Construction challenge with ice

I have been filling the tuff tray with water every night in the hope that it will freeze over, as I wanted to make a giant version of this Ice skating messy play tray. Today we managed to get a thick enough sheet of ice to play with – first things first we did some stomping to break the ice up.

Then taking care with the pieces we stacked them up to build a structure. I helped with a basic square shape and then Arlo decided to add in an extra room and a roof to the structure before finding animals to inhabit the space.

It was easy enough to stand up the ice as we had a couple of inches of snow to play with and set up on top of a random hay bale we have in the garden . Arlo ran around the garden fetching his diggers and other tools to continue the big build. His major architectural achievement came from adding in a slide for his penguins.

This was the perfect little small world Antarctic which provided lots of outdoor amusement. We ended up getting a couple of bowls of water to create a water slide and then a tiny little jacuzzi for the polar bears before heading back to our ice cream mud kitchen for more outdoor play in the snow. Check out the short clip below to see how Arlo interacted with it all

Ice cream Mud Kitchen set up

We had snow last night and I knew Arlo would want to play outdoors and so I rummaged around the house trying to think about what we could do – and an ice cream station seemed like the best plan.

You will need:

  • Cups / tubs
  • Spoons
  • Scoops
  • Slime/foam for ice cream
  • Water beads for sprinkles

It’s as simple as this to set up….. as you can see it was freezing cold outside so I made up batches of slime and our water beads with warm water which helped keep his hands warm when playing – keeping him outside for longer. Whenever I create a station like this I always make up an example, demonstrating how he can interact with the invitation to play and also because it’s fun to join in.

Arlo has a variety of tools and resources he likes to use in the mud kitchen including a turkey baster, normal kitchen spoons and measuring scoops. I pick things up in the high street shops and supermarkets whenever I get the chance and have found that plastic is best for this just because they are durable if they get left outside and they are also easy to clean. We have had years of use from some of our items.

Arlo found pinwheels in the garden plant pots and chose to decorate his creations and then we had lots of “make believe” play discussing how delicious everything was before eventually deciding that we needed to have some real ice cream and sprinkles indoors.

The slime from Zimplikids and foam from Kids Stuff Crazy were previously provided as PR samples.

Moon and stars water colour salt painting activity

This week at nursery Arlo has been following the topic of “moon stars and sun” which works with the terms overall themes of “light and dark, hot and cold” – so to support this learning I’ve incorporated some ideas in to activities we can do together at home.

This does require a little bit of planning ahead but not too much,

You will need:

  • Card stock (paper is too flimsy)
  • PVA glue
  • Salt
  • Water colour paints
  • Brushes
  • A jar of water

First things first create your shapes on card in PVA glue – I went free hand but you can find stencils or patterns online to print off or trace just as easily – simple ones are most effective for this kind of activity and you can involve the little ones if you wish.

Then sprinkle salt all over the glue and leave it to dry for a while. I have a separate container of salt to save the excess and use it in messy play trays and Science projects to melt ice etc. I like to create two sheets of paper (at least) and for activities like this I sit beside Arlo and work alongside him demonstrating and encouraging.

Once your glue has dried the image should Take on a 3D shape like this and it’s ready to paint.

Our simple set up included a palette of water colour paints and a jar of water. Arlo loves to mix colours and wanted to jump straight in – but he had to remember the process of dipping the brush in to water and then the colour and then the salt. He quickly learn that the more water he had on his brush the more colour he could mix and the better this spread on the salt.

We really enjoyed making our stars and moons rainbow coloured – and even though we had two projects Arlo took over both…. and we had a little happy accident where Arlo knocked a brush mix air and made splashes across his page – but fear not. I described these as twinkle stars and this became a new painting technique and he added some extra colours to finish his masterpiece.

These will be left to dry overnight and then we’ll put these up on display. I’m not quite sure what else we’ll try with this theme but I’m sure we’ll have a busy weekend and come up with some ideas to share.

Arctic indoor sensory bin activity

Continuing on with our Antarctic and winter themed play activities today I decided to make Arlo up a messy sensory bin of icebergs…. but instead of using a tuff tray outdoors I used a storage container which has a depth of about 20cm which is enough to contain the mess for indoor play.

