Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Post Office Pretend Play

The post office is a place we rarely "visit" but somehow the children still know this is where we ship and pick up our packages and as such...the post office is an awesome place. For this station, I thought we'd do more than simply pick up packages and drop them off though. I wanted the children to wrap and "address" their packages, affix postage and cancel their "stamps", etc. I also wanted to offer "extra" activities that correlated with the post office: a philatelic society where the children could learn about stamps, handle a few and start a collection. Needless to say, they quite liked that club and are quite happy to have their own little collection of stamps...


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Post Office Register; a nice week means we
get to play pretend outside!

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Various post office forms, packaging tape, magazines to mail, etc.

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A few small empty boxes, air packs and bubble wrap. The children
chose to wrap some zoo animals that day.

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Post Office register area, complete with scale, "stamps" (christmas
stickers shaped like stamps!) for sale and canceling stamp.

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Canceling stamps is fun! Some got cancelled
many times! :)

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A freshly cancelled letter!

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Philatelic Society: Brought this out after the kids had been playing
a while; provided was a magnifier, some stamps ripped from old letters
and two small dish with water...

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Soaking stamps so they can be peeled off their envelopes.
Sadly, more and more stamps are stickers and can't quite be peeled.

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For our Philatelic Society, I purchased (as a treat!) two stamp kits:
a dinosaur one for my son and an insect one for my daughter.
They examined their stamp and learned how to mount them!


Wrapping objects has long been an activity the kids enjoy. They sometimes borrow gift bags and silk paper to make pretend presents just so they can open them, so of course, the post office packaging section was busy for a while. Stamping the stamps was also a big winner (who doesn't like stamps?) but not nearly as much as the Philatelic Society. They loved opening their little kits and looking at their new stamps. Mounting them with the hinges was rather difficult so we didn't do a lot of that but discussing where the stamps came from, what was featured on each, trying to sort them by collection...that was good enough for them! 

P.S. If you intend on replicating this activity outside, may I suggest an absolutely calm-non windy day? ;)

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Super Propre Car Wash Pretend Play

Who is getting hot summery temps? I must say last week was a super hot, sunny and "sadly" non-breezy week for us in Germany. We hit the pool but also needed more to keep us cool. The kids suggested popsicles and gelato but I thought better...something more lasting and less calorific: a car wash! Oh the fun we had! Mind you if you plan on trying this at home, make sure that like me, the kids (and possibly yourself) are in bathing suits. They will get wet and that is a big part of the fun and refreshment of a hot "summer" day. Our pretend play was indeed a bit less pretend this week as the kids really got to wash cars but well, I didn't go so far as to let them wash our real vehicles...

car wash pretend play
Welcome to the Super Propre Car Wash! Sponges, cloths, squeegee,
bucket of soapy water, hose, "window cleaner", duster, you name it!

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Car wash supplies. Nothing fancy. Thought about putting some
empty wax containers and wheel sprays and such but thought
we'd stick to stuff we could actually use on that hot day.

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The hose was the most beloved item at the
car wash. Everyone wanted it all...the...time
(p.s. our lawn was SO thankful for this activity!)

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Little Z chose to dust her car first. She washed her car many,
many times that afternoon...

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What's more fun than a big bucket filled with
soapy bubbles? So sensorial.
Made ours blue and warm! :)

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Dusting, cleaning, scrubbing, rinsing...the kids had a blast!


The car wash was the pretend play station my son most related to. I had mentioned that we'd do this one as soon as the temperatures would get into the 30s (Celsius) and there was no pushing this one further by one day. He was looking forward to it and participated longer than he usually does in our pretend play sessions (he is very anchored in reality and doesn't do the pretend thingy...). My little girl, well, she is asking everyday to host a car wash despite the fact that the temperatures have dropped by OVER 10 degrees now. :) She washed and detailed her car for over 1hour that day! That's right! Simply loved it. But then again, she loves to play pretend. Loved the grooming salon, liked the shoe store and library set up as well and will probably enjoy whatever we'll do next! To see our pretend play station line up for the summer, check out my previous post here.

P.S. Let the kids be the kids today...if you put the hose out for use, let them handle it by themselves after a short lesson on how it works and how to use it. They will be so proud of themselves and it's good for their fine motor skills to work that trigger. You may, on the other hand, make it clear that the hose is for rinsing the play cars only before the final hand-out...You'd be surprised at how creative kids can be when it comes to watering down the "stuff" around them...:)

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Children's Library Pretend Play

As a child, I loved playing "library". To tell you the truth, I think it had something to do with those little library cards in pockets housed at the back of the books. I simply loved stamping them and changing the dates on the stamp and all that. Nowadays, the pockets, cards with return dates and stampers have pretty much disappeared from libraries. When my children accidentally find an empty pocket at the end of a book we borrowed from the library, they always ask me what it's for. :) Times are changing... As such, for our library pretend play station, there was sadly no stamper with cards and pockets (although I DID consider it). Instead, the entirety of that was replaced by a "simple" scanning device such as the one we use at our own library! :) The weather was gorgeous and warm this week by the way so we played outside. (I apologize in advance for the glare in the pictures!).


