Imaginative Play: Sand & Sea

Imaginative and outdoor play are a priority when it comes to facilitating play opportunities for my kids. Combining them together is gold.

We visited the beach a couple of weeks ago and then I created a beach scene for the kids to play with at home. It’s really so easy and cheap to set up and here is how I did it:

Beach play


Underbed Storage Container (or other plastic container)

Play Sand (you can get bags from Bunnings and places like that)

Small plastic container (that fits inside the underbed storage)

Animal Figurines

Blue Food Colouring (optional)

Imaginative Play: Sand & Sea Animals

Animal figurines - Fraser Coast

Set up

This can be set up on the grass (that way any sand spillage is no big deal) on a patio (where I set mine up; easy to sweep) or other outdoor space.

1. Tip the play sand into the underbed storage container.

2. Put a few drops of blue food colouring into the small container and fill with water. (When only a few drops are used, it’s very diluted and doesn’t tend to stain kids hands). Regular water works well too, but I think it looks fun when it’s blue!

3. Push the sand to one side to make space for the water dish.

4. Add the plastic figurines (a few rocks work well too!)

Imaginative Play: Sand & Sea Animals

Boats are great in the mix. The kids used a Lego boat; milk bottle lid boats or plastic bowl boats are great too!

Imaginative Play - sand and sea

Imaginative Play Scene - sand and sea

play figurines - turtle

I purchased the animal figurines from Mini Zoo.  I thought it worth a quick email to see if I could get a special offer for Be A Fun Mum readers because I love facilitating this type of play and giving back. After 13 years of parenting (and going through many different toys), plastic play figurines are in my top 5 best toys for usefulness, versatility and longevity (through different ages).

I chatted to Jason and he kindly organised 10% off storewide for Be A Fun Mum readers. Mini Zoo have over 5,000 products and every type of plastic play figurines you can imagine!  Free shipping is standard on domestic orders over $50. Just use the code beafunmum at checkout. The coupon code is valid until 3rd October 2014 and may be used an unlimited number of times so feel free to share the code with anyone else who would be interested.  Great Christmas gift idea too!


Small World Play Ideas

Discovery Box

This is fun for kids and good way to recycle old shoe boxes - make a Discovery Box for kids to keep their little treasures

We love exploring as much as we can as a family.  Australia is a vast and beautiful country, and there’s so much natural wonder in our backyard.  On our many adventures, my kids enjoy collecting little bits and bobs along the way, from bottle caps for a Bottle Cap Game they made up to pretty fallen leaves.  On our last trip up the D’Aguilar Ranges, we saw a beautiful (AND HUGE!) snake on the road. There’s a video here.

Go exploring with Kids

At different times during the parenting journey — depending on how old the respective child is and their interests — I make up Discovery Boxes out of a recycled shoeboxes for the kids to keep their collections in.   

idea on using empty shoe box

I’ve wrapped shoe boxes in wrapping paper before, to make it look pretty (like this one). 

make a discovery box

This time, my youngest daughter and I made a discovery box covered in decorate tape, which matches the other little decorative projects we’ve been working on (it looks so pretty in her room which is fun).


Decorative Tape or wrapping paper  (I used Scotch® Expressions Packing Tape & Magic Tape)

White paper (if you want to cover patterns or brands on the box)


Step 1

Glue paper roughly to the box if you’re using light coloured paper or tape.   This way, you can cover any brand names and that sort of thing. I used it on the tops and sides.

This is fun for kids and good way to recycle old shoe boxes - make a Discovery Box for kids to keep their little treasures

Step 2

Cover box with pieces of tape (vertically or horizontally).  Horizontal tape around the base of the box makes it very easy because you can wrap it around the perimeter of the base until the ends meet.

This is fun for kids and good way to recycle old shoe boxes - make a Discovery Box for kids to keep their little treasures

Step 3

Add a Discovery Box label if desired. I typed the font in Word, printed it and cut to size.

This is fun for kids and good way to recycle old shoe boxes - make a Discovery Box for kids to keep their little treasures

 Just a cute box for little treasures small people find interesting.

Another idea is to have a list of prompts for children to find on a daily, weekly or whenever-you-fancy basis.  Below is some ideas I’ve jotted down that could instigate fun moments and interesting conversations.

