Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Easter Crafts

This is an easter nest halfway through construction, being made from shredded paper and fruit nets chopped into pieces, layered up using flour and water paste as a glue.  To get the nest shape, we covered a small bowl with tin foil to ease getting it out after it had dried!  They were very sticky and messy and went down a storm as you can imagine, although the little ones were fairly covered in little bits of shredded paper!

To complement the nests we made chicks from soft woolly jumpers, adding eyes, beaks and wings from felt.  My nearly five year old hand sewed this chick without any adult help beyond having the needle re-threaded a few times and some verbal instruction!

There are some chick sewing patterns here if you want to try it out, I use embroidery floss as it is fairly thick and holds the fabric better when the stitches are a little uneven or quite far apart.  Four and five year olds are probably fine with a cross-stitch needle, they are thicker than normal sewing needles and blunter at the end.  For really little ones, you can buy plastic needles or 'bodgers' from craft stores or ebay (don't get the ones with a blob on the end, they won't sew through anything!), although with plastic needles you will need a loose knit jumper or it will be very frustrating to get the needle through the fabric and little ones will lose interest.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Frog on a Blog!

I hadn't planned on looking at the lifecycle of a frog with the children, but when we were at my friend's house today, we dashed out inbetween rain storms and watched the frogs in her pond. There were about eleven in there; we heard a male frog croak too! Great balloons of frogspawn were pushing up out of the water! Later in the day we made frog pictures by cutting a pond out of shuny blue paper, adding bubblewrap with permanent marker dots on as the frog spawn, and some felt frogs and pond weed. They looked great!

Here are some froggy links to get you started exploring the lifecycle with your children:

My friend has a lovely set of felt manipulatives for the children to organise into the lifecycle, i couldn't find anything similar on the web, or any instructions to make one either so i have made up my own instructions and here they are!!!!

  1. Print out this large frog picture, cut it out to make a template and cut two frog shapes out of green felt, you will need to simplify the sahpe of the feet a little (make them webbed!!).
  2. Print out this sheet of tadpoles and froglets and cut them out to make templates, cut two shapes for each one out of felt; black for the tadpole, brown for the froglet with back legs and darg gren for the froglet with four legs!
  3. Add detail with a permanent marker if you wish.
  4. Sew round the edges with a thread of similar colour to the felt; i find embroidery floss pretty forgiving for this kind of project!!
  5. Before you reach the end, stuff the shapes with a little filler, anything you have to hand, fabric scraps, cushion filler, shredded paper etc.
  6. Sew up the ends securely.
  7. Find some bubble wrap and add black dots to the bubbles with permanent marker to make frogspawn.

Hey Presto you have your own life cycle set made with your own fair hand..... school aged children will be keen to help with the sewing and cutting out too. I like to tell lifecycle stories by telling a magical little tale starting with the mummy frog........

The book 'A New Frog' is a really lovely story that repeats as it goes along, with beautiful illustrations.

Have fun frogging!!

Friday, 26 March 2010

Friday's Favourites!

I have spent the week coping with poorly children, worrying about my friend D, and not getting enough sleep, but have ended the week happy, having made some decisions about some important things and feeling a little lighter for that!!!

Something occurred to me.... I give the parents of my mindees questionnaires to fill in to see how I'm doing and ask them if there's anything else I could be doing...... so why not ask my readers what they think of the blog and what else they would like to see here? So please could you comment or e-mail me with your thoughts and wishes and I can get on to them!!!

I was pleased to have finally started posting about Montessori, it has been bugging me for a while but I didn't know how to get past my mental block on it and just DO it!! Now I have I feel good.  Sarah posted a long comment about it and made some great points... I am composing a reply (i.e. scribbling it on post it notes whilst I cook meals!!) and will post a reply and some more information soon!  Thanks for taking the time to comment everyone!

