The Many Uses of Lego

The Many Uses of Lego

Lego has been around a very long time. You will be hard pressed to find a person who hasn’t at least heard of the dynamic and ever loved toy that is suited for adults and children alike. In our house, Lego is something that we all engage with. For my children, they spend hours building, breaking, and rebuilding whole worlds in which their imaginations are let loose. For me and my husband, we have unlocked a whole new vocabulary of words we spout when we stand on said Lego creations, which are often scattered all over our house. As hard as it may be to find a child who doesn’t love Lego, it would be harder to find an adult who hasn’t stood on Lego without swearing like a sailor. That said, you cannot deny the amazing possibilities that come with Lego. Although it can be expensive to buy large sets, there are some very reasonably priced packs that can be worked and re-worked into a variety of different things. In this post, I share a range of things that you and your children can do with Lego. All of the ideas given are things that me and my own children have enjoyed doing. I hope they inspire you to try new things with your Lego sets. 

Boat Making

This was a great activity, that usually turns competitive in our house. Through the summer, we filled a small paddling pool and had a competition to see who could build the best boat, we started using recycled junk, however this quickly turned into a Lego building activity. This is great for hot days and water play. HOWEVER, you do not need to wait for the sunshine to play boat building. One of our favourite ways to play is to tape some paper down onto the floor and draw a river. The kids build their Lego boats and use their imaginations to create stories on the river (sometimes all afternoon). The Master of Mischief usually brings in bad guys, dinosaurs and a whole host of other toys to play on his Lego boat river. Regardless of how or what your boat looks like, this is a great way to encourage imaginative play.

Bridge Building

This activity idea often ties in with our boat making, bridge making is an excellent STEM activity that gets your children thinking about ways to construct a sturdy bridge. Again, you can stick a sheet of paper down and draw your own river. You can colour it blue for water or get creative and colour it green for slime, or orange and red for lava. Encourage your children to think of creative things to build to get their toys safely to the other side. The Master of Mischief really enjoys this activity and he has come up with so many innovative ways to construct his bridges.

Ring Toss

This was a game that we built on a rainy afternoon while we were bored. After making it, we somehow ended up playing for almost an hour and a half. All three children got involved. One of the reasons I liked it so much was the sheer simplicity of it. It was a small tabletop version of the beloved garden game which took no time at all to put together. We used pipe cleaners to make the rings for tossing. You can buy a pack of pipe cleaners from most craft places or cheap shops with a craft section. I bought ours from Poundland. The game was great for promoting hand to eye co-ordination, fine and gross motor skills, patience, and turn taking. I often find that the simplest ideas are the most fun.

3 in a Row

Another tabletop game that you can create from Lego is three in a row. This game is more commonly known as noughts and crosses. I have found over the years that my children can fill a whole notebook playing this game. I wanted a version that used less paper, so here we are. All you need is a small base piece, some dividers, and two different colours of small square bricks. Both of the girls have loved playing this. It is another great way to promote cognitive development and turn taking.

Lego for Teaching Fractions

I am sure that within schools they have a vast range of classroom resources that they use when teaching. For us though, Lego has become an invaluable tool while we have been home schooling. The maths work that we were receiving for Little Fairy and Kiki was all based around fractions. Trying to explain the whole concept of fractions, equivalent fractions, how one fraction can be the same as another was becoming tricky (pizza and pie will only get you so far). Lego became a great way to visually present the different kinds of fractions as well as allow the girls to add and subtract fractions. The different sizes of the pieces and the colours made it so much easier to explain and visually represent.

Symmetry

This is an activity that I have used for all of my children. You can make your patterns as simple or complicated as you like based on the age and ability of your child. We have used a medium sized Lego base which I split down the middle. I then made a pattern on one side and gave the Master of Mischief the blocks to recreate the pattern on the opposite side. It was a great activity which gave him a hands on approach to learning symmetry. As your children get older, you can make the activity harden by creating a more intricate and complex design for them to copy. If like me you have two children close in age, ask them to create a pattern and then swap and see if they can complete each other’s design. Meanwhile, you can put your feet up with a nice hot beverage (maybe a biscuit) and relax knowing your children are playing nicely and learning while they do it. 

There are likely to be a million more uses for Lego, these are just a few that we have enjoyed. If you have any special uses for your Lego that I can use with my children, please do share them. We love building with Lego and I hope that these ideas can motivate you to think and build outside of the Lego box.

Until next time…

Hannah XO.

