the drinkers skin a green colour?  Pebbles might be to help make the potion more digestible, strips of bark from trees and a few twigs may give you strength.

Of course, stress that this is only pretend and that your little one shouldn't really drink it, but at the same time, fire up their imagination and see what they can pretend this potion is for.  Describe the different textures of the ingredients and discuss whether they make the potion easier to stir, or lumpy, or change colour and so on.  Observe the changes as more ingredients are added.  Above all, have fun!

Kitchen Play

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Make Believe, Food, Drink and Eating , Tags: baking, cooking, croissants, kitchen, make believe, muffin, pizza, pretend play, scones

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Your little ones simply adore copying what you do, and when your working in the kitchen, nothing will make them happier than to play with the same kitchen implements that you use - wooden spoons, spatulas, whisks and bowls.  Of course, they don't need to mess up your lovely kitchen utensils, although nylon and wooden ones would be perfectly safe for them, you can also buy whole sets of kitchen utensils from any toy store.

Pretend kitchen play is a valuable pastime for all kids.  At a physical level they are learning about materials and honing their fine motor skills as they drop ingredients into bowls and stir them.  They are also growing their understanding of how food is prepared, learning what is involved and about where their meals come from.

As they grow older you can move from pretend utensils to real ones, and from play food to real 'dried foods' (such as pasta, dried fruit, cereal etc.) and on to genuine cooking.  Next time you are in a supermarket, take a look in the home baking aisle and you will find all manner of easy foods that you can whip up with the kids.

Here are some simply foods that you can buy from the supermarket and which even the youngest children can 'cook':-

  • 'Shake and bake' fairy cakes - just add milk, put into cake cases and bake
  • Home bake scone mix - just add water (and raisins if you like), mix, roll, cut and back
  • Home made muffin mix - just add a little oil, water and an egg, put into cases and bake
  • Fresh croissant or pain au chocolate - sometimes difficult to find in the supermarket (try the chiller cabinets where ready made pastry is), fresh dough comes in a tube; open, shape the pastries onto a baking tray and bake
  • Pizza - buy a fresh base and spread with your favourite toppings; start with a plain dough and add passata and cheese, or buy a Margherita and add your own flavours.  Cook as per instructions

All these products can be prepared in around 5 minutes and baked in around 20, and can form a part of the children's real meals.  Try to cook with your children at least once a week and they will have a whale of a time!

Musical Instruments

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Make Believe, Kids Activities , Tags: instruments, music, recycle

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All children love making a noise so why not encourage them to make their own instruments made from things at home. Here are some ideas:

Yogurt Pot shakers: take used yogurt pots and fill with lentils.  Cover with paper and then tape down to secure.  Decorate with stickers or pictures taped round the pot.

Crisps tube long shaker: put a handful or large pasta shapes into the tube and pop on the lid.  Tape down to secure.

Ice cream tub drum: put some dried bean or peas into a used ice cream tub and bang to hear them shake around inside.

Tubey shake: Take along wrapping paper tube and pop in a round ball or bell. Turn upside down to hear it roll down.

Trumpet: take a kitchen roll tube and decorate.  Add some tassels on the end and ribbons to make it look great  Simply toot down the tube!

Tin drum: take a biscuit tin and add some metal bottle tops or little metal spoons.  Shake for a or bang for a metal sound.

Marble rolling: pop some marbles in a small metal tin swirl them to make a metal rolling sound.

Plate tambourine: Use a paper plate and punch hole round the outside.  Take some nuts and bolts and metal items and tie them round with string or wool.  Shake to hear them clang together.

Now, just put on some music and have a jamming session!

Building Camps

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Make Believe, Kids Activities , Tags: animals, building, camps, imaginative play, indoors, outdoors, pretend play, teddies

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Young children, boys and girls, love camps - there's nothing better than a 'secret' place where they can hide from grown ups and feel inside a world of their own.  As summer approaches, it becomes easier to build camps outdoors.  Find a secluded spot in the garden and fashion some branches into a cover, or use an old sheet and drape it from the fence.  You can even buy tents for next to nothing these days - the kids will go mad for that!

During colder months, and on days when the weather's not so good, you can build camps indoors.  Erect your masterpiece in a spot where the children won't get in the way, bearing in mind that it may have to stay up for a few days!  Use sheets or large towels, draped from furniture to radiators, or over clothes horses.  Use clothes pegs to help secure your materials in place.

