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  • Solar Eclipse Inspired Games For Children

    Today we understand that a solar eclipse is a natural phenomenon, an occasional reminder of our place in the Universe. We understand that whether we continue about our day, stop and observe it quietly, or run around shrieking like a headless chicken, after a few minutes the Moon will pass on by, the Sun will shine fiercely onto our planet once more, and normality will be restored.

    But for ancient civilisations solar eclipses were impossible to explain, and were often met with a sense of terror.

    Use these games to explain how solar eclipses have been understood over thousands of years.

    Ancient China - Bang The Drums

    In ancient China it was believed demons were attempting to steal the Sun. The people would flock together during an eclipse and bang pots and pans as loudly as they can to scare away the demons.

    To recreate this in a game you will need a big yellow ball or balloon to be the Sun, and whatever noisy implements you can find (saucepans and wooden spoons should do the trick).

    Your children can be the demons to start with. Their job is to try to steal the Sun from wherever you’ve chosen to display it. If you catch them, you must bang as loud as you can, and they will abandon their efforts. This is a great game because provided you keep an eagle-eye out for little demons, you can get on with some chores while the little ones are plotting their plan of attack.

    You could just play for fun, set up a points system or even offer yummy rewards for successful total eclipses.

    If your children fancy a turn banging the pots, just switch roles.

    Vietnam - The Giant Frog

    In Vietnamese culture it was believed that the Sun disappeared as a result of a giant frog taking a bite out of it. Of course the Sun was too powerful for the frog and after burning his mouth the frog let the Sun go free.

    Turn the classic ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf’ into the Giant Frog game.

    Your children are giant frogs and you are guarding the Sun (use a pile of yellow clothes or a Sun made from segments of yellow card). The children call out ‘what’s the time’ and when you answer them they must jump forward like frogs, instead of taking strides. Every time a child successfully reaches you they can take a piece of the Sun and run back to base. But if the Sun gets angry, you must chase the Giant frogs away.

    For older children you can make the game more challenging by putting the Sun on top of the climbing frame or at the top of the slide.

    Vikings - The Chariot And The Wolves

    The Vikings believed the Sun was pulled around on the back of a chariot, perpetually chased by wolves. Every now and then a wolf would catch up and take a bite out of the Sun, causing the darkness, before the chariot sped away, taking the Sun to safety.

    You can recreate this story with a simple game of chase, each taking turns to be the wolf or the Sun.

  • Games, Crafts And Activities For Mother’s Day

    Straight up, hand this blog post over to the Dads.

    These are fun things to do on Mother’s Day, so Mums, you shouldn’t be doing all the prep for this.

    There’ a combination of crafts and games included here, so whatever the weather you’ll find something to keep them busy with.

    Make A Card

    Nothing says appreciation like a handmade cards. Older children can colour or paint whatever they like, but younger children may need a little direction. Cut out some flower shapes for them to colour and stick on, or use finger painting to make hearts and flowers shapes.

    Cooking For Mum

    The easiest thing to cook for mum is pancakes. Little ones can help crack eggs, measure ingredients and mix the batter. Older children can pour the batter into the frying pan. Dad’s in charge of flipping the pancakes.

    Cup cakes are also a good thing for children to make. As with the pancakes, mixing the batter is a child-friendly activity, and once the cakes are cooked and cooled, icing and decorating is super-fun, if a little messy.

    Kiss Chase

    The ultimate game of love and affection - kiss chase. But instead of Mum chasing the children, this time it’s their turn to run after Mum, capture her, and cover her with kisses.

    Heart Treasure Hunt

    Cut up little heart shapes and have your children hide them all over the garden - under rocks, on the climbing frame, under the trampoline, wherever they can safely reach. Make sure Mum doesn’t see what you’re doing. Now get Mum into the garden and time how long it takes her to find them. The children can help her hunt them down by giving clues of hot and cold. Repeat until Mum is exhausted, or swap over and hide the hearts for somebody else to find.

