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Friday, December 23, 2016

The Twirlywoos

Have you met the Twirlywoos?

Great BigHoo, Toodloo, Chickedy and Chick are some of the newest residents of ABC Kids, landing on our screens here in Oz about 3 months ago now. When the show first came out bub would run around the house saying it's the Twirlywoos mummy, the Twirlywoos are back! It took me ages to figure out what she was saying.... Twirly boos, tombliboos? I had no idea, so I sat down and watched it with her to see why she was so excited.


It turns out The Twirlywoos are actually pretty funny {even though they don't talk properly}. Great BigHoo, Toodloo, Chickedy, Chick and their friend Peekaboo are incredibly curious. They sail to our shores from far away on their special boat to learn something new each day. They hide, watching inquisitively what's going on around them, then when the coast is clear, they investigate what they've seen.

The show is made by the creator of The Teletubbies and In the Night Garden {perhaps why the name is so close to the tombliboos} and is purposefully designed to introduce and explore age appropriate concepts with preschoolers. Each episode the Twirlywoos go on wacky adventures and learn new concepts like up, over, behind, round and round, through and upside down. The show teaches these concepts to toddlers and preschoolers using a combination of stop frame animation and live sequences using images that correlate with how 3-4 year old's perceive the world around them. There's also lots of added humour with jokes and funny mishaps occurring along the way as they explore the world around them.

Like most of the tv shows on ABC Kids, there's also an abundance of Twirlywoos merchandise to support the show and bring the stories to life at home. I'm all for imaginative play so of course some of it has found it's way to our house. Naturally there are character play sets and figurines, but being the mean mummy I am {i.e. being super strict about what plastic toys enter our house}, I went for the activity books and plush toys {sorry, not sorry}.


Board books are seriously one of the best gift ideas ever, especially for kids who still like to tear pages instead of turn them [we had a mishap with one of her favourite books last night that required emergency reconstructive surgery}. The Twirlywoos board books show a complete reenactment of an episode {minus the live scenes} so you can recreate your child's favourite episode as a bedtime story. The sticker activity book allows kids to place the stickers in scenes from the show to tell the story. I love that it makes the stories interactive and also makes kids problem solve about where the stickers go, plus what kid doesn't love stickers? I still love them as an adult. Aaand how cute is the little Toodloo plush?! There are plush toys, both big and small, available in each of the characters {perfect for pretend play, or terrorising the cat, if your child is anything like mine}. The Twirlywoos books, plush toys and play sets are a great way to bring the fun of The Twirlywoos to life in interactive play at home.

To get to know the Twirlywoos and all their friends, play games and watch the Twirlywoos explore their world, visit www.Twirlywoos.com, or check out the latest Twirlywoos news on Facebook www.facebook.com./Twirlywoos

Disclosure - I was gifted the books and plush toy shown above. All opinions expressed are based on my extensive experience watching The Twirlywoos {soooo many times} with my 3yr old and from playing with the products provided. I did not receive payment for this post.
Tuesday, December 20, 2016

6 Free Printable Christmas Activities for Preschoolers

A couple of weeks ago a wonderful thing happened, I finally got my own laminator. To say I'm slightly obsessed with it would be a gross understatement. I've never loved a machine as much as I love my laminator {if that's not a sign I should be a teacher I don't know what is}. Needless to say ever since I've had the laminator I've been on a quest to laminate all the things and that's involved printing out a tonne of printables that we can re-use.

There are so many super talented bloggers out there making educational, fun and interactive printables and the cool thing is you can pretty much find them for any theme, you just have to know where to look for them. Over the last fortnight I've been scouring Instagram to find the best free Christmas printables from some of my favourite kid bloggers. Holiday themed printables are great because they help build excitement for Christmas, while also reinforcing fundamental developmental skills. Like most kids bub learns best when playing and printables are a wonderful way to facilitate this {in a slightly more structured way}. These are our favourite free Christmas printables we've been using this year and links to where you can download them for yourself.

Learn shapes, letters, numbers, counting and more with these free christmas printables
Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Animal figurine sensory, small world, bookish and game play ideas

I'm a huge fan of learning through play. It all started when bub had to go to speech therapy at about 18 months old. She was referred for two reasons, speech delay {she wasn't saying as many words as they expected for her age} and more importantly they suspected she had some sort of sensory processing disorder {because she wouldn't engage with many people outside our immediate family members, and she had no interest in socialising with other children}. With a family history of autism it was decided to get her into speech therapy asap to try and get her engaging with others as well as helping her develop her speech. 

