Rainy day play: Make a fishing game!

Make an indoor fishing game!

Make an indoor fishing game!

Indoor fishing can be a great way to develop fine motor skills and imaginative play! You can buy fully stocked Gone Fishing kits or you can make your own. We picked up our fish very cheaply (as they were factory seconds) and then let our imaginations run wild with the materials we had at home.

The Fish

We were fortunate enough to pick up our fish cheaply. You could also use a saw or sandpaper and glue gun to fashion a vague fish shape from scraps of wood. The metal eyelet is the same as what’s used when stringing up net curtain cords.

We decorated our fish with: several colours of paint, glitter glue, googly eyes, coloured feathers, and plastic gems.

Tip: This is a great craft project for teaching your toddler patience. We worked on ours over about 5 days. We needed to do the base colour on one side and then let it dry overnight; flip it over the next day and repeat the same. You need more time to let things dry when you’re using craft glue but can speed things up by using a glue gun.

The Fishing Rods

You can make these with lengths of dowling. Use an electric drill to make a hole about 1cm from the top and thread some twine through that has a paper clip tied to the other end. Alternatively, you could glue gun the twine to the rod (if you don’t have a drill).

The paper clip is surprisingly effective; I can catch my fish with it and Miss 2 will normally ‘manually’ catch her fish but will also attempt to catch it without ‘helping’ the hook.

Our rods have multiple shades of paint and glitter glue on them (as well as plastic gems) and also needed drying each night in the hot water cupboard. I stood them upright in a small glass baby food jar (we have several that we use for crafts).

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Learning to sew

A step by step beginner's guide to sewing

A step by step beginner’s guide to sewing

I recently gained access to a sewing machine. My previous experiences were the 10 lessons we did as a class, decades ago, when I was in Intermediate School. My Nana was a dressmaker and money is tight so I’d love to learn a new skill.

I decided my best approach, since I don’t have a mentor, was to look through the local library. I found a brilliant book by Jane Bull, My Sewing Machine. It’s a step-by-step guide for beginners, ostensibly for 8-12 year olds since it was in the children’s section, with lots of photos and easy projects. It explains the different parts of the sewing machine and how to thread it.

Setting up the sewing machine probably seems really simple if you’re familiar with one but it’s not intuitive for me. There are a lot of steps, compared to hand sewing, and forgetting one of them leads to catastrophe! (Not really, but it can cause a lot of frustration as the needle just tattoos holes in the fabric or the threads turn into a tangled cat’s ball).

The sewing machine is located at our lovely new kindy. I had a pair of fascinated 4 year olds avidly watching my every step (no pressure!). It’s actually a nice learning experience for the kids being able to talk to them about how I don’t know how to use it and that we can work it out together. It’s not just about teaching them how to sew, it’s teaching them the process of learning. I’m talking with them about going to the library, following the instructions in the book, and asking for help when I can’t work out something myself.

Thankfully, one of the student teachers is a sewer; I’ve been able to run to her for help a few times when everything’s turned to custard!

How to dye Easter Eggs – easy and edible fun!

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How to dye Easter Eggs

I published recently about how to explain Easter to children; this week Miss 2 has been looking longingly at the vast arrays of chocolate eggs that seem to be everywhere we go. I do have some allergy friendly chocolate for us to eat next weekend but it isn’t egg shaped!  I thought instead we’d start a family tradition of making our own (non-chocolate) edible Easter eggs. Messy play afternoon here we come!

There are some stunningly beautiful pictures out there of vibrant colourful Easter eggs, or how to make your own natural dyes, but I was looking for some ideas for the more energy-challenged.

Making your own decorated dyed eggs really is ridiculously easy as long as you prepare carefully – the degree of care being directly proportional to the age of your child. So for Miss 2, I hardboiled the eggs and mixed up the dye while she was napping. I put out all the craft materials we needed plus extra drawing paper to distract her during clean-up. I had paper towels and cleaning products directly to hand; we wore aprons and messy play clothes; I set everything up on a metal kitchen bench with lino floor directly below us; I cleaned up spills that touched anything other than the bench immediately – including the little pot of yellow dye that she knocked over; I ran a hot bubble bath and popped her in it afterwards. Net result – great time, no damage to the kitchen, and we both have normal coloured skin the next day!

FYI  I did try blowing one egg and decorating it once hollow. Miss 2 admired it for a brief time and then experimented with the physics of force meeting a hollow mass. The squishing was pretty much what I expected to happen. It’s less work and more satisfying to just eat the results after decorating them!

Ingredients

  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Food colouring
  • Eggs (hardboiled)

Equipment

  • Little bowls or containers
  • Newspaper
  • Empty egg carton
  • Spoons
  • Optional: crayons, rubber bands, stickers, velcro dots, poster paint, paint brushes, tooth brush, glitter & glue.

