Play dough, is universally loved and provides amazing sensory feedback for children, as well as providing endless playful learning opportunities.
But if like us, you don't really like the idea of children playing with a synthetic dough (particularly if they are prone to tasting), nor do you fancy forking out for endless pots of commercial dough, you'll love this quick, fuss-free play dough recipe that we use.
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup table salt
1 TBSP cream of tartar
1 TBSP of vegetable oil (melted coconut oil works too)
1/4 cup of boiling water
Put all of your dry ingredients in a large bowl, add the oil. Depending on what type of colouring you are using, you might want to add it now, or you can dissolve the colour in a little bit of the boiling water.
Next slowly add the boiling water, mixing as you go, until to get to the desired consistency. Remember as it's a warm dough it will be a little bit more sticky initially, but this will change quickly as the dough cools. Knead the dough for a few minutes on a cool surface before adding extra flour or you could end up with a dry, crumbly dough.
If you do need to add any extra flour, lightly sprinkle some into the bowl or on the surface you are working on. Then work the dough over the flour, incorporating it in slowly.
Store your dough in the fridge, in an air tight container.
The dough should last approximately 3-4wks.
*We use often use KoolAid sachets, which give the dough the most amazing smell & great colours too. But we also use plain liquid or gel food colours, which you can find in all large supermarkets. You might just need to adjust the water:flour balance depending on what colouring you chose to use.
We get our KoolAid sachets on Amazon, we've linked some in our favourites list. Don't be temped by the large tubs, they continue sugar which makes for a very sticky mess & an unusable dough.
I’m yet to met a toddler who doesn't squeal with delight when talking about going to visit the farm!
Our Little Starlings children absolutely love learning about what’s going on at the farm and they are always keen to create some amazing artwork while they learn about who lives on the farm.
As we’re all still in lockdown we thought you might like a few more ideas that can bring our playful farm learning to your place.
GLOVE “COW” MILKING ACTIVITY
Milk is a very familiar product for our little ones, but where does it come from? This fun activity is a great why to show little ones how we get milk from a cow. It’s also great for hand strengthening and developing hand-eye coordination.
To ‘milk’ your cow you will need:
Clean rubber glove(s)
Black Sharpie Pen
To get started decorate your glove(s) with cow print spots to get into the theme. Then using a needle, prick the end of one or two fingers of the glove.
Depending on the thickness of your gloves, you may need to stretch the hole with the needle in a circular motion to widen the hole.
Fill the glove with water and tie the open end of the glove so that it holds the liquid without spilling.
The fun part is to allow the child to grasp and squeeze the fingers downward to simulate milking a cow.
You can attempt to fill a small glass with the “milk.” This is bound to be lots of fun so please don't forget to share your giggles and videos with us.
CHICK CHICK CHICKEN
No farm would be complete without a flock of Chickens. Here is a super quick and easy craft idea to create your own flow of little baby spring chickens.
You will need:
Paint (or paint sticks for a quicker, less messy activity)
Head over to The Craft Train & print out their chick printable template.
Then cut out the beak and legs from orange card, the wing shape from yellow card and get a googly eye or sticker eye ready.
Next paint your plate yellow. Once it’s dry, cut in half then you’re ready to start assembling.
TWINKL GAMES AND ACTIVITY SHEETS
Why not see if your little ones can point out the babies and match them to their babies cow=calf
These activities encourage language and understanding of our world by explaining where our food comes from at the farm...milk from cows, honey from bees, which animals lays eggs to eat?
They may be too young to fully grasp this right now but it's never too early to start and the children love that conversation and interaction with you. You'll probably have a, much needed, giggle with some of their answers!
The Twinkl free access code during lockdown is: PARENTSTWINKLHELPS
READ ABOUT THE FARM
Here are some of our favourite books about the farm to read with little ones. Great for encouraging language development and understanding.
