The Advantages of Puzzles

Flying Sprout pinterest blog graphics (15)

When I hear the word ‘puzzle’ I immediately think of a picture in pieces that needs putting back together. Then I think about logic puzzles, word problems, tangrams….there are lots of different puzzle types I have used with students in the classroom and many I enjoy doing myself. According to Wikipedia, ‘A puzzle is a game, problem, or toy that tests a person’s ingenuity or knowledge.’

Traditional wooden puzzles are a common sight in most homes with small children and for good reason; they are a great toy to engage young children in play. There are many, MANY more advantages to puzzles and, many different types of puzzles that are equally as engaging as those first wooden ones. Here are a few (all listed puzzle types are clickable links):

There are many advantages to puzzles and, many different types that are as engaging as those first wooden puzzles. Here is a list of puzzle types and advantages.
Different puzzle types

To see more great examples, head over to the Flying Sprout Pinterest page.

The Advantages of Puzzles

Some puzzles are great fun, others can be immensely frustrating but they all have their benefits. Here are a few:

Satisfaction of achievement

Completing a task is satisfying and often, the more challenging the task, the greater the feeling of achievement once it is completed. This sense of satisfaction is a great way for children to build an understanding that hard work pays off and brings its own reward.

Patience and persistence

Persisting and having patience when faced with a challenge is not always easy but, as mentioned above, it brings great satisfaction when approaching tasks with a level head and having success.

There are many advantages to puzzles and, many different types that are as engaging as those first wooden puzzles. Here is a list of puzzle types and advantages.

Problem solving strategies

Different puzzles require different approaches in order to solve them. When completing maths, word and logic problems at school children are often encouraged to think carefully about the right strategy to use. These include acting out the problem, drawing a picture, writing a list, looking for a pattern, simplifying the problem, creating a table, working backwards, guess and checking, writing a number sentence or using and using objects.

Hand eye coordination and fine motor skills

Physical puzzles are a great way for children to practise their hand eye coordination and develop those all important fine motor skills.

Fun and rewarding

Puzzles can be used to reinforce learning or they can be used as a fun, rewarding activity. Great satisfaction comes from completing puzzles and this is lots of fun.

Building dept of knowledge on a subject

Whether learning new skills, practising, revising or consolidating understandings, there is a place for puzzles.

Quiet concentration

Some children are naturally quiet, while others take a little more encouragement. Puzzles give all children an opportunity to work with quiet concentration, either on their own or cooperatively with others, to complete tasks.

There are many advantages to puzzles and, many different types that are as engaging as those first wooden puzzles. Here is a list of puzzle types and advantages.

Goal setting

Setting and achieving small goals is rewarding and reinforces the idea that, with hard work and focus, you can achieve your larger goals.

Self correction

Many puzzles are, particularly physical ones, are self correcting. They are either right or they aren’t, so children can work out immediately if they have solved the puzzle.

Skill development

Many puzzles encourage the use of skills that children aren’t necessarily using everyday, skills that are very important such as critical thinking, logical thinking and spatial reasoning.

 

If you have a few spare minutes and enjoy a challenge, have a go at this collection of puzzles.

For more like this, head over to: https://www.puzzles-to-print.com/rebus-puzzles/rebus-puzzles-page-1.shtml
For more like this, head over to: http://www.free-for-kids.com/brain-teasers.shtml
For more like this, head over to: http://www.free-for-kids.com/brain-teasers.shtml
For more puzzles head on over here: http://www.mathinenglish.com/PagePL2P26to30.php
For more puzzles head on over here: http://www.mathinenglish.com/PagePL2P26to30.php

Making Bath Time Fun for Kids

The bath can be much more than a place to wash. It can be a place to play, explore, learn and relax. Crayons, bubbles, food dye, ice, toys and treasure hunts can make the humble bath a blast!

Having a bath is more than a necessity for most kids, its a fun time to relax and play.

When we don’t have early morning activities i’ll often let my son have a long bath and and some watery fun. There are many things we do to make bath time special, here are a list of them:

Bath crayons – I remember having special crayons when I was little and I’ve bought them for my son too. Kids can draw on the glass, the tub, tiles or on them selves and the colour washes off easily. They can draw and scribble, write letters, numbers, practise spelling words or solving sums, play Pictionary, Hangman (or the child friendly version I call ‘The Ladybird Game’), Noughts and Crosses…they can write and draw as they would on paper. The bath crayons pictured below are available here.

The bath can be much more than a place to wash. It can be a place to play, explore, learn and relax. Crayons, bubbles, food dye, ice, toys and treasure hunts can make the humble bath a blast!
Available at Target

Bubble bath – A bath full of bubbles is just good, clean fun! Of course it’s nice to sit in mountains of bubbles but your children (and you) can also put the bubbles on their face and head to give the appearance of facial hair, fill small plastic container with bubbles to make cappuccinos or cup cakes and play shops, hide as much of themsleves in bubbles as possible, scoop up hand fulls and blow them off or clap to make the bubbles scatter away.

Food dye – I saw a friend of mine comment on her son loving blue water in his bath and was instantly inspired to try it out. We’ve had blue water, green, purple, red (not my choice!) and everything in between. It’s great fun and all it takes is a few drops or regular food colouring. Adding the colour and watching the water swirl and dye disperse is a great experience for the little ones too.