    Nature’s Gifts

    Go for a walk along the beach or the park, somewhere you will find plenty of pretty things lying around. Ask your children to hunt for a thing of beauty for Mum. When they hand it over, whether it’s a stone, a leaf, a conker, ask them to explain why they chose it. Mum will treasure that story every time she looks at the object.

    Guessing Game

    How well do we know Mum? This is like the old Mr & Mrs quiz. Ask questions like ‘what is Mum’s favourite colour?’ and ‘what is Mum’s favourite snack?’. If you have older children they can write down their guess before Mum reveals the answer. For younger children, have Mum write the answer secretly, then the children can guess outloud.

    Mum Says

    Like Simon Says, but it’s Mum giving the instructions. Imagine her joy when everyone just does as she asks for a whole 10 minutes without complaining.

    For more outdoor play inspiration, check out the rest of the Wicken Toys blog.

  • No Balls Please

    There’s no escaping it. When a ball bounces off a wooden fence it is loud.

    If you have restricted space in your garden (and a lot of us do) you may fear the dreaded crash caused by an errant football, or speeding tennis ball.

    But stopping these games altogether does you children no favours. Balls games give children the chance to develop hand-eye coordination skills, social skills as they interact while playing, and of course get much needed fresh air and exercise.

    So what can you do to prevent the bang crash wallop.

    We’ve got some suggestions here for ‘ball games’ without the wayward balls.

    1. Badminton Often overlooked in favour of tennis, but badminton requires just as much skill and concentration. Because the shuttlecock travels slowly it is unlikely to go far enough astray to hit the fence. And if it does, you’ll hear barely a tap as it is much lighter than a ball.

    2. Swingball Swingball is just like tennis, only the ball is tethered, so no chance of it escaping into the neighbour’s garden or bashing into the fence.

    3. Boules Played properly there is no chance of loud noises. These heavy balls plop soundlessly onto the lawn and stay there. You may hear a gentle ‘clink’ as two balls touch each other. This is a calm relaxing game requiring concentration so is ideal for taking energy levels down a notch if things get a little frenetic.

    4. Skittles If you don’t have a skittles set you can make your own with some sand filled [plastic bottles and a tennis ball. Help younger children aim by having them roll the ball down the slide towards skittles assembled at the bottom. Older children can add extra challenge by placing the skittles at the top of the slide and rolling the ball up it.

    5. Outdoor Table Tennis For the ultimate outdoor accessory, get a waterproof table tennis set. Designed to be kept outside (although best covered over the colder months), these tables are always set up and ready to go whenever the mood takes you. The lightweight ping pong balls will bounce all over the garden, but barely make a sound, so you there won’t be any loud bangs….unless you crash into the fence chasing after them of course.

    With a bit of imagination you can adapt traditional games and invent your own to provide plenty of outdoor fun with none of the noise.

    You may also be able to make small adaptations to your garden to help stop balls hitting the fence. A gulley around the edge of the lawn will catch ground skimming balls, as will borders filled with dense shrubs.

    If football is an essential activity it is possible to buy inflatable fully enclosed five-a-side pitches with high side netting.

  • Halloween Inspired Science Activities

    Halloween is a great opportunity to teach children that spooky, scary occurrences can usually be easily explained by science.

    Help them see the science behind the supernatural with these clever Halloween-inspired science activities.

    1.Dissolving Experiment For this experiment you will need three cups, some cooking oil, milk, water and three identical gummy sweets from your collection of trick or treat wins.

    Pour a different liquid into each cup, just up to about three inches high.

    Science experimentation is all about explaining yoru method, making predictions and recording results, so first have your children write up the plan and then ask them what they think will happen. Will the sweets float or sink? Will they stay the same or will they change? Then put one sweet in each cup, and over the course of the day, keep going back to check on their progress. At the end of the experiment, pull the sweets out and write up what happened.

    2. Flying Fire Ghosts This experiment is best conducted on your patio. Snip the top off a tea bag adn dump the contents out. Then draw a ghostly face onto the bag and stand it upright on a inflammable surface. Light the top of the tea bag and as the bag burns it should lift off the ground, giving the impression of a flying ghost. As the air inside the tea bag gets hot it expands and rises. Cold air rushes in from underneath, lifting the bag up into the air.

