Saturday, March 20, 2010

Joyful Mama's Favourite Finds from the plastics shop!

I LOVE shops selling plastic ware! I like to think of them as creativity incubators, because everytime I go there, my mind starts racing to come up with innovative ways to use the really well-priced little tools and containers they sell. So, I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite buys for Sweetpea!

1. Plastic scoops

They come in a variety of sizes and are excellent for scooping anything from sand to dried beans when playing, or for practical life excercises like scooping sugar from the large storage container into the sugar bowl.

2. Boxes with compartments

A plastics shop stock item, they come in ALL shapes and sizes and the sky is the limit when it comes to uses for these! Right now we are using this particular small box for organizing wooden beads with different shapes that I got from a craft shop.

The larger ones, like those used for fishing tackle, are ideal for storing craft supplies. I am now searching for a long rectangular one with about ten compartments. I'll mark each compartment with a number from 1 to 10. Sweetpea can then place the corresponding number of popsicle sticks into each compartment. (Similar to the spindle box in Montessori method)

3. 5 liter ice cream containers

LOVE LOVE LOVE these for organizing toys! I stuck a sticker with the day of the week on the front and divided the children's toys into them. (I kept similar toys together, eg. finger puppets and hand puppets in one, musical intruments in the next, farm animals in another). This way the toys get rotated from day to day and the bambinos don't get bored! I have separate sets for each of the children - the baby's contain sqeaky toys, unpainted wooden blocks, a collection of rattles etc. They stack very neatly on top of each other and gives me a wonderful sense of being on top of things! Look out Martha Stewart!

4. Plastic Tea set

Stored very neatly in another stackable plastics shop container, this gets taken out nearly daily and Sweetpea loves colour matching the cups, saucers and teaspoons and then spends hours pouring water from teapot to milk jug to cups and back again. And she squeals with delight when I drink my 'tea' and pretend to take bites out of the felt cupcakes I made for her. She loves stirring, so I get offered endless spoons of air 'sugar'! I encourage her to bring me full cups which she carefully carries by holding on to the saucer with both hands, meticulously trying not to spill. A great practical life excercise!

5. Long-spouted watering can

We don't have a very large garden, so most of my plants grow in large pots on the patio. Sweetpea really wanted to help with the watering, but the large watering can was just too big and heavy. So I bought her this one and showed her how to hold onto the handle with one hand, and the spout with the other, to help her with control. She rarely misses and knows that the smaller pots are especially hers to water! Oh, and from the first time she used it I also showed her where we keep it. Now when I ask her to quench some potplants on sweltering days, she knows where to get it and always replaces it in he same spot. Do this with every new toy or tool you bring into the house and you will soon have a pint-high co-worker who'll make your job of picking up much easier!

6. Small dustpan and brush

If you show them how to use it, you encourage little ones to take ownership of their messes and to become your allies in cleaning up! (There's a whole lesson on training in that sentence! Maybe I'll explore it a little further in a future post!) Sweetpea cannot sweep up crumbs on her own yet, but she knows where the dustpan is kept and will fetch it and hold it for me while I do the sweeping with the brush.

7. And my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE: The Two-step stool!!

This is by far the most uitlized piece of 'furniture' in our home! I bought it when Sweetpea had outgrown the kitchen sink (she used to sit in one ink and rinse the clean dishes in a tub of clean water while I washed in the other sink).

I was looking for a nice wooden one that would complement my decor, but the only one I could find was ridiculously expensive, so once again it was the plastics shop to the rescue! Not only could she now reach the sink without effort, but in the mornings and at night it gets dragged to the bathroom for brushing her teeth. (In retrospect, the pretty wooden one would have been too heavy for her to move around by herself).

If she asks for a banana and I give permision, she uses her step stool to open the basket drawer herself. She stands on it when she packs the clean cutlery into the drawer (yep, the cutlery orgnizer is another plastics shop find and letting her do this gets the job done AND is a lesson in organizing - a good pre-maths exercise!)

I have seen some wonderful ideas all over Blog-ville of other mums using inexpensive platic ware for teaching early childhood skills. And there's a bag with a few new purchases waiting in the hall closet to be re-purposed as exciting learning tools - I will keep you posted! I'd love to hear about YOUR favourite finds - please e-mail me!

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