Directions

  1. In little containers mix up the water, vinegar, and food colouring. You can use approx. 1/2c water, 1T vinegar, and 10 drops food colouring but it’s pretty forgiving. The main thing is that you need the vinegar to help the dye set.  You can use less water and more vinegar, or adjust to the size of your containers. You might want little bowls to dip or big glass jars to fully submerge several eggs.
  2. Prepare your hardboiled eggs.
    • My favourite was drawing on them with crayon (it shows through the dye).
    • You can obscure parts of the shell with rubber bands, stickers, velcro dots etc., dye it in one colour, remove the obscuring parts, and then dye in a second colour.
  3. Dye the eggs.
    • You can completely submerge them or just dip them (your fingers may get a bit colourful). The colour will vary depending on length of time submerged (i.e. less time means lighter, more time means darker).
    • Try creating colour gradients you can experiment with things like: submerging the entire egg for a short time, then half the egg for more time, then the base of the egg for longer again.
    • After dyeing the egg in one colour, you can ‘paint’ it with another dye. The dye will run so you can to make rings or just splash.
    • Try dipping the egg in two different colours (i.e. half the egg in each).
    • You can let the dye dry and then speckle it with gold or bronze poster paint using a toothbrush.
    • Try concentrated dye (with just a few drops of water to dilute) and then sponging it on.
  4. Let the eggs dry. You can rest them on a drying rack but an empty egg carton is ideal!
  5. Eat and enjoy (or refridgerate for later)

 

 

Making a mermaid’s magical pool (or pirate’s treasure trove)

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Mermaid’s magical pool

A few things from the craft box can be a fun way of transforming a paddling pool for an afternoon. We picked up all the shells scattered round the garden, sprinkled in magic dust (blue and silver large-cut glitter), and added glittery-fluffy-balls as treasure.

Sometimes it’s all a matter of perspective

Annoying mess or modern art?

Buttons are great for playing and learning (once toddlers are old enough not to put them in their mouths).

I emptied my Bag of Buttons into a wooden tray and we practiced counting, colours, sorting (by colour), shapes, and sizes (big/small). She also just had fun moving them around.

Inevitably some ended up on the floor and I joined in the game. Not only did this make her joyfully delighted but I’d carefully chosen an afternoon when we weren’t in a hurry and dinner was cooked (leftovers). The floor being covered in food / colouring pencils / toys etc isn’t uncommon as a parent. It can be incredibly frustrating and it’s nice to have a change of perspective and see it as art instead.

Then we played treasure hunt. We collected the buttons into our treasure chest. She was surprisingly focussed and I found it surprisingly peaceful. It was fun finding buttons with flowers on them, or admiring different shades of colours, or unusual shapes.

Making play dough is easy

Home made play dough

Home made play dough is super easy to make. It’s cheap, keeps well, you can choose what colours you want, and it doesn’t colour little hands the way commercial play dough often does. It also retains its colour much better if you’re using more than one colour rather than turning into an amorphous purple-brown.

Ingredients

  • 1c plain flour
  • 1/4c salt
  • 1T cream of tartar
  • 1T oil
  • 1/2 tsp food colouring
  • 1c boiling water

Note: This makes a small batch, just double if you want a big batch.

Directions

  1. Mix dry ingredients.
  2. Mix in oil.
  3. Slowly add boiling water. (You may not need all of. It should be smooth and pliable not sticky).
  4. Store in air tight container.

Orange play dough

Combining colours

Art Gallery


Rainy days can sometimes seem endless with an active toddler. One place to go is an Art Gallery – though it pays to get there early if you’re driving as many other families may have the same idea! They’re often free to enter which makes them budget friendly 🙂

Find out information about your local art gallery before you go and consider how this will work best for your children in terms of timing, naps, snacks, and transport. Do they allow prams or do you need to check them in? Can you eat anywhere in the building or do only in designated areas? Do they have parking on-site or validate parking nearby? Do they have activities for children?

Auckland Art Gallery for instance will validate an hour’s free parking at Auckland Transport’s Victoria Street carpark when visiting on weekends or after 6pm. They have a free bag check and big clean bathrooms for disabled access or pram & baby changing. They also have creative family activities (currently origami), a storybook nook, and an interactive Creative Learning Centre for kids with an installation that changes annually. In 2017 the installation is titled “Once Upon a Time in Art” and has a Cabinet of Curiosities type theme inside. There is paper and drawing materials to encourage children to draw – either a still life from what’s displayed or to draw on the room for inspiration. They can then hang their artwork inside one of the frames on the wall if they want.

If you’re going to an art gallery with a young child then go with the mindset that you’re there to help them have a positive experience (and stretch their legs); have reasonable expectations about their tolerances. You may find that they only last an hour (including bathroom and snack) and you’re more likely to get cursory glances at the artwork then lengthy appraisals.