    3. Exploding Ghost Rockets For this experiment you will need a handful of old-fashioned camera film canisters (which you can still buy on eBay), some Alka Seltzer tablets, cornflour and a little water. Firstly, turn each canister upside down and use a permanent marker to draw on a ghostly face. In each pot mix a teaspoon of cornflour with some water to make a gloopy paste. Crumble in some Alka Seltzer tablet, quickly replace the lid, place the ghost down and stand back. Yoru ghost will explode, shooting right up into the air, leaving a trail of white gloop behind them. The white paste will be easy to wash off so you can make your ghosts jump off the climbing frame, picnic table, swing, whatever you like.

    4. Expanding Ghost Balloon Hang on to some of those Alka Seltzer tablets. You'll need a small bottle, half filled with water. Draw a ghostly face on a balloon, plop the Alka Seltzer into the bottle and very quickly stretch the neck of the balloon over the neck of the bottle. As the mixture bubbles away the rising gas will cause the balloon to expand.

    5. Skeleton Jigsaw Time for some biology. Draw / print out a skeleton and cut into jigsaw pieces. Combine this lesson with a little physical activity by hiding the pieces all over the garden or all around the house. Make sure you count up the pieces before you hide them so you know when you've found them all. Just by collecting the pieces and putting them together your children will learn a lot about the human skeleton.

    For more play ideas, check out the Wicken blog.

  • Outdoor Halloween Party Games

    Whether you are throwing a small party just for your own children, or you've invited all their class mates too, the combination of excitement, energy and sugar will need burning off.

    If the weather is in your favour, get the kids out to the back garden, and keep them entertained with this spookily inspired Halloween activities.

    1. Mummy Wrap An old favourite.

    Divide the children into pairs.

    One person is the mummy, the other is the mummifier.

    Using nothing but a toilet roll, the mummifier needs to completely wrap the mummy in 'bandages'.

    The winner is the team with the best coverage.

    2. Apple Bobbing No Autumn party is complete without a spot of apple bobbing.

    Give your fruit-based game a Halloween twist by using red squishy jelly instead of water. Bobbers will look like vampires when they come up for air.

    3. Eyeball Spoon Race To create the eye balls you can use hard boiled eggs, ping pong balls or styrofoam balls. Colour in a pupil, iris and red veins for an authentic look.

    4. Bones Relay Race Create a bone shaped baton for each team using an old kitchen roll and wrapping it in white paper. Ghost Race

    5. Make Races More Interesting And race can be spiced up by adding obstacles. Instead of running in s straight line, create a course that goes over the slide, under the climbing frame and around the playhouse. Work any outdoor play equipment into the game.

    6. Gutsy Treasure Hunt Spaghetti cooked in red food dye, tossed into an old paddling pool can look alarmingly like discarded guts. Hide Halloween related trinkets amongst the faux intestines, and time how long it takes each child to retrieve one, two, all of them, or as many as you like. Toss the pieces back into the pool ready for the next child's turn.

    7. Ghost Ring Toss Stake styrofoam balls a few inches from the ground, and decorate with a face adorned scrap of white material. These are your ghosts. Use hoops to capture these ghoulish garden invaders. You can allocate a points score for each ghost by writing it onto the fabric scraps.

    8. Skeleton Hunt Break up small plastic skeleton into individual bones and scatter them all around the garden. Time how long it takes for the children to recover all the pieces.

    If you can't find a skeleton, you could cut up an image of a monster to create a jigsaw puzzle, then scatter those pieces around.

    9. Make a Scarecrow This will require input from an adult on each team. Supply each team with a shirt, trousers, two bamboo sticks, some string and a bundle of newspaper. They will also need a balloon for the head and some craft materials for decorating. Each team needs to construct the scariest scarecrow they can.

    For added fun, take a look at our tips for decorating you back garden with a Halloween theme.

