Friday, 17 May 2019

Creating a Play Area for Your Baby (If You Have Limited Space)

It’s not easy to have a 3-room apartment and a 6 month old baby. Creating a play space in every room might seem like a good idea, because it gives you some freedom to move around the house while still keeping an eye on the baby, but then you barely have room to walk. So why not create a play area that you can move around in a few minutes?

I’m sharing these tips for a non-mobile baby (who doesn’t crawl yet), because it’s totally different after that (I’m a bit excited, but also terrified about the crawling phase). E. is extremely curious and constantly wants to explore but doesn’t crawl yet, so I need to give her things to keep her engaged.

It’s a wonderful experience to play with your baby, but sometimes the baby needs some time to play on her own. Or you need some time for yourself (while still being able to keep an eye on her). if you are always there to hand her everything, she won’t be motivated to develop her gross motor skills.

So…here are a few tips to create a play area.
  • Decide where in the room/s you want the play area to be. This depends on what you usually do there, also. For example, if the kitchen is connected to the living room and you need to cook, you should choose an area that you can see from there.
  • Find the right surface. A blanket is also fine, but if your baby hasn’t mastered tummy time yet and sometimes drops her head, I suggest using a mattress. This one from IKEA is cheap, firm, smooth, but at the same time soft enough to protect your baby from bumps.
  • Choose 4-5 toys and place them on the surface. I usually rotate the toys, and if I still notice that she is bored with them, I bring some stuff from the kitchen. Even with all of the cute and colourful (and expensive!) toys that we buy her, she still prefers kitchen utensils and random objects, such as parchment paper, spatulas, and empty baskets.
  • Once she will be able to crawl, I intend to place her toys (still rotate them) on the open shelves, so she can have access to them. At the moment I have a few on the shelf (the ones that I might choose for morning play), then the rest are all in a large box. That way, I can take the box to different rooms and choose a few toys from there. Cleaning up is also much easier like that.
  • Place your baby in the middle. You’ll see that it will take about half a minute for her to roll onto her tummy and pivot in a circle to try to grab her favourite toy. I suggest placing her favourite toys or new toys slightly out of reach, to motivate her to move around.
  • Once your baby can sit independently, you can introduce work shelves and busy baskets.
  • If you have the room, create the play area in front of a mirror – this will encourage your baby to imitate and play more. 
I hope these tips will help! Have fun playing!

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Our Favourite Toys at 5 Months

Since E. has started using her hands and exploring the environment more, things have changed a lot. Now she is able to play on her own (although she still likes having me just next to her) and is curious about everything. She loves putting everything in her mouth…and I mean everything: nappies, TP rolls, wooden spoons, and toys. She is constantly moving, licking objects, and looking around.

We bought a Pilates ball when she was just 2 months old, because she hated tummy time and we were looking into ways to make it more fun. But we didn’t get to use it until recently, because she disliked it. Now she has fun going forwards and backwards, left and right, or bouncing on it, while on her tummy. I sing to her while holding her, or just describe what she’s doing.

We also have some wonderful wooden toys that she enjoys playing with: the wooden rainbow wheel is my favourite, but to be honest she prefers the one on the right. It’s easier to grasp and shake. When we first got it, she didn’t have the motor skills or hand eye coordination to bring it slowly to her mouth, so we needed to be extra careful that she doesn’t bang her head with it. Phew...that’s over now.

She also likes the wooden car, because she can hold it in her hand well and lick it. I guess it will come in handy once she sits without support, because she can push it back and forth.

Ever since she was 2 months old, she has loved rattles and toys that make sounds. Here are two of her favourite toys. The one on the right is nice because she can hold it easily, but she loves sucking on the first one while on her tummy.
As I mentioned before (check out this other blog post about baby toys), scarves are great to have! They provide endless opportunities for play. Peek-a-boo is the perfect game to play with any baby. She now got to the stage where she takes the scarf and puts it in front of her, then takes it away and smiles.

We bought these cute animal socks and wrist rattles when she hadn’t discovered her feet yet. Now she doesn’t really need them anymore, but I still use them as hand puppets and the monkey always makes her smile.
Our montessori puzzle ball finally arrived. I was extremely enthusiastic about it, but E. isn’t a big fan. I hope she’ll change her mind later on, because it’s a great toy: the shape makes it easy for her to grab, it has the perfect size, and it stimulates both fine and gross motor development (she uses her fingers to pinch it, and her hands and feet to lift it).

We got an Oball (rattle ball) for the pram and it has kept her engaged on our walks. It’s easy to grasp and hold. She also likes playing with it while sitting, so it motivates her to do that.

