Coloured rice and I spy bottles

I was looking around slightly vaguely for Kidling crafts on the interweb a couple of days ago when I came across these fabulous I-Spy-Bottles and just knew I had to make them. We spend every weekend in the car driving back and forth to the Kent Coast, and I am always on the lookout for easy ways to keep them entertained in the car. There’s nothing worse than spending most of your journey twisting round from the front seat reaching for things that your kids have thrown on the floor and are now screaming for. Or passing them food that in turn gets thrown on the floor. Followed by the dummy, the sippy cup and anything else you try to pacify them with with whilst they scream and writhe against the constraints of the car seat. Meanwhile you are getting slowly garroted by the seatbelt as you stretch and reach for things, inadvertantly pulling muscles in your shoulder and blocking the rear view mirror which in turn irritates your DH who is trying to overtake a bloody Sunday driver. Don’t tell me you haven’t been there.

So, like I said, I like to keep them entertained in the car. The difficulty comes at the moment when PD is old enough that the trip in the car doesn’t automatically send her off to Dreamland, but too young to really be able to play many car games. Audiobooks have been an uunexpected hit. She usually announces her playlist once the engine has started: Naughty Little Sister then songs then Milly-Molly-Mandy. And when we get to the songs, her voice pipes up from the back seat “Join in everybody!” For our own sanity a break from singing is required. Hence making these great I-Spy bottles: she doesn’t need to be able to read, or know which letter the objects begin with to play; just shake and look.Although as she learns more about letters, this game has the potential to be altered to suit her growing ability. And I made one with all the letters in too for that eventuality. Thus she can learn how to occupy herself in the car whilst also learning basic reading skills. She already knows all the words to all the songs…..

To make the I Spy bottles, I had a look around for a very simple method of dying rice , something that I have seen on quite a few Homeschooling blogs, although you don’t need to dye rice: the first bottle I made used red lentils. Mine dried in just a few hours so was ready when The Girls came home from nursery. Whilst I used the green and blue for the alphabet bottle, I gave the red to Dimples in a plastic container, along with a bowl and spoon, and a couple of small figures. This was a great game for improving her spoon control transferring the rice from one container to another. And we also played a game inspired by the bottles I had made earlier when we buried small toys and dug around to find them again. Of course it all ended up on the floor but the clean up was relatively painless and entirely worth it to see Dimples’ skills develop.

Red rice and red lentils

I never did much craft with PD when she was small, partly because I was working and let her do it at nursery (far less messy) and partly because I didn’t realise how much she would get from it. I have come to realise that, although most craft is done with PD in mind, Dimples not only loves joining in, but is more than capable of doing it and she really learns things. More than that, she feels included.

They do say that children are sponges and soak up everything until they are about five, and I have no doubt that they would learn things even if you didn’t make an attempt to engage with them at all. They probably learn in their sleep. But what I have found of late is that learning whilst they play is not so much for their benefit as for mine. I have spent the last thirteen months trying to come to terms with what I thought was losing my identity, with juggling two children under three, with trying to balance children and housework, blogging and sleep. I now realise that those 13 months were a transitional period in which I became a new me. The me that spends hours online researching things to make and as many hours trying to make those things. The me that gets enormous satisfaction from both of those things and more: the satisfaction I get from seeing my children enjoying playing with the things I make; that they learn things from playing with them; that they prefer these toys to the ones that have been bought for them in shops.

It’s not just them that learn through play. It’s me too. I am learning how to support and encourage them; how to enjoy being with them; how to be the Stay at Home Mother, the Mamma I became when they were born. I thought I gave up learning when I left University, but it turns out that my children are the best teachers I have ever had.

Submitted to the Tots100 March Blog Hop: Learning Through Play

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