  • Top Tips For Keeping Fit On Rainy Days

    There are plenty of blog posts and advice articles on how to keep kids entertained on a rainy day, but many are focused on craft activities or build dens.

    With the British winter on it's way, many parents fear being stuck indoors for days on end, because without plenty of exercise, their children go just a little bit bonkers.

    To help you prepare for the impending bad weather, and forthcoming half term, here are some simple ideas for keeping fit and active on rainy days.

    1. Puddle Stomping

    Unless your child is at risk of melting in the rain, it's not compulsory to stay indoors when wet weather strikes. For many children a pair of wellies and an umbrella are all that's needed to turn a miserable afternoon into puddle stomping revelry.

    2. Timed Treasure Hunt

    Take a collection of small toys, such as metal cars or action figures, and hide them all over the house. Run timed trials to see how quickly all the toys can be recovered. This will be messy but should burn plenty of energy. Adding the time is crucial. Most indoor activities are carried out a fairly leisurely pace. Add a timer to encourage an extra burst of energy and your children can enjoy a good workout while having fun.

    3. Dance

    Find the biggest space in the house and dance. Play musical statues, musical bumps, musical chairs. Jazz it up anyway you like, but get moving to the groove.

    4. Bring Outdoors In

    Some outdoor play equipment can be used indoors if you have enough space. Basketball nets and football goals can be moved indoors. Just remember to put away any precious belongings and substitute the balls for a small foam ball instead.


    Swingball poles with weighted bases rather than spikes can also be used indoors if you have a room large enough. Make sure you have space to swing the bat comfortably without knocking anything over.

    5. Fitness Videos For Kids

    If you don't have a DVD suitable for kids there are some very entertaining videos available on YouTube. Alternatively most of the major games consoles sell at least one exercise based video game for kids.

    6. Balloon Volleyball

    Divide a room in two using a ribbon or piece of string, blow up a balloon and enjoy a match of balloon volleyball. The balloon travels so slowly even little kids can join in, and because it is so light it's unlikely to cause any damage.

    7. Hula Hooping

    Ideal for expending short sharp bursts of energy, hula hooping can be exhausting. Best of all it doesn't require much space, and the equipment is super-cheap to buy.

    8. Unwind With Yoga

    Keeping fit doesn't have to be about sweaty foreheads and raised pulses. Yoga is a great way to increase strength and flexibility, key measures of overall fitness. For kid-friendly yoga instruction learn a few moves from YouTube videos.

    9. Indoor Snowball Fight

    Grab any (clean) used paper you have lying around and scrunch it up into snowballs. Create two bases and play an elaborate game of 'capture the flag' with paper snowballs as weapons.

    Fore more play ideas check out the other posts on the Wicken Toys blog.

  • Teaching Tennis To Kids Part Two | Wimbeldon Edition

    Earlier this year, during the excitement of the Australian Open, we brought you some top tips for teaching kids how to play tennis. Now with Wimbledon well underway, we have even more tennis based activities to get the children outside and get you all active.

    Side Stepping Being able to run backwards and forwards along the baseline, without taking your eyes off the ball is an essential skill for any tennis player. Practice this lateral movement with a game of catch. Mark out two white lines, approximately 20 feet apart (you may want them closer together if you are playing with a young child). Each player must stay behind their white line and keep their eyes on the ball. Now play catch, but keep moving. Add an element of competition by keeping count of your longest rallies of successful catches to see if you can beat your own scores. Keep the pace slow for younger children.

    Mastering The Ball Have you noticed how the professional players bounce the balls over and over on the grass, then examine them before choosing which balls to serve with. They aren't doing this to show off (much), it enables them to get a good feel for the properties of the ball, and predict how it will behave in reaction to their serve. How embarrassing would it be if they bounced the ball on the grass then failed to catch it, or pinged it off their shoe? Tennis players must be masters of the balls, not at the mercy of their furry green unpredictable nature. Teach your children to calmly be the boss of the ball by bouncing it on the floor and catching it with one hand, and by gently bouncing it up and down on their racket.

