Monday, 28 September 2015

Dinosaur sensory play

I have seen lots of really great dinosaur sensory play ideas over time.  As I have recently been blogging about messy play and Autumn ideas, I thought I would share a great idea for a dinosaur sensory play tray that I have put together relatively cheaply using things only from around the home.

In order to do this I made this one in my home instead of my work environment, setting myself a challenge to only use everyday things I could find to make the play as sensory as possible!

So here is what I came up with and I am going to show you what I used along the way.......

Considering my children are teenagers now, I think it's pretty good, proving that you don't have to go out and spend lots of money on play items.  I have kept hold of the dinosaurs and the back mountain prop from when my boys were little as you never know....I may one day have some lovely grandchildren and be able to recreate this for them?

So I started off looking for a tray I could put everything don't have to include all the items in the picture above.  You can make it work on a smaller tray that you might have in the kitchen.  I decided to use the shoe tray I had by my back door.  When I originally purchased this for the shoes, I knew it would come in handy for a whole range of activities and only cost me a couple of pounds from a store such as 'Pound-stretcher' or 'B & M bargains'.

Next I looked through my material stash where I keep off cuts of anything I think will be valuable to use for playing with.  I found some shiny orange material which I thought looked a little bit like lava from a volcano, (perfect for dinosaur play).  I also found some green plain material for grass, which I laid down on the tray first for the overall effect and some sparkly blue material for water ( which you can see in the pictures).  Always think twice before throwing clothes out.  If they cannot be recycled for whatever reason, then think about the fabric and how it can be reused.

I went into the garden to find some leaves, which as we have just entered into Autumn have already started to fall.  I then placed them by the orange material so it looked a little like they were burnt, being too close to the lava (brown leaves).

I also cut off a small branch from the apple tree in the garden to make a mini tree for the tray (Seen in the first picture).  I am not recommending that we encourage children to break off branches, however there are many natural items we can use at this time of year including acorns and pine cones.  My apple tree is soon to be pruned and so the branches will end up being made into wood pulp anyway.

For a lake for the dinosaurs to visit, I used the blue sparkly material I mentioned earlier.  To this I added blue feathers and a selection of blue buttons in various sizes and textures.  I am somewhat of a button hoard...I just love them.  There is so much you can use them for.  The feathers are left over from when my boys were younger and we used to use the craft cupboard a lot.  I definitely think that the dinosaur below is smiling because he is now nice and cool!

I also added some real water using the lid of a cooking pot.  I would have used some blue food colouring to add to the effect, but as I didn't have any and the challenge was only using things from around the home...natural coloured water was perfect.

For the stepping stones I used some of my cotton wool pads from the bathroom.  This also adds to the sensory side of the tray.

To add a sparkly effect for another grass area, I found a bag of sequins in various shades of green as well as various sizes.  I poured these into a shallow saucer to not only contain them but also to make another sensory area to add to the play.

Dinosaurs love I made a sensory mud area for them using drinking chocolate powder and water.  I made this mud quite thick for them to bathe in.  The smell was amazing!  Remember you don't have to use the best chocolate drinking powder in the house for this.  Value drinking chocolate is just as good for sensory mud!

The last thing I added was a gloop pool.  There had to be somewhere where some of the dinosaurs might get stuck.  I poured corn flour (used to thicken gravy) into a container and added water slowly to achieve the right consistency.  This then became the gloop.  Fabulous stuff.  Hard to pick up and then runs off your fingers.  This little dinosaur loved it even though he did get stuck!

Why not set yourself the challenge and see what you can come up with using items only from around your home.

Monday, 21 September 2015

5 little speckled frogs

This week I am working on the song five little speckled frogs.  I made the following prop to use in my groups as it is a really good one which they can use with their parents / carers to sing with, develop language and listening skills as well as to develop their counting skills going down from five to none.

Please note this is not my idea but one a colleague shared with me.

