10 Places To Take Toddlers Out For Free

10 Places To Take Toddlers Out For Free

 

If you’ve got a toddler you’ll know some days you just need to get out of the house. Whether it’s to keep them entertained, or for your own sanity. But, all these trips out to soft play, cafes and swimming add up quickly. If you’re on a tight budget, there are plenty of ways to entertain your toddler without spending loads of cash. So I’ve compiled a list of places you can take your toddlers out for free!

MUM AND BABY GROUPS

Mum and baby/toddler groups are a great way to get out of the house, entertain your little one and meet new people. I know it can be daunting to go into a group of people for the first time, but I’ll bet most of those Mums felt the same way the first time they went. See if your local library runs any sessions, or join local parenting groups on Facebook.

LIBRARY

Most local libraries will run baby and toddler groups as mentioned above. Even without these, they’re still great to visit. There’s usually a children’s section with little chairs or cushions, toys or even activities. Let you child explore and pick their own books to borrow. It’s a great way to encourage a love of reading from a young age.

GARDEN CENTRE

A garden centre is a brilliant place to take toddlers out for free. There’s so much to interest and stimulate them. From all the different colours to the textures, sounds and even smells, it’s a full sensory experience. We went to the garden centre this morning and Ollie had great fun pointing out the different colours of the flowers. We also listened out for different noises like trickling water from fountains, bees buzzing past and our feet crunching the gravel.

TAKE A WALK IN THE WOODS

What better way to get some fresh air and exercise than a walk in the woods? There’s so much for little ones to see and do. You could search for animals, learn about different trees or have a teddy bear’s picnic.
Or why not make your own treasure hunt and give them a list of items to find.
There’s also the Gruffalo Spotter app which has interactive trails in 26 different forests!

ANIMAL SANCTUARY

Most animal sanctuaries are free to enter and just ask for a donation to help towards the animals’ care. They’re a great opportunity for teaching older kids about animal welfare and the importance of looking after pets.

THE BEACH

If you live close enough to the beach, this has got to be high on your list. A walk on the beach, paddle in the sea and picnic is a lovely way to spend a day without spending any money!

VISIT FAMILY OR FRIENDS

A very simple but easy and free way to get out of the house! If you have a group of Mum friends, why not arrange to each host a play date. You’ll get a change of scenery, the kids can play together, and you’ll get some much needed adult conversation!

MUSEUM

There are lots of child friendly museums that are free to visit. Check out the places shortlisted for the Family Friendly Museum Award for inspiration!

There’s also plenty of outdoor galleries to visit such as The Yorkshire Sculpture Park

PET SHOP

If we’re out shopping, I always pop into the local pet shop. It can be dull for kids to trudge round the shops so stopping at the pet shop breaks up the boredom. Ollie loves to watch all the different animals, especially the tropical fish.

LOCAL PARK

We go to our local park regularly to play on the swings and slide. It’s completely enclosed so Ollie can run around freely and burn up some energy! We usually take a football and kick that around for a while too. We’re lucky to have quite a few parks within driving distance so we visit different ones for a change of scenery.

 

I’m sure there are lots of other great places to take toddlers for free. Got an idea? Leave it in the comments to inspire other parents!

 

 

Fun With Food – Sensory Toddler Activities 

Sensory play ideas - toys set in jelly
Over past few weeks Ollie and I have been doing all sorts of sensory activities and messy play with different types of food.

He’s been having a pretty rough time teething (7 at once!) and has really gone off food. Getting him to eat anything at all has become a real battle and we all dread mealtimes. I really don’t want this to start becoming a big issue for him and I don’t want him to start associating food with being unhappy. I know that negative feelings around food can often start in childhood and carry on through to adulthood. So, I thought I’d take the pressure off a bit and make food more fun for him.

I wanted to give him the chance to explore new foods, textures and smells. I wanted it to be fun without the pressure of sitting at the dinner table with people expecting him to eat.

All these sensory activities can be done using things you have at home. And if you don’t have the ingredients, they’re all super cheap to buy. I’m a firm believer that entertaining your children doesn’t need to cost the earth, and playing with food and household items is a great way to learn about everyday life. It allows children to experience different textures, sensations, sounds and even tastes.