    Varying Hitting Strength To be able to play a variety of shots, a tennis player must have great control over how hard they hit the ball. During the match they are thinking ahead to which shot they would like to play next, and must hit the ball with the corresponding amount of strength. Children can learn to hit with different levels of strength by playing this easy game, ideally within a fenced tennis court so you don't need to keep retrieving the balls. Devise a labeling system for three levels of hitting power, for example 'mouse', 'cat' and 'lion' or 'bike', 'car' and 'rocket'. As you through the ball to them, call out the level of strength they need to hit it back with.

    Volleying Secure a bucket to the top of the climbing frame and teach your children to volley the ball skywards, but in a controlled fashion, so the ball lands in the bucket.

    The easiest way to practice tennis in the back garden is with a swing ball set. There's no hassle setting up a net, and no need to run around retrieving balls from the neighbours gardens.


  • Activity Ideas For Earth Day 22nd April

    Celebrated in more than 192 countries, Earth Day on April 22nd is chance to be thankful for the world in which we live, understand it better, and raise awareness of environmental factors.

    Get your children involved with the Earth Day inspired games and activities.

    Learning About The Earth's Structure The night before your planned Earth Day activities, make Earth play dough balls. Start with a small red ball, then wrap a layer of orange around it, then yellow, then black, and finally blue. Leave the green play dough off for your children to do the next day. Keep the balls wrapped in a food bag to stop them drying out. The first part of the activity with the children is to decorate the Earth balls with pieces of green land. Have them roll the green dough out, then cut the shapes and place them on the globe. Use photos and 3D models of the Earth to help them position the land correctly. This is great for fine motor skills, and for learning about the Earth's landscape. Then when the children think the game is over and their work is done, ask them to cut their balls in half (not all will want to do this, so you might have to use your own model to demonstrate). You can then talk through the layers that make up the inside of the Earth.

    Learning About Recycling Recycling is a tough concept for little children to understand, so help them make sense of it with this craft activity. Take some old newspapers and craft paper scraps, and tear them into tiny pieces, before adding some water. When the mixture is pulpy and well mixed together, and adult needs to blend the mixture with a hand blender to get it really runny. Next the mixture needs to be spread out over a fine mesh to drain the water out, or a sieve will do. Use a cotton tea towel to press the mixture down and squeeze the water out. Then turn the pulp out onto a flat surface and leave to dry into small pieces of paper. The next day these pieces can be cut into shapes or coloured.

    Earth Day Bingo Make up bingo cards with sights and sounds you might find locally. Sit at the top of the climbing frame or slide, listen and look very carefully to see how many items you can check off. After 5 or 10 minutes, you might need to climb down and go on a walk to tick of the last remaining items.

    Earth Day Scavenger Hunt Like bingo, but you will need to retrieve things too. If you have a big box, or breathable container you can add insects to the list of items you need to track down.

    Taking Care Of Mother Nature Think of one thing you can do to help the Earth and its inhabitants, and take a pledge to do it for the rest of the year. Maybe you can commit to feeding your neighbourhood birds, growing a tree, or recycling more of your waste. Give your children some options and talk through their ideas too, before writing an action plan and pledge together.

  • Outdoor Games In Honour Of St George's Day

    Celebrate our patron saint by dressing up as a knight, slaying a dragon and rescuing a princess on the 23rd of April.

    With a little planning you can stretch these activities out to last the whole day.

    Firstly have some quiet craft time to making the equipment you will need for the games later. here are some ideas for things you can make: Swords - Cut out the shape from a cardboard box or cereal packet, then wrap in tin foil. Armour - Make a chest plate from card and tin foil. Pierce the corners, thread through some ribbon, and tie securely around the body. Dragon Head - Take a large cardboard box and paint it green to use as a dragon head. You might want to add a smaller box to the front to be a snout, and triangles on the top for spines. Paint ferocious looking teeth along the side. Fire Balls - Use red, orange and yellow tissue paper, scrunched into balls to make fire.

