I love March. I love March because of daffodils, daylight at tea time, the whiff of spring on the air – and because it’s my birthday month.
I am like a child when it comes to my birthday, getting a little bit wiggly with excitement as the big day approaches. Even though this year I shall be thirty six – and debating with myself whether this still counts as mid-thirties or if it tips me over into the late-thirties category – I still can’t help smiling at the thought of it all.
This has nothing to do with presents, by the way. While it is, of course, always lovely to receive gifts, I have found myself struggling since I’ve become a mum to come up with anything that I really want.
Actually, let me rephrase that. I’ve been unable to come up with any realistic, tangible gift ideas. There are lots of things I would love to have on my birthday but unfortunately many of them are tricky, if not downright impossible, for my family to provide.
This is what my dream gift list would look like:
- Sleep. Oh, definitely sleep. An entire, blissful eight or nine hours’ uninterrupted sleep. The type of sleep where you wake up deeply refreshed and ready to face the day ahead with renewed vigour. The type of sleep I haven’t had since my pre-pregnancy days, in fact.
- A long, relaxing soak in the bath. With candles. And soothing music. And time to exfoliate and apply a face mask, a hair mask and any other type of mask I can think of. Time to get all wrinkly and prune-like. Failing that, a good long shower would do, one where I am not trying to brush my teeth, shave my legs and wash myself all at the same time, while straining to hear what my toddler may or may not be up to in her bedroom.
- A trip to the toilet without an inquisitive toddler watching – or trying to help.
- A day to potter around the house, when all the chores have been magically taken care of by some little house cleaning elves, leaving me free to do whatever I like with absolutely no guilt.
- Actually, just some TIME would be pretty great.
Ah, the gift of time. Wouldn’t that be the most amazing present of all? I always seem to be running behind myself these days, with not nearly enough hours in the day to do it all. Somewhere in amongst the family time and the seemingly never-ending practical household tasks time, it isn’t easy to squeeze in any ‘me time’ as a mum.
I have got better at it over the last year or so, carving out little portions of a weekend or evening to do something just for me. I’m very lucky to have a husband who does his utmost to help me do that. But with another baby on the way in the autumn, I’m very much aware that time to myself will be at a premium come the end of this year.
With that in mind, maybe I should revaluate my birthday list and make the most of my relative freedom right now. I should be thinking big: a spa day, perhaps, or a weekend visiting a friend, or a night away with the husband. All the things that will be on hold for at least a little while when we are welcoming our second child into the world.
As fantastic as those would be – and I’m definitely going to try to do at least one of them! – my ToddlerGirl has just wandered into view, reminding me how fleeting this period of my life is. In just a couple of years, she has grown from a teeny newborn, completely dependent on me, to a walking, talking, hilarious and wonderful little person. In another short while, she will be at school. My ‘me time’ may be limited at the moment but it is worth it. When I once again have hours of time to waste, I’m sure I will be looking back at these busy baby and toddler years with a pang that they are over.
In the meantime, I will be appreciating every little drop of time I get to myself, whether it buys me a long, hot bath or a day out for a facial.
Emily Gravett is a firm favourite in this house. Her illustrations are beautiful, the stories often quirky and always engaging. As she has produced a special book for World Book Day this year, Little Book Day Parade, I thought she was the ideal focus for my #fiveforfriday links this week, with five of our favourites plus an activity to go with each one.
We’ve had this book since ToddlerGirl was a baby and it’s always gone down really well. It was simple enough for her to enjoy when she was little and, now she’s older, she laughs at the humour in the text and the images. The dogs are beautifully drawn, expressive and realistic, and we like to pick our favourite at the end. Each spread pairs differing types of dogs together – e.g. slow dogs and fast dogs, clean dogs and messy dogs – which is a good way of introducing the concept of opposites.
Activity idea: Make a dog hat with floppy ears
This is a sweet dog-themed activity from Toddler Approved. Take a length of white card to use as a headband and two long shapes to use as ears. Paint the pieces before attaching them; Toddler Approved used a sponge to give a textured effect. You could also use pieces of paper, felt or other material to stick on like a collage. ToddlerGirl loves making anything that she can wear afterwards, so I know this would be a definite hit!
2. Monkey and Me
Another deceptively simple book that can be enjoyed from baby age upwards. A little girl and her toy monkey visit different animals, mimicking their movements. The soft, pencil lines of the illustrations are again wonderfully expressive and I love some of the animals. This is a great book to get active with once your toddler is on the move as well.
