Sensory/Fine Motor Skills Play with Tapioca Pearls

I had some cooked sago (tapioca pearls) left over from a rather dismal attempt at making mango sago dessert—which I only tried in the first place because I didn’t know what to do with the can of condensed milk that the maid mistakenly opened instead of evaporated milk. Anyway, I wasn’t in the mood to do any further recipe experiments with the leftover sago so it seemed much more fun to let the twins play with the slippery little beads.

I just dumped the sago in the table where they usually do their water play, handed them a couple of empty bottles with small openings, and encouraged them to fish pearls out of the water and put them inside the bottles. That simple!



Of course, it was rather too simple that soon enough they were ready to move on to other things. So after a while, in addition to the sago and bottles, the water table had also contained cups, sponges, AND their clothes to boot, which they wanted to wash.

I stored the sago pearls in the fridge and brought them out to be played with again a couple of days after. To make things more challenging, this time I gave them spoons to use in scooping out pearls. This got them engaged a little longer, and also provided the opportunity for a bit of counting and problem solving: How many pearls have you got there? Only one? Can you scoop out two? Oh that’s a lot, can you shoot all that in the bottle? How many can go inside?


They could only successfully scoop the pearls when they were getting them from the container, but once all the pearls were already submerged in the water, they couldn’t fish them out anymore using the spoon and went back to using their hands again. Would be interesting to see their skills develop; I wonder when they’d be adept enough to spoon things from under the water!

As always, the messy play becomes an easy transition to bath time, which we often do outdoors these days because of the crazy heat. Out come the hose, the tub, the batya. We toss a few cups in the water, the one with holes in the bottom, and let them scoop and pour and spill to their heart’s content. Afterwards, the twins like pointing out the wrinkled pads of their fingers: “Kulubot!” they’d say (or, you know, their mangled pronunciation of the word).

I sometimes dread the time when you won’t be entertained so easily anymore, my girls. But for now, I’m enjoying the simplicity of your fun, of the sheer delight in your faces as you examine your wrinkled fingers and proclaim “Kulubot!”

Life with Twins: Yes, Every Day is an Instant Playdate

Play, especially when self-directed, is not only natural — it is vital for our children’s emotional health. Through play babies naturally develop physical and cognitive skills, stretch their imaginations, flex creative muscles, build resiliency and a strong sense of self.

The quote above is from the article “Baby, You Are Born To Play” by Janet Lansbury, a proponent of RIE parenting. I can’t say I’m a full on RIE parent (actually I feel iffy attaching any label to my parenting, such as it is; I sort of do a little of this and a little of that style I guess), but a lot of the stuff I’ve read about RIE make sense to me. I’m not equipped enough to adequately describe what RIE parenting is all about (for that, you can check out this link), but letting kids enjoy uninterrupted, self-directed play is one of its principles.

I used to feel guilty for not spending a lot of time doing “activities” with my twins, but now I can just say, hey, RIE parenting! Ok, just kidding. There is RIE parenting and there is distracted parenting, which goodness knows is also one of the things I can be guilty of.

In any case, because they are now full-fledged toddlers, the twins have become increasingly adept at entertaining each other. As long as they know that I’m around, I can more or less just stay in one spot and let them do their own thing. Once in a while they’ll come up to me and sort of check in, tell me what they’re doing or ask for my help in something, then off they go again. They do pretend play, horse play, throw-everything-within-reach play, run-around-giggling play–whatever strikes their fancy. And should one twin happen to be asleep, the awake one is also capable of playing by herself. We’re still a long way to the point where I can actually work on my computer for long stretches while they play, but we’re also a long way off from when they needed to be entertained or held all the time.

Twins are definitely high-maintenance, especially in the infant days, but at this stage, the fact that they have each other is just all sorts of awesome. Here’s a short video that shows some of those awesome moments. Hope it brings a smile to your face 🙂

On toddler painting, exploration, and works in progress

I don’t know why I didn’t insist on taping the paper to the table during finger painting before (probably because the tape was always missing) but I’m glad I started doing it now. Today, actually. This way, I no longer have to worry about the twins making a few swipes of paint on the paper and then crumpling it up or dropping it on the floor, again and again.

Instead, I can focus on getting them to paint at all. As usual, they were a bit hesitant to touch the paint, especially Ulap, so I let them have a crack at using a paint brush for the first time.

Dahon took to the brush easily enough, making some experimental swishes and gamely following my encouragement to try a variety of colors. Ulap, on the other hand, just watched what was going on and didn’t even want to get her brush messed up at first. I think I ended up using her brush a lot more than she did!

first try at using a paint brush

first try at using a paint brush

A few squirts of shaving cream brought some giggles, but nope, they didn’t like touching that either.

sunlight, bright colors, and foam. love it!

sunlight, bright colors, and foam. love it!

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Japan Home Center Finds

I was in the Panay Avenue neighborhood last week, and these days I seldom find myself outside at all, so I couldn’t resist taking advantage of the opportunity to check out the big Japan Home Center branch located there.

