What town planners have in their playrooms

Sandydad is an urban planner, so it didn’t take much persuasion to get him to collaborate with me on this project.

We cut strips of black paper (A4, cut in half lengthways, plus a few pieces cut in a curve) and stuck them to the tiled floor of our playroom with small pieces of rolled up masking tape. Then Sandydad pasted white lines on top, and I followed him around with pieces of contact paper, making sure to leave no gaps and to seal it all to the floor so that we can still sweep and mop over the top.

Here’s the final result:

Sandydad couldn’t resist a bit of dodgy transport planning in the bottom left corner! He also opted for driving on the left, rather than on the right as is done in Gulf Town.

Dustyfeet wasn’t too fussed about which side of the road she should drive on!

We’ll cover this up with a rug when we get around to buying a playroom rug, and then we can get it out whenever we want to.  It’s just right for building a little town, doing a bit of construction work with a digger or two, or to complement T’s wooden railway.



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How to let your child draw on the walls

I owe an apology to those people who I used to think were permissive parents because they allowed their children to scribble on the walls. Dustyfeet has been demonstrating that it’s not always a matter of “allowing” something, so much as figuring out a way to stop it.

I could take her crayons away from her, but that would create histrionics, and besides, she is so enjoying drawing and colouring at the moment – and even starting to draw things that actually look like things – that it would be a shame to stop her completely. And I can’t supervise her at every moment of the day; she always manages to find an instant where my back is turned.

So we decided to try and channel her attention towards a particular patch of wall. We used masking tape to tape two long strips of a roll of Ikea easel paper to the wall that is often the target of Dustyfeet’s artistic endeavours, and we told her that she could draw as much as she liked within the masking tape, but not outside. Generally, she’s been pretty good at sticking within the boundaries (although we have had one or two unpapered incidents). She also seems to have really enjoyed the process of filling the paper, so much so that we’ll be putting some more up very soon. Somehow, she just seems to prefer drawing on a vertical surface.

If you’re trying to keep wall art under control, this approach really helps, although it does require a fair amount of reminding. We’re also finding that washable markers (Crayola ones are best) are very much easier to clean off the paint than wax crayons, which will not scrub off and are really difficult to paint over. If you don’t have (or don’t like) Ikea nearby, wallpaper lining makes brilliant drawing paper too.

Now, does anyone have a good natural method for getting crayon off the walls?

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Autumn tree

We’ve been going to a sensory play class recently at Bright Minds, a nursery that isn’t really a nursery, because the parents get to stay and attend classes with their kids. This week, the theme was Autumn (or rather, Fall – the teacher is American). We played with cassia sticks (a big version of cinnamon, and vaguely bark-like) and wheat, shredded paper in autumnal colours, and plastic leaves. It’s hard to do autumn in Gulf Town!

Today Dustyfeet and I decided to continue the theme and make an autumn tree. I cut a tree shape out of a large brown paper bag (there’s more paper than you’d imagine in an Ikea bag opened out flat) and stuck it on a white background. Dustyfeet wasn’t overly impressed; she looked at it critically and said “No good, Mummy, it needs leaves!”

Well, of course it does! For leaves, we traced our hands onto a sheet of paper and I cut them out (to save time, I cut through several layers of orange, red, green and yellow paper). Then we stuck the tree to the wall and pasted the leaves on.

We talked about how the leaves change colour and fall to the ground, and Dustyfeet had great fun experimenting with dropping our “leaves” from a height and watching them flutter down. Then she danced around the room pretending to be a fluttering leaf.

She also discovered that the finished tree was a great place to put the Winnie-the-Pooh stickers she was given at a birthday party the other day.

We spent quite a bit of time talking about the creatures on the stickers – bees, butterflies, a hedgehog and a squirrel – and where in the tree they might be found. Dustyfeet had the final say on where they ended up though!

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Cupcake case turtle

Yesterday Dustyfeet wanted to do some sticking. I keep a small tray full of bits and pieces of interesting and colourful paper for such occasions, and in the tray I found a whole pile of tiny brown cupcake cases. They came with posh chocolates in them and were therefore clean enough to recycle and use in an appropriate moment.

Here is what we did with them:

I drew the turtle on a cereal box and cut it out, then Dustyfeet did most of the sticking. We used a very small bottle of white craft glue (PVA style). It’s the first time Dustyfeet has really worked with that kind of glue, and she was very good at squeezing the bottle carefully and putting just a small amount of glue on each cupcake case. I plan to buy a big bottle of glue and just keep refilling the smaller one, as it’s just the right size for her.

When we had finished one turtle she wanted to do another one. I traced around the original turtle but on the reverse side of the cardboard, so that we could stick the two turtles back to back and be slightly three-dimensional.

Dustyfeet got a bit carried away with the googly eyes on this one (a brilliant new addition to our craft cupboard), and made a turtle monster.

I helped her to dot glue all over the back of one of the turtles, and we stuck them together. Now I just need to dig out some string and find a good place for it to dangle!

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Melon ball boat

We had friends over for dinner the other night and I bought a beautiful ripe melon from the bakala next door, for dessert. With an ice cream scoop, I scooped all the melon into balls and piled them into one half of the melon.

The result looked rather boatlike, so as dinner was all ready and I had a few minutes to spare, I decided to embellish. One straw for a mast, a piece of paper with two holes in it for a sail, and a doll from Dustyfeet’s duplo as a sailor, and here was our dessert, all ready to sail to the dinner table!

This is a dessert that could easily be made with a child (a melon baller might be a better tool than an ice cream scoop). Dustyfeet was out playing with the neighbours when I made it, so she didn’t help me this time, but she was delighted with the final product when it came sailing into the room.

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Swimming pool cake

Dustyfeet celebrated her second birthday while we were back in the UK. Here is her birthday cake:

The idea came from my mum’s Australian Women’s Weekly birthday cake book, which dates back to the 1970s. I used to choose a cake from it every year for my birthday.

To make a swimming pool cake, start with a round sponge. Cut a slight hollow in the top of the cake. I put a bowl on the cake and traced around it with a knife, then hollowed it out. You should have about a 1 inch border around the edge.

Cover the hole with the bowl and ice the sides and edges of the cake with butter cream icing.

Remove the bowl and fill the “pool” with mashed up green jelly.

Line the sides of the cake with chocolate fingers for a fence. The ladder is made out of two bent straws with toothpicks for steps, and it’s anchored in place with jelly sweets.

Add more jelly sweets for water toys, and a small dolly or two having a swim.

Add candles and present to your two year old! This one was very excited. She liked the chocolate fingers better than the cake, though.

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Pompoms and an egg box

There’s a stack of egg trays in our maid room; I keep them because I’m sure there must be all sorts of great things you can do with them. The other day I finally thought of one.

Dustyfeet tried out this one-to-one correspondence activity at a Montessori nursery we visited one day, and I realised an egg tray was just right for it. She started transferring the pompoms from the bowl to the tray using a small plastic spoon, but this quickly got boring.

Then I gave her my tweezers (the ideal tool would be a pair of teabag tongs, but we don’t have any) and she found this much more challenging and interesting. I had to show her several times how to hold the tweezers and which end to use, and it took her a while to remember not to let the tweezers open too quickly and drop the pompom on the floor.

She kept saying “You do it, Mummy”, but then she would take the tweezers from me and try again and again. She kept coming back to it, throughout the afternoon, and was getting quite accurate with her “sneezers” (as she called them) by the end of the day.

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