Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A Home-made Weaving Frame

Another garden installation that has been in the pipeline that I got around to actioning this week!  The frame is the lid from an old rabbit run that has a wire grid fixed to a wooden frame (no sharp edges!).  I bought a bulk bag of ribbon offcuts from e-bay and tied them to the top ready to be woven down the frame.  To my surprise the littlest one that I look after (21 months) was the most interested and spent quite a long time trying to push the ribbons through and then pulling the loops through.  A great shady corner activity I think!

Monday, 21 June 2010

An Outdoor Reading Corner

I have had this in the back of my mind for some months now but in a much more complicated format involving sewing cushion pads and hanging fabric and all sort of things.  On Sunday I just decided to use what I had to revamp this little unused corner of the patio.  It is a bench seat that my husband built a few years ago and makes the perfect quiet little nook to sit and look at books.  It has only been there for a day but already all of the children have visited it for a little sit and a ponder or a read...... I'm really pleased!  My eventual goal for the garden is to have everything that is available indoors available outdoors so that it continues to be well used through the Winter.  Later on in the summer I am having a veranda built over half of the patio so we can use it all day even when it rains all day!!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Friday's Favourites!

This week I have learned how special it is to feel well and have vowed to appreciate it more when I am better!  One thing I have really noticed is how quickly the the general tidiness of my home slips when I am unwell and it drives me crackers...... I really need to devise some systems for dealing with clutter better so that it doesn't get like that when I am laid low!

My children have learned how to use my camera and they pinch it occasionally when I'm not looking.  When I upload the pictures there are these really funny child's-eye view of the world shots and they make me smile!  The best bit is that some of them are actually quite good, although not of very original subject matter they are centred and framed well..... they hold a lot of promise I think!!  As I loaded them up to choose which pictures I wanted to keep for the learning journals, I was thinking how daft of me to miss taking  a picture of the little one with the Makka Pakka toy she has brought every day this week; low and behold, one of the girls had taken one of her on my behalf!!!!!! I wonder if I could get them to write my observations too??  There are of course some pics just of their feet, but that's cool too!!

So my favourite posts from around the web this week:
  • These pencil holders, some of you may not be comfortable letting the children use the drill but they could mark out where they want the holes to go and you could drill them, then the children could decorate them..... painting the correct colour for each pencil round the hole is lovely as the children will know which pencil goes where and will also know which one to look for!!
  • I have recently discovered a new blog all about science with young children and love this post about science in the playground, you don't have to go through all the technical information with young children but it is good to know yourself why and how things happen.  for young children, you can just set up the learning experience with a basket of things to put down the slide for example!
Have a great weekend, Jenni xx

Now That's What I Call a Sandpit!

We have been 'planning' to do this for ages but it didn't really get off the ground until this week!!  The first picture is one of our raised vegetable patches that has had most of the soil removed and then been used as a dumping ground for roots and branches as they were dug up.  I should point out that this is in the 'supervised only' end of my garden, that is gated off from the 'free-flow' end!!
The story begins on Monday...... knowing that I had a not very nice headache that was here to stay, I sent my husband out to buy a bag of play sand as I'd thrown out the last lot after it was used in potion making and went green and manky!  To cut a long story short, there were no bags of play sand to be had, so he ordered 1.6 tonnes of it to be delivered..... yes, really.... 1.6 TONNES!!!!!!  Cue him having to sort out the designated sandpit and line it before hand!!
This is the sand arriving, not on a grab truck to be neatly dropped over the garden fence as we had expected, but in a lorry on a hopelessly inadequate pallet truck that dug into my drive and pulled the tarmac up!!  The children were highly entertained by the process of bucketing the sand through the house and down our long garden to the sand pit, my husband less so!!
And here is the finished product, 8' by 6' of beachy heaven!!  The children were hardly out of it all afternoon..... it is big enough to roll around in and do sand angels in.... wonderful!!  The children have only played at surface level so far, they haven't worked out that it is nearly 1' deep and they can dig big holes.... I'll save that joy for next week!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

A Week of Play...

Well I was graced with either a stinky virus or a migraine or both from last Friday, hence the lack of posting.  I am still not better but at the stage where paracetamol and Ibuprofen can at least keep it at bay and allow me to function in a more human way!  So this week I have done a lot of sitting as still as possible on the back step, verbally facilitating play after setting up various 'play stations' around the patio.  It's not something that I usually do but it worked really well.  I have also done more observing of interactions than I normally have chance to do and it made for happy watching as I saw friendship bloom between my two littlest charges!!

The picture above is the water tray set up with mega bloks and wow people.  I have never thought of combining them with water before but it ran for a long time with lots of different scenarios being played out.

There was also pasta in the red table..... like the foam last week I have been skeptical about pasta but it allowed for a lot of small motor movement practice such as spooning and pouring and a large amount of imaginative play pretending to feed each other, as well as some exploration and discovery (a.k.a chucking it in the water tray and squishing it into the play dough when I wasn't looking!!)

