On your marks, get set, go!

The Bean has a variety of toy cars in all shapes and sizes and likes pushing them along the floor and making ‘brmm brmm’ noises. So this is a craft to extend that enjoyment just a little bit further. It is super easy to do but is guaranteed to be a hit with little ones who love anything that moves and like to get messy.

Suitable age: 12 months+

You will need:

  • a variety of plastic toy cars, trains or basically anything with wheels
  • non toxic poster paint.
  • newspaper (lots of it)
  • a large piece of paper (A3 is ideal) or a roll of brown paper – both are readily available at the newsagent or the stationary section of the supermarket.
  • a plastic tray or a baking tray lined with plastic wrap.
Make sure you put down a lot of newspaper on the floor as well as covering your table or high chair( I find sticking the edges down with sticky tape make it harder for accidents to happen!). Also stick down the corners of your paper to the newspaper so it won’t slide around. Place your paint in the plastic tray or baking tray and then roll the wheels of your cars or trains in the paint. Then let your little one race the cars across the paper to make a wheel print. You can try different colours for a great effect. If you do this on a roll of paper, it will also make great wrapping paper once it is dry. To wash your cars, just let them soak in a bucket of warm soapy water and the paint should come off.
The Bean loved this and had a great time running the cars through the paint and onto the paper. We now have a nice stack of wrapping paper to use!

not just a box…

I love the book ‘Not a Box’ by Antoinette Porrtis. So cute, great illustrations and I love rabbits. It reminds me so much of my own childhood, when I would happily transform a box into all sorts of things and happily play for hours. The Bean quite likes this book too, so I thought we might use it as inspiration as an activity this week. This one is super easy and requires only a few things to make it happen so is great for a rainy day.

suitable age: 9 months +

You will need:

  • cardboard boxes of about the same size (as many as you like) – you can get them from the greengrocer or Aldi if you don’t have any lying around.
  • packing tape
  • scissors (adults use only)
All you need to do is take apart the bottom the boxes so that you can connect them. You then tape the boxes together using the tape to make a tunnel.It doesn’t need to be a long tunnel as little ones may become stuck or get scared. This is a great activity for little ones who have started to crawl as well as older ones who like somewhere to hide. You could place favourite toys inside as well.
I found that pushing the cardboard flaps inside the box made it a lot more sturdy. The Bean was a little cautious about it at first and wasn’t completely sure about it. So i went to the other side and looked through the tunnel at him and he thought this was funny, so we played a game of peak a boo for a while. He did eventually climb through it (as you can see in the photo) but was actually more keen to climb on top of it. Still, it took 5 minutes to put together and even less time to pull apart, so I might do it again.

spaghetti-o-splat!

My little one LOVES spaghetti( actually the only food he doesn’t love is tuna). Anyway, he likes to slurp it, hold it up and let it fall onto his high chair table, and throw it on the floor (it makes a very satisfying splat). So, once again we’re combining his love of food with craft! Basically you use cooked spaghetti to make a collage. Very easy and great sensory (and tasty) play as well. If you don’t want make glue, clag is fine.

age suitable for: 1+

You will need:

  • 1 x sheet of coloured paper or a roll of brown paper (both available from the newsagent)
  • 1 tablespoon of cornflour
  • 1-3 tablespoons of water (depends on how runny you like the glue to be)
  • plastic cup or container
  • large paintbrush
  • spaghetti
  • saucepan
  • food dye (optional) – will stain hands for a day or two or you could add 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • small plastic bowl
  • newspaper
cook a small amount of spaghetti for about 10 minutes with 3-4 drops of food dye or turmeric (if using) in the saucepan. Drain and cool then place in the plastic bowl. To make some glue, mix the cornflour and the water in the plastic cup with the paintbrush. Apply glue all over your sheet of paper and then let them throw or drop the spaghetti onto the paper. Make sure you place plenty of newspaper under their table or high chair to make cleaning up easy peasy 🙂
The Bean had a lot of fun with this one! he especially enjoyed throwing the spaghetti and continued to play with it and the bowl after we had finished. It was a quick activity, so good for days when you just want something short and sweet. I found that a little bit of diluted lemon juice mixed with soap did a great job at getting the stains off his little hands.

gloopy goop goop

What baby or toddler doesn’t love getting messy? The simple joy of running their hands through something wet and slimy brings instant joy. My little one loves feeling different textures ( especially anything wet like yoghurt or mushy peas) so I thought I would give this a go. Now I know it’s VERY messy, but I figure that’s half the fun and a little preparation can go a long way. Make sure your child is wearing old clothes or a smock and that you lay down plenty of newspaper if you are inside. This doesn’t keep very well, so it’s more of a one-off kind of activity.

Age: 9 months+

You will need:

  • 1 cup cornflour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • small bowl
  • more water
  • Food coloring (if desired)
  • newspaper or a plastic sheet (if indoors)
  • a plastic table or work area that is easy to wipe down, or a cookie tray.
  • plastic objects such as pegs, spoons, toy cars and balls.

Add the water to the cornflour in a small bowl. Mix it together with a spoon. If you need to add more water, add just a couple of drops (especially after playing with it for a while). Then spread it over the baking tray or plastic table and set out an assortment of small plastic toys or objects to use with the goop.  For children with a gluten intolerance, you could use rice flour instead for a similar effect.

For older children, you could ask questions about what it feels like, is it cold or hot, or what is it doing., and you could get them to help you stir the goop in the bowl.

