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# Hands That Measure, Hands That Make

HANDS THAT MEASURE

Hands are an interesting way to explore size and measurement.  Some simple ways to explore size, length and width can be done around the house by simply using hands.  You first need to get you child and anyone else you want to involve in this activity to make a template of their hands.  Next, they need to draw around the hands and cut them out. 4/5 hands are usually plenty.   Once you have the cut outs here are a few activities you can do:

Activity 1.  HAND ORDERING:

Order the different hands according to size.  Children can collect and draw around different members of the families hands and then once the templates have been cut out order the hands from the biggest to the smallest or from the longest middle finger to the shortest middle finger.

Activity 2. MEASURING OBJECTS AROUND THE HOUSE

Make sure that the same hands are grouped together and go and measure different items of furniture and objects with the hands.  This is also a great way to introduce concepts such as half, a quarter etc.  They can even measure the same objects with different sized hands.

HANDS THAT MAKE

After sorting and measuring is over ,it seems a shame to leave all those hands lying around the house.  These hands make a perfect leaves to create a tree.  You need to help your child draw and cut out a tree trunk and with glue stick the hands to the trunk to make the leaves,  bringing a different twist to the whole idea of a family tree.

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For more creative math fun visit our pattern matching post Sock Extravaganza

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# From trauma to self healing: creative play activities for infants

No matter how hard we try to protect our children from traumatic events, sometimes the world has a way of working beyond our control.  In my own personal case, both my children have had to come through the trauma of prematurity and ongoing invasive tests, witnessing a beloved grandparent’s heart attack first hand and a traumatic accident that happened on holiday to one of my twins who is now fine.  As the people closest to our children, although we are not trained therapists and should never pretend to be, I have found that certain play activities naturally repeat themselves in our house and have enabled both of my children under 4 to find a way to open up about their fears, talk about these traumatic events and to find ways to overcome them or begin to deal with them.

As Campbell and Knoetze in a paper published in the International Journal of Play Therapy states, apart from the many positive benefits of play it has long been recognised that:

children’s play holds significant therapeutic value in providing a safe, protective, and containing space where children can recreate themselves and self-cure (Winnicott, 1942; Erikson, 1963; Landreth, 2002; Bratton, Ray, Rhine, & Jones, 2005).

After traumatic events it is important that the child feels they are in a safe place.  Once they feel they are safe they need time and patience to visit and often revisit the event in question, to make sense of it in their lives.  The amazing power of the child to find an outlet to heal and self cure is often evident in an act of play.

Here I want to share a few play or creative activities that my own children and I have used as vehicles to discuss and deal with traumatic events:

Medical roleplay:

This was one of their favourite role plays that helped them to discuss and frame the injections they were having.  They were doctors and they would dress in white shirts and have all the props and come an inspect the patient, usually me.  After a very quick assessment they would announce that I needed an injection, not just any injection but a big one and would need to stay in hospital for a long time.  They would then ask how I was feeling and sometimes I would be Ok , other times I would cry and they would reenact what had happened to them.  One would also take the role of patient while the other was the doctor and then play the injection game and run through various scenarios.   This would then allow us to open the door for them to talk about and try to process what had happened to them.  At the height of their medical treatment this was an intensive game but as time has gone on and we have talked, this game has almost disappeared and if it does reoccur the needle is usually smaller and the same fears are not expressed.  This roleplay also allows them to take control of the situation and be the doctor, to make some choices.

Reframing the situation, creating something new

This idea was reinforced by Aslihan Ozcan a psychotherapist and art therapist, through a talk she gave at the Turkish Women’s International Network. She has been conducting a project with Pediatric Oncology and Hermatology patients in several state hospitals in Turkey providing art therapy for children to discuss, frame and reframe their experiences.  She uses the materials that children are faced with in medical situations, such as medicine packacing, the safe parts of needles and gets children to create art from these materials.  This helped the children to frame, discuss and reframe what was happening to them.  On hearing this talk I realised that instinctively I had been doing this with my own children by using these materials in creative play and art.  The very act of being able to manipulate, control, change and create the materials that can give you pain are very powerful for the young child who is trying to make sense of what is going on.

Free painting and drawing: While one of my children is able to verbally express events and discuss them, one needs to draw or paint to be able to express how he feels about certain events that have happened to him.  After witnessing the heart attack of his grandfather, and I dashed home to be with my children and husband during this time his first need was to paint or draw.  He was two and a half.  He has done this on several occasions and it has helped him to find release and to be able to discuss and revisit events in a way he might not have done if he had not had access to that medium.

