I’m pretty open about the fact that these days, I rarely set up paint play for the kids. It was much more common occurrence before Rocky came along. These days it’s watercolours all the way! They’re so easy to set up and clean up, I just can’t resist. But Pebble misses her REAL paint, her sloppy, slide-across-the-page paint. Last week she asked if we could get the paints out I said ‘yes’. She almost did a double take!
Rocky hasn’t had much chance to explore these paints before, so we set up tray of paints, some paint brushes, some paper and
I left them to it stood nearby to make sure Rocky didn’t eat it or tip it on his head. The paper was very quickly abandoned in favour of smearing the paint across the old coffee table that we use for outdoor art and play. Finger painting, hand painting, belly, elbow and feet painting!
At times it got a little crazy. Rocky decided halfway through that he’d like to play with the space hopper… while still covered in wet paint. Then he stumbled around the backyard and landed hands first on the BBQ, leaving his sticky wet paint mark on it’s cover. But apart from that we did ok – we got messy without getting MESSY!
After some fun with smearing, Pebble turned back to her paper and starting printing. She also made some paint resist art work on the coffee table by splodging, smearing and slopping paint on top of a piece of paper on the table, then pulling the paper back to reveal a perfectly rectangle space beneath.
Once the kids were getting tired of the painting we added a big squirt (and then another and then another) of dish washing liquid and turned the hose onto the table. Their excitement was renewed as the paint frothed and soaped and bubbled. They played together until the table was all clean, then played in the suds as they gurgled in the grass. Then I threw both kids in the bath and scrubbed them clean! Here are my tips for happy paint play with toddlers and preschoolers:
Tips for Paint Play for Toddlers and Preschoolers
- dress in old clothes (that includes you too!)
- distract the kids with something else and set up all the equipment before you invite them to play
- have a bucket of water and an old towel ready for clean up (or play near a hose)
- remove anything from the area that you don’t want to get covered in paint (including space hoppers!)
- breathe! Relax! Let it go! Mess is good!
- make cleaning up part of the play and get the kids to help
- go straight in to the bath after play and get scrubbed up
- distract the kids some more while you clean up yourself and the rest of the mess if needed (a snack and a pile of books or a favourite TV show work for me).
Do you embrace messy play? Or do you avoid it like the plague?
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I am just in love with seeing my two kids play together. I feel like they’ve grown up so much, especially since spending four days away from them to attend the Problogger conference recently. The day that I got home I noticed how they were chatting to each other (or Pebble, aged 4.5, was chatting and Rocky, aged 18 months, was listening and occassionally babbling back). They shared toys and experiences together, drawing with chalk or building a cubby and clamboring in and out of it. For Pebble these experiences are definitely all about pretend play, she’s constantly narrating a play scene. For Rocky I think this play is about joining in with his sister and figuring out how things work.
Of course these play scenes aren’t always a carefree, whimsical love fest – they are siblings after all! They have their fair share of fights about who sat where first, who gets to play with which toy and who punched who in the nose. Unfortunately for Rocky he’s not able to tell us his side of the story yet, so he doesn’t really get a fair trial! With practice they will get better at sharing each others space. Right?
I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to introduce a pretend play scene for them to share. I collected a few bits and pieces from around the house and put them together with an awesome new toy sent to me by Hasbro, and this is what I came up with.
Pretend Play Construction Site
You will need a collection of items that can be used to represent a construction site, eg:
- roads (either a play mat or create your own roads using masking tape)
- toy cars and trucks (we used the Hasbro Diggin’ Rigs Buzz Saw)
- cardboard boxes to represent buildings
- tin cans to represent barrels
- dolly pegs dressed in fluro paper ‘jackets’ to represent construction workers
- Play-Doh for making boulders, walls, work helmets…. whatever you need!
- popsticks to represent levers, scaffolding, ramps, etc
To create the scene (there really are no rules to making a play scene, but this is how we did it):
- Pebble and I used masking tape to create roads on the floor.
- We placed the rocks inside a cardboard box with two sides removed, giving that play space a boundary and also making it easy to pack up.
- Pebble and Rocky helped me to get the other bits and pieces on the scene and it was soon clear that I needed to get out of their way so that they could PLAY!
