Activities for Little Hands

There are times when you need to provide activities for little hands to keep busy. Long car journeys, bus journeys, waiting in restaurants and coffee shops, listening to speeches at weddings, are all times that you wonder how your young child will behave and how to keep them entertained. In the modern age there are many options of phones and tablets with hundreds of games you can access, but they can be noisy, children can get frustrated or need support playing them and they aren’t always appropriate for the surroundings. Sometimes you just want to keep them amused without the use of a screen and you are in a space they cannot run around. You can find ideas on Pinterest for creating ‘busy bags’ which are little activities you can create to keep them busy; matching games, sorting games, patterns, counting games – the list goes on. They are fantastic, and you can even make them yourself. Trouble is, if you’re anything like me, you can be full of good intentions, but life gets in the way! If only there was someone else who could create these bags and keep the small people happy! In steps Jhodi with her new company ‘Little Hands Activities’.

Jhodi left work to have her son 2 years ago. After ending up in coffee shops, on trains and even at weddings, she was looking for ways of keeping him busy, but did not want it to revolve around the iPad. After trying to take out small puzzles, she decided to find out if there were other activities she could use. She then started creating reusable activities to keep her son busy. Jhodi has set up an online shop (www.littlehandsactivities) where her busy bags can be purchased to keep young children happy for the reasonable price of £3.75 or £2.50 for a smaller bags, plus postage and packaging.

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My beautiful nieces often have long car journey’s to go on, and helped me test out some of these bags from ‘Little Hands Activities’. We tried the shape matching lollypop sticks, creating shapes and the foam garland busy bags. The activities are safely kept in ziplock bags which can easily fit into changing bag, handbags or even larger coat pockets. The girls got stuck in straight away choosing the bags they wanted to try. They read the instructions that were included (for smaller children they are there for the adults to read and explain) there are pictures on the geometric shapes one which are easy to understand and for small children to follow.

My gorgeous niece A is 7 years old, she chose the garland straight away. She discussed how it worked, when she had made one before, the colours she liked. The discussion which came from her creating was lovely. She wanted to share what she was doing with me and her sister, it was lovely to be involved with what she was doing. My wonderful niece E is 5 years old, she chose the geometric shapes immediately. She discussed all the shapes she knew from school, and created the shapes on the cards. What was lovely was seeing how they moved the activity on too – niece A created more complicated shapes and we even got on to discussing regular and irregular shapes! All this from one tiny bag! They played with all three bags, taking it in turns, playing beautifully together! They were great, and I think certainly worth the price. The girls found it hard to choose a favourite, but niece A liked the garland bag best and niece E liked the shape matching activity best. They asked if they could take them on their next long car journey, which I think is a great result!

Jhodi is currently prototyping another range of activities with her son; colour recognition with pegs, sorting game and felt picture game, which all should be available in her shop in the autumn if not before. I look forward to seeing these ones and any other busy bags Jhodi makes in future!

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Disclosure: I was sent this product free of charge but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Salt Dough Printing Fun!

It was my husband’s birthday this month and although we weren’t doing birthday presents as such this year I felt he should have something from his son. I didn’t want to get him something generic I wanted him to have something special to keep, but I had left it to the very last minute!! Que salt dough! It is so easy to make and it’s using things most people have around the house, so I didn’t even need a trip out! Woo hoo! I wanted to use it to make some hand prints and footprints (belonging to Danny of course!)

Ingredients:

  1. Plain flour
  2. Table Salt
  3. Water
  4. Baking paper

Method:

  • Preheat oven at around 180°/190° gas mark 4/5
  • Mix equal measures of the flour and salt (however much you want, obviously more will make more dough)
  • Add cold water a bit at a time and keep mixing with your hand. You need to add enough water to make a dough. If it’s sticky you’ve added too much and need some extra flour, if it crumbles and won’t go into a ball then you’ve not added enough and need more water.
  • Pull off some of the dough and roll it into a ball in your hand and then roll flat on the side using a rolling pin. The idea is to get the dough quite thin as it will dry out quicker. How thick you want it is up to you, but I did about the thickness of a pound coin.
  • Place the hand or foot into the middle and push down. Wipe the foot or hand using a baby wipe (we don’t want that salt ending up in little mouths!)
  • Repeat until all dough is used. Cut off any odd bits of dough to create an oval shape around the print.
  • Place on baking paper onto trays and put in the preheated oven for 2-3 hours. Checking and turning them over for a few more hours at this point if they need to dry out on the opposite side. The slower you dry them out the better, if you put them in at a higher heat for a shorter time they will bake, which is not what you want them to do.
  • Paint around the footprint/hand print. I used left over taster pots from painting the nursery!

So there you go, fun easy and cheap! Lovely as little gifts for grandparents, or just for yourself if you want to repeat the process every year and watch those little prints grow! I absolutely love mine! Think I will be doing it again for his first birthday! It’s only 6 months away now!!

