A Day In The Life With Two Kids – My Survival Strategies!

I’m Vicky, mummy to Abigail (3yrs) and Charlotte (3mths). I’m also a children’s occupational therapist (OT), working with children of all ages and abilities. So, my life pretty much revolves around play! When I had my first baby, I would spend hours every day playing with her. But when number 2 came along…well, I discovered that it’s a completely different ball game!

I soon found out that trying to make quality time for my toddler, while juggling feeding the baby and nap times (why do babies hate napping so much?!), is so tricky. Of course, the toddler needs a wee or a snack at the *exact* time the baby is just closing her eyes, and the minute I put her down, she’s wide awake and we have to start all over again!

I needed a plan to keep my toddler busy during these times… and play has been my saviour! I started to set up quick, fun play activities for my toddler just before feeding/nap time, in the hope it would keep her entertained for even just 10mins while I settled the baby. 3 months down the line, and this has saved my sanity! So, I thought it would be great to share some of my most successful play ideas to help survive those tricky times, or even just to grab a HOT cuppa at least once a day – it’s the little things!

STICKERS

Toddlers love stickers, right?! My top tip would definitely be to invest in a sticker book and bring it out at feeding/nap times.

  • Draw an animal on a large piece of paper and draw several dots on it’s body, using different coloured pens. Grab some coloured spot stickers, and see if your toddler can match the sticker to the correct coloured dot on the animal.
  • Mix it up a little, by using different materials. We collected stones from the beach one day, and she loved sticking her stickers on the stones to decorate them!

PLAY-DOH

Yeah, I know play-doh can be messy. But, what I find helps, is setting it up on the kitchen table where I don’t mind if bits get on the floor (definitely avoid carpets!) and sitting next to her so I can chat to her as she plays and make sure it doesn’t end up squished on every surface in the room.

  • Set up some favourite teddies or dolls for a tea party. See if your toddler can make some lunch for each of her teddies by rolling, poking and squishing the play-doh.
  • Hide beads inside balls of play-doh. See if your toddler can pick apart the play-doh to find the beads and thread them onto a lace.

GET THEM MOVING!

Anyone else’s toddler suddenly have an intense need to jump, climb, crash and bang as soon as you’re trying to settle the baby? I’ve discovered that if I try to stop her, she just craves it even more. So I decided to set up some movement games for her, so at least I could try to contain it as much as possible!

  • Throw all the sofa cushions on the floor to make a mountain, sofa slide or stepping stones, and let them jump and climb away!
  • Take 5 coloured pens and 5 bits of paper. Scribble on each piece of paper with a different coloured pen. Stick the paper onto the wall, just a little higher than they can reach. From the sofa, you can call out a colour and have them jump and tap the correct coloured paper.

These are just a few of the different play ideas that have worked for us, to help keep me sane, in a crazy time of our lives! If they can help you grab 5 minutes peace with a hot cuppa, then I’ll be happy 😊

I started Play for Today to capture and share all our play ideas at home, but pretty soon I was being asked for more and more ideas from lots of mums – and this is how our Play Packs were born! We now have 7 Play Packs: Fine Motor Skills, Gross Motor Skills, Pre-Writing Skills, Sensory Play, Outdoor Play, Life Skills and Baby Play. Each Play Pack has over 40 activity cards with quick and easy ideas to play at home… no fancy set ups, no expensive equipment… just lots of fun! Come and join us over on Instagram or Facebook for lots more play ideas, tips and resources for your babies and kiddies!  

http://www.facebook.com/OTplayfortoday   

http://www.instagram.com/otplayfortoday

Pre-Writing Skills

As parents, we hear this term ‘pre-writing skills’ all the time, and how important it is to ‘work on them’… but what even are pre-writing skills? What should we be doing? When should we be doing it?!

As an Occupational Therapist, I work with children and families every day who ask me these questions. They often feel pressure from their child being very young, to be working on all these skills, without anyone really giving them any concrete ideas of what to actually do! So, more often than not, parents come to me confused and frustrated that they can’t get their child to sit at a table and practice their drawing and writing. Please trust me…this is completely normal!

Firstly, what even are pre-writing skills? Pre-writing skills are lots of little skills that a child needs to develop before they are ready to write. This includes being able to hold a pencil, to scribble, to draw shapes and to colour. It also includes fine motor skills such as hand eye coordination, hand and finger strength, manipulating the pencil, being able to coordinate both sides of the body together, crossing the middle of your body to reach across the paper, developing a hand dominance… the list is endless!

So as a parent, where on earth do you start then?! My answer is always this… PLAY! Children love to play! It’s how they learn about themselves and their world, and it’s amazing how many skills they can develop when they are ‘just’ playing.  Here are few activity ideas, which seem super simple, but are excellent for developing your child’s pre-writing skills…

  • Play-doh – rolling, squashing, chopping, hiding objects in a play-doh ball
  • Threading – different sized beads/pasta on to pipe cleaners/thread
  • Tongs and tweezers – practice picking up different size objects, sorting by colours or shapes
  • Mark making – provide novelty pens & pencils, paints, crayons, scented pens etc and let them scribble with no agenda. Mix it up by using different objects, such as a cardboard box or an egg carton to paint!
  • Building with lego, construction toys or playing with nuts and bolts
  • Opening bottles and jars – fill them with pom poms, beads, raisins, cherrios, glitter, water etc to make sensory bottles
  • Water and sensory play – pouring, scooping, mixing, stirring, sieving into lots of different bowls or containers
  • Hide the table and chair and explore different positions for play! For example, lying on their tummy on the floor, drawing on a piece of paper on the wall in the garden, drawing on the pavement with large chalks. So much more exciting! Check out https://playfortoday.home.blog/2019/05/08/sit-still-and-listen/ for more ideas!

