Super simple sensory snow set up


I used to do a lot of sensory play with H. Because she was an early winter baby, by the time her first spring and summer rolled around, I was able to take her outside and experience our wonderful world. She felt the grass on her knees and the sand between her fingers. And I didn’t have to do a thing.

Y was born in mid-May, so he briefly experienced autumn, however he was not mobile then. He goes outside with me every day, so while he routinely feels the cold wind and the giant wet snowflakes kiss his face, he hasn’t played in the snow yet.

I’ve been dreaming about spring and summer and taking my baby out to crawl and toddle about but I woke up this morning to yet another blanket of snow (it continued to fall all day), so this afternoon I finally decided to bring some in.

It was a super easy and quick set up. I placed Y in his play yard so I could go outside and grab some fresh snow (otherwise he would’ve been up the stairs).

image I put down a table cover we use for art, and filled some snow in the baby bathtub (which is no longer used for baths). I added some kitche tools, bath toys, little people and a few sand toys that I washed off.


Y was eager to get to the toys. He tried three times to get the pink starfish but recoiled each time, shivering. He was not liking the cold and instead opted to just collect the people.



H played intermittently, warming up her hands in between. I offered Y some snow but he touched it and decided it was not going to happen.


The snow was wet and excellent for packing. I used a baking spoon to make a “macaroon” and Y took it right out of my hand and decided the snow would make a  good teething biscuit.


If you would like to see some great ideas for snow/ice play in indoor and outdoor settings, check out this past post.


Infants, Grasping and Emergent Curriculum


For many new parents, it’s one of the sweetest, earliest memories when their baby holds their finger. Thanks to the grasp reflex, babies are primed to wrap their palms and fingers around whatever is placed in their palms. As they grow, they lose this reflex and grasping becomes more intentional.


I remember noticing Y’s fondness for grasping things that provided some kind of holes. Infants often start by grabbing into gasping rings but it became very noticeable to me when he was repeatedly drawn to items with multiple holes.


I decided to intentionally provide materials he could weave his fingers in to promote his interest in a safe way.

One of the first things I did was hanging up a belly dance scarf within arms reach for him to explore during a diaper change.


Then again with H as I looked on.


Because of the small coins on the scarf, I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him alone to play with it for long periods so I started thinking of what else I could create.

I remembered an idea from the book Loose Parts 2: Inspiring Play with Infants and Toddlers where embroidery hoops were used with different textured materials. So I decided to use a mesh bag that previously housed babybel cheese as my fabric of choice. I left the tag on because infants are drawn to tags.

In addition to creating this toy for him, I also became more mindful about our environment and started thinking about things we had at home that he was drawn to grasping that perhaps weren’t independently accessible (artwork, towel holder ring etc).

I’ve been ruminating over how I can make his bedroom and the children’s play space more inviting and engaging. I will share the process and results of this in a future post.

Observing Y the past few months has been especially satisfying for me because while I have quite a bit of experience using emergent curriculum (planning play environments and learning opportunities for children based on demonstrated interests, needs and abilities), it’s mostly been with preschool-aged children. To witness the amazing progression of skill in infants is really something special and these days, I find myself more drawn to creating meaningful play opportunities and environments for Y.

In the 3.5 years that have elapsed since H was this age, my knowledge and understanding of play and development has not only deepened, but I’ve been able to connect to likeminded parents and educators which continues to serve as inspiration. This along with getting to live out my learning firsthand is a reason to get excited!

Rings and Things


I remember seeing a photo on the internet somewhere of parents and educators using a paper towel holder as a stand for stacking rings, similar to the plastic or wooden rainbow coloured stacker toys commonly sold for babies. I did have a 5-ring plastic stacker toy that I bought for H in BC when she was a baby, although the middle ring has been living at my parents house in Toronto for the past 3.5 years. I thought I would give it a try for Y because we already owned a paper towel holder, and I’m all about repurposing things.

Most of the photos I had seen online used beautiful wooden rings or wonderfully beaded bracelets. Because I don’t vigilantly supervise my children when they play, I decided to pass on the beaded bracelets for now and I didn’t have any wooden rings. Coincidentally, all the rings I had were metal: curtain rings, mason jar lids and a few steel bracelets.


