Inspiration Series…Alfresco Play Ideas

Now that we have a front garden and a back garden (or “Yard” as the Australians would call it), I am really keen to create an exciting and inviting outdoor play area for the boys.

I opted against getting a swing set as Seb loves going on the swing whenever we go to a park and it might lose its novelty if we have one at home.  There are also lots of miniature plastic slides designed for young children but I think the boys would outgrow something like that very quickly.

I have been totally inspired by the ideas I have found on the internet and thought I would share some of my favourites.

Miniature Herb Garden

I have always liked the idea of getting the boys gardening early on, even if Mr G and I are not green fingered at all!  I have chosen to create a herb garden as I can plant the herbs that I regularly use in my cooking, and it should be relatively low maintenance.  I will get Seb his own little watering can and shovel so that he can help me look after the herb garden, and if he enjoys it we may even consider Making an Organic Vegetable Garden.

I am also planning on getting Seb his own plastic lawnmower and wheelbarrow as he is obsessed with pushing things around!


Wooden Sandpit with Trucks

A common feature of every playgroup that we go to is a large wooden sandpit filled with trucks…absolute heaven for any little boy!  I think it is worth spending a bit more to get a wooden sandpit as opposed to a plastic one, and I will make sure I get one with a cover to keep all the nasties out.


Willow Playhouse

It would be such a fun project to build a Willow Playhouse and it would look fantastic in our front garden.  The great thing about it is that you can decorate the willow framework to create different themes.  It would also be lovely to attach some outdoor fairy lights to the inside to create a magical hideaway.


Unfortunately, willow seems to be hard to come by in Australia so I have found an alternative…the Runner Bean Teepee.


Music Station

Sebastian loves playing musical instruments and this is a fantastic idea for creating a Recycled Outdoor Music Station using old tin cans and jingle bells.


Pebble Feet

I absolutely love these and think they would look so cute in the flower beds next to our decking area.  I am planning to do make 4 pebble feet, one for each member of the family, and then attach them to a large slate tile.

Pebble Feet

Cubby House

The boys are too young for this at the moment but I did come across some of the most amazing cubby houses.  This was my absolute favourite on Dos Family.


Creating Nature Lovers

I recently read an article on how to ‘Raise a kid who loves nature’ and it suggested creating a scrapbook of photos and crafts made with things from the garden.  Seb loves looking at photos of himself and it would be lovely to create a miniature photo album of Seb gardening and playing outdoors.

Outdoor Toy Storage

I also found some great ideas for storing outdoor toys and I am planning to devote one of our outdoor sheds to the boys’ toys.  I particularly liked this set-up by Here’s What’s Cooking.


Now I just need to decide which idea to tackle first!


Creating a Play Space for Oscar…

I was totally inspired by a blog I read several months ago on The Imagination Tree about creating a Reggio Inspired Play Space. Despite only being 5 months pregnant, I frantically started searching the internet for a BabyDan Felix Wooden Playpen so that I could create my own baby play space for Oscar. I managed to find one on Amazon that could be shipped to Australia within a few days, and I managed to convince Mr G that I just had to buy it straight away in case they sold out before Oscar was born! Even though the Playpen stayed in its box up until a few weeks ago, I would not have been able to stop thinking about it until it was safely in my possession!

The great thing about the Playpen is the elevated base which means that Oscar can play without the risk of his big brother accidentally dropping a toy truck on him. The base can be lowered once Oscar is older and better able to defend himself from Sebastian!


At the same time as buying the Playpen, I also bought a couple of the other items suggested in the blog.  The Manhattan Toy Wimmer-Ferguson Infant Stim Mobile features several hanging black-and-white and brightly coloured images.  It is designed to stimulate early visual development and pre-reaching movement, and the hanging distance can be gradually increased through the removal of plastic links as Oscar gets older.


The Manhattan Toy Wimmer-Ferguson 3-in-1 Triangle Activity Mat is also a great developmental toy and has multiple uses.  It can be used as a tummy time mat, hung on the side of the Playpen, or folded into a triangle wedge for exploration.  It features a mirror, crinkle flaps, a squeaker, peek-a-boo flaps and ribbon attachments.  This is a really compact toy that is ideal for packing in the baby bag to keep Oscar entertained when we are out and about.


The Manhattan Toy Skwish is a gorgeous award-winning wooden toy that provides visual stimulation and helps develop motor skills.  Babies can squish the web of brightly coloured web of rods and beads and watch it bounce back to its original shape.  I am really keen to buy wooden toys over plastic ones wherever possible as they provide more opportunities for open-ended play and have a much longer life-span.


I bought a couple of lovely handmade toys on Madeit from Unleash Designs.  The Soft Fabric Block Rattle with Mirror Panel and Ribbon Tags is a great tactile toy, and I just could not resist the Surf Van Soft Toy with Squeaky Horn and Ribbon Tags!


Other toys in the Playpen are a wooden rattle, a small wooden maraca and a fabric black-and-white book.  I also have a lovely fabric basket from Baffin Bags which I use to store toys in the Playpen.

I had a reversible base mat custom-made by Dezignz by Liz in a lovely combination of complementary orange fabrics.  I am also using Sebastian’s Very Hungry Caterpillar blanket inside the playpen which has lovely ribbon tags all around the edge.


I am so pleased with the BabyDan Playpen and it is great for Oscar to have a safe place to play and explore while his big brother bull-dozes his way around the house!


Creating a Toddler Treasure Basket…

Treasure Baskets are a fantastic way to keep your toddler entertained provided that they are only brought out once or twice a week, and the contents are updated regularly to keep them interesting.

Sebastian gets really excited when I present him with a Treasure Basket to explore and I really enjoy creating them.

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This is what I have put inside our Treasure Basket:

  • Pom Pom Sorting Tray (Curious Minds Busy Bags)
  • Feed Me! Busy Bag (Curious Minds Busy Bags)
  • Pipe Cleaner Weaving Busy Bag (Curious Minds Busy Bags)
  • Ball Weaving Busy Bag (Curious Minds Busy Bags)
  • Drop It Toddler Busy Bag (Curious Minds Busy Bags)
  • Large Bead Stringing Busy Bag (Curious Minds Busy Bags)
  • Empty Tissue Tube Filled With Brightly Coloured Ribbons
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Mini Wooden Maracas
  • Clown Wooden Pull String Toy
  • Wooden Bird Whistles
  • Wooden Rattle
  • Small Decorative Wooden Letters
  • Miniature Bean Bag
  • Finger Puppets
  • Miniature Photo Book
  • Miniature Board Books
  • Touch and Feel Stroller Cards
  • Plastic Rattles
  • Selection of Plastic Cookie Cutters
  • Stackable Plastic Measuring Cups
  • Stackable Plastic Funnels


Here is a closer look at the items I purchased from Curious Minds Busy Bags which has the most fantastic selection of educational activities for babies and toddlers.


Sebastian is too young to complete the busy bag activities but he enjoys exploring these items and will eventually have the required dexterity.  His absolute favourite treasure basket items are the foam beads (which are covered in teeth marks!) and the homemade tissue tube filled with ribbons.

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I really love watching Seb empty out his treasure basket and sit surrounded by colourful and exciting objects.  He normally gets preoccupied with a one or two items so I try to encourage him to play with other things, but for the most part I let Seb explore the contents of the treasure basket independently.

Over the coming months I will be creating alphabet-themed treasure baskets for Seb to play with and I am hoping that they will keep him occupied when I am feeding Oscar.

5 A Day Books…Our Latest Selection

Here is what we have been reading for the last week as part of the ‘5 A Day Books’ challenge…

The Tiger Who Came to Tea – Judith Kerr


This is an absolute classic that was published over 40 years ago and it is considered one of the best-selling children’s books of all time.  When I first tried reading this to Seb a few months ago he was a bit too young to concentrate on the relatively long story.  However, at 13 months old he absolutely loves it and the beautiful illustrations really capture his attention.

Peace at Last – Jill Murphy


This was a present from a good friend and I just love reading it with Sebastian.  There is great use of repetition, simple text and colourful illustrations.  Seb loves the familiar noises throughout the book, especially the animal noises in the garden.  We have definitely been reading this book more than once a day!

Happy Hector – Polly Dunbar


This was another present and Sebastian really seems to like it.  It is part of the ‘Tilly and Friends’ series of books and features gorgeous illustrations.  This book explores the themes of playing alone and playing together, and Seb is captivated by all of the different characters.  I will definitely be getting some more books from this series.

I Love my Mummy – Giles Andreae & Emma Dodd


A really cute book that I received at my recent baby shower.  It celebrates the special bond between mother and child through joyful rhyming text.  It describes a typical day spent with mummy and features bold illustrations.  I think I like this one more than Sebastian (for obvious reasons!) but it is still a great board book for a young toddler.

There’s a House inside my Mummy – Giles Andreae & Vanessa Cabban


I bought this book for Seb as a way of preparing him for the birth of his little brother.  It is a wonderfully uncomplicated way of explaining pregnancy to a young child that uses simple rhyming text and brightly coloured illustrations.  Sebastian is a bit too young to understand what is happening but this is still a charming little book.

Bath Time Toys…

I recently gave our bathroom a mini-makeover to make bath time as fun as possible for Sebastian.  He is at an age now where a few rubber ducks don’t quite cut it and so our bath has literally been transformed into a child-only zone.


The Skip Hop Starfish Stay-Put Stacker Bath Toy attaches to the bottom of the bath for stacking fun, and the starfish can also be stuck to the wall.  Seb has not quite mastered the art of stacking yet but he loves playing with the foam starfish.


This Boon Flo Water Deflector is a great little invention that contains a handy bubble bath dispenser.  It creates a gentle waterfall and dispenses bubble bath at the press of a button.  In the background you can also see our Playgro Singing Frogs which float in the water and whistle when you tap them on the head.


We also have the Skip Hop Octopus Ring Toss Fountain Bath Toy which suctions to the wall.  Water can be poured in the top of its head and it sprinkles out of the arms, plus it comes with three rings for tossing and floating.


The Skip Hop Turtle Island Playset Bath Toy is really lovely and can be used as a cube with dive-through cutouts, or unfolded to create a floating hangout for two squirty turtles.  Sebastian loves dropping the turtles through the cutouts and then pulling them back out again.


I opted for the Brica Corner Bath Basket to store all of Seb’s bath toys as I loved the colour and it holds a large amount of toys.  It has push-lock suction cups that keep it securely attached to the wall and the mildew-resistant fabric lets water drain out of the bottom.  In this photo you can also see our Playgro Water Whatsit.  It can be filled with water from either end, the water then spins around inside the toy before coming out of the other end.


I also have the Brica Kneeling Pad to protect my knees during bath time.  The great thing about this kneeling pad is that it features a velcro strap at the back which means it can be hung on a towel bar to dry.


Sebastian is loving playing with all of his new bath toys and I have been careful to choose toys that will grow with him over the coming months so that we get the maximum use out of them.

Top Ten Toys for 12-18 Month Olds…

This is my final instalment of toy recommendations and this time I am focusing on 12-18 month olds.  There are a couple of toys in the list that we do not even own ourselves yet but which have come highly recommended to me by other mums with older children.

Fisher Price Brilliant Basics Walker-to-Wagon

Fisher Price walker

I bought this Fisher Price Walker-to-Wagon as part of Sebastian’s Christmas present and I am really pleased with my choice.  This is definitely one of the cheaper walkers on the market but I was not convinced that I wanted a heavy wooden walker, and I also wasn’t sure how much Seb was actually going to use it.  As it turns out, Seb is loving cruising up and down the hallway on his walker and it is really helping to build his confidence.  I also like the fact that it converts into a wagon that can be loaded up and pulled along when Sebastian is a bit older.

Mega Bloks Play N Go Table

Mega Blocks table

This is one of the toys that we are yet to own but I have it on good authority that Mega Bloks are a big hit with toddlers.  The Mega Bloks Play N Go Table looks great as there is storage for the Mega Bloks inside the table and it can be folded up into a portable case to take on play dates.  The blocks are nice and big so as not to create a choking hazard, and it is a great introduction to building for young children.

Cow Geo Shape Sorter

Cow Shape Sorter

I just could not resist this gorgeous wooden Cow Geo Shape Sorter.  This educational toy is designed to teach children about colours, shapes and patterns in a fun way.  Sebastian is still a way off from being able to push the shapes through the correct holes but he gives it a good try!

Outdoor Water and Sand Activity Play Table

water and sand table

I managed to find this Water & Sand Play Table online fairly cheaply and we have it out on our balcony.  We have only used it with water as I figured I would wait until we have a garden before filling it with sand.  The table comes with 16 accessories, including toy train, rake, watering can and boats.  Sebastian really enjoys playing at his table and splashing water everywhere!

Playmobil 1-2-3 Truck with Garage

Playmobil truck

The Playmobil 1-2-3 collection has been designed specifically for small children and this Truck & Garage Set is perfect for any little boy.  Sebastian loves loading and emptying the truck’s cargo!

Play Tunnel

play tunnel

I bought this Play Tunnel for Sebastian’s 1st Birthday Party and it has proved to be a big hit with my little boy!  The great thing is that it collapses for easy storage and it was a complete bargain at $13.

Fisher Price Brilliant Basics Chatter Telephone

Chatter Phone

This another great toy from the Fisher Price Brilliant Basics range.  I just had to get Seb a Chatter Telephone as I remember having one when I was a little girl and it is just a complete classic!

See Me Sensory Ball


This is another toy that we have not bought yet but I just know that Seb will go crazy for it.  He loves pushing around a small football and we often roll a ball back and forth to one another.  This Sensory Ball is great for enhancing fine and gross motor skills, and it also encourages interaction and socialisation with others.

Usborne Noisy Board Books

Noisy book

I bought Sebastian his first Noisy Board Book recently which features a sound panel full of farm animal noises.  Seb is still working out how to press the buttons in the right spot to activate the sounds but he loves listening to all of the different animals and the tractor.

Ride On Wheely Bug Bumble Bee

Bee Wheely Bug

I plan on getting one of these Ride On Wheely Bug toys once Seb is a bit more sturdy on his feet.  For a start, it looks completely adorable, but more importantly the child does not get stuck against obstacles as the wheels turn in all directions.  It is great for developing gross motor skills and burning some energy!

I hope my series of toy recommendations has been useful and I will continue on my steep learning curve as Sebastian progresses to the next age category.  I certainly have a lot to learn about boys’ toys over the next few years!

5 A Day Books Revisited…

This is a long overdue blog!  We are still very much committed to the ‘5 A Day Books’ challenge and this is what we have been reading for the last week…

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly – Pam Adams


This is another book that I remember vividly from my own childhood and I ordered it in especially for Sebastian at our local book shop.  I must admit to being a bit surprised that each verse ends with “perhaps she’ll die”…I definitely didn’t recall the story being so blunt!  Seb seems to love the rhythmic nature of this story and the illustrations are just gorgeous.

The Midnight Feast – Margaret Wild & Ann James


This was a big hit with Sebastian who absolutely loved the references to “Wibbly Wobbly Jelly”!  The story follows Baby Brenda and her gang as they set off for a night of feasting, dancing and playing at the Midnight Cafe.  The illustrations are beautiful and Seb seems to be really engaged by this book from start to finish.

Bim Bam Boom! – Margaret Wild & Wayne Harris


Another great book that Sebastian really enjoyed, especially the “Bim Bam Boom” sound of lightning striking!  This books incorporates a trip to the Zoo and counting a variety of different animals.  The illustrations really caught Seb’s attention and it will be a great book for helping him learn to count.

Dear Zoo – Rod Campbell


An absolute classic that has been given a new lease of life with three-dimensional pop-ups.  Sebastian originally had the buggy book version of this and he just loved looking at all of the different animals….in fact this book is the reason that he can hiss like a Snake on demand!  Seb loves lifting the flaps on each page and always has a big smile when he finds the puppy at the end of the book.

Where is the Green Sheep – Mem Fox & Judy Horacek


This is, without a doubt, Sebastian’s favourite book at the moment.  This delightful story features rhymes and repetition, as well as lovely illustrations and a variety of concepts (Up & Down; Near & Far; Scared & Brave; Thin & Wide).  Sebastian has started to anticipate the big reveal of the green sheep at the end of the book and instantly wants me to start reading from the beginning again!  It is such a simple story but one that has truly captured Sebastian’s imagination.