Saturday, April 30, 2016

Roundup of some of our homemade loose parts play

For this month’s play roundup, here is a quick photo post of a few of our favourite homemade loose parts* for play. (*In the early childhood education setting, loose parts are simply open ended materials or items that can be combined, redesigned or lined up in multiple ways for play).

 Yoghurt bottle tops

I built up this collection gradually over time from the squeezy yoghurt pouches I pack in Nathan’s lunch box. I get Nathan to save them and take them home for me to wash and stash away in our collection. The children enjoy playing with these in a myriad of ways--colour sorting, counting, pretend cooking, lining up in patterns and so on.



Coloured pasta

You can find heaps of DIY articles on Pinterest for making your own coloured pasta. Just regular dry pasta mixed with some food colouring and vinegar. They make a very pretty collection of loose parts for open ended play. Apart from playing pretend cooking and sorting with these, the children also thread them on string to make necklaces and bracelets.



Scrap fabric and pom-poms

Just a couple of baskets set out with some colourful scrap fabric and pom-poms for the children to explore and imagine with. I arranged some of the fabric in little cups and added a little tray of straws by way of a suggested pretend juice bar play. In the end the children of course came up with their own creations and concoctions with the materials.



Hot cocoa and marshmallows

Sometimes I arrange the loose parts in a specific play invitation setting. In this case, I used some brown fabric and large styrofoam pieces to set up a little café serving hot cocoa with marshmallows. The older preschoolers gravitated to the pretend play set up immediately, while the younger toddlers simply enjoyed the process of exploring the material with the tongs and spoons.



Spaghetti and meatballs

For this set up, I used yarn for the noodles, brown pom-poms for the meatballs and some felt pieces for the cheese, tomato and vegies. Just like the previous scenario, the older preschoolers caught onto the set up immediately, while the younger toddlers simply enjoyed exploring the material at their own pace.



If you enjoyed this post you can check out more play and learning ideas and also other favourite homemade loose part materials such as our DIY play muslins and mini bean bags.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Funtastic ‘Bunchems’ Play Invitation

{ This Product Talk is brought to you by Nuffnang and Funtastic ‘Bunchems’ }

At our place we do a fair amount of art & craft and sensory & messy play. It does involve a bit of work, especially with the clean up. But the children all love it and it’s good for them too… getting all their creative juices flowing, practising their hand-eye coordination skills, stimulating their various senses.

Though sometimes, it’s also nice to have a break from all the clean up and mess-management. So when I came across ‘Bunchems’, I was immediately intrigued. All the creative, crafty, hands-on play with some funky-looking material without any of the icky-sticky-gooey mess.


The Bunchems Mega Pack comes with:

400 pieces of little Bunchems;
36 accessories to embellish your creations with;
And one ideas booklet.


I laid out everything on our big play table as a ‘Bunchems Play Invitation’. My little ones were so excited they could hardly finish their afternoon tea in their eagerness to begin playing with the little ‘spiky pom-poms’ as they called them.


The pieces are fairly intuitive to work with. Just like the name, you simple bunch ‘em together to make whatever you like. Each little Bunchem piece is covered with tiny hooked spikes which grab hold of each other when attached.


Five-year-old Nathan got the hang of it almost immediately——coming up with ideas on what to make, figuring out how to arrange the pieces and positioning them in the right way to attach the various accessories on. It was so much fun exploring the different accessories and thinking of creations to make use of each accessory.


One of my three-and-half year old girls also got the hang of how the pieces work fairly quickly. Though she needed a bit of guidance on coordinating the accessories and positioning the pieces in the right way to attach the accessories on.


And it’s amazing just what a few features and accessories can transform a simple clump of Bunchems into. It’s all about accessorising!


The two and three year olds were eager to be part of the action as well. They enjoyed exploring the unusual texture of the spiky Bunchem pieces and attempting to stick them together. They were more focused on the process of attaching the Bunchem pieces together rather than the end result—-which is typical of younger children around that age anyway.


I had sort of anticipated this, so I already prepared some containers, bowls and utensils in the play invitation for the younger children to incorporate into their play and exploration process. They used the tongs and spoons to pick up the pieces and collect them into the different bowls and containers.


The Early Childhood Educator side in me can already see opportunities for colour sorting games, counting, shape recognition activities with the little ones using these Bunchems.


The children then further extended the play into their own pretend and role play, doing some cooking in the play kitchen using the Bunchems. I was treated to a variety of colourful Bunchem cakes, soups and ice cream.


Funtasic ‘Bunchems’ are definitely a highly versatile and construction toy, craft material and open-ended pieces for imaginative play. I am glad to have it included in our collection of creative-play toys and materials to support the learning and development of the children under my care.

If you can think it, you can create it with Bunchems!


Some closing thoughts on Funtastic ‘Bunchems’…

I personally like Funtastic ‘Bunchems’. They are a fun and engaging toy and are a unique combination of construction-type toys and creative-sensory-type material.

The recommended age of 4+ for this toy is pretty spot on. My five-year-old son was able to engage with the toy very quickly and easily to create and construct with them. The under four-year-olds enjoyed the toy from a sensory and explorative perspective, but generally did not focus on constructing anything in particular with the pieces--though they thoroughly enjoyed playing with it anyway in their own way.