So now down to business, with my favourite ideas from around the web this week:
  • There are some very inspiring activity ideas for Easter on this fabulous new site that I discovered this week (added to my sidebar), please take the time to cruis round the site, there are plenty of photos to see and ideas to use as well as printable resources that support all the areas of learning and development.
  • This idea about growing real grasses in baskets started me thinking about how great to grow grass indoors (or any sprouting seeds) to add a new dimension to small world play (the farm is very popular here at the minute)
  • These obstacle course markers look great fun and an easy starter to get children thinking about what else they could do!
Have a great weekend!!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Montessori in a Minute - Freedom.

Welcome to the first 'Montessori in a minute' - my aim is to keep it short and sweet, please post any comments or questions below and i will answer in the comments also so that everyone can view them and add to their understanding (hopefully!!). I tried to organise a logical order to introduce Montessori ideas but I realised that starting at the beginning might not interest all of you, so i'm going to dip in and out and explain things as I go along!

The idea of freedom within Montessori is often misunderstood as people think that it means the child is left to do exactly what they want to..... well that isn't really the case!  Freedom comes with responsibilities, i.e. it has limits.  For example, a child is free to use equipment as he wishes, as long as he is using it safely and not abusing the equipment or damaging anything/anyone.  This could be applied to a pair of scissors; the child is trying cutting every different type of material available (card, tissue paper, white paper, corrugated paper, newspaper, drinking straws, wool, fabric, craft sticks, foam etc).  He is learning about the properties of the paper and about what he can do with the scissors amongst other things.  He is absorbed in his self-chosen task and concentrating so this is great, just what you want to see, so leave him to it!!! If however he starts to cut towards his face, cut up a picture another child has drawn, wants to try the scissors on the books or his won clothing, then you intervene as he has stepped beyond the limits.  I promised you similarities to what you do now and here is one..... most childminders have groundrules they expect the children to follow such as looking after eachother, looking after the toys etc so this isn't anything new or different. 

What might be a bit different is that the child is gaining something from snipping a tiny piece of many things.  It is tempting to chastise a child for 'wasting' the paper or 'spoiling' things for others, but if this is what he is interested in, you can look at facilitating his choice by making a special box full of new things to cut just for him.  Include things you would put in the recycle box or bin (clean obviously!!).  This makes your life easier in two ways; firstly you have something that a small child will sit and focus on for some time without you constantly offering him activities, and secondly you will have a happier child as you are helping him to meet a need that he has.  It fits with EYFS as you are 'following the child'!

Another way we offer freedom is for the child to make choices.  You can do this by making the toys and resources easily accessible in clearly labelled boxes, baskets, cupboards and draws, using words and pictures.  If you set out a selection of toys at the beginning of the day and that is what the children choose from, then they do not have true freedom as they are choosing from your choices!!  If this is what they are used to in your setting then it may take a while for them to adjust if you put nothing out and encourage them to choose for themselves.  You will gain valuable insights into their preferences and interests by watching them and joining in with he things they choose.  This doesn't mean that you have to have everything available all of the time, a selection out of storage covering all areas of play such as puzzles, small world, role play, construction, art, books, etc allows choice without overwhelming them or your lounge!!!

An important point about choice is that free choice may need limiting for some children and at some times.  A very young child, or one new to your setting may need a small number of choices such as "would you like to do a puzzle or some colouring now?"  As the child gets used to making choices then you can extend the number of choices as they are comfortable with them.  If a child is being disruptive and disturbing others who are playing happily, you can offer small choices then similar to the ones above (this links to the Montessori way of behaviour management but that's another post!!).

Freedom of movement is now common in most early years settings; at home it can be thought of as once the child has chosen what he wants to play with, then he can choose where to do it.  Some children prefer to lie down, sit at a table or even to stand to do things.  Now there are difficulties with this for example, I would not allow a child to paint lying on my floor just because they wanted to!!  Go back to thinking about groundrules and freedom within limits - you can have a set of rules for individual activities that children will easily learn and adhere to for the safety of others and the protection of your house, such as wearing an apron and painting at the table/easel.  You can provide freedom of choice for activities though by having one or two table tops to use (we have a pine chest that the children either kneel or stand at, as well as a little table with chairs, and small rugs that they can put out to lie on).

