Literature To Crafts: The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

It’s been absolutely ages since we’ve had a chance to read a story and do crafts from it, but the opportunity presented itself today and I grabbed it with both hands.

A few weeks ago we were going to make an ocean diorama, so we painted out a box in shades of blue and green. Our plans didn’t quite work out – my girls aren’t fond of colouring, what’s that about? – so we abandoned it, but I still had the box, in hope.

We read The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile by Margaret Wise Brown (currently £5.16 at Amazon UK/$7 Amazon US), which is a story about … well, endurance, I guess, because I couldn’t really find many other lessons in it. But endurance is a valuable skill and in this story, the fisherman search high and low for a fish with a ‘Deep Sea Smile’. They don’t find one for ages, but come across many other fish in the meantime: there’s one with a strong jaw, one with an electric tail, one with eyes on sticks, one with terrible claws and even one with a laughing eye.

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

The ability to see something through, in this case finding the fish they were looking for, is valuable, and uncommon in our quick-win society, so I think it’s a great life skill to talk about.

I also love the illustrations in this story. They are done by Henry Fisher, and if I was to have a book illustrated, I’d love him to do it. They are so beautifully done. The pictures don’t really do it justice – especially the electric fish (second on the right below).

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

To bring our book to life, I cut the parts of the fish from coloured paper, and put the different parts of the fish together in piles so the girls could ‘build’ their fish from the given parts.

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

I must say that I love our finished product. In all honesty I’m  not always ‘yay’ about the crafts we do, and we’ll keep them on display for a while before letting them ‘disappear’. I really do like this ocean diorama though. I have no idea where we’ll keep it, but it’s cute, bright, colourful and the fish are so friendly and fun.

It’s a great reminder of the story, which the girls thoroughly enjoyed.

The Fish With The Deep Sea Smile

*We received this book as part of the Parragon Book Buddies program. You can find Parragon Books on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. You can find this book on Amazon UK here or Amazon US here.

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Skills - Learn to Read Skills - Imagination Skills - CreativitySkills - Fine MotorSkills - Hand Eye Coordination

Disney Frozen Themed Shrinkles, Ice Play And DIY Jewellery

Our ‘Ocean’ Playlearning theme didn’t really go down well this week. The girls just weren’t interested, and I’ve been working long hours on top of it all, so I just let it go (see what I did there?) and decided to follow their lead. That lead took us to Elsa and Anna – the two sisters in the Disney movie “Frozen” that has taken seemingly everyone by storm!

We’ve had some gloriously hot weather, so I decided it was time to turn our new found Frozen frenzy into fun and crafty activities.

1) Make Disney Frozen Shrinkle tokens

2) Create a Frozen ice block for excavation

3) Make jewellery out of the ‘jewels’ from our digging

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Shrinklesare a staple craft product in our house. If you use the right kind you can print directly onto it saving yourself loads of time and effort.

I Googled Frozen Edible Toppers and printed off one of the groups of images I found there. The ones with the white backgroundcame out better than those with the blue background.

We cut out the circles and used a hole punch to make a hole in each one.

A couple of minutes in the oven, and our Shrinkles become disks.

The kids had fun playing with them as tiddlywinks/coins/whatever else came to mind for a while, before I took them away for part 2.

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In an ice cube tray, pop tokens and beads, and fill with water and freeze.

Once they’re frozen, fill a container with the ice cubes and top with cold but not frozen water to freeze again – this is so that the beads and tokens will appear throughout your whole ice block, not just all lying in a layer at the bottom. I found that if we used a really big block the girls lost interest before it was all chiseled away. A soup bowl size works well for a four and two year old though.

Frozen4

Once solid, removed the ice blocks to the water table outdoors and gave each child a garden shovel to use for ‘excavation’. They had a blast banging and knocking and discovering their treasures.

Frozen5Finally, I took blue and white wool – we were out of string, and the wool was sparkly – and made bracelets, a necklace and a ring.

We took a string of each colour and held a side each. Ameli turned to the right, I turned to the left and we twisted the string together. When you let go, the string snaps together, twisting to make a perfect ‘friendship bracelet’.  For the necklace we did that, and just added two beads on the end threading one through the other to attach it.

For the bracelet we threaded the disks through carefully before letting go of the two ends to snap it all together, then just moved them around so that they were placed properly all the way around.

For the ring we use a much smaller amount of string, and a single bead.

Ameli loved it. I had to get her to take it off for bed time, but with the firm promise that she could ‘be Elsa’ again tomorrow.

Does it tie into any learning goals? Well, no. But the kids had fun.

