17 December 2014

Puffy Paint Gingerbread

In the lead up to Christmas, I took an old favourite and added some Christmas cheer to it. At home I normally make gingerbread houses or people with my own children but that's just not feasible with nearly 60 children over two sessions at preschool so I used the spices typically used in gingerbread to make some puffy paint with instead.  


Puffy Paint Gingerbread - mix up your own puffy paint and add some Christmas spice to fill the senses.  For more visit www.youclevermonkey.com


The recipe is very simple as is the process.

To make the 'paint' you will need equal amounts of salt and self-raising flour (or plain flour plus baking powder as you want it to rise when cooked). For such a large group I used a cup of each but we still ran out. Add a heaped tablespoon of each - ground ginger, mixed spice, cinnamon and all spice to the dry ingredients then add enough water to form a thick paste. Start with a cup of water then gradually add more to make it smooth but not too runny. You don't have to use all of these spices but I already had them in my cupboard and they were starting to date. I also made a smaller batch of just plain paint to use as icing.

Puffy Paint Gingerbread - mix up your own puffy paint and add some Christmas spice to fill the senses.  For more visit www.youclevermonkey.com

The children then used small spoons to make their own gingerbread. Use thick cardboard underneath as they can become quite heavy. Some children decided to draw their design first then overlay it with paint whilst some just dabbed small amounts from their spoon onto the card. I always find it interesting observing the different approaches taken by different children to an invitation such as this.


Puffy Paint Gingerbread - mix up your own puffy paint and add some Christmas spice to fill the senses.  For more visit www.youclevermonkey.com

Once they were happy with their creation one of the staff then used a microwave to cook their gingerbread. The children very much enjoyed watching their gingerbread paint puff up as it cooked. Most gingerbread only needed 20-30 seconds in the microwave to cook through. You do need to be vigilant whilst cooking the gingerbread in case they overheat and catch. They smelt divine as they cooked and the children loved it!


Puffy Paint Gingerbread - mix up your own puffy paint and add some Christmas spice to fill the senses.  For more visit www.youclevermonkey.com





We've made puffy paint a few times at home in the past but usually with colours added rather than spices. Just a tablespoon of salt and SR flour plus some food colouring and water in each bowl and you have a quick to prepare activity suitable for mixed ages.

Puffy Paint Gingerbread - mix up your own puffy paint and add some Christmas spice to fill the senses.  For more visit www.youclevermonkey.com

You can see how much fun it is. I was laughing too hard at the cheesy grin to take a clean shot of this one.

Puffy Paint Gingerbread - mix up your own puffy paint and add some Christmas spice to fill the senses.  For more visit www.youclevermonkey.com

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16 December 2014

Easy Christmas Sensory Play

Christmas is nearly here! And it's the end of the school year here in Australia so I combined a little of Christmas cheer with some coloured rice to invite play in one of our sensory bins at preschool.


Easy Christmas Sensory Bin - how to make and play by you clever monkey


To make the same you'll just need:

- some cheap plastic Christmas ornaments (these ones I bought at our local supermarket)
- large jingle bells
- lengths of plastic beading
- metal Christmas cookie cutters
- red and white pipecleaners (I cut each length in half then twisted two colours together to make the candy canes)
- magnetic wands
- plus something to fill the bin with


Easy Christmas Sensory Bin - how to make and play by you clever monkey

I used our green rice (you can learn how to quickly and easily colour your rice by visiting here) as our base but poly fill pellets or salt flakes would create a snowy effect for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere.  If you're interested in finding other non-food items for sensory bins, you might also like to read this post.

Easy Christmas Sensory Bin - how to make and play by you clever monkey

I also set up another invitiation using some of the smaller baubles. Earlier in the year, someone donated this lovely wooden serving set to the preschool I work at which has been perfect for sorting many things. 


Easy Christmas Sensory Bin - how to make and play by you clever monkey

I also re-created the same invitation to play at home and my five year old quickly set about sorting the different objects she could remove using one of the magnetic wands we love to use.

This quickly turned into some counting and measuring to find the longest and shortest length of beading.


Easy Christmas Sensory Bin - how to make and play by you clever monkey

Looking for more Christmas ideas?  You might like to follow my Christmas board on Pinterest - 

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14 December 2014

A is for alphabet books

I have already confessed my love of alphabet books. It's a weakness but as there are so many great alphabet books to choose from I thought it was time I shared a few favourites.


A is for alphabet books - 10 of the best alphabet books as reviewed by you clever monkey


LMNO Peas by Keith Baker - I do so love this book. The peas have a starring role throughout carrying on their jobs listed from A to Z.  It reminds me of the Richard Scarry books of my childhood (ala What Do People Do All Day?) crossed with the sense of humour the minions from Despicable Me display while doing their work. A great book to explore if you are looking at jobs people do.


Animalia by Graeme Base - is a classic Australian picture book.  With beautifully intricate illustrations together with tongue-twisting alliterations, this book makes the perfect gift for any child. It makes for a great game of i-spy and Animalia App is similar fun plus you get to hear Graeme read the book aloud.

Z Is for Moose by Kelly Bingham - is such a funny book.  It starts out as a simple presentation on stage - A is for apple, B is for ball... except there's also one very excited moose who just can't wait his turn and makes such a mess of things so much so the stage manager Zebra replaces him with a mouse for the letter M. Young children can relate to the emotions in this book making it perfect for the preschool set in particular.

A is for Artist: An Alphabet by Ella Doran - is a gorgeous book!  I'd written about it before but I love it too much not to include it here again. Out of print currently but well worth hunting down a secondhand copy like I did.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jnr (author of another favourite Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?) - one of my mentor teachers introduced me to this fun rhyming book about the letters of the alphabet who all rush to the top of the coconut tree.  It's a fantastic read aloud book for any classroom and a useful one for follow-on alphabet activities.

A Long Piece of String by William Wondriska - an older style book in which you follow a piece of string as it winds its way across every page.  Past the alligator, bird, castle, dog and elephant.  Around the flower, past the gas station, through the house and around the icecream.  A couple of letters are based on the more typically US names like alligator, gas, jet and yardstick but there is a list included at the back of the book and few children can resist tracing their finger along the string line as you read together.

Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert - beautifully illustrated, Ehlert also includes both upper and lower case letters on each page along with her water coloured fruits and vegetables from around the world. You can eat your way through the alphabet!

The Most Amazing Hide-and-Seek Alphabet Book by Robert Crowther - we've had for years and is a fun interactive book.  Flicking through all you can see are letters of the alphabet but you can then pull/push/flip/slide the letter out of the way to see the animal hiding behind.  

If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet by Leslie McGuirk - is the most amazing alphabet book full of found rocks and other objects. So beautiful! It provides a useful prompt for play with loose parts too.

Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers - is one appearing under our Christmas tree this year. I think my older two will like this one as Jeffers creates short stories around each letter and the vocabulary is more complex with just enough whimsy and surprise to keep them reading.





Outside the US? I recommend The Book Depository with free worldwide delivery.

Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository

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