Tuesday, July 18, 2023
We’re so glad you stopped by!
We’ve got our latest post ready and waiting here at Our Grand Lives!
We’ve been having such fun this summer
sharing our ideas for thematic activities and adventures
that you can then take and use with the Littles in your own life!
Last week, we shared our most recent post, Splish! Splash!
We shared some fun posts/stories/reels
If you'd like to learn more, tap the following links to check these out!
(this last one may look a bit familiar!)
And, don’t forget that you can also find us on Pinterest
where we’ve linked many of the activities featured here!
Today we have a new theme for you to enjoy with your Littles!
If you’ve been reading our Summer with the Grands! series regularly
you may have noticed that this week’s post had originally been slated to be called,
Paws, Tails & Scales!
Yet, as we delved into this week’s theme,
we made the decision to change our focus slightly…
We have to admit, we’re quite good at that!
Whether you’ll be spending time with Littles
at their home OR if they’ll be visiting you
- for a day, an overnight or even a weekend of fun -
this topic is bound to become a favorite!
This week’s theme - STUFFIES ALL AROUND,
celebrates all the beloved stuffed animals in our world!
Littles of all ages love their stuffed animals and know that they can turn to these special toys for comfort and cuddles!. Babies, toddlers, and young children love to hug, hang out with, and play with these friends. As our Littles get older, they continue to love the imaginative play that a favorite stuffed animal provides! In each instance, the familiar, soft and loved toy provides safety and security! How wonderful is that?
Begin by inviting your Littles to gather their collection of favorite stuffed animals
to bring for your time together!
Then choose any, all or a combination of the activities and adventures offered here,
as you focus on enjoying those precious stuffed animals together!
As an added treat, you could surprise your Little(s) with a new stuffed animal
that could join in the fun!
Be sure to begin your time together
by having your Little introduce his/her stuffed animal(s) to you!
Once the introductions have taken place,
your Little will be ready to play with his/her stuffies!
Below, Laurie shares memories from her experience as a kindergarten teacher!
During the early years of my teaching career, some of the favorite activities to set up in my classroom were the dramatic play areas. What is dramatic play? It is a type of play where children try on different roles they have seen around them and then act them out. These experiences allow Littles to act out scenarios they've seen or heard in real life, giving them an important emotional outlet as they explore new situations. The most natural type of dramatic play is playing mommy, daddy or “house”. Many families have play kitchens that allow Littles to imitate actions and use language they have seen and heard the adults in their lives use. Experiences like this can be so rewarding for our Littles while also providing opportunities to take risks!
In school, we would rotate dramatic play centers - a pizza parlor, an ice cream shop, a grocery store or a construction site were favorites as was the library, doctor office or restaurant! Dramatic play increases social skills, imagination, language, math and literacy skills!
As you may be able to tell, there is a lot going on while just playing!
An Animal Hospital!
Nowadays, Laurie’s Little D loves to engage in imaginative play, so an animal hospital seemed like the perfect way to introduce her to a home dramatic play center. Little D had just had her physical at the doctor’s office and she had recently accompanied Laurie on a visit to the vet when they took the family dog there. These experiences had provided background information (schema) about what doctors do and what happens at the vet’s office! Laurie thought Little D might like to replay her doctor/vet experiences with her own stuffies!
A Grand Tip!
Remember to make sure your child has some background understanding
of the center you are creating!
For example, If your Little has never been to an ice cream shop,
he/she will have a hard time imitating the role of the ice cream scooper.
Getting Started… More Grand Tips from Laurie!
#1 - Find a Space that Works for You and Your Little!
Laurie quickly learned that setting up a dramatic play center at home was very different from setting one up at school where she had the space, shelves, and play equipment readily available!
After looking over the places where Little D liked to play in our home, I chose the family room where our fireplace had a nice raised hearth that worked as a long, low shelf for the center’s supplies. The bins took up little space and if needed, I could easily stack them up and put them away.
#2 - Make a List!
Laurie made a list of items to include in the center. Most of the items were just everyday items found at home, including…
✳️ Clean, Empty Medicine Bottles (Plastic jars/bottles, medicine/eye droppers or cups
work well, too!)
