Category Archives: play

Learning how to play with dough

​Every day brings new and wonderous discoveries of what a kid can do, even at 19 months old. 

Take play dough. We’ve been using the same batch I made a few months ago following the first recipe I found on the Internet. We have just enough to fill a sandwich container, and it’s all one colour: light green, since we had lots of green colouring left over from jelly-making days.

A- started off mostly being interested in cutting the dough with a baby knife and a dough scraper. I used to just roll out ropes and balls for her to cut. Last week, I decided to keep myself occupied by playing with the dough myself, learning more about thinking in 3D by shaping familiar objects or adding up layers. I made a cat. A- started petting it and doing the gestures for a cat-themed rhyme we often recite.

I made an egg and a pan. I mimed our breakfast routine, making a bowl and a plate along the way. She imitated that gleefully, asking me to make more eggs for her to crack and scramble. 

I made an airplane. She flew it around. 

I made figures for W-, her, and me. She gave them a hug. 

W- joined us for a play session. He made her a car. She vroom-vroomed it around.

I made her an apple. She said “Ap” and pretended to eat it. 

W- made her a banana. She said, “(Ba)nana, pee(l).” She tried to peel it, so I made her another banana with a peelable skin, and she peeled that. 

Meanwhile, W- made her two bananas, still joined together like we get them at the store. She took the pair of bananas, said “Nana, hu.” That boggled us. Hu? Hoo? What did she mean? She curled her finger under the stem connecting the bananas. Ah, hook! W- carefully hung the play dough bananas on the hook that we usually use for real bananas.

It was a little like doodling with play dough. We’d squish a quick shape together, name it, and see if she was interested. I knew A- was comfortable pretending with props – the tea set at the drop-in centre, the kitchen playset her cousins have – but I was surprised at how well she played with combinations of simple playdough figures and words. 

It makes me wonder: what else can I do at this stage to help her learn and grow? I doodle faces, stick figures, everyday objects, and sketchnoted thoughts when she’s drawing, and her pencil grip is starting to look remarkably like mine. (Hmm, might be time for me to learn how to write properly.) Her Lolo gave her a waterproof, shockproof camera, so we’ve started taking pictures and reviewing them together. We go to music classes so that I can learn songs to fill her week with. I’d also like to learn more about physical activity and nature so that I can help her grow in those areas too. It all seems almost like more of an education for me than for her. I’m learning a lot, guided by her joy.

It might not always be as awesome as this, I know. But it’s pretty darn awesome. =)

Building A-‘s Duplo collection

W- and I are keen on Lego. (We actually met while judging a Lego contest for schoolkids.) Open-ended toys, high-quality plastic, what’s there not to like? Naturally, A-‘s going to start with a Duplo collection.

Her first set was the My First Truck one that we’d bought from the Lego store for G* and A*’s birthday present ($20 for 29 bricks, or $0.66 per brick). She liked it so much, we decided to keep that one and get another copy of the same set. (Besides, it’s generally polite not to give people pre-drooled-on gifts…) We kept the set in the kitchen and used it to entertain her whenever we were cooking. She got pretty good at separating the bricks, putting them into the container, and taking them out again.

Since buying second-hand is a great way to save money and Lego stands up well to use, W- checked Kijiji for people selling lots of used Lego. The first batch worked out to be about $0.30 per brick, but it was made up of odds and ends that the previous kid didn’t particularly care for. Some of the assemblies had missing pieces, like the police box that didn’t have all of its windows and doors. There was a roof piece in one style and another roof piece in a different style. Clearly, brick count wasn’t the only thing to go by (or even interesting brick to basic brick ratio)! Still, it got us more wheel bases than we might otherwise have accumulated over several purchases of new sets. We had fun finding out what some of the more mysterious bricks were, thanks to databases built by Lego enthusiasts and the pictures and part numbers that made identification possible. W- even contributed a picture of the red wings from the Cute Animals set.

The second batch W- got from Kijiji worked out a lot better. It was $30 for about 200 bricks, or $0.15 per brick. Well, a little more than that, actually, since we took out a few non-Lego pieces. W- washed the rest in the washing machine (cold water, gentle cycle) and laid them out on towels to dry. This collection was recognizably made up of a number of sets: alphabet blocks; some kind of medieval thing with a horse, a knight, and a treasure chest; a gas station. There’s probably another set in there, too. There were a few pieces missing from the alphabet and there were some other unmatched parts. The seller found some of the missing pieces and W- picked it up, so, yay!

What’s a 10-month-old to do with all that Duplo, anyway? Turns out, quite a lot.

  • She started by investigating shapes, and there are plenty of interesting shapes the collection.
  • She handed us stuff and we exercised our creativity by incorporating those bricks into whatever we were building.
  • She knew how to move wheeled toys back and forth, so she did that too.
  • She pulled bricks apart, and we challenged her by putting bricks together in different configurations.
  • She put bricks into containers, and she took them out again.
  • She opened doors and windows.
  • She opened doors and then put bricks through them.
  • She jumbles them up and enjoys the sound.
  • … and she’s coming up with more stuff to do with them every day. =)

She occasionally tries to connect bricks together, but she doesn’t quite have the coordination for that yet. Someday!

We’ll also eventually teach her how to sort bricks by type, which is good for sanity and easier building. A- puts bricks into whatever container is closest, which is totally fine – I just sort opportunistically.

W- and I also keep ourselves amused by building little things and showing them to each other. He’s good at it, and I’m slowly getting the hang of it. For example, he turned a bunch of curved bricks and a car spoiler into a whale. Much fun.

So, yeah, Duplo! Here we go.