The bath can be much more than a place to wash. It can be a place to play, explore, learn and relax. Crayons, bubbles, food dye, ice, toys and treasure hunts can make the humble bath a blast!
Food dye in the bath

Measuring capacity – taking a few, various sized containers into the bath and pouring water from one to another is a great way to develop an understanding of capacity. Encouraging your child to predict, order and test out theories as to which container holds the most water, how many cups it might take to fill the rectangular container etc is great fun and real-life learning.

Find and seek underwater – Taking toys into the bath is great, but losing them under the bubbles and having to find them is even better. Your child might like to search with their hand under water or they could wear goggles or even a snorkle while they go exploring for the lost ‘treasures.’

bath toys rubber ducky bath time fun

Washing toys – Whether its giving a doll a bath or scrubbing a dirty monster truck, washing toys is far more fun for the little ones than washing themselves.

Sea themed toys – Fish, animals, boats, mermaids and pirates are great toys to play with in the bath. Of course any waterproof toy would be fun but these ones are especially good because they encourage small world play. The pictured toys are available from here.

The bath can be much more than a place to wash. It can be a place to play, explore, learn and relax. Crayons, bubbles, food dye, ice, toys and treasure hunts can make the humble bath a blast!
Available from iHerb

Melting ice blocks -In Summer we made coloured ice cubes with a dinosaur in each. Once the ice cube was added to the water it melted fast, the colour of the water changed and the dinosaur was free. You can use ice to discuss the different states of water, different coloured ice and water to discuss primary and secondary colours or frozen creatures in big ice blocks to make bath time last a little longer.

Eating – When babies start eating solids it is a messy time in most house holds. Ours was no exception! Spaghetti was especially fun and particularly messy! I once heard of a mum (or maybe it was a dad?) who put their young one in an empty bath with a bowl full of messy food. The child could make as much mess as they wanted and cleaning up was a breeze!

Singing – I must admit, I’ve never really been much of a singer (trust me, that is a good thing!), however I do love to break in to song at bath time….’Splish splash I was taking a bath, all about a Saturday night….’ I sing, my son splashes, we act it out and have a crazy good time. If you have any great bath time songs please share them below! I’d love to add a few to my list!

As you can see, the bath can be much more than a place to wash. It can be a place to play, explore, learn and relax. What are your child’s favourite bath time activities?

The bath can be much more than a place to wash. It can be a place to play, explore, learn and relax. Crayons, bubbles, food dye, ice, toys and treasure hunts can make the humble bath a blast!

Finding the Right Babysitter or Nanny

Finding the right babysitter can be a bit of a challenge...Do I ask the neighbour's teenage daughter, find someone off Gumtree or use an agency to organise it for me? How do I ask for references? How much will it cost me? Worry not, I sat down with some of the lovely ladies from Mini Nannying Agency to answer all your questions.

Finding the right babysitter can be a bit of a challenge…Do I ask the neighbour’s teenage daughter, find someone off Gumtree or use an agency to organise it for me? How do I ask for references? How much will it cost me? Worry not, I sat down with some of the lovely ladies from Mini Nanny Agency to answer all your questions.

 

Q. What should I look for in a babysitter?

A. Someone who is fun, responsible and reliable. The simple answer here is ‘someone who lines up with your values.’

Look for a babysitter who is fun, responsible and reliable. The simple answer here is 'someone who lines up with your values.'
Photo by Freepik

Q. I’m a bit nervous about leaving my child with a stranger, what can I do?

A. I feel you! I was very reluctant for a very long time to leave my precious little boy in the care of someone I hadn’t known for years. There are a few simple things you can do to help ease your nerves. First and foremost of course is to choose someone you trust! Let your babysitter know you are nervous and seek reassurance from them, a few comforting words should help you feel a bit better. Asking them to keep you updated with texts or photos may also put your mind at ease, you can see what your child is doing and (hopefully) see they are smiling and having fun.

If you aren’t in the position to choose a babysitter that you know and who knows your child well, using an agency can help. If your babysitter has been referred through a nannying agency, you can trust they have had a thorough background check completed. Mini Nanny Agency has been operating for 10 years so have thorough processes in place to match parents with carers. Knowing the process is thorough, choosing a babysitter you can connect with and relate to, as well as keeping clear lines of communication open will help ease your worry.

 

Q. How much should I expect to pay?

A. For a babysitter you’re looking at $20-$25 per hour. $25-$30 per hour is the going rate for experienced nannies while high school students might charge considerably less. The pricing would need to be discussed with your sitter and would depend on things such as experience level, household chores they might complete, the age of the children, whether the children would need to be transported to and from different locations, the number of hours and how regularly you would need the babysitter etc.

If you are using a nanny agency like Mini you can expect to pay $55 for a babysitter referral, which includes a thorough background check on the individual.

 

Q. What will they do with my children?

A. If you were hiring a babysitter during the day she might do craft activities with your children, take them to the park, cook with them, help them with schoolwork, play with play dough or engage them in imaginative play. It depends on what you have agreed upon before hand. Some nannies undertake house duties too. If your sitter will be putting your children to bed then you can expect her to follow the normal routine which you would have communicated with her.

