Who Doesn’t Love Playing with Bubble Wrap?

There is something satisfying about popping bubble after bubble of bubble wrap. Maybe it is the loud pop sound or the feel of the air being forced out; maybe even the gratification we feel as each bubble explodes from the pressure of us crushing it like a bug. Whatever it is, it is fair to say that most people enjoy popping bubble wrap.

So why stop at using bubble wrap only to protect articles while shipping? Why not make bubble wrap shoes, dip your feet in paint and run all over a canvas? I found this exciting idea “Bubble Paint Stomp Painting” on the Mess for Less website. With such simple, clear ideas and endless possibilities, it got me thinking about other fun ways we could upcycle bubble wrap.

The first thing to remember is that Pinterest is our friend! For those of you who are not familiar with Pinterest, Wikipedia describes it as a visual discovery tool that people use to collect ideas for their different projects and interests. People can create and share collections (called “boards”) of visual bookmarks (called “Pins”) that they use to do things like plan trips and projects, organize events or save articles and recipes. So all I did was type “bubble wrap” into the search feature and tons of ideas appeared!

Some of my favourite ideas are listed below!

1.  Bubble Wrap Learning
by Meaningful Mama

I love this idea because it is so simple and yet can be tailored to any age group or interest!  All you need are some small round stickers and a sharpie and you can make practicing reading or numeracy so much fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.  Advents All Wrapped Up
by Chambersmades

I am always looking for ways to take the candy features out of the holidays and I love this bubble wrap advent idea! The kids can even make the stickers that go on the bubbles and each child can have their own.

 

3.  Bubble Wrap Run
by Play Create Explore

This one is SO simple! Nothing complicated about it. Lay down some bubble wrap and just do what you do! Looks like hours of fun to me!

Oh, the endless possibilities of bubble wrap. I love that you can take as little as 2 seconds to prep the fun or 20 minutes to prep stickers or paint. Whatever your time frame you are surely able to find something fun to do with bubble wrap!

 

 

It’s Not Whether You Win or Lose, It’s How You Play the Game

Games are a wonderful way for families to play and learn together. Unfortunately, not all games are well suited for young children and even the “Junior” versions of some board games are not intended for toddlers or preschool aged children. Patience is a fine virtue, but if you can get young children involved earlier, it can be a wonderful opportunity for them to build motor, social, emotional and intellectual skills.

Your first consideration should be safety. A lot of games come with small pieces, and you want to think about what your options are before the pieces in question are swallowed. Can you switch out the pieces with something bigger that would work just as well? Can you switch up the rules or how the game is played so that the pieces aren’t even necessary? For example, you might be able to keep score with a pad and paper instead of moving placeholders.

In terms of motor skills, a lot of games have a hands-on element that is perfect for developing fine motor coordination. Playing Dominos or Jenga by the rules might work well for an older child, but a younger child can still use the blocks and tiles for building, stacking, and balancing. For older children with better motor control, Scrabble tiles and playing cards provide a more challenging building experience.

The very act of playing with the physical pieces helps children to make connections with a lot of abstract concepts. Dice can be a great way to practice counting. Playing cards can be sorted by colour, suit or face value. Recognizing the labels on game boards or building words with Scrabble tiles help children to learn and practice spelling. Learning to think abstractly comes with time, and it starts with concrete real world experiences.

Speaking of which, rules can be tricky, and ideas like sportsmanship and fair play take some time to learn. You can expect most children to go through a phase where they only want to win. They will either want to ignore rules or make up their own on the fly. That’s normal, and they are learning how rules work in the process. In a similar fashion, older children are often incredibly strict about the rules, which can be very frustrating for their younger siblings. Be patient, and try to emphasize the fun and excitement of the game. Being the first across the winning line is exciting, but if you’re just as excited about your “2nd winner” and “3rd winner” you can encourage them to keep trying. If the game is only fun when you win, then it can be hard to convince anyone to play again. On the flip side, if they are having fun they will be very engaged, want to keep playing and learn all kinds of skills and information in the process.

Play! Have fun and learn

PLAY! A simple word with so much meaning. How unfortunate that as we get older we forget how important it is to stop and have fun. Play.

Play is how children learn. They learn movement through play; they build the core muscles and develop their large motor skills — essential before perfecting the small motor skills they will later need for holding a pencil and commanding it on paper.

