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Sunday, 14 January 2018

Five Things to Do in the Woods

We love going to the woods, after school or at the weekend for some exploration, free play, and a hit of nature... We often go and just walk through and back with the dogs, noticing interesting wildlife or fungi, but not particularly being present within the space. However, sometimes we will go to the woods to spend time playing and exploring, rather than walking, and I wanted to share our 5 favourite things to do in the woods.

The wood, like many outdoor areas, are a perfect playground, and provide so many opportunities for gross motor development, fine motor development, learning about cause and effect, developing spacial awareness, language development, science, numeracy, creativity, environmental awareness, and lots more!

I’m working with Petits Filous and BritMums promoting the #PetitsFilousPlayFree campaign about the importance of free play.

Check out this awesome video, as seen on Petits Filous' Facebook Page,  highlighting the benefits of free play!

The #PetitsFilousPlayFree project is about embracing free unstructured play. Free Play is critical
for children’s development, tapping into their imagination and encouraging creative thinking. It
helps their negotiation skills, teaches them cause and effect and helps with team playing. It’s
essential for every child, not to mention fun and inspiring!

1. Build a Den 

Building a den is so easy to do in the woods; you have everything you need right at your fingertips, and it is so much fun!! All you have to do is find some fallen branches, and a solid tree helps as a base, and build however your kid wants to! Even if your children need some help with any heavy branches, they can still be in control of the design, build, and outcome!

Den building offers opportunity for developing gross motor skills, creativity, engineering, spacial awareness, self esteem, and a whole lot of fun, not to mention team work and communication skills!

2. Jump in the Stream 
Jumping in the stream (where safe!), is just like jumping in puddles. It's a sensory overload; sound, feeling, sight, and sometimes even taste if the splash is really big!! I have never met a child who doesn't like splashing in water! Some grown ups find it hard to let kids get messy and wet, and that's fine, so if that's you, try waterproof clothes and a great pair of wellies. But even when the water spills over the wellies, it's a great learning experience of cause and effect!

3. Hunt for Nature
This can be a nature treasure hunt, an identification game, or just simply exploring. The woods are a perfect place for looking for nature, however old you or your kids are! Depending on the season, you can find fungi (mushrooms and toadstools), fauna and flora, trees, birds, mammals, fish, frogs and toads, insects, and fruit.

Hunting for natural treasures helps us connect with our surroundings, and can provide children with skills in investigation and identification, it can develop fine motor control and hand/eye coordination whilst lifting leaves and twigs or using tweezers to collect specimens. This type of activity can be fantastic for language development, early science, and numeracy.

My kids love discovering flowers and fungi the most, so its also a great opportunity to talk about safe foraging; the uses and dangers of wild nature!!

4. Make Anything! 

In addition to dens, there is a lot of stuff to be created in the woods! Art with sticks and leaves, leaf crowns, leaf and twig boats, fairy houses.... really anything your child can imagine! You have a multitude of materials available to you; solid sticks and twigs, bendable twine and stems, shapely leaves, malleable mud and clay, loose soil, bark, empty snail shells, feathers. Let your kids get creative!

Creativity always provides opportunity for self esteem, confidence, self expression, language and communication, team-work, all round learning, and of course the development of imagination. All these things lead to creative things, which is so very important in all aspects of life!

5. Climb and Balance 

Climbing trees seems one of those taboo subjects these days. Some people are still all for it, others think schools and other organisations are right to ban it due to health and safety precautions... personally, I am all for it!

Tree climbing is not only fun but it teaches risk assessment and spacial awareness, it develops so many gross motor skills; strength, balance, coordination;  it offers sensory experience not found in many other situations, it offers a new perspective for small children who are nearly always looking UP at their surroundings. Its a brilliant psychologically and physically beneficial activity for children (and grown ups) of all ages!

For much smaller children, even balancing on a fallen branch, or hopping from tree stump to tree stump, still offers many of the benefits!

The best thing about playing in the woods is the freedom! Freedom to play, explore and choose! Children learn so much when they are given the time to just play, free!

While you're still out adventuring, or when you get home, there is no doubt your kids will want a snack! In August and September, you might be lucky enough to have picked your own blackberries or apples, which make a great snack! You might find hazelnuts and have a go at making roasted hazelnuts or even chocolate spread... otherwise a small snack like some chopped up fruit, some nuts, a yogurt, or some crackers will always be a great pick me up!

Petits Filous fromage frais are a delicious and nutritional snack, with 50% of your child's daily Vitamin D allowance, which is great for these winter months, when sunshine is hard to find, no matter how much time you spend outside!! Even better are the Petits Filous snack pouches, which are perfect for taking out and about as you don't need a spoon and they can be kept out of the fridge for up to five hours! Perfect for boosting energy and calcium for fun adventures in the woods!