Finally, freedom to spend as long as he likes doing something is valuable to the child.  Saying to him "You've been playing with the lego for hours now, come and do some painting" is counter-productive as if it is the lego that meets his needs and interests then he will gain little from painting.  It is perfectly normal for children to spend hours, days or even weeks mainly focussing on one or two activities.  This doesn't mean that you ignore it - you can facilitate his interest by providing complementary materials that may extend his learning - you could even suggest that he prints with the lego or uses it with water, sand or play dough!  Making a planning web or observation web that details the learning you see for all areas of learning and devlopment may make you feel more confident about this and can show that you are meeting his needs.

Routines can interrupt freedom; although they provide much needed security and structure to the day they can interrupt the child when he is concentrating and may not suit all children.  An example of this is 'snack time' - instead of stopping all children to eat and drink at the same time, you could try making available the snacks, whether you put it in a bowl or on a plate for the child to choose from, he can take it when he is ready and when he is hungry!  If you are concerned that he will leave it until really late and then not eat a proper lunch, then explain to him that you will put snacks out for 45 minutes and that when the time is up they will be cleared away and if he chooses not to eat then he will wait until lunch time.  Obviously this is for children that are old enough to regulate their hunger (I suggest 2 1/2 upwards but this does depend on the individual).  At first he may need reminding that the snacks will be out for a limited amount of time, but he will soon adjust to the new 'routine' with snacks and the 'groundrules' of when he can access them!

To round up, freedom has limits and is curbed if these limits are breached.  Generally the limits are linked to personal safety, safety of others and respect for others and the environment. Important freedoms are:
  • freedom of choice
  • freedom to repeat activities for as long as they like
  • freedom to explore/experiment
  • freedom of movement
Well that lasted for longer than a minute!!!! I hope that it made sense, please leave me comments!

Monday, 22 March 2010

Springtime Lemon Playdough

This is one child's use of the springtime dough that our childminding group made on Monday!  The dough was scented with lemon flavouring (a baking ingredient but scented essential oil would work very well).  The recipe can be found on this post here.  We sat and observed the children playing with the dough and made some notes about what they were doing, then as a group shared and put them into the six areas of learning. 
PSED: Dispositions and attitudes - children becoming interested and absorbed by what they are doing; self-confidence, particularly if a child is not keen on messy play but then decide to have a go which could be a big step forwards for him/her; making relationships as they play alongside one another, sharing tools and chatting about their play and ideas (fewer resources than there are children can lead to some good problem solving if you support the children to work out a solution to the 'problem'!); Behaviour and self-control - problem-solving and sharing is part of this, as well as following rules for playdough such as keeping it at the table etc; self-care - knowing that it isn't good to eat and washing hands afterwards!
CLL: Language for communication - talking about what they see, smell and feel and what they are doing enhances children's vocabulary, especially if you give them some new 'describing' words.  It could turn into a fun rhyme if you encourage the children to experiment with their words as they play; language for thinking - using talk to organise and sequence what they are doing and thinking, for example they might 'narrate' everything they do, so you know that they are planning and understaning what they are doing.  Using 'positional' language such as 'on top of', 'inside', 'under', 'nest to' is a big step for children in language; writing -  making marks in the dough, shaping letters.
PSRN: Numbers as labels and for counting - children might make representations of numbers with the dough; calculating - count the number of objects they have made, sharing out "half for you" etc; shape, space and measure - talking about shapes "this circle", "that curve there" etc, using words to describe weight and volume "heavy" "more than" etc, having the children measure out the ingredients is even better - the recipe is great for children as it is measured in numbers of cups rather than grams or ounces!
KUW: Exploration and investigation - learning about changes and patterns could be achieved if the children help you make the dough in the first place (powdery flour to wet and sloppy mixture to firm, squashy dough is amazing for a child to see!!); designing and making - constructing with the dough if you add straws of different lengths, craft sticks etc.
PD: Using equipment and materials - children use a range of fine-motor movements and can refine skills such as cutting (scissors or knife), pressing through a garlic press, using tweezers, rolling pins, biscuit cutters etc, all of these help to develop hand and finger strength later needed for achieving correct pencil grip and writing.
CD: responding to experiences, expressing and communicating ideas - children responding to the sight, smell and tecture of the dough (put it out when it is still warm and reshly made!); exploring media and materials - the children working with colour, texture, shape, space and form in two and three dimensions (how perfect play dough is to meet this aspect!!); developing imagination and imaginative play - I have watched children as they have made bee hives, fairy gardens, fairy houses, birthday party food, you name it, a child can make it out of playdough!
Here is some information linked to the EYFS to do with messy play.
These playdough ideas will give you some inspiration all year round!
I printed these simple number mats to laminate and put out with the dough.
This is the second in a series of our group looking at how everyday activities in your home can support all six areas of learning and devlopment, you may also be interested in the post on cooking!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Developing the Outdoors Environment