Play as preparation for potentially stressful events

Allison McDonald on her blog No Time For Flash Cards has shared her post about preparing her son for a visit to the hospital through pretend play in her post Hospital’s Don’t Have to be Scary: Pretend Play through fears and anxiety.  There is an amazing craft idea, free play and books recommended on this topic.  A prepared child is less confused by what is going on and has a frame of reference to wok from.

For anyone in contact with children a wonderful book is Windows to Our Children: A Gestalt Therapy Approach to Children and Adolescents by Violet Oaklander Ph.D (a very respected voice in this field),  which looks at creative acts and play that can create a pathway to discuss real events, make sense of them and find the pathway to self realization for children.  The author interestingly also recommended it as a way for those of us who never found ourselves as children as a possible path to find our own inner child.

PlayDrMum is a blog written by Laura Hutchison a psychologist specialising in children and play therapy who is also a mum.  She has a great definition on play therapy and the power of play and a fantastic bibliography for those wishing to delve further into this subject.

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# The Toddlers’ Guide to İstanbul: İKEDi puppet and music workshops

İdans06, the contemporary dance festival, has kicked off in İstanbul and will run from September 2012-May 2013.  As a part of this, İKEDi, a social creativity project, is touring in different parts of İstanbul offering free puppet making workshops in various locations throughout the city, open to participants who are 2 to 102.  The theme of the project is “we are all İstanbulites” and focuses on the animals we share this space with movement and music.  The mascots are several large cats that you might have already seen on the roads around Tuzla and Pendik last weekend.  For locations and other information visit İKEDi’s website.  Alternatively you can read the press clipping here.

For reactions to the İKEDi project and that play is not only reserved for children watch below:

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# Creative Play in the 21st century:Reflections and Resources

We don’t have TV in our house.  Our children sometimes watch cartoons from the Internet.  We have recently been on holiday where due to an accident to one of the children we ended up watching quite a bit of TV in the holiday rental.  Both of the children became like zombies and were no longer the lively, inquisitive, active individuals that they were at home.  Which really got me thinking about the benefits of play verses TV and screen based activities.

An article from July’s Newsweek, Is Playtime Over? by Blake Gopnik, has gone round and round in my head for the last few months.  This article was reflecting on a new MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art in New York) show Century of the Child, which explores the notion that the 20th century was where children were the fundamental core of investment in creativity, design, society and politics.  Gopnik opens his article with the statement:

Kids had it good in the 20th century. Designers gave them revolutionary playthings like Lego and Tinkertoys and the Rubik’s Cube, made to be both fun and good for them.

He then juxtaposes this beginning with the 21st century:

All of which makes me wonder about the 21st-century child. She’s wearing adult-only clothes, just like her midriff-bearing mom. High-design wooden toys have been displaced by games on the computer—which has left the playroom for the breakfast nook, so parents can police their kids’ cyberspace. And so dad can play the games too. Parents and children, heading off by the millions to watch the latest comic-book movie, seem to be living in a shared adolescent twilight. “I think that in many ways [childhood] has gone off the radar,” says Kinchin.

Has childhood gone off the radar, is the creative era dead? This article came at the same time that my local mothercare dramatically changed the type of toys they were selling.  Up until six months ago they had mainly been quite creative toys, such as painting sets, art packs, imagination toys or construction and suddenly the whole shop was generally filled with plastic toys where kids pressed a few buttons and the lights flashed.  I began to wonder why that was.

Perhaps many more parents both work full time.  Coming home from work exhausted one of the last activities that you might want to do is play.  In my own experience often jobs also don’t finish at work and there are emails and other tasks to be completed at home.  Creative toys need both the adult and the child to interact together, particularly in the early stages and this can be quite time consuming in the fast paced lives that we sometimes find ourselves.  It can take great effort not to turn on the cartoons or TV and engage in creative play.

A study commissioned by Ribena, Entitled The Ribena Plus Play Report surveyed parents about play and interviewed nine experts in the field of play.  It found that even though parents knew the benefits of  ‘traditional play’ such as, building blocks, role playing, dressing up, climbing trees, they were engaging less in it, due to daily stresses from work, fear that they needed to be fun and not knowing how to play creatively.

However the benefits of rule free, non-competitive play for the child’s development, confidence and self worth not to mention the child-parent bond , of creative toys and activities are well worth the effort (see an article from the Daily Mail , where although a bit extreme, the mother took all of the modern toys away and gave her children more traditional toys).

