I-yatah Keisha

Quick and Easy Pretend Play Area Your Children Will Love


Montreal, Canada


Pretend play (imaginative play/ dramatic play) is a great way for children to develop a wide range of skills while using their imagination and having fun.

Children can make sense of the world around them by acting out scenarios and situations in real life. Dramatic play gives children opportunities to practice taking turns, sharing and problem solving.  They can express and communicate a range of emotions while engaged in dramatic play. They also are developing their vocabulary and language skills as they play.

Veterinarian’s Office Pretend play

An example of a really fun, pretend play area that you can easily put together and your children will love is a veterinarian’s office.

You can add things like stuffed animals, sheets and towels, doctor tools, lab coats, bandages, band aids, pillows, chairs, cardboard box cages, books about animals and veterinarians, etc. You can even have the children help you find everything you need around the house. Setting up the dramatic play area is half the fun!

Once the veterinarian pretend play area is all set up, it’s time to play!


Tips for Pretend Play

When you are ready to set up the pretend play area, here are some helpful tips:

-You can include almost anything in your dramatic play area. Some good items to start with are clothes, costumes, hats, shoes, scarves, boxes, baskets, dolls, stuffed toys, blankets, paper, writing and drawing materials, cash register, old toys, dishes, masks, jewellery, books, etc.

-Keep it open-ended. The goal is to encourage the children to use their imagination with the materials provided.

-The dramatic play area can be set up anywhere, from under a table, in a tent, on the couches, playroom, or even in a corner of the bedroom or basement.

-The pretend play area should be changed regularly with different props and toys to keep children interested and encourage new ideas and ways to play.

Pretend Play and Cognitive Development

High-quality pretend play is also thought to help promote some aspects of a child’s development, including theory of mind which is important for social interactions and to help children analyze and interpret other people’s behaviour (for a review article on pretend play click here).

Professional child care that comes to your event!

If you live in the Montreal area, make sure you visit the website KIDTABULOUS. Whether you have a wedding, holiday party, corporate event or private event…any adult event with children means that you can hire childcare animators to come take care of the children AND come with activities. Check out their website for details on packages.

Science Fun with Water Beads

Written by I-Yatah Keisha, Early Childhood Educator and owner of Kidtabulous

Montreal, Canada.

Why Water Beads?

Water Bead play is a great way for children to explore sensory play and science while having fun! Children love that squishy feeling! They are easy to make, and you can play with them for hours!


Water beads are one of the coolest little phenomenons to explore. When you first get them, they are just tinyballs of plastic. After sitting in water for a while, they grow and get about the size of a marble. If  you take them out of the water and let them dry out, they shrink back to their original size. Water beads are a great way to observe water hydration and dehydration. They also offer children quite a unique sensory experience as they squeeze, squish and watch them move and bounce.

I recommend using loose waterbeads with children aged 4 and up who will not put them in their mouth.  Water beads are non-toxic, but a child might choke if they try to swallow one. If you have a younger child (or even an older child who still puts things in their mouth) you can still use them, but you may want to seal them in a Ziploc bag (see activity #2). 

Check out these fun ways to explore waterbeads:

1. Water Bead Bin

This is super simple to set up and you can use whatever you have in your kitchen or your child’s toybox. 

Pour the waterbeads into a large bin with a little bit of water. Add some objects to play with. Some suggestions: measuring cups, spoons, buckets, bowls, smaller containers, shovels, scoops, dump trucks, tongs, balance scale, etc. Have fun scooping, pouring, measuring, weighing, and squishing!

2. Water Bead Sensory Bag


For toddlers, you can make a waterbead sensory bag, like these rainbow bags at Meri Cherry

Simply fill a large Ziploc bag with waterbeads and some water (or baby oil or gel for more squishy fun) and seal them with duct tape. 

3. Incredible Water Bead Slime

Another really fun way to play with waterbeads is to make Incredible Water Bead Slimelike this slime at Parenting Chaos

With this slime, the children can explore squishing, pulling,  stretching and  whatever else they can come up with as they play.

Promoting Scientific Inquiry Through Water Bead Play:

Here are some questions you can ask your children while they are playing with the water beads. As parents and early childhood educators, we can provide guidance, in part, by questioning to help promote scientific inquiry later on in school. Click this link to read an article that provides full details on promoting scientific inquiry in children. 

  • What happened to the beads when we left them in the water? Why?

