Clay | A fun first introduction (warning – its’ messy ;)

48a885b8-b8ea-4985-a1ca-5efe5df5d1c1Wednesday’s are for #humpdayhangouts – a weekly play date I host with friends and their little ones. This morning’s session was taken up a notch with an unexpected acquisition of a lovely chunk of clay. I know your instinct might be to give each child their own little piece to work with, in the same way you would play dough, but I find that young children need a chance to fully explore the clay as a whole before they are ready or willing to create individually.

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For today’s play invitation I laid out a large plastic drop cloth and put the whole piece of clay in the center of it. Around the clay I placed various tools and materials – kitchen utensils, tongs, rocks, seed pods, little branches with leaves, a large log, yard flamingoes, and a bowl of warm water with little sponges. The children watched as I set it up and naturally were interested in taking a closer look. They took their cues from each other as they played and explored, learning about how the texture changes with the addition of water, or the ways the flamingoes beaks made such a lovely little finger sized hole.

fdf75f3d-8a92-4265-aaac-15965e140e37The first part of the play was really just getting familiar with the materials, then play arcs started to take shape. More tools were gathered from the sandbox area. The clay started to be shaped into things. Games started evolving. All of this with very minimal adult direction or interaction. Just beautiful independent social play with friends. #myheartishappy

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Gemstones + Crystals | #unexpectedtoys

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GEMSTONES + CRYSTALS are this week’s #unexpectedtoys. 1) They are eclectic, beautiful, and they bring good vibes to your space (all the wins). 2) They are a lovely play invitation (who can resist?), open-ended and can be used in lots of fun ways in play. My boys have used them:

  • in their play kitchen as candy and other food,
  • in small world play as treasure,
  • as a fine motor tools (they love to pick them up with tongs and place them into containers and jars); and
  • as trash in their big rubbish truck.

I’ve bought them from Amazon, Energy Muse (these ones are for me, but somehow my kids always seem to claim them), and we’ve found they are often in gift shops when we travel (a much better option than plastic junk that is just going to be tossed).
So do your kids and your chakras a favor, and add a little gemstone magic to your home/play space. ✨

Loose parts in the sandbox | #unexpectedtoys

It was out with the mud pies and stews today, and in with ravine digging, ramp building, and car racing. Today’s #unexpectedtoys were wood offcuts and old bricks. I took cues from my oldest’s spontaneous play (ravine digging) and brought over some loose parts I thought might extend his play arc. They were met with enthusiasm, and with a little trial and error and lots of big ideas, my boys worked together to build a ‘car racing water slide’ that kept them busy alllllll morning! #winwin

⋒ Don’t have a sandbox? No worries. Loose parts like scrap wood and bricks make for great play anywhere outside (and they’re free!). Build fairy houses for small world play, obstacle courses for gross motor play, faux fire pits for dramatic play. Your child’s imagination has no limit!

Sneak Peek | Evie + John’s new play space

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A sneak peek of a fun play space we finished installing today. The family had recently moved into a new home and were trying to find ways to entice their kids down to the basement play space. The bunk bed from their old house was being used for play (and storage 😉 in the room, so we repurposed it by adding a railing up top to create a loft. The bottom became a cozy reading nook with added bookshelves, reading lamp, and twinkle lights. My most favorite addition however is the pulley system in the loft, which is controlled with the turn of a ship’s steering wheel. And at the end of the rope is a basket for all your little ones treasures (of course)!

Bubbles (all the magic without the work)

“In a moment of pure frustration today, I came to the conclusion that there is no angry way to say bubbles.” – Anon.
Bubbles are magical! They can turn around any crappy day with their happy floaty dreaminess (have you ever frozen bubbles in the winter – literally the best). But (and it’s a big 🍑) I hate everything about blowing bubbles. So thanks to some slick Amazon marketing 🙈) I bought an industrial bubble machine. Game changer. I literally fill it up, turn it on, and let the magic happen (for like a solid hour) without any of the usual huffing, puffing, or stickiness. Just throwing it out there, as a #playspacepsa.

Mud Kitchen Treasures (thanks, autumn)

Autumn is wonderful for so many reasons – cute vintage knits, no mosquitoes, zero reason to shave, and plentiful nature treasures for your mud kitchen*! We have an old metal oven as the heart of our mud kitchen, and my kids love it when they find a play invitation laid out with new natural goodies. All these lovelies were picked up on our walk/bike ride this morning. Zero effort (minus bulging pockets). Zero cost. Huge inspiration and magic. Note the look on my oldest’s face when I told him he could have at it post picture taking. #priceless🍁🍃

*Don’t have a mud kitchen? No worries! Bring these babies inside and see how they transform your child’s dramatic/small world/block/art play (all the play!). So next time you’re walking, bring a basket or big pockets. 😉

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Squeeze Pouch Caps | #unexpectedtoys

In a new section we’re calling #unexpectedtoys, I am going to share some of my favorite everyday items I love to include as toys in play spaces. Today’s unexpected toy is (🥁drumroll please) SQUEEZE POUCH CAPS. I prefer the round variety, but it’s whatever takes your fancy. 🙂

They are plentiful (my kids love anything in a pouch), colorful, and super open-ended. Right now we’re using our cap collection in our play kitchen as food (they are great to pick up with tongs and spin in a salad spinner). They sometimes find themselves in small world play as stepping stones, rocks, or treasure. We use them as a tool with clay and play dough. They are perfect in a low mess mud kitchen as an ingredient to add to stews. The possibilities are literally endless.

So the next time your kids are binging on apple sauce pouches, give the caps a rinse, put them out as a play invitation, and see where the magic takes them.