You will need:

  • A storage box
  • Slime
  • Orbeez
  • Various plastic containers
  • Plastic Animals
  • Water

This was an activity which required a little bit of forward planning but because Arlo loves ice I’m in the habit of freezing things most evenings anyway. My initial idea was to just make huge ice blocks but I fancied a little bit of colour and so I threw some left over orbeez from a previous activity in to some plastic cups, cups, ice cube trays and as many containers as I had space for in the freezer.

They freeze quite nicely in to blocks and then it was simply a case of mixing up our slime stuff and popping our icebergs in to the container before placing the animals in and around, and the letting Arlo loose to play.

I know that Arlo loves this slime stuff and playing with water and cups etc as we usually use it in the bath – so I made this mixture up with half the water required and also provided cups and a jug of warm water – this meant that as water was added the ice bergs melted – the orbeez were released in to the mix and we ended up with a colourful sensory experience.

The best thing about using these under bed storage boxes is that they come with lids so after the play this morning we covered it all up, and then came back to it again this afternoon. I like to try and make the most of these big sensory bins when we use lots of materials so I’ll pop this stuff in to his mud kitchen or on his tuff spot outdoors tomorrow for some more messy play fun.

A snow dough tinker tray

Continuing on with our winter themed activities I have made a batch of snow dough, Thai is slightly different to our usual play dough recipe and has a texture which is a bit like kinetic sand. I added glitter and provided Arlo with a tinker tray and invited him to build snowmen with me.

You will need:

  • One cup of oil
  • Two cups of cornflour
  • Glitter

The secret here is to add the cornflour to the oil and not the other way round because it’s easier to mix it all up. Cornflour is the stuff we use to make oobleck and it’s non Newtonian texture means that it creates an unusual dough texture – its crumbly and flaky but makes fab snow balls. I use baby oil but if you have little ones who still mouth things then you can use vegetable oil just as well. Mixing the ingredients together is a part of the fun for little ones so roll your sleeves up together and get stuck in.

For alternative themes you can add food colouring and scents/flavours to your dough to create a more sensory experience.

I like to use “tinker trays” when we play with dough, they are party platters from Asda. I fill the compartments with random bits and bobs to suit the theme – so with the idea of building a snowman in mind I rummaged around and I found matchsticks for arms, pipe cleaners for a scarf and then various buttons, plus beads and sequins for facial features – and some cotton wool and buds just because they were to hand.

When we do things like this it’s always interesting to see how Arlo interacts with the pieces. I like to make an “example” ready for him to copy and give him an idea of where to start. Sometimes he pushes me aside and wants to completely get involved. Other times like today he sat beside me and gave me orders…. but didn’t want to actually touch anything at first.

He asked for a dog and so I moulded a shape and then he took over and added the button nose, Google eyes and pom-poms himself. He’s come back to the table two or three times to have a play and quite likes the matchsticks but insists that he doesn’t like snowmen so we’ll have to see where we end up. I’m going to try a different type of dough with cornflour later this week so we’ll see how we get on with this.

Creative Tonie guide

How to add content to your first creative tonie

So you’ve set your tonie box up and have been delighted and amazed by the concept. Now it’s time for you to create and upload your own content to a creative Tonie and make the experience even more wonderful.

This process is nowhere near as daunting as you think it will be and once you’ve got the hang of this you will be browsing the Tonie store for more creatives to play with.

First things first – I use an iPhone on a day to day basis so I can use the app but also have access to a laptop which makes the process a lot easier as you can convert, download, save and locate files. (This is how to use audio from YouTube).

Once you set up your Tonie cloud account there are two different audio clips you can add to your creative to test it works. The Tonie song is an “ear worm” and you will be humming this to yourself for the next week or so!

The most obvious thing for me to do was browse YouTube for some of Arlo’s favourite songs. I also searched for stories and found a fabulous five minute video of Michael Rosen reading “We’re going on a bear hunt” – I highly recommend choosing a favourite story so you can join in, having the chance to do the actions and gestures whilst enjoying the audio without having to read is a totally new immersive experience…. as a side note check out our blog post about how we created our very own printed version of Bear Hunt to treasure forever

Click the “share” button on the YouTube video and copy the link into a file converter on a separate tab.

Once the converter has done it’s job it’s simple to download the audio file and save it on a laptop with a few clicks.

I repeated this with several other clips and then had a little playlist of ten songs and stories ready to upload onto my creative tonie.

