Fairylight Fun

Like most people, we keep a lot of rubbish under our bed.  It’s all the stuff that we don’t want to throw away, but just aren’t using at the moment.  And it’s not just under our bed – it’s under the bed in the guest room, under Gerry’s bed, under Rab’s cot… under the sofa… This was a fine situation to be in, until last week.  Because last week, Gerry discovered just how fun searching around under the bed can be…

‘What’s this?’ ‘Hey! This used to be mine!’ ‘Can I wear my old shoes?’ ‘What are these for?’ ‘Can I have it?’….

His voice rose to a squeaky excited squeal when he discovered the bag of christmas decorations this morning. I sort of agreed with him – christmas decorations are fun to look at regardless of the time of year.  Which is why, half an hour later, we had built a fabulous den in the living room – and decorated it with fairy lights.  Gerry loved it, and Rab was fascinated by the twinkles too.  In fact, we loved it so much, we spent most of the afternoon in there.  There was just about enough room for the three of us plus a jigsaw.  Plus a book.  Plus three cuddly toys…

So this is definitely going to become a regular RainyDayGame activity.  Lights are fun – they make a familiar place seem more exciting, and change the atmosphere somehow.  I’m wondering if torches could make a good activity too…?

Growing Seeds

Not so much a game, this, as an ongoing activity.  In fact, I wasn’t even going to include this on the blog – but Gerry has enjoyed it so much, it seems a shame not to. 

We decided to grow some seeds a few days ago (after watching an episode of Peppa Pig, I’m ashamed to say).  We took a quick trip to the local garden centre, picking up a packet of mixed lettuce leaves and a packed of ‘sprouting seeds’ – the type you add to your salad sandwiches.  We planted the lettuce seeds outside in a big pot, and sprinkled the sprouters on a tray lined with two layers of kitchen roll.  (I don’t know why two layers are necessary – it’s just what it said on the packet). They should, apparently, be ready to eat within five to ten days – and Gerry has been true to his solemn vow of watering them each morning.  

His interest goes far beyond just watering them.  It’s the sprouting seeds he likes most, presumably because they’re indoors and therefore easier to remember.  He goes over to check on them at least three times a day, and seems to know which ones have sprouted since he last checked (he says it with such conviction, I’m inclined to believe him!).  He counts the ones that have sprouted (it’s getting harder now they’re in double figures) and spends quite a while trying to decide which one is longest… Now, if he eats them, too, it’ll be a success on all fronts. 

So there we have it.  A quick trip to the garden centre (seeds might even be available in your supermarket), a tray and a few pieces of kitchen roll are all you need to provide days of entertainment! (or at least, a few minutes of entertainment each day…)

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A Meditation on Stressful Days

All parents know that some days are more stressful than others.  Calm and easy days are super – they’re the days when you glide serenely from one task to another, laughing and joking with your adorable cherub-faced children, enjoying the compliments that passing strangers offer about your children’s angelic behaviour… The more stressful days are, perhaps, more common – they’re the days when at least one person in the house wakes up in a foul mood; when the toddler refuses to eat anything except chocolate buttons for breakfast; when the baby needs rocking all morning and wakes up the very moment you take one hand away to make yourself a cup of tea… By the lunchtime of a stressful day, you decide that sandwiches will have to do for lunch (and tea) – only to discover that you’ve no bread left in the house.  So off to the local shop you go – but by the time you’ve got everyone’s shoes and coat on – and done two emergency nappy changes – everyone’s blood sugar levels have crashed and the screaming and shouting has hit catastrophic levels.  Oh – and the washing up from last night’s dinner is still on the work suface. On days like these, you quite fancy opening a bottle of wine at half past two in the afternoon – except there’s none left in the cupboard / you can’t find the bottle opener / you don’t really fancy teetering on the edge of that very slippery slope…

We all have days like these.  It’s on these days that we never seem to get the time to play imaginative games with the children – or read to them – or even listen to them properly.  In fact, to do any of these is the last thing we could imagine doing.  But I’m pretty certain that if we did take the time, it’d make all the difference.  Sometimes, your screaming, shouting, sulking toddler only wants a little bit of attention – and twenty minutes of proper play is all that they need.  It’s enough to settle them, make them feel cared for and calmed… And, quite often, your twenty minutes of play with them sparks off another twenty of quiet play on their own – buying you a bit of time to do that washing up or get the dinner on!

So RainyDayGames aren’t just about distractions from the wet weather – they’re also about restoring peace and harmony into your chaos-ridden house.  Give one a try – and hey, if it doesn’t work, you can always revert to the wine plan mentioned earlier…

Rock Art

We went on a walk yesterday, during which Gerry collected a large bag full of stones. Obviously proud of his hunter-gathering instinct, he started to spread them out on the living room floor the moment we got back home.  He played with them intensely for approximately four minutes before getting bored and wandering off, leaving his rockery cluttering up our  living room carpet. And this morning, they were still there – Gerry claimed that he needed them for ‘work’.