I have been thinking about this and reading up on it for some weeks now and have today pulled together some initial lists and quotes (mainly from the EYFS).  I have cut them out and added them to a poster that I am making, with cutouts from magazines of equipment that I would like to have in the garden.  I'm going to put it up and ask the parents to contribute to the poster with their ideas about what is important to them about outdoors, what resources they would like to see out there, what their children enjoy outdoors at home, and any other ideas they may have.  I am hoping to be able to get the parents on board by giving them a wish list of 'found items' that would enhance the outside and see what they can ferret out for us to use!

Effective Practice (EYFS, 2008)

o Encourage children to help plan the layout
o Encourage children to contribute to keeping the area tidy
o Ensure that children can be outdoors daily all year round
o Help children to understand how to behave outdoors by talking about personal safety, risks and the safety of others.
o Link the indoors and outdoors so that children can move freely between them.

Challenges to tackle (EYFS, 2008)
o Promoting the value and importance of the outdoors to parents and other professionals.
o Meeting the needs of children of different ages in a shared outdoor space.
o Reflecting learning outdoors in observations and planning.

What the EYFS (2008) says about children being outdoors:

“Being outdoors has a positive impact on children’s sense of well-being and helps all aspects of children’s development”

“Being outdoors offers opportunities for doing things in different ways and on different scales than when indoors”

“It gives children first hand contact with weather, seasons and the natural world”

“Outdoor environments offer children freedom to explore, use their senses, and be physically active and exuberant”

“Children can learn to make decisions, solve problems and grow in confidence in their own abilities outdoors and they need plenty of time to investigate their outdoor environment purposefully”

“Outdoors, children can hear and respond to a different range of sounds, beginning to recognise and distinguish between noises in the outdoor environment”

“Outdoor learning complements indoor learning and is equally important. Play and learning that flow seamlessly between indoors and outdoors enable children to make the most of resources and materials available to them and develop their ideas without unnecessary interruption”

“Provide children with access to environments that stimulate their need to explore and which safely challenge them. The aim is to develop their risk awareness and an understanding of their own abilities as necessary life skills”

Developing the Outdoor Space
1. Evaluate where we are now.
2. Vision Planning – where do we want to be??
3. Action Planning – How can we get there??
4. Implementation – making the changes!