Finding the right babysitter can be a bit of a challenge...Do I ask the neighbour's teenage daughter, find someone off Gumtree or use an agency to organise it for me? How do I ask for references? How much will it cost me? Worry not, I sat down with some of the lovely ladies from Mini Nannying Agency to answer all your questions.
Photo by Freepik

Q. What about tricky issues; things like diet or discipline?

A. Making any dietary requirement, requests and rules clear from the beginning is very important. If your child has allergies, make sure you inform the babysitter. If you are a strict sugar-free household, make that clear too.

Discipline is a tough one! Perhaps you know your child will test the boundaries and display some rather challenging behaviours. The key here is to choose a babysitter you believe will be comfortable dealing with such behaviours. Warn her before hand and give her some strategies and suggestions you know (hope) work. Make it clear what you are comfortable with, what behaviours you are happy to let slide Follow up with any inappropriate behaviours your child may have displayed.

 

Q. Where can I find a babysitter?

A. There are a multitude of places you could find a sitter. Be mindful that you will be trusting this person with your children so be sure to do your homework. Nannying agencies can find the perfect carer for your child without you having to do the work. Michelle from Mini says, “agencies eliminate the time pressures. They know the industry inside out, have a good name and ultimately do a good job.” Trusted friends, family and neighbours are also great people to ask, perhaps they have people they use and recommended. If your child goes to day care some staff there might babysit after hours. You could also search on Gumtree or local Facebook pages. Just be certain you do a thorough check…..

Finding the right babysitter can be a bit of a challenge...Do I ask the neighbour's teenage daughter, find someone off Gumtree or use an agency to organise it for me? How do I ask for references? How much will it cost me? Worry not, I sat down with some of the lovely ladies from Mini Nannying Agency to answer all your questions.
Photo by Freepik

Q. How do I ask for references without seeming rude?

A. Just ask. Your children are your most valued possession (for lack of a better word), no babysitter should be offended if you were to ask for references, they’d expect it! If you choose to use an agency, they will have done all the back ground checks for you and will provide you with all the references you need.

 

Q. What experience should my babysitter have?

A. This is totally up to you. If you want your ideal carer to have specific skills or experience then make that known from the beginning. If you’re asking for recommendations from friends, going through an agency or placing an ad, specify what you are looking for. If it matters to you that your babysitter be of a particular age, speak a particular language, has a background in teaching, is athletic or has experience working with babies or children with special needs then say so from the beginning.

Finding the right babysitter can be a bit of a challenge...Do I ask the neighbour's teenage daughter, find someone off Gumtree or use an agency to organise it for me? How do I ask for references? How much will it cost me? Worry not, I sat down with some of the lovely ladies from Mini Nannying Agency to answer all your questions.
Photo by Freepik

How do I select the perfect carer for my child?

Think about your top 3 must haves and consider this…what will keep them with your family long term? Is there a connection there or not (between you, the sitter and your kids)? If not then they may not be the right sitter for you.

 

Once you have settled on the right babysitter for your family trust them to do a great job and take the opportunity to enjoy some precious adult time for yourself!

 

Tips for Solo Travel with a Toddler

Don’t let the thought of travelling alone with your little one put you off. With a few tweaks to your ideal itinerary and some extra time planning, travel with a toddler can be an amazingly rewarding experience.Travel is a wonderful thing. Whether you’re exploring the world or a local town, travel can open your eyes to new ways of thinking, amazing experiences and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Travelling with young children can make small trips seem like big adventures (or big adventures seem like mammoth expeditions!) but the advantages of taking those trips far outweighs the negatives.

I never thought I’d be road tripping through Europe with a toddler, let alone on my own with him. From that experience I learnt never to pass up an opportunity to travel with my child.

travel europe with a toddler

Don’t let the thought of travelling alone with your little one put you off. With a few tweaks to your ideal itinerary and some extra time planning, travel with a toddler can be an amazingly rewarding experience.

When my son was 18months old we headed over to Europe for a fantastic 6-week holiday. We travelled as a family of three for most of the trip but for a week it was just my little boy and me. I knew in advance this would be the case so spent plenty of time before the trip researching locations, accommodation choices, tips and travel tricks.

I thoroughly enjoyed that week. On the one hand, it was like I was travelling solo in that I had complete control of where I went and had to rely on my own capabilities. On the other hand, I never got lonely. My little person was always with me (often strapped to my body), he was great as a conversation starter and he helped me find joy in the most simple of things.

 

When it comes to travelling with a toddler (solo or otherwise), I have a few tips to make the adventure memorable for all the right reasons:

  • Don’t worry too much before hand
  • Choose child-friendly locations and accommodation
  • Slow down and allow for rest times
  • Research and prepare thoroughly
  • Avoid queues where ever possible
  • Make it obvious you have a toddler at airports
  • Don’t forget to pack toys
  • Baby wearing is awesome
  • Pack light

travel solo with toddler

  • Worry is a misuse of you imagination

While I spent a lot of time researching and preparing for our holiday, I also spent a fair amount of time worrying about what could go wrong. And you know what?… Nothing did! Don’t let fear, doubt, anxiety or worry stop you from travelling alone with your child. (You can read more about my pre-travel anxiety here)

 

  • Choose child-friendly options

I’m not a thrill seeker so was happy to have a relaxed time while it was just the two of us. I did my research and stayed at places where children were welcome and provided for. I deliberately booked self contained, modest units with kitchenettes so we had space to play and spend time indoors without the fear of breaking something or falling off a balcony. We also stayed a few nights at a bed and breakfast on a working farm, that was a great experience for a child.

