8 Homemade toys for Babies

Oct 15, 2014

Having trouble during nappy change time with a wriggly baby? Try BabyLove Nappy Pants - with no tabs to contend with, the 360-degree stretchy waist allows you to pull them up quickly and easily, so your active toddler can get back to action in no time! Request a sample.


Having a baby (especially your first) can be an overwhelming experience. The world of BABY/KID STUFF is an extensive one, full of items you never knew you "needed" or even existed.
When it comes to entertaining your baby, the most wonderful toy for them is you. Watching you, listening to you, touching you. Time with you and other caring people is invaluable for their development.

There are also many fabulous pre-made toys and items for babies that in addition to the company of you and others, can help entertain, stimulate, sooth and aid in their development. There are so many things out there that you could be continually buying something new, however it's just not necessary. Often, with many of the toys marketed towards babies, they are able to use them very limitedly before they either out-grow or get bored by them. This is where making your own toys can be beneficial as you can provide new and stimulating items for them, often for a very low cost (sometimes completely free) and little effort.

For completely free "baby toys" around your house look:

  • In your kitchen (eg. plastic containers, metal pots/pans, muffin tins, plastic kitchen utensils etc.)
  • In the recycling box (eg. recycled plastic bottles, containers, lids etc.)
  • In the fridge/pantry (eg. make homemade baby paint with yoghurt and food colouring or dry items for shaking and touching like rice/dried beans etc.)
  • In your wardrobe (eg. pairs of coloured socks to match, hats/scarves to play with and put on etc.)


Use some milk bottle lids and a tissue box for a posting game.

Transform an ice cream container into a colour sorting game (babies can start playing with the colours and sticks and trying to get them through the holes and as they grow you can start adding in the colour sorting)


Fabulous DIY baby toys

If you're feeling a bit crafty, here are some gorgeous baby toys from my friends around the web. These DIY toys will entertain them as babies and toddlers.







See here for all our baby play ideas and for even more DIY toys (these are good for toddlers and older).


Happy playing,
Debs :)


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Having trouble during nappy change time with a wriggly baby? Try BabyLove Nappy Pants - with no tabs to contend with, the 360-degree stretchy waist allows you to pull them up quickly and easily, so your active toddler can get back to action in no time! Request a sample.

Cheese and Veg Muffins. Cooking with Kids

Oct 14, 2014

October is Doc-Tober for Disney Junior! Your preschooler can see Doc McStuffins and her toy friends in new episodes on the Disney Junior TV channel and enjoy brand new Doc games and activities on DisneyJunior.com.au.



Inspired by Doc-tober and the healthy living and wellbeing messages in the Disney Junior Doc McStuffins series, we thought we'd make some "Doc McStuffins Cheese and Veg Muffins."

Giving it a funny name caught the kids' interest right away and involving them in the cooking process gave us plenty of opportunities for chatting about foods and healthy eating, as well as engaging the kids in the math, science, literacy and kitchen skills that come with cooking.

We've previously made a savoury ham, cheese and spinach muffin with great results so it was easy for us to tweak this one up in the healthy notches by replacing the ham with extra veggies. Using the base recipe, you can swap the included veggies for ones that you have available or that your kids prefer. Using similar quantities to what we have here will make a light and fluffy muffin, or you could add even more veggies for a slightly heavier, denser muffin. It's fun experimenting.

Here's how to do it. Children will require adult supervision in the kitchen and may require some assistance with some of the steps. See the bottom of the post for the simple instructions in full.

When cooking with kids, it's good to get your ingredients out and ready in a way that makes it easier for them to access and follow instructions. It gives you an opportunity to talk about the ingredients and quantities before you start.

Don't forget to pre-heat your oven and prepare your muffin tins (we spray lightly with vegetable oil).