During her months at speech therapy I learnt a lot of techniques from the therapist and it became my main goal to utilise them at home between visits, so I could help her speech and social skills develop as best as possible. Her therapy really propelled my interest in learning though play and it's never been quashed, despite her being discharged from speech therapy after 9 months {she caught up to all the required levels for speech and was even above some of the markers for her age}. To this day we still do many play based activities at home and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

I've loved watching how her play and interests have evolved as she's grown older and learnt so much more. She's very much into imaginary play at the moment so I'm often leaving out activities which facilitate that and let her imagination run wild. Without a doubt some of her favourite toys for imaginary play are her animal figurines. She plays with them pretty much on a daily basis in some way shape or form, so needless to say we've gathered quite a collection of creatures over the last few months. The good thing is they're so versatile so we use them for a number of play based learning activities and bub never gets bored with them. These are just some of the ways we've used our animals to create fun learning scenarios over the past few months.


* This post contains some affiliate links *


BRING STORIES TO LIFE WITH BOOKISH PLAY



We love reading so books are always on high rotation around here. I used to only use my high pitched enthusiastic voice and hand gestures to bring stories to life, but these days we take things further and extend stories with our toys via bookish play. This works particularly well as she can re-enact the story after with her toys, adding to or changing the story line as she sees fit. We have so many animal based books {especially little golden books}, so our animals have been the perfect props for story time.

Bookish play with our orcha whale and manatee






LEARN ABOUT ANIMALS WITH BOOKS




We also use our animals to help bub understand books that are a bit above her comprehension level. Obviously she can't read yet, so picture books are her jam at the moment, but we do have some other lovely books in our collection that we use for learning rather than stories. Our mini edition of Animalium is like a mini encyclopedia of animals from around the world. It includes all different types of animals from invertabrites through to mammals and explains the evolution of the animal kingdom in chronological order. Children {and adults} can explore the pages to discover facts about each species including their body structure, life cycle and the habitats they live in. The book {written by Jenny Broom} also includes many intricate and colourful illustrations by Katie Scott {which of course are bub's favourite part at the moment}. The book is also available as a set of Animalium flash cards.



With bub still being so young we haven't really used Animalium to it's full potential yet, but it's still been a great little learning resource for her. I skim read the book to her {skipping the in depth explanations} and we look at all the illustrations and talk about the different features of each animal. We also get our Oh Ivy animals and match them up to the illustrations to help her correlate the pictures in the book to real life animals {the 3d animals make the 2d images more relatable for her, especially at such a young age}. We've also been talking a bit about where the animals live and what they eat as her understanding grows. She also likes to "read" the book back to me and quiz me on the facts. "What's this animal mummy? And what colour is it? Where does he live?"



ANIMAL SMALL WORLD PLAY



One of our favourite ways to use our toy animals is for small world play. Small world play involves creating little "real life" environments so children can act out scenarios from real life helping them process new concepts through play. Small worlds can be an independent activity, but are also great for play dates allowing many children to role play different scenarios together {they're also a great way for them to learn sharing and turn taking}.

Small world play is my favourite type of play because for the most part she can do it independently and it provides so many opportunities for learning, many of which are self initiated. Small world play is great for language development, fine motor skills and cognitive skills as she move pieces around and acts out different scenarios she comes up with. We also usually combine small world play with sensory elements such as water, playdough, dried food {cous cous, rice, pasta}, fake grass, stones, or sand to add a textural element and engage even more senses.

Farm small world featuring log fence, hay bales, horse, sheep, goat, hereford cow and fresian cow




I also sometimes set up small world's that represent stories or shows she's seen so she can act out storylines that she's aware of. The photo above is a Peter Rabbit small world where I included our fox, racoon, rabbit, echidna and squirrel to represent characters from Peter Rabbit {Mr Tod, Tommy Brock, Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggy Winkle and Nutkin}.

We've also done a rock pool inspired small world which I designed specifically to teach her about how pollution in the ocean can harm animals. I used some small pieces of real rubbish and some of our Coles mini collectables to represent the litter discarded into the ocean and I entangled some of the animals so she had to rescue them. There are in depth instructions to recreate our rock pool small world here.



I have even more small world's planned using our farm animals with cous cous and oobleck and our arctic animals with blue water beads, amongst others {check out my small world posts for more small world animal play inspiration}.

