Category Archives: Explore


January 9, 2017

The New Year is upon us once again (and I am sure they come round quicker than they used to!) and with it comes more new beginnings. Here is the chance to restart, reset, reignite interests that got lost in the rush to create Christmas. Or to find some new interests. Here is how our first week of a new year has gone…

I can’t possibly miss out Teddy’s birthday. He turned four right at the end of the old year, and to celebrate we visited the steam trains. Teddy really enjoyed seeing a steam train run through our local station back in the autumn, which prompted some visits to the level crossing that Little Bear loves at a similar age. This time it was very exciting to actually ride one. We also watched another as it left the station in a cloud of atmospheric steam and a loud shriek from its whistle.

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Oak Eggar Moth Study

Little Bear loves bugs, beasties and all sorts of creepy crawlies. Much of his time has been spent capturing specimens to draw, discuss and release, and he enjoys taking care of the creatures he finds. One of the most anticipated events of our year is the arrival of Painted Continue reading

On this day… 17th July 2015

(should have published this last night, oops!)

On this day…

…Little Bear drew sharks for this month’s quilt square (there will be more about this project in a few weeks)


…Teddy practised his fine motor skills with straws, pipecleaners and colanders. He liked pushing the straws all the way through the holes in the colander until they disappeared.

…Mama Bear spent way too much money on a new calendar, planner AND diary (but they will be so useful!)


…the small bears released a dragon and a whale shark from their bicarbonate of soda eggs (see where I got the idea from here!)

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…Little Bear and I played Guess Who

…not forgetting plenty of Minecraft, Octonauts, Riders of Berk, Miniscule and playing with dragons.


A coconut: so simple, so much fun!

Teddy loves Octonauts, particularly the episodes about crabs. The other day he watched the one with the Coconut Crabs about five times in a row, and then Little Bear began wondering about coconuts. Specifically, he wondered if he could have a cannonball that he could wrap up in coconut skin and then put things inside, but failing that I bought a coconut. It arrived with our food order, and was spotted almost immediately. Little Bear pounced, and the day began.

The first thing they needed to do was shake it up, to find out what could be inside, and were excited to discover they could hear something! Little Bear then spent about half an hour trying various methods to crack it open: he threw it down the stairs, hit it with a stone, whacked it on the patio, hit it with a large stick… Teddy had a go as well, and I listened to them chatting to each other (you need to imagine both of them talking at the same time…)


Little Bear: “Teddy, it’s like a large nut and it’s got a special kind of milk called coconut milk in it. It’s also kind of hard. You can’t crack it open with a toy dolphin, Teddy! Really you need a hammer…”

Teddy: “Oh, coconut, Little Bear! What coconut, Little Bear? Is large. Is round. [gasp] Oh coconut! Is mine coconut and is Little Bear coconut. Hmmm…. is coconut!”

Over the course of the day Little Bear drew the coconut, watched a film about cracking open coconuts, tasted coconut milk (neither of them liked it much!), finally got to hit it with a hammer, and tasted the flesh inside (he didn’t like that either). I scooped out the flesh, and the boys played with the coconut shell halves for much of the rest of the day. Teddy enjoyed clopping them together and exclaiming how coconutty they were, whereas Little Bear was interested in what he could fit inside. Both tried the shell halves in their water play, fitting them together and pulling them apart.


It is amazing how much can be done with just one small interest. 






baby play space

I’ve written before that Teddy Bear is very keen on getting into all of Little Bear’s play. He tends to get in the way a bit, and spoil Little Bear’s games a lot of the time, so I have created a little space for him to try and keep him occupied and away from the big kids stuff.


Here it is, just a small corner of our living room. Its a shame I didn’t think of this earlier. Teddy is pretty mobile now, but this would have been a gorgeous space to play in for a static baby. Hey ho…


The mat on the floor is new this weekend. A lovely friend of ours made it especially for him, and it is so squishy and inviting. We love the farm pictures, and have been using the larger sized animals on it as a start to a bit of baby imaginative play.


The long mirror is Teddy’s favourite bit. Whenever he is plonked or crawls into his space, the first thing he does is coo and babble at the baby in the mirror, then he pulls it down to check the other side. Our mirror is a lightweight plastic one with a soft surround and backing (from Ikea a few years back).

The book in the picture is also a favourite, a freebie from Bookstart when Little Bear was a baby, and also has a mirror in it. It is such a shame Bookstart has all but fizzled out now. It was a fantastic resource and a great way to encourage the sharing of books with babies and young children. The current Bookstart Bear passport system at the library is quite a disappointment in comparison… But that is another post.


Back to Teddy’s play space. He has a little basket of books to choose from, which he does like to empty out. He loves the Playtime Teddy book with the teddy bear puppet: I think he thinks it is a real live creature!

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This is Teddy’s box of toys. I like to pull a couple out each day as invitations to play, but the box is always left open for him (or Little Bear) to root in. We like sturdy, wooden, open-ended toys, and tend to avoid electronic flashing lights and noise if we can.


My favourite part: the treasure basket. I’ll post more about these at a later date, but the basic idea is a range of every day, interesting objects for a baby to explore and discover. The only rules are minimal plastic, and check frequently for safety.

