Tag Archives: Creative toddlers

Toys? Who needs toys?

It never ceases to amaze me how much Orbit enjoys playing with his ‘non-toys’. Non-toys are things that Orbit plays with, which were designed for something other than entertaining toddlers.

A zip tie garden

A zip tie garden

I have already posted about Orbit’s ‘non toys’ when he was younger and he still plays with some of them, but in a different way. For example Orbit still loves playing with the Skipper’s zip ties. Instead of being satisfied with just threading the zip ties so they lock, he makes zip tie flowers. Orbit loves giving them to the Skipper and I, or anyone else on Medina at the time. This week he combined zip tie flowers with play dough and made ‘zip tie’ gardens.

Ropes are another non-toy that has lasted into toddler-hood. Lucky we live on a sailing boat, we have plenty of ropes! Orbit is genuinely interested in how they knot together. We were in the process of teach Orbit how to tie knots, just the simple ones, but that has been put on a slight delay until his finger heals and the splint on his arm can come off. The splint hasn’t stopped him doing many things. It has been wonderfully reassuring to see him adapt to everyday tasks and not be afraid to hurt himself. But learning to tie a knot with one hand is hard enough for an adult (something I am yet to master), so it might be a bit much to expect a three year old to learn.

One of Orbit’s coat hanger sculptures

A recently discovered non-toy was a set of spare coat hangers. We are lucky to have hanging space on Medina, and I always kept a small stash of spare plastic coat hangers stored away, for what reason I am not sure, and now they have a very good use. Orbit found them the other day and spends a great deal of time (toddler equivalent of time that is) making lovely ‘sculptures’ in the cockpit. Once he completes a sculpture, he announces “I did it, I did it. Mummy, photo, Mummy photo please”.

One of my concerns about raising a baby/toddler/child in a small space and on a sailing boat, was keeping him entertained. But slowly I am coming to realise I don’t need to keep him entertained, he does that himself. I just need to give him the freedom, the space to use his imagination, and to support him, then its just a case of enjoying his self-learning journey.

Do your kids like playing with non-toys? If so I’d love to hear what they are and how they play with them.

Orbit’s hugs

Yamba getting a one arm hug

Yamba getting a one arm hug

Orbit is at the wonderful age of being very affectionate. He loves giving and receiving lots of hugs and is happy to sit for a cuddle. Although there’s never a bad time for a hug, there are times, when, let’s be honest, it’s not safe (e.g. making a coffee), practical (e.g. when cleaning shower) or convenient (e.g. on the head).

In preparation for this year’s Mother’s Day, Orbit and I pulled out the trusty craft box and started to look through hoping for a creative spark of something to make for his grandmothers.

While Orbit giving me a big hug, the spark came – we could make hugs! Based on what we had in the craft box and making it up as we went along (with some inspiration from Mister Maker and Play School) I think we came up with something pretty special.

Orbit’s hugs are very simple to make with lots of room for variation so they can be tailored to what your child would like to do.

  1. Cut a heart out of a piece of cardboard
  2. Decorate the heart with what ever you like (we choose pictures of flowers out of old magazines. Orbit wanted to put a face on his, so we used some goggly eyes and drew on a smile
  3. To make the arms, fold long strips of cardboard back on forth on itself, creating a concertina effect and glue one end of each to either side of the heart
  4. Trace your child’s hands (right and left) on paper or cardboard and cut them out
  5. Glue ‘hands’ on to the other end of the arms
  6. Finish decorating

Orbit and a hug he made for his one grandmothers

I left pegs on the ‘folded arms’ over night to help them stay folded, but I am not sure if this is necessary.

It was with a great sense of pride that Orbit gave his hugs (followed by real ones) to his grandmothers on Mother’s Day. Orbit’s grandmother’s thought their hugs (and the real ones too) were pretty special. Orbit’s hugs are now are stuck on the doors of their fridges.

So although Orbit’s cardboard hugs are special, safe, practical and convenient at all times, everyone agrees they don’t make up for the real thing.

Big hugs to everyone out there and thanks for reading our little blog 🙂

Fancy Pants Christmas Decorations – “made by Orbit”

Last year the Skipper and I decided to start a new family tradition of making fancy pants Christmas decorations. So quite a few weeks ago, I put on my thinking cap on and tried to come up with some concepts. I was keen for the decorations to be as “made by Orbit” as possible, so the concept would have to be age for Orbit. I also wanted to make Christmas decorations for Orbit’s grandparents and our ‘marina family’, so not only did they have to be Christmas tree friendly, but they had to be boat friendly too.

Sorting the bits and pieces - the lip on the saloon table came in handy!

Sorting the bits and pieces – the lip on the saloon table came in handy!

My initial (and only) concept was to make a Christmas decoration that had an existing decoration at the bottom, with beads threaded on top and finished with a bit of ribbon so it could be tied to various places on a boat or a Christmas tree.

With this ‘broad concept’ in mind, Orbit and I headed off to our local craft store. I was bit worried as we drove to the craft store – would the concept practical and if not, prayed that I would be inspired for a Plan B at the craft store.