Home Schooling: A Survivors Guide

Home Schooling: A Survivors Guide

As a degree student currently studying young children’s learning and development, I feel lucky that I have 3 children of differing ages at home. If I were a scientist, it would be like having 3 small lab rats. The only difference is that lab rats won’t ask you why green is a colour at 5.30am. As I work my way through the degree, I’ve found myself witness to theory in practice. I’m lucky to be able to see the theories we study unfold amongst my own children at home. As well as that, I can apply the techniques I am learning straight into practice and discover for myself what works and what doesn’t work for both me and my children.

So, when the country went into lockdown months ago, I decided to seize an opportunity and really throw myself into the whole home schooling experience. Well, what a rollercoaster it has been. My children being of differing ages created a problem straight away. My girls are aged 8 and 9 and while these ages are ideal for a home-schooling adventure, the 4 year old Master of Mischief became somewhat of a spanner in the works. As the girls were practicing times tables, he was charging around them in a cape. While the girls wrote letters and stories he was roaring like a T-Rex at the top of his lungs, you can see the pattern emerging.

The first week of the home-schooling was complete chaos. I had planned what activities we would do, however, I had neglected to factor in how to split my time between the girls and their academic work, and the energetic pre-schooler and his play. The other thing that really seemed to set me back was my resources. Before the lockdown, the Master of Mischief was in nursery 5 days a week. His entire routine was built around a free flow play environment, constant stimulation with amazing equipment and nursery staff on hand for any given thing. In lockdown, this is something that I didn’t have the time, space or funds to recreate.

After a little cry and a big glass of wine, I set about creating some at home activities that would be educational and stimulating for a four year old (for as little cost as possible). Websites like twinkl.co.uk have some amazing free resources for parents to download. They cater to children of all ages. I also put together a few enjoyable and stimulating activities with basic things I had at home, coupled with a few supplies I picked up from Poundland. I’ve listed a few of these below. They are great to whip out if the weather keeps you in and have helped me through numerous ‘mummy I’m bored’ moments.

Size Ordering

I found this activity on Twinkl (which is free). It is great for teaching my son ‘bigger’ and ‘smaller’ and he enjoys ordering the images and counting how many of each animal there is. Another activity that he has enjoyed is creating pictures with all the animals. Not quite what was intended, but it has been fun and engaging all the same. It is important that children are allowed to change and explore within any activity. I was amazed when he started positioning the cut outs to make a picture, it’s something that hadn’t even crossed my mind.

Number Sorting

I managed to but a pack of number fridge magnets from Poundland when I last went shopping. We only have a small fridge, so I also bought a baking tray. This activity cost £2 to put together and is extremely effective. It helps with ordering numbers as well as simple addition and subtraction (maths symbols are included in the pack of magnetic numbers) It is cheap and educational and was very well received by the Master of Mischief.

Small World Dinosaur Swamp

At the moment, to say my little boy likes dinosaurs would be an understatement. It is a borderline obsession, an intense interest at the least. So he has really engaged and enjoyed this activity. It was a simple under bed storage box with a couple of handful of chippings, a few scoops of mud and a cup of water. Boom, we had a swamp! He found and added sticks and leaves to create his own jungle and then filled it with dinosaurs and diggers. He played for an insane amount of time in this. It was messy (oh so messy!) especially with all the wet mud. The imagination that came from it though, was well worth the clean-up. You can substitute the dinosaur toys for anything which means that this activity can be catered to the likes of any child. You may wish to create a farm instead of a swamp and fill your mud with pigs. You could also use larger rocks in the mud as ramps for cars creating a ‘dirt track’. The possibilities are truly endless.

Dinosaur Bath

This activity follows directly on from the previous. After spending a long time playing with the dinosaurs in the mud, they needed a bath. We filled a medium size storage box with warm soapy water. After covering his dinosaurs in mud, the master of mischief thoroughly enjoyed cleaning them all off. He used a spare toothbrush to scrub all the mud off. As he was playing, we talked about how important it is to keep clean. Again, this activity can be tailored for any toy. You could even skip the muddy part and just give your little ones some plastic plates and cups to wash. Nurturing their independence and imagination is really important at this stage. Doing it without having to spend any money is a massive bonus!

These activities have really helped keep the Master of Mischief ticking over. When he is not engaging in free play with his own toys, he is playing with one of these structured (homemade) activities. It seems to be a good balance. The steps I have taken over the past couple of months have really worked to our benefit. We have managed to get through this far without spending a fortune on expensive toys or equipment. I hope that some of the ideas and tips I have shared can help you too. I hope everyone is staying strong and coping to the best of their ability during these difficult times. Remember, we are all in this together.