 

  • Slow down and soak things in a little more

If we were all together as a family we would probably have gone for long day trips, booked restaurants at particular times…we would have been on the go. Instead, when travelling solo with my toddler, I spent afternoons walking through the forest, milking cows or splashing in the lake. I also allowed for plenty of chances to have a rest or nap. Making the effort to slow down and look at the world in wonder, through the eyes of a child made the quiet activities even more special.

slow down solo travel with kids

  • Preparation is key

That old saying if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail repeated in my mind while planning the holiday and I’m so glad it did. I wrote lists, pinned articles, read reviews and packed all the right things. I felt prepared and I was! I had all the ‘things’ organised and it served us well because we didn’t need to worry about where to find something, what number to call, what to wear etc. It was all taken care of in advance meaning fewer things could go wrong.

 

  • Skip the crowds

I’m not a fan of crowds (my son likes them even less), so my advice would be to avoid them if at all possible. Booking tickets ahead of time and visiting tourist destinations early in the morning or late in the afternoon might be a better bet than lining up and risking being stuck in a queue with a cranky toddler.

 

  • Airport Queue Jumping

In every airport we visited in Europe we were invited to cut to the front of the queue. For a family not used to VIP treatment this was quite a thrill! At one stage we were at the back of a long line and our little one started to squirm, we knew it would be a very uncomfortable wait for everyone around us, so I sat him on my shoulders and in less than a minute there was an airport employee ushering us to the front of the line. This privilege is reserved for parents with young children.

 

  • Pack some favourite toys and new activities

It’s super important to keep your child amused on flights and long drives, but it also pays to think about what they’ll need when you reach your destination. I spent plenty of time pre-holiday researching appropriate toys to take with us. I wanted to make sure everything I chose would hold my child’s interest, were age appropriate, versatile, lightweight and compact so they don’t take up too much room in our travel bag. If you’re stuck for ideas on which toys to take, I have a few suggestions here.

Flying Sprout puppet busy bag

  • Baby wearing is a life saver

Little legs can’t be relied on to do much walking and pushing a pram around all day is hard work. Having a baby carrier meant I could have my hands free, my toddler could nap whenever he liked and we both felt safe and secure. (Read more about the advantages of baby wearing here)

Baby wearing travelling solo

  • Don’t pack more than you need (besides nappies. Always pack extra nappies!)

Think long and hard before leaving home about what is absolutely necessary while travelling. Especially if you’re travelling solo, remember that you’ll be responsible lugging it all around while also looking after you child (see previous point about baby wearing 😉 )

 

Travelling with a toddler was easier and more fun than I expected. While I prefer travelling as a whole family, I’ll never again shy away from travelling alone with a little one, and hope you wont either.

 

If you have any great family travel experiences or tips I’d love you to share them below!

 

The Benefits of Playing with Play Dough

Playing with play dough is a wonderful tactile experience that is a treasured part of childhood. Manipulating, moulding, rolling out and cutting the colourful dough is not only fun and relaxing, it is assists with building vital life skills too!

Playing with play dough is a wonderful tactile experience that is a treasured part of childhood. Manipulating, moulding, rolling out and cutting the colourful dough is not only fun and relaxing, it is assists with building vital life skills too!

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Manipulating play dough strengthens those all important fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are those that involve the use of small muscles in hands, fingers and thumbs. By strengthening these motor skills children are then more able to hold a pencil and write, cut with scissors, do up buttons, tie shoelaces and correctly use a knife and fork….all fundamental skills they’ll use throughout their lives.

 

As well as being a fabulous material for building fine motor skills, play dough play allows, even encourages, freedom of expression and imagination. Children can create anything they like when playing with the mouldable dough. There are no rules when it comes playing with play dough (except maybe keep it off the carpet!).

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Image from Freepik

Play dough is also a great activity to have on hand for times when your child might be getting tired, frustrated or just generally in need of some quiet time. It is a safe way for them to express them selves and take out frustration in a productive, harm-free way. Tactile stimulation with play dough can be calming and has great benefits for children with hyposensitivity.

 

Children are able to engage all their five senses when playing with play dough. They can see the different colours and creations, feel the play dough change shape as it is moulded, smell the unique fragrance, hear what it does when squeezed or thumped and…lets be honest, as kids most of us had a taste of that salty home made play dough when we were little! Sensory play encourages curiosity as children explore the world through their five senses. Investigating and exploring what play dough can do is, in some ways, even an early scientific investigation.

 

Having play dough available is great when it comes to building numeracy and literacy skills in a fun way. Children can represent different numbers, letters and make sums by using number stamps, forming small balls or rolling out long, thin snakes which can be twisted to form the desired shape. Play dough is also handy for alphabet and spelling activities with letter stamps.

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Play dough is also useful as a tool when learning about colours and shapes. It comes in a huge range of colours so can be helpful when your little one is learning to identify different colours. Primary colours can be mixed to create secondary colours too. Children can make shapes, either flat or 3D, easily with the use of play dough. Flying Sprout’s Tomato Busy Bag uses plasticine, rather than play dough, to build colour and shape skills.

tomato bb pic

Play dough play lets adults be kids too. Playing freely with your child is a wonderful bonding activity and play dough allows you to be working on the same level. Unlike Lego for example, there are no ‘right ways’ of connecting pieces together and any play dough creations made by you are likely to still have a child-like quality to them.

