Sunday, 21 September 2014

DIY Fine Motor Board Fun for Toddlers


This weekend we finally got few little DIY jobs completed....not for us of course but some upcycled resources for the  kids to play with...which is almost as good...well that's what I tell myself anyway!

This little fine motor board stems from an idea I had a few months back when I observed how much the toddler group attending my family day care service were enjoying playing and creating with washers and bolts whenever I brought them out.

As most toddlers do they also have a love of trying to figure out how things work and putting things on and off.  So I thought I would extend upon those interests and make up a simple board that would also challenge their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

I'm simply calling it a fine motor board....pretty clever huh? Yes I know it's not that exciting but hey at least you know what I'm talking about!

Now I'm pretty sure you don't need my instructions to make one for yourself but let's take a wander through the process just in case you have a question or two and frankly I took some photos so I have to show them somewhere ;)

Easy DIY fine motor board fun for toddlers -Mummy Musings and Mayhem

I started off cutting a few boards from some pallets we had stored downstairs, if you want to be fancy you could measure and cut specific sizes but I personally don't think your toddler is going to care either way...just sayin!

Easy DIY fine motor board fun for toddlers -Mummy Musings and Mayhem


We then went on a bit of a scavenger hunt in His Patient Self's shed to find some cuphooks because I just knew I had seen a stash of them somewhere, that man collects everything I tell you!

Tara thought it was great fun to help me find them and then pick out the ones she thought were the perfect match. And doesn't she have just the perfect outfit for the job? Love that kid's individual sense of style!

The wood we used is pretty rough as it was just recycled pallet timber so it needed a little sanding and then some clear lacquer over the top. We did try some old stain we had on one of the boards but it was too dark so the others just got some lacquer over the top to give them a nicer finish and protect them from the weather as I will be using them outdoors as well as indoors. You could of course add a stain of your choice but this project was all about using what we already had and the only leftover stain we had was too dark for this project!


Easy DIY fine motor board fun for toddlers -Mummy Musings and Mayhem

Older children will enjoy trying to help you make the boards, they can select different hooks, choose where to put them and even try to screw them in if your timber is soft like the pallet wood pieces we used.

Easy DIY fine motor board fun for toddlers -Mummy Musings and Mayhem

It really doesn't matter where you place the hooks, I used a few different sizes and tried to leave enough room for small fingers to maneuver .

Easy DIY fine motor board fun for toddlers -Mummy Musings and Mayhem

Once you have the hooks where you want them all you need to do is add a little bowl of washers that can be placed on the hooks. I also added some bolt nuts to provide an extra challenge.

Try to include different textures and sizes to encourage and support problem solving and sensory exploration.

Easy DIY fine motor board fun for toddlers -Mummy Musings and Mayhem

Easy DIY fine motor board fun for toddlers -Mummy Musings and Mayhem

At the moment I am just leaning the boards against the wall or some rocks outside so they stand upright and slightly back but I intend to add a few screws to the back so I can add a rope for hanging. Either way works!

Easy DIY fine motor board fun for toddlers -Mummy Musings and Mayhem

Some toddlers will find it more difficult to choose the pieces that fit easily over the hooks, others will just enjoy making patterns and taking the washers on and off and rearranging.

Easy DIY fine motor board fun for toddlers -Mummy Musings and Mayhem


However they choose to play with the board you know they will be strengthening their fine motor and problem solving skills as well as challenging their hand/eye coordination and understanding of the concepts big and small and spatial awareness.


Easy DIY fine motor board fun for toddlers -Mummy Musings and Mayhem

An easy little DIY project that incorporates sustainability and is of course budget friendly. 

What else could you use to hang on the hooks?


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Saturday, 20 September 2014

Effective and Safe Green Cleaning for Home and Daycare!

As a parent and also an early childhood educator I feel a great responsibility to ensure that not only my own children but also the children in my care are not exposed to harmful cleaning chemicals as they play and learn.