Young children love enclosed spaces in which to play.  It really does become their own world set apart from the real one, and gives them a place that is theirs, where you cannot follow.  They will quickly stockpile teddies, dinosaurs, dolls, tea sets, cars and all manner of kids' paraphernalia!  Let them loose in their imaginative play, it's great for them to engage in pretend play, especially if they voice scenes between animals or teddies which helps them develop their language and thinking skills.  Listen to them discretely from a distance and they will bring joy to your heart!

Playground Games Are As Fun As Ever!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Child Development, Make Believe , Tags: children, games, michael rosen, playground, playing, research, school

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What were the games you liked best at school: skipping, Cat's Cradle, British Bulldog, hand-clapping rhymes, marbles?  People would have us believe that all these games have completely been wiped out by the advent of the DS, television, DVDs etc.  However recent research has found, not surprisingly, that playground games are as popular and as fun as ever they were!

The Universities of London, Sheffield and East London carried out research on traditional games children play and it found that many of the traditional games we enjoyed are still played today, with some modern references thrown in.

Two years was spent studying the children at play in schools.  There were lots of imitation games such as their own version of Britian's Got Talent and chat shows, and lots of mimicking their childhood heroes such as Simon Cowell and pop stars.

The finding suggest that children are in fact better informed by their access to the digital media of today.  They are not, as many would have us believe, walking around zombiefied once starved of their Wii or DS. Instead, they use the information they have and build ideas and develop themes in an accomplished way.

The results of the study entitled 'Children's Playground Games and Songs in the New Media Age' will be presented at the British Library next week by former children's laureate Michael Rosen.

Face Painting

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toys and Games, Kids Art and Craft, Make Believe , Tags: animal, entertainment, face painting, party, superhero

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Face paints offer a terrific way to complete your children's dressing-up - turn them into an animal, superhero or flower fairy! Before applying paint to faces of babies and toddlers, apply a small patch first just to check that there's no allergic reaction. Children have more delicate skin than adults so it's just possible that paints might cause a reaction so if this is the first time, proceed with caution. You should also avoid paint in the eyes or on broken or particularly sensitive skin.

You can hire professional face painters for children's parties - just look in your local Yellow Pages, party shop or search on the internet and you'll be able to find someone local to you. Children love having their faces painted and a face painter will add a touch of magic to any party. They'll probably offer some other entertainment too, maybe some magic or balloon modeling.

To remove face paints, wash off with warm water. Never use any make-up removers or other chemical based cleansers on your children's faces.

Put on a Christmas Show

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Make Believe, Family , Tags: acting, christmas, nativity, performing, play, show, singing

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There's nothing more heartwarming than watching your children perform Christmas songs to the rest of your family at Christmas!  If they are old enough to talk and in a playgroup then it's likely that they've already learned at least one or two festive songs that youcan encourage them to perform to grandparents over Christmas.  If they aren't yet singing, then put on some festive music and encourage them to wiggle in time with the music!

Ask older children to act out the nativity story, playing the different parts.  Acting forms a fundamental part of pretend play that is so important in developmental terms.

You will be proud, the grandparents will be moved and your little ones will be delighted!  Practice a few songs or stories now so that they're ready for the big day, and have them bring the house down for their Christmas debut!

How Much Is That Bear In The Window?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Child Development, Make Believe , Tags: auction, bear, christies, collection, stieff, teddy bear, world record

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A collection of Stieff teddy bears and soft toys worth an estimated £1.2 million have been discovered at a collector's home in America and will be sent to auction.  The find has amazed experts who cannot believe that such a rare collection existed, some 1,300 items all in beautiful condition.

The teddies will all be auctioned next month by Christies.  The famous auction house has said that it is the best collection they have ever seen as some are over a century old and yet are in a good state.

One bear, a one off 'Harlequin Bear', is expected to fetch up to £110,000 in the sale and islikely to break the world record for the most money ever spent to purchase a bear. It is made of mohair and was crafted as an experiment by one of the employees at the company back in 1944. It's arms and legs move, and he used to have a growl when turned upside down but this has faded with time!

The collection includes all sorts of other stuffed toys including cats, dogs, lions and even frogs!  All of them have been made by Stieff, the  famous German toy maker, renowned the world over for the creation of beautiful stuffed bears and toys, each one hand-stitched and hand-stuffed.

Other unusual items in the collection include a 1910 hot water bottle bear said to be worth £30,000 and a Mickey Mouse figure estimated between £5,000 and £10,000.

