Category: Toys

Mosaic Kits: Lockdown Activities

I recently wrote about the activities that have kept my 5 year old son occupied during lockdown and next up are these Mosaic Kits.

When they tire of screen time and their school work and your daily walk becomes a chore rather than a pleasure, I have found these to be a really good activity.

We tried some pirate and space themed ones but of course there are all manner of themes to choose from. We got ours from Baker Ross. Each kit includes 4 different design card templates & self-adhesive foam pieces.

You simply stick the coloured self-adhesive foam tiles onto the pictures. Like the Hama Beads, they are another mindful activity and require good concentration and fine motor skills.

If you’re lucky, they may buy you five minutes peace, but should you get roped in to doing them too, they are surprisingly therapeutic!

Hama Beads: Lockdown Activities

Back in March, along with Mums and Dads the world over, I suddenly found myself needing to entertain my 5 year old son for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.

There have been a few activities during this lockdown period that have been huge hits with both him and us that have helped him constructively while away the hours away from screens!

First up were Hama Beads…

In those first few weeks of Lockdown, Hama Beads gave my son a real enjoyment and focus. He created endless designs either from themed kits or from the endless characters he realised he could find to copy online which pleased him no end!

A bit like a puzzle, Hama Beads require concentration and mindfulness. Apparently, when children use Hama Beads both sides of their brains are in action at the same time. It is a logical and creative activity, and therefore fantastic for developing young minds. Hama Beads also encourage children to control their fingers and train their hand-eye coordination as they move Hama Beads the correct way to be inserted on to a pegboard. Hama Beads will also help them learn to count, match colours and recognise geometric shapes. It also stimulates their imagination and improves their fine motor skills.

Take a look at some of our other favourite lockdown activities –

Toys: This weeks most played with

Our toy baby dollies and pushchair have been a big hit here recently with the children but this week the children’s attention turned to our Happyland collection particularly these new additions.

I tend to buy all-plastic toys second hand, change out the batteries and wipe down with anti- bacterial wipes or spray and they are good to go.

This Happyland Safari plane complete with animals, pilot and ranger characters have been a big hit as have these construction builders vehicles and characters.

All great for little hands and inspiring imaginative play.




Toy Hygiene

I came across this story in yesterday’s news and wanted to share my own toy hygiene practices here at Aston Childcare.


The following information taken from the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene states that –

Evidence has shown that toys quite easily become contaminated with microbes. Toys are passed from child to child and become contaminated through handling or by children putting their mouths to them. Some germs can remain viable on toys for some periods of time, and in a number of studies, bacteria and viruses have been isolated from toys.

It stresses however, not to get neurotic about toys. Children will inevitably pick up infections it says but says there are ways in which you can reduce these risks by ensuring that looking after toys is a part of the household hygiene routine, particularly important where there is an infected child in the home alongside other children who are healthy, or a child who needs special protection from infection.

Contaminated equipment such as play mats, plastic beakers and ball pits can also contribute to the spread of infection.

Soft toys: Studies on soft toys in a variety of settings such as intensive care units and day care centres show that soft toys can be contaminated with bacteria, including some potentially pathogenic species.

Hard Toys: Bacteria of the upper respiratory tract have been isolated from hard toys taken from a general practitioner’s surgery. Toy balls in a day care centre were contaminated with faeces. Several studies have suggested that hard toys can contribute to outbreaks of diarrhoea and vomiting. For example, in two different day care centres with an outbreak of rotavirus, 39% of toy balls were contaminated with the virus.

Cleaning of toys and equipment should be included in the regular household cleaning rota to ensure that they are regularly cleaned. Ideally, toys should be washable. Soft toys can be put into a washing machine in the hot water cycle. This is particularly important for children at special risk. Where toys are known to be contaminated, e.g. where they become contaminated with vomit or faeces, or mucous from a child who is ill, they must be hygienically cleaned or may even need to be discarded.

Here at Aston Childcare I take the following measures to ensure toys are clean and hygienic:

  • I store toys in clean containers or cupboards
  • I clean toys frequently and, at least whenever soiled.
  • I clean hard or plastic toys that have become dirty or dusty by washing thoroughly with detergent or wiping with alcohol wipes and storing them in a clean and dry place. I may place them in the dishawasher or soak them in a mild bleach solution where necessary
  • I wash soft toys when they become dirty in a washing machine

I also –

  • Ensure that our playdough is changed regularly.
  • Cover our sandpit and water table to avoid any contamination (e.g. from passing animals) and ensure that the sand is changed regularly.
  • Clean the balls from our ball pits  regularly.
  • I empty water play equipment daily and store in a clean, dry place.
  • add all toys and equipment  to the regular household cleaning rota
  • Ensure I don’t put toys back out if they look dirty.
  • Machine wash any play mats regularly

Block Play

Playing with all manner of blocks is a hugely popular activity here at Aston Childcare. We have a variety of blocks the children love to play with – Large foam blocks, Small foam blocks, wooden number and alphabet blocks, Duplo blocks, Megablocks, natural coloured wooden construction and brightly coloured wooden construction blocks. However, it wasn’t until I completed some recent training in emerging maths skills in the early years that I stopped to think how much the children were learning and gaining from such a simple activity.

The course stated that –

It’s been more than two hundred years since Friedrich Froebel introduced wooden shapes for children to explore, take apart, and put together. Since then, blocks have been shown to aid the development of young children. Jean Piaget’s theory of stages, for instance, tells us that children develop social, physical, and logico-mathematical knowledge through playing with manipulative materials such as blocks.

It went on to say how Block play supports the development of children’s problem-solving, shape, size and pattern reasoning by providing opportunities to count for a purpose and use the language of quantity and size (more, fewer, longer, shorter etc).

It also explained how Children gain direct experience of the properties of shapes, how to describe shapes, how to use the correct mathematical terms to describe shapes, and how the different blocks fit together.

And explained how it related to measure When children play with blocks, they are practicing mathematical skills. In selecting blocks of different sizes and shapes and comparing surface volumes and areas, for example, they are unwittingly using classification and seriation (Hirsch, 1996).

Block play involves measuring lengths, widths, and heights (if only by eye) and therefore supports children to develop their ability to visualise how a finished structure may look” .

It was so nice to learn that something we have out every day here was helping the children in their emerging maths skills as well as covering other areas of learning too.

Areas of Learning Covered: Mathematics, Communication & Language, Expressive Arts and Design, Physical Development and Personal, Social and Emotional Development.