Y doesn’t have the skills yet to stack the rings or pull them off of the paper towel holder independently yet (it’s quite tall compared to the commercial stacker toys) but he really enjoyed moving the rings up
and down.


He knocked the paper towel holder over and started spinning the rings. I held it horizontally for him to give him more access, and not only did he spin them, but he discovered he could make a beautiful sound when they hit one another.


He picked up the rings that had fallen off
the holder and proceeded to bang them together, amusing at the sound. To extend this idea, I gave him a metal spoon.


The sound the metal parts made when they interacted is not too different than the sound Y makes when he uses a spoon or his hand over the metal grills in our house. This is all adding to his concept of
metal among others.

Another fascinating thing we discovered together that built upon the previous post was what happened to the paper towel holder when we rolled it. Cylinders typically roll straight but since this was more of a cone shape (one end was much smaller than the other) it actually rolled in big circles. Y and I were both intrigued, especially because it still rolled (albeit not as well) with the rings on. I think it would be neat to intriduce paint one day and see where the children take it.

Update: Y played with this again today and I noticed that when its lying on its side, he has figured out how to remove the rings.

He also continues to take great joy in holding a ring in either hand and hitting them together.


By now he has figured out how to maneuver the holder with one hand.

As Y continues to master this, I will add other rings and experiment with size, colour and material. I intend on adding some chooriyan (traditional south Asian bangles) to the mix.


Super Easy Infant Sensory Baskets


Setting up play opportunities for infants can seem daunting: they don’t talk, they may not have clear interests and may not even be mobile. Besides, they put EVERYTHING in their mouth (an excellent way for them to collect information since they have more nerves in their mouths than in their hands, and in the early stages, more control in this part as well). Then what are you supposed to “do with them?”

There’s a host of toys designed for infants. Most of them have some combination of lights, music and lots of plastic. If you are looking for something novel and spontaneous, this may help.

It’s important to realize that even though infants may not be able to verbally communicate their learning to us, do not be fooled. Their brains are working faster than yours and mine! Simply speaking out loud to them throughout the day, narrating your activities, making eye contact and having lots of physical touch is GREAT! Taking them along and including them in the sights, sounds and smells of your daily life is FANTASTIC. Giving them the gift of early literacy by singing, reading and doing finger rhymes is AWESOME. But what about those moments when you are at home and need a few minutes to yourself?

Making up a few bins of items grouped by themes is an easy start. Ideas of baby appropriate themes may include a specific colour, various texture/fabrics, things that make sounds, a particular material like steel or wood, a particular shape like spheres or rings. Depending on the age of your infant and their physical ability, you may decide to adjust your theme. For example, my eight month old is perfectly capable of maneuvering wood and steel items because he sits independently, but I probably would not have left him alone with those items when he was four months old and still lying on his back.

These photos are of a very last minute effort that served to not only stimulate my baby, but also involve big sister, making it an engaging play experience for all parties involved. I asked my daughter to pick a colour. She picked green and I picked yellow. Then I told her to go around the house and find green things her baby brother might like to play with and collect them in her basket. When she was done, I checked the items with her. We decided to remove a small green domino because it was not safe for him to play with on his own.


Later, I left him with one of the baskets while I cooked dinner and he happily tasted every item. He was most engaged by the thick yellow rope. Not only was it a new object for him, but the texture, weight, material, and shape played into his interests (this will be revisited in an upcoming post).


Many of the items in the basket were traditional toys so the next time We do this and give ourselves more time to prepare, I’d like to challenge us to find
a greater variety of items as we think about texture, natural materials and other physical properties.


Babies and moments for every day play


Early childhood educators will tell you that with infants, building play and literacy into everyday moments is important. As a mother, I can also add that incorporating play into these moments is a lifesaver.

Throwback to 3.5 years ago and I had time to be much more intentional in my play with my daughter. I had the time to set up more provocations (and clean up after the resulting messes). But baby #2 (and any baby after that) teaches you to make do with what you have. It might not be perfect, but you go with it.