FLASH CARD FUN




Flash cards are often used to help children learn things like colours, shapes and letters, so it's no surprise that they can also be used to learn animals. We've been using our Two Little Ducklings animal sound flash cards with our animals to play lots of matching games. We've mainly been matching the animals by the picture and by the sounds they make. I vary our matching games each time so it's interesting for her. Sometimes we pick a random flash card from the pile and she needs to match the right animal then we talk about its colour, the sound it makes, how many legs it has, where it lives, what it eats etc. Other times we put out all the cards and I give her a collection of animals and she simply matches them all up with the right cards. We also turn them into a simplified memory game where she needs to guess and turn the cards over to find where the animals are {instead of matching two cards she just finds the matching animal card to her guess and then pairs it with the correct animal figurine}.




SENSORY FOOTPRINT GAMES



One of the most simple ways to use toy animals is to make footprints in different materials. We've used them in playdough and most recently play foam {as shown in photo} as well as using washable paints to make prints on paper. What starts out as comparing different footprints usually evolves into pretend play where animals are stuck in mud/swamps/grass etc. Last time she spent a good 45 minutes telling a huge story about how the cow was stuck and the lion needed to come rescue him, but then the lion got stuck so the horse came to rescue them... It kept evolving and somehow the animals morphed into batman and bandits {3yr olds have the best imaginations}.


SORTING GAMES


Another simple way to play with toy animals is to play sorting games. You can sort by colour, type {mammal, reptile, bird etc}, sort by the number of legs, sort by habitat {as shown below}, sort by the food they eat. Just adjust the sorting game depending on your child's age and level of understanding.


All of the animal figurines pictured in this post are the CollectA brand which make up 99.9% of our entire animal collection {we have a few Schleich ones floating around}. I prefer CollectA because the animals are so lifelike and nice and sturdy, they easily withstand rigorous toddler play, which can get quite animated at times. They're also all one piece with no holes making them great for water play {no funky black mould can get in there, thankfully}. They're also a bit cheaper, which is always a bonus.

As you can see we've already enjoyed using our animals in numerous play experiences and I still have so many more ideas, we've only really scratched the surface. If you're on Instagram make sure you follow us @Finding_Myself_Young for other animal play inspiration ideas.

Toni x

Disclosure - All animals shown in this review have been purchased by myself. I did not receive payment for this review, however this post contains some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Mummy Must Have Review | Flying Sprout Busy Bags

We're huge fans of busy bags in this household and have been for some time. With bub having severe food allergies from birth, her eye problems and the need for speech therapy, spending time at specialist appointments and waiting at hospitals became second nature. I quickly learnt keeping a baby {and then toddler} occupied while waiting for what can sometimes be hours is essential to maintaining one's sanity, so my love affair with busy bags was born.

For those who aren't familiar with busy bags, they're simple activities or a collection of play items stored in a bag to keep young kids occupied independently. The main version of a busy bag I've been using since she was young is a canvas bag packed with a number of different items, such as a book, colouring book and crayons and various little toys. These have kept her well entertained for the majority of the time. As she's gotten older I've swapped out some of the items to include more challenging and educational activities such as threading cards, phonics cards and puzzles. 

With a new baby on the way meaning lots of physio and hospital appointments for me at the moment, plus the need to keep her entertained when I'm breastfeeding once baby is here, I've been actively collecting items, printables and games to include in busy bags {so I have a huge stockpile of interchangable activities for the coming months}. I usually put together my busy bags myself with various bought items and printables, but lately I've been including professionally made busy bags as well. Flying Sprout is a really cool small business I've found that sell a huge range of busy bags and printables suitable for toddlers through to 7yr olds.

Flying sprout logo

Flying Sprout is run by Bianca, a qualified teacher who's currently a stay at home mum. With 8 years of primary school teaching experience {and having been a numeracy co-ordinator for a period of time}, she knows the basics children need to learn to support them at school and she knows how to provide opportunities for children to learn independently to buid their skills and self confidence simultaneously. Each of the busy bags and activities offered at Flying Sprout are designed to allow children to learn and practice essential skills whilst having fun. Each kit contains an instruction card and all the items required for each game or activity. We've been trying out three of the Flying Sprout busy bags for the last few weeks and this is what we think.

educational busy bag ideas for toddlers.

APPLE BUSY BAG - NUMBERS TO 10


Tha apple busy bag is a great little counting activity that includes 10 jumbo paddle pop sticks with a magnetic strip {numbered one to ten} and 55 paper clips. Kids can line up the paddle pop sticks in number order and then put the correct number of paper clips onto each stick. This activity is designed primarily to focus on counting from one to ten, but it's also great for number recognition, sequencing and one to one correspondence which are all important foundation maths skills needed for school later on.