Activity idea: Go on a animal hunt
This is a very simple game to set up: hide representations of the animals from the book around the living room or house and then set off to find them together. ToddlerGirl and I also acted out the different animal movements, which provided a lot of silly entertainment for us both! Read more about it in my blog post Going on a Monkey and Me animal hunt.
3. The Odd Egg
This is a very sweet story about Duck who finds an egg to look after. It’s not like all his friends’ eggs, though. It is huge and covered in green spots. The other eggs hatch, one by one, leaving only Duck’s odd egg to go – and he gets a shock when a crocodile pops out! ToddlerGirl loves the ‘creaking and cracking’ of all the eggs opening and finds it particularly funny when the crocodile follows the duck at the end, calling it ‘mama’.
Activity idea: Decorate foam eggs
This is an Easter activity from The Imagination Tree but would work really well with The Odd Egg. Cut egg shapes out of craft foam, plus an assortment of shapes for decorating. Provide water and a paintbrush and let your little one have fun sticking these onto a window. Water activities are, of course, always a winner and ToddlerGirl was in her element with this one! To tie this in with the book more obviously, you could talk about what sort of creature might be inside each egg.
4. Meerkat Mail
This was a great find in the library. Sunny the meerkat is fed up with his life at home with his huge tribe of a family and decides to travel around the world to visit his mongoose relatives. He doesn’t enjoy it as much as he thought he would, though, as he doesn’t quite fit in with his relatives and ends up appreciating all the aspects of his family life at home that he had wanted to escape from. One of the things I love about a lot of Emily Gravett’s books is the creativity behind the entire design of the book, which may go slightly over the head of a younger toddler but older children and adults will really appreciate. This is a perfect example. Sunny sends postcards back to his family and the book is laid out in the style of these, with lift the flap postcards to look at and little touches, such as the photo albums and newspaper clippings on the inside covers. ToddlerGirl may not understand all the clever aspects of the book, but there is more than enough to keep her interest and make this a winner for us.
Activity idea: Create your own postbox and postcards
I covered a tall cardboard box with wrapping paper, cut out a slit to make the letterbox and stuck a sign on the front saying ‘Post’. ToddlerGirl and I then made some postcards together, using pieces of card that I had precut into postcard size. This can be a nice craft activity as you can decorate the ‘postcards’ any way you like – painting, stickers, colouring in, etc. When we first did this activity, I simply wrote family members’ names on each postcard and ToddlerGirl decorated with stickers. We also turned this into a Christmas postbox in December, making Christmas cards to go with it. For ToddlerGirl, the initial fun of the game was in repeated posting and emptying of the ‘postcards’ in the box. Now she is older, I am redoing the cards with her to add a literacy element to the game, to introduce letters and simple words in a fun way.
5. Cave Baby
Another brilliant library find, this lovely book is illustrated by Gravett and written by our favourite, Julia Donaldson. Cave Baby is bored in his cave until he finds a pot of paint and a brush to decorate with. His parents are cross with his artistic efforts, but a woolly mammoth spots them and whisks him off to his home where he can paint as much as he likes! Gravatt’s illustrations are beautiful, with the dark world outside the caves offset by the brightly coloured paintings that Cave Baby produces. ToddlerGirl and I both love this book and it has been taken out of the library on many occasions.
Activity idea: Cave Baby paintings
The perfect activity to go with this book is, of course, painting! A few different coloured pots of paint and a blank piece of paper is all you need – but you could also print out some animal pictures to paint over. ToddlerGirl and I talked about the different patterns Cave Baby made and she had a go at doing some spots, stripes and even zig zag lines before just getting stuck in. The Cave Baby website has a pdf of the wall that you can print out and a dot to dot activity suitable for older children.
I’m happily watching the television when an advert for Sudocrem catches my attention. As a mother gazes adoringly at her little one, the voiceover states: “Babies’ nappies need changing up to ten times a day.” I pause for a moment. Crikey, do they??
I cast my mind back to our early days with ToddlerGirl. No, I really don’t remember changing her nappy that often… Either I was a terrible new mum or nappy changing was the least demanding – and memorable – aspect of adjusting to life with a newborn.
It got me thinking, though. What else have I forgotten about having a baby?
