J turned three last month and had a pirate themed birthday party. It was fab and J still hasn’t stopped talking about it! We’ve also been to a various party every weekend for the last 6 weeks and J is definitely in the party mood! Therefore, I created J a birthday party play station. It has two elements; the party and the prep area!
The party consists of: a buffet of sandwiches, cakes (play dough), candles (wooden sticks), napkins, cups and jug, candles (wooden sticks) and party bags!
The prep area includes: pencils, sticky tape, cards and envelopes, stickers, empty boxes (Gaviscon – as G has reflux, we have these in abundance), sugar paper rolled with elastic bands round (as wrapping paper) and cup cake boxes (to act as gift boxes)!
All these things we had around the house, some left over from the party and other bits from the craft box or his toys! Easy but effective!
To begin with, I kept J in the dining area so he could only see the prep area! He was very excited and wanted to write a card straight away! As he ‘wrote’ he dictated what the card said! This is the first stage of writing and we should praise ALL attempts (even when it looks like scribble or marks) as this is an amazing achievement and first step to learning to write! Encourage your child to tell you what the writing says as we want them to apply meaning to their marks and also understand that print conveys a meaning! Educators call this writing emergent writing or mark making.
The main learning purpose of the prep area is for developing mark making and fine motor skills. The fact it is so much fun for J is of primary importance for me but learning through play is just so powerful! J tried hard to wrap his presents! He put random toys from his toy box in the boxes and started to wrap by peeling off the sticky tape and folding the paper around the box! This is an incredibly hard skill – in fact I am rubbish at it! It proved very tricky for J so he called in the help of Daddy!
I could have used real wrapping paper but I wanted J to decorate the sugar paper, primarily for fun but also, the peeling and sticking of the stickers is fantastic for… you guessed it – fine motor skills!
Once J had written his card and wrapped his present, he decided he was going to make a party! I said, ‘wouldn’t it be good if we had a party in our house!’ You can see the look of joy on his face when he saw it! He also had to bring his guest of honour; his dinosaur!!
Playing with and manipulating play dough is fantastic for developing those tiny hand muscles and who doesn’t love play dough?? Once J had made the cakes and dumped some play dough in the party bags – the party got started!! He helped himself to the buffet and poured drinks for him and Mr Dinosaur! He talked about the cups being ‘empty’ and ‘full’ and even said, ‘I hope it doesn’t overflow Mummy!’
J then carried on putting candles on the cup cakes and counted as he did so with one-to-one correspondence! Counting is not reciting the number names in order; children need to be able to touch the first object and say, ‘1’, then the second and say ‘2’ and so on! To encourage this, ask your children to slow down when the count objects and physically touch the objects as they count. Children often get so confident saying their numbers from 1-10 that they then whizz through them too fast and this makes the process of learning to actually count, more tricky! The key is… slowly does it!
What did J learn?
- Developed fine motor skills (wrapping presents, peeling sticky tape, holding the paper, sticking with stickers, rolling play dough, putting in candles and writing with pencil).
- Counting objects when he put toys in the boxes, counted balloons, counted candles as he put them on the cake.
- Developed emergent writing and assigned meaning to the marks.
- Developed gross motor skills when pouring water from the jug and dancing with balloon.