Resources and Play Materials
1. Open-ended and non-prescriptive, and can be used in imaginative ways that fit the children’s play, rather than dictating the play.
2. Different sized and shaped logs, poles, sticks and wood shapes.
3. Blocks, crates and tyres.
4. Natural items: sand, water, leaves, stones, bark, earth, mud, clay, shells, seeds.
5. Ropes and strings of different thickness and length.
6. Different colours, textures and sizes of fabric, cloths and tarpaulins.
7. Clothes pegs.
8. Pulleys.
9. Baskets, bags, buckets, containers,
10. Pipes of different shapes and lengths.
11. Chalks, charcoal, crayons, pens, pencils, brushes with water, paints, large paper and fabric, rollers.
12. Tools for digging, planting and caring for plants.
13. Tools and benches for woodworking.
14. Nets, bug pots, magnifiers, binoculars, trays, tanks.

Key Features to Plan For
1. Access and security.
2. Shelter and shade.
3. Appropriate clothing.
4. Appropriate storage.
5. Variety of surfaces.
6. The four elements.
7. Natural spaces.
8. Growing spaces.
9. Active spaces.
10. Reflective spaces.
11. Creative spaces.
12. Social spaces.
13. Offsite locations.

Plenty of food for thought here.... I will post about how I tackle each area over the next couple of weeks.  this is part of my ongoing review of 'The Learning Environment' section of the EYFS.  It has taken me, and some members of the childminding group on quite a journey so far; because the learning environment covers indoor, outdoor and emotional environment, there is a lot to consider, reflected by recent posts about supporting emotional development, ICT and others.  You might be interested to read the toolkit that has helped me review the outdoors, to be found on this post here!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Friday's Favourites!

Well it's been another busy week.  I got started on my outdoor plans in style, as a very lovely little picket fence was installed across the patio by a fab handy man.  I promised a post about my plans last weekend but time and energy refused to play ball, so I'll try again this weekend!  Having said that, I'm off to London all day tomorrow for a Montessori seminar, so energy may be in short supply again by Sunday!!

I took the long overdue step of hiring an accountant yesterday, best thing I have done in ages (thanks to Nat for her number!!), a huge weight off my mind and as she is so coversant in accounting and the legalities of it, I will be claiming for capital allowances that I didn't think I ever would be able to, and a larger proportion of expenses than I thought I could, so feeling better off than I have in a while too!

We continued to have lots of fun this week with our rainbow theme, more pics to post on that, it turned into a  week of discovery and sensory fun that I really enjoyed as well as the children.

Other exciting news was that my grant money came through so I have ordered most of the equipment on the list, feeling very lucky to get some money and looking forward to put it to good use!

And now to this weeks best finds in blog-land:
  • Lots of downloadable activities here to support colour recognition.
  • Loving this salt dough tree trunk fairy house, would be a great holiday project for older children!
  • These exercise ABC's are great fun, I'm going to print a set and laminate them for my outdoors area!
Have a great weekend!!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Rainbow Crayons!

From This............ to this!
I had the idea for these from here, but knew that making them as individual colours would bore the children and be messy and time-consuming, not to mention a bit dangerous with molten wax sloshing round! So I tweaked the idea a little bit and here is how to do it:
  1. Collect together old and broken wax crayons (or buy a big box from the pound shop!!)
  2. Let the children peel the paper off them (normally forbidden!!!!)
  3. Snap them into lots of little pieces (also normally forbidden!!)
  4. Get out an old bun tin and wipe round the indents with a kitchen tissue with a tiny amount of oil on.
  5. Share the broken crayons out amongst the indents, trying to get a good mix of colours in each one.
  6. Pop the tray into an oven at 150 degrees C.
  7. Keep a close eye..... the crayons take only minutes to melt.
  8. Once melted take them out and put on a heat proof level surface to cool and set.
  9. Once the tray is cool, further harden them in the fridge.
  10. Turn the tin over on a table and pop them out.
  11. Watch the children's amazed faces!!
They look a bit grim from the top whilst they are in the bun tin, as the colours mix into a browny film, but underneath they are magical!!!!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Tree Planting Together!