Crawling, rolling, spinning, jumping, hopping and skipping are all part of big body play. Being messy while learning to feed yourself, creating with playdough (rolling, kneeding), finger painting, building with blocks and finger tapping to melodies are all part of small body play. For a child, all of these skills are critical to developing the muscle control needed for the rest of their lives. Children are not hardwired to sitting still. They need to be moving and using all of their senses to really learn from their environment and experiences. They need to touch, taste, smell, feel, hear and talk about what they are doing.

Play is fun! Play also encourages the brain’s creativity centre. Play promotes language skills. When we are playing we can be in deep thought as we are trying to build that tower or create that sculpture. We learn to keep trying when it doesn’t work out. We learn problem solving when we have to try again. We can be loud while pretending we are animals in the jungle or aliens in outer space, or race car drivers racing in our cardboard boxes. Whether your child likes playing aloud or quietly, you have the opportunity of using language with them. Get down on your child’s level and play alongside them. With very young children it is okay to narrate their play. You are building on their vocabulary as you comment on the colours, shapes, sizes or sounds around them. Don’t be afraid of making up stories and singing your own tunes. Your child adores the sound of your voice. Play encourages relationship building. Children won’t necessarily recall the meals they ate or the clothes they wore, but they will have memories of the days spent sitting on the floor singing, laughing, tickling, playing hide and seek, and being silly with their parents.

When children are playing together they are learning so much more than we can hope to teach them any other way. They are learning social awareness, emotional thinking, and more. They are learning to compromise, be in relationships, and to take turns. This all seems very simple on one level, but it really goes quite deep and is worth investing some time to ensure you promote play in your family life. With our busy schedules and hectic lives, we need to remember that playing is crucial and there is no substitute.

Go Ahead and Let Your Kids Play in the Mud!

There is so much information lately about sensory play and the benefits of letting our kids get dirty. Being a mom who loves to dive right in and get my own hands dirty, I hopped on the sensory play bandwagon immediately! A mommy friend and I excitedly planned our first sensory play date. After the items were picked and the space was prepared, the kids were ready and it was time to begin!

Since our little ones still put everything in their mouths we needed to use things that were edible. Cornmeal was the first texture for the girls to explore. We started modestly with a small container and a few scooping toys. This was very similar to playing in the sand although it would not be as bad if they decided to give it a taste.

Things got messy in a hurry. The girls really enjoyed feeling the cornmeal in their hands and between their fingers. It was dry and slid off the skin easily. It gave us the opportunity to use new words such as gritty, coarse, and mild when talking about how the cornmeal felt or smelled, and the girls tried to repeat the new words back to us. The new vocabulary and fun we were having made it well worth the mess!

We were pleasantly surprised that it took longer than we had expected for the kids to taste-test this new texture. Although they made yucky faces, they persisted in trying it again and again. They even used the spoons to feed it to each other.

We were so happy that they were sharing and using the spoons successfully that we waited a few scoopfuls before adding more new vocabulary. Share, feed, lick and taste were just a few of the words we found ourselves using.

We were also learning about how to keep the floor clean while still having fun! In came the water/sand box from outside as our new, larger exploration space. We decided if we were going to do this sensory play thing we were going to go all the way!

My daughter loved how it felt having the cornmeal showered onto her face, neck and head. This gave us the opportunity to talk about those body parts and location words like in and out. Then we let them go in and out of the sandbox as they pleased, so they were in control of what they were, or were not, showered in. And why stop at playing with food? The containers were just as much fun; a bowl could also be a hat or a drum!

Next we added some dry rice, and then some oatmeal. Once again we found ourselves using more new vocabulary. Flat, round, hard, soft, light and dry were just some of the words we used.

Our next step was to slowly add some water. The girls were very comfortable diving in and exploring these new textures, as things got messier and messier, with little or no direction from mommy!

After a quick spaghetti and tomato sauce lunch to refuel, we were ready for round two! The leftover spaghetti was a perfect addition to the sensory play space. Although it was a texture and taste the girls were familiar with, it was new to get to squish it between their fingers and toes.

The girls continued to try tasting every new item we added and neither of them showed any sign of wanting to stop. This made us feel awesome!

The last food we introduced was tapioca pearls (the kind used in bubble tea). The pearls came in an array of colours and sizes. Eventually the gritty cornmeal stuck to the sticky tapioca exterior. Because we did not add sugar to the pearls, as the recipe suggested, the girls attempted to eat them, spat them out, then tried other ones. They probably did this fifteen times each!