  • What happened to the glue when we added the liquid starch?

  • What do you notice that is different about the beads after they have absorbed the water? (feel, look, bounce, etc.)

  • What do the beads look like after we let them dry out for a few days? Why?



Get Your Kids to Listen By Saying ‘Yes’ More!


How many times a day do we say the word ‘no’ to our kids? Probably way more than we would like to admit. So how can we turn some of those "no’s" into "yes’s", or at least say no a little less. What’s wrong with saying no so much in the first place? Here are a few tips to help get you on the right track:

1) Don’t Tempt Them

When you tell a child what not to do, instead of hearing what you want them to do, they are reminded of the behavior they shouldn’t be doing, and it is tempting. You know how you want that slice of cake even more when you just started a diet and you know you can’t have it? That is how children can feel when you tell them not to do something. Tell them the behavior you want from them so that they can remember it and deliver it.

2) Don’t Confuse Them

Telling a child what NOT to do instead of what TO DO can be confusing for young children. They have to first process what you are telling them NOT to do, then figure out what that means they SHOULD be doing, then DO  it.

If you express clearly and calmly what you want them to do, you’ll probably get better results quicker. Your child will hear exactly what you need from them and can process that message without any extra steps. For example, instead of saying “Don’t colour on the walls (or the table, or the floor, or your sister’s face…) you could try saying, “Use the markers to colour on paper.”

3) Encourage Rather than Discourage

Hearing no all the time is not fun. Children can get discouraged if all they are hearing is "no". Find opportunities to turn some of those "no’s" into "yes’s" so your children can feel encouraged.

For example, instead of “No, we are not having ice cream for dinner” you can try “That sounds yummy! How about I let you choose your favorite flavor and we can have some for dessert?’ Instead of “If your room is not clean, you are not going out to play”, try saying “When your room is clean, you can go play with your friends.”

The more you say yes (or avoid using the word no), the more positive the results, the happier everyone will be!

If you have any questions for I-yatah or any other Curious Neuron contributor, email us at info@curiousneuron.com. 

3 Fun and Easy Ways to Play with Balloons

Written by I-yatah Keisha, Early Childhood Educator and Owner of Kidtabulous

1. Make Texture Balloons


Tactile sensory play is all about touch!  All children like to explore, discover and experiment with their surroundings and sensory play does just that. The great thing about texture balloons (also called sensory balloons) is that children of all ages can play with them and they can have fun without making a mess!  

All you need are:

  1. Balloons (Note: if you use regular sized balloons, blow it up first and keep the air in for about a minute. Then deflate it and fill it up. You can also use larger balloons if you don't want to do this part). 
  2. Items you can insert into the balloon include anything from sand, salt, marbles, play dough, rice, water, paint, water beads etc.
  3. A funnel

**For an even greater challenge, you can have your child make the balloons themselves by having the materials that you will use set out on a table in little bowls (see the picture as an example). You can also have our little one can try to guess what is in each balloon as they squeeze and play with it.



2. Balloon-Popping Calendar Countdown

Which little kid doesn’t love popping balloons? This is a fun way to pop a balloon each day as you do a calendar countdown! Bonus: you can add cute little surprises inside each balloon!

1)   Decide how many balloons you will need and put them aside.


2)   Decide what you want to add inside the balloons (small drawings made by your little Picasso, small toys, cute messages, fun things to do, etc.) and make as many as the number of balloons you will use. 

3)   Blow up as many balloons as you will need for your countdown (a countdown could be for anything special that is coming up).

4)   Write numbers on your balloons with a Sharpie marker.

5)   Tape your balloons to the wall in order

6)   Start popping!

3. Balloon Badminton


Balloon badminton is a great way for kids to practice hand-eye coordination and balance as they hit the balloon and try to keep it off the ground. This is also a great game to get some energy out without breaking anything in the house! Bonus: They can also practice taking turns if they play with a sibling! Doube Bonus: it’s SUPER easy to do!

All you need is a balloon, some paper plates, masking tape and popsicle sticks. Just tape a popsicle stick to the back of each paper plate to make a handle, blow up your balloon, and you are good to go!

You can make 1 for each player, or 2 to make it more interesting. For more of a challenge, you can blow up two balloons and try to keep them both from touching the floor.

Happy hitting!

To learn more about I-yatah visit our contributors page. If you have a question for I-yatah, send an email at info@curiousneuron.com.