Tag Archives: Open ended toys

Setting up a Play Space

We are on Day 6 of RIE Foundations and today was our first real-life parent-infant class observation. It was fascinating to see a basic room set out for play for different age groups and hearing about all the thought and care that goes into the choice and placement of every play object and piece of equipment. If I hadn’t learned anything of how children play and how to interact respectfully with young children previously, then I certainly have now.

RIE class facilitator, Deborah Carlisle Solomon and her intern Michelle were beautiful to watch. Their interactions with the babies and the parents was something I wish everyone could see. Deborah has this calm, confident presence about her which puts everyone at ease.

Play space6 Continue reading

25 Battery-Free Gifts for the Imaginative Child

Do you have a hard time selecting the perfect gift for your children? Over time, I have become much more choosey with the toys I buy for my children. I look for quality and durability wherever possible and I also consider how active or passive a toy is. Magda Gerber used to teach that an active toy makes for a passive child (the toy does the work for the child at the push of a button) and a passive toy (battery-free toy) encourages the child to create the play for themselves.

25 Battery Free Gifts for the Imaginative Child Continue reading

Encouraging Independent Play in Toddlers

Fostering independent play in young children takes time and patience.  Some children are naturally more content with their own company but for others, playing independently can be a struggle, particularly if they have been  entertained frequently as infants or had play done for them in the early stage of their life.

Encouraging Independent Play in Toddlers ~ Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids

Our eldest daughter is like this and it has taken significant and conscious effort on our part to foster independent play skills in her. For the past three years we have been following the advice of Magda Gerber’s RIE Parenting.  We are now starting to see more independence in her play and contentedness to be on her own as a result.

Here are eight tips that have most helped us in encouraging our toddlers to play independently. Continue reading

Our Weekly Play: Week 7

Very little work for me this week (yippee!!) so more time for playing. The weather turned a little chilly here but the sun still shone so we still made our way outside as often as possible. For a long time now I have struggled with letting my girls play in the mud and get dirty. It’s not that I don’t like this type of play, quite the opposite in fact. I love watching the girls go crazy in dirt but it’s the washing and the redressing that I dislike. Dressing the girls (especially my 2.5 yo) can be quite an arduous, long winded process and once it is done I certainly don’t wish to have to keep having that battle throughout the day. So, whilst,  I would normally dress them in very old, already stained clothing etc for playing outside, what about when they have to go out; to a play date or the shops etc? I don’t really feel happy taking them out covered in dirt and mud. So if I know we are going out, the girls are dressed in clothes that are appropriate and it’s then that I loathe to open that backdoor and let them loose into the dirt pit before we go. But now, thanks to a brilliant invention, I no longer need to worry about this!!

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These little treasures arrived here in the post this week and they have completely solved my dirt issues once and for all – Muddlarks. If you haven’t heard of them, I would strongly encourage you to check them out. They are amazing! Simply pull them on the kids as they head outside (straight over whatever they are wearing) and take comfort in the fact that they not only repel water but also dirt!! I literally hosed the kids off when they were ready to come in and then hung them up at the back door. No washing required. In fact, they advise you to wash infrequently to prolong the life of the garment. I wish I had these a year ago. I have no doubt these will be well and truly the most frequently donned apparel my children have. A few of the pictures this week feature our Muddlarks in action. I hope you enjoy 🙂

7 hard v soft

 

7 soft and hard

Lucy explored the properties of materials. Once she had delved through the different components of this invitation, I asked her which materials she found hard and which were soft. At first, she was a little unsure about the concept of these two properties.  She thought the tree blocks were hard but when she picked up the wool she told me it was hard too. I asked her if she thought it was as hard as the blocks to which she replied ‘No mummy, the wool doesn’t make any sound, see!’ *bangs a bunch on the table* She then proceeded to pick up each object and bang it on the table to see what type of sound it made (by this stage she had removed most of the foil from around the blocks and so included it in her investigations). She concluded that the louder the sound, the harder the object. It was lovely to see her thought cogs turning from one simple prompt.

PS: she got much delight in removing the foil from the blocks to discover what was inside. I think she thought it was her birthday with so many presents to open 🙂

7 hammer invitation

With a somewhat destructive nature, I thought this invitation would be perfect for Lucy and I was right. After initially exploring the golf tees, she set right into hammering each and every tee into the floral foam before removing most of them and repeating. It was a great fine motor skill activity.