I know many of you reading will agree and say that it is important to keep harmful products locked away out of children's reach and it's something you do routinely...but have you also considered the effects to children (and you!) while you are using those products?

Effective and hygienic green cleaning tips for home and childcare services - mummy musings and mayhem.com


Growing numbers of children - (including my own so I have done a lot of research the last few years about this topic) have a sensitivity to many of the cleaning products on the market today. They may worsen asthma, allergies and other sensory sensitivities and they can also contribute to behaviour issues and heighten some learning difficulties.

One of my twins, Ruby, gets an awful asthma cough when exposed to cleaning products that have a distinct smell, this includes some of those that are essential oil based. She once threw up when I sprayed lavender oil/water in her room "to promote a restful sleep"! yeah, lavender didn't calm me that day I can tell you! She is ok with the lavender picked from the garden though.

She also cannot tolerate commercial air fresheners. I cannot use laundry powders with perfume as she breaks out in rashes, as does her twin. This is when I first began to make my own laundry liquid.

Tara displays quite aggressive behaviour and meltdowns if the air is thick with the smell of cleaning products. Took me a while to work it out and I know some of you will be sceptical but I know what I see. I highly recommend a read of Sue Dengate’s book ‘Fed Up’ which not only explores the chemicals in our food but also our cleaning products. it is certainly an eye opener! To find out more you can visit her here

So when you spray that air freshener everywhere or wipe over surfaces with disinfectant, use 'special' cleaning cloths already coated with a cleaning product, clean the shower with that potent smelling 'bathroom cleaner' or wash your floors with the 'germ free' solution consider what a child's senses might be experiencing. Think about what they are smelling, touching, tasting. There is often residue left from all these strong cleaning products so they don't need to be actually drinking the stuff for it to be harmful to their little systems!

Advertising campaigns are very good at playing on our mummy guilt, we want that germ free household and will use whatever product it takes to make that happen. We don't want sick kids, we want our home to be a hygenic environment, we want the best and are willing to pay for it right? 

Am I telling you that is wrong? No, not at all, this blog is about my opinion and how I parent and educate, what is right for me may not be right for your household and that is perfectly ok. What I do want to do though is provide you with some information that you might not have considered before, that might encourage you to take some baby steps into what I believe is a safer and more budget friendly cleaning option for your family or home daycare service.

“But we have to use those products to keep things clean!” I often hear from other parents and educators. They have been told they must clean in a certain way to provide a hygienic germ free environment and that's what they do. 

But is there an alternative? If you are talking about the family home then it is easy to incorporate some greener cleaning methods straight away...for those working as early childhood educators it can be a little more fraught depending on who you work for (self or centre) and the environment you work in (centre/home based). There are regulations, rules, policies and procedures to follow. A shame though that they often seem to be interpreted in many different ways. No wonder so many are confused!

I personally think many in the early childhood sector are going overboard with the cleaning they do, the products they choose to use and the expectations of staff. 

I know we want to maintain a hygienic and relatively germ free environment but there are ways to do this without spraying toxic chemicals and wiping disinfectant and antibacterial agents over everything. The aggressive advertising campaigns around germ free households  and child care environments certainly have a lot to answer for in my opinion.

So let's get to the bottom line....please keep in mind that I am talking about this issue from an Australian perspective, obviously regulations and other considerations will vary in different countries and even different states within Australia....but I believe it is well worth you investigating a little so you can make some informed decisions.

Cleaning requirements in early childhood services 


When we discuss sustainability in early childhood practice I think we need to explore and consider some safer and greener cleaning practices to reduce our chemical load and what we are exposing young children to on a regular basis.

How can we use fewer products and safer alternatives? Can we do that according to current health and safety regulations?

Let’s explore what we really need to do according to the 5th edition of Staying 
Healthy in early childhood and education care services. which is a guide that many early childhood educators should be familiar with and many home based child care coordination units and long day care centres base their policies and procedures regarding health and hygiene on here in Australia.

