We welcome Winter in our family as we welcome all seasons. We welcome the urge to slow down. To nourish our bodies with warm heavier meals. The darkness encourages us to retreat indoors and spend more time in close proximity with our loved ones.

All this time indoors and and closeness does mean we have to be a little more creative as parents to provide opportunities for play that are inside friendly! Now we feel we are a pretty relaxed family and our home environment is one we have intentionally designed to be kid-friendly and certainly not precious. However, we draw the line at having ball games inside (well big balls anyway hehe). I did trip over the kids balance bike earlier this week though come to think of it!
So I want to share with you some of my favourite indoor activities. Use them an inspiration to set up your own opportunities for play and cherish the time spent engaging in fun with your little ones this winter.
In this blog post I'm sharing a classic Reggio inspired activity.
As the weather cools down, I make more space inside for cosy nooks to read and areas where all our art, craft and games are easily accessed. I've loved making tinker trays for our little ones this season. I had so much fun making it - and it's something anyone can do with little to no money spent and is an absolute winner for engaging younger and older children.
 First you need a great tray with lots of compartments - cutlery drawers can work, or you may have an old display case you can modify. Lots of our Melissa & Doug Toys come in great little trays you can re-use. Check out your local op-shops for great finds.
Then comes the fun part. Filling it. 
Look for objects around the house or outside that look interesting.  Try to stick with natural elements, like stones, twigs, crystals, gum nuts and pieces of wood. Other items might be marbles, wooden clothes pegs, buttons, dried beans, nuts and bolts, wooden beads, paddle pop sticks and toothpicks.  Basically, you want to fill your tinker tray with anything that can offer a sensory experience; be interesting and textural to feel and look at. Offer a variety of rough a smooth, bigger and smaller etc.
Once you have your tray filled you get get creative. I love to just sit back and watch to start with - it's a beautiful opportunity for open-ended play. Sorting, counting, lining things up and stacking, gave way to "playing shops" where the kids sold each other items using a very sophisticated bartering system! I introduced some dried flower from an old potpourri bag and started a mandala with things from the tinker tray. We all became completely immersed in the activity.
For the times they are looking for some more social and goal-directed games, we can't go past our Orchard Toys Games. While I love seeing them use their imaginations and creativity, there's also huge value in playing board games as they can foster the ability to focus, and help your child lengthen their attention span by encouraging the completion of an exciting, enjoyable game. 
Orchard Toys are a range of award-winning "educational" games that focus of providing learning opportunities through play. They have games for counting, sequencing, matching, literacy, memory and the list goes on. Our favourites at the moment are Veg Patch Match (awesome!) and the classic Shopping List games for which we now also stock the 'booster' cards so you can keep building on with extra lists.
I hope you and your children enjoy the tinker tray as much as we do.  The idea of the tinker tray is to let kids tinker! Let them have ideas and create and ask questions and be encouraged to keep going. The possibilities are endless and that is the gift I want to give to our children.
EcoChild Family