The sleep deprivation I remember well. Actually, I’m not sure I can truly remember what that zombie-like state feels like. I suspect it’s a bit like my memory of morning sickness: I certainly recollect that it was tough but the force of the memory only really hits you when you’re experiencing it again. Nature’s good at that, otherwise we’d probably never do it more than once.
What else? I can recall how surprisingly hard it was to establish breastfeeding, expressing endlessly until it thankfully clicked. How we were completely obsessed with ToddlerGirl’s temperature, waving a thermometer at her at every opportunity, much to my Mum’s amusement. How it felt like she wouldn’t sleep anywhere peacefully but on one of us. How every aspect of what we were doing as parents was talked about and worried over. How amazing and overwhelming it was to be totally responsible for this little person. And, of course, how completely and utterly fascinated we were by everything she did, watching in wonder as she developed week on week.
The rest, the daily routine (hah – I do remember that we didn’t have much of one of those!), the practicalities of life with a baby, that is all a bit blurry now I come to think of it.
When I’m letting my mind skip ahead to the autumn when we have a baby in the house once again, my main focus is on how on earth we will juggle a newborn and a toddler. I think about things like: “Oh blimey, what am I going to do with ToddlerGirl while I’m stuck on the sofa nursing for half an hour or more at a time?!” Or, as I heave my way around Sainsbury’s: “Eeek, what will my supermarket trips be like with two little ones in tow?!” Or, as I collapse into the car exhausted having taken roughly half an hour longer than anticipated to get out the door: “How am I ever going to get out of the house with two children? It’s hard enough with one. I’m going to be housebound…!” Or, as I’m sitting playing with ToddlerGirl: “How will we make sure she still feels loved and secure when she no longer has 100% of our attention?”
Oh, and I’ve also got some vague ideas about the things we might try to do a bit differently this time (sleeping, being the main one).
All the practical baby stuff, though…? I’m taking it for granted that we’ll know what we’re doing in that area at least. Haven’t we already been there, done that and got the t-shirt?
That Sudocrem advert’s got me doubting myself, however. I’m suddenly remembering that, yes, we changed ToddlerGirl’s nappy through the night at every wake up for a feed, which would significantly increase the number of nappy changes in a day. What else has been pushed to the edges of my memory as unimportant information? I may have to start quizzing my friends who have recently had second babies to find out the things that came as a rude reawakening when they were doing it all again.
In the meantime, I am convincing myself that, surely, it’s a bit like riding a bike and all comes back to you pretty quickly when you are up to your armpits in all those nappies!
Alright winter, I’m giving you your marching orders!
It’s around this time of the year that I start to get more than a little impatient for the arrival of spring. Unless I’m very much mistaken – or it’s being a big tease – the new season feels like it is just around the corner.
So, with blue skies and sunshine making a welcome change from the usual rainy days we’ve been experiencing lately, ToddlerGirl and I set off to look for signs that spring is indeed on its way.
We headed over to our local park and were immediately rewarded by finding patches of daffodils dotted around some trees, their tips poking out of the grass. ToddlerGirl went over to investigate further, which gave me a good opportunity to talk about the growing plants (and to be careful not to step on them – or pull them out of the ground in a moment of over-enthusiastic exploration!). I love daffodils, so we will definitely have to check up on their progress over the next couple of weeks.
Hidden amongst the daffodil shoots were a few beautiful purple crocuses. We stopped to examine them and comment on their lovely colour and the delicate lines on the petals before having a quick game of hide and seek behind the trees. There was a LOT of ooey gooey mud to squelch in and ToddlerGirl found some good sticks to poke around with.
Making our way further into the park, a splash of bright yellow underneath a group of bare trees caught our attention. We moved closer and found more crocuses, looking very cheerful in the sunshine. They marked the way to one of ToddlerGirl’s favourite areas in the park, the skateboard ramp. She spent half an hour or so amusing herself by running up the ramps, down the ramps and then up the ramps again, a look of pure joy on her face. “I love running, Mummy!” she called to me, giggling infectiously. The ramps became pretend slides and a skate bar was used as a balance beam.
We could see the playground, with the real slides and balance bars and climbing frames, but the skate ramp provided more than enough entertainment for our morning trip. When the inevitable rain started to fall, we turned towards home, spotting flashes of green amongst the brown, with several plants and trees starting to bud.