Cleaning effectively in early childhood 

  • For nappy change mats – use warm soapy water, wipe with paper towel or a single use cloth that must be then put in the wash, rinse and wipe dry with more paper towel 
  • If possible, at lunch or rest time put out in the sun to dry 
  • For toys – use the dishwasher or warm water and detergent. Make sure to rinse and then leave in the sun to dry if possible. If a toy can’t be washed then don’t buy it is my recommendation. Keep a box for mouthed toys and wash at end of each day if you have babies. 
  •  For bathrooms and toilets – Wash surfaces with detergent and warm water. There is no need to use disinfectant unless you know that the surface has been contaminated with potentially infectious material via body substances or blood. 
  • Disinfectant is useless unless a surface has been cleaned first. It cannot kill germs if the surface is not clean so use your detergent and dry first. Most disinfectants must also soak the surface for at least 10 minutes to be effective (check the back of the bottle and read fine print if you don't believe me!)
  • If using bleach because of a gastro/contagious outbreak, blood spill or similar then you need to apply it after you have washed and dried the surface first as above. Disinfectant is only required during reportable outbreaks. 
  • Vinegar is unfortunately not a suitable ‘alternative’ disinfectant – it does not kill enough germs in a short space of time to be an effective surface disinfectant, it has not been tested or registered as a disinfectant. I do often use it in a spray bottle diluted well though to freshen up surfaces (and it makes a fantastic fabric softener for the washing!)
Interesting right? Seems you don't need that bright pink wash and smelly floor cleaner to ensure you are following best practice procedure. One reason I found it very difficult to wash my hands when working in child care centres was because many of them used that awful bright pink handwash that would leave me with severe dermatitis on my hands! I really hope that stuff has long gone now but I know it was a cheap option so it's probably still out there lurking!

It might surprise you to know that I very rarely use disinfectant here and I certainly don’t spray Glen 20 (or similar) everywhere, especially on things children will touch and possibly mouth. As you can see from the points above, it will not be effective if applied in this way so you are just wasting your hard earned dollar or (50 cents after tax obviously ;) )

Well that's fantastic Jode I hear you say (you know I often like to pretend I can hear you all reading along with me so just indulge me ok!) but how do I clean effectively then? What do I do in my home and family day care service?

My Green Clean Kit & Practices for Home and Daycare

Effective and hygienic green cleaning tips for home and childcare services - mummy musings and mayhem.com
  • Colour coded cloths that can be washed and reused over and over - blue for bathroom, green for kitchen, purple for tables and yellow for dusting. I use paper towel for floor spills.
Effective and hygienic green cleaning tips for home and childcare services - mummy musings and mayhem.com
  • Plain eco friendly/low sudsing washing detergent diluted in water in spray bottles and bleach for cleaning bathroom surfaces, kitchen and eating surfaces and nappy change mat. I apply with paper towel and dry with paper towel. You can use reusable cloths as another option when wiping down the change mat but keep in mind that you will then need to wash them after each single use so by the end of the day you might have a lot of extra washing (if also using handtowels and washers for the children) so that is more water and electricity being used which may or may not outweigh the cost and use of paper towel. Paper towel works most effectively for me so that is what I stick with but it's a personal decision.
Effective and hygienic green cleaning tips for home and childcare services - mummy musings and mayhem.com
  • If I need to use bleach I dilute it only as needed as it loses it's effectiveness if stored diluted so don't put it into a spray bottle and leave it ready to use!
  • I use orange or lemon essential oil diluted well in spray bottles as air freshener (Ruby isn't as sensitive to these two essential oils as long as they are diluted well)
  • I always ventilate the bathroom and house as much as possible as part of my green clean plan. 
  • I fill my bathroom sink at nappy change times with warm water and apply detergent via spray bottle onto the mat then wipe with paper towel and the warm water.
  •  If I want to give the bathroom areas a good scrub I make a paste with bicarbonate of soda and a little vinegar and use a scourer or rags wrapped in those orange net bags work really well too.
Effective and hygienic green cleaning tips for home and childcare services - mummy musings and mayhem.com
  •  If I feel I absolutely need to use some jif or other commercial cream cleanser I do it when there are no children are in care that day and my own kids are out of the house therefore not exposing any children to potentially harmful chemicals.
  • I generally avoid products with a fragrance if I can.
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil in 1/2 cup vinegar makes a lovely wooden furniture polish, if you want to add a little fragrance without being overpowering in the home some lemon juice or essential oil works well. store in a jar with lid or recycled spray bottle and use an old tea towel or rag for applying.
Effective and hygienic green cleaning tips for home and childcare services - mummy musings and mayhem.com
  • I like to make my own laundry liquid or powder when I can. It lasts for ages and is therefore very cost effective. It also has a lovely subtle 'clean' smell!
Effective and hygienic green cleaning tips for home and childcare services - mummy musings and mayhem.com
  • I use vinegar in my washing machine as a cleaner and also fabric softener.
  • 1/4 cup of homemade (clothes) washing liquid in warm water makes a fantastic floor cleaner.