You will need:

  • A kitchen roll tube
  • Brown fabric to cover the log
  • A glue gun
  • Laminating pouches
  • Laminator
  • Frog template - small enough that they fit onto the log
  • Two lilly pad images for the ends of the log that will be glued on
When laminating the frogs and cutting them out make sure that you cut a long strip of the laminated plastic so it fits around the log and can be stapled to the frogs body, making sure you leave enough room for each individual frog to be able to be pushed backwards or forwards off the log.

This song prop has proved to be a big hit.

Round and round the garden

A nursery rhyme I have been working with last week with the families and children I work with is 'Round and round the garden like a teddy bear'.

The children love the anticipation of when they are going to be tickled.  We sang it with the children using their hands and then their feet before we made our very own round and round the garden song prop to take home.

You will need:

  • A paper plate or card cut into a circle
  • A4 piece of cardboard to make a strip which will attach to the back of the teddy to make it stronger and the middle of the plate with the paper fastener.
  • Printed pictures of flowers 
  • Pens, pencils, crayons etc for the children to draw their own
  • Glue
  • Printed picture of a teddy bear or a hand drawn one
  • Paper fasteners x 1
  • Lolly pop stick (optional) to make the card strip stronger)
As you can see I have laminated mine to make it last longer but you do not have to.

Sand play

Playing with sand can be therapeutic for children and can provide many learning opportunities.  You don't need to buy a sand pit - try filling an old tyre with sand or even an old washing up bowl or baby bath.

image and more information from:

image and more information from:

You can provide a variety of containers, small world toys and mark making items such as sticks and brushes to encourage exploration, imagination and hand- eye coordination, buckets and spades, empty plastic bottles, the list goes on.

Many everyday items can be used as moulds and children can have lots of fun making different shapes and patterns in the sand while building the strength in their hands.

Try hiding objects in the sand that are different colours, shapes or different animals.  

Dry sand and wet sand behave in different ways so children will have different experiences when playing with both.  

Wet sand:

Children enjoy making patterns in damp / wet sand.  They can explore pattern making and mark making with a variety of everyday items as well as their fingers / hands.  You can also add vehicles for making tracks in the sand, pine cones which make great patterns and are free to pick up.  You can also add different sized combs for different effect patterns as well as different sized sticks.  The list goes on...

image and more information from:

Dry sand:

Dry sand on a tray is a great opportunity for children to develop their mark making skills with too.  Children can use their fingers or small brushes or sticks to practice making marks or practicing letters or numbers.

Image and more information from:

Sand play is also good for children's social development when more than child is playing.  They also learn about sharing, turn taking and cooperation. 
Be safe!

Sand kept outdoors needs to be kept covered to stop cats using them as litter trays.

Let your child know it's ok to get dirty....

Children need to know that it's ok to get dirty.  Sometimes we can be too quick to get the wet wipes out to clean our children down.  This means that they don't always get the opportunity to experience being dirty or how things feel, e.g, sticky jam etc.

Many of us don't like the thought of messy play as we like our houses to be clean and tidy. However mess can be controlled and if you join in with the play with your child, children will see you having fun too and from this will know that it is ok to get dirty.

Washing up bowls are a great item to contain messy play as they are deep enough but not too deep for your child to reach into and have fun.

Old shirts / blouses are a great item that can be used as an apron for young children as they can easily be washed.

The outdoor environment is another great place for messy play to take place and the rain or hose pipe can easily wash it away.

The bath is another great place for messy play. Children can have a great sensory experience here as they can really get involved and it will all wash away down the plughole.

Messy play doesn't always have to be about paint or glue.  Have a look in your food cupboards and see what you can find for children to have a new experience.....

  • Sensory chocolate (drinking chocolate and water mix - see previous post)
  • Gloop (cornflour and water mix)
  • Jelly
  • Custard
  • Pasta
  • Beans.....The list goes on

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Sticky mats

One of the best things you can do in Autumn is to go on a scavenger hunt and see what you can find.  One of the best ways to collect and save your finds is to give your child a home made sticky mat.

You can then share your finds and chat about what you have found along your journey.

