Design and Construction for kids with Pasta and Playdough

May 9, 2015

Here is a simple little activity, quick to set up, that can have children busily creating for ages.

When I set out this invitation-to-play with playdough and pasta, it was with the intention to use it to further our interest in building and design. We talked about architecture and the different ways buildings are made these days. If you like, you can have a look at our engineering activity and use the pictures of different buildings as inspiration.

This activity can encourage creative thinking, problem-solving, fine-motor skills, literacy skills, hand-eye-coordination, mathematical concepts, design, concepts of gravity and more.
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20 Fabulous Paper Plate Animal Crafts

Apr 26, 2015

Paper plates are a fabulous base for crafts, especially if you're making them with a group of children, as they are quite cheap, sturdier than paper, already in a circular shape and are sold in multi-packs. Many of us would already have some tucked away in the back of a cupboard somewhere, making these crafts ones that you'd probably already have all the materials for.

Crafts make a great accompaniment to areas of interest and study for children. Generally I wouldn't be doing a craft just for the sake of doing a craft, but more as a way to take learning further and to continue to consolidate ideas and understandings on a particular topic/subject. As an example, when teaching the Early Years the letter "S," we would do a number of different fun activities focussing around this letter and the sound that it makes to engage children and help them to learn and retain the information. One of the activities would be making a paper plate ssss-snake that we'd hang by ssss-strings and watch them ssss-spin!

The process of making the crafts engages fine-motor skills and creativity as well as encouraging children to follow instructions. With crafts, there is often an order to what needs to be done, ie. cutting before painting, that children learn, as well as specific skills like cutting, pasting, etc.
Depending on the craft and your focus, you can use the time creating to talk about things like what you're making, what letter it begins with, what classification it falls under, what sound it makes, how to spell/write/read the word and so on.

As animals are something that children are always going to be interested in and will always be learning about, here I've compiled my favourite paper-plate animal ideas from around the web.

Paper Plate Bear by First Palette

Paper Plate Butterflies by Krokotak (love the spoon body!)

Paper Plate Cat by Danielle's Place

Paper Plate Cow by Housing a Forest

Paper Plate Dinosaur by The Craft Train for Learn with Play at Home (with free printable templates)

Paper Plate Elephant by Activity Bucket (with free printable template)

Paper Plate Hippopotamus by I Heart Crafty Things

Paper Plate Lion by Preschool Corner (perfect for practicing scissor skills!)

Paper Plate Mouse by We Made That

Paper Plate Owl by Happy Hooligans

Paper Plate Panda by Danya Banya (great for practicing some simple sewing skills too)

Paper Plate Peacock by I Heart Crafty Things

Paper Plate Penguin by Learn with Play at Home

Paper Plate Rabbit by Laughing Kids Learn

Paper Plate Sheep by Housing a Forest (these would have been great as a "Where's the Green Sheep" Party activity!)

Paper Plate Snake by Crafty Morning (see their fun way of printing on these snakes. This craft is also great for patterning)

Paper Plate Tiger by No Time for Flash Cards

Paper Plate Toucan by Pink Stripey Socks (so cute! And still only uses the one plate)

Paper Plate Turtle by Artsy Momma

Paper Plate Whale by In the Playroom

Handy Tips:

- Simplify these paper plate animal crafts for younger children by helping with any tasks that they're still to develop the fine-motor skills and coordination for, like the cutting. Really young children can help with decorating and sticking on parts and those children developing skills can use the experience to practice cutting and positioning.

Extend the learning before or after making your paper plate animals by encouraging things like:
  • Dramatic play with the animals. eg. Put on a puppet show
  • Writing or story-telling about your animal. eg. Tell a story about the day your animal got lost
  • Making animal sounds
  • Reading fictional stories that include your animal
  • Reading and researching non-fiction stories and information about your animal. eg. Find out more about their habitat, location, food etc.
  • Listing 3 facts about your animal
  • Writing or reading the letters/name of your animal

- Allow creativity by not insisting that their animal craft look exactly like the pictures. What colour could their animal be? How is it the same or different from the real life animal? How could you make the craft a little different to add your own spin on it?

More ideas using paper plates:

Happy playing,
Debs :)

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Dinosaurs in Sticky Mud! Sensory Play for Kids

Apr 17, 2015

Have a whole pile of squishy, sensory fun, making and playing with dinosaurs in sticky mud! With a super simple recipe, you can whip up this sensory experience in just a couple of minutes.

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Kitchen Hacks for Busy Mums

Apr 2, 2015

This post is brought to you by Nuffnang and DAIRYLEA

Recently I was invited by DAIRYLEA to take part in their Hackademy, where a group of Mums got together to chat "MUMMY HACKS." Little helpful tips and tricks that make the overall job of being a Mum, just that bit easier. It was a fun day with lots of great ideas that you will be able to see on the MUMMY HACKS website

As I find myself spending a fair bit of time in the kitchen, it's an area that I am always happy to reduce time in and make things a bit easier for myself. Over the years I have found some ideas have been more useful than others and some I find myself using all the time.

