Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Hartley's Messy Play Party

To celebrate Hartley's First Birthday we had a messy play party for all of his friends and family. 

It took weeks of planning and preparation but was well worth it in the end. Everyone had lots of fun and I was so happy to see that all the babies got fully involved.

We hired a hall and I bought some tarpaulin so that most of the floor was covered.
I set up different messy 'stations' .

Dinosaur Gloop

Gloop is just a mixture of cornflour and water, I also added green food colouring and some plastic dinosaurs to make it even more interesting.

Even the big children and adults loved this one! It is such a strange substance that is a solid and a liquid at the same time! 

Minibeast Jelly 

My plan was to make up tubs of green jelly and then add plastic minibeasts and  magnifying glasses for a messy bug hunt. However the jelly did not go quite to plan and didn't set properly. So was more like a gloopy watery goo! However the babies did not mind one bit, they added porridge oats to make a really nice gooey oaty mixture!

Rice Crispie Construction 

I filled a paddling pool of rice crispies added a few diggers and spades and created this really fun construction area.



Rainbow spaghetti

I cooked 4 packets of spaghetti and then coloured each packet with a different colour using food colouring. I then added some small plastic animals that the babies could hide and find.
 The babies loved this pool and because it was edible it didn't matter one bit when they started to eat it!

Water Tray

This was a big hit with all the babies and children.  To start with I just aded some boats and fish but the children ended up adding their own things too!

Edible Finger Painting

Hartley especially enjoyed painting. I set up a big roll of paper and then just put out a few pots of edible paint and paint brushes. I used a really simple recipe of just flour water and food colouring. 

I also had a few tables for the older children

Cupcake Play dough

I made up some strawberry and chocolate flavoured play dough. I also added cutters, rolling pins, cupcake cases, sprinkles and straws for candles so the children could make their own birthday cakes.The older children had lots of fun with this.

Chinese New Year crafts

As it was Chinese New Year on the day of his party I set out a few crafts for the older children. They had lots of fun making hanging snakes and lanterns. 

Hand Printing

I also made a canvas so all the children could paint their hands so Hartley had a keepsake of the party.

There were also mini canvas's so the children could print their hands and take them home.

Each child also had a party bag to take home. I made a little bag of play dough for each child and added  a little cutter. 
See my post on Play dough for some recipes to make your own play dough.
Play Dough

We all had a great day and are already looking forward to the next party!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Older Baby Play

As babies get older they need a bit more entertaining, luckily this can be easily done with things you find around the house.

Here are a few activities Hartley and I have enjoyed recently;

Obstacle Courses

Making an obstacle course is a great thing to do when your baby starts crawling. You can easily just use things from around the house but if you have a pop up tunnel you can use this too.
Make sure you make obstacles where you baby has to crawl through and under and climb over. You can even make a tunnel more interesting by hanging things down from it like socks, tissue paper of silver foil. Hartley enjoys climbing over a mountain made out of pillows and blankets. When Hartley was first learning to crawl I jingled bells around the course to encourage him!
This is such a great activity to help children develop; crawling, climbing and balance.

Textures Trail

When a baby starts crawling  a fun activity is to make a trail using different textured materials. You could use; carpet, silk sheet, cardboard, rug, door mat, shower curtain, table cover , bubble wrap
Why not crawl around with your baby talking about the different textures as you crawl over them.

Making Dens

Even small babies enjoy dens. Obviously you can use a pop up tent but I enjoy making an old school den using sheets draped over a table. Scatter a few cushions and blankets inside and you have a cosy den. A perfect place to play or share stories together. Older babies may even enjoy a snack in there.
If you can make it dark enough as another sensory experience you could play with glow in the dark toys too.

Ribbon Threading

We found a tin money box with a slit in the top. I then put ribbons in the tin and helped Hartley thread the ribbons through. He loved pulling the ribbons out of the tin and then putting them back in. He even tried to thread them through the slit himself.
This is a great activity for developing fine motor skills and hand eye coordination.

Tissue Box 

Have you ever noticed that no matter how many toys a baby has, they always prefer playing with your wet wipes! Hartley is no exception and loves pulling out each wipe one by one. This is actually a great activity for developing his fine motor skills and hand eye coordination. So instead of letting him waste all my wipes I made him his very own tissue box game. All you need is an empty tissue box of wipe packets and some squares of materials.

Posting Activities

Since about the age of 10 months all Hartley wants to do is post items. I have set up a few activities so he can practice this skill without me losing all my belongings!

I collected some medium sized pots - I used Twiglets pots left over from Christmas but you could use empty formula milk tubs. I also collected a variety of different jar lids. Hartley has lots of fun posting the lids into the pots and then emptying them again.