To make a sticky may you will need:

  • A piece of cardboard (I used an A4 piece cut in half into A5)
  • Sticky backed plastic
  • Sellotape
1. Cut the sticky backed plastic to the same size as the cardboard.

2. You then need to then place sellotape along the topside of the plastic, bending it over so it is taped to the cardboard.

3. You then need to pull the paper away from the plastic toward the top you have just sealed, folding the paper over and sellotape the edges of the plastic all around to the cardboard.  It should look like this:

4. The white paper piece will protect the sticky section until you go on your scavenger hunt to find treasures, which will stick really well to the mat.

5. The treasures can then be covered with the white paper piece to keep the finds protected so that the children are able to take them home and talk about their day and their journey with family and friends.

 Really easy and cost effective to make : )

Goodbye Summer, hello Autumn

Summer has gone and Autumn is here.  I am revising my Autumn discovery box this term with my children.

The discovery box provides lots of opportunities for children to explore the items inside the box as well as develop language and listening skills.  The box is easy to make together and can be led by your child choosing what items to include as this time of the year there are many treasures you can include.

You will need:
· A shoe box or similar
· Paper to cover the box (wrapping paper can be used)
· Printed pictures to decorate (you can use old magazines or encourage your child to draw picture to make it more personalised to them)
· sellotape
· Glue

Here is a picture of the one I have made:

Items I have included for discussion and exploration include:
This Look, look, look again Autumn book which is full of wonderful images of Autumn.  You can pop something similar in or visit the library to see what books you can find to loan.

I have also included some pine cones.  You could also include some acorns and conkers.

I printed off some A4 size Autumn pictures to include:

You can add lots of different coloured leaves and use them to sing songs with.  This is a song about five little leaves.  You can find the lyrics below:

Five little leaves

Five little leaves so bright and gay,
Were dancing around on a tree one day.
The wind came blowing through the town,
And one little leaf came tumbling down!


I downloaded these lovely Autumn cards from Sparklebox:

They are available in Welsh too to make the box bilingual:

You can also add some soft toys that you can use as song props or to tell stories with:

See what you can come up with for yours.  I would love to share your ideas here : )

Friday, 4 September 2015

5 little T-shirts hanging on the line

This is a lovely little chant I have used for a number of years within my work.  I have no idea who the original composer is unfortunately as I had it passed onto me from another.

I use this often but one of the best sessions I like using it in is routine week.  There are lots of opportunities for language development, listening skills, interaction, fine motor skills when using the pegs to hang the t-shirts on the washing line prop as well as developing counting skills, colour and pattern.

Here are the lyrics:

One little t-shirt on the washing line,
Mummy's hanging washing out because the weathers fine.
She washes one more t-shirt and hangs it u there too,
Two little t-shirts up there for me and you.

Two little t-shirts on the washing line,
Mummy's hanging washing out because the weathers fine.
She washes one more t-shirt and hangs it u there too,
Three little t-shirts up there for me and you.

Three little t-shirts on the washing line,
Mummy's hanging washing out because the weathers fine.
She washes one more t-shirt and hangs it u there too,
Four little t-shirts up there for me and you.

Four little t-shirts on the washing line,
Mummy's hanging washing out because the weathers fine.
She washes one more t-shirt and hangs it u there too,
Five little t-shirts up there for me and you.

Five little t-shirts on the washing line,
Mummy's hanging washing out because the weathers fine.
She washes one more t-shirt and hangs it u there too,
But a gust of wind came along and she had to start anew!

I encourage the children to help peg the t-shirts with the parents.  Then when the wind comes along and blows the washing off the line, the children love the anticipation of where they are going to land.....which is usually on someone's head which results in much laughter.

Great one to sing when it's your next washing day or your little one wants to wash their dolls and teddies  clothes.

Shiny treasure bag

Lots of children love sparkly or shiny items and will spend some time talking about the contents of the shiny treasure bag.  Some shiny items will feel cold,  some will enable children to see their reflections, while others may make a noise such a scrunchy or jingling noise. 