I’ve always found it amusing to check out Daiso/Saizen and Japan Home stores because they always have such nifty little things. Some make me go “Wow, that’ll really come in handy,” while others make me go “Wow, they invented a device for that? Really?” Either way, a Japan Home Center visit makes for an amusing and potentially productive half hour or so.

The Panay Avenue branch was big and had two levels, so I think I spent more than an hour checking things out.  I was particularly tempted by the collection of big glass storage jars that they had, but eventually what ended up in my basket are these:

paints; paint containers; tongs and spray bottles for fine motor practice;  sensory play materials, chalk, big masking tape

paints; paint containers; tongs and spray bottles for fine motor practice; sensory play materials, chalk, big masking tape

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Easy, bubbly, slimy messy play

As a lot of Internet-using moms know, Pinterest is just brimming with play ideas for kids of all ages. It’s amazing that we have access to such a resource, but it’s just overwhelming sometimes. Some of the ideas are so elaborate that I just know I’m not going to even try them—I mean, c’mon. Me??

Fortunately, there are also easy ones, like the oobleck–a mixture of corn starch and water. The result is described as a “non-Newtonian fluid.” It behaves like a liquid when poured or allowed to flow, but behaves like a solid when pressure is applied. It looks wet, but it’s actually dry (ish). It’s great to handle, actually, but yes, it can get a bit messy.

I love the idea of messy play, but the twins can get a bit finicky. They don’t want to be messy! They’d poke their finger tentatively into the material, giggle, then wipe it off on their clothes or dump the material onto the floor. Apparently messy clothes and floors are okay, but messy hands are not. Sometimes our finger painting sessions have to be cut short because they’d ask us to wash their hands already! Then we’d move on to water play. They love playing with water! Set a basin of water in front of them and they’re happy. No need to set up complicated sensory play actually 😀

Our activity this morning, however, accidentally managed to combine the best of both worlds of sensory and water play. Our material, off an idea seen in Instagram this time: a combination of corn starch and liquid soap. That’s it. Pour out the corn starch onto a basin or tray and gradually add the liquid soap. It starts out as kind of doughy, and you can stop adding the soap if that’s what you want, but I put a little bit too much, or maybe it was the bit of water that I added, but I ended up with something a little slimier and sticker and ooblecky, which I actually liked. Too bad I don’t have photos of it actually getting stretched and stuff, I guess I was having a bit too much fun, plus it was messy.

By this time the twins were picking out tiny handfuls of the material and dumping it onto the floor, to my horror—not because of the mess because we were outside anyway, but because I didn’t want them to waste all our material! There wasn’t a lot to begin with!

So, it was time to add the color. I brought out a couple of tubs their finger paints and let them dot the colors in. And my, were they pretty.

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DIY: Cardboard Puzzle for Toddlers

My DIY project today is a puzzle inspired by a post I saw in Legal Mom Archives (thanks Mommy Edel!), except hers is more creative and mine is the shortcut version 😀 The creative arts (visual as well as performing) have never been among my strong points, but apparently being a mom means one has to be creative in a lot of ways, from coming up with play ideas to putting meals together to thinking up ways to distract a toddler on the brink of a meltdown! Thank goodness for Internet and mommies who blog about their projects!

DIY cardboard puzzle

I chose familiar characters that they’d surely want to see made “whole”

Still, it’s a work in progress. The moment the twins started trying to put the pieces together I saw why Mommy Edel chose to make a “housing” to frame her puzzle: without it, the pieces get easily nudged about. So I guess the next project is to make that frame. Or maybe use some sort of adhesive at the back. Double-sided tape? Velcro? Or make the pieces really interlocking like a jigsaw? There’s really something to this being creative thing—you get to think, and you get to create.

Materials: cardboard for recycling, scissors, printed drawing, scotch tape. Procedure: Glue photo onto the cardboard, making sure that the whole paper gets pasted neatly. “Laminate” with scotch tape. Cut into desired shapes and number of pieces. 

Tipid Toy Tuesday: Empty Distilled Water Containers

Today’s tipid toy is so ridiculously easy and simple that I feel a little ridiculous even blogging about it, but here goes.

A cousin started playing this with the twins a couple of weeks ago, and we’re still getting some play time out of it until now. There are only two materials: an empty 6-liter distilled water container, and a bunch of scrap paper – in this case, some Toys R Us gift wrapper since we just unwrapped a gift for the twins the night before (thanks, Ninang Abby!).

We use up a lot of distilled water for the twins’ milk, and we sometimes let the twins play with the empty containers. They like walking around the living room banging it noisily to the floor, and sometimes we let them put pebbles inside.

Also, the labels can work as crowns.

hello cuties!

hello cuties!

With the Toys R Us gift wrapper just lying around, however, my cousin started tearing the wrapper and forming little balls that the twins can put inside the water containers for some fine motor activity.

shoot that ball baby!

shoot that ball baby!

Some of the wadded up pieces of paper are bigger than the others and so would require a little bit more effort to squish in. There was quite a bit of wrapping paper available, so it took a lot of time to tear it all up. Of course, when all the paper balls are inside, it’s time to take them out and begin again!

