Hide and seek

“Let’s play hide and seek! You cover your eyes and count to ten, I’m going to hide under the chair.”


I don’t think The Child’s quite got the principles of hide and seek.

Super-quick (and cheap!) portable small world play

I bought some second hand and variously-sized plastic animals and dinosaurs off eBay and a charity shop. I originally wanted to make sensory bottles for The Child (inspiration from Modern Parents Messy Kids), but after an initial bout of interest, she — frankly — couldn’t really be arsed with them any more.

She has got to the age where imaginary play has started to take hold, so I looked up small world play, and while many of the ideas look beautiful, I simply do not have the time — nor patience — to hand sew, or even glue, these creations.

Enter the cheapskate’s version that is adaptable and you won’t cry if you lose bits.

Super-quick (and cheap) portable small world play

Supplies you’ll need:

  • Plastic box or takeaway container, something that will fit nicely in a bag (and has a lid that closes properly);
  • Felt in a few colours (corrugated cardboard and cardboard from cereal boxes will also do);
  • Scissors (I used embroidery scissors because I was working with felt)
  • Miniature dinosaurs, safari animals, zoo animals, farm animals (one or any or all of the above); and
  • Scene-setting elements like packing material, large pebbles, glass pebbles, winged seeds, whatever you’re able to pick up.

First, cut a piece of felt or cardboard to make a base for your small world. I eyeballed it against the bottom of my box because my tailor’s chalk was in another room and while The Child was playing at washing her Duplo, I could tell her absorption in the activity was beginning to wane.

Then, cut out other shapes to help set the scene. I had blue, so I made a pond, and green for bushes / grasses. We also have a pebble from the beach in Halifax, Nova Scotia, that The Child picked up when we were on holiday, and some packing material from a recent delivery.

Add your animals / dinosaurs to the box, and you’re done. I think this box took me less than five minutes to assemble. I plan to change bits around as The Child gets bored with its contents.

If you have more time / inclination to indulge your craftiness, here are some other ideas:

Plastic box fun: scissor practice

This is the first in a series of what you can do with a kid, a plastic box, and things you can usually find around the home.

Plastic box fun: scissor practice

All you need are:

  • a plastic box, or whatever you tend to use in sensory play;
  • a couple of free magazines / unwanted flyers and junk mail that come through your letterbox;
  • a couple of pairs of scissors (we don’t use safety scissors, but it’s up to you)

If there are any staples in your magazines / junk mail, remove them. Then invite your kid to come play snipping and cutting paper. The Child loves doing this, so we can spend ages counting to five and shouting ‘snip!’. I can also leave her for short periods of time — by that I mean put the scissors down and do something else while still next to her.

She’s at the age now where I want her to improve her scissor skills, and this is a free (or very cheap) way of doing it. Her hand strength has definitely improved — and she still has all her fingers.

Why I let The Child play with her food

Why I let The Child play with her food
Spooning rice porridge from one bowl to another

(Within reason, mind. She’s been told this can only happen at home.)

I don’t want to stifle The Child’s capacity for asking herself questions (eg. What happens if I do this?) and actually trying to answer those questions with ‘experiments’. Having had a fussy eating childhood myself, I’d also like her to think of food as fun, and not something to get told off about.

Parents know their children well enough to be able to tell if their toddler is being inquisitive, or has decided to see how far they can push the ‘naughty’ boundaries. It’s a look in their eyes — there’s a definite twinkle there when they know they’re being naughty.

In the above instance, I stopped her and cleaned up after she started rubbing the porridge into the table, because she knows exactly what happens when she does that.

Playing independently… will it ever happen?

As a pregnant mother of a toddler, it would help me so much if The Child would play independently. We rush around enough as it is, her social calendar is pretty full. I’ve taken her lead when watching her play at friends’ homes, and have bought toys she seems to enjoy (mostly second hand, I’m also incredibly cheap frugal). She currently has a doll’s house, lots of little people, play kitchen, vacuum cleaner, castle (that is ridiculously enormous), dressing up clothes, and a few Early Learning Centre Happyland sets.

But does she play with them at home? For about five to ten minutes, maybe. Then she needs me to get heavily involved. WHICH WAS NOT PART OF THE PLAN. She can play with these for ages if — and only if — she has someone playing with her. As I can’t squeeze out a newborn at an already toddler-level stage of development, I need another plan.

As many mums have told me, their toddlers tend to start watching a lot of television around this time. As The Child already has a well-established television addiction (*hangs head in shame*), she doesn’t need any more than she already consumes. So I’ve been trying to distract her with all sorts of suggestions*.

playing independently - will it ever happen

But some of the time, I do let her tell me exactly what she wants to do, and this morning it was giving some of her little plastic toys a bath in the sink. All I had to do was set it up for her, and she happily played for over half an hour, while I got some laundry folded and put away. AND THEN I REALISED THE ESSENTIAL TRUTH OF A TODDLER’S INDEPENDENT PLAY:

Stuff your kid likes isn’t enough. Your kid needs to LOVE doing whatever it is in order to be so absorbed they don’t need you there.

(In our case, I need to be within earshot so I can respond to her running commentary / monologue.)

The Child adores messy and sensory play. Give her pens, paper and scissors, glue, soapy water, shaving foam, ice, paints, play dough, cloud dough, mud, or snow — and she’s happy as Larry. Unfortunately for me, this means most of her independent play needs to be at least lightly supervised (i.e. eyes on her most of the time), but it’s better than being forced to follow her around with a hand puppet, pretending to be a unicorn with no legs.

(Yes. Seriously.)

Here are other handy tips on encouraging independent play from:

* This is where I’m not really that lazy. I am an extensive list maker. I have a big list of possible activities when staying at home.