Invitation to Create with styrofoam, pipe-cleaners and paint.

Apr 18, 2014

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The first week of the school holidays here was quite miserable weather so there was a lot of time spent inside. This meant lots of creative and open-ended activities to keep the kids, aged 5 and 2, entertained and their minds stimulated.

Today's activity was an Invitation to Create with a few available materials we had on hand. My original idea had actually been to wrap pipe-cleaners around some foam pieces to create a type of pipe-cleaner resist artwork, however, it was more interesting and promoted greater creativity and investigation to simply supply the materials and leave the rest up to the kids.

Ages: 2+
(See the bottom for handy tips to make the activity work best for your child.)

  • Styrofoam pieces (I wouldn't buy this stuff, just recycle any that enters your house in packaging. etc. Any shape or size is fine)
  • Pipe-cleaners
  • Paint (we used our favourite easy wash metallic paint from Micador)
  • Brushes

When presenting the same activity to children of multi-ages, it is always interesting to see how they approach it. It was no surprise to me that my toddler went straight for the paint and his older sister started with the pipe-cleaners.

Maddie (5) worked with care and purpose. We discussed ideas for what her creation could be used for. (I think she decided on a stage area for toys to perform).

Noah (2), enjoyed the sensory experience of touching and using all the materials around him.

He may not have thought to stick pipe-cleaners in the foam but working beside his older sister allowed for peer learning and discovery as he attempted to imitate her careful actions.

Practicing those fine-motor skills and hand-eye coordination

As with all different painting surfaces, the paint will react differently with it. The foam was somewhat absorbent but also somewhat water resistant at the same time which was interesting for the kids. Some of the colour would soak in but my toddler discovered he could wipe the paint back off the foam with a cloth and reapply the paint over and over again. This gave us many opportunities to talk about the different colour combinations as he applied them.

Exploring the paint, swirling and mixing. Without realising it or with any intention, we are investigating properties of various liquids (the paint), including the density and thickness and how it sits on a brush or canvas. This is also a natural time to discuss colours and colour mixing with children.

When the paint dried on the styrofoam, the colours were a bit duller but overall made a nice effect. We're not exactly sure what we're going to do with out now decorated foam pieces but I'm sure we'll come up with something. Any suggestions? :)

Handy Tips:

- Simplify this activity by leaving out the pipe-cleaners and simply exploring the effects of paint on styrofoam. Or, for a mess free activity, leave out the paint and focus on working fine motor skills through building sculptures with the foam and pipe-cleaners.

- Extend this activity by adding extra elements to your initial invitation. Add things like beads, feathers, sticks, leaves etc.

- Get well set up before you start painting with little kids. It's when you have to race off to grab a damp cloth or similar that things can quickly go from a controlled mess to an outright mess, so be prepared before you start by having cleaning supplies like a damp cloth and toweling paper at the ready.

Talk with your child about what they are doing and ask them questions. This will help them understand the physical and mental processes they are going through as well as giving them the vocabulary to describe it. While children are being creative and focused,  it can be a great time to talk about sensitive issues and their feelings.

- Use new language and descriptive words like, "manipulate", "spread", "vibrant", "absorb" etc. This will help with their language development.

- Still feeling creative? Here are some of our other arty ideas for kids. 
(click on the pictures to go to the post)

 art for kids, fun art, canvas art   painting activity, kids activity, activity for kids  activities for kids  kids art

Happy creating,
Debs :)

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How to control technology use with kids + Samsung GALAXY Tab 3 Kids Review

Apr 14, 2014

This post is sponsored by Samsung and Nuffnang

Recently we were sent Samsung's first dedicated tablet for kids, the GALAXY Tab 3 Kids, to trial.

In general, I try to limit the electronic or battery operated toys in our house and instead look for toys or materials that are open ended. Most battery operated toys I find are generally unnecessary and have limited purpose or scope for use. When it comes to technology, I understand the benefits, but I also understand the need for parental control.

I have seen how easy it is for my daughter to suddenly be on the internet after accidentally pressing something in a free kids app on my phone, and my son can walk by and touch 4 keys on my laptop and suddenly be in a whole different format or program that I’ve never seen before! It’s safe to say that I think parental control and settings for children using technology are needed.

The first thing that parents should control when it comes to their child's use of technology, is what they have access to. Children should not have free, unsupervised access to the internet. You know what's out there! We also know that there are plenty of wonderful, educationally beneficial sites, programs and apps available on the internet that are brilliant for kids. The trick is ensuring that your children have access to the right things only.