✳️ Cotton Balls
✳️ Ace Bandages
✳️ Baby/Doll Blankets
NOTE: Laurie was lucky enough to have a play doctor kit at home that had a stethoscope and a variety of instruments included. If you do not have one, use your imagination and find items that you could substitute for these items.
✳️ Tongue Depressors (Craft sticks work well! 😉)
✳️ A Toothbrush, Brush and Comb (for a Grooming Station)
✳️ Animal Beds and/or Cages (Laurie used shoe boxes and plastic bins for these!)
NOTE: Little D requested stickers for her patients after she started playing! 😍
FOR YOUR OLDER LITTLES: While Laurie’s setup was for her 2 year old Little, we have a few additional thoughts if your Little is older! These ideas will engage older Littles in deeper imaginative play and strengthen their writing, math and reasoning skills. Here are some suggested materials to include for these Littles:
✳️ Clipboards (with pencils or pens to make notes about their patients!)
✳️ Calculator, Cash Register and Phone, Appointment Book
✳️ Lab Coats, Scrubs
✳️ Plastic Gloves
✳️ Tape Measure and Scale
✳️ X Rays (Run them off from the internet or draw your own!)
✳️ Paper Masks
✳️ Bowls, Leashes, Empty Treat Boxes, Collars.
✳️ Signs and Labels (These make it feel real and encourage literacy skills for all
✳️ And, of course, most importantly your STUFFED ANIMALS as the patients!!!
#3 - Label! Label! Label!
Laurie collected items and bins (plastic, tupperware, boxes - anything will work) and she labeled them. She purchased, downloaded and printed the labels in the photos from a Teacher Pay Teacher site, Pocket of Preschool, but you can easily make your own, which Laurie did for a few of her supplies. Labeling items is a great way to organize your materials and also fosters vocabulary development, too!
#4 - Provide Books for Your Little(s) to Explore!
When Laurie was at the library, she picked up some nonfiction books on animals (children’s section, nonfiction, pets), and even found a few on being a veterinarian. She set these up by the animal hospital as well for Little D to explore!
One thing learned as a teacher - Littles LOVE nonfiction animal books!
#5 - Introduce the Dramatic Play Center to Your Little(s)!
The next time Little D came to visit, Laurie asked her to bring a few of her favorite stuffed animals!. Laurie walked Little D through the supplies, and showed her how each worked. An interesting observation... Laurie originally had a white blanket on the couch as an “exam table”. Little D did not like that, she took another blanket, spread it on the floor and used that instead. A great reminder to take our lead from our Littles!
After that, Little D quickly gained confidence and though Laurie sat nearby and made occasional suggestions, Little D kind of waved her off (“no Grammy”) and became engrossed in her own independent play!
The great thing was,
all the supplies (excluding the books, stuffies, beds and bins)
fit in a small tote so Laurie could easily pack it away for another time!
This was such a success and Laurie can’t wait to set up another dramatic play area
for Little D to explore during an upcoming visit!!
Do you have a suggestion for us?
If so, please leave your idea(s) below in the comments!
Many Littles and Grands will LOVE setting up a dramatic play center
like the Animal Hospital described above
(or a Pet Grooming Center OR a Pet Adoption Center)!
In addition, you’ll find some quick, simple and easy activities below
to do with those stuffies whenever they come for a visit with your Little(s)!
CAUTION... IMPORTANT INFO TO KNOW! Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents keep their babies' cribs free of anything that might block their breathing (e.g., blankets, pillows, quilts, comforters, stuffed animals) for at least the first 12 months? For that reason, babies up to one year old should never be left unattended or put to sleep with a stuffed animal or other plush toy nearby!
Your infant Littles will giggle in delight as you play this game with them! They will also love cuddling a small stuffed animal, especially if it makes music (OR if you use a silly voice while playing with your Little)!
💚 HELLO, FRIENDS!
Now that Laura’s Little L is older (18 months), her stuffed animals live in her crib with her! Whenever Laura visits, each day begins with a morning greeting as we say “hello” to her cherished friends and then again following her afternoon nap! Little L loves this routine… and Laura does, too!