XO Hannah

Five Activities My 4 Year Old Loved That Cost Me Next To Nothing!

Five Activities My 4 Year Old Loved That Cost Me Next To Nothing!

One of my main passions as a mum is to make sure that my children are learning and developing but having fun while doing it. My other main passion is to spend as little as possible in the process. Running a five person household (or any household) on a low income is difficult. Entertaining any child, let alone three is also tricky, especially when it’s three days before you get paid, you’ve covered the bills, done the weekly shop and you’re left with exactly £9.78p to your name.

Fear not my fellow penny pinching parents. Here I share five activities that I have done with my children that have ticked all the boxes. They are fun, they are educational and most importantly, they cost next to nothing to do.

WATER PAINTING

This is a great activity for a sunny day when you hear the dreaded words of ‘I’m bored’. It is fun for all and all you need is a cup of water and a paint brush. You can improvise a bit if you don’t have a paintbrush, just chop up a kitchen sponge and use a peg for a handle (you don’t need the peg). Either way, a sponge is effective. All you need to do is give the kids a cup of water and off they go. You could get them to paint a patio surface, fence, or pathway.

SHADOW DRAWING

This is a fun activity which can be done outdoors or in. If you want to use the sun to create the shadows, you’ll need a nice clear day. If you use a torch (or a lamp) you can do this activity anytime. Find a toy that you want to use as your silhouette, for the master of mischief, this was dinosaurs. Position the toys on the paper and shine the light on them to create the shadows. Ask your little ones to draw around the shadow. We also swapped roles, so Teddy held the torch and I drew around the shadow. The activity led to all kinds of conversations about which toy made the biggest shadow and how the shadows changed when the torch was moved. Lots of learning, lots of social interactions and lots of fun.

DINOSAUR DIG

This is so enjoyable that even my older two got involved. You do need some ingredients, but you will likely have them in the cupboard and even if you don’t, you’ll be able to pick them up from Poundland or any cheap and cheerful shop. All you need is baby oil and plain flour. Honest – that’s all!! The measurements I used were 1kg plain flour mixed with 240ml of baby oil. Pop it into a big bowl or plastic box and mix both together. It makes a really soft sand. Once I’d made the sand, I buried the Master of Mischief’s dinosaur toys in its and gave him a paintbrush to ‘excavate’ the toys. The sand can be used to shape and mould however your children wish. It’s a great sensory activity that is cheap to create, smells nice and best of all makes very little mess.

ALPHABET PEGS

This is a relatively new activity that I have recently tried with my little boy. I was a bit sceptical that it would hold his attention however, I was delightedly surprised. It is a great way to encourage letter recognition. Again, you need a couple of things for this. Pegs, a marker pen and come card. As always, it’s nothing that can’t be found in a local Poundland or Home Bargains type store. I managed to pick up a pack of pegs for 99p at Aldi. I had some coloured card left over from an art pack Little Fairy got for her birthday, but if you don’t have coloured card and don’t want to buy it, just cut up a cereal box and use that. Write a letter of the alphabet onto each peg and then across the card, write out the alphabet. You can create a few different activities within this activity. You could remove all the pegs and get your child to match up each letter to it’s correct place in the card. Another way to play is to write out simple words and have your child find the correct letters to make the word. We sat and made the sounds of the letters. We also looked at the order the letters went in (yes, we sang the song, yes, I sounded like a bag of cats!) We also went through and thought about a different word that starts with each letter of the alphabet. It was an activity that lasted much longer and was better received than I had anticipated. It felt like a win!

MASKING TAPE TIGHTROPE

Masking tape is my absolute favourite resource for the kids. The amount of fun we have had from one roll of masking tape is insane! For this activity I wanted to develop the Master of Mischief’s movement skills, so I marked out some different patterns on the floor with the tape and he had to move along them in a ‘tightrope’ style. I encouraged him to move fast and slow using tiny mouse steps and big elephant (or T-Rex) stomps. Once he had enough of the movement game, he started lining his toys up across the tape, which brought us into a whole new game, developing new and different skills.

“Play is the highest form of research”

Albert Einstein

I feel like I could sit and type all day about the different things you could do within each of these different activities. I love playing!! (mainly because it is more fun than putting washing away), I also love that not every game or activity has to cost a fortune or require batteries. The interactions between you and your child during play are so important to their development, so put down the phones, accept that the dishes can wait and just play knowing that each time you do you are giving your child exactly what they need.

XO Hannah