Ever since she was 3 months old, E. loves the wooden drum. I used to sing songs and fool around with it, but now she can hold the stick and hit the drum (when she doesn’t chew on the end).
Blocks are always a great toy to have. These are soft, the colours are wonderful, and they are easy to manipulate. We use them to learn animals and fruit, but she also enjoys it when I build towers and she breaks them. These also have numbers, +, -, =, and shapes.

But somehow, I feel that toys are overrated. At this age they are curious about everything around them, so you can give your child almost anything (safety first!) to explore.

For tummy time I made this calming down bottle. I bought the small plastic bottle from H&M. Then, I left some gel beads to grow in water. I put those later in the bottle, then added a bit of water and some baby oil. I used a glue gun to secure the cap. When she is on her tummy in the evening, I place a flashlight behind the bottle, and she likes staring at it.
A TP roll can be fun too: you can talk through it, cover the other end, or look at your baby through it.

E. also loves parchment paper. It makes that loud noise, it’s big, but light enough for her to lift above her head.

Try to choose toys that your child will be able to use for many years to come, or toys that are versatile and good for open ended play.

If you are interested in where I got these toys, just leave a comment and I'll post the links.

If you liked this post, you might also like:
Tips for a Relaxed and Fun Tummy Time
Toys for Babies

Friday, 19 April 2019

Ice Cream Menu for Pretend Play

Here's a fun way to practice colors and numbers! Create an ice cream stand, where children can pretend to sell and buy ice cream.

This resource contains a menu that can be printed out and laminated for durability. The kids can then use dry-erase markers to circle the ice cream that they’d like to order. If you have a small table and a chair, you can improvise an ice cream stand.

As props, you can use:
  • a table/two tables
  • some chairs
  • small plastic cups (for the cones) 
  • homemade playdough (use food coloring for different flavors) (you can find the recipe here)
  • a spoon or scoopers 
  • red wooden beads or buttons (cherries) 
  • hama beads for sprinkles (keep a close eye on the kids when using these!) 
  • old ketchup bottle (syrup) 
  • any decorations the kids make (buntings, signs, paper money) 
  • a cash register
You can download the resource from my TPT store, Grumpy Dumpling, or by clicking on the picture:

If you want to read more about imaginative play in kindergarten, here's another post:
The Importance of Dramatic Play in Kindergarten

If you liked this article, you might also be interested in:
Fun Ways to Learn with Playdough
Popcorn Pizza and what is it Good for?

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Tips for a Relaxed and Fun Tummy Time

I’ve got a lot of ideas for kindergarten activities. Unfortunately, some take a looong time to craft and write about. On top of that, I’ve been sick and E. has been keeping me busy. I hope that I’ll have some free time soon, but I have to admit that I really love being silly with her and enjoying our lazy mornings together.

That’s why today I’m going to quickly talk about tummy time and leave the other ideas for a different day. Maybe these tips will help your babies. E. hates tummy time even now, after four months of practising…but at least now she tolerates it and has made visible progress. Some babies just don’t like spending time on their tummies, but I kind of understand it: they can see so much more when they’re carried or relaxing on their backs.

Let’s start with the basics of tummy time:

Why is tummy time important?

Because it helps your baby build back, abdominal, arm, and neck muscles. This, in turn, will help her crawl, sit, track objects, and even walk later on.

When can you start?

Well, the sooner you start, the better. You can place your baby on her tummy as soon as you get home from the hospital.

Where can you do it?

I suggest linking tummy time with a daily routine, because that way you won’t forget to do it often enough. For example, after every nappy change or after waking up from a nap. Try not to do it right after a feeding, because the baby might have a hard time exercising on a full stomach. J

How long should tummy time last?

Of course, some babies are fine and relaxed from the very beginning when placed on their tummies, so you can let them spend as much time as they like there. However, some might dread that moment. The main thing is to make it fun and enjoyable for them! Most of the resources I’ve read say that tummy time should be 30 min/day by 3 months, but you should just see what your baby needs.

What will you need for tummy time?

  • hard mattress or surface (the changing pad might be a great place for this)
  • a blanket or muslin cloth – optional, but I recommend it if you want to protect the bed or couch from all that baby drool
  • some toys that your baby likes, especially brightly coloured ones or toys that make noise (rattles, bells, rain sticks, etc.)
  • a positive attitude – it might take a long time until your baby feels comfortable on her tummy, so don't get discouraged

Tips on how to make tummy time more fun:

  • use a Pilates ball with a blanket over it (with caution!) – place the baby on the blanket and slowly move the ball from side to side and back to front. This raises their awareness of the position of their bodies (proprioception sense).
  • if your baby is having a hard time supporting her chest on her arms, use a rolled-up towel or blanket under it. This takes some of the weight off her arms.
  • place toys or yourself at eye level, so your baby has a reason to lift her head. Moving the toys or your face from side to side will help her sight develop.
  • as I mentioned above, have tummy time on a hard surface, so your baby can lift herself by pushing on it. However, avoid very hard surfaces, in case the baby drops her head. 