7 invite to scatter

7 pennys loose parts

Lucy absolutely loves loose parts! To her, these are her ticket to make mess, to run her hands through them slowly at first, gradually picking up pace and to tip and scatter them into far reaching corners of the room. In the past, we have butted heads over her innate approach she has to playing with these little bits and pieces and I have since shied away from using them in her everyday play. Whilst I had thought it would be a lovely opportunity for her to create in a serene way, she always had other ideas for them that never had anything to do with creating (unless you count creating a mess!). But in the recent months I have begun to embrace this quality in her and started to trust that the learning experiences she is gaining from her approach to play in this way is significant to her, for her age and stage. So, this week I set up this invitation to scatter using many different loose parts. I was surprised by the care that Lucy displayed when she initially approached the activity. Furthermore, although she did tip the contents out after about 5 minutes, they all went pretty much into the mirrored tray where she then studied them, stirred them and ran her hands through them for an extended period of time. She eventually added saucepans and pots to create some ‘dinners’ and over the days I left it out for her and Penny to come back to, she has been remarkably restrained and much more purposeful in her play with them. They are still accessible in the play room for both girls and are being regularly revisited throughout the day.

7 Penny playdough

In her new Muddlarks (had to try them on when they first arrived), Penny enjoyed playing with playdough this week. She especially loved poking things into the dough once it was rolled flat. On a side note, I made some beautiful play dough today using the lovely red dirt from the backyard. I will include it in next week’s post 🙂

7 soapy sensory

Muddlarks in action. This lovely sensory play was well received by both girls. These frothy bubbles were easily made by mixing 4 tbs of dish detergent with 1/2 a cup of water and food dye and then blending for a few minutes with a hand blender until soft peaks formed. Add a few pots and pans, cups and spoons and you have a lovely medium to explore and cook up a storm. After most of the bubbles had been emptied into their pots, the girls added bark and dirt to the container and created a big mud pie. They were muddy top to toe but loved being hosed off before they came inside.

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So, I leave you all with this photo of little Penny playing in the dirt pit. Now that the girls are dressed for it, I am going to add a little water to it next week and let them loose. Stay tuned… I look forward to hearing about your week of play. Enjoy your weekend 🙂

Another working week for me but still plenty of time to play, create, explore and discover. I am lucky that my job allows me quite a lot of time to think about activities for my children at home. It’s then just a matter of making it happen when I’m there.

6 sensory invitation

6- exploring cloud dough

This sensory pit was recreated a few times this week as we all loved it. Yep, even me. I am the first to admit that I am not a bit fan of getting my hands in and squishing mushy oats, or goop or even just plain flour. I will do it when my children urge me to but the delight that I show them is not always how I’m feeling inside. Luckily, they are usually happy for me to be a present bystander whilst they explore!! But with the introduction of cloud dough this week, a new side of me came out. I loved the light, soft texture and I found it incredibly soothing to squeeze it between my fingers and make shapes only to see it crumble apart when it was dropped, or squashed. Needless to say, the kids loved it too and the best part was despite feeling messy to play with, it was easy to clean up. This is definitely going to be repeated regularly in the future.

*NB: I halved the suggested recipe and used cooking oil as I didn’t have any baby oil. This worked perfectly for us*

6 testing gravity

A few new houses are being built across the road and we often head over (once all the workman have left for the day) and play in the dirt piles and explore the bits and pieces that are left lying around. On one of the blocks is a fairly big scrap heap and we noticed these large heavy duty cardboard tube scraps under some rubble. We dug two out and carried them home to see what types of play they could be used for. Lucy decided she would like to paint them so we chose some complementary colours together and I then left her to paint away. She asked me to add to her painting so, under her direction, I added some dots in a a few different colours and then left the rest to her. It was one of the first times that I have really seen her take some pride in her work. Maybe because it was something that would have an ongoing purpose and could be useful? These tubes have been used in a variety of ways including as a didgeridoo to make sounds, a megaphone to yell to each other and a telescope to look at each other close up. But the activity that has seen the girls both occupied for significant amounts of time is as seen above. The girls started by sending balls down the shoot and watching them fly out into the basket. Lucy then picked up a stone and asked ‘can this go down?’. I didn’t need to respond with much more than ‘I’m not sure?’. She tested the theory herself and tried all sorts of objects big and small to see which ones went down easily and which did not. She quickly determined that the round objects were the easiest to send down whilst the irregular shapes of her puzzle pieces for example did not flow so easily. It was lovely to hear her talking herself though the project. Not really wanting my input but rather using me as a sounding board for her own rhetorical questions.

6 - Road scene

This road scene did not get as much use as I thought it might. We have had some troubles recently with the girls trying to run onto the road when we play out on the front lawn so I set this invitation up to see whether we could play out the consequences of running onto the road without looking etc. I think I needed to become more involved once the initial exploration had taken place or even from the beginning, seeing as this is such an important issue. Perhaps I will try again but use the scene as a prop to tell a story etc. We may revisit this during the upcoming week.