Jelly Messy Play
Jelly is great for messy and sensory play, because of the unusual texture and bright colours. I got a few plastic toys and set them in some jelly overnight. I put it all in the sandpit and gave Ollie some plastic cutlery to dig the toys out. Originally, I was intending for him to get in the sandpit to play but it turns out he HATES the texture of jelly! But that’s fine! The whole point of sensory play is to give him the chance to discover new things and find out for himself what he does and doesn’t like. I like to give him chance to make his own mind up about new textures and sensations.

He had great fun squishing and scooping the jelly, and digging the toys out with spoons – just as long as he didn’t have to touch it with his hands!

Sensory play - Child playing with jelly Sensory play - child digging toy out of jellySensory play - child playing with jelly

Cracker Smash
We used our new tuff tray for this one and it worked really well. If you don’t have one, you could use a sandpit or a big baking tray. I think it works best outside because the birds will help with the cleanup!

I used cream crackers and crisps because they make a good noise are easy for little hands to smash. You could also use biscuits, dried pasta or even coffee beans!

Just tip them out in the tray and let your little one smash them up! Ollie used a wooden spoon to bash them and loved it! If you’ve got older kids you could use a rolling pin or something with a bit more weight. When we’d finished we tipped it all out on the grass for the birds . Ollie had great fun stomping all over it in his wellies!

Sensory play - child smashing up biscuits

Spaghetti Messy Play
This was so easy to prepare and Ollie really enjoyed it. I just boiled some spaghetti and then coloured it with food colouring and left it to dry slightly. I wanted it to be slightly wet and squidgy. If you want it to be dry (so the colour doesn’t leak) leave it to dry overnight. He loved scooping it, transferring it between containers and trying to thread it through the holes in the colander. He even nibbled on some which was great as he has refused to eat pasta for weeks! I cooked spaghetti for tea the next day and he ate tons which was a massive achievement! I really think that’s one of the great things about using food for sensory play. It makes food seem more fun and gives kids the chance to explore new textures and tastes without the pressure of dinner time.

Sensory play - child playing with green spaghetti Sensory play - child playing with coloured spaghetti

Rainbow Rice
Rainbow rice is really cheap and easy to make, and it can be stored to use again. It’s great for sensory play because of the bright colours and the noise it makes. You can use it in all sorts of ways – I’ve just made a sensory bottle using our leftover rice!
Rainbow coloured rice

Pasta Threading
If you’re looking for a quiet time activity, pasta threading is a very simple but effective activity. It is great for entertaining toddlers and older children. You can dye your pasta to make it look more interesting or use it plain. Use it to practice pattern making, counting and colour recognition. Older children can use it to make jewellery or practice sequences. It’s also great for developing fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

Child threading pasta onto straws

Pasta Threading – Fine Motor Skills Activity

Pasta threading - fine motor skills activity

Pasta threading is a great way to entertain kids of all ages. It helps develop their fine motor skills and concentration without spending any money.

If you’re looking for a good rainy day activity, pasta threading is really simple but so effective. It is a great activity for toddlers to develop their fine motor skills, hand eye coordination and concentration. You can also use it to work on counting, colour recognition, or sequences and patterns for older children.

You can use plain pasta, or dye it using the same method I used to make my Rainbow Rice. It takes 5 minutes to prepare and is best left to dry overnight.

Different coloured pasta

I dyed the pasta to make it look more interesting, and also because Ollie is learning to recognise colours. So I used this as an opportunity to see if he could remember the colour names. I repeated them each time he threaded one. If your little one is prone to putting things in their mouth, you might want to use plain pasta as the dye will start to come off when it gets wet.

Child threading pasta on to straws
We started with paper straws as they’re sturdy enough for little fingers to grab and poke into the pasta holes. It took Ollie a while to get the hang of it and I had to help him out to start with. Once he’d had a bit of practice he managed to do it by himself quite easily. He has done a lot of threading and fine motor skills activities before, so I made it more challenging.

I joined a few pipe cleaners together and curled one end up so the pasta couldn’t slide off. The pipe cleaner is more bendy which makes it tricker for little hands. If you really want to help develop fine motor skills, give your child something trickier to thread on to. It took Ollie a lot longer to get the hang of this one and you could really see the concentration on his face! Once I’d shown him how to do it and he’d had a few attempts there was no stopping him. He was so pleased with himself he stopped after each piece to clap for himself!