I’ve been talking quite a lot about spring to ToddlerGirl lately. I’m not sure she fully understands the concept of seasons of the year (in fact, I’m quite sure she doesn’t!) but she is beginning to grasp the idea that soon winter will be over and we will enjoy something new, with warmer weather and trees and flowers growing. Time to bring out our spring books to help her along with this!
In the meantime, we had a lot of fun on our ‘spring hunt’. The wind may still be cold but the sun was warm. And, best of all, we found many signs that spring isn’t too far off – hooray!
The first present I bought for my unborn baby was a book. As far as I am concerned, they are one of life’s essentials (after the really important things like food, drink, family, etc of course!). I was excited to introduce my child to the pleasures of reading from an early age and was interested to see how she responded to those very first baby books, eyes eagerly taking in the images and listening to my voice as I read and spoke to her.
Reading to my baby has been a very natural thing for me. What I have discovered since becoming a mum, though, is how much more you can do with books for children, using them as a springboard for all sorts of activities. Of course, this works both ways; for children (or parents) not so in love with reading, playing with books is a great way to explore the wonderful world of reading.
With World Book Day taking place on 6 March 2014, this is the perfect opportunity to discover new ways to make reading a fun and regular part of family life. Here are a few ideas for celebrating the day (but, of course, they can be for any day of the year!).
1. Have fun with some book play
Creating a fun activity to do alongside a book is great for extending the value of an old favourite or introducing a non-reader to the joy of books. There are so many different ways to approach this, your imagination is the only limit! If you need some inspiration, though, look no further than Pinterest and the blogosphere for some brilliant ideas. My Book Play board on Pinterest has lots of suggestions; a few for some toddler classics include:
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar – a giant paper plate caterpillar from Classified Mom and a fun feed the caterpillar activity from Two-Daloo.
- We’re Going a Bear Hunt – sensory tubs from At Home with Ali, a great sound activity from Reading Confetti and a fun bear hunt at home from Sun Hats and Wellie Boots.
- The Gruffalo – a lovely outdoor scavenger hunt from Mud Hut Mama and cardboard tube characters from Here Come the Girls.
2. Retell a well-known story using props
Bring a book or story alive by using different props. One Perfect Day has some lovely ideas including Hey Diddle Diddle stick puppets and this adorable Incy Wincy Spider storytelling box. And I love this simple cardboard tube prop to go with Five Green and Speckled Frogs, from Librarian vs Storytime.
3. Dress up as a favourite character
Most children love to dress up; it is certainly a popular activity in our house at the moment! Create a story-book themed costume together, read the book and then see where the pretend play takes you… Simple ideas for book character costumes include:
- Where the Wild Things Are masks made out of paper bags from the wonderful Red Ted Art
- Cardboard butterfly wings from Fun at Home With the Kids, which would go really well with The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Butterfly, Butterfly.
- This no sew skirt from The Imagination Tree, which lends itself to lots of different costume ideas, including the witch from Room on the Broom (add a cardboard tube broom and a witch’s hat), Angelina Ballerina (with some cardboard mouse ears) or any fairy books.
- An easy spider headband from Fantastic Fun and Learning that would be perfect for Incy Wincey Spider or The Very Busy Spider.
4. Get arty
It’s easy to bring books into your art activities:
- Make a mask – this monkey mask from Max ‘n’ Mum would be perfect for Dear Zoo or Monkey Puzzle or find a range of printable animal masks here that will go with lots of different stories.
- Make a bookmark – I love these two ideas for monster bookmarks from Make and Takes and Raising Arizona Kids. Or cut a rectangle of card and let your little one loose decorating it however they like!
- Print a few colouring pages for a favourite story – there is a whole host of free colouring pages available for printing at Activity Village. And, of course, we love The Gruffalo colouring sheets available on the Gruffalo website.
5. Have an audiobook-fest
Audiobooks are a good way to introduce a new book or to bring a familiar story to life. We own the brilliant Gruffalo and Stories CD as well as What the Ladybird Heard, which feature the voices of well-known UK actors including Imelda Staunton and David Tennant. We both enjoy listening to the stories, often putting them on while we have lunch. (They are also very useful for long car journeys!) As we own many of the books featured, we sometimes have an audiobook-fest, piling up some cushions next to the CD player along with a stack of books to follow along as we listen. Try out some audiobooks for free from your local library.