5 Kitchen Hacks

Mummy Hack #1 Make your own Smoothie-poles

We love smoothies at our house as they are a great way to use up fruit and include a good serve of dairy. We usually make our smoothies from a combination of full cream milk, greek yoghurt and a variety of fruits, spices or honey for different flavours. You could make dairy free ones with a combo of fruit, juice, ice and veggies. Play around with combinations to vary the taste and use the ingredients you have on hand.

When making up a smoothie, I always make a bit extra as it means that I can freeze it and the kids can have a frozen treat on another day. 

Banana-berry smoothie and icy-poles

Whizz together 2 cups of milk, 1 ripe banana, half a cup of berries (frozen or fresh), half a cup of greek yoghurt with an optional squeeze of honey or sprinkle of cinnamon to taste. Vary the amounts to suit the amount of children you have and the amount of icy-poles you want to make.

One afternoon my kids will have the fresh smoothie we've made and the next afternoon they can have a smoothie-pop instead.

Banana and raspberry is a particular favourite with my kids.

I find that my children are more likely to try new foods and generally eat healthier when we cook and prepare foods together. It's a great time to discuss foods and learn more about healthy eating.

Pop over to the MUMMY HACKS website to see the rest of my top Kitchen Hacks for Busy Mums.

You might also like to try cooking some of these recipes with the kids:

Our snack boxes are also great time and sanity saver.

What are your favourite time saving kitchen hacks?

Happy playing,
Debs :)

DAIRYLEA, the DAIRYLEA device and MUMMY HACK are trademarks of MONDELEZ INTERNATIONAL GROUP used under licence.

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Water Transfer Colour Guess Game. Fine motor skills activity for kids.

Mar 28, 2015

Back when Maddie (aged 6) was just 3 years old, she was a great fan of transferring water from one vessel to another. Now that Noah is 3, I've been going back through my own blog to see some of the activities she was getting up to at that age. I found our Colour Discovery Water Transfer activity and knew that it'd be right up his alley.

This time, to mix it up a little bit, we had a go of this in 3 different ways. From the basic skill of moving water from one container to another, to a couple of different versions of guessing colours and making them appear.

Ages: 2+
(See Handy Tips at the bottom for ideas to simplify or extend to suit your child's needs)
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Road-trip activities and games for kids

Mar 20, 2015

This post is sponsored by RACV and Nuffnang

For me growing up, road-trips were our main type of holiday, as we made the yearly trip from Melbourne up to visit relatives in NSW and QLD. I have many fond memories of great playgrounds along the way, endless stretches of highway and beautiful scenery, eating Callipos (the least drippy frozen treat my parents could buy from service stations), singing in the car (anything from my obsession with Phantom of the Opera after seeing it live, to Peter Combe and his bubble-gum-teeth-bushing antics) and countless rounds of "I-spy." I have less than fond memories of breaking down on the side of the road, but, more about that later.

Back then (I'm talking the mid 80's to mid 90's), we certainly didn't have any movie playing capacities in our car, and whilst it was usually hard to pry a book from my hands, my travel-sickness when looking down for long periods meant them and the hand-held games my younger brothers sometimes played, weren't an option for me on our road-trips.

These days, there are portable dvd players and they can be good for road-trips. I don't mind a movie here or there, but personally, I don't want my children watching a screen the entire road-trip as there is just so much more fun to be had! There are so many great car games you can play. According to a recent RACV survey, 5% of Australian families say they play games like “I-spy” in the car, with more than 5 times that amount relying on the ipad to entertain the kids instead. What has happened to our Aussie tradition?

For us, singing to music will probably always be our number 1 favourite road-trip activity so I would definitely load up on great music before I go. In addition to that, I like to be prepared before I go with a few bits and bobs that are going to make the journey that little bit more fun, engaging and exciting. Here are some of our other favourite road trip games and any printables that you need to go along with them.

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Number Chef. Fun, hands-on number learning game for kids.

Mar 11, 2015

A fun and hands-on game for toddlers through to early school-age children. Practice counting, number recognition, number writing and more. Great for role-play and as a set up for learning centres and play-based curriculum. See the bottom for handy tips to simplify or extend to suit your children's level. 

At age 3, my son does a lot of rote counting (where he can recite numbers in order from memory) but he is still working on the understanding of what numbers actually mean and represent. Properly understanding numbers, from the written symbol to the many different ways it can be represented is more important than rote-counting and takes multiple experiences over time to consolidate the understanding. Don't get me wrong, it's great if your child can count in order from memory, it's all part of the learning, but that doesn't mean that they understand numbers.

Understanding that a number (eg. three/3) represents a certain, consistent amount of something is a skill that children work on from early on. They are exposed to this kind of understanding through everyday life, like reading stories, (ie. Goldilocks and the Three Bears), talking about family (ie. 3 people in your family), eating and preparing food (3 spoons of honey, 3 pieces of cheese, 3 triangles of sandwich, etc.), while out and about, (look, there are 3 ducks! 3 red cars in a row, etc.) and so on.

