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play ideas

  • 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.

  • Games You Can Play In The Rain

    So half-term is here, and unless you’re prepared to embrace the rain, there’s a good chance you’ll be stuck indoors for the rest of the week.

    And indoors is no fun, so here are some outdoor games you can play that take advantage of the wet weather.

    Make A Rainbow Use coloured chalks to create beautiful patterns on a piece of paper, then hold it out in the rain and let the raindrops create a magical picture.

    Chase The Rain Watch where the rain collects and follow its journey as it flows down slopes and finds the nearest drain. This game is a great way to make going for a rainy walk around the neighbourhood more fun.

    Puddle Jumps Not in them. Try jumping over them. Find the biggest puddle you can and see if you can clear it in one jump.

    Listen Just stop moving and listen to the sounds of the raindrops falling. Can your children hear the difference between rain falling on a car and the rain falling on leaves. This is a great activity for the end of the day if you are wanting to calm the mood down a little.

    SideWalk Chalk Make chalk paintings by creating works of art on the patio and letting the rain blend the colours together.

    Mud Kitchen Go beyond basic mud pies to create a whole array of culinary earthy delights. Create a bespoke mud kitchen by taking cheap utensils and mixing bowls outside to a grassless patch of ground.

    Obstacle Course For older children you could add a little bubble bath into the mix and create a super slippery obstacle course. Avoid including climbing or activities at heights. Stick to slipping underneath obstacles and squirming around hurdles.

    Create A Weather Station If the wet weather is set to stick around for a while you could set up a weather station to measure the rainfall over the week. Use an empty jam jar and tape a ruler to the inside. At the same time every day go outside and record how much is in the jar and tip it out. If it’s raining really hard you could complete hourly checks. Plot your findings on a chart to look for patterns.

    Wet Weather Safety It’s great to get outside come rain or shine, but there are a few extra safety precautions you should take when playing in wet weather. If the ground was hard before the rain fall, the grass will be very slick, so children should be careful when running as their feet may slip out from underneath them. It is also worth mentioning to little ones that plastic and metal surfaces will be extra slippery so they may find it hard to climb slide ladders or hang on to monkey bars.

    For more play ideas, whatever the weather, check out the rest of the Wicken Toys blog.

  • Valentine's Day Themed Fun For Kids

    Coming up with fun outdoor activities to keep small people entertained is a lot easier when you work with a theme.

    Thankfully there seems to be some sort of celebration or festival in just about every month of the year and February is no exception.

    Which brings us to Valentine’s Day. It’s probably not advisable to turf the kids outside and tell them to invent their own Valentine's themed games (unless you don’t mind them playing kiss chase all day). We’re here to rescue you, with a selection of V-Day games for all the family.

    1. Heart Hunting Cut some heart shapes out from coloured card and hide them all over the garden. Make the shapes smaller for older children. If you want to add a competitive edge you could leave a different colour out for each child, then have a timed race to see who can find all their hearts the quickest, or who can collect the most hearts within a set amount of time.

    2. You’ve Got Love Mail Set each child up with some pens and coloured paper and ask them to write a love letter, or draw a picture to each member of the family. You could even create a family postbox to put them in. Then when you are together, nominate a postman to empty the box and deliver the letters.

    3. Valentine’s Balloon Games Did you know you can buy heart shaped balloons? Well you can. So for an easy afternoon’s entertainment, buy a pack, blow them up and leave the children to use their imagination.

    4. Cupid’s Arrow Make a jumbo heart, with smaller outlines inside to use as a target. Tape it to the ladder on your slide or climbing frame so it’s held up by something sturdy. Then use foam bullet guns to shoot at it. Alternatively you could cut a heart shaped hole out of an old sheet, secure that in an upright position and try to throw balls through the gap.

    5. Valentine’s Sensory Play You could make a Valentine’s themed sensory play station. Use an old splash pool or a water play table and fill with anything pink, white and red. Water beads, jelly, shaving foam, food colouring, flour, anything that feels icky, is non-toxic and doesn’t stain. Put each ingredient in a separate cup and let the children experiment with different combinations.

    Often to get the party started (even if it’s just you and your kids in attendance) a small amount of structure and a gentle suggestion is all that is needed. You’ll probably find that your children quickly deviate from the activities you had planned. When this happens you should congratulate yourself for inspiring them, and take a moment to admire their fertile imaginations.

  • Pancake Day Inspired Play Ideas

    Pancakes, perfect for breakfast on Shrove Tuesday, but then what do you do with the rest of the day?

    You can keep them occupied, outside and exercised with this selection of Pancake Day inspired activities.