Based on my observations on how the different children under my care engaged with the toy, I would say Bunchems is somewhat a tad bit more of a girls’ toy. Boys definitely enjoy the wacky side of Bunchems-- coming up with weird and interesting creations. However they might find limitations in the types of constructions they can build with the Bunchems pieces which allow them to extend their creations into more solid, action-type play. This is strictly my own personal opinion based only on my observations of the boys in my care. And every boy is different after all. I do not intend to gender-stereotype in any kind of way. I always strive to minimise gender-stereotype play while at the same time respecting the fact that boys and girls are different. Bottom line is still that both girls AND boys will certainly enjoy Bunchems as an open-ended toy and craft material to fuel their creativity and imaginative play.

I’ve heard some of the cautionary stories and news about the dangers of Bunchems due to the fact they can get badly tangled in hair and clothes. I had seen some images circulated around of a girl’s hair all horrifically frayed and tangled up with Bunchem pieces. The children under my care don’t seem inclined at all to putting stuff in their hair so I would say the risk of a drama like this happening is not dangerously high. But I suppose you’ll never know what kids can get up to when left to their own devices. If you or your kids ever find yourself in this situation, just refer to this tutorial on how to get those clingy pieces out of your (or their) hair. 

{ I received this product in exchange for a review but my opinions are completely genuine and honest }

Sunday, April 17, 2016

I love your funny face

If there was one person in the world who could beat me at being a drama queen, it’s this little person…


Most of the time, it’s the best fun ever having a little drama queen. But there are times when we get a bit too much drama to handle. But nothing that a little cuddle time time with teddy can’t fix.


One of our current favourite family games is ‘Funny Face’. Basically I just call out an expression or emotion (“make a happy/sad/angry/scared/surprised face”) and the kids would make that face.


Two-and-a-half year old Grace is pretty good at this game. Though sometimes she and her big brother crack each other too much they end up in a mess of giggles and silliness to keep up with the game.


One morning a few weeks back, I headed over to Grace’s bedroom to get her out of bed as part of our usual morning routine.

This was the sight that greeted my eyes…

IMG_20160325_141441{ Crime scene re-enacted by the primary suspect }

Me: Grace!!! What happened??? Who did this???
Grace: Errrr… Gracie.
Me: What were you doing, Grace?
Grace: I break my pillow?
Me: Why did you break your pillow?
Grace: Because it got broken here (pointing to a hole in the middle of her pillow)
Me: (*face palm*) Sigh.


Another time while I was cleaning up in the kitchen while my little charges were busily playing together, there was a sudden cry and yelp of pain from one of the little boys. I hurried over to see what had happened. I found three-year-old ‘J’ bawling his eyes out with Grace standing next to him holding a toy magic wand in her hand.

Me: Why is ‘J’ crying?
Nathan: Gracie knocked him on the head with her wand--I saw her!
(After calming ‘J’ down and checking his injury which was mostly just emotional)
Me: Grace, I can see that ‘J’ is feeling very sad and upset.
Grace: Yeah.
Me: Why do you think ‘J’ is feeling sad and upset?
Grace: (very seriously and earnestly) Because I turn him into a fwog.
Me: (trying very, very hard to keep a straight face) I see. Maybe next time you can just pretend to tap him with your wand. Just wave it over him like this. Okay?
Grace: Okay.


Another time, as I was loading some clothes into the washing machine, I glanced down the hallway and caught sight of little Gracie sliding on her tummy across the floor, hands pinned straight down her sides. I watched her for a good 30 seconds sliding down the hallway in that manner wondering what she was up to this time. She glanced up at me and saw me staring at her. She flashed me the biggest grin and said“Mummy, I’m a snake!”


Sometimes after a meal, Grace ends up in a pretty messy state. One time, the mess was so bad it was all over her shirt and shorts. So after cleaning her up, I stripped her down to her nappy to toss her clothes into the wash. Grace patted her bare belly and piped “Look mummy! I got no shirt! Just like a monkey! O0-oo-aa-aa!”


Last month, I organised an Easter egg hunt with my kids during the week leading up to Easter. We started out with a craft activity making their Easter egg baskets for the hunt. While we were making the baskets, I chatted to the children about the Easter egg hunt…

Me: Where do you think the eggs will be hidden?]
J: I don't know.
S: Maybe in the cubby house?
H: In the cubby house!
Grace: No, it's not in the cubby house. It's in mummy's bag! (very perceptive)
Me: What colour eggs will you find?
S: Blue and pink!
H: Pink!
J: Red!
Grace: So many!


Last week we had a very wet and rainy spell. Nathan, Grace and myself were enjoying our breakfast on one particularly stormy and rainy morning.

Nathan: I like the smell of rain.
Me: Me too. What do you like about the smell of rain?
Nathan: It smells so nice and cool.
Grace: I like the smell of thunder!
Me: Oh, what does thunder smell like?
Grace: It smell like this… BOOM!!! Aaahahahahahaha!!! (cracking herself up)
Nathan and me:  {-_-}


Sigh. I love you oh so much my funny little girl.


P.S. A song dedicated to this little funny face

You've got all the qualities of Peter Pan
I'd look far before I'd find a sweeter pan

I love your funny face
Your sunny, funny face
Though you're a cutie with more than beauty
You've got a lot of personality for me

You fill the air with smiles
For miles and miles and miles
Though you're no Mona Lisa
For worlds I'd not replace
Your sunny, funny face

{ Fred Astaire - Funny Face }