Effective and hygienic green cleaning tips for home and childcare services - mummy musings and mayhem.com


My Top 6 Cleaning Essentials

  1. Colour coded washable cloths for cleaning surfaces, bathroom and kitchen
  2. Eco friendly dishwashing detergent
  3. Vinegar
  4. Orange essential oil (in very small quantities)
  5. Bi carb of soda
  6. Sunlight pure soap bars or lux pure soap flakes
I like to keep them all together in a little caddy so I am ready to go when I need something.

So if you work as a home educator or in centre based care or are the parent who does the cleaning in your home why not consider getting rid of some of those toxic chemicals you have locked away and try a little detergent and elbow grease instead! 

Obviously for educators reading this guide, check the recommendations and regulations with your own governing body but I'm sure there is at least one of the practices above that you could incorporate into your service. Every little bit helps and perhaps it is up to you to raise the question of the effect that toxic cleaners and even some 'natural cleaners' are having on the sensory systems of the children in our current germ phobic society.


 Would you consider some greener cleaning alternatives in your home or workplace?

Effective and hygienic green cleaning tips for home and childcare services - mummy musings and mayhem.com

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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

6 Fun Fine Motor Play Ideas with Tongs


I love to come up with fine motor activities for children, especially toddlers as it is such an important pre writing skill to practice and strengthen.

One of my favourite tools to encourage the use of fine motor skills and hand eye coordination is the small tong. There are just so many ways to use them and although most toddlers will find them difficult to master at first they will keep persevering because they love a challenge at that age.

As they grow the tongs can still provide many challenges. Once they have mastered the squeeze and release action you can also introduce smaller items to pick up and games that require them to squeeze and hold for a period of time while they transfer items.

They are also fantastic to have in home corner as they encourage real life role play while they  practise an important skill.

The use of tongs in play really does showcase the importance and ease of play based learning.

I've collected 6 of my twins favourite tong activities to share with you. Why not give one a go...they are all budget friendly and very easy to set up.


6 fun fine motor ideas with tongs for toddlers - see them all at mummy musings and mayhem!


I buy my tongs in packs of two from the local supermarket or pick them up from the op shops whenever I see them. I *might* have too many but at least there aren't fights over them!

Click on the pictures below to visit the activity post for more information.

Kangaroo Tong Treasure Hunt


6 fun fine motor ideas with tongs for toddlers - see them all at mummy musings and mayhem!


Goopy Tong Bear Hunt


6 fun fine motor ideas with tongs for toddlers - see them all at mummy musings and mayhem!

Slimy Baubles


6 fun fine motor ideas with tongs for toddlers - see them all at mummy musings and mayhem!

Meatballs & Spaghetti Fine & Gross Motor Game


toddler fine and gross motor game

Edible Sensory Fine Motor Tray


6 fun fine motor ideas with tongs for toddlers - see them all at mummy musings and mayhem!

Toddler Tongs and Water Play


6 fun fine motor ideas with tongs for toddlers - see them all at mummy musings and mayhem!


How does your child like to have fun with their fine motor skills?


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