I also used pringle pots. These have been used to post many different items including small plastic spiders!

Empty toilet rolls are also great to keep. Hartley has lots of fun posting small pom poms through. He really has to concentrate. This is a great activity to develop hand eye coordination and the pincer grip. You could also use small bits of pasta or other small objects.

Making Sensory bottles

I have made sensory bottles for Hartley since he was very little, recently though when I was making one with cut up straws before I could finish cutting up the straws he had taken the bottle and was filling it himself. Perfect example that we need to give babies opportunities to develop their skills!

Colander Activity

We have been doing this activity ever since Hartley could sit up. All you need is a colander and some coloured pipe cleaners or straws.
Thread through through one end of the pipe cleaner the baby then can pull it through. Lots of fun for older babies and toddlers too. Toddlers could thread the pipe cleaners all by themselves. This activity really develops fine motor skills and hand eye coordination.

Water, ice and snow play

Babies love exploring water and ice. Young babies can access water in a bowl whilst older babies enjoy laying with water trays.

I connected ice cube together by freezing string into the cubes. This allowed Hartley to be able to hld the ice cubes and explore more easily.

Hartley loved trying to catch his fishes in the water bowl.

Hartley enjoyed playing in the snow. I also put some in a bowl so he could play and explore inside too.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Tiny Baby Play

Tiny Baby Play

I have been asked about activities for very little babies. 
For me it has always been about giving Hartley as many experiences as possible even from an early age. Before 6 months he had hardly had any toys but I made sure we did something everyday, either at home or venturing out. Here are a few of the things we did;

Baby Massage
I started baby massage with Hartley when he was a few weeks old. Going to a group is a good way of meeting people and it is an excellent way to bond with your baby. Hartley still enjoys a calming massage now. 

Rainbow Scarves
 Using scarves on a baby is a great sensory experience. This can be incorporated into a baby massage session. Gently touch the baby all over with the scarf. Make sure you talk to your baby whilst doing this.
As babies get older they love peekaboo games with the scarf.
Rainbow Scarves

Babies loves balls. Hartlley was fascinated with a rolling ball from when he was a few months old. By the time he was sitting up he had learnt how to roll a ball himself.  Playing with balls encourages hand eye coordination and motor skills as well as social skills.

Stories and rhymes
I started reading to Hartley when he was a few days old. You could tell that he knew this was different from the usual way I spoke to him. You do not have to read children's books it could be anything even a magazine. We joined the library when Hartley was a few weeks old so we could share books together. He especially liked the touchy feely books. 
Young babies also love rhymes and songs, even if you do not know many make them up, they will like the rhythm and tone of your voice. Incorporate actions into rhymes too.

Bubble Play
 I have always thought bubbles should be in every parents going out bag. They entertain all ages including even the smallest of babies.

Mirror Play
 Babies are fascinated with mirrors. Although they will not understand that they are looking at themselves they will enjoy looking at the baby in the mirror. They may start to touch or wave at the baby. They will also start to recognise other people in the mirror.

Treasure Baskets
Even the smallest of babies can investigate simple objects with their parents. 
See the link Treasure Baskets

Sensory Bottles
An ordinary plastic bottle can be turned into a exciting sensory bottle in seconds. These can be used with babies of all ages. They are also a nice way for babies to explore items that
might be unsafe to handle by themselves. In the past we have made the following sensory bottles;
glitter with water
sequins with and without water
different coloured straws with and without water
coloured water using food colours
Pipe Cleaners
Pom Poms
conkers, acorns and fir cones
 Hartley playing with his sensory bottles with straws and water in
 When I was making the sensory bottle I cut up some coloured straws before I could put them into the bottle Hartley had grabbed the bottle and started putting the small straws into the bottle himself. Sometimes babies really do amaze me!
You really can use anything, make ones that also make noise when you shake for an even better sensory experience.

Sensory Rail/ sensory baby gym
Another way to encourage sensory play for small babies is to hang different objects from a rail or a baby gym. These objects could include c.ds, spoons, different materials. Young babies will love looking at the objects from underneath whilst older babies can investigate the objects.

Messy Play
I believe messy, sensory play can be done with babies of all ages.
See my link below

Exploring outside
This might seem obvious but there is so much for a baby to explore outside no matter what the season. In spring and summer let your baby lie on a rug or even on the grass, let them feel the grass on their hands and feet. In the autumn Hartley was fascinate by the leaves falling from the trees. In the winter I let Hartley sit in the snow, touch it with his hands. When babies are able to crawl let them crawl on grass and mud and let them explore and investigate!