The girls loved to stand up and sit back down, transfer textures back and forth between containers, and taste-test items over and over again. With music playing in the background, covered in goo, they even stood up and danced!

It was time to clean up and take our sticky kids to a new sensory play space – the bathtub! Our play date was ending, but we continued talking about all the new words, textures, tastes and smells we had experienced that morning.

Halloween Traditions

Halloween has always been a big celebration in my household. Every year in October we would bring out all of the previous year’s costumes and have a fashion show. We would decide on our new costume for the year and make a list of all the new things we would need to add. I can remember being a gypsy, a witch, Little Bo Peep, and many others. After the fashion show we would decorate the house. The decorations we made in school were added to the collection of plastic spiders, webbing, and skeleton stickers for the windows. My mother still has a few of her favourite Halloween decorations that my sister and I made.

Closer to October 31, we would all go to the store and pick out our pumpkins for the time-honoured tradition of pumpkin carving. We would spread garbage bags over the living room floor and scoop out the inside of the pumpkin until it was clean – first with our bare hands and then with a spoon. Next would come the debate on how we would like to decorate our pumpkins this year. Would it be a scary face or funny? To start we would draw the face with a permanent marker, then hand the pumpkin over to our parents to carve. Eventually, as my sister and I grew up, we were able to take over all pumpkin carving duties. I can still remember the first year I was able to carve my pumpkin all by myself. Unfortunately the pumpkin didn’t turn out as well as it had on previous Halloweens.

Even now, years later, pumpkin carving is my favourite part of Halloween. I still spread out garbage bags on the living room floor and debate what to carve on the pumpkin. I have graduated from triangle eyes and crooked mouths to designs of witches, cats, and sometimes even star wars characters. In recent years I have started to save and roast the pumpkins seeds. So far I haven’t attempted to cook with the actual pumpkin but I hope to try something this year.

To me, Halloween isn’t about trick or treating and how much candy you can get. It’s about time spent together with family and traditions. I hope one day to pass down the Halloween traditions that I love so much.

I always like to hear others’ experiences of Halloween. Please share your favourite memories, costumes, and experiences with me.

 

Everyday Scavenger Hunts

I’m sure there are many sticklers who would argue that what I’m suggesting here is not a real scavenger hunt, but let’s skip past the dictionary definitions and focus on how you can incorporate the fun of a scavenger hunt into everyday activities.

You can search for anything

You could make a list of specific things to find, or try to see how many things you can find that fit a certain category. Personally, I’m a fan of categories and descriptions because they are great for developing vocabulary and they require a lot less preparation. Here are a few examples:

  • colours
  • sounds
  • shapes
  • words or letters (or things that start with a letter or sound)
  • movements (things that roll, fly, bounce, walk, slide, never move…)
  • sizes (what things are huge? what can you find with a magnifying glass?)
  • textures
  • groups of things (things found in pairs, 3s, 4s, 5s…)
  • things that fit a theme (tools, animals, plants, wet things, things that rhyme…)

 

You can search anywhere

Really, anywhere:

  • outside (what do you notice: walking down the street, on the bus, in the park, around a pond, at the zoo…)
  • at home (in a particular room or searching the whole house)
  • in other buildings (the garage, the grocery store, a greenhouse, the library, the post office…)
  • in books, magazines, and newspapers (newspapers are great for finding words and letters, and you might be amazed how many things they can remember seeing in the books you have shared together)
  • in your imagination (very handy when you run out of things to spot on long car rides)
  • in the garbage (maybe you’re learning about recycling or composting?)

 

You don’t need a “list”

While traditionally you start by handing out copies of a written list, a lot of young children will not find that very helpful. More often you will be reading the list to them. You can also use pictures with or instead of words, but that takes time, so you are probably only going to do that for special occasions or with things you use all the time (like turning your grocery list into a scavenger hunt).

Some people like checking things off in a list, but I never understood the appeal myself. Instead, if you want to keep track of what you find in your search, you could draw together, take pictures, use the voice recorder on your phone, collect the items themselves in a bag/box/backpack/basket (half the fun is remembering where the things you collected came from), or scribe for them (they will love seeing their words in print).

Or, you can skip the list altogether. Just pick a category or theme and go exploring together to see what you can find, or take turns deciding what you’re going to look for next.

 

Consider your audience

It’s easy to be overwhelmed if you think that a scavenger hunt needs to play out like the script to a blockbuster movie or an episode of a reality TV show. I’m not saying that wouldn’t add to the appeal, but young children are natural explorers. They will notice all kinds of things that you never thought to look for, and they bring a level of excitement to “let’s go find things that are red” that you rarely get from us older folk and our teenage friends.

