Thursday, 29 September 2016

Simple DIY quiet bags

I find our quiet bags really useful - if you haven't heard of them then they are small bags which contain "pre-prepared" activities which are completely portable. They are great for waiting rooms at the doctor, when visiting friends who might not have children/toys lying around, in restaurants, when trying to breastfeed your second etc etc. The list goes on :)

And best of all you can put anything in them! Whatever works for your family and your toddler. And as they grow up you can adapt them and change them.

Here are 3 I've made in the last few months - all super simple and only a tiny bit of prep work. Each of them is stored in an A5 sized see-through "pencil case" bag with a zip so it is easy to see what is inside each one. 


Construction sticks bag

This was the first one I made. I collected lots of coloured lolly sticks and put velcro dots at each end on both sides. I then made some laminated cards with patterns on them (easier to see in second picture). D and Iz either try to copy the patterns on the cards or just freestyle their own building creation. The bag has about 30 sticks in it so plenty for them both to play with. We sometimes also use it as colour matching exercise and the sticks are good for early counting and addition/subtraction sums.

Fuzzy felt bag

We all played with fuzzy felts as a child but they don't seem to be in vogue at the moment? Nonetheless felt pieces are a great portable toy as they are very light and how to play with them is only limited by the child's imagination. I collected together a range of colours/shapes/sizes and had a few A5 sized sheets (pictured in second picture). Both D and Iz enjoy making up stories and patterns with the various pieces.

Whiteboard drawing bag

This bag contains a few A5 sheets with various designs which I've laminated. Don't worry if you don't have a laminating machine - just buy some laminating pouches and use an iron (full directions in this blog post). The sheets are:
- a seaside scene to colour in and add more details
- numbers 0-9 to trace or copy
- shapes to match and colour
The bag originally included a whiteboard pen but I got nervous about pen ending up everywhere so instead found these really cool dry erase crayons on Amazon which fit perfectly inside and come in a pack with 10 different colours.


Now if I know we're going a train journey or have to wait at the GP surgery I'll just grab one of these bags and know that we have a ready-made mess-free portable activity good to go :)

Note - originally I was going to make a "quiet book" (Google them if you don't know what I'm talking about - some are amazing!) but life and work and kids took over and I didn't have enough time so instead decided to make multiple different "quiet bags" instead. They actually have lots of advantages over a book, including that you can choose individual or multiple ones to take with you, and you can change the constituents easily to fit with your child's age and interests as they grow up.

If your family uses anything similar I'd love to hear about it :)

Playing with giant waterbeads

If you've already tried regular waterbead play then check these out - 10x bigger and sooo cool!

I got mine from ebay in a pack of about 35. You hydrate them in the same way, and actually to start with you can't tell they're going to be giant so it could be an exciting surprise for your toddler if they are used to the small ones.
Once they are hydrated you use them in lots of different ways - these are the things we did:

(note - as these are bigger than ping pong balls they are really satisfying for toddlers to squeeze in their hands... this meant our giant waterbead play ideas were mainly limited by the rate at which Iz in particular was destroying them!! I think they are also a bit more fragile than the small ones but they are just so fun!)

Playing I-spy

They loved that the other person became upside down and D had lots of fun making Iz different colours.

Shaving foam soup

You can't really go wrong with adding shaving foam to your play (as long as your child isn't still in the eat-everything phase). D and Iz spent over an hour putting the balls in trays of shaving foam, washing them off, putting them in again, and repeat! D made patterns of different colours, practising grouping them together whereas Iz just embraced (as always!) the mess...

Sorting colours

The colours are so vibrant, they were lovely to just look at. We played with them dry in a bowl and also in a tray full of water. Simple change but added a whole different feel to the sensory experience.

And finally... Squishing them

Well you can't be a complete spoilsport when that's what they really want to do!! ;)

Picture of innocence despite the squished ball between her legs...


A lot of these are similar to the games we played with regular waterbeads but the fact they are now giant lends a whole new dimension - I promise, give it a try!