    Pancake Pairs

    Cut pieces of cardboard into pancake shapes. On one side of each mark with a colour a number or a letter. Put all the pancakes face down and take turns flipping the pancakes over two at a time to see what’s written on them. When a player uncovers two pancakes that match they get to keep them. The winner is the person with the most pairs collected at the end of the game.

    Pancake Head Balance You can play this game with a piece of fabric, a cardboard pancake or even a real pancake if you’re feeling mischievous. You can line players up to race each other to the finish line, or see who can travel the furthest before the pancake falls off their head.

    Pancake Drop You’ll need those cardboard pancakes again. The aim of the game is to throw or drop as many pancakes as you can into a frying pan. For added challenge, older children can go to the top of the climbing frame and drop the pancakes from there.

    Pancake Relay Race Divide the players into teams. Each player needs to run the length of the race track, flipping their pancake as they go, then hand the frying pan to the next player when they reach the end.

    Pancake Toss Set a timer and see who can flip their pancake the highest number of times in one minute.

    Pancake Memory Game Put pictures of different animals on the back of each pancake. Show three face up, then turn them face down and see if your child can remember where each animal was. You can make the game harder by adding more and more pancakes, or by shuffling the positions of the pancakes, or by doing both.

    Pancake Topping Treasure Hunt Around the garden, hide symbols or pictures of different toppings that could go on top of pancakes. You can set various challenges, offering cryptic clues, or set the timer and see how many toppings can be collected in a minute.

    Pancake Cooking When all the fun has been had outside and it’s time to come back into the warm, there’s a lot you can do with simple pancake batter. To start with have your children notice how the texture and appearance of all the ingredients changes when you combine them.

    Then (being careful with the hot pan) you can drizzle the batter into different patterns to create differently shaped pancakes.

    Ask the children to predict what will happen if you add chocolate drops or ice cream to a freshly cooked pancake. You can make this a science lesson and cookery lesson all in one.

    Above all be inspired to have fun. And once your children have started a game, they’re sure to come up with their own. Don’t get too hung up on the outcome. Go with the flow and you can all have a Pancake Day to remember.

  • Anyone For Tennis?

    Inspired by Andy Murray's success in making i to the final of the Australian Open (he plays Djokovic at 8.30am tomorrow), we're in the mood for some tennis.

    However, as much as we love to play outdoors, we don't like frost bite. So to keep all of our fingers and toes warm and toasty, we've come up with tennis inspired games that can be played indoors.

    Learning To Rally Over A Net

    You'll need something that moves really slowly, and won't cause any damage when it inevitably bashes in to furniture and the TV.

    Bashing a balloon back and forth works really well. You can use your hands, short tennis bats, or even large circles of cardboard to hit the balloon.

    Add a little extra challenge by creating a net to hit the balloon over. You can tie a piece of string across the room and drape a light sheet over it. You could also use sticky tape and empty cereal boxes to make a wall and stand it between you.

    Keeping In The Lines

    Learning the scoring system for tennis, and whether a ball is in or out can be a challenge on an outdoor court, with a moving ball. If you don't sport where the ball lands immediately there's no Hawk-Eye or instant replays to help you out. Use masking tape to mark out a court in your kitchen or front room. Use marshmallows to play this game instead of balls so that when it lands, it stays put. The aim of the game is to get the marshmallow into your opponents side of the court. They must hit it back with a tennis racket, before it touches the floor. If the marshmallow lands outside of the lines, the person who received it score the points. If it lands inside the lines, the person who hit it score the points.

    Swingball

    Obviously not the type of set that must be staked into the ground as that would make a terrible mess of your carpet. But if you have a Swingball set lingering in your shed that has a box base, why not fetch it indoors.

    See

    Sure you'll be cold for a few minutes while you make the dash across the garden, but you could count it as your morning workout and reward yourself with a hot chocolate once safely back inside.

    Just Play With The Balls

    You could just play with tennis balls instead. Line up some empty plastic drinks bottles for a game of tennis ball bowling. For added fun and a little injection of addition practice, you could write scores on the bottles.

    Or you could line up empty boxes or buckets and take turns trying to land tennis balls inside without them bouncing back out again.

    With a few tennis balls to hand and the right intention you'll be able to come up with plenty of your own tennis-inspired games.

  • Play Ideas To Make The Most Of A Cold Snap

    So far the weather has been pretty mild. But as sure as Autumn turns to Winter, this rain will turn to snow.

    In anticipation of the cold days still to come, we’ve pulled together this list of fun yet freezing activities to enjoy with your children. The weather is too mild for most of these ideas right now, but this early heads-up will give you plenty of time to gather materials and prepare.