 

Why are we doing this again?

  • It’s fun!
  • You can encourage them to be more observant and methodical. Often children forget to look everywhere or take a running approach to everything. By looking for things together, you can teach them some helpful strategies, like how to slow down or form a plan before you start looking.
  • We are building vocabulary! If your little one is starting to read, then circling all the words they recognize by sight on a newspaper page is great practice.
  • As exciting as it can be, this can also be really relaxing. How often do you take the time to look for shapes in the clouds? Or really listen to all the sounds in your neighbourhood?
  • There are all kinds of categories, themes, and ideas that you explore with these kinds of activities, so you’re helping them develop a broader, deeper, and more coherent worldview.
  • If you are missing a few things (your keys for example) this can be a sneaky way to recruit some help. I’m kidding, but not really. If you approach everyday tasks in a playful manner, you can keep the kids engaged, help them learn, still get everything you need done, and have fun doing it.

Put on a Show

“Come one, come all! The show is about to begin!”

These words echo through your backyard, inviting families of neighbourhood children to come and watch the production they’ve created. It will be a night of fun and memories as the performance unfolds.

It may sound a little daunting, but dramatic play is something kids do naturally. When they get together, they’re often making up stories and acting them out. Putting on an actual play or puppet show is just a different way to capture their creativity so everyone can enjoy it.

It can be as simple or complex as they want it to be. They can use a story or rhyme they know as the base for their play, or make one up. It could be a shadow play, puppet show, reader’s theatre (just Google it and a number of scripts will come up), or any other format they want.

They may want props — the crafty ones in the group will be excited to paint boxes or make puppets (sock and paper bag puppets are quick and easy). Costumes can also be made out of craft materials or old clothes and Halloween costumes. If it’s a night production, glow sticks and flashlights might be a good choice — a white blanket and a flashlight can create a shadow play.

Advertising a show is sometimes just as important as the performance and if they are a little entrepreneurial, they may even think to sell tickets and buy a treat for themselves afterwards.

There are many different ways a project like this can come to life. If you act as a guide instead of the director, you will be amazed at what kids come up with and they will be excited to show their families what they’ve done.

It’s a task that keeps them busy and having fun, and working with other kids in the community builds connections and helps people meet and get to know each other. How can you go wrong with that?

Got Cards?

Sometimes moments of boredom in our lives are expected, as when waiting at the dentist’s office. Other times they come as a surprise (although an unexciting surprise), as when you show up late to the dentist’s office and end up waiting anyways. Adults might be used to this kind of waiting, but children can rarely stand it quietly. They’re going to need something to do, and it will probably fall on the parent to provide it. There aren’t many things you can keep on you at all times just to please your child, but cards — cheap, compact, and endless in their opportunities for fun — work excellently. All you need is a flat surface to play a quick game with your children or let them entertain themselves. To that end, here are some fun ideas for curing boredom with cards:

  • Go Fish is one of the simplest card games out there. All it requires is a basic grasp of numbers and the names of cards. If there are two players, they both draw seven cards from the deck. If there are more than two players, everyone draws five cards. The first player can ask anyone else for a specific card: a six, for example. If the asked person has any sixes, they must be given to the asker and the asker gets another turn. If the asked person does not have a six, the asker is told to “go fish,” and must draw another card from the deck. If this card is a six, the asker can go again, but if not, the game moves on to the next player. The goal is to complete sets of four cards — in this case, four sixes. That set can then be put aside. At the end of the game, the person with the most completed sets wins.
  • Crazy Eights is a small step up from Go Fish, but you will find it very closely resembles Uno. Every player gets eight cards to start. The remaining cards are placed in a deck face down, except for a single card that will be placed face up beside the deck. The first player must play a card that matches either the suit or number of that card (or both). Then the game continues to the next person, who must do the same thing, and so on. If at any time someone cannot play a card, they must draw a card from the deck. If that card can be played, it may be played immediately. Otherwise, the game moves on to the next person. Some cards have special rules attached, however. Twos require the next person to pick up two cards from the deck. Eights allow the player to declare that the next card must be a specific suit of his or her choosing, regardless of the suit of the eight card. The game has been around for a long time, so there are many variations on these rules you can explore on your own. The goal is to be the first person with no more cards.
  • Matching is a much easier card-based task than both of the above. Simply lay all of the cards face down. A player picks up a card, and then another one. If they match, that player gets to keep the cards. If not, the cards must be returned. The key is to remember where previous cards were and pick them up again when you find their matches.
  • Building is another fun thing kids can do with cards. Trying to create a card house that doesn’t fall over will let kids stretch their creativity and problem-solving skills.