With adult supervision, specific parental control settings may not need to be implemented, but if children are using internet connected technology independently for any period of time, then you should have a way to help you control access to pre-approved content/sites.

I found the GALAXY Tab 3 Kids makes this super easy to control, with it's dedicated kids mode for safety and a password protection on anything outside the approved kid friendly apps.

The second thing I believe parents need to control, is the amount of time that children are using technology for. It is recommended by the Australian Government Department of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics that children aged between approx 2-8 should have no more than 1-2 hours of screen time per day.
Screen time includes anything that your child is staring fixed at a screen. This means TV, video games, tablets, mobile phones, computers etc.

The main reasons I believe that screen time in general should be limited are:
  • to limit the amount of time children are sitting inactive
  • to allow children scope for unaided imagination and creativity
  • to encourage social skills 
  • to give children more opportunity to use all of their senses 
  • overuse of unstimulating screen time is linked with obesity, sleeping problems, behavioural problems and lower academic performance.

I do think that if it is being used for learning purposes, a little extra screen time here and there is ok, so long as children are still getting the recommended time of physical activity each day. We would encourage our children if they were sitting for a certain period reading a book, and reading an ebook needn't be any different, in my opinion.

I did love that the GALAXY Tab 3 Kids allows you to set time limits on usage, (from 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes), after which it requires a password to operate. You can even set certain time periods, eg. between 4-5pm, that it can be used, locking it for use at all other times. Very handy features to have.

Using it was easy for my daughter (aged 5) and she loved all the apps that came with it. Some of them she had previously used on my smart phone (and was delighted they were there!), and there were some great new ones there that we enjoyed exploring together. 

I loved the educational aspects of the books and many of the apps and my daughter just loved the whole interactive nature of it all and how bright and clear the screen and graphics were, compared to almost all of the other kid designated technology we've used.

We found that the loading times and screen speeds were also a lot faster than we're used to from kids tablets in the lower price range.

I love watching my daughter engaging with appropriate technology. It's just another fun way that we can learn through play. I generally believe in most things in moderation and the use of technology for children is no different. In moderation and with proper parental control, I think that technology can be very beneficial indeed. And, when you have great products like the Samsung GALAXY Tab 3 Kids available, these things just get even easier.

The GALAXY Tab 3 Kids is a tablet designed for kids and features the following:

  • A world for kids with an intuitive Kids friendly user interface on the Android platform with a differentiated kids content.
    (We found it so user friendly for kids! Perfect for the specified age groups)
  • Designed specifically for kids aged 3-6 with the ability to easily switch from the built in Kids Mode to Standard GALAXY Tab 3 Mode – so the tablet grows with your child or so you can use it like an ordinary tablet
    (I think older kids would love using it in standard mode. Personally, I'd be keeping this tablet for the kids and using my own one. It does function just like a regular tablet when switched over but I'd prefer one for myself with higher specs.)
  • 8 best-selling Kids Apps pre-loaded and many more available in the Kids App Store. 20 great free apps in total.
    (Some were favourites that we already had on our phones. They'd have no reason to use my phone anymore, yay! Extra apps can be purchased but need parental permission first to buy)
  • Comes with a unique protective and colourful rubber bumper designed to keep the edges of the tablet protected, which can be removed when your child gets older.
    (Doesn't actually protect the screen itself but you can purchase additional screen protectors. Good for knocks and bumps and accidental drops)
  • Parental settings to help control in app usage and purchases and manage the amount of use per day (These are great and so important!)
  • Available to purchase from selected Australian retailers, including: JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman, Bing Lee, Dick Smith, Target, Big W, Good Guys and Myer
  • RRP $299.00 AUD

Overall, to me, this tablet looks, feels and performs like most tablets you’d buy for adults (in this price range). The main difference, (and top feature in my opinion), is it’s dedicated kids platform, which I think has been done really well. I think if you’re after a super sturdy tablet for the kids to crash and bash around on without worry, this probably isn’t the tablet for you. You can buy an additional carry case for it but it’ll set you back another $69.95.
My kids prefer using this tablet over the other tougher kid’s tablets, as to them, “it’s like a “real” tablet” and it’s much faster loading than they’re used to. I also prefer it as it’s easy to use (for kids and parents), has all the parental settings I need, good apps and easy access to the Google Play store to put even more free or paid content on it if I like. It’s the kind of tablet that I am happy to let my kids play independently for short periods of time without having to check in constantly to make sure they’ve not pressed something they shouldn’t have. The price is higher than most kids’ tablets but personally I think it’s worth it as I can see us getting a lot of use from this one over the years.