So there it is, Teddy’s play space. He has begun to head in there most mornings when he first comes down, and is easily encouraged to spend a little time in there when sharing becomes a bit much for Little Bear. In fact, they both like to settle down and play quietly a few times a day.

If you are interested in creating your own play space for a baby, have a look at these as well. The Imagination Tree as always (I covet their sheepskin), or Childhood 101.

level crossings

A bit of a trip out is always a welcome break in the day, and the level crossing has become a favourite haunt of Little Bear. Most days include a request to visit, and he is already very knowledgeable about how they work, including how to stay safe near to train tracks.

level crossing

So this is it. The level crossing. I think we spend about half an hour here most days. That is a lot of half an hours. Little Bear is usually keen to go and check for ‘flickering lights’ as soon as we arrive, and we often cross over the track to look into the field on the other side. One day we plan to go for a walk in that field, but so far the level crossing is much too interesting.


These are the tracks. Note the wooden slats with pointed tops that prevent people from wandering off along the track too easily. Little Bear reminds me every time to hold hands whilst close to the tracks.


Holding hands, we peer along the tracks, looking for the flickering light that tells us a train is on its way. We’re not sure why the light just to the left of the track is red (there is a green one if you look in the other direction), so I really must find out. Once that flickering light has been spotted, we scarper back to the gravel patch to watch the action.


The siren sounds, the lights start to flash, and the barrier goes down. Little Bear can do a rather good impression of that siren now, and practices it frequently throughout the day. We have examined the reflectors on the barriers, and talked about how when car headlights shine on them in the dark the reflectors make them easier to see.

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And at last the train goes past in a whoosh and a rush. Teddy loves this bit, and always lets out a bit of a squeak of excitement.

Today we saw these two, a fast cross country one, and a slower Great Western that had probably stopped at the station up the road before getting to us.

These visits have led to lots of imaginative play using level crossings both with his Brio railway set, and in the garden. He draws level crossings, imagines level crossings when playing cars, constantly listens for trains going past. His enthusiasm has also extended to other types of crossing such as zebra and pelican crossings, road signs and an interest in our local area in general.

Where do you and your little ones love to visit?

shiny discovery bottle

Teddy Bear is quickly becoming more mobile, and more curious about his world. A side effect of this is that he is spoiling many of Little Bear’s games. Cries of “NOOOOOOOO!!!!” and “MUMMMMYYYYYYY!” echo through the house for much of the day as Teddy works hard to do everything his older brother does, and his older brother tries to keep his games safe from smaller hands.

Meanwhile, I am trying to find a balance between allowing Teddy Bear the freedom he needs to explore, and protecting the worlds that Little Bear is building. At the same time, the relationship they share also needs protecting. Teddy Bear is so desperate to be like his older brother, and it is so important that Little Bear does not begin to resent his younger brother. So I wracked my brains for something that would be a kind gesture on Little Bear’s part, helping to build the link between them strong. And also something to give to Teddy Bear that would keep him occupied whilst his brother plays, at least temporarily. I hit upon discovery bottles.

You can read more about discovery bottles here and here. They are a tool I found out about whilst Little Bear was a baby, and I made a few for him to explore at the time. The idea is that they give small children and babies a chance to explore things, such as how colours, shapes and different materials interact with each other, in a way that has been made safe for them. Now he is older, he is able to help with the process and create a gift for Teddy. We waited for a good moment, and found one whilst Teddy was sleeping one morning. I explained my idea to Little Bear, and he immediately went hunting for a bottle in the box we have of plastic bits and pieces. He found a nice sized olive oil bottle and its lid. It is often nice to use a bottle with round sides so that it can roll across the floor, mixing its contents up, but this was Little Bear’s project. We then talked about what sorts of shiny things we could use. He came up with sequins and shiny paper…sequins

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… and I added twisted shiny pipe cleaners, tinsel strings and foil which I bunched up slightly.

twisted pipe cleaners

Little Bear posted all these bits and pieces through the neck of the bottle, and then his favourite bit: glitter! We used a funnel, and he shook red, gold and silver glitter into the bottle for that extra shimmer. He was very tempted to shake red, gold and silver glitter all around the room as well, but we managed to keep it mostly in the bottle.

When he was finished, we put on the lid and tested the bottle. Little Bear felt very happy with his gift, and wandered away to play whilst I superglued the lid on. It is important to do this with discovery bottles as they usually contain components that are hazardous to an exploratory baby. A hot glue gun is probably the best choice, but I don’t have one. Many people also tape up the lid as extra security. Check lids and bottles very regularly to ensure they have not worked loose and there are no holes or cracks.

When Teddy Bear woke up, Little Bear was eager to give him his gift. Teddy was very pleased, and waved the bottle around excitedly, peering at the shiny objects inside and stroking the glittery sides with his fingernails.


It works. Or at least gives Little Bear about five minutes reprieve from his brother’s intention to join in. However, I do feel it is helping their relationship. Little Bear now has an object he can direct Teddy to (shove into his hands) when he is getting in the way, and he is gradually learning the art of redirection. He is also keen to make more presents, and has lots of ideas for things we can put in a bottle.

NOTE: Discovery bottles should only be used under adult supervision. Check them daily for holes or cracks, and wipe them regularly. Have fun!