Taking the messy play outside

Like most children, Daisy loves messy water play.  One afternoon, during a recent visit, the sun was shining and so it was the perfect opportunity for us to set up water play outside.

You don’t need any special equipment to cater for water play activities at Daisy’s age. We quickly set up a water play area on Daisy’s little table using a washing-up bowl of lukewarm water, a small amount of washing-up liquid, a plastic jug, some kitchen utensils, unbreakable picnic cups, an small empty drinks bottle, a few bath toys and a small sponge.

It can still be chilly at this time of the year so Daisy’s waterproof coverall went on over her coat and she was happy to play with the water and ‘toys’, until we all had to go indoors to warm up!

Funnels 1

Daisy is becoming more dexterous so this was the perfect time to introduce her to funnels and how to use them.  She quickly understood where she should put the funnel and then how to use it, carefully pouring water into the top of the funnel and watching the water filter through the funnel.  Through her play, Daisy watched the water flowing into the different containers, using the funnel.  Gradually this play will help her to see how a funnel makes it easier for the water to flow into a narrow necked container.

Funnels 2

Now that Daisy is more active, her water play tends to be more messy than it used to be so the benefits of messy outdoor water play are obvious.  There are some additional benefits to being outside too.  Being in the sunshine, even in early spring means that Daisy is naturally absorbing vitamin D.  Vitamin D has a positive effect on behaviour and moods, so some time outside in the sunshine helps us all after dull days indoors.

In the evening, Daisy insisted that the funnel was part of her bath time play.

Granny Smith says –

Let your grandchildren explore funnels in other activities (indoors and outdoors).  Set up activities which enable your grandchild to use funnels with different containers and scoops and use a pour-able solid such as rice or lentils instead of water. Add different sized funnels and you will give your grandchild hours of play while they develop physical skills and co-ordination as well as begin to find out about capacity and gain an understanding of cause and effect.

Scooters Part Two

I took Daisy to the local playgroup last week and it was interesting to see how her play had changed since the last time.  First of all she went to play with the large wheeled toys; she likes to sit in the cars or on the tractor and (after a fashion) pedal herself around the room.  She doesn’t have these toys at home and so the playgroup gives her the space to move around freely, in a safe environment.  While playing with  the four wheeled vehicles, Daisy spotted the scooter, pulled one over to play with and this time I did see Daisy briefly scoot!

After experimenting with sitting on the scooter and walking along beside it, Daisy is now ready to try scooting herself about.  With guidance, she’s learning how and where to position one foot on the deck, find her balance, feel stable, before starting to push off with the other foot.

Scooting requires of children balance, coordination, plenty of concentration and lots of patience for repeated attempts until that special moment when they realise that they can do it.  So the next day, Grandpa and I took Daisy out on the local pavements with her scooter to continue to practise her skills.  It was essential to find a smooth surface without hazards that might distract Daisy or stop her from being successful.

We supported Daisy on her scooter in much the same way as helping a child who is learning to ride a bike: one hand on the handlebar to help with the steering and the other hand poised at her back, a ready prop for her if she loses balance.


Learning to use a scooter is more demanding than learning how to use pedals on a toy car or tractor.  But once mastered, compared with the pedal cars and tractors, using a scooter gives a child so much more independence.  And watching Daisy, I’m reminded of that pure pleasure that comes with the new experience of being able to propel yourself about without an adult’s assistance.

Granny Smith says –

it’s important to pick the right scooter for your grandchild – there are lots of different types of scooter available for different ages.  Daisy has a scooter which has three wheels which gives her greater stability and it’s not too heavy for her to manipulate.

Ensure that your grandchild wears a helmet whenever they use their scooter.  It’s a good habit to encourage and they’ll become familiar with the sensation of wearing a helmet.

Sharing Letter Shapes

I have to credit Daisy with the inspiration for this blog!

Last night a couple of her library books were laying on Daisy’s play table, ready for bedtime reading.

Daisy disappeared into the kitchen and came back with some of her magnetic letters from the fridge door.  She then started to lay the letters on one of the books, placing a magnetic letter on top of each of the letters of the book title.  Daisy carefully matched letter to letter and even took the ‘i’, turned it upside down and placed it on top of the exclamation mark!

The ‘a’ in Daisy’s set of magnetic letters wasn’t the same shape as the ‘a’ in the book title.

So, back to the fridge door.

Daisy then returned with a ‘6’ which she turned around so that the magnetic side was face-upwards and she put that on top of the ‘a’.

Being able to recognise and match things that look the same is an important skill.  It’s possible to encourage a preschool child to do this during everyday activities from pairing up the gloves and mitts to sorting out pegs or the cutlery.

Now that Daisy has shown she is aware of letters and can match different letter shapes we can show her other places where she might see letters: on food packaging, on signs, in magazines or comics and in her other books .

