Want a super activity that will help to teach toddlers and preschoolers how to spread with a knife? Use building blocks and shaving cream! This fun and easy activity helps to strengthen fine motor skills and co-ordination, and helps prepare children for spreading butter on toast and making peanut butter sandwiches!
Recently, while preparing some crackers and peanut butter for snack, I got thinking about teaching the children how to spread butter and peanut butter and such with a knife.
I wanted an fun and engaging activity that could fill a morning – a play-based activity that didn’t involve actual food, so I mulled it over for a few days.
This morning, I was looking through all of my shaving cream posts, and I had a lightbulb moment. I thought “Hey! Shaving cream is spreadable, and it’s most definitely fun and engaging!” The hooligans LOVE playing with shaving cream!
All that was left was to figure out WHAT we could spread the shaving cream on.
It didn’t take long to come up with the answer: foam blocks! The hooligans could work on their spreading skills while building structures!
Let me just tell you – this activity was FABULOUS!
Not only was it a great activity for teaching spreading skills, it was a wonderful construction activity, it incorporated messy play, imaginative play and fine-motor development, and at the end of it all there was some water-play as well. Could it get any better than that?
Let me show you all the fun!
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- foam building blocks
- foaming shaving cream (not gel) – canned whipped topping or foaming bath paints could also be used
- small pate spreaders or plastic knives
- flat work surface (tips to protect your work surface below)
- small bowls
Prepare Your Work Surface:
To start, choose a flat work surface. If it’s something like a plastic tray, a baking sheet or a table that you’re not too fussy about, you’re good to go. If you’re concerned about the surface of your table however, I would advise protecting it first with a table cloth or towel just to be safe. I’m not entirely sure what effect shaving cream might have on it, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Doing the Activity:
STEP 1: Place the blocks in the middle of the table.
STEP 2: Fill a small bowl with a generous squirt of foamy shaving cream.
STEP 3: Give each child a pate spreader or plastic knife and let them know that they’ll be working on their “spreading skills” while building structures.
For the benefit of the youngest hooligan, I did a little demonstration. Ok, maybe it wasn’t entirely for her benefit. Maybe, just maybe I couldn’t resist. It all looked so inviting and fun! Whatever the case may be, I dipped the spreader into some foam, scooped it up, spread it on a block, and “splat”, Ismushed the block to the table to start things off.
Everyone followed suit, dipping into their bowls of shaving cream and carefully covering a block with foam.
The fun had begun.
Spreading, dipping and stacking ensued.
According to their conversations, some were baking cupcakes, some were building towers, and some were building cities.
Open-ended building always sparks so much creativity, and adding the shaving cream just took it to a new level.
And their fine motor skills got a work out, manipulating the knives, turning those blocks over and over to coat them with shaving cream, and then of course, critical thinking was required to plan, stack and build their creations.
This activity was such a winner in my books, and one that we’ll repeat over and over I’m sure!
Teaching my little ones how to use a knife for spreading couldn’t have been any more fun.
And how did we end our morning? The kids had fun washing all of the shaving cream off in a big bow of water.
If you have a favourite activity that teaches spreading skills, I’d love for you to leave a suggestion in the comments below!
Jackie is a mom, wife, home daycare provider, and the creative spirit behind Happy Hooligans. She specializes in kids’ crafts and activities, easy recipes, and parenting. She began blogging in 2011, and today, Happy Hooligans inspires more than 2 million parents, caregivers and Early Years Professionals all over the globe.