Let me know what you and your kids love to do in the woods, or your other ideas for outdoor free play! 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Even Better Bubble Dough

So, a few months ago we made Bubble Dough. Its fabulous. But this version is even better.... read on! 
I was making some yesterday, and decided to add some cooking oil to it, to see what it did. Well it didnt seem to do a whole lot to start with, except make it sticky, but I kept kneading it in and it started to stop being sticky, and turned into a lovely dough, just like the bubble dough we made before, but the oil made it so soft and even stretchier than before. Here are some pictures so you can see how gorgeous and fun this sensory material is:
Super stretchy...
... and goes all swirly!
 You can see how soft it looks...
...and its not sticky and messy at all! 

Then we added purple glitter, because purple glitter makes everything better.
 You can see here how its very dough like... 
 and totally mouldable, like playdough... 

The ratios I've found works best is 1 cup of cornflour/cornstarch : half a cup of washing up liquid/dish soap : 2 tsp olive/cooking oil.  However, I also think it's best to add the ingredients slowly, knead well; and if it's too sticky, add more flour, if its too crumbly add more liquid.

If you have tried this and it doesnt work, try using handsoap or shower gel instead. People have reported issues using Dawn dish soap in particular. 

I hope you enjoy playing with Bubble Dough, and if you do please come and share your pictures on our facebook page.

You can sign up for the August session of our Connecting Family through Creative Play workshop - pay what you want, and enjoy a month of daily emails with prompts to play and creative connections, a community of like minded parents and guidance from Gina and I - find out more here

See more of our play recipes hereand stay connected with us here:

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Stories for Life

A couple of weeks ago I received this beautiful package in the post.

I was very excited to open it, who doesn't love getting stuff in the post?! On opening I was even more excited, because inside were 3 gorgeous hard back children's books from Penguin Random House!

I received these books as part of the BritMums and Penguin Random House Christmas Present Challenge, which means I get to give these books as presents this christmas! 

Without a doubt, I knew immediately that Jake (now SEVEN years old by the way, how did that happen?!) would just love Terry Pratchet's The Witch's Vacuum Cleaner. Its full of fourteen fantastically funny stories including pirates, wizards, elephants on wheels, food fights, and mysterious vacuum cleaners!

Next was Clover Moon by the wonderful Jacqueline Wilson. Jake's friend, Sara, who lives back in Jersey is a keen reader and is a curious and adventurous little girl, so Clover Moon sounded like a story she would love to read with her Mum! Clover Moon is about a girl who tries to escape a world full of grief with her imagination, and then a real possibility of escape to a place that really feels like home... 

The third book we received is Tom Fletcher's Christmasaurus - well this could easily be another favourite for Jake, so I think it will probably end up under our tree with his name on it this year, however I think that my 9 year old  nephew would also love this, along with most of Jake's friends! A great magical adventure set on Christmas Eve, with an elf, Santa Claus, a bad guy and an unusual dinosaur! As it is set on Christmas Eve it would be a lovely addition to a Christmas Eve Box, if you do this for your kids. 

Sharing stories at Christmas, well any time of the year, is always wonderful, especially with our children. Books, unlike the fast pace media that saturates our society nowadays, stay with us for life; many of the stories are timeless and wonderful. I have childhood favourites from toddlerhood, to early childhood and onwards; including The Very Hungry Caterpillar - by Eric Carle,  The Owl who Was Afraid of the Dark- by Jil Tomlinson, The Suitcase Kid - by Jacqueline Wilson, and of course, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, and The Hobbit by Tolkien.  

The first 3 books I have already shared with my children, but we have yet to read the Narnia books. Jake is now Harry Potter mad, but I am loathe to go past the first 3 books yet as I think he is too young, so it will be great to switch over the Narnia books, and we have just started The Hobbit, and so far he is really enjoying it. I can't wait for the school holidays so we can all snuggle up in front of the fire with hot chocolate and read some more! Yes that sounds cliche', but sometimes cliche is OK, especially at Christmas. 

Massive thanks to Penguin Random House Children's Books for sending these gorgeous books to us. I also have to give a coincidental shout out to my partner's dad, Mr Kevin Clark, who is an engineer for Penguin Random House! :D

Friday, 5 February 2016

Lego Stacking Hearts

Jake and Poppy both love lego, and they both love things like hearts, flowers, and stars. So when I sat building lego with them and decided to make a heart, they thought it was great and asked me to make lots of hearts, so I did! 

I made some, and Jake copied the pattern to make some more. 

Then Jake realised that you could slot the hearts together as the bottom fit of one heart fit right into the top of another... 

 I then just watched him play and stack them for the next hour or so...

He found many ways to fit the hearts together.  

And then he realised that they even fit together upside down and the right way round! What a great Maths and Science investigation for him! :) 

The patterns and towers are just endless, imagine if you had twice as many hearts! And they are so simple to make, it takes 2 minutes to make one heart.

Jake even realised that he could build upwards and outwards to make different shapes. He loved playing with the hearts and we make them a lot! Poppy always asks for the red and purple ones and displays them in her bedroom, while Jake builds, and re-builds, and is learning to make them without copying now! 

This is my first post back on Creative Playhouse for a while, and its nice to be back! I hope you liked this post; do feel free to share it, and comment below if you've done the same, or similar with lego - its such a good learning tool as well as being wonderful for free, creative play! 

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