6. Create a book nook
Set up somewhere inviting for your little one to read and play. This doesn’t need to be elaborate – a mat and some cushions, along with a few books in a basket makes a sweet and cosy corner, and a cardboard box draped with fabric makes a great book cave. But why not get into the spirit of World Book Day with a book fort like this one from The Pleasantest Thing or by giving your book nook a theme, like our under the sea, jungle/zoo or cosy autumn book dens.
7. Cook up a book-inspired feast
Use the theme or characters in a book as the basis for some baking or to put together a storybook picnic. Again, your imagination is the only limit but you could try:
- A Very Hungry Caterpillar themed picnic with all the foods the caterpillar eats through the week. Or I love this cute caterpillar sandwich from Frost Me with a tomato head and round sandwiches to make the body.
- Gruffalo chocolate cupcakes from Sun Hat and Wellie Boots
- Monster sandwiches for any monster-themed book (we like Pip and Posy: The Scary Monster and the touch and feel book Little Monster)
8. Set up a simple play scene
Match your toddler’s favourite toys with a book for a simple invitation to play and read. ToddlerGirl had lots of fun recently playing with her toy tractor and a few farm animals, which I laid out alongside a touch and feel tractor book from the library. Or set up a simple zoo scene to go with Dear Zoo; a train track to go with a Thomas the Tank Engine book; various cars, boats, planes and trains alongside Choo Choo Clickety Clack; a bucketful of dinosaurs and building blocks to go with Harry and His Bucketful of Dinosaurs… You get the idea!
9. Dance along to some book-inspired music
Julia Donaldson has written songs to go with many of her most loved books, including The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, What the Ladybird Heard and A Squash and a Squeeze. We have them on our Gruffalo audiobook CD but a few are also available on the Gruffalo website. They are all great fun to dance around the living room too, either before or after we have read the books. We also love many of the Barefoot Books stories and music. A favourite activity is dancing along with the Creepy Crawly Calypso band and ToddlerGirl adores the Animal Boogie. You can find a whole playlist of songs to go with their picture book titles on the Barefoot Books YouTube channel.
10. Make your own book
Put together a homemade book as a fun craft activity with your little one. I made a very simple one for ToddlerGirl when she was a lot smaller using an empty photo album and pictures of different animals, and it is still a favourite of hers today. Or cut pieces of card or paper to use as the basis for your book and print pictures to put inside. They could be of your family, photographs from a holiday or recent activity, nature images… anything that your toddler will enjoy. Or decorate the cover and leave the inner pages blank for a colouring book. For a quick and easy way to bind the pages, follow this example at Mama Smiles and use pipecleaners!
11. Host a picture book party
Combine several – or all – of the ideas above and hold a book party. Invite some friends and their little ones round, or just keep it low key with you and your child(ren). Celebrate a much-loved picture book with food, games, crafts and of course, some reading! For inspiration, check out Rainy Day Mum’s Romping Monsters, Stomping Monsters party.
12. Visit a library or bookshop
Take a trip to your local library and check out as many books as you can carry! I’m discovering new shelves in our children’s library all the time: we started with the baby board books, moved onto to the toddler picture book bins and I am now realising that there are all sorts of interesting non-fiction titles to explore, including books about feelings and emotions, or the natural world around us. There are often other activities going on in the library as well; we have enjoyed colouring in, sticking and, most recently, making shadow puppets. Last year, we took a special World Book Day trip to the library to find books about reading.
Phew, there you have it! So many ways to enjoy books this World Book Day – and every day. What are you doing to celebrate?
You might also like:
- A week’s worth of activities for World Book Day
- Little Bookclub: Love and friendship
- Honey Hill’s Noisy Day – a music activity
You’ve probably heard that reading with your child is one of the best things you can do to help their learning and development.
There have been many studies and reports to back this up, including research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2002, which highlighted that reading for pleasure was the single biggest influence on a child’s educational success. For more information about reading and literacy, see these interesting reading facts from the Reading Agency.
Importantly, the key words are ‘reading for pleasure’. Children need to enjoy reading and be motivated to pick up a book outside of school lesson requirements. But what can we do as parents to help that to happen?
My #fiveforfriday links this week look at some top tips for encouraging children to read, starting from baby/toddler age.
1. Encourage reading through daily activity
This post from Delightful Children’s Books gives five tips for encouraging your child to read. There are some great suggestions for finding books, limiting screen time and making books available.