Last week we went with the childminding group to a local nature reserve and planted out some saplings that had been donated by The Woodland Trust.  There were Wild Cherry, Rowan and Silver Birch.  The trees were about two years old, very small and just the perfect size for toddler hands to plant independently.  And plant them they did! Two of the girls really got the hang of it and planted lots, coiling the rabbit proof tubes around the stems and pushing a stake in to support the saplings.  One of the littlest just bumbled round the woodland with a stick in his hand, poking things, but he loved it!  The Ranger was so impressed with the children that he has invited us to go and use the reserve whenever we wish.... a real treat as it is a protected site with rare species of plants and animals!

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Our Montessori Visitor!!

This is Nicola, a member of the childmindinghelp forum who contacted me about Montessori.  She came to visit me to see some of the Montessori materials that I have and talk about how both she and I use it in our settings.  It set me thinking about how to write on here about Montessori, and I'm finding it hard because once you talk about one part of the theory, then you have to explain another bit and the whole thing just snowballs into something that sounds very complicated when it isn't!  So here is what I'm going to do: I'm going to break the essential parts of the philosophy down into bitesize chunks and post about them individually, making them relevant to childminding and adding links and suggestions for implementing it in your setting. 

Funnily enough, even though Montessori developed her theory a hundred years ago, there is a lot of it in the EYFS - look here for a document written by Montessori Centre International (MCI), a training college in London.  The director of that college, a wonderful lady by the name of Barbara Isaacs worked together with the editor of the EYFS to produce this and it would make a good starting point if you are interested in following the Montessori story with me! 

As we go on, you will also start to recognise aspects of the Montessori materials in popular children's toys - you probably have many of them in your setting right now and didn't realise their origins!!! Take the knobbed cyclinders below for example, do the buttons on top of the cylinders look familiar? Got any wooden shape puzzles on your shelves? there you go!!! The cylinders themselves are part of the sensorial materials in Montessori, but the button on top helps to develop a child's hand strength for writing as they hold it with a 'tripod grip' in three fingers also.  More of that later!

As a final incentive for looking further into Montessori, although it may seem like more hard work to start with, it can actually make your job as a childminder easier, because there is an emphasis on developing independence and care for the surroundings! I hope you'll come back for more and comment as we go.... I will answer all the questions I get to the best of my ability!!!!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Friday's Favourites!

I have been a bit quiet on the blog this week, things have been very busy at home and I've got a chest infection for the first time in my life so I feel rotten too!  Incy Wincy week was a great success with the interactive story telling and the marble painting apider webs the biggest hits.  None the less both my own children have had nightmares about spiders this week, oops!  I've been doing lots of thinking and note-making about my outdoor area this week, and have some great plans to make it happen, more about that sometime this weekend hopefully! For now, here are Friday's best picks to inspire you for next week!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Helping Children to Recognise Their Emotions


No, they weren't completely bored by the childminding group..... they were making 'emotions faces' as part of our ideas sharing about activities to help young children recognise their own and other's emotions.  It was really funny and made me realise how hard it is to pull a face when you are thinking about it!!  Everyone at the group 'made a face' and we are going to have copies of the photos each to use with our mindees!

other ideas we talked about were:

  • A decorated box with a mirror inside stuck to the bottom, tell the children that the box has something special and important inside and invite them to open it and look!
  • Hold a teddy and say that teddy is excited because he is going swimming later, encourage the other children to say why teddy isnt excited as they pass him round, this helps children to recognise feelings and teddy can experience any feeling you want him to!
  • Print this template of a face out on skin tone paper or on white and colour it in with skin tones, then laminate it and use it as a playdough mat, helping the children to model sad and happy faces on it.
  • This sheet can be used to draw faces that have been talked about or experienced in stories etc.
  • I found some simple faces to make puppets with - you could call out emotions and the children can pop them up, or they could have one or two each and if you call out that emotion they have to hop on one leg, or run to the corner etc, or you could read a book that involves emotions and the children can identify them as they come up.
  • Here are some stories that you can print out or read online, some are to do with emotions, others carry a moral story.
  • These pictures can be used to make bingo cards, but I think they are quite complex for young children so I would either use them with older children, or pick some contrasting ones for the littler children.
  • A feelings and emotions colouring and puzzle book that supports diversity too (4 years plus).
  • Dice to use for 'pull a face' games (perrhaps we should have used these at the group today!!).
  • Photographic posters of adult emotion faces.
  • Flashcards of clipart type emotions faces.
  • This article talks about strategies to help child control their emotions.
  • Emotions Bingo
  • Lots of lovely ideas here to explore different aspects of emotions