As far as my two littlest ones went, they were actually role-playing together, very simple things like making cakes with play dough, or getting into the car and waving bye-bye but it was all generated by them and it was so lovely to see!  Note to self, I must just sit and play more often!!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Sensory Play With Foam

I have to confess something here..... I have always considered sensory play with foam as a bit of a cliche....... until I was cleaning down the builder's tray on Wednesday and the children were a little restless and I suddenly decided to go for it. And it was well worth going for!!! It was great; the children loved it, in particular one little girl whose hands are in the pictures and who until a short while ago wouldn't touch anything wet and messy!!!

She first explored how the foam felt on her hands, then swirled it around on the tray, making ever larger and more expressive arm and hand movements.  She then watched another child use a finger tip to draw in the foam so she tried that (see the top picture).  The two children started walking then running around the tray with the fingers of one hand making a circular track in the foam around the edge.  Some time later I added plastic balls to the tray and here is the little girl smoothing foam over the ball; it flipped out of her hands a few times and she adjusted her grip to keep hold of it, then the pushed it across the tray.  She ran round to push it again and a game began between the two children; they pushed the balls to each other.  This little girl is 21 months and she used trial and error to perfect her pushes to get the balls just across to the other child.  After the game had ended she went back to swirling the foam, putting her nose almost on the tray to look very closely; she put some on her cheek and felt it, then on her cardigan and looked at the pattern it made.  She was absorbed with the foam for nearly thirty minutes..... it was amazing to watch and guess what? Foam will be on the play menu again next week with some new twists to extend her learning!
Try marble pictures - good for a bit of primary colour mixing fun!

Another great one to try is mixing one part PVA glue to three parts shaving foam (I sprayed it into cups to measure it out). Mix the two together until the foam glistens, you could add food colour also.  Spread the foam thickly onto card and allow it to dry - it will stay magically puffy after it has dried!

Have fun!! Jenni x

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Woodland Discovery in Shropshire

After being shown around the nature trail we went on a scavenger hunt for laminated clues about the functions of the parts of the tree.  We found out about seeds, flowers and cones, the leaves, the branches, the trunk and the roots, except we didn't need to find that clue because the children knew all about them already!!

Next came a group game where each child had a necklace that depicted a part of the tree and what it did and what their 'lines' were!! The children built a human tree with the help of a picnic bench to stand on.... it was very effective and added into the layers of knowledge that the children built up during the day!

Faces were painted with different colours to show how leaves made food for the tree using Carbon dioxide (red), water (blue), sunlight (yellow) and chlorophyll (green).  A very simple and dynamic explanation.

Nearly the end of the day and stream-dipping was the mission! The children found freshwater shrimps, mayfly larvae (with three tails) and various other tiny wriggly stream creatures.  They very happily splashed and poked around the shallow stream.

All in all a really great day that the children got a lot out of.  We will definitely go back to the spot as there is a lot there and the nature trail and stream are perfect for small children.  I'm hoping to get the children to make a big tree this week with some labels and pictures and see how much of the information they recall!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Truly A Children's Garden!!

This slightly wobbly line of lovingly planted pea seedlings makes my heart swell with pride.  We had planted one together with one child digging the hole and the other squeezing the seedling out of the pot and putting it in the hole.  I realised that I hadn't got my camera and went back to the house for it.  When I returned there were three quarters of the row planted absolutely beautifully with the children working together to achieve it!  I was truly touched.  Although we do a lot of gardening together I sometimes wonder whether it means much to the children.  Yes they love to do it and are always very enthusiastic and hands on but it seems repetitive sometimes. Seeing this happen though reminded me that repetition is important for children as it is how they become competent at a task, and that the many times we have sown and thinned and planted on and watered really did have value for the children.  It isn't enough to plant a single sunflower seed once a year, children need to have a garden to really be involved in whether it is a series of patio planters or a little corner of the garden. The skill, absorption, co-operation, pride and ownership i witnessed was something special that I won't forget for a long time!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Battling Demons with Junk Models!

I looked after some school aged children last summer and I found it really hard to keep them occupied.  I used to dread the days that I had them because it required mountains of preparation and they just swished through all the activities in minutes and by the end of the day I was so tired I could have cried!!  It really put me off having school children in the holidays but when I was asked to have a little girl that I have had for a few weeks before I couldn't say no so here I am battling my school holiday demons!

I have to say..... day one has been a breeze!!!  She arrived this morning ans settled in as if she'd never been away for nine months!! I had planned to spend most of the week out and about but the heavy and persistent rain thought otherwise so we settled down for a good old junk modelling session and it was great fun!  I was amazed by how adept a three year old was at this.  I thought that making a figure out of boxes ans such was quite an abstract idea to grasp but the little one had it pegged straight away and had set up the boxes you see in the picture immediately, then asked for help to stick them together! She then set about hunting for eyes and a nose.... I was amazed!  We all got thoroughly filthy covering them in paper mache after that but well worth it for a busy morning buzzing with happy activity! My garage is full of drippy models drying out ready to be painted now!!

The weather man promises sunshine tomorrow so off to the park for a picnic I hope!