Now, I was unwilling to mess up his game, but equally unwilling to leave the big choking hazard for Rab on the living room floor. So we decided to compromise – I wouldn’t bin them, but he would play with them out of Rab’s reach.  After more negotiation, we decided to use them for a bit of Rock Art.

We got sheets of A4 paper and drew frames around the edges, effectively turning them into canvases for our art. Then we arranged the stones onto our makeshift canvases, creating big pictures and patterns. Gerry’s first creation was a tractor (of course) but he branched out into other vehicles, using the most rounded stones as wheels and the littler ones to form the outline. He then ‘drew’ a scarecrow, a meerkat and the sea in quick succession. Whoever knew that a few dusty old stones could provide so much entertainment!

Stickers

I’ve not yet met a toddler who didn’t like stickers.  Whether it’s the free-in-a-magazine variety, the collect-in-packs-of-six football variety, or even the stuck-to-your-apple variety, any type of sticker is a welcome distraction in our house! But they’re quite expensive to buy, and once they’re stuck, they’re stuck – so no more fun… So we’ve developed an alternative, that can be tailored easily to your child’s interests.

We started off in the local newsagent, choosing a magazine which was full of good pictures.  For us, that was the Farmers’ Autotrader, for its pictures of tractors – but you can choose any magazine that your child likes the look of.  Then, armed with the Autotrader, a pair of scissors, some glue and a few sheets of paper, we sat down at the kitchen table together.  I cut out the pictures of tractors that Gerry liked, he applied the glue and arranged them carefully onto the paper.  (More accurately, he stuck them down willy-nilly…)

We covered several sheets of paper in this way, using just a few pages of the magazine.  So there’s a lot left over for next time! Gerry loved choosing the tractors and doing the glue – and these will make great pictures for the grandparents.  All in all, a good RainyDayGame

Perfect Playdough

Playdough is the perfect RainyDayGame.  We always have a ball or two wrapped up in our fridge, ready and waiting for a bored moment (‘Urgh! What is THAT?’, my friend demanded when she came across a green ball that I’d made up a few days before…).  Kids of all ages love it – the models that they make can be as intricate or as, erm, ‘abstract’ as their ability allows.  And it takes literally minutes to make, too – so when another colour is needed, it can be whipped up in an instant! Here’s my favourite playdough recipe:

1 cup of flour,

1/2 cup of salt (it seems a lot, I know, but go with it!)

1 tablespoon of cream of tartar

1 tablespoon of oil

1 cup of boiling water, into which you can mix food colouring of whichever colour you (/your kids) desire

Simply mix all of the ingredients up in a bowl, add the boiling water, and stir like mad.  The stirring brings it together really easily into a big, playdoughy ball.  If it’s for use straight away, I tend to knead it for a few minutes, to ensure that it has cooled down sufficiently before giving it to the children.

And there we have it: Perfect Playdough.  Store it in the fridge in little sandwich bags – it’ll keep for weeks.

Phonics Pairs

Our game today was a cross between an early years phonetics lesson (I say that, without really knowing anything about what an early years phonetics lesson would be like…) and the old card game ‘pairs’.  Preparation involved cutting a few envelopes into strips and writing a letter onto each one.  I decided to use the letters from Gerry’s name, and needed two Gs, two Es, etc – so that made ten cards in total.

The cards were laid face down on the table.  Gerry picked a card and turned it over.  We named it – that’s a ‘g’ – and then turned the other cards over one and a time to find the other ‘g’.  (I had to ensure that he turned them back over again if they were the wrong ones…).  Once he’d found one matching pair, they were removed from the table and we started the whole thing again.

This was an exercise in naming the letters and in recognising them as symbols.  It took a few goes to get the hang of it, but once we had it Gerry was hooked – and we carried on playing it throughout the afternoon. So there we have it – Phonics Pairs – a game that was cheap and easy to prepare, was educational and was fun.  What more could you ask for?!

Project One – ‘My First Computer’

The weather has been very obliging today! Having started this blog only yesterday, the rain clouds have  sat dutifully over our house today, allowing me to put into practice my plan- to think of a rainy day game which is diverting enough for all of us to forget about the lack of sun…

Today, recycling has been our buzz word. Gerry always enjoys playing with the boxes which are awaiting recycling- food boxes become bricks with which to build towers; bigger ones become boats in which he sails across the kitchen floor sea; kitchen roll inners become telescopes. Today, however, we’ve been a little more inventive, with nothing more than the cardboard front and back covers of an old colouring book, and a marker pen…And Gerry has spent a good old time ‘working’ at it this afternoon…