Child threading pasta on to pipe cleaners

Ollie’s also really into counting at the minute – despite the fact he can only get to 2 on his own!
He loves repeating the numbers when I count them out. So each time he thread a piece, I counted and he repeated the number back to me.

This activity is so easy to prepare and didn’t cost a penny as I had all the ingredients at home. It’s very easy to adapt aswell for different abilities.

I used a pretty thin rigatoni but you can get pasta with bigger holes in most supermarkets. You could make this easier by using chunkier pasta and threading on to something stiff, like straws or lollipop sticks. You could even stick them down using sellotape or plasticine to make it easier to thread onto.

For older children, make it more challenging by using penne or giving them something more tricky to thread like a shoelace or ribbon. You could even get older children to make their own pasta jewellery!

Ollie was 18 months old when we tried this activity 

Rainbow Rice – Sensory Toddler Activity

Rainbow rice - sensory toddler activity

Rainbow rice is a fantastic sensory activity for children of all ages. It’s cheap and easy to prepare and can  be used again and again.

I made it for my toddler recently and it went down so well! He loved the sound it made and the bright colours. He practised scooping and transferring aswell as working on his pincer grip to pick the little grains up. We used it as a free play activity and I loved watching him explore different ways to play.

I’ve been doing a lot of sensory and messy play involving food lately, but this was probably our favourite. One reason for using food in sensory play is that Ollie is going through a fussy eating phase. So I’m trying to take the pressure off and make food more fun. The other reason is these activities are easy to prepare and totally thrifty because they just use things I already have in the kitchen!

How To Make Rainbow Rice

Rainbow rice is really simple to make and only takes 5 minutes to prepare.


You will need: 

  • White rice
  • Food colouring 
  • White vinegar
  • Plastic sealable box or freezer bag

Place the rice in a freezer bag or plastic box – about one cupful to start with. Add one teaspoon of white vinegar and a couple of drops of food colouring. Seal the bag or box and give it a good shake for a couple of minutes until the colour has spread evenly. A few drops will give you pastel shades. If you want brighter colours like mine, just add more food colouring and shake again. Repeat the process to make different colours.

Rainbow rice - brightly coloured rice

Once you’re happy with the colour, lay the rainbow rice out to dry. I used baking trays with kitchen roll spread out over them. Spread the rice out in a thin layer to help it dry. I used quite a lot of food colouring to get the colour I wanted so I left the rice to dry overnight. If you use less, your rainbow rice should be dry in a few hours.

If you don’t have the above ingredients, you can buy the lot at Aldi or Lidl for under £2! As the rice is uncooked, you can store it in an airtight container to use again in the future.

Of course when you’ve made your rainbow rice, you can use it however you want. I think it would look great in sensory bottles and I’m going to use some of ours to make colourful maracas! You could use it as a colour recognition activity or even in arts and crafts!

It was a lovely sunny day so we played outside with Ollie’s sand/water table as it’s the perfect height and has raised sides to contain the rice. I added a few cups, containers, plastic shapes and spoons.

Toddler playing with rainbow rice

Ollie had a little feel around and decided he was ok with the texture of the rice. He then spent ages picking it up and dropping it to hear the noise it made on the plastic. He used a spoon to scoop it up and fill different containers. This is a great way to practise using cutlery without messing the dining room up!

I used Ollie’s water table which has a removable board with a couple of cogs. He poured the rice on them and watched them turn. This is a great way to learn cause and effect, just like dropping the rice himself. It’s amazing how much children are actually learning while they’re playing.

The different colours gave us a great opportunity to practise naming them. This is something Ollie has been learning recently, and he even learnt a new word – ‘wice’ 😂

Ollie really seemed to enjoy himself and in the past week he’s pointed at the play table a couple of times and said ‘wice please’ which I think proves it was a hit!

Child touching rainbow rice
Child pouring rainbow rice

The Benefits Of Toy Rotation

The Benefits Of Toy Rotation
Toy rotation is a great way to make the most out of your child’s toys and decrease the clutter in your home at the same time! Rather than spending money on new items, it encourages your child to play with what they already have.

If your kids are anything like mine, they have far more toys than they actually play with – especially after their birthday or Christmas! Even though we have a clearout of old stuff around this time, 2 weeks later toys have once again taken over THE ENTIRE HOUSE. They’re scattered around every room – in cupboards, under sofas and beds, and falling out of the toy box.