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Words that make me slow down and just be!

WHAT is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

WH Davies

Friday, 5 March 2010

Friday's Favourites!

I have had a busy and fun week..... lots of outdoor play in the Sunshine and lots of shared activities with friends! On Thursday I took my own children to the Education Show at the NEC, I was a bit unsure how well we would be recived but everyone was delighted to have two little ones scampering all over their equipment and testing it all out! There was messy play and soft play and outdoor equipment and puppets and play houses and all kinds of things.... we had a wonderful time and came home with a bag full of freebies.  One of the messy play activities particularly caught my eye and I'm going to try it out this weekend and let you know how it goes!  Another very exciting thing that happened was that I had a letter from the LEA to say that my grant proposal had been accepted and I will be receiving the money for resources that I had applied for!!  I will blog about them as and when they arrive!  And finally, the trees from the Woodland Trust arrived to be unpacked and tucked away in a sheltered corner ready for planting at the nature reserve next week!  It's all go..... no change there then!!  Have a great weekend!
  • I really like this idea from 'The Snail Trail' - you could make it really simple for a child that was just beginning to rhyme or read some words.
  • Make very simple but very effective finger puppets.
  • 'Dig-in' - The BBC campaign for people to grow more vegetables at home.  You can't apply for the free seeds yet but there are plenty of tips for what you can do to prepare!

Making Baking About Process, not Product!

Or rather.... having a deliciously slow and messy baking process that the children LOVE!  It covers soooo many areas of the EYFS, the children control their behaviour, sharing and taking turns, encouraging eachother and chatting socially, they wash their hands and help clean up afterwards(PSED), they talk about what they are doing, describing how it feels, recalling the last time they cooked, discussing favourites, likes and dislikes, sequencing the ingredients (CLL), they use number language "how many" "A bit more" "8oz" "200 grams" "That eight there" "half the butter" "a whole egg" "weigh it" "measure it" (PSRN), they explore the materials as they mix, observing how the ingredients change as they add egg, milk or butter, if you are cooking a recipe from another country then they can learn about new and unusual ingredients or other cultures and celebrations, they observe the passing of time as they wait for it to bake in the oven (KUW), they stir, mix, pour, tip, roll, knead, whisk, beat, squeeze, carry (PD) and they respond wonderfully to the experience, expressing their ideas and then using the experience later in imaginative play(CD).  I would encourage you to write these down in a spider diagram or another way, and keep in your planning...... they are evidence that you meet the learning and development requirements in the veryday life of your setting, (especially when you cook regularly!).

These pictures were taken on Wednesday when we had childminding friends round to make the welsh cakes that we didn't get round to making on Monday!  it took the children the best part of an hour to rub in the butter, measure and mix, it would have taken me five minutes but they got so much out of it! There was flour on all of us, the table, the floor and the children loved it!  Happily enough the product turned out as yummy as the process and they were devoured almost before they hit the plate!!

After putting this out to the lovely ladies on the childminding forum (see websites on the sidebar) there are some more things to add:
  • Miffy suggested comparing the volumes of weighed items as they will be different, e.g 4oz butter will look different to 4oz flour etc! (PSRN)
  • Christine suggested including decorating cakes and biscuits in CD and reading the recipe (CLL), listening for the timer, the smell of the cooking, comparing textures of the ingredients and taste testing (yeah!) (KUW).
Thanks everyone!!! Happy Baking!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Incy Wincy Week!