It doesn't have to be a bag it can be a basket or a shoe box.  I use gift bags as they are cheap to purchase and I can store them easily.

You can't predict what children will choose to play with which is what makes using this activity more interesting.  The contents can be changed often too when the children may loose interest after a while of exploring the items.

Here is one I have made recently:

I have included:
  • Silver shiny material which stretches too
  • 3 different textured silver pan scourers, one of which is in the shape of a heart
  • A small wood effect potpourri  ball painted silver
  • A dessert spoon
  • A key with a home made sparkly keying and silver ribbon
  • Various silver / shiny packaging materials
Other ideas include: (Depending on the age / stage of the child)
  • Costume jewellery
  • A mirror
  • Tinsel
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Shiny boxes with lids
  • Small tin lids
  • Visi bottle with silver glitter (see a previous post)
When my oldest child who is now 18 was little, there was a really good programme on children's television called the 'shiny show'.  It was good because it was developed for children and parents / carers to watch together as questions were asked along the way (about what you had been watching).  If you got the question right the characters would say....'give yourself a shiny'. 

I made something similar at this time for my child which housed many exciting shiny items as a reward instead of sweets etc.  The programme also enabled time to be spent together interacting and to develop language and listening skills.

Does any one else remember this programme?

Sensory texture lids

These days recycling is part of our everyday routine.  But it's amazing what we can use from our everyday recycling to make resources to use with our children. 

These sensory textile lids are made from old jam jar lids.  I have added various textured materials to the inside of the lids with some strong glue after washing and drying them.

The aim of this activity is to:

  • Develop an awareness of different textures
  • Describe new textures and develop new vocabulary
  • Match different textures
Some of the key description words can include:

'Smooth, soft, bumpy, lumpy and scratchy'.  How many other words can you think of?

Another really easy, cheap activity to make and keep in a box or zip wallet for children to use time and time again with you.

It can also be used as a simple matching game, matching colours as well as textures.  They can also be used to count with and children of different ages will love not just playing with them but also helping to make them too.

You can also use coffee jar lids or similar items and they don't all have to be of the same size.

Home made song puppets

Today I have been updating some hand made song puppets that I made a while ago.  Hand puppets to use as props to sing with can be pretty expensive to buy in some places and usually only go with one song.

The idea I am about to share with you to make your own, is not only cheap and easy to make but can be amended to use for many songs and changed often.

Items needed:
  • Exfoliating glove (really cheap to buy as a pair to use in the shower so you can make two lots and give one to a friend or family member)
  • Strip of Velcro (amount will depend on how many characters you are making to go with your different songs).  You are only going to use one side of this Velcro - the rough side that will stick to the glove)
  • A glue gun or similar strong glue to glue the velcro to the characters
  • Song characters printed off.  (Using your search engine, type in what characters you would like to use.  I used the following ones; aliens and a world for five little men in a flying saucer, ducklings and a pond for 5 little ducks, monkeys and a bed for five cheeky monkeys jumping on the bed, green bottles and a wall for five green bottles and green frogs and a log for 5 little speckled frogs
  • Laminator to laminate them to make them last as they will be put on and pulled off the glove.  (If you don't have a laminator use cello tape and cover the front and back before adding the Velcro)
I previously purchased blue gloves as they can be used for the sky, sea, ponds etc.  Green ones are great too, although obviously you can use any colour.

 Images of the characters I looked up and printed for my choice of songs:

Here is my five cheeky monkeys jumping on the bed, which can be placed either way; at the top of the fingers so you can move them to make it look like the monkeys are jumping or lower.

When singing the song and the monkeys have fallen off the bed, you can pop them on to the back of the glove for safe keeping.
Now there are no more monkeys jumping on the bed!


The Velcro does not need to be cut into large pieces before being glued to secure the characters to the glove:
The other song characters used; Five little speckled frogs

Five green bottles standing on the wall:

Five little ducks went swimming one day:

Five little men in a flying saucer, flew around the world one day:

The list is endless......