And yet my son still seems to only play with the same few things. He picks up a toy, gets bored with it and moves onto something different within a minute. Tidying up is never ending and after hours of hunting on my hands and knees I still can’t find all the pieces to every toy.

The main reason I’ve found for this is he has too much choice and the same toys are always around.

As a little person, having a lot of toys available all the time can be overwhelming. They don’t know what to play with first, and if they see the same toys all the time it’s hard for them to get excited about anything in particular. I know as an adult if I’m around the same things all the time, I just stop noticing them. When’s the last time you paid attention to the ornaments in your house or the pictures on the wall? It’s the same for children, and all of this means they end up playing with the same things over and over and everything else is sat at the bottom of the toy box sad and unloved 🙁

This is where toy rotation comes in.

SO WHAT IS TOY ROTATION?
The basic idea of a toy rotation is to pick out a few toys that will be played with for a set amount of time. This could be a few days, a week, however long you like. Everything else is taken away. At the end of the period, or when your child gets bored, you swap them for a new group of toys. Even though you’ve had these toys all along, they’ve become a novelty and almost like a new object to your child so they’ll be much more interested in them!

HOW TO SET UP A TOY ROTATION
Firstly gather up ALL the toys you have and put them in a big pile for sorting.

Next, decide how you will work your rotation. Do you want one set of toys to last an hour, a day or a week? Do you want several sets on the go at the same time? Personally I’m using one set of toys to last for a few days to start off with. But you might choose to have one set of toys for the morning and one for afternoon. There’s tons of ways to do it, just go with whatever works for you.

Next pick out the toys you want in your first rotation and stick them all together in a container.

Try to do a mixture of different types of toys so your child doesn’t get bored. For example one sorting toy, one pretend play toy, one ball etc all go in the same box. You can tailor your box to what your child is interested in at any given time. So you might choose to put more construction toys in for instance if they’re really interesting in building or stacking things.

Next decide what to do with everything that’s left! Personally I’ve just packed it all away in a big box. When it’s time to rotate, I’ll pick some new toys. If you’re super organised you can arrange your next rotations in advance and sort them into separate containers ready for swapping. Label them or use clear containers so you can see what’s inside. The only reason I’m not doing this is I don’t have the storage space at the minute for multiple containers.


I’ve picked my first group of toys based on Ollie’s patterns of play and his interests at the minute. He loves stacking, sorting, threading, posting and containing things. So most of the toys and activities we have out for the next couple of days will allow him to explore this further. He also has a ball, some books and a music toy, plus his ride along truck so he has the option for variation.

Since introducing this I’ve seen a big difference. He’s played with things that have been in the bottom of the box for weeks and not touched – and they held his attention for a long time. He’s isn’t getting bored quickly and he’s using his imagination more. Already the stacking cups have been used to stack, roll, drink imaginary drinks from and as hats for his toy panda! This is definitely something we will continue!

BENEFITS OF TOY ROTATION: 

  • You can target your existing toys to meet your child’s current interests or developmental stage.
  • They will be more interested in toys they already own because they haven’t seen them for a while so they become a novelty.
  • Your house will be tidier (woohoo) as there will be fewer toys out at any one time.
  • It encourages discovery and use of imagination.
  • Reduces overstimulation.
  • It gives you chance to routinely check for damaged or broken toys.

 Mother’s Day Crafts For Kids

Mother’s Day is only a couple of weeks away. If you’re looking for gift ideas, why not get the kids involved, get creative and make something unique. Here’s a few frugal Mother’s Day craft activities for children of all ages! 

VEGETABLE PRINTING
This is something I always loved doing as a kid. It’s really simple, good fun and can be done with items you have at home so it’s very frugal. It gives children the chance to investigate colours, shapes and textures. 

You can use any hard vegetables (or fruit), but a bunch of celery is a great one because the end of it already looks like a flower. Potatoes are cheap and easy to cut shapes out of. Just cut your potato in half, then draw a shape in the middle with a pen. Cut away the outside so you have a little stamp. Dab it in some paint and get printing! 


This is good for children of different ages – younger children like mine (16 months) will just enjoy playing with the veg, feeling the texture and discovering what happens when they press it down. Ollie was so excited when we lifted the potato up and there was a mark on the paper!

Older kids can get more creative and make pictures or patterns.
They could make Mother’s Day cards or even print their own wrapping paper!