DEAN CITY FARM
Of course when it's safe to venture back outdoor, why not visit our lovely, local Dean city farm, which is just perfect for little ones. We’re so lucky to have this on our doorstep, it's a hidden gem in the middle of Merton SW19.
They offer meet & greets with the animals, pony rides, pig feeding and even have a wonderful riding school for adventurous older children. It's a perfect local day out with a cafe too for ice-creams.
We hope you've had as much fun as us learning about all the fun at the farm. It's a huge hit with the kiddies as well as educational.
Dean City Farm is a registered charity (no. 1008028), supported by Merton Council, but rely heavily upon donations from visitors and the local community to help us carry out the work and look after the animals. With the closures due to COVID-19 they are really struggling at the moment, if you are able to support them in anyway, they would be hugely grateful. Here’s their donation link: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/savedeencityfarm
Let’s hope we can keep this amazing rural oasis on our doorstep for many years to come and enjoy.
Don't forget to share your animal stories and pictures with us. Have a great weekend and stay happy
As we reach the end of another lockdown week at home who's up for fun garden scavenger hunt to carry on our week of playful learning about "who lives in the garden".
Scavenger hunts are lovely little activities to do, especially with this glorious weather we're enjoying. To carry on with this week's theme, we have created a downloadable spotters checklist for you to print off (https://bit.ly/2YGFafb), grab a little magnifying glass or toy binoculars if you have them and send your little ones off to explore in the garden.
It's a great way to encourage children to observe living things, teach them to be patient (it's not always easy!) develop their language and social skills.
Great for asking lots of questions...is it furry, slimy, how many legs can you see....does it jump, run or fly?
So we have some interesting facts about what you might find in your garden...
DID YOU KNOW:
Bees have 5 eyes and 6 legs🐝
A worm has no eyes, legs or arms
Spiders have 8 legs whilst insects have 6🕷
Ladybirds are a type of beetle🐞
Butterflies attach their eggs on leaves with special glue 🦋
Blackbirds eat insects, grain and fruit 🐦
Squirrels eat mostly nuts, fruits and seeds🐿
Robin's eggs are a light blue colour 🥚
These scavenger hunts are always a huge hit in our house as the children are always amazed at what lives in their garden.
Happy hunting 🐛
Our Summer term has arrived and with it brings a little apprehension but hopefully lots of sunshine and positive vibes knowing that each day we are a little closer to coming out of this the other side.
We're all so busy trying to keep little ones stimulated indoors, which I know from my own experience can be challenging, but we're all in this together and you're all doing a terrific job!
We can't wait to throw open our doors again and welcome lots of old and new faces to Little Starlings, my goodness we're missing you all.
We have lots of exciting things planned this term and our topics will be focusing on animals and where they live....What animals might you see at the farm? Discussing what animal babies are called? What noises do they make? Do they have feathers or fur? Lots of exciting things to talk about whilst developing language and understanding.
We will also be focussing on Summertime....Where have the children been on holiday? How might they get there by plane or by car? Is it hot or cold on holiday? Fun things we do when we get there, ice-creams and sand castles are always a good place to start and a huge hit with our Starlings children!
We can't wait to get started 😊
Our aim as always at Starlings is to gently encourage independence, stimulation within a nurturing, safe environment.
Please do continue to check in on our Facebook and Instagram page as they're still lots of ideas & activities to do at home. Also for old & new families please join our closed facebook group, Little Starlings Family, its a really nice space to share ideas, concerns and get to know each other a little better.
We'd love you to share your experiences with your starlings family so don't forget to tell us what you've all been up too.
Stay safe and we hope to see you all soon!
So how is everyone holding up?
This week would have been the first week of our Summer Term. Sadly we have not able to reopen, so instead we have pulled together a few play based learning activities for you and your little ones, to keep them busy and stimulated whilst while we juggle with challenges of lockdown.
