Farm sensory tub

Create a sensory tub with a farm theme for tactile imaginative play for toddlers and pre-schoolers…

Farm sensory tub

This was a very easy activity to set up, using our trusty storage box and a mixture of dried rice and lentils leftover from our baking sensory tub. Into this, I added a selection of farm animals, both plastic and wooden, plus a few props such as tractors, fences, trees and a Happyland building to represent a farmhouse/barn (it was actually a toy shop but we used our imaginations!).

To add to the sensory element, I also included some scoop scissors and an old Quality Street tub, so that ToddlerGirl could do some scooping and pouring. These were the first things she reached for. She loved using the scissors, spending some time transferring the rice and lentils out of the tub and back in again.

Farm sensory tub scooping and pouring

She then moved onto playing with the farm pieces themselves, making a little henhouse area using the fence and some wooden blocks, then adding a path from this to the house using some old milk bottle tops. The farmer and his family made several trips along the path and back again, checking on the animals along the way.

The animals were buried under the rice and lentils before being crammed into the building because it was apparently a bit chilly and a big storm was coming. Once safely inside, ToddlerGirl grabbed handfuls of the rice and dropped them slowly over the house: “Pitter patter, it’s raining!” It really did make a good rain sound!

Pretend play with the farm sensory tub

ToddlerGirl enjoyed playing with this for a good hour or more. The combination of sensory and small world pretend play was a real winner. Given how much she enjoys them and the amount of play they generate, I really want to do more of these simple sensory tubs this year!


Homemade hot air balloon for toys

A DIY hot air balloon toy made from recycled packaging for hours of pretend play!

Little Miss A came home from preschool the other day determined to make a hot air balloon. I’m not sure where she got the idea from, whether it was in a book or something they’d been learning about but she was quite obsessed, talking about it all the drive home!

“I was having a good idea, Mummy,” she said as I got her out of the car. “I can make the hot air balloon with my pink muzzy and tie it on my broom handle.”

I took Baby E up for her nap as soon as we got in but the husband reported that Little Miss A did indeed try very hard to make a hot air balloon using the broom handle and her material, getting a tad frustrated in the process when it didn’t go according to plan!

I came back from putting Baby E down to find that Daddy had stepped in and suggested using an actual balloon. This met with Little Miss A’s approval and he had found a balloon plus an old Ella’s Kitchen packet to use as the basket. The result was a very cute hot air balloon, perfect for a selection of her small toys.

Homemade hot air balloon for toys

She flew them round the living room several times and told me they were going on holiday to Africa.

“It takes twenty years to get there, Mummy.”

We decided to recreate the plains of Africa on our dining room floor using a selection of our Happyland and wooden animals. Well, it was a fairly loose recreation: the lion and giraffe were friends who lived in the same cave and the elephants had an entire house with beds… But it made for a whole afternoon of entertainment.

Eventually, all the animals piled in the hot air balloon to go to Spain. That journey only took eight days.

I love watching Little Miss A at play, especially seeing her imagination at work. It’s a wonderful thing to behold. The homemade hot air balloon led to hours of fun and has been returned to many times during the week with various different toys enjoying flying around in it! Sometimes the simple things really do provide the most play value!

Playing in hay

A playbarn full of hay = some great sensory and pretend play!

Do you have any ‘go to’ places that you like to visit with your little ones? I have a few, although they have been under revision since having Baby E as I haven’t been sure if I could navigate them with two kiddies to worry about! Nearly eight months down the line, however, and I am gaining enough confidence to widen the net on our days out…

It’s great to rediscover old favourites – and even better to find that they have new and interesting spaces to explore. One of our local favourites has created a brilliant covered ‘playbarn’ area, with cheerful farm-themed murals along the wall, a generous variety of ride on tractors and cars, some trailers, wheelbarrows, brushes and – the very best bit – LOTS of hay!

This, it turns out, is a sort of playing seventh heaven for small children, including my own. Little Miss A was really excited to get stuck in, while Baby E found the whole thing absolutely fascinating.

First, Little Miss A gathered great big handfuls of the hay to fill a handy wheelbarrow…

Moving hay

Once the hay had been piled into the wheelbarrow, it was time to move it to the other side of the barn and dump it out all again.

Dumping hay

Then came the serious business of ‘feeding’ the animals…

Feeding the animals

Farmer Baby E supervised the whole process from her dinky little tractor!

Supervising on her tractor

The pretend play continued for a while, with Little Miss A filling and emptying many, many loads of hay in her wheelbarrow. This was obviously a major draw, judging by the other children absorbed in doing the same thing!

After a while, the sensory lure of the hay proved too much and she ended up sitting on the floor, ‘burying’ herself in it. (It was pretty much just my child doing that…)

Baby E was equally as struck with it, enjoying the feel of the hay under her fingers and, of course, trying to grab whole handfuls to put in her mouth!