2. Don’t put your child off accidentally
There are lots of things you can do to raise a reader but what about the things we do that may unintentionally put our children off books? This is a great post from No Time For Flashcards pointing out common ways parents can accidentally discourage reading.
3. Don’t despair if your child won’t sit down to read
If you have a very active child who doesn’t sit still long enough to engage in a book, try these useful tips from A Mom With A Lesson Plan on reading with active kids.
4. Display books for easy access
Making books available for your little one to access by herself helps to encourage reading through the day. This great round up on Babble features twenty ideas for displaying books in your home. I just love the tree shelving in particular!
5. Create a cosy book nook
As well as making books readily available, having a dedicated area for reading can also help to invite your little ones to settle down with a book. These spaces can be cosy or fun, elaborate or simply a mat and a pile of cushions! For inspiration, check out this reading nooks round up from The Boo and The Boy.
Of course, exposing your children to a wide range of reading material is also important. Take a look at my Pinterest boards, Themed Booklists for Toddlers and Toddler Bookshelf, for lots and lots (and lots!) of ideas on what to read with your kids. You might also like to visit our Little Bookclub page for some of our personal favourites, along with activity ideas to bring the books to life.
I wrote a post what feels like a very long time ago now on rainy day play with a ten month old, so I thought it was time to update this for toddler age. It’s funny looking back at what we used to do to keep us occupied indoors. In some ways it’s actually harder with a toddler and in others, much easier. Harder, as they are so active and in need of stimulation; easier, as they are able to do a lot more, so the activities available to us have increased.
Here are our top ten ways to play when it’s too miserable to go outside.
1. Indoor obstacle course
A real favourite for burning off excess energy, and very easy to set up. We simply use whatever we have to hand to make a fun obstacle course for ToddlerGirl to climb, jump, clamber over and balance on. Our top items to use include our three DVD boxes, which make great stepping stones; ToddlerGirl’s little step; our beanbag (usually lined up next to the DVD boxes for jumping onto!); cushions; sofa cushions; masking tape lines to walk along… Basically, anything goes! We also have a cheap, collapsible tunnel that we found on Amazon, which has been well worth the purchase.
2. Dressing up
ToddlerGirl absolutely loves dressing up. I first put a basket together when she was about eighteen months old and it has become a daily activity for her now. Our dressing up collection is fairly eclectic, made up mainly from whatever I could find around the house: lots of different hats; a few pairs of shoes (slippers, swim shoes); some wands (both homemade and bought); bells; bags and an old purse; a little mirror; a couple of ‘proper’ costumes that she has received as gifts. So far, I haven’t actually spent any money on this, yet it has provided hours of entertainment!
3. Playing musical instruments
We have a box of musical instruments that we pull out every now and then to make some noise with. Our instruments include some shop bought ones: a xylophone, tambourine, castanet, various shakers, maracas… And also some DIY shakers and cake tins from the kitchen with wooden spoons to use as drums. We sometimes tie this in with a specific music CD or book:
- Honey Hill’s Noisy Day has been brought home from the library many times for this!
- One of our favourites is dancing with the Creepy Crawly Calypso band
- We are really enjoying Animal Music by Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharratt at the moment
4. Arts and crafts
Doing some gluing or painting is a good way for us to occupy a chunk of time on a rainy day. This can get messy…! It’s taken some practice but I am (mainly) good at containing the mess these days. I put covers on the floor, table and an apron on ToddlerGirl and myself. I make sure that all the things we need are to hand, including some cloths and wipes. I am prepared with a change of clothes if needed. And, most importantly, I am tuned into to ToddlerGirl’s cues for when she is tiring of the activity, having found that this is the point that it can all descend into chaos!
Of course, there are low-mess options too. Pritt Stick makes a good alternative to gloopy glue; sticky contact paper is brilliant for mess-free collages; glitter glue gives all the sparkle and none of the mess of glitter!
Some arts and crafts we have had fun with include:
- Sensory foil painting
- Painting with sticks and apple printing (this was outdoors but could easily be done indoors)
- Making a sticky collage
I have found lots of inspiration on Pinterest (where else!) and have a Creative Play board with some lovely ideas for little artists.