Skills - Sensory Skills - Imagination Skills - Creativity Skills - Fine Motor

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{PlayLearning} Autumn Sensory Boxes

I do love Autumn in England. It is incredibly beautiful. We seem to have skipped Autumn, as far as temperatures are concerned, which is unfortunate, as Autumn sunshine mixed with reds, browns, yellows and the remaining greens are one of nature’s treasures, in my view. I’ve started doing Autumn appreciation activities with the girls, and our Season Tree now hangs on our ‘school board’ where all our current arts and crafts go every week.20130918-163934.jpg

Today I had an unexpected  home day due to a bad night with little Aviya and the case of the persistent molars so I thought I’d share our Autumn themed sensory play boxes with you.

A few weeks ago a friend and I joined forces and made a whole lot of Autumnal play rice – we use vinegar instead of alcohol – in a range of colours. I think it turned out beautifully!

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With the help of Amazon and glitter, our Autumn Rice Box turned out like this:

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We bought leaves from Amazon (48 Autumn Leavesand artificial flowers from a local shop. You can find similar ones on Amazon  ( RosesArtificial Flowerstoo, and turned a pot of gold glitter out over the whole lot – this turned out to be Ameli’s favourite part. I had thought to use red glitter, but decided that would be more Christmassy and I’d save that for the Christmas box.

Children are interesting creatures, to say the least. With Ameli around, Aviya will get knee deep into the play rice and love it. When she’s on her own though, she cant spend a good 25 minutes with her Autumn nature box. It looks sparsely populated, but she does really well playing with the pine cones, acorns and leaves.

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I decided to add a new dimension to the nature box – smell – and added some whole nutmeg and cinnamon sticks to the mix. I’d say they’ve gone down well too!

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Do you have an Autumn Sensory box? Pop them on my Facebook wall. I’d love to see what you’re doing to celebrate Autumn or Fall!

{PlayLearning} My Season Tree

As the seasons change, we’ve been talking a lot about Autumn. Our walks have involved a lot of looking at things and picking up things, and noticing the change of colours and so on. It really is a very beautiful time of year, and I do love it. I just wish it wasn’t followed by winter!

Season TreeI’ve been meaning for months to make a Season Tree for Ameli, but it just hasn’t happened, and when I tried to laminate some summer leaves, my laminator objected strongly.

I didn’t try it again with brittle autumn leaves, deciding to buy some fake leaves instead.

For the Season Tree we used:

Putting the tree together is an exercise in going with the flow really. I glued the paper to the corrugated board to give it strength but also to give it texture.

I then cut a tree trunk and branches out of foam and glued them to the paper.

Season Tree InstructionsNext step was to cut blocks from the Velcro, which Ameli separated to stick the hooks on to the leaves, while I stuck the loops onto the leaves – whichever way round you do this doesn’t really matter, but keep it consistent so that when you change the leaves in winter, spring and summer, you always have the one type there already and the other on the leaves.

I added the text ‘My’ and ‘Tree’ to the top of the page and then wrote ‘autumn’ (fall), ‘winter’, ‘spring’ and ‘summer’ on another piece of paper which I then laminated. You don’t have to do that, of course, but we did. We Velcroed those too, so Ameli can change that when we change the leaves on the tree. I added tabs to the back of the cardboard to stick the unused items on while they’re unseasonal. Season Tree Instructions

She loved arranging the leaves, in almost puzzle-like fashion, and pulling the Velcro apart provided some good fine motor skill practice too.

The season tree now hangs on our ‘school board’ ready for us to keep going as the seasons progress through the year, and hopefully it will last long enough for Aviya to get in on the action too.

{PlayLearning} Dinosaurs

I was curious to see how dinosaurweek would go down in our home, as my daughters are just over one, and not yet four – not the target age or gender for dinosaurs, normally. Turns out, however, that they absolutely loved it. We had two dinosaur books that we focused on this week:

Ameli chose a dinosaur she liked out of ‘Things You Never Knew About Dinosaursand she made her interpretation of the dinosaurs that ride around on bikes. Another day another dinosaur, so we made some quick and easy salt dough:

  • 1/2 cup of salt
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 cup of flour
mixed together and coloured accordingly – I mixed green, red and blue food colouring for the grey-ish colour.
We made a few dinosaurs, eggs and nests, and then left them out to dry. It provided a great opportunity to discus the difference between amphibians and reptiles.

Of course, no conversation about dinosaurs can be complete without excavation. I put some toys, pompoms and water beads into blocks of ice, and the girls had a lovely, cooling, time ‘excavating’. I would say keep the blocks small for younger children, as they lost interest half way through. Smaller blocks would give them the pleasure of completion in the small attention span time frame.

I’ve seen these dinosaur eggs floating around Pinterest for ages now, and thought we’d try it for the dinosaur week.

I boiled a few eggs – the Thermomix makes amazing boiled eggs! – and then Ameli cracked them gently. We then poured some food colouring over them and left them for a few hours.