Shaking the bottle sometimes works, as the smaller paper balls fall out.

Ulap shaking things up

Ulap shaking things up

But taking them out by hand is even better fine motor exercise!

check out that look of concentration.

check out that look of concentration.

When playing with the paper balls started to get a bit old, they discovered that they can sit on the bottles and basically squish them. Makes an awful racket, but they like it!

they like sitting on things lately - on balls, biscuit containers, what-have-you

they like sitting on things lately – on balls, biscuit containers, what-have-you

After a few times of doing that, it became quite hard to return the bottle to its original shape, so I guess it will be off to the recycle bin soon, but basically it’s already been reused. I’ve also toyed with the idea of reusing them by trying my hand at planting some herbs, but that’s a totally different project and well, it hasn’t happened yet 🙂 See you next Tipid Toy Tuesday!

Relax and Play, with Ogalala System in Play

It says it right there in the Ogalala System in Play information materials: “If they can’t learn the way we teach, we teach the way they learn,” which basically means that children learn through play and we should make learning a fun and playful process for them.

However, it also means that children will learn when they want to learn, and even when you expressly came to attend a workshop that they can participate in, they won’t necessarily cooperate and sit down placidly when the workshop actually starts. Such was our Ogalala Child Development Workshop adventure at the Megamall Toy Kingdom last week. Wheee!

Oh, they were cooperative and amused enough to sit down and color when we first arrived, and they spent some time coloring while we were waiting for the event to start.

ogalala event1

Coloring and posing for Mommy Ginger of Manila Workshops.

ogalala event2

Ang high-tech na pala ng mga crayons ngayon!

By the time the event actually started, however, neither of the twins could keep still. Forget about actually sitting on the designated seats. Dahon kept fidgeting and wandering around and so had to be taken away, whereupon Ulap started calling out “Daaaa, Daaaa, Daaaaaaaa!” nonstop. So Mama, Don, and I were alternating holding the twins while I hovered on the edges of the workshop trying to listen to the talks. The other kids in the toddler class seemed able to behave, though, and were even able to participate in the activities. But oh, yeah, I’m not supposed to compare 😀 And actually, the workshop was more for us parents anyway.

Children are curious, the speaker said, so it’s just natural if they want to explore the entire Toy Kingdom.  I think this is something that parents really need to understand, and make their children’s grandparents and nannies understand. Hindi masamang maging malikot. Hindi pagiging salbahe ang pagiging malikot. Bata yan, trabaho niya maging malikot. Our job is to provide a safe and stimulating environment where they can explore and learn. Of course, that’s not possible all the time, and I admit that sometimes I still get upset and snap at the twins when they try to mess with the electric fan or something. Continue reading

Tipid Toys: Reused Plastic Materials

I’m supposed to be starting a Tipid Toy Tuesday post series, then I realized that it’s already Wednesday! Let’s just say Tipid Toy, then 🙂

So I’ve posted about our Tipid Toys before, which are everyday/household objects that we use as toys for the twins. Since I usually go for the lazy fuss-free approach, these “toys” require minimum set-up/preparation and hardly cost a thing, but have been proven to be useful in entertaining the twins and even teaching them a thing or two.

Our Tipid Toy for today is reused plastic materials (I can’t really even say recycled, much less upcycled because I didn’t really do anything to them). See, because of my mother-in-law, we’re something of a pack rat household. Everything that can conceivably be reused gets carefully cleaned and hidden away. Our kitchen closets tend to get clogged, but like today, it sometimes pays off. Setting up playtime for the twins was a simple matter of pulling out measuring scoops, yogurt containers, and an empty ice cream container from the kitchen shelves.

Then it’s pretend cooking/eating time!

tipid toy 2a

These days they’re all about slurping sabaw. Lagot kami pag walang sabaw ang ulam.

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Invite to Ogalala System in Play Child Development Workshop


As a first-time mom, the concept of “learning through play” is one of the things that I was really pleased to learn about. It was refreshing to know that’s it’s not just all about memorizing letters and numbers, at least not at the baby and toddler stage. It’s also about things like sensory play, fine motor skills, and problem solving, not to mention empathy and other personal relationship skills.

Knowing about this has saved me from getting pressured by anecdotes of kids who can recite the alphabet or count to a hundred by age 2, or something like that. It’s great that they can, really, and should my twins show an aptitude for it, why not? Reading is something that I’d really love for them to enjoy. But in the meantime, because they are just 1 and a half years old, it’s all about learning through play.

Or, to be honest, when they’re with their yayas, it’s more of learning by hanging around outside with the other kids and yayas in our compound, and learning by playing with everyday household objects (see my Tipid Toys post). But they are growing up, and showing more interest in being playful and manipulating objects, so I am painfully aware that I have to step up my game.

So this opportunity to attend a free workshop on child development and learning through play could not have come at a better time. Thanks to Manila Workshops and Mommy Bloggers Philippines, I was able to register to one of the toddler sessions. So exciting, and I wish my fellow mommy friends can join too! Continue reading