Discovery Box

  1. Find a flower, lay between baking paper and press in a book.  Add to the box in a month. For best results, laminate the pressed flower (and you can even turn it into a bookmark).
  2. On the Internet or in a book, look for pictures of a place you would like to visit together.
  3. Go on a colour hunt: find 5 things that are yellow, blue, red, green, purple, pink or whatever colour!
  4. Look up the meaning of your name and write it on a piece of paper.
  5. Collect a cool looking stick (and paint it for something awesome).
  6. Write a letter to yourself to read a year on (remember to date it).
  7. Look for a seed pod (make into a boat on a rainy day)
  8. Go on a shape hunt: find 2 things that are triangle, round or rectangle.
  9. See how many different coins you can find around the house. Pick one. Look up the year it was made and more about the image.  Write a few key points or draw a picture on an envelope, slip the coin in and keep in the box.
  10. Go on a texture hunt: find 1 thing that is rough, smooth, soft or shiny.
  11. Cut out a picture you like from a magazine or junk mail.
  12. Something from the beach.
  13. Something from the backyard.
  14. Something recycled.
  15. Find three different types of leaves.
  16. Look for a special rock (and make it a pet by gluing on google eyes).
  17. Take a photograph, get it printed, write on the back how it made you feel.
  18. Draw something you see outside.
  19. Look up an interesting word in the dictionary and write down what it means on a piece of paper.
  20. A picture of someone you love.

You can print a PDF version by clicking the picture below.

Discovery Box Prompts


Other Links

5 Ways to Use Decorative Tape Around the Home

105 Ways to Enjoy Nature with Kids

Summer Fun: Boats, Boats, Boats

I spend some of my childhood in Papua New Guinea.  There was no Winter, only the wet season and dry season.

“The rain marches across the sky,” my mum used to say. I’ve never seen anything like it in Australia. The rain did, indeed, march; you could see it from a way off — you could hear it — and a curtain of water drawing closer, drumming, until the heavy drops would be upon us, bringing relief to the humidity.  I remember this one afternoon when the wall of water came.  I was nine.  So much water was upon us at once, and rivers of water formed around the house.  I remember this moment very clearly because of the utter enjoyment of it: I went out in the rain clothed, the feel of the water on my skin was exhilarating — and I floated home made boats in the formed streams.  It was utterly wonderful!

As I put this post together, I remembered that moment in my past; such a simple moment but so imprinted on my memory.  During the Summer months, water play is a winner and floating boats is so fun. I’ve put together a collection of boat ideas from my blog and other Aussie bloggers I know.


Anything that floats will do!

Summer fun for kids -- boat play -  on

1. Plastic Bowl Boat

The humble plastic bowl makes for a wonderful base for a boat. Add some paper sails and it’s good to go. More pics here: Plastic Bowl Boat

2. Milk Bottle Lid Boat

A huge favourite, these cute little lid boats are made from recycled materials and work a treat: Milk Bottle Lid Boats

3. Ice Boat

One hot afternoon, I took out my pre-prepared ice boats out for my son to enjoy. More instructions here: Ice Play Boats

4. Floating Island Boat

A plastic laundry tub can be turned into a floating island toys can roam on. Because of the large surface area, it can hold many toys without the risk of sinking.

5. Sponge Boat

Kate from The Craft Train made boats out of a dish sponge.  They are sturdy and easy to make: Sponge and Duct Tape Boat

6. Seed pod boat

Ness from One Perfect Day shared a simple seed pod boat here: Seed Pod Boat.

7. Shell Boat

Christie from Childhood 101 put together a simple play scene using shell boats: Water Wonderland

8. Bottle Boat

Louise from Paging Fun Mums used bottles to create boat for toys with her daughter: DIY Toy Boat

9. Bark Boat

Next time you’re out near a stream, make a bark boat and watch it meander. For different ways to put it together, click here: Bark Boats.

Somewhere to float them

fun for kids -- water play -- boats - on

1. Container

I created an desert island scene for my daughter using a large under-bed container.  Add a bit of blue food colouring and it looks fantastic. More on how I put it together here: Desert Island Play Scene.

Other items I’ve used:

  • Plastic Tuff Tubs
  • Small inflatable pools (or large sand shells)
  • Kitchen Sink
  • Small plastic containers (like an empty ice-cream container)

2. Foil Stream

I love this stream from Elise from Creative Play Central using foil. Perfect for small milk bottle lid boats and ice boats to slide down.  More details can be found here: Foil Boat Stream

3.  Bath

When my son had not yet started school (and was home more), I ran a bath for him as an activity. Even now that he is older, we sometimes run the bath for him to sail boats on.

4. Open water

Brooks, streams, rainwater puddles, pools, lakes dams…they all make for wonderful places to float homemade boats.

Nature Crafts: Bark Boat

Bark Boat

Oh, there’s something wondrous about floating homemade boats in a babbling brook.  It’s as easy as finding a nice piece of floatable bark and attaching a sail by making a small hole in the centre (with a screwdriver or drill) or using blue tack or glue.  Below are links to a few different ways to put them together:

1. Twig and Toadstool

This one from Twig and Toadstool has added buoyancy with corks underneath.

Bark Boat from Twig and Toadstools

2. A Mother’s Ramblings

Bark and Blu-tack. Awesome. Tutorial and cute video here.

bark boats

3. Rhythm of the Home

Adore these wooden boats by Maya Donenfeld featured on Rhythm of the Home.

wooden boats

4.  Make and Takes

Sticks and hemp cord is all you need. Tutorial here.

stick raft

Next time you’re out and about near a stream, make a bark boat to add to your adventure.

bark boats