Apple busy bag from Flying Sprout


Bub can count to twenty already, but she loves to count at any given opportunity, including counting random objects when we're out and counting how many mouthfuls of food or drink she's consuming during dinner. I know it's not really normal 3yr old behaviour, but any chance for incidental learning is fine by me. Needless to say she loves the apple busy bag. She was counting out all the paper clips as she made each number on each stick and then counted all the sticks up at the end. Once she's finished she then repeats it over and over {and usually yells at me if I try and pack it up}. I have to put it away all stealthy while she's pre-occupied with something else.


ORANGE BUSY BAG - ANIMAL SHADOW MATCHING


The orange busy bag is a cute little animal shadow matching game that includes 12 laminated shadow cards and 12 mini plastic animals for matching. I love the simplicity of this activity and that it can be easily mixed up by simply changing around the layout of the cards each time. I also love that some of the shadow positions aren't an exact match to the way the plastic animals are standing which makes it a little more challenging. However it can also be made easier for younger kids who have a shorter attention span by using less animals and cards.

Orange busy bag by Flying Sprout

Bub loves matching anything and everything at the moment so this bag has been a huge hit and she's always asking to match the animals. She gets a little confused between the rooster and hen because they look similar and she calls the goose a duck, but other than that she's pretty good at it. She even got all smarty pants on us and was deliberately holding animals over the wrong shadows and asking us if they were right. "Is this the pig mummy? Oh no no no that's a cow". I have no idea where she gets her sarcastic personality from *cough*.


CHRISTMAS BUSY BAG - SPELLING WORDS


At the moment Flying Sprout have special christmas busy bags available including the christmas spelling busy bag. The spelling busy bag includes 12 laminated picture cards with the matching words and 85 individual letters that children can use to spell each of the words. The letters can also be used for other spelling activities like making a christmas story or using them in a sensory tub and many other letter activities.

Flying Sprout christmas spelling busy bag

Being 3 bub doesn't know how to spell yet, but she has known the alphabet since she was 2 so she's very good at letter recognition. She could easily identify the items from the pictures but some of the bigger words were a bit tricky to spell {because she kept getting confused with ordering the letters because there were so many}. So instead we've been focusing on the smaller words such as tree and star which she's had fun matching up. She puts them in order following the cards then spells them out to me. "S, t, a, r.... spellllls star mummy. Look it's a star!".



ALPHABET JUMBLE PRINT


Flying Sprout also have a few printables available as digital downloads. We've been using the alphabet jumble print as an alphabet matching game. It includes all letters of the alphabet in both lower case and upper case all jumbled up in the wrong order. Ours is laminated {so it can be used over and over} and bub's been using her clear glass pebbles to find the lower and upper case version of each letter. The letters could also be circled with whiteboard markers and then wiped off to reuse. She loves finding the letters and is now regularly talking about lower case and upper case versions of letters on a daily basis rather than just identifying individual letters.
Flying Sprout alphabet letter jumble digital download

All of the Flying Sprout busy bags that we've tried out have kept bub entertained independently for prolonged periods of time which is super useful for appointments and when I need some spare time to get things done at home. She's also made a lot of them interactive at times asking me questions about which move she needs to make next so she feels like we're playing a game together. They're a great way for her to practice skills she already has and to extend on her current skills through different activities. Most of the bags have extra game options added on the guide cards and the items can be used for other activities too {i.e. the plastic animals can be used in small word play}. I also love that the busy bags all come in sealed splash proof bags which means I can store all the pieces together so they don't get lost and it makes transporting them super easy when we're out. Bianca has clearly spent a lot of time and effort putting together each activity to make them educational, entertaining and fun for kids. 

Flying Sprout are currently having a 12 days of Christmas promotion with different specials for each of the first 12 days of December, to see the daily offers drop by their Instagram account or Facebook page. Bianca is also offering an exclusive discount for Finding Myself Young readers, simply use the code FMY15 to save 15% off any Flying Sprout products in the etsy store. You can also find other fun educational ideas on her blog, like this one about using m&m's and skittles for learning. If you have a lot of appointments like us, are planning a road trip over the holidays, going away camping or just need a few minutes peace while the kids are entertained you should definitely check out the awesome products available from Flying Sprout.

Do/did you use busy bags with your kids?

Toni x

*15% off not valid with other offers.

Disclosure - I was provided the three busy bags shown above for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are based on our experience with the products. I did not receive payment for this review.

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