Later, Ameli peeled the eggs, which is great fine motor skill practice, and equally great for learning how to work really gently.

The peeled eggs looked fantastic, really! The blue egg only had a couple of cracks in, so didn’t have the same pattern. It was a fun experiment, and a yummy lunch.

The finished dinosaur eggs:

As much as you can with a three year old, we discussed extinction, creation, evolution and everything that goes with dinosaurs.
It was a really fun week!

{Playlearn} Learning About Different Art Forms

This week’s Summer Camp at Home theme was to do with Arts and studying different art styles. I very quickly found Ameli just wasn’t interested in that kind of, or level of, learning, just yet, so I had to adjust what were were doing pretty much on the fly.

I was a little concerned initially about what we’d do for the week, but it all came together quite nicely in the end. I decided to take it right back to basics, and Ameli really did well, I thought.

Drawing:

Ameli has been drawing for a while now, and it’s been such fun watching her go from random squiggles and lines, to colouring in all over a page, to bringing it within the lines, and now, this week, her very first ever family picture. It’s remarkably lifelike and I’m pleased to say we all seem relatively normal in her mind’s eye.

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Painting:

Inspired by Summer Camp At Home’s plan for the week, we made window paint. I tried to get Ameli to make the circles, but she wasn’t interested and in the end, I just let her paint. She had fun, and that was the aim of it, after all.  Mix equal quantities of paint with dishwashing liquid, and it makes a really easy to apply, easy to wash off window paint. It looks quite light in the application, but dries in a darker, bolder colour.

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Art instillations and sculptures:

There’s a big Rhino sculpture exhibit in Southampton at the moment, so a friend and I packed the kids into the car and went off in search of some Rhinos. It was a lovely day out, and we saw loads of Rhinos. The kids loved spotting them, and where appropriate, I had very basic discussions with Ameli about the art ‘techniques’ employed – like circles, shades, and so on.

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(Reverse) Ice Sculpting

It’s been unbelievably hot around these parts this last week, so I thought the ice sculptures that have been floating around Pinterest for some time might be a great idea. I don’t know who first came up with this, but it’s been a hit on the web. My girls do seem a bit young, really, because they enjoyed it at first, looking at how fast the salt melted it, and whether being in the sun or shade made a difference, but they lost interest about halfway through. Never mind, we’ll try again another time.  They used butter knives, front and back, to see which ‘chiselled’ better too.

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I enjoyed it though, and look forward to them trying it another day again. 20130722-085138.jpg

Card Making: 

We had a birthday party to go to on Saturday, so making the birthday card seemed like a great activity to go with a week about different art (and craft) forms. A while ago I bought a pack of A5 card stock on Amazon*, and that’s been really useful. Every time we have a birthday party coming up, I grab a card and get Ameli crafting. Another fabulous idea here is making cards using water beads

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Photography

An art form that is oft’ used here, is photography, and Ameli has had her own camera* for a while now, but it’s fair to say she’s still learning and we’re certainly not pressuring her on any part of it. Here she was taking photos of anything and everything, including funny pictures of her own face. When I have a chance to link up to the printer, I’ll print a few out for her to hang up in her art box.

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That’s been our week of exploring different art forms. I don’t know how much she’s ‘learned’ as such, but she’s had fun, she’s asked questions and she’s been involved. She’s happy, I’m happy.  We do love playlearning.

What arts do you practice with your children?

*affiliate link. if you buy through this link, I will receive a percentage as commission. You do not pay any more than going through a non-affiliate link. The only difference is how much Amazon keeps. Thank you in advance for supporting us and helping me pay to keep the blog going!

8 Activities For Improving Fine Motor Skills

For three years now, I’ve not posted on things that I assume everyone else would assume to be boring.

Then a few days ago I was speaking to a mother about fine motor skills and how her daughter’s were under developed. We spoke for a while about what fine motor skills were and what you can do to encourage their development.

We do loads of little activities specifically aimed at fine motor skill development, while having fun, so I thought I’d share a few from the last 12 or so months with you.

If you don’t know what fine motor skills are, they are the small movements that occur in the hands, wrists, fingers, feet, toes, lips and tongue. They are the smaller actions that occur such as picking up objects between the thumb and finger, using a pencil to write carefully, holding a fork and using it to eat, and other small muscle tasks that we all do every day.

Activities that use, promote and enhance them involve picking, up, putting in and pouring.

Here are a few:

Ice cream sticks in a narrow bottle neck. My 14 month old loves this one.

Picking up small objects, like stones. Arrange from large to small or dark to light. (Keep an eye on smaller children so they don’t swallow them. )

Pour pompoms from cup to cup.

Pick them up and sort them by colour or size.