5. Sensory tubs
I probably don’t set these up as often as I should, given how absorbing ToddlerGirl finds them. Again, I make sure I am prepared for any mess with a cover on the floor, a change of clothes and a towel if necessary to hand, and the hoover ready for the clean up afterwards! Some sensory tubs are more likely to be messy than others: I’ve found water and flour/porridge oats the main culprits here, while things like rice/beans and shredded paper are very easy to clean up. I’ve seen some wonderfully creative tubs on Pinterest that incorporate small worlds but, so far, ToddlerGirl seems to get the most enjoyment out of simply scooping, pouring, digging and feeling the different textures. I always add in a variety of tools to aid this, such as spoons, cardboard tubes, scoops, empty water bottles, funnels.
Two recent favourites of ours have been:
- Find the snowmen – a sensory tub with an investigative twist!
- Snowy sensory tub (which I’m only just putting away now, having got several play times out of this one)
6. Pretend play
Pretend play provides hours of fun, all you need is your imagination! Easy ‘ways in’ to pretend play include setting up a teddy bear’s picnic or a cooking station; or using some seats, boxes or whatever to create a bus or train ride. Cardboard boxes make great prompts. They can be boats, beds, baths, transport, cookers, washing machines, castles… In my newly pregnant state, I am also quite fond of anything that can be directed from the sofa! We have been playing doctors, which ToddlerGirl is slightly obsessed with at the moment, going to school (I don’t know where that’s come from!) and, perhaps my favourite, the sofa bus, where ToddlerGirl piles as many toys on the sofa with us as she can and we chug along on the ‘bus’ for a while. Other big hits have included:
- Indoor snow day (this took a little more set up but was so much fun!)
- A witchy play day
- Watery-play – the dry way
7. Loose parts play
I’ve read a lot about loose parts play but, with ToddlerGirl putting everything into her mouth until quite recently, it was only something I did under careful supervision, if we were doing a particular activity. Suddenly, though, I am seeing the value of providing loose parts more freely, as she is beginning to incorporate these into her play, which is opening up a new dimension, keeping her occupied for longer. The phrase ‘loose parts’ encompasses a whole range of items including buttons, beads, pom poms, bottle tops, feathers, pipecleaners, fabric, straws… For more details, see this excellent post from NutureStore on the what, why and how of loose parts play.
ToddlerGirl has been particularly enjoying:
- Pom poms, with paper plates, cardboard tubes, various containers and a spoon to scoop them up with
- Pom poms and building blocks with her toy dinosaurs
- Pipecleaners in a colander to make an alien to fly around the living room with!
- Felt pieces, to make pictures with, roll up into pretend food or presents, or to combine with a toy such as her dinosaurs or little people
8. Moving around to action songs
Another good one for getting moving. We dance and sing to any songs but ToddlerGirl loves ones she can perform the actions to, such as Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes or If You’re Happy and You Know It. Many of these we’ve learnt at various groups we’ve gone to or from books at the library. Her favourite at the moment is to go round and round our dining room table while we sing She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain. We change the words each time to a different action so that we are marching round the mountain, tiptoeing round the mountain, stomping round the mountain, walking sideways round the mountain… You get the idea!! It’s quite good exercise for Mummy too…
9. Playing with playdough
Playdough is a great staple for indoor play. It’s low mess and there is so much you can do with it. I have a few tubs that I bought a while back, but I’ve also had a go at making it and it was pretty easy to do.
- Roll animals out of the playdough, such as fish, wiggly worms, pigs (all the easy ones!)
- Make patterns and imprints in playdough with whatever we have to hand, including forks, feathers, duplo blocks, cookie cutters
- Create playdough sculptures with pom poms, feathers, pipecleaners, sequins – again, whatever we have to hand
- Stick different pasta shapes into the playdough
- Make playdough spiders with pipecleaner legs and googly eyes (or they could be monsters/aliens!)
The amazing Imagination Tree blog has a comprehensive A-Z guide to playdough, which I really recommend for oh so many ideas to keep it fresh.
10. Making dens/book nooks
This is a classic indoor activity that I remember loving from my own childhood. We make dens in the sofa; using a couple of chairs with a blanket draped over; using large boxes; even using our mini trampoline. Basically, anything goes! I usually bring a couple of torches and nightlights down to play with inside the den, plus some books to read and some soft toys to join us. We have also made some themed book nooks which have gone down very well:
There you have it, our top ten ways to play indoors. What would you add to the list?
I am always on the lookout for indoor activity ideas. Take a look at my Pinterest boards for lots of great ideas for keeping your toddler busy when you’re stuck in the house!