If your baby hates being on her tummy, use these alternatives:

  • sit down and then place your baby on your thighs (perpendicular). It helps if you place the baby on your lap with one of your legs higher, to elevate her chest
  • lie down with your head slightly elevated, then place the baby on tour tummy. Chat, sing songs, and make funny faces to make things more fun.
  • whenever you carry your baby, use a tummy-down hold – this worked well with E. during the first two months, when she refused to be placed on her tummy.
I think that’s about it. If you have any tips, feel free to share them in the comment section below.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Toys for Babies

Before having a baby, I had no clue what toys she would need during the first couple of months. The youngest kids I’ve taught are at least one. I have to admit that I got carried away and bought toys that she won’t even get to use until after she turns one, because I’m a sucker for wooden toys and I can’t help myself from buying them.

But after the first month and a half have passed, here’s a list of the toys that we have used and that she found interesting.

First of all, our mobile. It has saved our lives – before buying it, she needed us to entertain her CONSTANTLY. Now she can be in her bed just looking at the mobile for about 15 minutes. That way, I get to eat. I’m there with her, talking and imitating her coos, but it helps that she doesn’t want to be in my lap while I eat.

For peek-a-boo games and exploring sight and touch, a scarf will come in handy. E. is not a big fan, but I hope she will be more engaged as she grows.

I love reading and singing to her, so hand and finger puppets are great for that. She likes some of them, but she might grow more interested later on. We have quite a big collection of puppets from IKEA.

Soft toys are great for comfort. She also likes it when I touch her face or arm with them.
We haven’t had the chance to establish a bed time routine that includes reading yet, but I read to her whenever I have a free hand and she has the patience. I’ll write a blog post about our favourite books later on.

We also have two touchy feely books that she likes to look at: they’ve got mirrors, rattles, things that can be pulled, and squeezed, and teethers. They can be attached to the pram, so they might be useful later on.

I know it’s not a toy, but we have fun when I sing, talk, or look at her through the TP roll. Give it a try!

Wooden musical instruments are nice to have at any age. I use them to get her attention, but I’m sure she will like playing when she grows. LIDL has some nice wooden musical instruments, at least here in Finland.

We sometimes play with shadows with our light projector/white noise machine. It’s also useful at night, but if you don’t want to invest in one, you can use an app for white noise.

Our whale projects images of the sea and sea animals and has songs and white noise
E. prefers being carried or watching us, so she doesn’t enjoy the baby gym that much. I’m hoping that once she gets to use her hands, she will try to grab the toys and spend more time there. What she does look at is at the mirror that’s hanging from it. I haven’t found any developmental pillows in stock, but I think I will buy one soon. She enjoys being carried on her tummy, so she gets to lift her head quite a lot, but she hates tummy time on the blanket. She gets easily frustrated and starts crying. Maybe one of these will help:

I love our Little Dutch play mat, but E. prefers brighter colours

You’ll need a couple of toys for your stroller, to keep your baby entertained during walks or while you are running errands.

E. is crazy about bath time, so I’m going to buy some bath toys and squirtees as soon as she can be in the tub for a longer time. The only drawback is that she always cries when I take her out and then it’s difficult to calm her down.

You can use a rattle from the first weeks. They help babies improve their eye muscles, while following them from left to right. We have a few that make different sounds. Babies might prefer those with bright colours and loud noises.

If you have any other toys that your babies enjoyed playing with, let me know so we can try them too!

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Webinars for Teachers

Our place has been turned upside-down…we have a new family member and a whole lot of mess. That’s why I’ve been extremely busy over the past month and a half. But I finally had some minutes to spare between calming a screaming baby and dirty diapers to write this. A while ago, I stumbled across this wonderful website packed with webinars for teachers. I thought I’d share it with you, because I’ve discovered a lot of amazing resources, books, and ideas from some of the presentations.

You can join edweb ( for free. Once you’ve joined, you can find communities based on the topics that interest you the most. Here are some that I found interesting:

After you have registered and watched a live webinar, you will receive a certificate. However, if you don’t get the chance to do that when the live presentation is, then you can view a recording, after which you need to answer a few basic questions to get the certificate. You’ll find all the communities’ webinar recordings, PPT presentations, and other information if you go to “Browse edWebinars”.
Here is how my page looks:

I feel that some of these resources have helped me improve my teaching techniques. My kids have also been captivated by some of the new activities we’ve done based on what I saw. Give it a try! If you’ve been teaching for a long time, you will probably welcome fresh ideas with open arms. If you’re a new teacher, the advice you’ll get might prove extremely useful.

I hope you’ll find something for you there!