Granny Smith says –

When you are introducing your grandchild or child to letters and they are beginning to recognise their shapes of different letters it’s best to look for examples that use lower case, not upper case letters.  Later, when they become familiar with the shapes of letters, you can start to introduce the sounds to those letters.

A quick activity with letters – cut out some large lower case letters from magazines, pamphlets, leaflets and clean food packaging to have a gluing and sticking activity, sorting and grouping the same letter shapes together.

Watching the wheels go round

During a recent FaceTime call, an excited Daisy just had to show me her new scooter.
Daisy had seen her first scooter close-up when she was visiting one of her cousins.  He’s a couple of years older and Daisy watched him closely while he was using his scooter and, when she had a chance, she investigated his scooter. 
Now Daisy has her own scooter, and so I had to see the design on the deck of her scooter, the wheels and the handlebars.  While we chatted, Daisy’s play then focused on sitting beside the scooter and turning the wheels, watching the wheels go round and round.
First Teddy sat on the deck then Daisy sat on the deck and tried to move the scooter along with her feet.
For a while Daisy was frustrated that when she moved the handlebars, the front wheel moved as well.  So Daddy showed her how the handlebars turn the wheel direction and the wheel turns the direction of the scooter.  Daisy then spent time walking around beside the scooter, moving it with the handlebars and watching how the wheels changed direction and still went round and round.
During our phone chat Daisy may not have done any actual scooting, but she did find out a lot about how her scooter works and especially how the wheels go round.
Granny Smith says
All of this investigating is building on the knowledge that Daisy already has about wheels. It extends her understanding of how wheels work and the places where she sees different wheels in use.  It will also help to develop her skills using wheels in all types of construction play. This is an example of early STEM learning; Daisy is absorbing the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths involved in machines and motion.

Free the penguin! Investigating ice with a preschool child

A guest post by Daisy’s Dad

In recent weeks there’s been speculation about the likelihood of a chilly weather front reaching the UK, but freezing conditions have already taken hold in Daisy’s world.  This weekend, we had to free a penguin that had became trapped in the ice!

Messy activities with Daisy are usually the highlight of my weekend and this one did not disappoint.  The toy penguin in question came from the bottom drawer of our freezer.  He’d been encased in a disc of ice by Mummy, to provide us with a fun weekend activity; we got the idea from Daisy’s childminder, who had set up this educational play activity for Daisy recently.

Mummy froze the penguin (one from Daisy’s burgeoning collection of toy animals) in a small food container, leaving a nice round chunk of ice to play with.


Ice Ice, Daisy

We placed the ice on a foil-covered tray, arranged our materials – toy tools, a bowl of warm water, several pouring containers, and old tea towels for spills – nearby and dressed Daisy in her painting overalls (to try and avoid a change of clothes afterwards).  Then we went about trying to liberate the flightless bird.


Along with the penguin, Mummy had frozen some glitter and bright, shiny decoupage shapes (stars and leaves) into the ice. Including these extras makes the activity more engaging, because your child can see when she/he is being successful with their attempts to melt the ice. Daisy was still a long way from revealing the penguin in the centre of the disc, but she could see that she was making progress when these smaller elements began to come loose.

Thaw point

Daisy enjoyed hammering and chipping at the ice with her plastic tools, especially her hammer, but she discovered that the most effective way to melt the ice was with warm water.

We tried dribbling the water on with a beaker cup, pouring it on with a toy watering can and then with a toy teapot.  Every now and again, we’d see if we could prize the toy away from the ice.  The activity held Daisy’s attention right through until the penguin made his escape.


Setting the (snow) scene

To get into the mood for this wintery activity, I set up a video to play on the TV in the background, called ‘8 hours of snow falling on lake with relaxing music’ (we only needed 20 minutes of it to cover the exercise!).

Long-form videos like these are abundant on YouTube: they use static camera angles, calming music (or just ambient environmental noise) and a loop of minimal action.  In this case, there is only the persistent snowfall, the eddying water and the occasional duck paddling around.

If you want something that has a little bit more action but that still avoids the attention-eroding effects of many popular YouTube videos, the BBC Earth and BBC Earth Unplugged channels offer a good selection of slow-paced long-form nature videos (including oceans, jungles and grasslands) that can accompany, but not intrude on, long periods of free play.

Granny Smith Says

  • If you want to treat your child to a new toy, then provided it’s small and robust (like a hardy model animal) this activity can be a fun way to present it to them; at the end of the activity, they get a new addition to their collection. Toy animals offer excellent early role play opportunities.
  • The water you use should be lukewarm (not even ‘hand hot’); it will still melt the ice.
  • This should go without saying, but do not freeze anything electronic, nor anything that has moving parts that might be damaged by the freezing process.