How to Win (Australian entries only) 

Thanks to Samsung we are giving away a $100 Google Play voucher to one lucky Aussie reader.

To enter, simply leave a comment below that answers the following question:

How would the Galaxy Tab 3 for kids fit into your life?

Giveaway details:
This is a game of  skill and entries will be judged based on creativity and originality. Open to Australian residents only. Entries open  9:01am AEDT,Monday 14th April, 2014 and close 5:00pm AEDT, Friday 25th April, 2014. Terms and Conditions apply. Please click here for full terms and conditions.
- If you don't have a profile created that links to an email address then you must leave your email address with the comment. You can't win if we can't contact you! If you use the anonymous profile to comment you need to leave your name and email.

There is currently a consumer cash back promotion on offer. Consumers who purchase a GALAXY Tab 3 Kids tablet between 8.00am AEDT on 27 February and 6.00pm AEST 30 April 2014, can get $50 cash back. Terms and conditions apply, visit for full T&Cs.

Happy playing, 
Debs :)

{Disclosure: this is a paid post for Samsung sponsored by Nuffnang. As always, opinions expressed in this post are my own and my children's.}

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Invitation to Play. Playdough and Chicks Sensory Small World Play

Apr 12, 2014

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Last Easter, I bought a whole lot of little chicks in different colours to use for an activity. (I actually bought them after Easter when the price was reduced and shops were trying to get rid of all their Easter stock. For some reason I packed them away and completely forgot about them until we started approaching this Easter and I saw them in the shops again).

As I couldn't remember the originally activity I'd had in mind, I decided to create a simple Invitation to Play with the chicks and some sensory materials. This activity was open ended so that it allowed for creative, imaginative play for both my 2 year old toddler and 5 year old.

We used the activity to further language skills, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, sorting, counting, colours, classifying, story telling, model making and more.

Ages: 12 months+
(See the handy tips at the bottom for ideas to suit your child's needs)

Materials used:
  • Little chicks (varying colours and sizes)
  • Shredded paper
  • Playdough from our No-cook playdough recipe
  • A couple of plastic easter egg halves in corresponding colours
  • Little plastic gemstones

With my daughter at school, my toddler had first play with the small world. Usually I will just provide the materials and let the kids work out what they want to do with them, but this time I was interested in creating a little scene first to encourage a more creative, imaginative play scenario and see how he would interact with it.

The small world set up certainly captured his attention and he was delighted by it all and keen to touch and play with everything.

At this stage, he didn't engage with the scene in a role-play type of way. He instead was mainly interested with how he could manipulate all the materials. What were they capable of?

I encouraged language development and colour knowledge by talking with him about the chicks as he played with them and using descriptive language to match his actions to the words.

When he'd done playing, I re-set the scene back again and put it aside for my daughter to play with when she got home from school. As expected, she was just as keen to play and instantly went into role-play mode, narrating a constant dialogue that accompanied her play. The materials all came together for her to make and tell stories of the adventures the chicks were having and to ensure they all had adequate accommodation in their little world.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I am loving watching and observing the comparison between the ways that older and younger children engage with the same materials.

Handy Tips

Simplify this activity by providing a fewer amount of chicks. You could start with 3 larger sized chicks and focus on counting the amount of chicks and manipulating them and the materials. Try using less materials in total so that your child can focus on the capabilities of just a few items ie, the playdough, shredded paper and chicks.

Extend this activity by:
  • Encouraging children to match corresponding coloured chicks to the half plastic eggs
  • Counting and grouping chicks in colours, sizes etc.
  • Challenging children to use the playdough to create new homes for all the chicks
  • Having school aged children write a story about the adventures their chicks got up to in their small world
  • Providing the materials seperately and allowing children to create their own small world from scratch

Mix it up with lots of different coloured playdough and various other additions to the small world. Use coloured rice, easter eggs, flowers, leaves etc.

- Use descriptive language that goes with this experience to help develop your child's vocabulary. Eg "chick, shredded, imprint, pattern, squishy, habitat" etc.

-  Playdough is a high use material at our place. Here are some other ways we've played with it. Click the  pictures to take you to the activities.

 Length, Measurement & Patterning with Playdough Snakes. Hands-on, Playful Maths for kids.          playdough activity, open ended, sensory activity  toddler, kids, activities for kids, fine motor skills, playdoh, pipe cleaners  play dough, kids activity, science 

Happy playing,
Debs :)

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