Archives for posts with tag: play

 Ingredients: Toys you already own (dinosaurs, playmobile, play dough, cars / trains, arts & crafts leftovers, wrapping paper, throws, cushions, etc…) , all the time you can give, freedom to make mess and have fun for ages 0 – 90.

The Big Sell: Never mind new presents under the tree, the thing most kids want this Christmas is you, your inspiration and focus on play time as a family – so ransack the toy boxes and get busy!

Strategy: Clear a carpet space or table and use the toys most families usually have to create the MOTHER OF ALL FAMILY GAMES! Some ideas include:

Dino Valley

Transform a rug into a landscape using a shallow tray or bowl filled with warm water for a lake on a towel, cushions for hills covered in throws, sand or moon sand in a shallow tray for a desert, plasticine / play dough trees and all the dinosaur toys / play mobile people with jeep, to create Jurassic Park in your own living room.

Towering Inferno  (or any 70’s style disaster movie!)

Combine lego, drawbridge made from string/ wood off-cuts (see Ball of String blog post), playmobile, toy garage & other sundry buildings, and scrunched red tissue paper (for flames) left from presents to create a disaster movie better than any ITV3 re-run. The kids get to pick which Playmobile men play the Jeremy Irons / Sean Connery / Kurt Russell etc… baddies and goodies, perhaps employing your best attempt at impersonating the accents for a giggle? Make a bomb from a matchbox to be placed in a central spot that the goodies have to disable before the egg timer pings!

Constructions with Play Dough

I don’t know about you but I get terribly bored with repetitively making sausage shapes or using cut out shapes with Play dough. For a new approach, cut play dough into small brick shapes and build your own wall or castle. Combine with a toy crane with added play dough wrecking ball to knock down and re-build.

Or flatten long thin sausages of play dough to make networks of roads or train tracks round the dining room table. Combine with your Thomas the Tank Engine or Postman Pat toys to create village life – run play dough roads over folded tea towels to make bridges and cardboard rolls for tunnel, or even attempt a full rollercoaster – be as ambitious as possible!

The Verdict: This is the kind of play which provides unforgettable family memories – get relatives staying for the holidays involved too and everyone regresses into a united fantasy world. The games provide an antidote to the chocolate-fuelled, present overkill, post-Christmas blues that hit any time from Boxing Day onwards. Every year I promise not to buy the kids so much ‘stuff’ and every year I fall prey to the commercial tsunami, before realising too late that it’s these imaginative “let’s see how many toys we can use in one game” activities that really make us genuinely happy and bring us all together again.

Catchphrase: Run, run for your lives – T-Rex is coming from under the Christmas tree!!!

Left wanting more?

Struggling to get the kids to write thank you notes to generous relatives? Why not bump their heads together to write a bespoke Christmas thank you poem or song and email round a short recording of them in full recital to one and all?!


Ingredients: Rug, blanket or large towel; any associated paraphernalia you might need for your journey, a favourite cuddly or two, your own mouths to make noises and / or some musical instruments.

The Big Sell: Let’s go on a flying carpet journey – hold on tight!

Strategy:        Do the kids need an outing but it’s raining outside and there’s no cash left for a train or bus ride? I take mine on imaginary journeys using a rug as a flying carpet. The children choose the location – the zoo, seaside, moon – and we have to find ways to make the noises using our mouths and a box of instruments I’ve gathered (shakers made from yoghurt pots taped together with rice or lentils inside, rainmakers, wooden sticks, bells, whistles, tambourines). As we journey closer to our destination the noises get louder, when we’re creeping up on the sleeping dragon the noises must fall to a whisper. Sometimes we close our eyes and listen carefully to hear what noises are all already around us and might give a clues to our imaginary world – the hush of passing traffic might be a waterfall nearby, the squeal of children outside must be mischievous munchkins. All this sensory exploration helps grow the imagination and set the scene for a rich and child-led drama game to which they hold the key. There can be disaster  (teddy’s fallen from the hot air balloon, can we throw out a tea towel for him to hold onto?!) and happy endings (we’ve arrived home to a princesses tea party – help me arrange the biscuits on this pretty plate).

The Verdict: Even my older boy will fall back into this kind of play with his younger brother. They adore the fact that the adult also suspends disbelief and shares the imaginary world that they often live in. Suddenly the same old four walls fall away and every object lying around has an exciting use – a wooden spoon becomes a paddle, a throw an invisible blanket, Daddy’s shoes are the feet of the sleeping giant. We now keep a rucksack handy filled with useful travelling tools – a compass, an electronic toy from a charity shop that bleeps and can be a walkie talkie, an old crab line, a small pencil and notebook, a torch, binoculars. One of my favourite ‘Mummy memories’ will be when my two sons first came downstairs (age 18 months and four and a half) both dressed in travelling hats and matching rucksacks ready to take their first imaginary journey in the garden, without me!

Catchphrase: Quick, the giant’s woken! Run back to the flying carpet!

Left wanting more?

  • Look at ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’, by Michael Rosen published by Walker Books, for another journey that uses sounds to come alive. Use it journey round the house – the swishy grass is the doormat, the squelchy mud bouncing on the bed, the dark cave under the duvet! And of the course favourite teddy has to play the ferocious bear!!!

Ingredients: Paper and pens / or a computer and printer, one talkative child

The Big Sell:  Write me the silliest nonsense poem you can think of…

Strategy:        At a certain age children love to practice rhyming sounds (for eldest son it was between 3 and 5 years). He would idly recite nonsense rhyming words to himself whilst playing. I tapped into this and told him I would touch-type EXACTLY what he chose to put in a poem (note, I think it’s important not to make any of your own suggestions unless the child asks for it. If it is theirs word for word, they can sample the early delight of complete editorial control!)

