31 Days Of Sensory Play {Day Twenty Three} Jello towers


Welcome to Day Twenty Three of 31 days of Sensory Play.


Building towers and knocking them down has to be one of the number one activities in your home. Who can resist the sound and the build up? Blocks aren’t just for babies and perhaps your child is like mine and likes to build with lots of different things.  Here’s the scientist at work trying different materials.

We’ve used Jello a few times for cooking. The boys haven’t liked the texture and I wasn’t so keen on it myself. Jelly and ice cream is a classic birthday party food in the UK. The boys have been presented with various shades and flavours and finally have developed a taste for a few of them. We have a few packets around because we did try out a jello roll recipe, that they love. Mysteriously a packet appears in my shopping bag each time we go.:)

Today we decided to have some fun building with wobbly substances because we were in a building mood and we had jello ( jelly UK) packets coming out of our ears.

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Things to do when you're 18 months

There are all sorts of things your 18month old free spirit can be doing but what are they doing?
Here are some everyday play activities to keep you going that have the heart of an 18month old

Open ended


What activities do yours do that are fun, open ended and BY MYSELF?

Would love to hear in the comments or @playactivities on Twitter 🙂

Things to do when you’re 18 months

There are all sorts of things your 18month old free spirit can be doing but what are they doing?
Here are some everyday play activities to keep you going that have the heart of an 18month old

Open ended


What activities do yours do that are fun, open ended and BY MYSELF?

Would love to hear in the comments or @playactivities on Twitter 🙂

Your baby can play

You may recognize the title is similar to a popular reading program for babies… Your baby can read Yes I did say baby and reading in the same sentence. Just like makeup and 5 year olds ; limos for young girls parties; cropped tops for tweens…things are getting pushed down.

I’ve been really saddened recently with the amount of people interested in spending large sums of money to teach their babies how to read through rote and repetition. I don’t think babies should or need to be reading at all.  It’s not right or developmentally appropriate for them to be not playing. When you take them from their blocks or investigations to sit in front of a screen that’s what you do take them away from playing. I feel I need to say it, it’s alright! your baby can play. It’s how they learn.

It is tempting and you may feel like everyone is doing it but they are not.

Authors of Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less explain how to make the best of your time with your child, they show how to practice their own three “R’s”

Reflect: Stop and ask if a formal, structured activity is right for your child and whether you’re reducing the time that she could spend learning through play.

Resist: Just say no to stuffing your child with information and do so knowing that the research in this book [Einstein Never Used Flashcards] backs you up.

Recenter: Reassure yourself that you made the right choices, because growing up should be full of play , not work.

What can you do?

  • Not buy into the myth that faster is better.
  • Don’t believe that we have to make every single moment count otherwise we’re failures. Moments do count but let our children lead their lives.
  • We aren’t the only ones to teach our kids. By providing high quality experiences we can but only hope to enrich their lives and not predict their place in society.
  • Know that children are not empty vessels that we have been charged with filling as quickly and fully as possible but instead let them use their innate abilities to discover, learn and experiment as well.

Don’t get me wrong. Some children are ready faster than others. Great! But the majority are not. It is important not to squander our time with our children but planning each and every moment. It isn’t healthy. There must be down and unstructured time. It’s in these idle times real learning happens. They get to put into practice what they’ve learnt and are thinking. We can learn from other forms of media but be age appropriate and realistic. Don’t always believe the hype. Marketing with a pinch of science doesn’t equal a good play experience. Messages are often inflated. Yes, if we let them discover and learn everything this would not be a good practice but the prevailing attitude we receive is that if we push our agenda onto our kids they will succeed. 1+1=2. This type of thinking does not account for variations in personality, age, gender, race or economic status.

How do we do these things here?

Give babies and toddlers wooden spoons, cotton reels, lemons to play with. Construct a treasure basket where they can really learn through play.

Change your thinking from perfect pictures, perfect activities or perfect crafts to emphasizing the process over the end product. This is what creates a love of learning and not a need for perfection. Failure is good it leads to improvement. We want them to love the process to do it again and not feel like they have no part in the process but merely imitating what we want. We want to encourage creativity.

Allow time for pretend play so kids can work through the complex emotional world we live in. We fill their heads with ABCs as early as possible and keep adding to the academics. Playing in the Wendy house, constructing a fort, serving lunch in your restaurant are all necessary play activities to go alongside the academics. It’s where language is learnt. It’s where they work out troubles one teddy to another. It’s where they work through problems.

Read and learn what makes for a great foundation from the source. Try The Hurried Child-25th Anniversary Edition

So before you reach for that expensive DVD set that promises you lots of sitting down drilling your wriggly 2 year old. I hope you’ll consider using that program in light of wider reading and not just the jacket sleeve. That you’ll consider activities and actions I’ve already outlined. That you’ll keep the 3 R’s in mind and make wise decisions for your family.

What do you and your two year old do?

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Overlooked creative toys part II

This is the second part of the interview: Overlooked creative toy.

In your experience with blocks have you seen it as a boy’s toy?

No, but children accessorize them with different things as you’d expect with young children. They may play with them differently but still use them equally. Adding accessorizes help promote pretend play. Adding large and small pieces of cloth give children the chance to dress up , by wrapping themselves in the cloth and being whatever they choose. The small pieces get used for so many things like blankets, objects like baby dolls. If you choose solid colours for the material it doesn’t suggest a person leaving your child the imagination to be. Other examples of objects to accessorize include; dishes, people, animal figures, shell, & stones, yarn, paper, scissors etc. Naturally, not all at once and age appropriate.