6 poohstick races

I have such fond memories of having poohstick races with my siblings and cousins when we were growing up. We found a lovely little steam nearby with gently flowing water that the girls could throw things into and then race ahead to meet them as they travelled down. Lucy tested my nerves a few times as she reached in to feel the water but she remained surefooted and confident as I trusted her to know her limits. It helped, also, that the stream itself was only about a foot deep 🙂

6 rosellas

And, finally, my last post detailed a bird project we have been undertaking which has encouraged many birds in our yard such as magpies, house sparrows and crows but no colourful or more exotic birds. Now I know, rosellas are not exactly exotic but this beautiful couple have been to have breakfast and dinner in our backyard for the past three days and we are all super excited! They are simply magnificent to watch, even if we have to stay inside to do so. We had to do a little research to correctly identify them and we are fairly sure they are pale-headed rosellas. I can’t tell you how great this experience has been for the girls and I love the ongoing nature of it. The anticipation of which bird is coming next is thrilling!

Thank you again for taking some time out to read my ramblings. What did you get up to this week. As always, I would love to hear from you. 🙂

Our Weekly Play: Week 5

Lots of photos and not so much writing in this episode of our week in play. We were lucky enough to visit the Ipswich Art Gallery twice this week. There we discovered the Light and Play Exhibition as well as The Wonder of Learning: The Hundred Languages of Children exhibition which detailed the story of Loris Malaguzzi and how the aftermath of World War Two inspired his revolutionary approach to early childhood learning in the Northern Italian City of Reggio Emilia. Each of these exhibitions was so inspiring. I got so much out of the Reggio Emilia exhibit and am now keen to learn a lot more. The Light and Play exhibition drew both girls in immediately and invited them to interact, explore and discover reflections, shadow, projection, magnification and a whole host of other dimensions of light physics. If you live in or around Brisbane I would highly recommend taking your children to see this display. It ends in a couple of weeks and is well worth the trip. Here are a few of the highlights plus a couple of extra things we did during the week.

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This light panel was built into the floor so it could be walked over, crawled over and fully explored. It changed colour every few minutes making all of the objects on top change appearance.

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This simple activity was quite inspired. It was a line strung between two points with pegs scattered along and a couple of baskets full of random objects nearby, ready to peg up. Children could then use torches to shine at the objects and watch as the shadows were cast on the walls. I am going to try to set something like this up at home this week because Lucy was really fascinated with the torch and loved making the shadows.

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There were several raised tables with a selection of objects set aside in bins for the children to add and explore.

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Another light table with mirrors to add a new dimension.

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This table had a webcam that was hooked up to a projector which projected the image onto the wall. The children could explore how objects change in size when projected in this way, although Penny was happy to just stack the cups for about 30 minutes 🙂

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A little triangular house with Mirrors on each side kept Penny enthralled.

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And Lucy investigated with all senses!!

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Back home and we continued to explore the local birds using these laminated cards. Lucy did some matching and recognition with this activity. Throughout the week she was able to identify and name many of our backyard birds.

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Pouring remained a favourite activity for Lucy as she got more adept at pouring from a variety of different containers.

 

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This souvenir from the art gallery was a huge  hit. Lucy loved seeing shapes form in 3D and I am now thinking of some ways to incorporate this into an art invitation. Any ideas?

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Ever thought of bringing your outdoor furniture inside and setting up a playground wonderland in your lounge room? No, me neither! This invitation to play was set up for the children by my dear husband whilst I was at work. The children can’t get enough of it but I am looking forward to having my lounge room back 🙂

So another week has past and for us it was one very much dominated by our gallery visits. I am going to leave you with a beautiful poem written by Loris Malaguzzi who has inspired thousands of people world wide to take the time to listen to our children’s need to play, to create, to investigate and to imagine. It is up to us to foster these inherent qualities in our children so that their inquiring minds blossom rather than shrivel. I truly hope that I can rise to the challenge set by Loris!

The Hundred Languages

The child is made of one hundred. The child has a hundred languages a hundred hands a hundred thoughts a hundred ways of thinking of playing, of speaking.

A hundred.

Always a hundred ways of listening of marveling, of loving a hundred joys for singing and understanding a hundred worlds to discover a hundred worlds to invent a hundred worlds to dream.