HIDDEN SHAPES/COLOUR GAMES
These games provide great multi sensory learning opportunities that keep little ones amused, while encouraging speech & understanding as well as honing fine motor skills. Little ones love the excitement of discovering the hidden surprises.
This is a great for supporting speech & understanding, for example 'What colour did you find? Can you find the blue dot?
To create this game you will need:
Transparent serving/oven dish
Piece of card
A marker pen
A paint brush
Make your rainbow rice in advance so that it is completely dry before use.
Mark out your shapes (letters or colour dots) on the sheet of card, and then line your dish/tray with the card.
Cover the card with the rainbow rice and demonstrate how to uncover the hidden surprises with a paintbrush. Let you little ones carry on the game, prompting them with phrases like “What colour have you found now?” to encourage them to share their discoveries with you.
With a tiny bit of prep this is a great game to have on hand to pull out quickly. You can also reuse the rice for other sensory play games when you’re finished – the sound of transferring rice from different containers can keep children entertained for some time.
*(To make rainbow rice head over to www.littlebinsforlittlehands.com/dye-rice-sensory-play-colored-rice/)
Scissors can be tricky things for little hands to master and paper or card are not always the most cooperative learning materials as they wobble and bend. Play dough is a much more forgiving material and can allow children to understand how to control the force they use as well as the fine motor coordination.
All you need is some soft play dough, rolled into some wriggly worms or snakes and a pair of child safe scissors.
Our children love using our Baker Ross child safe scissors*, as they are perfectly designed for little hands, but please remember that adult supervision is always needed for scissor skills activities.
This game will keep little ones entertained for ages and is great for building concentration and hand/eye co-ordination.
This is a lovely, simple Montessori pre writing activity that helps children develop and learn shape structure in a multi sensory way.
We shared a piece on this earlier in the week on the 9 pre writing shapes that form the foundation of future letter formation, but for this activity we are just focusing on the first four shapes. Don’t be concerned if your little ones struggle with some or all of these initially as these are milestone targets for 2-3.5 years.
To create this game you need:
paintbrush (or fingers are fine as well – just make sure they’re not tasting)
This is a great (& calming) way to introduce children to pencil control and helps develop those all-important fine motor skills.
LETTER RECOGNITION GAMES
Its never too early to start introducing letters to children and what better way than this simple, creative activity.
Children have great fun placing beads or rice in the cut out cardboard letters. Perhaps introduce them to the letters in their name and the sounds the letters make (phonics)
To create this game you need:
Shape hunts are perfect for getting the whole family involved and are bound to keep the little people amused for ages (in certainly did in our house!)
Just download our templates (https://bit.ly/3bEuRfa) and away you go.
A shape hunt is great for encouraging vocabulary, understanding and shape recognition. Have fun and happy shape hunting
LAVA LAMP EXPERIMENT
This is a great science experiment to do whilst at home and the children LOVE watching the 'magic' happen. Check out the demo we did in our Instagram highlights!
You will need:
Large waterproof cylinder or vase
Water (to fill almost to the top of your cylinder)
Water beads (we have some on our Amazon list: http://amzn.eu/edWLwqz)
Firstly ‘grow’ your water beads overnight (Depending on the beads 4-8 hours should do it)
Then add the water beads to the empty cylinder and fill with water almost to the top.
The exciting bit is to drop two alka-seltzer tablets in and wait for the dancing beads to happen.
This is a wonderfully calming and mesmerising experiment, which is great for creating some calm in amongst the craziness. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
An little top tip: you might want to have a few back up alka-seltzer tablets in stock as you will definitely be asked to do this experiment more than once!
Who doesn't love an orchard toy game and one of our favourites at Little Starlings is the shopping list game (Find it on our Amazon list: http://amzn.eu/edWLwqz)
This is such a sweet little game that encourages speech & language, patience (for parents & children) and turn taking. A great game for all the family and always a winner at our house.
We hope you enjoyed the blog and that it finds you all well. Stay safe and please don't forget to share your photos with us x