    The weather outside might be frightful, but they’ve still got energy to burn so get your gloves on and head into the garden.

    #1 Ice Marbles

    This is so simple but can give you a good quiet hour in the garden having fun. Before bedtime, fill up balloons with water, add a drop of food colouring, and tie it shut. Don’t fill the balloons right up. As the water freezes it will expand, so an overfilled balloon will stretch and burst. Place in a tray in the garden, or better still suspend from the underside of your slide or climbing frame. Overnight (if it’s cold enough) the water will freeze in the balloon. Cut the balloon and peel it from the ice, and you will be left with a beautifully coloured ice marble. Children can have fun rolling them down the slide, bowling across the patio, or pushing them around with a hockey stick. Whatever they can think of.

    You can add an element of science education to this game by measuring around the circumference of the balloon in the evening, then taking the measurement again in the morning. Also measure the weight of the filled balloon on the kitchen scales both in the evening and the next day and note any changes.

    #2 Learn About Nurturing

    This is a great time of year to begin nurturing your local wildlife. In the winter many birds become totally dependent on friendly humans leaving food out. Birds need high fat foods to help them lay down the reserves needed to make it through the winter. You can buy ready made suet balls to hang in your garden, or if you’re feeling creative, you can mix up your own.

    For a super-quick, no-cook solution, all you need is some peanut butter, seeds and empty cardboard toilet rolls. Spread peanut butter all over the cardboard rolls. Spread the seeds out on the plate and roll the peanut butter covered tube over the plate until it is completely covered.

    These can be left on a table, weighted with a stone placed inside, or punch a hole in the top of the cardboard and hang with a piece of string.

    #3 Come Inside

    Far too cold to play outside? Bring the snow in. Fill up a sand or water play table with fresh snow and bring it into the kitchen. Just keep plenty of old towels to hand so you can mop up spillages.

    There are more play ideas to come, so look out for Winter Play Ideas Part II coming soon.

  • Reset Their Sleepy Clocks - Go Outside

    Are your children struggling with the clock changes.

    An hour back combined with disrupted schedules over half-term causes plenty of children to loose their natural sleep rhythm.

    Not Sleeping? They May Be Over Tired

    If your child isn't settling at night many children make the mistake of thinking that their child isn't tired. So then they plan a full day of activity to get them really tired. Often this is a MISTAKE - yes, bad enough to warrant capital letters. Often children have difficulty falling asleep because they are over tired. So making them more tired is making the situation worse. Their little bodies are exhausted, but their mines are totally wired.

    Turn Down The Lights

    Outdoor lighting is a lot brighter than natural daylight and can disrupt the bodies natural rhythm. Now the night's have drawn in, we tend to switch on bright artificial lighting to compensate for the darkness. These bright lights tell our brains that it is daytime. Then when bedtime rolls around and we abruptly plunge our children into darkness, they aren't sleepy yet. If you have dimmer switches, now is the time to put them to use. If not, use strategically placed lamps to provide the light that you need to function in late afternoon, but keep the environment dim enough to let your children's bodies get used to the idea that it's nighttime. This is the same reason that screens after dark are not a good idea. The bright white light is stimulating making it very difficult to wind down after prolonged exposure.

    Get Some Exercise

    Fresh air and exercise are great sleep inducers. To encourage plenty of running outside, go into the garden and set up a timed obstacle course around the climbing frame or whatever play equipment you have out there. Time trials are a great way to help keep children motivated and active, even if the weather isn't all that inviting.

    Nature Is Calming

    Getting outside brings your children closer to nature. And nature is soothing and calming. And being calm helps children sleep. Try to get out into a wide open space where there is plenty of green as the colour green is also soothing.

    Too Hot, Too Cold, Too Dry

    Along with the clock change came a rather abrupt change in weather conditions this year. For many families the central heating has been switched on over the last few days. This can disrupt sleep in a number of ways. Firstly, the heating will dry out the air and often when first used the radiators emit dust particles accumulated over the Summer. Improve a rooms air quality by rubbing down a warm radiator with a damp cloth. Secondly, if air gets trapped in your central heating system it can make knocking sounds that can be pretty scary for little kids. You can allay these fears just by explaining where the noise is coming from. Finally, as you snuggle down to watch TV after the children are put to bed, you might want the house to be toasty warm. Your children, however, will need a slightly cooler environment to sleep in, as our body temperature drops at night.

    For more outside play ideas, check out the rest of the Wicken Toys blog.

  • 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

    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.

  • Autumn Sensory Play Ideas

    All children learn about the world around them through their senses.

    For many the most exciting play opportunities rely not just on one or two of these sense, but all of them together.