So, for some early Christmas bargains, pop along to Christies on 13 October with a big and full purse!

Face Painting and Pretend Play

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Kids Art and Craft, Make Believe, Kids Activities , Tags: animals, clown, face painting, pirate, snazaroo, superhero

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Face painting is a great way to enhance your little one's pretend play - by painting their faces they can become a tiger, dog, fairy or butterfly.  Your kids will love having their faces painted.  Don't worry if you don't feel you are artistic enough, however your artwork turns out, they're bound to feel the part!

The best face paints to use are sold in palettes like water colours, rather than the crayon sticks that you may know from your own childhood.  You can apply these paints with a sponge or brushes.  Start by creating a wash all over the face using a base colour and then add the detail using brushes.

If your child has sensitive skin or you are worried about painting their faces, then you can simply paint motifs onto their hands or arms.

Here are some ideas for faces to create:-

  • Animals: tiger, zebra, frog, butterfly, dog, rabbit
  • Superheroes: Spiderman, Batman, Incredible Hulk, fairy
  • Antiheroes: Dracula, the Gruffalo, a skeleton
  • People: Clown, soldier, pirate

Snazaroo is one of the leading brands of face paints, take a look at their online gallery for inspiration!

Encourage Imaginative Play with Gadgets

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Toys and Games, Make Believe, Kids Activities , Tags: computer keyboard, computers, gadgets, imaginative play, mobile phones, work

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Children love to mimic what they see mummy and daddy doing, and when it comes to gadgets, they'll absorb the most current devices as if they've been around forever.  No doubt you've collected your fair share of old telephones, mobile handsets, computer keyboards, remote controls for broken equipment, maybe even obsolete laptops?!  All of these make for great 'accessories' for children to play with and will be highly favoured over play items because these are 'real' and ones that you used to use!

Before handing them over to the children, remove any old batteries just so that they can't leak, but then they're good to be used a play things.

It doesn't matter if an old computer keyboard isn't connected to anything, or that an old mobile phone doesn't have batteries in it and makes no noise.  The fact that these are real devices makes them highly attractive to your young children, and being able to play with these items will encourage imaginative play between your little ones.

They can use a computer to do 'work' just like their mummy and daddy do; they can use redundant phone sets to call their friends and family; remote controls will just become gadgets that do something you hadn't even imagined yourself!

Nurturing familiarity with these objects at a young age will make them comfortable with real gadgets when they grow older - they won't be afraid to use phone handsets or computers because they won't be alien to them.  Make sure that your children treat these redundant items as they would a working one - make sure they are gentle with them, never throw them, and put them in sensible places rather than leaving them lying in the middle of the floor.  Having them treat these items with respect now will also instil that they need to treat real working gadgets with similar care later on.

How to Create a 'Home Corner'

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Learning Play, Child Development, Make Believe, Kids Activities, Childminders and Childminding , Tags: cooker, home corner, kitchen, kitchen utensils, make believe, oven, play, refridgerator, stove, washing machine

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Most nurseries and reception year classes have a 'Home Corner' where young children are encouraged to play 'house'; you can easily create your own Home Corner for your own children or ones you look after.  The Home Corner promotes dramatic play, both for individual children and for children participating in cooperative play.  Give your children things that they see in their home and they will mimic what they have seen adults doing.

You can buy children's equivalents of kitchen 'white goods' - cookers, washing machines and fridges, but all of these are easy to make out of simple cardboard boxes.  Acquire some suitable boxes from your local supermarket, cover them with plain paper, then paint on the relevant features: hobs on the cooker  and a window and buttons on the washing machine.  Cut out doors in the boxes - a full panel for the fridge, a small square for the oven and a round porthole for the washing machine.  Score the back of each door with a knife along its hinged edge to allow it to fold open easily.  Use a plastic bowl for a sink, just place it on another box that can have a door in to act as a cupboard.  In no time at all you'll have a simple Home Corner that will keep your little ones happy for years!

In addition to appliances, add props.  Donate old kitchen equipment like wooden spoons, mixing bowls and other implements.  Toy stores sell play implements, but you will probably find it as cheap to buy real plastic sets from a supermarket!  Add sets of plastic or wooden food from a toy shop.

If you have some low shelves, make these a part of the Home Corner too.  Encourage your children to put everything away neatly and keep their Home tidy!