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Reading Outside...A great idea on a warm day! Here, a book display at the story time table.

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A library shelf featuring a child's astronomy section...and a record player...

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Lots of books on planets in our library that day. Tried to pick
according to the kids' interests to make play time even more fun!

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The computer area of our library...Very popular. My son had
forgotten all about his "laptop" actually! :)

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Our library also featured a few DVDs to check out. We have
hundreds of family DVDs but bringing them all out would have
been insane so I made a selection: princesses and Thomas & Friends

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The kids enjoying books "in the library"

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Library check out system. Also had some free bookmarks
for grab, a poster advertising Story Time and a fundraiser!

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The kids' handmade library cards and bookmarks

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Our library fundraiser: gummy worms for bookworms! :)
These were very popular indeed! Bag topper: Simple As That

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Story Time table: I'm sure you've guessed that our theme was Maisy Mouse? Both my kids love
the rodent so I dedicated the table to her.  I borrowed new books from our library too.

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After story time was over (we read 3 new Maisy stories), I showed
"Create with Maisy" and invited the kids to do one of Maisy's crafts!
They were thrilled and we've been doing one a day ever since!

Library Pretend Play is pretty much a classic station but I felt this one required a bit more involvement on my part as I did read the stories. I do prefer when pretend play is really all about the kids doing the actions and using their imagination. Also, the kids didn't enjoy this set up as much as the grooming salon and shoe store we did previously. I think the warmth of the day (that redness on the cheeks ain't from rouge!) had to do with it but it might also have been due to the fact that there wasn't enough to "pretend about/with". Once they were done looking at the books (and they knew 90% of them), they wanted to move on to story and craft time. That was the best part for them for sure. Oh well. So what's next? Well, they are forecasting a heat wave for us so I think we might be heading to the car wash station next week but if the heat ceases or if the thunder clouds roll in, we'll pick another station from our line up of pretend play stations!

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"Aux Beaux Pieds" Shoe Store Pretend Play

First things first: I must thank my beautiful children for inspiring this pretend play station YEARS ago...That's right. For years I've witnessed them trying on my shoes and my husband's shoes and somehow, I always thought it'd be a neat thing to make an activity out of it since they liked it so much. Somehow, kids, young and old, always seem to have a fascination for walking around in someone's else shoes (literally and figuratively I must say...). This set up would, at last, provide a good, lasting opportunity to try on an endless array of footwear (heels, oxfords, slippers, sandals...). I had all the best intentions on making this playdate outside once again but the weather had different plans...all week. It rained and rained and rained some more and let's not mention how cold it was. Although we did the grooming salon station last week under the sun and its 28C rays, this week, it was a big "generous" 8C. Not too warm for the tootsies. As such, I set up the pretend play station in the "man's attic" (shhh. We've put everything back since). Here's how we rolled...

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Entrance of our shop with small "check out" area and shoe store sign

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Register and homemade receipts for our store kept the children busy

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The slipper corner; it even featured the traditional Quebec slipper!

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The fitting area where the "customers" sit to try on the shoes.
Equipped with a shoe horn and sizing "ruler".

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Some of the shoes available for "purchase". Picked the ones that didn't have dirty
soles as we did this inside on a carpeted room. Put out different styles for variety.

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Most definitely the most popular area in our shop: The newest arrivals, featuring the platforms (tin stilts),
the flip flops (foam and thread), and air slippers (taped bubble wrap). Provided tons of giggles!

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A "customer" trying on the tin stilts...Decided not to purchase...
Apparently, they are not as comfortable as they look... :)

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One of our "staff" filling in an invoice for a "customer"...

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Our store also provided some services such as an in-store shoe cobbler . There, one could "buy"
insoles, shoe products, laces, etc and get old shoes fixed!

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Here's the best shoe cobbler in town: recommended me
a neutral wax for some scuffing on my tan heels!

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Shoe Store Pretend Play : Shoe boxes and little blocks will
make the best displays! :)

And that folks, is how we managed our shoe store pretend play station. Next week, we'll be hosting a brand new themed station and hopefully, it will be just as exciting (and outside please!). To see the upcoming stations we have this summer, check out our line up here.

P.S. Let the children be the children today (aka you are not allowed to cry if they damage the shoes you put out...thus do not put out the ones you'd cry over if they were to be ill-treated! :) ).  Also, use your good judgment when the kids try on and walk with the shoes...Some children may be too young for heels for example or may need a hand to walk steadily. Supervision will be key!


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Monday, June 2, 2014

On the Menu this Month - June

If I'm not mistaken, I have not posted a new menu since last Autumn...I truly hope you guys have not been waiting for me to post a new one to cook up something delicious though! :) Anyway, in case you are looking for inspiration for the summer, I am publishing today my June Menu. Clicking on the picture will enlarge it and you'll be able to see the delicious meals listed but if you'd like to print out your own copy, contact me through Facebook or by e-mail me and I'll send you a free pdf copy. (I eventually plan on putting up these free menus on a file sharing site but until it's done...you'll have to go through me! :) )

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June 2014 Menu : Fire Up the Grill!

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Busy Bags for Kindergartners / Boredom Busters

Busy bags have long been the rage. I've known about them for years but never actually had an opportunity to put a single one together. You see, my youngest, now 3 1/2, still naps for 1 1/2 hours in the afternoon (yay!) and my oldest and I cherish this time together to do some school work and read his favorite books (lately...mostly reference books about gemstones and volcanoes).

This summer though, the school work load will probably be drastically diminished, leaving me with a gap of "quiet time" to fill in (we always try to keep the house relatively quiet during naptimes). Sure my Kindergartner can keep himself "entertained" for a while but not for "2 hours" every day and I could always use a few minutes to...say...plan future school units, cook meals, work out, shower, schedule appointments, pay bills... you know, the usual stuff! :) With these thoughts in mind, I decided to give the busy bags/boxes a try.  But exactly just what are busy bags and boxes?

A busy bag is a tote (often a bag or small box) into which a person will find all that is needed to accomplish one activity with no help. These activities are usually geared towards the toddlers-kindergartners (2-5) age group and are often designed to be done quietly and are also usually educational. The activities found in the bags have also usually been deemed age appropriate for the person they are intended for, therefore annihilating any possible frustrations on the behalf of the recipient as they are expected to work on the bags by themselves.  

Many people choose to limit the amount of time the person spends on each bag and instead provides several bags for rotation. A common scheme is the daily bag replacement (new bag everyday of the week but same bags week after week). Others prefer to replace the bag after a week has elapsed to really give the chance to an older child to finish a project for example (some simply hand the bag to the child whenever and take it whenever as well.). For my part, I chose to go the daily way, providing a new bin (each labeled "Monday" through "Friday") containing a few self-contained bags for each day and allowing my son access to a bin of his choice on the week-ends.

Inside his bins, I am aiming to provide a minimum of three bags (thus providing a choice of three activities daily), each filled with an autonomous project (after initial presentation of course). These bags and bins will, needless to say, be changed every so often. Projects will be completed after a certain amount of time, others won't grab any attention and so on, but for now, here is what I have gathered for my near 6 year old (he is currently 5, turning 6 in the summer):

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Busy Bag Elements Spread Out

-Melissa & Doug Reusable Habitats Sticker Pad
-A few "I Spy..." Books by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick
-Lincoln Log Horseshoe Hill Station
-Snap Circuits Music Box
-Tangoes Classic
-Geoboard by Learning Resources
-Dinosaur Puzzle by Crocodile Creek
-Alex Toys: Simply Needlepoint Butterfly
-Sticky Mosaics Hidden Pictures : Wild Animals by Orb Factory

-Not pictured but to be included are:
-Legos with a project book (Legos are always available but if I add a booklet filled with projects to build, they'll be attractive)
-Montessori Insets with a booklet of drawings (my son will first have to figure out which insets were used to make that drawing and then do his own and personalized it)
-Wood blocks (aka floating foam) projects with booklet (assembly of birdhouse and such with the Durafoam according to instructions) (blocks and projects come from Step2's Real Project Workshop)
-Lite Brite (project sheets came with the flatscreen)
-Cutting Projects (homemade. My son loves cutting different materials and shapes so I'll prepare some projects for him to cut and piece together)
-My Little Sandbox - Dino Land by Be Good Company (indoor sandbox/sensory bin with dinos)
-Matching Cards Sets

Of course, these choices are based on my son's needs and interests (for example...I know he could use some extra fine motor work so needlepoint was my pick...not his but the dinosaur puzzle...that will probably be a high interest activity for him; something he'd have picked himself!). I'll also add that building these bins wasn't cheap considering my choice of projects but I think they will go a long way each day and week as they will be out during a limited time only (aka little sister's naptime on weekdays only...and only during our summer break). It was important to me to make each activity a little bit a of treat and a challenge too. Sure I could have put a play dough can in a bag and called it a day but play dough is always available in our pantry and fridge...so the interest would not have been very grand. By the way...Bags and bins for the younger crowds are mostly homemade and usually built pretty inexpensively.  I'm starting to think of some for my when my little one stops napping in case you're interested so I may post about hers at a later time.


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