HANDMADE CARDS
Older children can get creative and use paints, crayons, glitter, stickers…anything they like to make a nice card for their Mum or Nannie. 

If your kids are too young to draw pictures you can still use their artwork to create a special card. Ollie loves scribbling away with wax crayons and it keeps him entertained for ages! I let him scribble on a piece of paper and then cut a heart shape out of it and stuck it on the front of a card. You could also cut letters out of their pictures to spell out words. 

You can also make cards from your children’s hand or footprints.
I love making prints of Ollie’s little hands and feet because they grow so quickly! I want to keep a little memento of how tiny he once was. 


I got some red paint and printed Ollie’s hands and feet onto some paper. I cut them out and arranged them into a heart shape but you can use any shape or pattern you like!

CUPCAKES
Baking is a great activity for kids as it’s fun, inexpensive and gives them a chance to learn about cooking. If you’re not the best baker you can buy kits in most supermarkets and B&M have some really cheap ones.

PERSONALISED PLATE OR MUG
My sister inspired this one with this lovely Christmas Eve plate she made for Ollie. 


If you’ve got older kids, get them to do a drawing for their Nannie that she can keep and see all the time! All you need is a white plate or mug and some Sharpies. 

Just get them to draw a picture, write a message or do a doodle on the plate or mug. You need to make sure it’s completely clean before you start: once you’ve finished, allow the ink to dry overnight then pop it in the oven for 30 minutes at 180•C! Oil based Sharpies work best, or you can buy ceramic pens. 

Water Painting – Mess Free Toddler Activity


Water Painting is a great sensory activity for toddlers. It’s so simple, didn’t cost me anything, entertained Ollie and best of all there was no cleaning up afterwards!

Ollie loves scribbling with coloured crayons but I wanted to try something a bit different today so he doesn’t get bored of doing the same activity all the time. I’m not ready to let him use paint as he’s in a phase of throwing EVERYTHING he gets his hands on at the minute! So I decided to let him do some mark making with water instead.

Mark making allows children to practice and develop the physical skills they will need for writing in the future. It also allows them to use their imagination and express themselves creatively.

I found some coloured paper and blue tacked it to the tray of Ollie’s highchair so it wouldn’t move around. I then wet a paintbrush and handed it to Ollie to let him investigate. He liked feeling the wet bristles and then decided to put it on the coloured paper. When he realised it was making a mark on the paper he got really excited and wanted to keep doing it.

When the brush was dry I re-wet it for him. After watching me do this he wanted to try for himself. This is good for developing his co-ordination and practising those all important skills he uses to feed himself.

Such a simple activity but it definitely held Ollie’s interest for a while, we will definitely be doing this one again!

For another fun activity without the cleanup, try mess free painting. 

Posting and Threading – Fine Motor Skill Activites


This week’s free activities for toddlers are all to do with fine motor skills. They’re great for distracting Ollie from all the dangerous things he wants to play with, keeping him entertained, developing concentration and giving him a bit of a challenge. He’s loved them all which is great as we all know how hard it can be to entertain a toddler for free!

Ollie is very into sorting, organising and posting things at the minute. I’ve lost count of the times he’s emptied the washing basket only to put the clothes back in, or the weird and wonderful items I’ve found stuffed in my handbag or boots.

So I came up with some posting and threading activities to keep him entertained. I started off with a few empty tins and some plastic discs – yes they are poker chips, but they’re the perfect size and pretty sturdy! Why waste money when you can use what you’ve already got!
I like to give Ollie free reign to investigate and discover in any activities we do, so I just put the lot on the floor and let him do his thing. Immediately he started picking the discs up and putting them in the tins. As soon as he heard the noise they made he decided to put the lid on and shake the tins up. He then liked transferring them from one tin to another. It entertained him for a good half an hour but I could see it wasn’t interesting enough to keep his attention for long. 

I thought I’d give him a bit more of a challenge so I got a cardboard box and cut a little slot in it. He didn’t get it right away but after I showed him how to post the discs, he loved it! He stopped after posting each one to clap for himself. I cut the slot to just the right size for the discs so he had to really work to make sure he had them at the right angle. *See main photo above*

I’m also trying to introduce Ollie to colours. It’s probably a bit too early as he’s only 15 months old, but I thought I’d give it a go! I had red, green and blue discs so I got matching plates a few discs on each one. I then showed Ollie where each one went. He managed to place a few correctly but then lost interest and started mixing them all up. I think this would be a great activity for children a little older. You can easily introduce the ideas of sorting and colours at the same time. Plus you can use any coloured items that you have to hand so it doesn’t have to cost you anything!