 Sift your flour into a large bowl

 Whisk your eggs

 Finely chop your veggies. (You may need an adult to assist with this bit)

 Make a well in your flour and tip in your cheese

 Add your corn

 Add any other veggies or herbs

 Pour in your milk

 Pour in the egg

 Mix until all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined

 Divide between your pre-oiled muffin tins

 If you like, you could add a fresh basil leaf on top

 Bake in the oven until golden brown on top

 They smell good fresh from the oven

 Leave to cool on a wire rack

While they are still warm, cut in half and serve. They are delicious with a little spread of butter.

Once they have cooled completely, you can freeze them for other days. They microwave well for a quick warm snack or sent off to school in the lunchbox.


Cheese and Veggie Muffin Recipe

Ingredients:
  • 250g grated tasty cheese (approx 2 loose cups)
  • 2 cups of self raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ cups of milk
  • Small can of corn kernels (125g)
  • Half red capsicum
  • Large handful of baby spinach
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil leaves to add to the mix and on top (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 180°C (356°F)

Sift flour into a large bowl.

Whisk eggs, chop capsicum, spinach (and optional basil).

Make a well in the flour, add in the rest of the ingredients and mix until combined.

Spoon into a greased muffin tray (pop a basil leaf on top of each, optional) and bake for 25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

Makes about 14 regular muffins or 12 large ones.


Enjoy!


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




Happy cooking,
Debs :)



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October is Doc-Tober for Disney Junior! Your preschooler can see Doc McStuffins and her toy friends in new episodes on the Disney Junior TV channel and enjoy brand new Doc games and activities on DisneyJunior.com.au.

Clever classroom trick for kids learning to write in the lines.

Oct 12, 2014


One of the things that children in Victoria, Australia are taught in their first year of Primary School, is writing between the lines in order to develop their handwriting. Despite the fact that it may seem handwriting is on the decline, thankfully it is still taught to our children.

Once children have developed their fine motor skills, worked on learning letters and practiced writing on blank paper and with other mediums to develop their letter formation, they are usually introduced to handwriting paper with dotted-thirds to assist them in writing letters of consistent size and format.


A little trick I used in my classroom to help children learning to write in dotted-thirds was, "Clever Cat." Clever Cat's bottom sits on the solid base line and his body takes up the first gap. His head sits on top, occupying the second gap up between the dotted lines and his tail dangles below the solid line, extending to the first dotted line below.

Clever Cat works as a fun visual aid to assist children in remembering where letters should sit between the lines and their sizing. When we write out all the lower-case letters, we can see that they all sit in Clever Cat's body space. Some also sit in his head space and some in his tail space. In the script we use in Victoria, our lower-case "f"'s sit in all 3 spaces. We end up referring to the letters as "body letters," "head letters" and "tail letters" once we are familiar with the concept. All of our upper case letters sit in the body and head space. They are usually easier for children to write than the lower-case letters.

We would draw and discuss Clever Cat when we did handwriting together as a class on the board, and then when children were writing in their hand-writing books, they or I would draw a Clever Cat at the start of their writing for them to use as a visual aid.



With my daughter (aged 5) now in her first year at school, I get to visit her classroom frequently. One day I was in there and suddenly saw a tin, full of Clever Cats drawn on craft sticks (popsicle sticks). GENIUS!! (Why didn't I ever think of it?)

I love that not only is this Clever Cat version a good visual aid for the children, it is something that they can hold and manipulate as well. Clever Cat on a stick can move along the page with children as they write, to assist in keeping their writing between the right parts of the lines.
Clever Cat can also be used as a spacer between words.


After seeing the craft stick version of Clever Cat, I made one at home and gave it to my daughter the next time she did some writing. "It's Clever Cat!!!" she exclaimed, gave him a hug (however it is that one hugs a popsicle stick) and took to her writing with new enthusiasm and confidence. :)


How to use Clever Cat

- Start by introducing the concept of "Clever Cat" to your children and discussing what each body part represents and how Clever Cat can help us.

- Draw Clever Cat on lined paper between the correct lines and let your children also practice drawing Clever Cat. Can they get his body sitting right on the solid line and up to the first dotted line?