💚 HIDE AND SEEK!
This is a fun rendition of an old time classic! Your Little covers his/her eyes while you hide one or more of the stuffed animals around the room (or for older kids, around the house). Laura and Little L played their own version of the game via a recent FaceTime call…. Gramma had to guess which stuffie Little L was hiding behind her back!
💚 WHO’S MISSING?
Set out a group of your Little’s stuffed animal friends. For younger Littles (1-3 years) work with a maxiumum of 3-4 stuffies. For older Littles (3 and above) have 4 or more lined up. To begin, your Little leaves the space for a few moments while you remove one of the stuffies. When your Little returns, see if he/she can name which stuffed animal is missing. To increase the challenge for older Littles, remove more than one animal at a time OR switch their places in the grouping. Can your older Littles tell the difference?
💚 WHO IS IT? or WHICH ONE AM I THINKING OF?
Put your Little’s stuffed animals in a basket. If your Little is comfortable doing so, blindfold him/her. Have your Little grab a friend from the basket and see if he/she can identify the stuffie without looking! For younger Littles you can adapt the game by giving clues about a specific animal. Your Little then decides which animal you’re thinking about! For older Littles add the challenge of giving them 5-10 seconds to make their guess!
💚 FEET TOSS!
For this activity, your Little will need his/her stuffed animals and a laundry basket or a big box! Your Little will lie on his/her back with the pile of stuffies near his/her feet. The basket is placed near your Little’s head. When you say “Go!” your Little will pick up one stuffed animal at a time with his/her feet and place it in the basket as shown in the photo below! Your Little repeats these steps until all the stuffies have been moved from the pile into the basket! Older Littles will especially enjoy this challenge... and will get a core workout at the same time!
💚 TRAMPOLINE FUN!
Using a towel to do so, create a trampoline for your stuffed animal friends! You’ll need a bath towel and two sets of hands to play! Hold the towel as shown and put the stuffed animal on the towel! Working together, you and your Little will help the stuffie bounce on the makeshift trampoline (the towel)! Variations include counting how many times your stuffie bounces OR seeing how high the stuffed friend can go up and come down safely OR adding additional stuffed friends to your trampoline at the same time! Your Littles will love this one and get ready for the giggles that will come as you work together to keep the stuffed animals on the towel!
💚 STUFFED ANIMAL BOP!
Whenever we needed a quick movement activity in kindergarten, this song, from Jack Hartmann, was always a favorite! Instead of bean bags, we’d sometimes use stuffed animals which the kids loved… your Littles will, too AND it’s a fun way to reinforce position words and body parts for young Littles, as well!
💚 CREATE A FORT!
Make a simple fort - using a table covered in blankets! Add a few pillows and a flashlight and, of course, some books for added fun!
💚 HOST A PICNIC OR TEA PARTY!
Lunch or snack time would be the perfect occasion for this activity! Lay out a blanket for a picnic (inside or out) OR set the table for a fancy tea party! Be sure to join in the fun! Your Little(s) will love it!
Are You Looking for a BIG/BIGGER Project
For Your OLDER Littles?
There are SO many entertaining ways to use stuffed animals with your Littles!
Try one of the ideas below with your Littles (elementary and older):
from Toddler Approved
from Artsy Fartsy Mama
Our Littles love collecting and sleeping with their stuffed animals,
once they are a year old, that is!
Most children have at least one or, dare we say, an abundance of them!
Yes, indeed, stuffed animals are all around
and they can provide hours of fun for you and your Littles!
And, of course, at the end of a jam packed day together,
there’s NOTHING BETTER than some cuddle time
with your Littles and their stuffie friends!
We hope our ideas have inspired you to join in some dramatic play and fun
with your Littles and their stuffie friends!
As a reminder, here are the topics/links we’ve covered so far this summer
as part of our Summer Camp with the Grands series!
Next Tuesday (July 25), we’ll be bringing a new post your way…
Construction Zone! Summer Camp with the Grands!
If your Little is into cars and trucks, building things and engineering,
this post will definitely be a hit!
❤️ We are delighted to join these link up parties and blog hops this week: