I'm not terribly good at the whole play thing, even less so when I'm in pain and heavily pregnant. The only upside is that when I do set up some kind of sensory or messy play The Spawn think it's amazing.
Thing One is out on his surprise early birthday celebration at Blackpool Pleasure Beach for the day with The Husband and Thing Two is having a sleep over at The Grandparents to minimise sulking. So that just leaves The Preschooler and I. He has a huge capacity for in-depth independent play pausing only for snacks, cuddles, a chat and a bit of tv yet even still he misses fighting like cat and dog with his siblings when they're not here. So today seemed the perfect time for him to finally take part in The Great Ice Rescue, something that's been in the freezer for best part of a week.
It's incredibly easy to set up. I grabbed a roasting tin and plonked a load of figures in it such as Moshlings, dinosaurs, fairies and other such things then poured over water mixed with blue food colouring. This was then put in the freezer and left. Granted, The Spawn are nosy little gits and kept opening the drawer to peek so I now have a rather fetching blue freezer drawer too.
So The Preschooler could manipulate it easier I plonked it upside down on the path and poured a jug of warm water over the roasting tin so that it lifted off, essentially leaving a frozen block with plenty of people trapped inside.
The Preschooler is crazy about rescuing things and being a hero so he was told his mission, that all these things had been trapped in a big ice storm and only he can save them. He was given a medicine syringe, a small measuring scoop, a wooden meat tenderising hammer and a jug of warm water. The rules were given that he wasn't allowed to just tip the jug of water over the ice block it had to be added bit by bit and that he could only smash the hammer gently to avoid hurting his fingers and flying ice.
Seeing as i'm pretty much useless physically at the moment I was able to just sit on a chair outside near him and watch. We talked about how things freeze and we talked about how things melt. He got to physically see it happen as he was making it happen. He experimented and found that without trying to melt the ice a little with water first the hammer didn't do much, yet the more water he added the easier the hammer could break through the ice. He naturally manipulated the freed yet still ice encased toys and gently hacked away at the ice whilst realising if he dunked them in the jug it came away easier.
I feared he'd grow bored before the ice even started to melt enough to rescue anything as obviously hot water would have been too hazardous so he only had warm water at his disposal yet he was fascinated and very determined. You could virtually see the knowledge of the melting process and logistics of freeing things flow through him as he played. I loved how he spoke to them Fireman Sam style and how he naturally adjusted his strength and dexterity between the brazen hammer smashing and the more delicate chiseling.
Naturally his favourate part was the hammer and once everyone had gained their freedom he set about smashing the remaining ice to smithereens with huge delighted whoops and shouts of 'SMASHHHHHHH!'
All in all this was such a simple activity and yet he thoroughly enjoyed it. It was learning, problem solving, role play and sensory play all in one. It was virtually mess free (though i'm sporting attractive blue ankles from splashes of melted ice!) as it was all outside too and minimal clearing up as the ice will just melt away.
Definitely one to try again in the future.