To entertain Ollie and develop his concentration and fine motor skills further we tried a few more activities:

PIPE CLEANERS AND A BOTTLE 
This is a great threading activity for toddlers as it requires concentration, problem solving skills and fine motor skills. Just fill an empty plastic bottles with pipe cleaners and let them pull them out and thread them back in. You could adapt this for different stages by using bottles with wider or narrower openings.



COLANDER AND STRAWS OR PIPE CLEANERS

Another great activity for developing fine motor skills. I first used pipe cleaners, which I threaded into the holes of the colander and let Ollie pull them out and try to thread them back in. He found it a bit too difficult at 15 months, so I used plastic straws as they’re a bit sturdier and don’t require as much hand control. 

He looked so proud of himself after threading each one into the holes! I’ve never seen him sit still doing the same activity for so long, so we will definitely be doing this again!

A couple of months later and his fine motor skills have improved so much he has moved on to the pipe cleaners. He can now thread them in by himself. 



FIRST BLOCKS TOY

Because Ollie seemed so interested in each of the above activities, I’ve been on the lookout for a sorting and posting toy. I found this little bargain in a charity shop for only £2!!! 

It’s the perfect toy for him as it gives him the chance to sort shapes and post them through the correct slots. At the minute he has to be shown which hole each shape goes into. I think as he gets older this toy will grow with him. He’ll learn to recognise the shapes and learn their names, and learn the colours to so it was a pretty good find! 
If you’re looking for activity inspiration, check out Mess Free Painting or have fun in the kitchen!

Baby Sign Language For Beginners

How to teach your baby sign language
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Baby sign language is something I’ve been really passionate about teaching Ollie.
I read a lot of information about it when I was pregnant, and thought the benefits like improving communication and decreasing frustration sounded great!

Children’s ability to understand language and communication is often a lot more advanced than their ability to speak. And if you’ve ever been around a tantrumming toddler, you’ll know how this can be frustrating for them – and how often it can lead to total meltdowns. Baby sign language gives children a way to communicate using gestures and signs.

When you start talking about baby sign language, people always want to know things like ‘does baby sign language really work’, ‘when will my baby sign back’ and even ‘will baby sign language delay speech?’.

Baby signing and Makaton use symbols and gestures in spoken word order. When oh sign a word or phrase, you will also say it out loud. So it is used to support speech rather than replace it.

Baby sign language and Makaton are different to British Sign Language. They are becoming more popular with parents as a way to help their children learn to communicate – whether they have hearing difficulties or not.

As a parent who has tried and loved baby signing, I want to share my personal experience.

DOES BABY SIGN LANGUAGE WORK?
For us, baby sign language has been a fantastic way to communicate. Ollie was able to learn and use signs long before he could speak so it helped us understand what he needed even as a young baby.

WHERE TO LEARN BABY SIGN LANGUAGE
There are a few different options you could go down, such as group classes, books, DVDs or YouTube tutorials…and let’s not forget Mr Tumble!

I found a bit of information online, but a lot of the websites and videos seemed to be based around American Sign Language.
Group classes are really popular, but I just couldn’t afford them as I was already paying for 3 baby groups a week.

Instead, I chose to get a few books from Amazon. After reading reviews I ordered a couple of the Child’s Play series and I was so pleased! They’re the perfect design for babies and toddlers, as they are colourful, illustrated board books. Each sign comes with a description and cute illustration of a child signing it. If you’re on a budget, these books are really good value for money, as each one is less than £5 – which is about what you would pay for one class! I started with My First Signs: BSL (Baby Signing) and Play Time (Sign About).
I’ve also just bought some flash cards which are great for toddlers and older children – signing isn’t just for babies!

We also watch ‘Something Special’ on CBeebies. While I do limit TV time, we watch Mr Tumble pretty regularly. I don’t know what it is about Justin that kids love so much, but Ollie is OBSESSED with him!  We pick up new signs and he always has a dance to the ‘friends’ song 😂

HOW TO START BABY SIGN LANGUAGE
Choose a couple of signs to start with that will be relevant to your baby – such as ‘milk’ or ‘food’. Use the sign while saying the word.

So each time you give your baby a feed, ask them if they want food/milk while making the sign. Repetition is key here! You need to make sure you’re consistent and it may take a while before baby starts signing back, especially the younger they are.

Don’t introduce too many new signs in one go or you will just overload them! I never introduced more than 3 signs at a time and found this worked pretty well. 

WHEN WILL BABY SIGN BACK?
Common consensus is that babies will start to recognise and interact with signs from about 6-9 months. But, the earlier you introduce them the better. I started with ‘milk’ around 4 months and would sign it to Ollie at every feed. He learnt to associate the action and word with the result he wanted and could sign it himself by 6 months.
As soon as we started weaning I introduced ‘food’ and ‘all gone’, then later ‘water’. All were picked up within a few weeks.
The older Ollie gets and the more signs he learns, the quicker he picks them up. I recently taught him ‘more’ which he mastered in one day along with the word!

Don’t worry if they aren’t perfect. Ollie has adapted a couple of signs to make them easier for himself! We understand what he wants so that’s all that matters!

Child using baby sign language to sign milk
Ollie signing ‘milk’
Child using baby sign language to sign food
Ollie signing ‘food’

BENEFITS OF BABY SIGN LANGUAGE
From personal experience I can say the biggest benefit has been decreasing Ollie’s frustration. Although his speech is developing well, there are certain things he just can’t say or ask for. So signing has helped him communicate with me and reduced his tantrums.
A lot of people wonder if baby sign language will delay speech, but research shows that it actually helps them develop communication skills.

In my experience, Ollie’s speech has not been held back at all. He can say more words than average for his age, and he’s even started making his own gestures for words he can’t say. I think this just shows how baby sign language helps develop communication skills. He realises for himself at 15 months that if he can’t verbally ask for something, he can find another way to communicate his feelings or needs.

It also helps develop social skills, fine motor skills and concentration.

Fun and Free Toddler Kitchen Activities 


This week’s free toddler activities are all based around items you can find in your kitchen. 

I’m forever looking for new ways to entertain my toddler, especially when he’s teething and needs a lot of distraction!

He loves making noise – the louder the better – and he’s at the stage where he’s really interested in everything adults are doing and using…including kitchen utensils!

Usually he plays with his toys while I prepare his lunch but since he’s discovered what’s behind the kitchen cupboard doors, he definitely more interested in those!

So last week I came up with a few games and activities we could do using objects from the kitchen. This way he can investigate the items he’s so interested in – in a safe way – and I managed to keep him entertained for hours on rainy days without the help of CBeebies!

Kitchen Drum Kit

This is super easy and a lot of fun for little ones. Just get whatever you have that they can make noise on and let them go at it! Saucepans and wooden spoons make great noises, but Ollie is a bit boisterous and I didn’t want him waving around anything too heavy so we used plastic spoons and lunch boxes.



Spatula Hockey!
Ollie really loves playing with balls at the minute and his dribbling skills are pretty impressive! To make things a bit different I got a spatula and a plastic spoon from the kitchen and we hit a ball around the living room together. Not only is it great for developing hand-eye co-ordination, but it helps with large muscle development and social skills (taking turns). Ollie had loads of fun and so did I!

Sensory Bottles
Sensory bottles are a great way for babies and toddlers to investigate new objects, colours, shapes and noises. They can safely play with small items like sequins or beads without them being a choking hazard.

You can use them at all ages and your child will enjoy them in different ways. Newborns will benefit from listening to new noises and looking at the colours and movement. When they get older they will learn to grasp, shake and roll them – learning about cause and effect. When they’re a bit bigger you could even get them involved in making them! Let them choose their own contents and see what happens when they shake them up.

Just fill a plastic bottle with any items you like, superglue the lid shut and off you go!

I used rice and to make a noisy bottle for Ollie. The liquid version was just warm water, glitter and food colouring.

Plastic cups
Plastic cups make a great toy as they are SO versatile. We’ve used them to hide objects, carry toys around, stacked them up and played in the sand pit and the bath with them.

The best thing about these activities is that they’re all completely free! They also give toddlers a chance to investigate everyday items and test out new skills. 

It doesn’t matter what you use or what you play, just have fun!