Exploring the hay

With UK weather being what it is, it’s wonderful to find a covered area that still allows for great fun outdoor play. And the hay clearly provides for hours of fun!

Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

The joy of running

Finding great outdoor spaces for racing and chasing in the spring sunshine…

The joy of running

There are a number of things that Little Miss A does that seem to be an ingrained part of her personality. One is her love of running. It started pretty much as soon as she was walking and she’s been a speedy little thing ever since.

We’ve had lots of running around the living room, more often than not kitted out in a special ‘costpume’ consisting of running shoes (could be her slippers, could be her jelly shoes), a pink winter hat with flaps over the ears and sometimes goggles.

There’s only so much sprinting you can do in the house, of course. Better still is when we can find a big wide space outdoors and let her run free. The look of pure happiness on her face never fails to make me smile. It’s running for the sheer joy of running and the exhilaration and sense of freedom she feels is infectious.

We found two brilliant places for running this month.

The first was at a nearby National Trust property. As we wandered around, we came across a huge circular croquet lawn enclosed by tall hedges which made a perfect running track. This proved irresistible for Little Miss A, who ran all the way round a couple of times before challenging Mummy to a race. We both giggled madly as I chased after her. Puffed out after a few laps, I realised a) how unfit I am! and b) how much fun running can be, understanding some of the appeal to Little Miss A.

The second location is in our local park, at her current favourite play area there, the mud mounds. I’ve written about these before: small hills of compacted mud, that make an ‘offroad’ track for older kids to scoot or ride bikes around. We love them simply as an interesting place to explore. They were great when Little Miss A was mastering walking, challenging her balance as she navigated up and down the inclines. Now she has discovered that they are brilliant for running on!

The space is large enough to have a good sprint around and contained enough to be able to do laps…

Running track

There are gentle slopes alongside slightly steeper ‘hills’ to be scrambled up…

Running up hills

And enough mud and dirt to please my little messy monster girl, perfect for poking a stick in when in need of a break from racing…

Digging in mud

We had so much fun here on a beautiful spring day this week. Little Miss A incorporated some pretend play into her running, telling me that the mounds were her houses and I was the big bad wolf chasing her and blowing them down. She’s been doing the story of the Three Little Pigs at preschool and is fascinated by it. She loved turning this into a game of chase, hiding behind a slope until I had huffed and puffed and blown the house down, at which point she ran to find a new abode. She enjoyed it so much that some details from the original story were amended slightly: “This house is made of brick, Mummy, but the bricks aren’t stuck together so you can blow them really hardly…”

I’m sure Baby E wondered what on earth we were up to, as I pushed her up and down the mounds in her pushchair, running after her sister doing my best wolf growls. (Not to mention the other park users passing by!)


After a good play, we headed home for a snack, eyes shining and cheeks flushed from all the running around. I’m sure we’ll be making our way back there again soon…

Mud Mud Marvellous Mud - Outdoor Play Party

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Pretend play camping

Take advantage of the dark winter evenings and set up a fun pretend play camping adventure in your living room!

ToddlerGirl will often come up with random ideas for games she wants to play. Don’t get me wrong, I love that she has such a great imagination and is able to concoct these ideas, but I do sometimes wonder where the inspiration came from!

Today, she decided that she really wanted to play camping, complete with a campfire, ‘roasting’ (as opposed to ‘toasting’!) marshmallows and turning off all the lights to make a night sky. As I was about to prepare dinner, we made a deal that she if she let me concentrate on that, I’d help her set up her camping game afterwards.

This turned out to be a really fun and lovely post dinner activity. It was easy to set up. Her Daddy used a clear Duplo bucket to make the campfire, lining it with orange sugar paper and placing a torch in the middle to give a sort of flame effect that worked surprisingly well.

We set a few of her toys round our campfire, turned all the lights off and used her sister’s elephant toy to project stars onto the ceiling.

Luckily, we even had some marshmallows in the kitchen, so we chopped a couple up for a teeny taste (as bedtime was looming and we didn’t want a sugar filled girl!) We popped them on forks and pretended to toast them, ToddlerGirl taking it very seriously and BabyGirl on my lap studying the ‘campfire’. We even sang a few songs, although neither I nor the husband could think of any traditional campfire songs off the top off our heads so lullabies had to do!

ToddlerGirl got up to do a special ‘camping dance’ (there’s always a dance involved in her games!) before deciding that of course you can’t go camping without a tent, so we flung a quick den together using a chair, the sofa and a throw. She piled her toys in, while the husband and I leaned back and looked at the stars on the ceiling. There is something very relaxing about turning all the lights off and, sleep deprived as we are, we had to be careful not to nod off!