In the spirit of making the decorations as “made by Orbit” as possible, I gave him a lot of the decision making about what materials we used. After I selected a range of decorations, beads and ribbons to choose from, Orbit choose the particular ones he wanted or pointed over my shoulder to the ones he wanted. I was surprised by his decisiveness, I think he has inherited my low tolerance for shopping, so was able to make quick decisions.

Using a plastic needle to thread the beads

Using a plastic needle to thread the beads

Back on the boat, the first step was to unpack and sort out purchases. I helped Orbit split each of the decorations, beads and ribbons in individual packets so we could work on one decoration at a time. Again, in the spirit of trying to make them “made by Orbit” as much as possible, I left the decision of which and how many beads went with which decoration and ribbon to him.

After the first decoration was made, we had our process down pat. I was pleasantly surprised that that my concept worked and wrapped that Orbit enjoyed making the decorations.

One of the completed fancy pants Christmas decorations

One of the completed fancy pants Christmas decorations

Once all the decorations were complete, we then laid out all the decorations and I asked him which one he would like to give to his grandparents or members of our marina family. Orbit then decorated bags to deliver the decorations in, adding final element of the “made by Orbit” to the process.

This whole process from heading to the craft store to delivering the decorations took about four weeks. It was a great project for a number of reasons, Orbit could work on each decoration pretty much independently of me (he just needed me to set them up and finish them off); and it involved very little mess (once the initial distribution of materials was complete).

Merry Christmas from my little family to you and your family, hope you have a fantastic time over the Christmas and New Years!

A rainbow in the shower

You know that feeling when you have a toddler under your supervision, you know they’re somewhere in the boat/house/apartment but you can’t see them and its very very quiet … too quiet … During the week, I had one of those moments.

This is what I found –



My initial emotion was relief. I was relieved that Orbit was a. on the boat (the fear of him falling in the water never goes away); b. not doing something that could hurt him; c. not causing any damage; and d. not making a big mess to clean up.

IMG_4629The next emotion was delight. I was delighted that Orbit had found something constructive and creative to do.

I asked Orbit what he was drawing and he said a rainbow. We had seen a few rainbows over the previous few days and I was fastinated by his ability to transfer what he was seeing onto the walls of the shower.

Drawing rainbows in the shower has now become part of Orbit’s going to bed routine – dinner, potty, drawing rainbows, shower (washing off rainbows), clean teeth followed by play time with the Skipper and then bed.

Bath crayons are great (thanks Julie for suggesting them). They clean off really easily in the shower (a washer and water is all that is needed) and I think Orbit enjoys removing the pictures as much as drawing them. Am definitely going to be stocking up on bath crayons prior to going cruising!

Its only chalk dust

We’ve had some fantastic winter days this year and I have been thinking of some activities for Orbit to do while we are still in the marina, the sun is shining and its not too hot to be outside.


Orbit’s chalk drawing

There are a number of activities we can do within the marina. We can go to the play area, visit our marina family, explore the gardens (i.e. look for lizards), roll down the grassy hill or watch the activity at the hard stand area (watching travel lift put boats in and out of the water is a particular favourite at the moment) to name a few.

But its always good to have a few extra activities up our sleeves – in case we don’t have these activities at our next marina.

Our plan is to cruise but we’ll be based in floating marina’s while the Skipper goes to work to top up our cruising kitty. As it will be Orbit and I on Medina by ourselves (while the Skipper is at work), we’ve chosen to be based in floating marinas because it makes life for me so much easier. The thought of getting myself and Orbit in and out of the tinnie with the groceries on my own is not something I really want to deal with now or in the next few years. No worries if the Skipper is with us, but not on my own, not until Orbit can drive the tinnie anyway.

Anyway, back to activities we can do in the marina … I have come up with a few and will post more in the coming weeks.

DSCN1828This week we tried drawing with chalk on the concrete walkway of the floating marina.

We checked with the marina manager and he said it was ok as long as Orbit was supervised, we don’t draw on the main walkways and to clean up afterwards, but then clarified that this shouldn’t be an issue, because “its just chalk dust”.

I also checked with our neighbours who we share a walkway with. They thought it was a great idea and said they looked forward to seeing some of Orbit’s art work.

I spoke with a few other families in the marina and one mum suggested I lay hoses down the side of the walkway to prevent the chalk rolling into the water. We only have one hose (that is handy) and thankfully our neighbours have ‘permanent fenders’ partly along their side of the walkway which are high enough to prevent the chalk from rolling in.

Orbit loved drawing with the chalk and was keen to have me draw as well. This triggered me to write the alphabet. Once Orbit had finished his drawing, he began to practice the alphabet and we tried to come up with words from what we could see, like B for boat, C for chalk, F for fish, W for water … not very creative I know!

We both enjoyed this activity, although, I think Orbit’s preferred part was washing the chalk off the walkway. It’s something we’ll definitly be doing again.