The next bit is really simple, you log in to the Tonie website, using the app you select audio files from your phone and from a laptop you can drag and drop your audio files. You can rearrange the playing order before saving your changes.

You can upload voice notes you have recorded yourself directly from an iPhone as these files do not need converting.

Now for the fun bit – make sure the top of the box is clear of Tonies, and you’re connected to WiFi and then you press and hold an ear of your tonie box and it will flash blue.

Once the box has worked it’s magic the light stops flashing and you can pop your creative tonie on the box and play your audio!

This seems like a lengthy process but once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s extremely simple and the only challenge is trying to manage the playlists when you suddenly have lots of ideas for content.

I have added theme tunes to some classic tv shows, and audio from the Ceebeebies bedtime stories and also the baby shark song (which I may live to regret). I still have 38 minutes of space left on this one after adding ten different clips. This can be split in to 99 different clips or “chapters”

I have purchased several creative Tonies to add to our collection and fill these up with content to suit our play themes…. check out our winter themed play ideas and our Tuff Tray blog posts for inspiration if you’re looking for things to do at home.

Magic mess free painting

I can’t remember where I first saw this idea – probably a Pinterest board or another mum blog but it’s certainly one worth sharing!

We love mark making – I used to be happy with paint when we had laminate flooring and Arlo didn’t move quite so fast but with cream carpets and my little Usain Bolt on the loose this is the next best thing!

It’s a sheet of magic paper used to practice Chinese calligraphy. You use water instead of paint and it turns black on contact.

I gave Arlo and cousin Paloma sponge brushes and little pots of water and let them play – and it occupied them both for about 20 mins.

The paper clears once dry and you can re use it over and over again. It probably takes about 15 mins to dry completely so it’s something you can keep coming back to.

Paloma was quite delicate and happy making more intricate lines immediately whereas Arlo too a while but as soon as he figured out the water made the marks he started pouring it and splashing and patting with his hands

This magic paper is from eBay and cost me £5.50.

We have also tried the aqua doodle which is £15-20 from most high street retailers and creates colourful patterns but is often out of stock and also the Melissa and Doug “wow” books which are about £5 on Amazon which are great options for “on the go” (we’ve used them for travel and also at restaurants). They all share the same principle and I’ve noticed a definite improvement in the way Arlo does make marks and handle brushes and his utensils.

Creating a masterpiece

I thought I’d share a quick “how to” – this is such a simple idea, and if you get a couple of the steps right you can create something to treasure forever.

First things first – head to The works for your materials. You don’t need to spend huge amounts on things for arts and crafts, and their basic canvases come in all shapes and sizes.

You will need:

  • A canvas
  • Masking tape
  • Paints
  • Brushes

To get going use the masking tape to mark out something on your canvas – a name, a shape or just some random lines. We’ve tried hearts for gifts, a sunshine, initials etc – there’s no limits.

Now here’s where to focus – only put down one colour at a time to begin with. Use small amounts because it goes a long way. Try and stick to one colour per brush – this helps to stop everything becoming a brown mush.

The paint is going to get everywhere – just let it go! I use water based paints which do come off everything and I put something down, a tarpaulin or an old towel and have a pack of wipes to hand.

Here I’d just added the yellow – the order you place the colours is important – obviously Arlo doesn’t know about the colour wheel at this stage but we do – keeping red and green separate helps. It’s never going to be “perfect” but that’s the beauty of it.

Arlo was almost 14m when we did this activity and you can see in the video clips just how much he enjoyed himself. We spent about 45 mins painting and chatting about all the colours. Yes he did try and eat the paint brushes and we did make quite a lot of mess but he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

The final thing to remember is to be patient with your finished piece. Don’t peel back the masking tape until the paint is dry. I left ours in the sunshine whilst Arlo had a splash around in the bath tub.

And voila – this little canvas takes pride of place in my front room.

Have you tried this out? Do you have any ideas for creative projects I could try at the weekend? Share your experience in the comments

Ice Excavation

This is such an easy prep activity it’s worth storing in the memory bank for summer. All you need to do is add some small colourful items to a container, fill it with water and freeze it.

Add the frozen block to a washing up bowl or a Tuff Tray and provide some tools to experiment with.

In this block we added brightly coloured ribbons and pom poms, along with a hammer and a couple of cups of warm water to melt the ice. We have repeated this activity with various themes. I’ll share my favourite dinosaur themed excavation on another post as it requires a little more preperation.