This was such a lovely and calm family activity, perfect for that after dinner, before bedtime portion of the day. I don’t know what made ToddlerGirl think of camping but it was an inspired choice for a dark winter evening!

Playtime Pinspiration: Baking sensory tub

A great fun sensory tub from The Imagination Tree that is simple to put together and provided us with a whole afternoon’s entertainment…

Playtime Pinspiration - Baking sensory tub

I spotted this idea for a baking sensory tub on The Imagination Tree a little while ago and have had it in the back of my mind since then as an easy activity to do with ToddlerGirl one afternoon.

It was very straightforward to set up. I filled a plastic storage tub with dried rice and lentils and then added some baking themed equipment to play with. I’m not much of a baker but managed to rustle up quite a few items:

  • Flower shaped cookie cutters
  • Wooden and plastic spoons
  • A lemon squeezer
  • A few tin cake pans
  • Some silicon cupcake cases
  • A mixing bowl

The Imagination Tree also included weighing scales, a recipe book, an empty egg carton and an empty flour packet. I didn’t have the flour packet so substituted an empty rice box and then our little flour bottle ‘shaker’ that I made for her a while ago.

This was all laid out on a large white blanket and left for ToddlerGirl to explore.

Baking sensory tub

She was immediately absorbed by it and particularly loved putting the rice and lentils onto the weighing scales. I talked to her a little bit about how they worked and we pretended to do some weighing of our ingredients before adding them to the mixing bowl. We consulted our recipe book to see what other ingredients were needed, adding a shake of flour here, a couple of pretend eggs there – plus some more unusual ingredients for cake baking that ToddlerGirl decided to include, such as carrots, hummus and garlic!

The mixture was placed in the pans and then moved to a corner of the blanket which had become the ‘oven’. When it was cooked, ToddlerGirl carefully scooped it onto plates and we had to ‘eat’ it. This procedure was repeated many, many times! There was a lot of scooping, pouring, weighing, transferring from one dish to another, all narrated by ToddlerGirl as she explained to me what was going on.

When her interest started to fade, I brought out some decorative cupcake picks, which ToddlerGirl enjoyed sticking into the cupcake cases. She discovered that she had to fill the case a certain amount otherwise the picks didn’t stand up on their own and it took a little bit of experimenting to find just the right amount to put in. I always find it’s worth holding back a couple of the play items for these type of activities as it can help to extend the fun and give it an extra lease of life!

baking sensory tub fun

When we’d finished playing, I packed everything away into the storage box so we could bring it out again another day.

This was a great activity with lots of different elements to it: sensory play, pretend play, learning about concepts such as weighing and measuring. Most of all, it was a huge amount of fun for ToddlerGirl. Thank you The Imagination Tree for a lovely Playtime Pinspiration!

Small world aquarium in a box

Turn an old cardboard box into a mini aquarium for small world play for your toddler…

Small world aquarium in a box

After the success of our spring garden in a box last year, I decided to try out another small world idea for ToddlerGirl. I came up with an aquarium in a box as we were reading a lot of books about the sea at the time, so I thought this would tie in nicely!

This was very simple to make one evening in front of the television:

  • I took an old nappy box and cut the top and the sides to open this up for easy access for playing
  • I then stuck coloured paper to this – yellow on the base for the sand and blue on the back and sides for the sea
  • A few wavy strips, cut from green craft foam, glued onto the blue paper were added to give an underwater, seaweed effect
  • I also stuck a couple of bits of green curling ribbon, dangling from the top to suggest more seaweed
  • All other decorations were left loose in the box for ToddlerGirl to explore: more green curling ribbon, a couple of green pipecleaners twisted into seaweed/underwater plants, some scrunched up paper for ‘rocks’ and a small cardboard food box cut down to make a sea cave

Next, I needed some sea creatures, so added a few different bath toys we have, including fish, octopus and starfish.

ToddlerGirl has played with this many times over the last twelve months. I keep it out for a few days at a time, then put it away for a while so that it will have a novelty factor.

It’s been interesting to see how the way she plays with the aquarium has changed during that time. She needed a little more input on the pretend play element to begin with but this year has really ‘got’ the small world idea, making up characters and conversations. I always love to hear her narrating as she plays, it’s just lovely to listen to!

Aquarium in a box for under sea themed play

When we I brought this out recently, I created a whole under sea play corner in our living room as a backdrop. A big cardboard box acted as a cave, with a piece of shimmering blue/green chiffon draped over the top and an under sea theme towel laid out in front. I dotted more sea creatures onto this, plus a wooden fishing puzzle and a couple of related books. This really extended the play and ToddlerGirl returned to the whole set up several times over the week.

Our small world aquarium box also goes really well with our under the sea book nook, or simply paired with some fishy/ocean themed books (see Little Bookclub: Under the sea for some suggestions).