The child has a hundred languages (and a hundred hundred hundred more) but they steal ninety-nine. The school and the culture separate the head from the body. They tell the child: to think without hands to do without head to listen and not to speak to understand without joy to love and to marvel only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child: to discover the world already there and of the hundred they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child: that work and play reality and fantasy science and imagination sky and earth reason and dream are things that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child that the hundred is not there. The child says: No way. The hundred is there.

-Loris Malaguzzi Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach

 

 

 

Our weekly Play: Week 4

Play is such a wonderful thing. Play to a child is like work to an adult. It is serious, it is important and it is highly valued. As parents with ‘real’ jobs and ‘real’ responsibilities it can be easy to overlook just how significant play is to a child. While we go to sleep at night thinking about our busy day ahead, cooking, cleaning, getting to work, completing tasks, meeting deadlines, you can be sure that children have just as many thoughts: what am I going to build? Will I be able to master that skill? What am I going to do if somebody takes my toys? Where am I going to take my dolly for a walk in her pram? And the list goes on.

There is no shortage of research that supports the importance of play for children. It helps develop their learning, their creativity, their problem solving and their perseverance whilst at the same time providing them with a sense of accomplishment, joy and fun. I love watching my children play and noting the different angles at which they approach play objects and tasks. I can genuinely see learning taking place on a daily basis and I love that they are in charge of what they learn, when they learn it, and how they learn it. My second job (after being a mother) is a teacher and it has taken me some time to separate my role as a teacher from that as a mother but I have now become more accepting that my children at ages 1 and 2 years don’t need to be taught explicitly. They have an innate desire to seek out learning experiences and are learning the perfect amount for their individual age and stage. I simply try my best to offer experiences and opportunities for learning, through which I hope that they not only develop the aforementioned qualities  but also a love of learning and an inquiring mind.

Having said all that, here are a few snapshots of what the girls got up to this week. We had fewer ‘new’ invitations this week as the girls were happily revisiting ones from last week such as the dirt pit as well as creating their own play experiences 🙂

4 hedge maze

This fabulous arrangement of plants in a garden outside the church we take the girls to for music, provided them with so much fun and excitement that they happily played for ages; exploring, chasing each other and using problem solving to work out how to get back to each other when they ended up split between the rows.

4 sidewalk chalk

Who doesn’t love sidewalk chalks? It writes so easily, is vibrant and is so powdery and textural that children are drawn in by them. We love to play on our front footpath in the afternoon. The neighbours children often join us and the kids love meeting and greeting the neighbourhood walkers that stride past our house each afternoon. This week I brought out the sidewalk chalk for them to use to brighten up the footpath. Penny was so taken by them that she settled herself into a comfortable position on the footpath and proceded to draw, place the chalk sticks in and out of the tin, explore the powdery consistency by rubbing her drawings after she had drawn a line.

4 shared drawing

I came across this little table in a local op shop and immediately thought of the possibilities for the children and with its overly cheap price tag it didn’t take much to convince me to buy it. It was an instant hit and has been used regularly all week as a drawing table, a step to get up on the higher table, a platform to jump off and a table to eat from. I love seeing my daughters bonding, learning to share, cooperating and negotiating over this versatile table.

4 car washing

Despite being in the middle of winter here, we have been enjoying some unusually warm weather this week. Now, our car used to be my husband’s pride and joy but with the arrival of two children in quick succession not only has the car been relegated from the garage to the driveway to make way for a childrens play room, it has gone from having a weekly clean to a biannual clean!! This week it was bath time for the car and the kids had so much fun helping us do it that I think the poor old car might get some attention a little more often now. The girls love to be helpful and this gave them a fantastic outlet to play in water and bubbles whilst utilising a gross motor skill and feeling authentically useful. The only minor issue we encountered was that Lucy continually wanted to tip the water out to watch it run down the driveway. 🙂

4 Lucy pouring

This was one of the few invitations I set up this week. Not only was there limited time to set them up, I found that the girls seemed happy to find their own play ideas especially as the weather was so good and we could get outside. The girls really enjoyed this little pouring activity though. Lucy has just started asking to pour her own milk and drink from a cup without a sippy lid etc. so I wanted to tap into this interest and I thought this might help build her confidence in this area at the same time. She really enjoyed the funnels although it did take her a while to work out what they did. She would pour the water into it and then suddenly realise that it was coming out the bottom into nothing. We went through a few containers of water before she made the connection.

4 Penny pouring

I simplified the invitation for Penny and found that she was initially more interested in the cups themselves and placing them on and off the tray. She had a few attempts at pouring the water into the cup but kept tipping the empty cup up and leaving the full one down. Lots of spilling but I loved watching her brain tick over as she tried to work why it wasn’t working.

So that was a snippet of our week. I hope you had a lovely week with your children and as always I would love to hear from you or answer any questions you may have.

