A is for animals and art
We love real animals, though we don't currently have any of our own there are 2 rabbits nearby, a cat from next door that regularly tries to come in our house, horses across the road, and the neighbours dog that's always running around, and we live in Jersey so there are cows everywhere! Plus, today we saw blue tits, sparrows, racing pigeons, butterflies and beetles, and there are green lizards nearby that come out in the spring for mating season!
Naturally Jake loves playing with his toy animals, especially farm animals and about 90% of our books have animals in. Animals teach kids lots about behaviour, emotion, friendship, and they are really engaging and begin to teach children about the wonderful world around us.
B is for buttons, balls, and bugs
Balls are fun; throwing, catching, kicking, bouncing, rolling... they come in all sorts of colours, shapes and sizes, you can even get sensory balls with different surfaces, balls with lights inside, squishy balls, spongy balls, shiny balls, some balls are solid, some are full of air; they all behave in different ways. Balls are a great learning tool that can be played with in hundreds of ways inside or out!
C is for cuddles and creativity
I don't really think creativity can be taught, but it can be encouraged and nurtured. Creativity isn't just about arts and crafts either; for children its about imaginative play, problem solving, emotional intelligence, relating to others, language development and much more. I try to encourage creativity wherever I can. And I definitely encourage cuddling! Cuddles with my boy are one of my favourite things, and Im all too aware that there will come a day when he won't be too forthcoming with hugs and kisses for Mummy, so Im getting as many in now as I can!
D is for dough and dinosaurs
Any kind of dough goes! Playdough, salt dough, cloud dough, real cooking dough... (we're yet to try moon dough but do want to!) Playing with dough is fantastic; its creative, it builds fine motor skills and muscles, it can be mixed with an array of sensory materials to heighten the experience, it allows for process and product (if desired), and it can be used for so many other activity types such as pretend play, cooking, art and crafts, story telling...
E is for exploring, experience and early learning
These 3 things are very much connected; all 3 can happen at any time for babies, toddlers and children, and I try to encourage them by allowing time and space for free play, directed activities, open ended play and learning, sensory play, messy play, arts and crafts, cooking, reading books, telling stories, outside play, family time, days out.... just through living really. :)
F is for friends and fruit
I don't drive, and we recently moved to 'the sticks' so we rely on friends coming round for play dates so we don't get completely sucked into our bubble! Haha! We have lovely friends; they are generous, kind and supportive - this can only be a good thing for my children to be around. I also have many online friends; some from the blogosphere, who are wonderful and inspiring, and others from an array of places who have become like family and who help me be a better person and a better mummy!
G is for glitter and glue
I LOVE glitter; you can read about that here. Jake gets a bit wired on glue; he LOVES it! It seems to be a really special thing for him to play with so I try not to get it out too often so it retains its special-ness. I think its partly the fascination of how it gets stuff to stick together, but also he just loves squeezing it out everywhere! 2 year olds.... ;)
H is for happiness and hide & seek
The happiness of my children is paramount; that goes without saying really. Hide & Seek however requires some blogging about! Its the first proper game Jake learned how to play (possibly due to his Peppa Pig obsession), he plays it primarily with his Daddy and it appears to fill him with so much joy! He loves hiding and being found, and he loves seeking out Daddy, especially if he happens to be hiding in the bed. Its helped teach him about taking turns and he develops creative thought by finding new places to hide!
I is for independence and imagination
(and ice cream!) We're an AP (attachment parenting) family; we co-sleep, breastfeed into toddlerhood, baby wear, respond quickly to each other's emotions with loving tactile behaviour and we stay well away from baby training... we're not very 'hippy' with it tho! A common misconception of AP is that it breeds clingy kids - NOT TRUE! Ask any of my family or friends and they'll tell you how independent and secure Jake is; yes he wants and needs Mummy and/or Daddy for cuddles, bedtime and play (don't all kids?), but he is a free explorer, happy to go off and play, polite and chatty with other adults (and sometimes children), and he wants to be independent in his day to day living. We try to nurture this independence (tho I must admit I am already beginning to feel the start of pre-emptive empty nest syndrome!) and I want him to feel confident with his independent thoughts and actions as he grows up.