How should you organise them?

Each family should find a shelf space to store them. Storing like with like. e.g. all the cylinders together. This way the organization makes the blocks look more appealing than a jumbled heap in a box or bag.  When you put them back use the time as a sorting activity by putting them away in the same way….early classifying. Try reinforcing it as a math game, ” All blocks with curves….. or 1/2 the size of this one go here.” This helps develop their language and it’s fun.

How would you advise a parent whose child prefers TV and electronic toys to get involved with blocks?

Parents need to be patient and allow the child to play for a while with them.

How would you introduce block play to your children by showing or allowing them to experiment? Is it ok to join in?

Resist the urge to direct play or build something to get them going. Instead don’t say what are you going to build. Let the child test out whatever is in their mind. It’s important not to send the message , ” I’m supposed to build.” Children will be trying to please the adult. Children will engage with the blocks if they are behind the ideas.  Parents can instead ask questions- “What shape do you need? I’ll hand them to you.” or  ” Tell me what you are doing?” ” Where would they sleep?”  Here the parent is being the assistant not the director.The parent is deepening and not directing. ” Who should I be?” Let your child direct.

How have your children used the blocks?

Through exploration they come up with lots of ideas. Blocks become books or houses. Whatever they want them to be. They don’t mix the blocks with LEGO. Since they are not the same sets or systems it can become overwhelming and frustrating. We stick to simplicity. It encourages more creativity.

How many blocks is enough?

You need a large enough amount to realize your ideas and suggest patterns but not too many to be overwhelming. For maximum play and learning potential I’d recommend:-

Ages Step I Step II Step III
1 1 box
2 &3 2 boxes 1 box
4 &5 2 boxes 2 boxes 1 box
6 & up 2 boxes 2 boxes 2 boxes

What makes this set different than other block sets?

  • City and Country school unit blocks have a booklet that comes with each set. It gives clear hints at how to support block projects. The learning potential is explained.
  • The coloured cubes are made of natural wood. The colored cubes are there for inspiration and they don’t detract from using the blocks but enhance the play.
  • These blocks are endorsed by the City & Country school where they were designed.
  • Other sets on the market feature a few of each piece but lots in other sets. Crucially, children need lots of the same pieces and fewer of the others to be able to create, build and experiment successfully.

Can you tell us more about the science and mathematical relationships the blocks foster?

Science the concepts of balance, physics, trial and error,planes,  and problem solving. Maths the concepts of area, fractions, volume, multiples and patterns.

To order your set of blocks visit www.kidoproducts.com or call the school.

My boys played with these blocks for a long time. They really enjoyed playing with them both together and individually.

Elise Clark, Director of admission at City & Country school. She’s a teacher and parent. Elise has been in education for 20 years. She also teaches a graduate block building course for teachers at Bank Street College of Education.

Overlooked creative toy

Blocks… we’ve all heard about them but why should we be using them with our children?

Here’s a recent interview about those blocks packed away in that dusty corner and why they should be dusted off and out.

Elise Clark, Director of admission at City & Country school. She’s a teacher and parent. Elise has been in education for 20 years. She also teaches a graduate block building course for teachers at Bank Street College of Education.

How can blocks be seen as a 21st Century toy when we have laptops, talking dolls and other hi tech toys?

Now more than ever playing with blocks is important. Fast paced games and toys don’t challenge in the same physical ways. Children need to be active. They need to hold in their hands. Technical toys often lead to passive learners. These technical toys have the same outcome over and over again.The technical toys entertain them and are easy to master. Children gain pleasure from them because it’s easy. Whereas using block creates challenges and with repeated use inspires your child to be more creative and aim for more complex outcomes.

What is the best age for blocks?

As early as one or as soon as they can pick up & manipulate them. The younger ones will use their senses and mouth them and listen to the sound they make. The older ones begin to stack them up and line them up. Given time they move through the stages by experimenting and discovering without being told what to do and how to do it. There are ample opportunities to use this open ended material to experiment with ideas and not just in one way.

It’s important that children get a repeated chance to use blocks because this leads them to be more creative especially in the challenges they give themselves and their complexity.

Tell me more about City & Country school Unit blocks

They are wooden blocks with mathematical relationships designed to foster math and science learning while encouraging emerging literacy skills through storytelling. The blocks promote open ended creative play by helping children explore their world and their place in it.These blocks were first envisioned by world renounced educator Caroline Pratt and came into fruition through Lisa Mahar who developed the block reflecting the original design.

Set I is the foundation and is standalone. It is the essential introduction to block building.

Set II &III is bought as your child grows older as it exposes them to more mathematical relationships like fractions and ratios. Giving them a chance to internalize these concepts over time.Set II provides additional shapes and secondary colours. Set III includes triangles and curves to provide increasing challenge and inspiration as well as colours derived from nature.

Why is it so important to use blocks?

It’s an authentic way to try out ideas and make mistakes. Our instinct is to rush to come the aid of children. The stack looks like it will fall or the bridge’s falling and we rush to stabilize or help. Blocks is an genuine way of allowing trial and error construction. Your child discovers. There’s a pride to learn more. It’s a safe place to make mistakes.

**Find out more about this much overlooked creative toy in part II.**

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