Role Play and Learning

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Child Development, Make Believe, Kids Activities , Tags: gender, good and bad, imagination, make believe, role play

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Role play forms a natural part of childhood, before long your little ones will assume characters in different scenarios and act out the different parts.  Often role play is based on what children have observed, such as caring for younger siblings, keeping a shop or playing doctors, families or schools.  As their imagination grows, so they begin to play made up scenarios such as fairies or princesses, explorers  or monsters!

Role play offers many lessons to a developing child; clearly pretend play extends language and social interaction as children play with one another, or with a parent.  Make believe nurtures imagination and helps children to develop abstract thought where they can extend the rules of the physical world into their pretend world.  As they play they are developing their understanding of the world, learning to solve problems and learning the ability to view the world from the perspective of others.

Many role play games reinforce gender stereotypes from an early age; this seems to be a natural part of early play.  Doctors and nurses and mummies and daddies might seem politically incorrect in this day and age, but the lessons learned from free play are much more important than lessons enforced about gender stereotyping at this young age.  Any separation along lines of gender simply mirrors their understanding of the world through their own observation, and is done entirely innocently.

Other role play games reinforce notions of good and bad; cops and robbers, fairies and witches, cowboys and indians or simply goodies and baddies all draw lines between the good side and bad side and children dividing themselves in such ways will conform to the expected behaviour.

Young children should be encouraged in their make-believe worlds.  They might be asissted with dressing up clothes or large props such as play houses or camps, but at the end of the day, children will be children and will explore their imaginary worlds even without these!

Play Away!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Learning Play, Child Development, Make Believe, Kids Activities , Tags: constructive play, games, learning, observation, organised games, peer group, physical play, playing, pretend play, sensory play

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Play is important for every child and for the first few years of their lives, babies and toddlers learn a huge amount during what they consider to be 'play'.  This is why teaching through play is such a great way to guide and educate our children because the message gets through, they learn and yet it all happens while they are having fun, playing!

During play, children expand their understand of the world, their understanding of themselves, and indeed their understanding of other people.  Once children play together, it is also a way to start communicating with other children and sharing ideas and games.

By six months, children have learned, through trial and error, various sequences that they practice.  If they push a ball, it rolls!  They see that something happens and they like the feeling of it happening.   They are learning to grip and drop and use their hands.

By nine months they might push a ball, crawl to get it and push it again.  They master new skills and make the play more interesting and complex for themselves. They use props more and gravitate towards toys they like.

By a year, they are able to be even more accurate with their props/toys.  They know a rattle will rattle and can kick or throw or roll a ball.

Types of play

  • Sensory play: As they gain confidence and control their games become even more complex.  They enjoy the sensation of movement such as swings and slides. They will do things over again to relive the experience.
  • Pretend Play: Children begin by being adult led and take the initiative from parents when starting out with pretend play.  Once they see what they can do, they may take the lead.  They may take familiar roles of doctor, or Dad when playing.  They may need, props and costumes and will probably be happy making a dressing gown into a super hero cape or tying a scarf round their head to make a princess veil.
  • By 4 or 5, pretend play becomes peer focused and they children will happy to share a pretend game together, working out what to do and who is going to be who in the game.  They will discuss the rules of the game, how it will unfold.  They may well guide behaviour by suggesting an action.  "You'll need to drink your tea before you go to work, Dad."  Pre-schoolers will also have to overcome conflict and negotiate.
  • Constructive play: Blocks and boxes are used to create a pretend miniature world.  This type of play, allows the child complete freedom to create a world of their own.
  • Physical Play: Rough and tumble, running games, chasing games are all popular with pre-schoolers.  They have more control at this age and can jump, run, climb and chase.  Overly aggressive behaviour should be checked, but it's all about learning how to control their body and what they are capable of.
  • Organised games: A more logical and formal game arrangement becomes popular between 4 and 5 years old.  They can cope with and understand the idea of having rules and  are able to follow those rules in order to have a fun game.  The idea of competition is introduced and that of winner or loser!  Teams are also introduced and the idea of working together for a common goal.

What's our role?

Observe and comment in a positive way to encourage them.

Play with them especially when they are young,  It affirms the idea of playing and makes them feel worthwhile if you are willing to play too.

Create a playful atmosphere and allow them to play - give them permission to make some noise or a mess!

Make suggestions if they are stuck.

Ensure everyone plays safely ie. the equipment is safe and that the children behave properly too!



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Hi! I'm Tikal the Toucan, the mascot for ToucanLearn. Follow my blog to find out interesting things relating to babies, toddlers and preschool children!

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