Our Weekly Play: Week 3

It has been a busy week here as I had to work four of the five working days meaning Lucy (2.4 years) and Penny (1.3 years) were in daycare for three days this week. On weeks like these I always feel particularly guilty for not spending much time with the girls so I try to make up for that by being extra present with them when we are together. We nearly always (weather permitting) go to the park when I pick them up from daycare and run off any ill feelings that may have crept in over the course of the day. It has become a favourite time for the girls and I as we explore different parks around our beautiful city and seems to make the guilt of leaving them in care for the day somewhat lift.

3 Lucy tractor

Because anything that’s not working, Daddy fixes 🙂

 

3 Penny park

I love the tranquil nature of my one year old. She seems to take the time to stop and absorb all around her, fully examining and investigating everything before she is satisfied to move on. I often wonder whether this is just her personality or whether it can be attributed to her RIE upbringing. She has never been made to rush through a playground or plopped on one object after another but rather left to determine what she would investigate, when she would investigate and for how long. When she was much younger this often meant she literally hung around just one very mundane seeming piece of equipment, content to use it in her own way and in her own time. I never found this ‘boring’ to watch as some people complain. It was always such a joy as her Mum to see her little cogs ticking over as I picked up the deep thought processes she was going through in this time.

3 potato peeler

I have always been fascinated by the Montessori approach to learning and although I am by no means a fully committed participant, I am beginning to take on more and more of its philosophies in the girl’s daily routines. Apart from the enormous developmental and learning benefits it provides the girls, I made a conscious decision recently that for sanity sake I was far better working with the girls than against them. So now when they are pestering me and hanging off my legs at dinner time, instead of trying to redirect them to their toys or use the TV, I put them to work on a task suitable to their age and stage to help me get the dinner done. Penny is great at pouring and putting things into bowls or on plates etc whilst Lucy enjoys the physical tasks such as peeling, grating or chopping. It has certainly reduced the stress levels around meal times and we all really enjoy working cooperatively together.

3 Penny bakes

Penny is just over one but still enjoys being involved in helping with daily chores. Both girls routinely help me unload the dishwasher in the morning and then load the dirty breakfast plates afterwards.

3 cutting watermelon

Lucy cuts things for me everyday using both sharp and blunt knives and we have never had a cut finger (touch wood). It always amazes me that her sense of self preservation kicks in here and prevents her throwing the knife or using her frantic hands that she frequently uses in most other tasks.

3 shaving cream bath

Penny rarely gets to engage in creative play by herself. Lucy will often do painting and craft activities whilst Penny in sleeping and if the girls both do it together, before long the activity is being monopolised by Lucy with Penny regularly having her paintbrush taken or swapped or directed to try something different to what she is doing by her big sister. This can be incredibly frustrating for Penny who, as I mentioned before, is quite deliberate in her actions and seems to have certain plans and goals of her own that she can not verbalise and is not quite strong enough to follow when these alterations to her schedule occur. So, I decided to give Penny a chance to express her creativity freely this week by giving the girls separate baths and giving each of them their own tray of shaving cream paints and brushes to use as they’d like. I believe I could have left Penny in that bath until all heat had dissipated and her lips were blue from cold. She loved it! Will definitely be figuring out some more ways to allow her some independent craft and paint time in the future.

3 dirt pit

I decided to incorporate some dirt play in the girl’s play this week. I had read a quote somewhere recently which stated simply ‘A dirty kid is a happy kid’. This struck a little cord in me because I know my children are happy playing in dirt and getting as messy as they can. Normally, however, they are trying to do it as we walk through a park or are on our way out somewhere and they start digging in someone’s garden which can often be stressful as I worry about them pulling up plants etc as they explore. So as I mused over this during my lessons supervising in a high school, I decided to set up a dirt pit in the backyard, dress the kids in their Sunday worst and then let them go for it. I was then really sadly shocked that my completely destructive and messy two year old played in the dirt for about 5 minutes before asking to have her hands washed. She started to get quite concerned about the dirt that was on her hands and feet. It made me think that maybe I have been a little restrictive in allowing them to get dirty over what has been a pretty hectic period of time here. I am determined to keep this dirt pit going and let the girls break through all hesitations and become complete dirt monsters. I’m on the lookout for a mud kitchen at an op shop that I could use as an accompaniment to the dirt pit.

So… an interesting and revealing week here. I am really enjoying this blog series at the moment. It is making me really analyse the girls’ play and look more closely at how I can tailor it to their personalities as well as their interests. Thank you again for following and as always I’d love to hear from you or answer any questions you may have.