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Image from Freepik

This simple product makes a wonderful gift! Of course there is the popular brand we all know, Play Doh, but I have recently come across a glorious small business which creates beautiful smelling play dough, Happy Hands, Happy Heart. If you’re on Instagram, be sure to check out Emma from Happy Hands, Happy Hearts, she has an amazing Instagram feed featuring very clever play dough art!

 

If you’d prefer to make your own at home, here is a great play dough recipe that doesn’t require cooking!

 

As you can see, I’m a big fan of play dough and believe it definitely offers your child more than a few minutes of quiet play time!

What You Can Do at Home to Help Your Child Learn at School

There are many things, besides structured homework, you can do with your child to help their academic development that are incidental, don’t feel like ‘work’ and are fun for both of you.

In addition to making awesome Busy Bags 😉 I am primary school teacher with 8 years experience and currently work as a tutor so I know a thing or two about helping students learn outside the classroom.

Now that the school year is underway your child has probably come home with some kind of homework that they’re expected to complete. While I don’t love the idea of homework as a whole, the importance of reinforcing skills, particularly reading, cannot be underestimated.

You might find it hard to make time to do anything other than read with your child each night and the burden of homework might rest heavily on your shoulders. What ever you do though, please don’t ignore it completely. Provide your child with a quiet space for them to complete their reading and homework. If spending an hour a week sitting down with your child to work through their homework sounds too challenging, consider blocking out smaller amounts of time. Four 15 minute sessions is much easier to manage than one whole hour of uninterrupted learning.

Mother and daughter helping daughter with her homework

If you and/or your child are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of homework, please talk to their teacher, they may be able to work out some alternative arrangements.

There are many things, besides structured homework, you can do with your child to help their academic development that are incidental, don’t feel like ‘work’ and are fun for both of you.

Many of the recommendations below are suggestions I wrote in reports for my Year 1 students. They are simple activities that can be done in a stress-free way and may be of great help to your child.

 

Reading

  • Reading skills should be supported through nightly reading of the take home book. When reading with your child, encourage them to use different strategies. Help them to read for meaning by asking questions about the text. If a word does not make sense, suggest they re-read the whole sentence/passage to try and understand what the word might mean.
  • Borrow a variety of books from the library. You can check out levelled texts to correspond with the books they are bringing home from school but be sure to also borrow books that are of interest to them. Developing a love of reading opens up a world of possibilities.
  • Read a variety of texts together and at every opportunity. Read newspapers, brochures, menus, shopping lists, catalogues, information on TV adverts, cereal boxes etc. The more your child is exposed to different text types in real life environments, the more value they’ll see in learning to read.

Child holding a open book on white background

Writing

  • Provide your child with fun and entertaining opportunities to trace, colour and write. These activities should help to develop their fine motor skills, in turn leading to better letter formation and neater writing.
  • Practise letter names and sounds with your child by making play dough letters, writing with crayons in the bath or cutting out letter shaped cookies.
  • Help your child practise pronouncing, sounding out and spelling words they regularly use as well as new words they come across.
  • Place word lists in a position at home where they will be seen regularly. Practice reading and spelling from word lists, play games and identify sounds.
  • Encouraging them to write cards and journal entries gives a meaningful way to practise writing well punctuated sentences.
  • Encourage your child to practise writing detailed and interesting letters or postcards to friends and family. You might also consider giving them a scrapbook in which they could write, record thoughts and collect memories.
  • Use Flash cards of letters or common words to build familiarity and help your child to learn sight words.
  • Consider using magnetic letters on the fridge to form words and sentences.

 

Maths

  • Practice basic number facts through quizzes, flash cards and questioning when there are a few spare minutes, such as while preparing meals or during car journeys.
  • When opportunities arise, ask your child to assist you to work out real life problems modelling the solutions e.g. “If I we have 25 grapes to share between the 5 of us, how many will we each get?”
  • Support your child’s numeracy development and number fact recall by encouraging them to play board games like snakes and ladders and work through online math activities such as Mathletics*
  • Practise counting and mathematical operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) using counters, paddle pop sticks or beads. I have a large collection of Busy Bags targeting specific mathematical skills. You can find them here.
  • Find mathematical opportunities everywhere; add the digits on number plates, measure ingredients when cooking, read the time on analogue clocks, count down to events on the calendar, look for shapes and numbers to read in every day locations.
  • If your child is finding a concept challenging, borrow some books on that particular theme e.g numbers, colours, time.

School supplies with calculator

Mathletics and Reading Eggs

Most kids love having access to an iPad or computer and there are many great apps or programs that are both fun and educational. Reading Eggs and Mathletics/Mathseeds are paid programs but are definitely worth the investment. Your child can work through short, engaging lessons at their level and develop base level literacy and numeracy skills before building upon them. You might find your child already has access to these programs through their school. I highly recommend signing up for a free trial to see if you and your child likes the program. (After your free trial you will be offered a discounted rate to subscribe, though maybe not immediately so hold out a little while if you’d like to save a few dollars.)

 

It doesn’t need to be stressful or overwhelming when it comes time to help your child with academic learning outside of school. Hopefully you can see from the suggestions above that there are are plenty of opportunities to extend everyday activities to make them richer learning opportunities.