Using Bottles for Sensory Play

Playing with babies doesn’t always have to be about using expensive toys and equipment. I’m not saying that they aren’t useful to a child’s development; what I am saying is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to create something children will love to play with! Sensory bottles are one example. I love sensory bottles and they are so easy to make!

First you will need some small bottles of water, you will need to drink the water (useful aid to breastfeeding!) Once you have emptied the bottles the labels will need removing and any sticky residue taking off as well. You can do this by soaking them, but if you do use something like ‘Sticky Stuff Remover’ remember to clean the bottles carefully so no harmful chemicals get transferred to your baby. The bottles need to dry out and then once dry you can add whatever you want or have handy that will interest a baby or small child! Colourful, noisy and shiny objects are a few things you can add! I chose to add colourful buttons (which make a fabulous noise), sequin shapes, pompoms, bright feathers and foam animal shapes. Danny loves them and my friend’s daughter who is 18 months old really enjoyed them too!

The best thing about sensory bottles is that you can develop them and use them with children of various ages. For example if they are learning letters in Reception, you can create sensory bottles containing objects which begin with a certain letter. You can also create ones that represent the seasons, different places (such as a beach, wood etc), different colours, different themes (hot, cold, day, night) they are a great tool for encouraging discussions as children get older. I look forward to developing my sensory bottle range as my boy grows!

What would you use in your sensory bottles? Do you already have some? If so which one does your child enjoy the best?

5 Ways To Communicate With Your Baby

It is hard becoming a new parent and no matter how many times other people try to tell you, you just won’t understand until you are in the thick of it. Quickly you will fall in to patterns of feeding, changing nappies, pacing whilst you try and get your newborn to sleep and going round and round in this loop. It can become frustrating fast, so try to add some communication into your day, it is very rewarding. You can communicate well with babies from new born; these are my top 5 ways that Danny loves to communicate with us:

  1. Repeat sounds – when your baby starts making gurgling noises and sounds help them practice by repeating the same sounds back to them. Wait for them to finish their sounds before you repeat them back, so a back and forth happens like a conversation. When Danny started smiling, he beamed at us when we responded to his sounds.
  2. Singing songs – nursery rhymes are a nice and easy place to start with singing songs, if you need a refresh on these then most libraries in Gloucestershire do a bounce and rhyme type of session which are free to go to, if you’re not in Gloucestershire, still check at your local library or community centre for similar groups. Don’t get embarrassed about singing anywhere and everywhere, your baby will love your voice and really does anyone else matter? I also have Heart fm on in the car and use YouTube at home for some modern songs which I enjoy to sing and dance to with Danny. I have also been known to make up songs when nothing else is working to calm my shouting boy, with awesome lyrics like “please go to sleep” and “Mummy is sleepy too.” They will soon be in the charts I’m sure!!
  3. Using facial expressions – babies LOVE faces! With newborns you will have to be close to them as they cannot see very far; think approximately a 30cm ruler. Pulling different faces will help your baby practice interpreting and making the expressions themselves. As they grow it’s fun to see which ones make them smile and in time laugh! They will also start to reach out and touch your face as they grow an develop. Danny personally likes being made to jump, we get a wicked laugh out of him when he does! We try lots of different “BOO” faces! At 5 months he is currently going through a phase where he likes mouths and wants to touch them; particularly obsessed with teeth!!
  4. Using physical communication – I have seen a lot of articles recently about lack of positive touch in children’s lives. It’s quite sad really, but hopefully exaggerated! Hugs is an obvious form of positive touch and physical communication; honestly you cannot spoil your baby with hugs! You can never have too much love! There are groups you can go to to develop your physical communication skills, such as Baby Massage. Me and Danny enjoyed going to the Mini Moments Baby Massage course, where you learn how to massage correctly and use singing to enhance the communication with your baby. Other ways we use physical communication is allowing Danny to touch and explore our faces when we are near him, tickling him (he is particularly ticklish in his neck and his Auntie can get proper belly chuckles out of him tickling him there!) an important part of our day is bath time too. We like to take it in turns to bath with Danny; we hold him in the bath so he won’t sink, but by having us in with him we can have the bath deeper and so he can swim around. This is a massive bonding time where physical contact is continuously maintained, it certainly gets a lot of smiles!
  5. Talking – babies brains are working hard to develop quickly and learn a lot of new information. Talking is really helpful in their development. We already have the competitive “Mum” and “Dad” words, but there are so many more to learn! I walk around the house with Danny pointing out different objects and saying what they are. I also have full blown conversations, which especially in the supermarket looks like I have gone slightly mad and am talking to myself! However, I am happy to look mad because it makes my boy giggle! Quite frankly my life has become about finding ways to make him laugh and be happy!

What is your favourite way to communicate with your baby? Have you got any different ideas you could share with other new parents?