As well as through these natural occurrences, we can set up experiences that allow children to practice working with numbers in fun and hands-on ways. The more children play with and are exposed the numbers, the greater their understanding will be. Having a solid foundational understanding of numbers 0 to 10 and what they represent is very important, as this is what your children will be building all their future mathematical knowledge and understanding upon.

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Stuff and Bake Pizza Rolls. Cooking with Kids

Mar 8, 2015

Today's cooking with kids recipe is a fun idea for lunch or even a quick dinner. Children are more likely to eat it when they've been part of the process. This recipe is particularly good when you've got some left over bread rolls that didn't get eaten fresh. Use the basic recipe idea, add in your own ingredients to taste and hey, presto!

You'll need one bread roll per person. Cut a "lid" out of the top and press the bread inside to make a hollow cavity.

Prepare your pizza fillings. We used chopped baby spinach, diced fresh Roma tomato, shredded cheese, sliced green olives and some shredded ham.

Layer the fillings inside the roll. We like to put a bit of cheese on the bottom and top as well as some through the other ingredients so that it all melts nicely together.

Stuff the fillings in! As the cheese melts and the ingredients disintegrate slightly from the heat, you should really pack the fillings in so that your roll doesn't appear half stuffed after it's baked. (A good discussion point with the children about the changing properties due to heat.)

Handy tips for learning while cooking

- Whilst this recipe, unlike our banana berry muffin recipe, doesn't focus on set amounts, measuring, numbers etc. there is still a lot to be learnt naturally through discussion:

  • Talk with your children about the ingredients while you cook. The different colours, textures and tastes. 
  • Where do the ingredients come from and how they are grown/produced?
  • Where would they sit on the healthy living pyramid
  • Which ingredients should we eat most of and which should we eat in smaller amounts? 
  • How will the ingredients change with the addition of heat? (science)

- Simplify this recipe for younger children by prepping the rolls and chopped ingredients first and providing to your child to stuff with their desired ingredients.

Extend this recipe for older children or those with more advanced kitchen skills by having them cut and hollow the rolls as well as chop and prepare the fillings before stuffing and putting in the oven.

- Kitchen Garden. Any vegetables you can source from your own veggie patch would be fabulous for this recipe. The process can start with the planting all the way through to eating their stuffed baked pizza roll! (And, you can make your own bread rolls as well)

When your pizza rolls are stuffed, put the bread roll lid back on top and pop them into a moderate oven until the cheese is melted inside and the outside is brown and crispy.

When they are done, cut in half so that they can cool a bit before the kids eat them and serve while still warm.

Stuff and Bake Pizza Rolls recipe

Ingredients: (we used)
  • Bread rolls
  • Cheese
  • Baby Spinach
  • Cut tomato
  • Shredded Ham
  • Green Olives

Other suggested ingredients: Pizza sauce, mushrooms, fresh herbs,  feta cheese, roast pumpkin, kalamata olives, salami, roast chicken, smoked chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, etc.


Preheat oven to 180°C  (356°F)

Cut the top out of a bread roll and hollow out.

Fill with your chosen ingredients. Stuff them in really well until it's completely full.

Pop the top of the bread roll back on and then into the oven for 10-15 minutes* or until the cheese has melted inside and the roll is crispy and browned on the outside.

*As all ovens are a bit different, keep an eye on your stuffed pizza rolls and cook for shorter or longer as needed.


Here are some more Recipe ideas of ours you may want to try with the kids:

Happy cooking,
Debs :)

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Name Recognition Activity with Cutting Practice for kids

Mar 1, 2015

My baby is now 3 years old and this year is attending a 3 year-old preschool group, twice a week for 2.5 hour sessions (total of 5 hours per week). He is just loving the socialisation, play-based curriculum and the fact that it's practically like being at home, but instead of one activity at a time, he can race around from activity to activity doing whatever tickles his fancy at the time. 

It's no surprise that in a 2.5 hour session he finds the time to do rice play, painting, playdough, water-play, building, sand play, reading, pretend-play, cutting & pasting and a whole lot more!

One of the things that is important for him now that he is playing and learning independently outside of the house, is being able to recognise his own name. Each child at preschool has their own locker to put their bag and each has their name on it. As most children this age are pre-literate, they also include a photo of each child next to their name so that they can make the connection between their own face and the combination of letters that makes up their name. He also has things like drink bottles and hats that are now labeled with his name, so there is a lot of chance for exposure and it's something that he needs to be able to recognise.

Learning to recognise, read and write your own name is predominantly a matter of being exposed to it and having experiences with it, a number of times. Children are all different when it comes to how quickly they are able to learn something. Some children are able to have very few experiences with their name before they are able to recognise it for the word that it is, and some children will need to be exposed to it hundreds of times before they are able to have consolidated the learning. Most children sit somewhere in the middle of a bell curve graph of learning abilities and will pick up some things quicker or slower than others. We're all individuals.

So, in order to learn our name, we need to be exposed to it and have experiences with it. There are tons and tons of different ways that you can get children writing, reading and playing with their name. Here is one simple activity.

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