 We started taking Hartley swimming at about 12 weeks old but actually NHS advice is that you can take them anytime after their 6 week check up. We always loved taking him swimming as it was a family activity we could all do. We got Hartley a wrap around wetsuit so he didn't get cold. In the summer have a paddling pool in the garden so your baby can splash and explore the water.

I took Hartley to an aquarium for the first time when he was about 3 months old. You might think a little baby wouldn't get anything out of going to an aquarium, however he loved watching the movement of the fishes and was totally fascinated.

We also took him to the zoo when he was about 5 months old again he loved watching the animals especially the monkeys and penguins which he could get close to. The zoo is a total sensory experience with different smells, sounds and sights.

You might not think a young baby needs to go to a playground, however I have been taking Hartley since he was a few months old.  To start with we sat on the swing together and watched other children which fascinated him. I was the crazy mum letting her 4 month old play in the sand pit, but he loved how it felt on his toes. When he could sit, I let him sit on the roundabout and sit in the baby swings which he loved. I would also usually take a ball so we could roll it to each other.

What you have to remember is things that seem ordinary to us are simply amazing to a baby. They are experiencing everything for the first time and it is magical to see the world through their eyes.

Hartley's Birthday Treasure Basket

Birthday Treasure Basket

As its Hartley's Birthday next week I thought I would make him his very own birthday treasure basket.
In it I put;
Sparkly shredded paper
a party hat
some party blowers
some party streamers
a 'one' birthday candle
a birthday badge
birthday wrapping paper
birthday bow

You could put anything birthday related though.

Play Dough

Play Dough

We have just started playing with Play dough as Hartley has stopped put everything in his mouth all the time. He still does occasionally but all the ingredients are edible and its so salty that he doesn't do it again!

Play dough is very easy to make here are a few of the recipes I use

Cooked Play Dough:
* 3 cups of water
* 3 cups of plain flour
* 1.5 cups of salt
* 3 tbsp of vegetable oil
* 2 tbsp of cream of tartar

* Put all the ingredients in a pan and cook over a low heat, stirring frequently. 
It will start to come away from the sides of the pan and make a ball. Turn off the heat when it seems dry enough. When cool enough knead until it is soft and smooth.

No-Cook Play Dough:
* 1/2 cup of salt
* 2 cups of plain flour
* 2 tbsp oil
* 2 tbsp cream of tartar
* 1.5 to 2 cups boiling water

* Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl then knead it until it becomes smooth. 

To make your play dough even better  add food colouring or scents.

You can add all kinds of things to make play dough more exciting. At the moment we are keeping it quite simple with cutters and rolling pins. I also added some cake cases, pom poms and straws. 

Strawberry and Chocolate Play dough

I decided to make strawberry and chocolate flavoured play dough for Hartley's party so that the children can make their own play dough cakes.  The Imagination Tree has lots of ideas on how to make lots of different, wonderful play doughs. 

To make the Chocolate dough I just added half a cup of cocoa. It smells really lovely.

I didn't have any pink or red food colouring so decided to use strawberry jelly crystals this not only made the dough a lovely pinky colour it also made it smell lovely.

I am also going to add cake cases, candles, sequins and pom poms so the children can make really beautiful cakes.


Treasure Baskets

Treasure Baskets


Young babies do not actually need lots of shop bought toys. Have you ever noticed that a baby is happiest playing with objects that are found around the house like spoons, keys and wallets! 
A treasure basket is just that a basket full of treasures that are either natural objects or objects that are easily found. When Hartley was younger his most loved 'toy' was his treasure basket. The key is to change the items around often so the babies never get bored.

Here are some ideas for different treasure baskets

Shiny Treasure Basket
- shiny paper
- whisk
- c.d
- make up brush
- keys
- shiny lid
- silver ribbon
- make up compact and mirror

 Household Items
- brush
- whisk
- wooden spoon
- rolling pin
- egg cup
- beads
- coaster
- bath scrubber

Wooden Items
- spoon
- egg cup
- rolling pin
- Buddah
- worm

Material Basket
- shiny paper
- ribbon
- fur
- scarves
- bubble wrap

Natural Objects
- Fir Cone
- conkers
- shell
- leaves
- stones

More household items
- wallet
- gift box
- purse
- keys
- paper roll
- coaster

 Some of these objects might not be seen to be suitable for little babies however treasure baskets should be played with an adult.

Use objects that are suitable for the age of your baby. Never leave your baby alone with treasure baskets if they contain small items or long piece of ribbon or anything else unsuitable.

You can also make themed Treasure baskets. Here is a  Christmas basket we made.
In it I put;
A small Santa hat
A small snow globe
some bells
decorations made from different materials
wrapping paper

Hartley's Birthday Basket

In his birthday basket I put;
Glittery shredded paper
party hat
birthday badge
some blowers
a '1' candle
gift box