- Brainstorm the different letters that sit in the same spaces as different parts of Clever Cat together.  Have the children identify and write all the lower-case letters that:

  • Only sit in Clever Cat's body space (ie. a, c, e, etc.)
  • Take up Clever Cat's body and head spaces (ie. b, d, h, etc.)
  • Take up Clever Cat's body and tail space (ie. g, j, p etc.)
  • Take up the space between Clever Cat's head to tail ( f )
  • Are a little bit different (ie. t. They may also include i and j with the added dots)

    (Please note that handwriting and the style of lettering differs from state to state and country to country. Here in Victoria we use the Victorian Cursive script)

- Depending on their control and fine motor skills, you may want to draw Clever Cat on the craft stick for your children.

- Use a wider craft/popsicle stick for younger children or for larger gaps if using as a word spacer

- Before each writing session, have a little discussion about Clever Cat as a reminder of how they can use this tool to both motivate them and to assist them in forming letters correctly between the lines. You don't need to tell the children, first see if they can tell you.

- To first begin handwriting between the lines with children, find the widest dotted-thirds that you can. As they get older and their control gets better, children start using lined paper with the dotted-thirds closer together, forcing them to write smaller. Maddie (aged 5) uses a "24mm Thirds Ruled" writing book at home. Buy them where you would buy school stationery (eg. Officeworks).



More fun ways for children to practice letter formation and writing:



Happy handwriting,
Debs :)


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Toy Doctor Pretend Play with free Printable Doctor's Checklist

Oct 11, 2014

October is Doc-Tober for Disney Junior! Your preschooler can see Doc McStuffins and her toy friends in new episodes on the Disney Junior TV channel and enjoy brand new Doc games and activities on DisneyJunior.com.au.

Inspired by the Disney Junior Doc McStuffins series, the kids have been very interested in role-playing Doctors lately. While they were busy the other day, I set up a little Invitation to Play Doctors, utilising the free printable Toy Check-up Checklist from the Disney Junior website, some willing toys as patients and other bits and bobs from around the house.


Setting up your pretend Doctors Surgery



For our Dr's Tools I used a range of materials from store bought to recycled items. You can use whatever you have on hand, remembering that children have fabulous imaginations and don't need exact replicas to be able to play.

We used:

  • Pretend play Drs tools from our dress-ups (these can be purchased cheaply from variety stores)
  • Craft materials (cotton buds and cotton balls. You can also use craft sticks etc.)
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paper tape (coloured masking tape for bandaids and holding bandages together)
  • Recycled ribbons, scraps of material and cut up recycled packaging (for bandages)
  • Measuring tape/ruler
  • Doctor/vet dress-ups (one of Dad's shirts would work well as a Doctor's coat too)
  • Free printable check-up list


You and/or your children can make a simple sign for your Doctor's Surgery. It's easy to add authentic literacy learning into your pretend play by including things for them to read and write.

As well as our Dr's tool station, there was a "waiting room" for all the toys and a "bed" for them to have their check-up on.


All set up, time to play!

Learning with Pretend Play




When involved in role play, children are given opportunities to practice and develop a whole range of skills depending on the type of play and materials used. This type of play is very important for children as it allows for hands-on investigation and creativity, in a context that makes sense to them. This providing a rich and authentic learning experience.


During their Doctors role play my children practiced:

  • cooperation
  • imagination
  • story telling
  • language
  • body part knowledge
  • fine motor skills
  • sharing
  • being doctors
  • simple medical knowledge
  • reading
  • writing
  • counting
  • compromising
  • being kind


Maddie (aged 5) played for around an hour and her younger brother (aged almost 3) was engaged for quite a bit of that time but would wander off from the play and then return to it when he felt like it. The toys were feeling much better by the end.


To get a copy of the Free Printable Doctor's Checklist for your kids to use in their Toy Doctor Pretend play, click the picture above.


What's your child's favourite type of pretend play?



Happy playing,
Debs :)


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This post is part of a Nuffnang native advertising series.
October is Doc-Tober for Disney Junior! Your preschooler can see Doc McStuffins and her toy friends in new episodes on the Disney Junior TV channel and enjoy brand new Doc games and activities on DisneyJunior.com.au.