The experts from the Ribena study came up with a cheap box of items that would encourage more traditional or creative play:

Coloured paper

Drawing pencils

Wooden shapes or building blocks

Modelling clay

Toy figures

Cardboard pieces

There are a few other items I would also have in the house along with these:

• child safe scissors
• child safe glue
• old clothes for dressing up
• sticky tape
• whole cardboard boxes (see a wonderful short film about a child and his cardboard box here)

I have also found that there are some creative toys that are well worth investing in as they grow with your child’s imagination. For me the ultimate one is LEGO. It is so versitile and creative.  Steve Vassallo in his Forbes article reminds us to Buy kids Lego but Throw Away the Instructions.  For your own entertainment you might also like The Guardian short animations created with Lego, called Brick By Brick.

For more simple creative play ideas explore some of our posts:

Hocus Pocus Allakhazam: Magic in a Box

Exploring the world in your own Green Ship-Geography and Travel for 2+

An Adventure at Home with Cardboard Boxes and some Robot Screws

For a full range of creative play inspiration check out these two collective boards on Pinterest:

The Weekly Kids’ Co-op

Kid Blogger Network Activities & Crafts

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# The Toddler’s Guide to İstanbul: Basilica Cistern

İstanbul is a rich and vibrant city for people of all ages.  For some it may be daunting with young kids but İstanbul offers many wonders for the inquisitive toddler mind.  This is the first part in our Toddler’s guide to İstanbul.  Each guide entry will offer some cheat sheets of interesting facts as well as directions of how to get there   Our first experience and destination is The Basilica Cistern in Sultan Ahmet.

What’s great about the Basilica Cistern for young kids?

It takes them into a softly lit underground world that they have never experienced before.  It allows them to explore the history of a place.  It is also not to big or overwhelming for young legs to maneuver (although some parts are slippery so some attention is needed).  There are fish swimming in the water and two carved Medusa heads that interest them.

The Basilica Cistern Interesting Facts for Toddlers

• Built by Emperor Justinian I in 6th Century CE
• Before running water and taps, this held the water for the people who lived near by.
• No one knows the origin of the Medusa heads (But kids are fascinated by the fact that one is upside down and one is on its side).
• Medusa:  Although most of the story of Medusa might be a bit bloody or scary for the average 3-4 year old, the facts that I felt I could share were that she is a Gorgon sister, it was not safe for people to look at her, and people created large stones of her head to protect them from bad things.
• People forgot about the Cistern during Ottoman times.

1-A fun activity was to play spot the difference with the two Medusa heads as they are close to each other.

2-Search for the fish who appear and disappear.  How many different coloured fish are there? Which fish is the biggest?

3-Throw a coin into the water and make a wish.

4-Count a row of pillars.

Entrance Fee: Free for kids under 12.  Adults are 10TL, but teachers and students can enter for 5TL

Getting there: If you are living in or visiting İstanbul by far the best way is to ditch the car, get out of the traffic and use public transport.  Coming from the Anatolian side of İstanbul there is now the Metro option from Kartal to Kadiköy which connects you to a boat to the Karaköy/Eminönü port, or alternatively the overground train from Gebze to Haydarpaşa (Kadıköy) where you can directly connect to a boat to Karaköy/Eminönü (to the European Side).  On the boat you can feed the seagulls and see so much on the bosphorous.  Be prepared for the flood of questions.  From Karaköy or Eminönü take a tram in the direction of Zeytinburnu to the Sultan Ahmet stop.  From there walk down and you will see a sign pointing to the left for the cistern.  Cross the small sqaure on the left with the fountain and walk down the steps.  You will see a very small stone building which is the entrance to the cistern.

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# Figaro, Figaro…Is Opera possible with toddlers and young kids?

Good music is good music and in my experience if the music is of an excellent quality children of whatever age will enjoy it.  I have found this to be the case with opera.  While most young children would have difficulty sitting through a full length opera this does not mean that they cannot enjoy excerpts of opera or opera workshops focused at young children.  Sydney Opera House and the San Fransico Opera seem to be at the forefront of these initiatives with regular activities and in the case of the San Fransico Opera they even have downloads to explore story lines and characters.  However, what if you don’t live anywhere near the Sydney Opera House or other proactive and family friendly opera centres?  How could you go about introducing it?  Here are a few ways that have worked for me and my kids:

1-A light introduction through cartoons:  By far the favourite and repeated request is Bugs Bunny’s Long Haired Hare.  a principal aim of this has been to raise children’s awareness that opera exists and has provided a spring board to real operatic singers.