J is for jelly
Like most children (and grown ups) Jake loves jelly. When he was about 13 months old he called it "gollagah' - it was the cutest thing! Now he can say it properly, but still loves it just as much. Like spaghetti its a great sensory food and sensory play material, it comes in different colours and flavours and it feels 'weird and funny'. We were also recently introduced to Gelli Baff (that's what's in the paddling pool) by our very good friend, and Ill be posting about it soon; its fantastic - it turns water into jelly like goo, and then back to water again; amazing for the bath, paddling pools or just a big tub!
K is for kid friendly
Kid friendly has become such an important term for me. Restaurants, cafes, attractions, shops, outside areas, people, food... all needs to be kid friendly, or family friendly, or breastfeeding friendly... But most importantly I want our home to be kid-friendly; obviously its been child-proofed, but I wanted to optimise it to benefit Jake and Poppy (as she grows out of newborn baby-hood) in their play and learning experiences. I've been inspired by montessori style learning, particularly from here (Living Montessori Now on Pinterest) and have tried to follow Jake's interests (and will do the same with Poppy) in creating spaces for him to play all around the house and making things accessible to him, especially in the bathroom and kitchen areas where lots of things are off limits. Mostly I want my kids to feel safe, secure, happy and 'at home' here.
L is for letters and lights
On a Saturday we go to Toddler Sense; its run by my very good friend Sam (the same one mentioned above regarding Gelli Baff) and its brilliant. Alongside soft play and other physical toys there is are directed part of the session where Sam brings out all sorts of spectacular things; our favourites are the bubble machine, big buckets of porridge oats to dig in, and the light toys. Jake loves any kind of light toys, as do most young children I'm sure. Playing with light toys is a another kind of sensory activity (which often gets forgotten about I think); they're relaxing and mesmerising and have a predictability about them without being boring. We have a torch at home, but I think we need some more light toys... If you have a Toddler Sense in your area you should check it out!
M is for music and messy play
Messy play is a big favourite here. I think messy play is so important for young children (and big children and grown ups!); it develops fine motor skills, eye-hand co-ordination, an understanding of textures and materials, it encourages new and creative language (lots of descriptive words in particular), it can also build confidence, focus and imagination, and it tends to full engage children - increasing the learning and enjoyment. There is a fantastic article about the importance of messy play here. See all our messy play here.
Jake has a fascination for numbers and letters. He has magnetic sets of both which we play with a lot, and he loves to type on my laptop (he has worked out how to type 10 and can use the backspace key properly already!!), he also tries to write them on his chalkboard and gets entirely frustrated that he can't make his little hands do what his brain wants. Its difficult to explain that he is only 2 and that's why he can't write and draw properly yet (my little perfectionist... I wonder where he gets that from?). Im always trying to think of new and creative ways he can engage with letters and numbers to ease his frustration and nurture his interests, such as printing with, matching, singing about, counting games and stencils.
O is for outside
Being outside serves toddlers and children very well; the fresh air and space to run is essential for their body and minds (and can help them get a good night's sleep), and there is so much to discover outside, whether just in the garden, walking around your village or neighbourhood, or down at the beach. Outside play generally develops gross motor skills (running, jumping, balance, etc) but it can also provide a setting for growing gardens, fruit and veggies, caring for and discovering animals and mini beasts, learning about the seasons and the weather, and much more. Outside play and learning engages all the senses too which children thrive on. Splashing in puddles, diving in piles of leaves, investigating bugs and smelling and picking flowers are some of Jake's favourite things to do.
Stay tuned for the second part (P-Z) of Creative Playhouse...