Rocky was most fascinated with the Diggin Rigs Buzz Saw and spent a good deal of time just pushing it around on the roads. Which was perfect for Pebble, it gave her the space to begin her intricate narrative and set up the characters of the play. Soon they were working together, building Play-Doh walls, trucking rocks from once place to another, and ‘sawing’ objects in half.
Extend the play:
- Children bring their own real world experiences to their play. Drive by or visit a real construction site and talk about what you can see.
- If there are no construction sites near you then try searching YouTube for videos of construction sites or tools in action. I found some cool videos when I searched for “buzz saw truck”. Who knew?!
- Add paper and pencils for children to make their own signs to add to the construction site.
Thanks to the awesome people at Hasbro I have three Diggin Rigs Buzz Saw toys to giveaway to three lucky Octavia and Vicky readers. The Diggin Rigs Buzz Saw playset includes a detachable arm, two plastic blades, an excruder rail and four cans of Play-Doh.
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Hasbro Play-Doh Diggin’ Rigs Buzzsaw Playset
Rocky loves anything that rolls – wheeled toys are his favourites from prams to trucks, balls and walkers. He will often find a wheeled toy and flip it on it’s back just for the pure pleasure of being able to spin those wheels. One day I thought we’d have some fun with all things roly poly asked Pebble the question:
What can we find in the house that rolls?
We found lots of things! Balls, trucks, cars, ride ons, cylinder blocks and rattles. Pebble pulled them all in to a pile and I asked the question:
How can we make these things move?
Pebble, with Rocky joining in, pushed and pulled the toys and showed how they moved, brrrrming and beeping and rolling. They rolled the ball to each other, Rocky is getting quite good at that. They played cars on the car mat.
Then Pebble had an idea! She made a little ramp with one of the couch cushions and sat with Rocky on the couch. Together they took turns (kind of) pushing toys down the hill and chasing them, then doing it all again. There was lots of giggling and only a little bit of fighting. Winning!
What next? We might try these simple science ideas:
More simple science with kids:
One of Pebble’s favourite things to do is collect treasures from the garden. There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not finding her garden treasures in my pockets, her bags, on shelves and random containers around the house (even in the fridge!?!). They are very meaningful to her, and she pretends with them in lots of different ways. Sometimes they’re part of her fairy world, or perhaps ingredients for cooking, other times they are presents for her friends.
One gorgeous summer morning we took a basket out into the garden and had a hunt for garden treasures together. Pebble delighted in finding leaves, twigs, flowers, gum nuts and seed pods, chatting about them all the way. Colour was very important to her and she noticed the slightest variations in colour from leaf to leaf. We gathered flowers with tiny petals and the smallest gum nuts, then giant seed pods and miniature pine cones.
When we were all done with exploring we took our collection inside while we made some play dough. Together we poured, stirred, kneaded and rolled, until we had the perfect consistency of soft, pliable play dough, just begging to be played with. We took the play dough and garden treasures back outside and sat in the shade. Pebble started immediately ‘cooking’ with all her bits and pieces, creating a delicious dinner. Then her play segued into making a pot for holding flowers, one that dries hard (apparently), and placing flowers just so.
We kept the play dough and garden treasures and revisited them throughout the week, each time they took on new meaning through imagination and were added to with more garden treasures. It was lovely to see how the simplest ingredients lead to magical play and watch as it unfolded over time.
Garden Treasures Play Dough (No Cook)
You will need:
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1 cup salt
- 1 tablespoon cream of tartar
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- approx. 2 cups boiling water
- food colouring (if you like, we left ours natural)
- garden treasures: twigs, leaves, pine cones, rocks, grass, flowers, seed pods, bark. Whatever you can find in your garden!
To make the play dough:
- combine the dry ingredients
- combine the water and oil (and food colouring if you’re using it) and stir into to the dry ingredients until a dough forms.
- knead until smooth and stretchy (careful, the dough will be hot!)
- store in an air tight container in the fridge.
What’s the weirdest place you’ve found one of your kid’s collections in? Anyone else found gravel in their fridge?!
Want more fun ideas for kids? Just download your copy of the Three to Five Playful Preschool ebook. Watch the 30 second video and buy your copy now or find out more.
Looking for more play inspiration?