Stickers are perfect for fine motor skills. Picking the sticky backing from the foam bit.

Coloured rice. It’s all fun, but the clean up is where the pincer grip really comes into its own.

Threading is great. It requires concentration, and has the reward of ‘jewelery’ at the end.

Stacking. That’s great fun, especially in the knocking over. But again, balance, concentration – excellent development. 

What do you for fine motor skill development? 

Learning Points:

Rainbow Rice For Sensory Boxes

We had a pretty rough day around these parts, but if you look at the photos, you wouldn’t know it. Ah, if my real life looked like my photo stream, that would be just great. Oh well.

Our jar of rainbow rice from last year has pretty much run out, so it was time to make some more rainbow rice. I bought a cheap 3kg bag of rice, and Ameli and I set out to colour them.

Rainbow Rice

We separated the rice into five bowls, and poured a table spoon of vinegar into each. We added red, blue, green and yellow food colouring to four bowl, and added blue and red to another, to make purple.

We then set about mix, mix, mixing, before leaving it overnight to dry.

This morning I poured the rice into our new rice tub, and popped in the playdoh toys.

I seem to be really struggling with mess at the moment, so rather than put the rice in the house, I put it outside on a plastic sheet so that any spillage could be poured back into the tub, but the girls were still free to pour, spill and mess.

In a couple of days I’ll put some cars and trains in, and I also have some stars and other stellar objects that will make for fun play.

One of the bonuses of sensory boxes is that children use all their senses to really get into it, so it’s fun and play, but also development. I love when my children learn through play and I love how a sensory box turns them into little explorers.

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 Learning Points:

Bought Busy Bag Ideas

This is the second in a series of posts on Busy Bags, toddler activity bags. In The Low Down On Busy Bags, I share what they are, how they work and how we store them. 

Most of my busy bags are made up from scratch, but there have been a few that we were better suited to bought items.

1. Books

Most pre-made games and activities can be made into busy bags

You can find really cheap children’s board books (US link here) if you look in the right places. These are small sized so they can fit into a Busy Bag.  I have thought to put one book in a bag with props that go with the story, but haven’t gotten that far yet. A story about a red balloon that goes up, up, up and away – My Red Balloon* (US link here) could include a red balloon ( or a few for reuse!) that can be inflated for the story and played with for a while after. You can go a step further and include a bear, rabbit, polar bear, penguin and  giraffe toys in the bag to help bring the story to life.  The child can then act out the story after you’ve read, or simply play with the items. Remember to return it all after play and before opening the next bag though!

2. Sidewalk Chalk

Sidewalk chalk (US link) is great fun, because it simply washes off.  It’s probably still best used outdoors, and provides a great excuse to get outside and soak up some winter sun. It works on blackboards too, but I think it’s a thicker chalk otherwise it’ll run out on the ground faster. Remember if you buy a big tub of it not to give all the pieces in one go. Three or four to a busy bag work just fine. Save the rest for gifted busy bags, a busy bag swap or just to replace used up ones later.

3. Construction Games

We used ItsiBitsi construction rubbers – circles with cut out bits that you slot in to each other to build designs. I cannot find these online anywhere, but it’s a similar concept to the Galt First Octons (US link to loads of different fabulous looking construction kits). These can provide hours of entertainment in 10 – 15 minute slots. Once again you can buy one large set, but you don’t have to put them all in one bag, they can be split between bags.

4. Play Foam

Play Foam (US Link) is an alternative to Play Doh. It is less messy and doesn’t smoosh into your carpets. It’s not the most ‘natural’ of products, but at least it’s non toxic. You can make and mould and play with it more or less like dough. The kids like it, and yes, I do sometimes find some in Aviya’s nappy, but she’s survived it. As you can see, I only included two colours in the busy bag because this is a bag for when I’m busy and need something that occupies the girls – I do not want to spend hours cleaning up once they’re done!

5. Colour Sorting

There are so many different colour sorting activities you can do with your toddler, but I particularly like this one, because when you’re done with colour sorting, you can use the stacking cups for water play, in the bath, in the sand pit, colour mixing (using food colouring) and all sorts of things. You can also use the stacking cups (US link) as intended and pass them down to your baby for stacking. In this game, you need to provide pompoms (US link) in the same colours as the stacking cups and laying them all out in front of the little one, you get them to sort the colours. As they get older, you can also use this number for counting, or you could use both the pompoms or the cups themselves for a lesson in size.

The main thing with these busy bags is to buy stuff on sale, buy them when you see them cheap and split the contents into different bags so you can mix it up from time to time. Or if you can, join a busy bag swap, or start one with your friends. It works out a lot cheaper if you buy in bulk, and make a bunch of bags, then swap with someone else who’s done the same.

What have you bought to make up ‘bought’ busy bags?