If you’re after more ideas and pre-prepared activities to help your child with their learning, head on over to Flying Sprout’s online store to browse the full range of fun and educational activities.

Screen Free Activities To Keep Kids Cool On A Hot Day

I love the idea of sitting under the air conditioner all day and watching movies but that’s just not possible in my house with a toddler and well, lets be honest, it's not ideal. So….here’s a list of simple activities to keep your children entertained while keeping cool on those scorching Summer days.

Australian Summers can be HOT so keeping cool and calm is a priority, especially when the school holidays are stretching on and you’re running out of ideas for how to entertain the kids.

I love the idea of sitting under the air conditioner all day and watching movies but that’s just not possible in my house with a toddler and well, lets be honest, it’s not ideal. So….here’s a list of simple activities to keep your children entertained while keeping cool on those scorching Summer days.

 

Sensory Play

Quiet activities are a great option when the weather is really hot (or wet, or cold). Activities that allow your child to use their hands to manipulate materials are great for the development of fine motor skills, encourage imaginative play and are wonderfully calming.

*Play dough – play dough can be made at home or bought. It can be moulded with the hands, flattened, rolled, cut or stamped.

*Water beads – these tiny little balls absorb water and grow. They are soft, colourful and fantastic to play with.

*Coloured spaghetti – cook a few batches of spaghetti with a little food dye, let it cool and play away.

*Rainbow rice – rice can be dyed a rainbow of different colours with some food dye and a little vinegar.

*Bubbles – watching bubbles floating through the air is simple but always special.

play dough hot day

Bring The Outdoors In

When the outdoor environment isn’t welcoming, just bring the fun inside!

*Indoor forts – build a cubby inside using sheets draped over clothes horses, chairs or tables then make it cozy with cushions and soft toys.

*Inside picnic – pack a picnic basket full of goodies, set up a rug on the floor and have a special picnic in the living room.

*Treasure hunt – write clues and hide objects around the house for your children to find.

 

Water Play

Playing with cool water is the best way to escape the Summer heat but there are many more options than visiting a public pool.

*Paddling pools – set up a small pool, clam shell, tub or even bucket at home for your children to splash in.

*Washing dishes – washing dishes with cool water and plenty of bubbles can be fun on a hot day.

*Playing in the bath – having a long, cool bath is a great way to pass time.

*Floating/sinking – encourage your child to explore the concept of floating and sinking by making boats and testing the properties of different objects.

*Bath crayons – drawing in the bath tub or on their bodies with special bath crayons and soaps is a great way for your children to get clean and be creative.

*Paint the house/fence – give your child a bucket of water and a paintbrush, set them up in a shaded area and encourage them to ‘paint’ the fence or house.

*Wash  a car – using water from the hose and bubbles from a bucket to wash the car is cooling and helpful.

baby hot day activity water bucket

Cooking

If you cant stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Right? Or maybe not. If you choose simple foods that don’t require heat, the kitchen can be a great place to pass the time on a hot day. Think non-bake slices, icy poles, dips, smoothies or cheesecakes. Yum!

 

Out of the house

Sometimes the heat is just too much and a change of scene is needed so a trip out of the house is needed.

*Drive – if your car has air conditioner sometimes being stuck in traffic is the coolest place to be.

*Forest walk – head up into the hills and go for a walk in some well shaded forests, the temperature is sure to be much more bearable.

*Shopping centre – shopping centres are temperature controlled and will always be cool on a hot day.

*Gallery – visit a gallery and immerse your children in the arts.

*Museum – spend some time learning new and interesting facts in a lovely cool museum.

*Library – local libraries have fabulous kids sections, take some time to browse the shelves before borrowing some books to enjoy at home.

*All you can eat lunch – spend a hot afternoon in a cool restaurant grazing on the delicious foods, all you can eat style restaurants are perfect for this.

museum kids activity

More suggestions…

*Busy bags – these are a great way to learn while having fun and keeping cool.

*Stories – grab a few favourite books and enjoy reading them as a family.

*Performance – encourage your children to put on a performance; sing, dance or act out a favourite book

*Board games – pull a classic game out of the cupboard and play together.

*Card games – teach your children a new game or play an old favourite.

*Arts, craft, painting & drawing – the possibilities are endless.

*Stickers – peeling stickers off a page and sorting them or sticking them down to form an image can take a while to do and is often very satisfying.

*Lego – build a big tower, a house or other design. Lego is fantastic for imaginative play and motor skill development.

keep cool art

Dolls, cars, dress ups…..the list goes on. For more great ideas head on over to Flying Sprout’s Pinterest page and look at all the clever options to keep your little ones cool and calm on those hot Summer days.

 

Busy Bag Review by Finding Myself Young

Finding Myself Young is a fantastic website and blog written by a lovely lady named Toni.

I was very lucky to have Toni contact me, saying she’d like to feature Flying Sprout’s Busy Bags on her weekly Mummy Must Have review. I was even more lucky to have her write such wonderful things about my products!

You can find the blog post here. While you’re there I encourage you to read through her other reviews and discover some amazing must have items for your little one to enjoy.