    With a riot of colour in the trees, the sensation of leaves crunching under foot, and the swish of the wind blowing through branches, a simple walk in the forest can provide your children with a sensory feast.

    For activities you can enjoy at home, be inspired by this list of Autumn inspired sensory-provoking play ideas.

    1. Autumn Gloop For the base of your gloop mix two parts cornflour with one part water. You should end up with a thicky, white, gloopy mixture that pours like a liquid but is stiff and sturdy like a solid. Add in natural Autumn gifts such as leaves, berries, acorns and conkers. Younger children can have fun pushing the items around in the gloop. Older children can use a pair of jumbo tweezers to rescue the objects, which is great for fine motor skills practice.

    2. Leaf printing painting Make a beautiful collage by applying paint to a leaf, then printing the pattern onto a piece of paper.

    3. Leaf Paper Mache When they get wet, leaves naturally stick to flat surfaces. Use a collection of brightly coloured leaves to create a pattern on the slide by pasting the leafs on using just water. On a sunny day, the leaves will dry quickly and you might be able to lift them as a complete sheet if you are lucky. For added tackiness you could mix in a little mud with the water.

    4. Autumn Fruits Exploration For this activity you will need a plum, an apple and a blackberry, all Autumnal fruits. For each fruit encourage your child to explore the texture and smell, notice the sound when it's cut and bitten into and the taste of the flesh. Older children can write down words to describe each fruit within a diagram of the fruit. For younger children you will need to scribe for them. Look at the collection of words and ask your child to notice the ways in which each fruit is similar and different to the others.

    5. Autumn Soup Fill an old paddling pool or water play table with water, mud, acorns, conkers, leaves and all the other lovely debris nature throws around this month. Add in some spoons, jugs and pots and your child can have an hour of fun making mud pies, autumn soup and leaf cakes. You can also make mud muffins using silicon cake cases. Fill them with wet mud, decorate with leaves, twigs and berries, then leave to back in the sun. Once the mud has dried out you will be able to peel off the silicon case.

    For more outdoor play ideas, take a look at the rest of the Wicken Toys blog posts.

  • Creating A Playscape In Your Own Back Garden

    The best play spaces are more than just play equipment.

    Take a moment to consider your child's favourite playgrounds. What do they have in common. Chances are they aren't just hunk of play equipment plonked on a safety surface.

    Instead, the best play spaces weave the equipment and surroundings together to create an inspirational environment for children to explore.

    In this post we take a look at how you can adapt the principles used by professional playscape engineer and use them in your own back garden to create a beautiful, creative play environment.

    #1 Add Natural Obstacles Smooth boulders, or mounds of dirt make excellent climbing apparatus, or shelters to hide behind. They are also relatively cheap, easy to install and require little (if any) maintenance. They are also low to the ground, making them especially suitable for younger children to explore.

    #2 Create Sections Use planting, grass, trees and natural materials to create sectioned areas, with a winding path leading from one to the other. This helps prompt imaginative role play games. It also makes the play experience much more interesting when the options are slightly concealed in this way rather than having everything fully visible at once.

    #3 Make Pathways Use different flooring materials like decking or cobble stones to create a variety of footpaths throughout the garden. Children love to trot over a bridge, but if you don't have a pond or stream to cross, create one out of flowers.

    #4 Sprinkle With Details Add tiny details to be discovered through play. Turn a tree stump into a fairy house, or hide some magic toadstools for perching on amongst the grass.

    #5 Make A Rubbish Corner Turn a small corner of the garden into nature's junkyard. Loose sticks, stones, pine cones, anything natural that won't rot quickly, will work wonders. This provides materials for imaginative play, and creates a sensory experience through the concentration of different sights, sounds and textures all in one place.

    #6 Choose Wooden Play Equipment A wooden climbing frame is much better suited to a natural playscape than a metal one. The wood will fade gently over time, blending beautifully with the surrounding garden.

    #7 Landscape Around Play Equipment After you've installed your play equipment, make changes to the garden around it to help to blend in. Cutting the surrounding lawn to echo the shape of the frame is a great way to incorporate the equipment into the garden, giving a professional look to the space.

    #8 Move Things About Include items such as tunnels and big boulders that can be easily moved. Children quickly lose interest when over familiar with their surroundings, and may cease to see the many play opportunities their back garden offers them. Help them stay creative by changing the look of the garden a little each season, and adding or removing smaller pieces of play equipment.

    #9 Vertical Spaces Don't forget to utilize vertical spaces. Not everything has to be a ground level. You can add a wall of music making pots and pans, or run lengths of guttering back and forth across the fence for water play.

    With a little imagination, planning and time you can create an inspirational play space that will keep your children occupied for hours.

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