Next week, around other things, we are supporting Chatterbox Challenge by having 'Incy Wincy week'.  My planning is below, I present it in a spider diragram (no pun intended!!!) with the title in the middle and one box for each area of the EYFS.  Many of the links for this have come from a website that requires a membership payment, called  I find it value for money as the materials are high quality and I use it a lot, but there is a free trial you can use to download these resources and see if you like it!

  • I love spiders – first facts and pictures (I had my copy from The Works in a four for £5 deal)
  • Incy Wincy Spider - Kate Toms (from Dobbies garden centre)
  • Story sack with drain pipe, floaty blue fabric, paper plate sunshine and spider finger puppet.
  • make a 'word web' of new spider words that can be used to enhacne the children's vocabulary

  • Create a big web by giving each child a piece of string/wool and some blue tack/tape and letting them fix one piece at a time, so a community web builds up.
  • Teach the actions to ‘Incy Wincy Spider’
  • Making a big web – indoors or outdoors.
  • Water play – different sized holes in bottles to make the rain that washed incy away!
  • Cutting skills – the spider’s legs
I'm looking forwards to this one... lots of fun things to slot rounf what we are already doing!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Labelling Resources - opinions please!

I want to re-label all my baskets with pictures and words as over the last year i have moved them around and the pictures now bear little resemblance to the contents of most of them!!  I am not sure whether I should use pictures like the ones below, or set the toys up in a little scene and take a photo of them!!!  All advice and opinions greatfully received!! Either leave a comment or e-mail me! Thank you!

Basking in Gorgeous Spring Sunshine!!

This is a row of Spring paintings flapping gently in the sunshine!!  We spent hours out of doors today and the children loved it, but boy were they exhausted at the end of the day!  We planted some Spring bulbs back in February and they are looking really pretty so we brought them out of doors and painted them!  I mixed up some green, brown and purple and let them loose one at a time.  For a change we used pieces of craft foam to paint on which changed the texture completely!!  As usual my youngest changed it to a 'study in brown' (her favourite colour!) and spread brown paint over brown foam then sandwiched them together and inspected it at regular intervals to see what was happening!!!!
Here are some little feet helping me sweep the patio!!  We also explored the thick ice in the children's wheelbarrows, broke out the new supply of patio chalks (strictly rationed - I know what they're like!), tested all the trikes/bikes/cars, ate our lunch at the picnic bench, built a den, practiced sharing the outdoor pushchairs, kicked a ball round and more!  It was wonderful!  My patio had been vandalised with chalk by the end of the day.... the children tested them on EVERYTHING..... whilst I applaud exploration and discovery, me thinks I need to get me some groundrules for out there!!!!
Hope you all enjoyed it as much as we did!!!

Monday, 1 March 2010

ICT in the Early Years

At the childminding group, one of the things that came up that minders felt they needed to plan for was the use of ICT.  I spent Sunday working my way through this fantastic site and pulled lots of information off into a word document that we can use as a wall-chart to view how ICT can be used across the EYFS.  If you would like a copy (bear in mind that you will have to cut it up and sellotape it into a chart if you want it like that!) please e-mail me.  I check it every few days and respond to all e-mails then!

I have also compiled a list of equipment that can be used to support ICT:
  • projector and screen
  • light box
  • overhead projector
  • digital camera
  • camcorder
  • microscope
  • talking tin
  • talking photo album
  • beebot
  • funky feet sound mat
  • electronic keyboard
  • metal detector
  • walkie talkies
  • CD player
In role-play, cameras, mobile phones, telephones, television remotes, computer keyboards, CD players, all defunct with the cords cut off carefully can enrich the play scenarios that children create.

There is lots more information but too much to digest all in one go.  I will post again once I have read up some more and compiled information about ICt can be used to support children in all six areas of learning and development!

Jenni x