You can also follow Toni on Instagram, @finding_myself_young.

happy little kids

Learning is Fun with M&M’s and Skittles

Skittles and M&Ms are a fantastic learning resources! Not only are they extremely motivating (who doesn’t want to eat a handful of lollies!?) they can help your child learn maths, English and science concepts.

With the end of school, parties and Christmas fast approaching, lollies will be in abundance. Before you think of stashing some away when your kids aren’t looking, consider this; Skittles and M&Ms are a fantastic learning resources! Not only are they extremely motivating (who doesn’t want to eat a handful of lollies!?) they can help your child learn maths, English and science concepts.

M&M Skittles Maths Learning FunA single mini bag of M&Ms or Skittles (the ones you buy as a multi pack) can provide loads of activity options for the little ones. You won’t need much else either, maybe just a piece of paper and some coloured pencils or textas!

Listed below is an activity to suit any of your kids aged 2-12 year olds so add a multi pack of Skittles or M&Ms to your shopping list now, then read on!

 

Predicting – Before opening the packet ask your child to predict how many lollies will be inside and what colours they will be.

You might ask: Why did you choose that amount/those colours? After opening it; were you right? Were you close? Why or why not?

toddler maths lollies

Colour Sorting – Sort the lollies according to colour.

You might ask: What colours do you have in the packet? What are some colours you don’t have? Which colour do you have the most of? Which do you have the least of?

 

Patterns – Lay out a pattern and ask your child to fill in the next few colours or fill in the missing lolly in a pattern. Alternatively, they might like to create their own pattern.

You might ask: How did you know that was the answer? Can you think of any different colours that would also be correct?

 

Counting – Ask your child to count the total number of lollies in the pack.

You might ask: If you had one more lolly, how many would you have? What if you had 2 more? 10 more? 3 less? etc

 

Graphing – Line the lollies up to create a graph. Have your child draw an outline around the lollies using the right coloured pencil/texta. Depending on your child’s skill level you might like them to rule up a proper bar graph, line graph, create a pie graph, label the graph correctly or even create a graph in Excel

You might ask: Which colour are there the most of? Which colour has the least? Which colour are there only 2 of? How many more yellow are there than green?

img_2177

Creating sums – Ask your child to create some sums (addition and subtraction is great to start with.) Depending on the number of lollies in their packet, your child may also be able to create some division or multiplication equations.

You might ask: If you added all the blue and yellow lollies together how many would there be? If you took all the green ones out of the packet, how many would be left? If you ate 3 of the red ones, how many would be left for me to eat?

 

Probability – The probability of an event occurring can be described in words (impossible, likely, certain) or with values (1/2, 20%, 3/15). Ask your child to describe the likelihood of particular colours being pulled out off the packet.

You might ask: If all the lollies were to be put back in the packet and I pulled one out randomly, what colour is it most likely to be? What is the chance of me pulling out a yellow lolly? Which colour is it impossible for me to select? Which colour has a 1 in 4 chance of being selected? There is a 20% chance orange will be selected, true or false?

 

Fractions – Calculate the fraction of each colour as part of the whole packet.

You might ask: What fraction of the packet is yellow? Can you simplify any of the fractions? What are some equivalent fractions for the red lollies?

 

Percentage – Ask your child to calculate the percentage of each colour as part of the whole packet of lollies.

You might ask: What percentage of the packet is green? If you ate all the red, green and yellow lollies what percentage of the lollies will be left?

 

Adjectives – Have your child randomly select a lolly with their eyes closed. Ask them to describe the smell, the taste and texture in as much detail as possible before guessing which colour it is. Encourage them to use all 5 senses and create a list of adjectives for each colour/flavour.

You might ask: Can you describe the lolly so that someone else would be able to picture it without seeing it? Can you explain the difference in colours without using the exact colour words?

m&m activities for kids

Tell a story – Ask your child to make up a story from a lolly’s point of view, encourage them to consider what the lolly would be experiencing.

You might ask: What is the structure of a good story (narrative)? What is the problem in your story? How will it be resolved? Who are the characters? What is the lolly thinking/feeling/seeing/hearing?

 

Experiment – Process: Place the lollies around the rim of a white bowl or plate. Slowly add water to the centre of the bowl until it reaches the lollies. Observe what happens.

Before adding water, encourage your child to make predictions about what will happen. After adding water have them look closely and make verbal observations about what they notice. For more detail on the experiment click here.

You might ask: What do you think will happen? Why? During the experiment- What can you see? Why do you think this is happening? After the experiment– Did it happen as you expected? Can you think of other situations where the same thing happens? Would you like to try the experiment with next?

 

Many of these activities can be done with any selection of coloured items such as coloured popcorn, jelly beans, gummy bears, Smarties or Fruit Loops. The items certainly don’t need to be edible for your child to work through the maths activities. Beads, sequins, pop poms or coloured craft sticks are great alternatives.

 

Learning is lots of fun when it is relaxed and especially when it is based around food! This Silly Season, consider buying some colourful lollies for your child to use as a learning tool.

50+ Activities to Make Spelling Fun

Make learning fun with this huge collection of spelling activities. Your child can clap, whisper, bake, sing and stomp their way to spelling success. Learning to spell and practising spelling words has not traditionally been a fun task. It’s time that changed!

Make learning fun with this huge collection of spelling activities. Your child can clap, whisper, bake, sing and stomp their way to spelling success. Learning to spell and practising spelling words has not traditionally been a fun task. It’s time that changed! Let’s move away from rote learning, chanting and testing and learn to spell by using Morse code, creating word searches and writing in shaving foam!