The Verdict: The resulting poem was typed, printed and displayed proudly on the wall. When (adult) friends came round they would notice it and recite it aloud much to eldest son’s delight who felt it had become a famous work of art. If your child is slightly older it can also help with teaching them phonics by showing how to spell out the sounds they have chosen. In our home we will always have a special place in our heart for “Snow Monster, plo monster, elemeny toe monster” and the following 5 verses!

Catchphrase: “Read me my poem again, Mummy!”

Left wanting more?

  • An obvious reference is to read your child some Spike Milligan to show them how fantastic surreal poetry can be
  • Other good poetry books for young children are ‘The Booktime Book of Fantastic First Poems’, edited by June Crebbin, published by Puffin, and the rhyming story ‘Never use a knife and fork’ by Neil Goddard, published by Macmillan books (loved equally by our 2 and 6 year old because it actually recommends you are naughty with your food!).

Ingredients: Sand box (I just use a large plastic tub with lid on the patio, so no need for a proper sand tray, get play sand cheap from Wilkinsons or B&Q), various treasure items including shells, plastic dinosaur bones, costume jewellery, plastic coins, etc…, paintbrushes (large and small), spade, sieve

The Big Sell:  Let’s be archaeologists and discover hidden treasure!!!

Strategy:        Tell the kids to close their eyes, you hide the toys at different depth levels, then teach them how to use the sieve / paintbrush to gently discover the treasure

The Verdict: Both ages loved it, youngest (18 months) found the toys on the top and played for fifteen mins before getting distracted. Eldest (5) dug deeper, then developed their own idea to create a treasure map and bury that too for younger one (and me) to discover – the game lasted over an hour. They both ended up in full pirate dressing up! It’s become a popular game to revisit since, requiring no set up on my part as they have the idea now and will find their own props to bury.

Catchphrase: “What else can we find to bury Mummy!?!”

Left wanting more?

  • Look at BBC website for a computer game that allows you to be a Viking archaeologist at this link:
  • Whilst on the subject of pirates, the book Pirate Pete by Nick Sharratt, published by Walker Books Ltd is great for younger and older kids. I took it camping once and the youngest (age 16 months) sat in the travel cot and played with it for OVER AN HOUR whilst we snoozed! Incredible!

Hello world!

I am a mum of two young boys (2 and 6 years) and also work part time as a Freelance Youth Arts Worker. Writing a blog is the last thing I thought I could, would, ever do … so why?

I have been battling for some time with the strong desire to continue this act of creation that is motherhood. One last time. The third child, standing in the corner of the room, waiting to be brought into being. A question mark.

I have considered it deeply and know now it is not ‘the Johnson’s effect’- I have no desire to swell again or sweat the birthing pain, to wear the right maternity clothes or push the trendy buggy – so this is not hysteria from the fetishized image all around me. I’m past that.

This is seeing how each child builds us stronger, makes us wiser, embellishes and surprises us. It is the gift of knowing a new person. And how mothering that unique individual requires flexibility, compassion and patience; the development of profound and heartfelt connections to the world in nurturing our act of creation – the family. And I don’t want to have restricted my world only to my particular two marvels.

But I know it is a self-defeating argument and with each child the elastic frays…  And I’m realising I could choose to see myself as an addict, because I know this urge has always been there and will never pass. It is a feeling I will have to learn to live with. I do not want to bury it, but be mindful of it. So I have chosen to see this as who I am, but as greater than the sum of my womb.

It could be how I spill into all aspects of my life; how I connect to my community. More than creating children, it could be creating meaning so I don’t make a life half-lived, sunk into an insular dolls house but weave a web that is bigger and richer than I could have imagined.

So I’ve decided to start this conversation with the world about the thing I am most passionate about – imaginative creative play with children. I’ve spent the last six years riding the ‘play rollercoaster’ with two very different sons, and now have a wealth of experiences that could keep me chatting for hours at coffee mornings. But it’s also a subject on which none of us can ever become an expert, because it’s always changing and always new.

I know that some adults find it hard to fall back into childhood play – it can make us feel self-conscious, bored or even too over-involved (how many times have we proudly completed a lego construction we didn’t want the kids to knock over!!) Also, with 101 other things to do it can be very easy to let CBeebies take control for an hour or two…

And that’s all fine, as long as it’s balanced with a healthy dose of high quality play time, in which we don’t construct our child’s game for them, or leave them to wreak havoc with a new pack of felt-tips, but actually engage in a dialogue. A process in which we all learn something new about ourselves, feel proud of our achievements, or laugh over our shared mistakes. And I believe just 15 minutes of this kind of play each day can transform our relationships with our children – my own experience shows this kind of play grows an emotional intelligence that helps to deal with sibling squabbles, playground bullies or any growing pain – that respects the child’s individuality whilst asking them to be the best they can be. Such is the power of the rich imagination, transferable to any situation life throws at you.

I hope my blog will grow as my children do in age, to move from the toddler years, through after school activities, eventually to how we could use art to negotiate the teen years… I’ve got all that to come!!

The blog will consist of a brief description of a new game or arts activity, with an honest review (hopefully straight from the babe’s mouths!) Hit or flop, all will be shared. The idea is to mainly utilise toys you are likely to have around the house and combine them in new interesting ways, supplementing with the minimal expense of odd arts / crafts resources (with the best prices I’ve found in local shops). I’ll also recommend good books, toys, etc.. helping you form your own resource library at home.

In turn, I hope you will provide your own reviews – did your kids love or hate this activity? Did they subvert it into something new? Did they suggest a better idea than ours?!

So here goes …

Artspip x