    Mummy Is An Old Dragon You're the dragon, teddy is the princess, and the climbing frame is her prison. Arm your children with whatever gentle weaponry you have, and run around the garden threatening to gobble them up. You can grab a green sheet to wrap around yourself as a costume, or shoot orange tissue paper balls out as fire.

    Dragon Pinata Let them burn off some steam by beating up a dragon with a stick, a dragon filled with treats.

    What's The Time Mr Dragon I think you can probably guess how this one goes. One child / adult is the dragon, and stands at one end of the garden with their back to the other children. The children call out 'what's the time Mr Dragon', and whatever time is called out corresponds to the number of steps forward the children need to take, until the dragon says 'dinner time' and chases the children.

    Treasure Hunt Dragon's are usually protecting precious treasure. Stage a treasure hunt in your garden by making clues that lead on to each other. Turn regular A4 printer paper into ancient scrolls by wiping with a wet tea bag and rolling up from either end.

    Dressing Up Relay Race Split the children up into two teams. You will need two dressing up knight or dragon outfits. One person on each team is nominated as the person who will be dressed up, someone else throws a die, and another person is a runner. Every time a 6 is thrown , a runner must go to the other end of the garden and collect a dressing up item, then bring it back for the person who will be the knight. The die cannot be thrown again until all players are seated. The winning team is the first team to get their person into full costume.

    Snack Time No St George's Day party would be complete without appropriately themed snacks. All day on the 23rd April, you should be tucking into food that is quintessentially English. Jam tarts, scones, cottage pie, stew and dumplings, Victoria sponge, spotted dick, sausage and mash, crumpets, yorkshire puddings, all washed down with cups of tea.

  • Garden Games For Gymnasts

    Games based on gymnastics are a great way to burn off excess energy and improve gross motor and co-ordination skills.

    Get outside, and start having fun with these gymnastics-inspired games and activities.

    Make Your Own Balance Beam To make a balance beam you need two boxes, blocks or old tyres, and a 6 feet plank of wood. Make sure the children only used this plank for balancing on. Fancy tricks should be saved for the painted balance beam (see below)

    Painted Balance Beam Top gymnasts perform crazy tricks 3 feet from the ground on balance beams. Create your own virtual balance beam by painting a long thing rectangle on the grass using non-toxic paint. Use this as a base for tricks like handstand, cartwheels or skipping along from one foot to the other. This will still improve their balance and co-ordination, while avoiding the risk of a heavy fall. A greta way to test their balance on the virtual beam is to place washing up sponges along the line at regular intervals, so they have to stand on one foot, and kick the sponge away with the other, while maintaining their balance.

    Monkey Bars If your climbing frame has a set of monkey bars, these provide the perfect opportunity for some upper-body strength training. Beside swinging from one side to another, your children can practice chin-ups, seeing how many they can complete, or timing how ling they can hang in one spot for.

    Hula Hoop A hula hoop is a very cheap piece of play equipment that can deliver a good workout, and plenty of opportunities for games. Practice spinning it on arms, legs, waists, rolling it across the lawn to each other, and even spinning it so it returns to the thrower.

    Soft Ball A large soft ball, similar to one used in dodgeball is ideal for practicing balancing, throwing, and catching skills used in rhythmic gymnastics.

    Floor Dance Remember that non-toxic paint you used earlier? Time to get it out again. Mark out a square on the grass, and dig out a portable stereo and some favourite tunes. Give your children 20 minutes to work out a floor dance routine, then let each one perform for you.

    Simon Says Teach the children the names of various gymnastics poses, like bridge and splits then play a game of Simon Says, instructing them to get into various positions. They might not be able to complete the poses perfectly yet, but they will get more flexible with practice, and recognising the names of positions is just as important as being able to hold them.

    Limbo Dancing You might not see this event at the Olympics but it certainly promotes flexibility. If you don't happen to have a limbo dancing frame at home, get two people to hold a rope straight across, or tie one end to the post of your swing set or climbing frame, and you hold the other end.

    For more play inspiration, and ideas on how to make the most of your outdoor space, check out the rest of the Wicken Toys blog.

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