Help your child choose activities to suit their personality; do they like using the computer, singing or food? With more than 50 suggestions of fun ways to practise spelling words, there is sure to be an activity to suit them!

letters on a line

Active

  • Bouncing ball – Spell out the words while bouncing a ball.
  • Clapping – Spell out the words while clapping your hands.
  • Hop – Spell out the words while hopping.
  • Stand and sit – Spell out the words, standing up when a consonant appears and sitting down for each vowel.
  • Stomp – Say each word while stomping your feet.
  • Shake it – Spell your list, shaking your head when a consonant appears and clapping for each vowel.
  • Air writing – Use your fingers to write each word in the air as you spell it out.
  • Sign your words – Use sign language to sign your words!
  • Finger tracing – Use your finger to spell out each of your words one letter at a time on your Mom or Dad’s back. Swap over so you get to feel the words spelt on your back.
  • Other handed – If you are right-handed, write with your left, or vice versa.
  • Body letters – Spell your words by forming each letter with your whole body.
Yoga body letters
Image courtesy of Freepik

Computer

  • Type your words – Type all of your spelling words on the computer or on a typewriter.
  • Spread sheet – Use Excel to type your words into separate cells. Then make each cell a different font, colour, and size. Finally, let the computer sort them into alphabetical order!
  • Type your words in Word Art – Type your words into the computer using your favourite colours and fonts.
  • Online games – Visit Spelling City, type in your list of words and play games using your words.
  • Building words – Use buildings, shaped like letters, from around the world to type your words.
  • Word search – Create an online word search with all of your words, print it out then find them all!

Creative

  • Paint – Paint your words on a big piece of paper then hang them on an easel or wall.
  • Etch-A-Word – Use an Etch-A-Sketch to write your words.
  • Picture words – Draw a picture and write your words in the picture.

alphabet-1223623_1920

Tactile

  • Delicious words – Write your words in whipped cream, icing or anything else you can eat!
  • Clean words -Write your words in shaving cream on a counter or other surface that can be cleaned easily.
  • Dirty words – Write your words in mud or sand.
  • Moulded words – Use clay, plasticine or play dough to spell your words.
  • Pasta words – Write your words by arranging alphabet pasta.
  • Bake – Make, bake and eat your words using cookie cutters to shape the letters.
  • Chalk – Write your words on a concrete surface using chalk.
  • Pipe cleaners – Use pipe cleaners to create each letter of your spelling words.
  • Lego – Build Lego letters to spell the words from your list.

lego letter

Mathematical

  • Telephone Words – Translate your words into numbers from a telephone keypad.
  • Morse Code – Convert your words to Morse code.

Searching

  • Favourite books – Search for the words in your favourite books.
  • Scrabble – Use Scrabble tiles or magnetic letters to spell your words.
  • Ransom words – Write your words by cutting out letters in a newspaper or magazine and glue them on a paper.
  • Magazine words – Use an old magazine or newspaper to find each of your spelling words. Cut them out and glue them on a piece of paper.
  • Define – Use a dictionary to find the definition of your spelling words.

Writing

  • Trace around – Neatly write out one of spelling words. Take a coloured pen and draw an outline around the word, closely following the shapes of the letters.
  • ABC Order – Write your words in alphabetical order. Then write them in reverse alphabetical order.
  • Story writing – Write a story using ALL of your spelling words.
  • Single sentences – Write a sentence for each spelling word.
  • Black/White boards – Use chalkboards or write and wipe boards to write your words on.
  • Colourful words – Use two different colour pencils to write your spelling words. Use one colour to write the consonants and the other for the vowels.
  • Backwards words – Write your words normally, then backwards.
chalk spelling
Image courtesy of Freepik

Breaking Down Words

  • Vowels – How many vowels in each word?
  • Syllables – How many syllables in each word?
  • Phonemes – How many phonemes in each word?
  • Consonants – How many consonants in each word?
  • Swat words – Write out your spelling words in big letters on a big sheet of paper. Give your parents clues “The first letter is _ and the last letter is _.” See if they can “swat it” with a fly swatter!
  • Words without vowels – Write your words replacing all vowels with a line.
  • Words without consonants – Write your words replacing all consonants with a line.
  • Pyramid words – Write your words adding or subtracting one letter at a time. The result will be a pyramid shape of words.
  • Words-in-words – Write one spelling word at a time then write as many words as you can using the letters of your original word.
A letter matching activity from Flying Sprout's Grape Busy Bag.
A letter matching activity from Flying Sprout’s Grape Busy Bag.

Musical/verbal

  • Sing – Sing your spelling words to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  • Whisper – Spell the word aloud, whispering each vowel.
  • Sing Them Loud, Sing Them Soft – Have your Mom or Dad sing the letters of a spelling word to you in a loud voice. You echo the spelling and then sing it again softly. Then both of you sing the word in the voice you choose!
  • Song writing – Make up a fun song to teach the spelling of a word.
  • Cheer your words – Pretend you are a cheerleader and call out your words.
  • Sound Words – Use a recording device to record your words and their spelling. Play back your recording, checking to see that you spelled all the words correctly.
Photo courtesy of Freepik
Photo courtesy of Freepik