There is also the great 6 minute Chuck Jone’s Bugs Bunny animation for older children and adults of What’s Opera, Doc? reportedly based around Wagner‘s Ring Cycle.  This was also awarded one of the top 50 animations of all time.

2-Pavorotti and the Three Tenors:  Anything individually or collectively seems to go down well.  Children are often amazed by the combined power of the Three Tenors.

3-Certain Operas and extracts that have gone down well so far:

– The Magic Flute -Mozart

– Carmen – Georges Bizet

– Figaro – From the opera the Barber of Seville – Gioachino Rossini

4-A BBC Animation: the BBC created an animation of the Magic Flute for kids.  To watch the Animated version with activities based around it I have taken inspiration from  Playing by the Book’s Post entitled Stories in Tune The Magic Flute

I will close here and wish you the best on your opera journey with your kids.

For other music ideas you might like our post The Magical Power of Classical Music on a Child’s Life.

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# Activities to celebrate 41 years of Mr Men and Little Misses

We have been enjoying alternative fairy tales with Mr Men and Little Miss Story Treasury by Roger Hargreaves to celebrate over 40 years of Mr Men!  Who was the first character to be created in the Mr Men series?  Why was he created?  When was the first Little Misses created? For answers to these questions and links to the whole Mr Men and Little Misses story collection click here or alternatively click on the pictures below:

For each central character of a book there are some simple activities to do with your kids.  Here are some of our favourites:

#### 1:Mr Topsy Turvy: After reading Mr Topsy-Turvy we usually play two-three games:

a-Inside Out and Back to Front:  We turn our clothes inside out or back to front and the we do everything opposite.  So if one of us says forward the others in the game must walk backwards.  If the next person says run fast then the other players need to go slow and so on.

b-Brain stimulation game:  If it is Mr Topsy Turvy time we draw with our other hand and change the hand we usually eat with.

c-Backwards Codes: With older children you can also do the game of talking backwards, which becomes a secret code and creates hours of entertainment. Continue reading

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# Computer sites for toddlers-Games with surprises

Over the last two months my boys have mastered the laptop mouse so now they can play and do computer activities more freely.  A friend of mine who works professionally in computer game education reminded me recently of a few things: Continue reading

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# Moon Fever

We have moon fever in our house.  Serious moon fever.  Barış is obsessed with the Moon.  A month ago on the way home from creche he huffed and stopped walking.  Then he started pointing at the sky and was nearly in tears.  It turned out that the thing that had really upset him was that he hadn’t seen the Moon.  He was quite upset.  He asked me quite frankly, “mummy where is it?”.  Now that is a tricky question to answer particularly when it is dark because the answer needs clouds and these are hard to see at night.  I took a deep breath and explained to him that the Moon was there but he couldn’t see it because of the clouds.  At this point he started jumping up and down on the pavement, “clouds!? clouds!? Mummy you are joking, where are the clouds”.  Fortunately while quickly scanning the night sky I noticed a cloudless patch of dark sky where the color was slightly different and explained he could tell where the clouds were with the change in color.  I took a deep breath thinking I was off the hook when he then asked, “Why isn’t the moon there then?”.  Thinking how to explain this one, frantically I reminded him of the Sun and asked was it always in the same place and he said ‘no’.  I asked him ‘Why?’ and he looked at me with his big dark eyes and said in a matter of fact way, “Well because we (The Earth) is moving, we go around the Sun”, so then I went on to explain “the Moon also moves around us so we see it in different places”.  He got it.

So now we are on full Moon alert and every time he sees it we all need to stop and admire it.   Despite Moon madness in our house we have always explored the Moon.  Here are some resources you can use to explore the Moon: Continue reading

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# Accidental Chess Play for 3+

We got caught in the pouring rain and had to dive for cover in a coffee shop.  Except we were quite unprepared and it wasn’t really a child’s coffee shop.  With two three year olds there is only so much that they can take when trapped somewhere for a long period of time.  We had looked at all the pictures on the wall from a photography exhibition, talked with the owner, toured the whole of the coffee shop, made faces at strangers, counted cups etc and in that last moment of desperation when all was on the verge of chaos I spied a chess set, free and available for use.  I asked the boys if they wanted to meet a king.  We took the rolled chess set, tipped out the pieces, pulled out the board and they met chess for the first time.  They touched all the pieces, looking for the kings.  Then we looked for the queens and so on.  Then they asked why there was a board.  So I explained that it was a game and each piece had a place so they wanted to know where they all went and that’s how our chess began. Continue reading

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