So today as Y (Now 7.5 months) chowed down on a peice of Avacado (Thank you Auntie G for the idea BTW!), I observed. I enjoy observing children, especially at play.


His hands were pretty gross by the time he was done . I knew we couldn’t make it to the bathroom without it getting everywhere so I filled up shallow a container of water. He loved it! He moved his fingers back and forth and was delighted at the way the water sounded, the way the cool water moved between his fingers and the little bubbles that motion made. I relished in his giggles (and the fact the water was turning murky because that meant less scrubbing at the sink).


I added a boat. He pushed it back and forth. I blew it away and he became wide eyed and kicked his legs the way he does when any kind of breeze hits his face.


I took the container away to discard the dirty water and finished getting him cleaned up but he started screaming and crying. He was not done.

So I gave it back, newly-filled, watching as he found the edge of the container. I knew what was coming. Maybe on any other day I would’ve taken it away, deciding I could not handle any more mess or clothing changes, but in that moment, I went with it.

This past year, I’ve been working on letting go. And not being ashamed of what my life has become.

This beautiful chaos is proof of a childhood where children play and love and learn. The raw emotions that often swirl around in our house like a tornado on fire, are helping all of us grow and become better versions of ourselves.

I realize that it’s not my job to keep my kids from falling down or having broken hearts, but instead to teach them how to get up and go on.

So basically,.. he dumped the entire container of water all over himself and the floor. Then he was ready to move on. I mopped up and got him changed. Honestly though, this was a lot easier because my four year old was napping- not sure how patient I would’ve been for this spontaneous play among her kajillion questions.


May we always remember that our children don’t need big elaborate opportunities for play- everyday moments can be just as wonderful and significant to their developing minds.



Odds and Ends


We’ve been doing a lot of play and exploration with light and shadow (post forthcoming) but in the meantime I thought I’d share some photos of the other things we have been up to. It’s fascinating for me to be back in the baby years and witness how quickly physical, social and cognitive skills are developing. It’s also been interesting to see changing dynamics and relationships within our house.





October Round Up


October has been a busy and interesting month! We spent the last few days of September outdoors visiting the farm and exploring the neighbourhood.


Good thing because the beginning of October brought snow! Fortunately, it was temporary so we could enjoy fall some more.


As we found ourselves settling into more of a routine, we started spending more time indoors.

H came across this tray and literally begged me to fill it with things for her (she remembered the last time we had used it), so in a five minute hussle, I filled it with things from my kitchen (isn’t it amazing how many different types of pasta there are?!)


H got to work, adding in her own loose parts like bracelets.


This month, she spent a lot of time dressing up. Sometimes she used ready made costumes and sometimes she used her imagination.


I love H’s knack for symbolic play. I think she would be great at improv. Here she is with her bicycle helmet, a bunk bed she made for her dolls and putting her babies to sleep in their bassinets.


We voted in the municipal elections and that raised a discussion about mayors. So far the only mayors she knew about were Mayor Goodway and Mayor Humdinger. She was very curious about Mayor Nenshi.


H played with old loose parts, building homes and having picnics.


And explored new ones too.

We read. We ran up hills. We went to go see a play.


We did experiments and yoga.

Our car broke down and we ended up stuck at her school for a few hours. It was nice for me to have a deeper look at her preschool environment. I know I’m the keener parent- the one who is always looking at the lesson plans, remembers spirit days and peeks to see what new centres have been added to the room.


As Y has been growing older, it’s fascinating to see what captures his attention. Not only does he love watching his sister at play, but he has started to express his own preferences. He was really drawn to this bicycle-printed hijab of mine so we used it over his play gym and suspended from the swing. He also tried catching his shadow.


I spent time learning this month. I found some inspiring Facebook groups and attending virtual workshops I had signed up for last winter. This exposure to seeing Reggio in practice got my gears turning and reignited my passion for self-growth and reflection.

When I look back at some of what we did this month, I feel exhausted! But I also can’t help but smile at all of the synapses (brain connections) that must have been made. Play, is after all, the work of the child.