This was a HUGE hit with the Bean. His face absolutely lit up when i placed him in front of his table. I expected him to play with it for about 10 minutes, but he ended up playing with it for half an hour!  He tasted it, squished his hands through it, drew in it with his fingers, pushed a car through it and used a spoon to scoop it up and then let the goop splatter onto the newspaper on the floor. I’m glad I put down heaps of newspaper on the floor as it made cleaning very easy. I highly recommend having plenty of wipes on hand. Though next time I will put on some old clothes as well as I got covered in the stuff! This will definitely be my go to activity when it’s pouring with rain outside, though I also look forward to taking his table outside in a shady spot in summer. a ten out of ten from the little one!

bring a plate

We get a lot of junk mail at our place. Not just a few things a week, but at least 3-4 a day! It has its uses though. We don’t usually buy newspapers anymore ( don’t have the time to read them) so it has been handy for art and craft to cover the table with and it’s great to put under the Bean’s highchair as he is a very messy eater. But, looking at the ever-growing pile the other day, i thought about how else i could put it to good use (apart from putting it in the recycle bin).

The Bean LOVES food. If you are eating something he wants it too. So, keeping in mind how much he also enjoyed making a collage the other week, I though I would combine the two. This is a great craft for older children as well as you can incorporate teaching them about nutrition, different kinds of food and even use it for imaginative play.

You will need:

  • supermarket catalogues
  • paper plates
  • 1 tbs plain flour or rice flour
  • 4 tbs water
  • large paintbrush
  • jar or plastic cup
  • scissors ( for an adult to use only)
  • (optional) clear contact – for older kids who want to use their plates for imaginative play.
Cut out pictures of different kinds of food. You don’t need to be neat in cutting ( I’m terrible at it). You could have a theme – such as fruit salad or favourite food. Combine the flour and water in your jar to make glue.
The Bean really enjoyed using the paintbrush this time around and also had fun putting his fingers into the glue and tasting it! He was more interested in looking at the different pictures then placing them on to the plate and needed a little encouragement to do so. Once it had dried, we sat down together and i named all of the different types of fruit as well as the colours.
For older children who want to use their plates for play, simply cover the plate (once dry) with a sheet of clear contact cut to the size of the plate.

making your own dye

Now, I know many people would wonder why you would bother making your own paint when there are many great products available that are cheap and non toxic. But the other day I was reflecting on how the Bean used the paint roller activity and his fondness for tasting everything, and I wasn’t happy about him putting the paint near or in his mouth. So I thought, what if you could make your own paint that is safe to eat? It sounds like a great idea – cheap, you know what’s in it and you can make as much as you need. But first i will need some dye.

So I discovered in my local supermarket (Coles) that they stock Queens natural food colouring, in a nifty little four pack. ‘Great!’ I thought. This will be too easy. But then I had a closer look at the ingredients and was a little startled to find that they had a high percentage of alcohol in them. Not so good. I also found out some more about them on the blog lets party.

So I did a little bit more internet hunting and  found 2 websites that sell natural food colourings, though they are a little more expensive. You can find them at Hullabaloo and healthy kidz if this is an easier option for you. I also went to my local health food shop and asked about them. The guy pointed them out to me but said that although they were natural he had no idea if they were organic or if they had alcohol in them, and as they had no ingredients list on the label, they were also a fail.

So, I  thought, ‘Surely there must be a recipe somewhere on the internet to make vegetable based dyes’. And sure enough, there are THOUSANDS of them. So, after reading through some of them i thought i would give it a go and make some green dye using spinach. At least if the dye doesn’t work, I can always freeze the cooked spinach to use later on for cooking. So here is the recipe:

Add 3 large spinach leaves (roughly chopped) to a saucepan and add enough cold water to cover the leaves. Boil for 60 seconds. Allow saucepan to simmer on the lowest heat setting of your stove for an additional 10 minutes. Let the water cool and then strain it through muslin or a wire mesh strainer. You can safely store the green food color in any glass container that has a tight-fitting lid.

The result looks like i have just skimmed some algae out of a pond, but i knew it wouldn’t be a vibrant green anyway. It was pretty easy to make and i would make it again, though i might try parsley as well. I’m hoping to use it in goop, play dough and of course, to make paint. i will be posting about these soon. I’m also hoping to experiment with more colours and would love to make a yellow and a red!

Cream of the crop

Now here is something a little bit different, but was always a hit at the childcare centre where i worked. Sensory play is very important for little ones to learn about their environment and this one is great for touch. It’s very messy, so make sure your little one has on old clothes or an apron or smock. On the plus side it’s very easy to clean up afterwards. You basically spray shaving cream all over a table (one that is at their height and you don’t mind having shaving cream on) and let them squish their little hands in it and push toys through it. It’s great fun and afterwards your table will smell very clean! IMPORTANT NOTE:if your child has skin allergies (ie eczema) then it might be better to go for the second option which i will discuss further on in this post. Also, it is important to teach the child not to put it in their eyes or mouth.

Ideal for 2 years+

So what do you need?

  • Shaving cream (low or no fragrance)
  • a small table
  • cars, balls or rolling pins
  • a small bowl of water (to wash hands in afterwards)
If you don’t have a small table, another alternative is to spray the cream onto a glass window outside. This is great as it also cleans your windows!
For children under 2 years, an alternative is to use is yoghurt (provided they are not allergic to dairy) and let them play with it in their high chair or make up some goop. I will be making goop with the Bean soon and will post about it.