And a quick Google search will reveal even more options than that! So, will you finally be able to fend off your child’s boredom? The answer is in the cards. (They say yes.)

Keeping Kids Occupied in the Car

Are we there yet?” “She’s touching me!” “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do!”

Vacation time often means time spent in the car going from here to there. Whether it’s a quick drive to Grandma’s house or a grueling two-day road trip, keeping your passengers occupied while keeping your sanity can seem like a feat in itself!

Who remembers playing the License Plate Game as a child – or even as an adult? Why not try these simple variations or another one of these other games while on the road? All you need is a clipboard, some markers, stickers, a book of stamps, a hairbrush, and a little imagination and pre-planning, and you are on your way!

  1. The Name Game Watch for the letters in everyone’s names. They could come from license plates, billboards, roadside signs, or ads on the trucks whizzing by. First one to find all the letters in their names gets to choose a treat from the Goodie Bag they helped you pack before you headed out on your adventure (this is where the pre-planning comes in!).
  2. Boggle® Auto Style Using the letters from license plates, see how many three-letter (or four- or five-letter depending on their spelling ability) words they can come up with. Give them either a distance or time limit. Now go!
  3. Age Game How about the numbers? Perhaps they can try to write down the ages of all the occupants in the car. For mom and dad they may have to do some adding up of numbers.
  4. I Got it Game Randomly call out numbers and the first person to find it on a license plate gets a point. First to 15 gets to hit the Goodie Bag.
  5. Backseat Bingo Using pre-printed Bingo cards (there’s that pre-planning again) and stickers, be the first one to cover all the numbers on your sheet and shout BINGO! Or change it up and use some road signs they see along the way (construction, speed limit, animals on the road, etc).
  6. Post Office When you stop for gas or a snack along the way, let them pick out a post card. Help them address the card and write a message and then find the nearest post office and mail them (pre-planning, you already have the stamps). When they return home from holidays, they will have pictures of where they have been to add to their Summer Fun Photo Journal.
  7. Radio Roundup Sometimes radio reception isn’t all that great along the way. Or perhaps you just need a break from the scratchy all-talk radio or the blaring pop station. Why not try singing some rhymes or other little ditties and take turns interviewing (here’s where the hairbrush comes in) the Itsy Bitsy Spider or ask The Driver on the Bus why the babies were crying. Imagine the tales they have to tell!

Games can make the time spent in the car seem to go more quickly and everybody has some fun. Just don’t tell them that they have been learning at the same time!

Pick Up a Book and Get Active?

A little counter-intuitive, isn’t it? For me, reading a book means finding a comfortable spot to curl up without distractions. How do you get active with something that’s supposed to be relaxing?

All I can say is that it’s a good thing literacy isn’t just about reading a book. It could be about a scavenger hunt with a detailed list to follow, or running a marathon and following the signs. Think about all the rhymes you used as a child skipping (http://www.gameskidsplay.net/jump_rope_ryhmes/) or doing clapping games (http://funclapping.com/). These fun rhymes and songs help build vocabulary and a foundation in language – necessary for future literacy learning.

In my small village, we have an amazing program team that comes up with activities for kids to participate in all summer. The activity this past Monday was based on the television show “Mantracker.” (Here’s the link for those of you like me who have never seen it: http://www.mantracker.ca/)

My kids got a map and a legend for checkpoints their team had to get a flag from.  If our summer programmer – all dressed in camouflage with fake leaves and everything – caught them, they had to give up a flag.

Not only did my kids have fun, but what a great way to engage in a literacy activity around maps and legends! Linking it to the popular show ensured the activity was well attended and the kids knew what to expect.

This summer, when kids are bored or become couch potatoes stuck to an electronic device with the usual excuses of “my friends aren’t home” or “it’s too hot outside” or – you know I could go on and on here – challenge them to find a way to get active in literacy! They could make up their own “mantracker” game, find a skipping rope and rhymes, or put on a scavenger hunt.

The possibilities are endless and limited only by imagination. And you never know. Someone may even enjoy reading a book while bouncing on a trampoline!