By working on these simple skills through play, you and your child will have so much more fun! And you can also be smug in the fact that they are developing lots of their pre-writing skills along the way too. So I guess my message to you as a parent, is to ditch the pressure and keep it super simple… as long as your child is PLAYING, they are LEARNING! 

I started Play for Today to capture and share all our play ideas at home, but pretty soon I was being asked for more and more ideas from lots of mums – and this is how our Play Packs were born! We now have 7 Play Packs: Fine Motor Skills, Gross Motor Skills, Pre-Writing Skills, Sensory Play, Outdoor Play, Life Skills and Baby Play. Each Play Pack has over 40 activity cards with quick and easy ideas to play at home… no fancy set ups, no expensive equipment… just lots of fun! Come and join us over on Instagram or Facebook for lots more play ideas, tips and resources for your babies and kiddies!  

http://www.instagram.com/otplayfortoday

http://www.facebook.com/OTplayfortoday

Sit Still And Listen!

How many times have we said this to our kids?!  Did you know that children NEED to move their bodies in order to stay focused and learn? And this goes for all children actually, whether they’re 2 or 12…movement is so important at all ages. As an adult, have you ever had to sit through a lecture or a long film, and find yourself swinging or tapping your foot, chewing your pen, biting your lip, fiddling with your hair, shifting position in your chair every few minutes or doodling on some paper? Even as adults, we find it so difficult to sit still and concentrate, so you can imagine what it must be like for our little ones with all their bundles of energy!

As a children’s Occupational Therapist, I have worked with children of all ages and abilities for many years and this is still the biggest ‘light bulb’ moment for parents, when they realise that it’s ok to let their child move. Actually, it’s better than ok, it’s perfect! I spend lots of time chatting with parents about different positions for play and how to incorporate movement in to every play opportunity throughout their day.

When children are fidgeting and finding it difficult to sit still, they are unconsciously trying to activate a clever little nerve in their inner ear, which helps them to stay alert and focused. The only way to activate this nerve so that it can do its job, is… to move! As we know, attention spans in young children are quite short, so the best way to keep them focused is to allow them lots of movement.

When my daughter came along I began to experience first-hand, her need for movement during play and learning opportunities. So, every day we try our best to get as much movement in to our play, and we experiment with our bodies in lots of different positions to keep us focused (I say ‘we’… 6am daily wake up calls, definitely means that I need as much help as I can get to stay focused too!).

Working at a table and chair for activities at home can be lovely, but here are some of my favourite alternative positions for play:

  • Lying on our tummy
  • Lying on our back
  • On all fours (crawl position)
  • High kneeling
  • Half kneeling
  • Standing up

Of course, it’s absolutely fine for children to spend time playing at a table too! But I like to think about how I can change the activity to get a much movement in as possible.  Here’s some ideas for you to try!

  • Shape and colour matching – place objects of different colours/shapes at one end of the room in a basket, and a piece of card with the colour/shape drawn on, at the other end. Have your child collect the objects and match it to the correct card. But here’s the fun part – can they get across the room crawling like a bear, hopping like a rabbit or jumping like a frog?
  • Learning to draw shapes – tape the shape out on the floor and have them walk, jump, hop and crawl around the shapes. You could make it really exciting by using trays with different sensory materials in to make your shape, and have them walk barefoot around it. Can they guess the shape?
  • Puzzle scavenger hunt – hide pieces of a puzzle around the room. Find them and match them up to complete the puzzle!
  • Jump & Tap – stick some colour/shape/letter/number/word cards on the wall, but make sure they’re too high for them to reach when standing! Call out one at a time and have them jump to tap the correct card.

I started Play for Today to capture and share all our play ideas at home, but pretty soon I was being asked for more and more ideas from lots of mums – and this is how our Play Packs were born! We now have 7 Play Packs: Fine Motor Skills, Gross Motor Skills, Pre-Writing Skills, Sensory Play, Outdoor Play, Life Skills and Baby Play. Each Play Pack has over 40 activity cards with quick and easy ideas to play at home… no fancy set ups, no expensive equipment… just lots of fun! Come and join us over on Instagram or Facebook for lots more play ideas, tips and resources for your babies and kiddies!  

http://www.instagram.com/otplayfortoday

http://www.facebook.com/OTplayfortoday

Welcome!

Hello and welcome to my page!

I’m mummy to Abigail (3 years old) and Charlotte (3 months old). I’m also a Children’s Occupational Therapist, helping children develop their physical skills through play. So, basically, my life pretty much revolves around play every day!

If you’re looking for some quick and fun ideas to help your child develop their fine motor skills, gross motor skills, sensory play skills and pre-writing skills, then you’ll find lots of ideas here! These are all super simple games that can be set up within a few minutes, and will encourage your child to learn through PLAY… no pressure, no rules, just lots of FUN!

I’ll be sharing all my top tips for play, resources and activity ideas for you to use at home with your little one, so keep checking back in for new blog posts!

Come and join me on Instagram http://www.instagram.com/playfortoday and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/OTplayfortodayfor even more quick, fun play ideas!