Curious Me puts it best themselves; “Quite simply, we are passionate about play and play based learning.” Two sisters, three kids and a passion for learning through play makes Curious Me a unicorn when it comes to playgroups. Messy play, nature play, sensory play, you’ve heard how important it is to your little love’s development. (If you missed my last post you can read HERE about the importance of sensory play.) But if you’re up to date on the benefits and you’re now wanting some ideas, tips and a run down on the ten week playgroup that Everly attended, then read on!
It’s important to remember that there is no right way to carry out messy play. It’s about letting children explore different objects and materials without any end goals or plans. Eg; although a toy bus is fun, there’s only so much that a child can do with it. With things like sand, water, paint, playdoh, natural items (wood chips, stones, pinecones), their creativity can go in a myriad of directions. They spend longer exploring and are more involved when their brains are engaged in this type of imaginative play. Keep open ended materials in mind when you’re buying/finding/setting up play areas for your children.
While you need to allow your children to explore their own interests at their own pace, you can still guide and invite them to starting points.
Curious Me does this beautifully with a theme for each playgroup, multiple ‘invitation to play’ settings and a loose schedule for each session. (The themes for our term were; Dinosaurs, Science, Emotions, Transport, Weather, Numbers & Letters, Shapes, Nature Play, Our Favourite Things, Christmas break up.)
The schedule for each session includes; independent exploring, group singing/dancing, some more independent play and then a closing group song. Children don’t have to participate in the group activities, however I found that as soon as Everly heard the start of the ‘Hello song’ or the ‘Goodbye song’ she would run as fast as she could to get involved. Unless she was playing with water because #waterplayislife.
Through the independent play times children are free to roam and explore the invitation to play spaces. Each week there are a minimum of 7 spaces set up according to the week’s theme- this is 7 play spaces IN ADDITION TO the permanent play areas; a double sided mud kitchen, paddle pools of balls/water, a truck dirt pit, climbing frame, little tikes cars, swings and a trampoline. And chickens. Don’t forget the chickens.
Giving children the responsibility and control of their own time for the session allows them to feel in charge of their space and surroundings, and weigh up their own priorities. (I’m not saying let’s put the toddlers in charge of their own time all day every day! But, within reason, decision making is a vital skill for young children to learn.) This also offers you the chance to follow your child’s lead- to join them when they’d like you to, to offer a little bit of help when needed, and spend quality, uninterrupted time together.
The invitation to play spaces use a combination of natural elements, dyes, water, food, paint… almost everything you could think to use, has been used! (Most of it is edible!) And while there is always an ‘obvious’ way to use each activity, I was constantly amazed at the different ways Everly (and all the other kiddies) would come up with to utilise the materials. The more freedom to explore that your child is given, the more they stretch their brain and creativity.
See below for some more info on Curious Me, and a few ideas for some of the less ‘scary’ messy play ideas you can do at home! (You can also follow them on Instagram for some brilliant DIY ideas like these wooden playdoh stampers!)
The key philosophies at Curious Me are:
We get messy and muddy
We suggest never wearing good garments and to always bring a spare change of clothes. There is also a good chance you will get dirty too!
We Take Risks
So long as children are safe, we allow them to take acceptable risks, explore and trust their bodily awareness.
We Play Outside
Always bring along a hat, sunscreen and water bottle. If it is raining, pack those gum boots, rain coats and umbrellas.
We Encourage Each other
That includes parent or guardian involvement, sing along, laugh aloud and play a lot! Children are in the care of their parents.
We are Positive
We pride ourselves in creating an open, honest environment, free from judgement and pressures of parenting.
What you can expect from a term at Curious Me:
10 week program, weekly class run by an appropriately qualified early childhood educator
Themed class each week
Movement to music and physical activity
Access to a wide and ever growing range of open ended and educational based resources
Unstructured play, designed to encourage and age appropriately simulate curious little explorers
A variety of invitations to play; including dry sensory, loose part, small world, messy and nature play based stations
The opportunity to explore, get messy and muddy without having to clean up!
Try these ideas at home for some sensory play that won’t leave you hyperventilating about the mess!
Tea sets and bowls! Kids go nuts for them. Check your local op shop or $2 bargain shop.
Line up a HEAP of bowls, cups, pots, jugs, whatever you’ve got!
Fill them with varying amounts of water. (Obviously this one is best done outside)
Add a drop of food colouring to each bowl.
You’re done (it’s that simple) For extra points, add flowers, leaves, sticks or seeds.
Dry sensory trays are THE. BEST. Because everything can get vacuumed up. If I’m doing dry sensory play inside, Everly sits on a plastic mat (sometimes!) and if we’re outside I put Everly and the trays in to a big plastic clam shell. Mess= contained.
Kmart trays with handles are popular, but any tray will do the trick!
Tray 1: Salt. That’s legit it. White salt, pink salt. A bunch of spoons, bowls
Tray 2: Coloured rice. (Rice, a spoon of vinegar and a few drops of food colouring in a ziplock bag and shake. You’ll then need to dry the rice out overnight)
Tray 3: By far Everly’s FAVOURITE. Lentils, rice, dry alphabet soup mix (thanks, Aldi). Add in a few plastic cups, spoons and jars and she’ll pour and sift for 20 minutes.
Tray 4: Pom poms, bells, magnet sticks and tongs. Genius.
Tray 5: Lentils and small tiles. Ebay some sifting scissors and get your kids to try to capture all the tiles. (Or, if you’re Everly, tip the whole tray on the ground, pull out each tile by hand and say “DONE, Mama!”)
Tray 6: Cloud Dough. 2 cups of flour to 1/4 cup oil. (Baby oil gives a gorgeous texture, but coconut oil obviously makes it taste safe). Extra points if you add bi carb when making it… when it’s in the tray, give your toddles little spoonfuls or droppers full of vinegar- the cloud dough will fizz and bubble when mixed with vinegar