Saturday, 31 July 2010

A Day out With my Girls

Today we went to Snibston Discovery Park and spent a day exploring the magic of science and learning about the area's coal mining history, as well as having a good play in their adventure park! I had forgotten about this place although I remember visiting myself as a child.

This is Eve and I creating fire using a spark and bellows to ignite and fan the fire!

This is Faith observing the forces inside a black hole!

This is the Stephenson shaft photographed by Eve.

And this is part of a retired train captured by Faith.

Those girls are so good with a camera!  They were as always a pleasure to take out and it was a joy to spend the day with them, their curiosity and enthusiasm is so infectious!

Friday, 30 July 2010

Looking After Number One

My Mum will snigger as she reads the title of this post as I am notoriously bad at looking after number one!  A number of things have happened this year that have gently pushed me to reassess my position on it however.  They are:
  • Having had a ridiculous number of unpleasant and long-lasting viruses to contend with over the last six months.
  • Going to a session on stress management run by my friend Emma, being honest in the survey and finding that my levels of stress are practically off the scale.
  • And standing on the scales at my Mum's house this morning and seeing with resignation that I am almost a stone overweight..... I knew I was but it's never nice to have it confirmed!
The problem is that I don't feel particularly motivated to change anything right now...... I like chocolate and haribos and I have any number of obliging friends that tell me I look great and there's no way I need to lose weight..... but I do, and I need to get fit...... because I will then have less back ache therefore sleep better,  then have more energy, feel better about myself and feel less of a need to overeat!! 

Last Sunday I took the first step by buying myself running shoes and 'anti-wobble' sports trousers and bra..... then folded them neatly in my wardrobe and closed the door!!  Tonight at 9pm the urge came over me to run..... and I did.  I was expecting to return home in a state of near collapse, ready to be sick and crippled with a stitch but to my delight it flowed as easily as it used to as a teenager.  Despite my husband's parting shot being to wish the dog good luck even my pathetic excuse for a pelvic floor held out and I found my pace.  I ran a longer route than I planned to and then found my stride lengthening automatically to kick for home.  It felt good, really good and NOW I feel motivated to look after number one!

Blogger Awards

I have just discovered that I have been honoured to receive two awards from fellow bloggers! They are:
I am so pleased and surprised and happy that others appreciate my blogging - thank you so much Sandy and Bea!!  There are rules to receiving the awards...... say thank you (done) and share seven things about myself so here goes........ in no particular order!!

  1. I have always loved horses, they are the most beautiful wonderful animals.
  2. When I was a teenager I wanted to marry a man with a more unusual name - I got my wish!
  3. I dream about upping sticks and moving to some really remote place in the Scottish Highlands and living the simple life!
  4. I have a weird thing where when I buy something I have to choose the third one back (not food though.... that would make the shopping waaaaay too long!)!
  5. I love eating Christmas cake with Cheddar cheese!
  6. My big brother emigrated to Canada to marry his lovely wife Lorri...... I still can't quite forgive him!!
  7. I am a Christian and God plays an important part in my life.
I now have to pass the awards on to 15 bloggers that deserve it.  I have to confess that I recently trimmed my blogroll somewhat to reflect my current reading interests and I'm not sure that I have 30 on roll any more (is that a huge faux pas to admit in blog land?? Hope not!) I will do my best to list 15 that truly are great!

Outstanding and Versatile Blogger goes to:
I'm afraid that these eleven are my true favourites and I'm going to leave it there..... I hope that you take the time to link through to some of them and enjoy having a good read!  Have a lovely weekend!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Trusting in Montessori!

I decided long ago that Montessori would suit my daughter and I in working towards learning to read and write.  The reasons being that I recognised that she needs structure but in a fluid manner where the lessons moulded to her instead of her being required to march to the lessons.  I also needed a structure to make me feel secure in approaching something that I had never done before!  I approach it differently than traditional Montessori methods in that I bring the materials to her rather than waiting for her to approach the materials as would happen in a Montessori classroom.  I do this because we are at home and it isn't set out as a classroom and therefore I draw her attention to them, presenting things in a way that suits her.  Through the last 18 months of my training I have developed the confidence to take the original materials and adapt them to suit our situation and these photos are an example of that!

We have been working on building CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words and I thought that it was time to introduce reading the words and matching them to the objects so I combined two of the box ideas and wrote out the words as I sat next to my daughter.  She wanted to try doing it and although I hadn't planned on this, it worked beautifully.  So I couldn't guess what word she was writing she was even sounding them out in her head then writing them for me.  Many of the letters were formed incorrectly and some of the vowel sounds were inaccurate but these two were spot on and I was so thrilled! We don't practice writing the letters out - I placed my trust in Montessori and that she would write when she was ready and here are beautifully written letters learned from following wooden letters with her fingers and memorising the feel and the sound of them!
It is so hard to trust that my daughter will learn to read and write and so hard to back off and not push things along at the pace they would be taken in school.  I have seen the value of little and often, seeing her build upon skills every day, as well as the value of leaving it alone for a few weeks and then being amazed by the leap in her capabilities.  I am gradually becoming more confident in my ability to guide her emerging skills. My goal? For her to read and write with the same joy and pleasure that she has in being read to!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

A Singing Sack!

The nursery rhyme sack has had lots of use this week.  The older children are so used to using it now that they organise the toddlers with floor mats to sit on and then lead the singing session, making sure that the bag is passed around and every child gets a turn to choose something!

In the bag there is:
  • A pig (this little pig went to market)
  • A number 7 (7 men went to St Ives)
  • A teddy (round and round the garden)
  • A cow (Hey diddle diddle)
  • A boat (row row)
  • A fish (one, two, three, four five)
  • A green bottle (ten green bottles)
  • An egg (humpty dumpty)
  • A cotton reel (wind the bobbin up)
  • A duck (five little ducks)
  • A star (twinkle twinkle)
  • A mouse (hickory dickory dock)
  • A sheep (baa baa black sheep)
  • A shell (Mary Mary quite contrary)
  • A spider (incy wincy)

Friday, 23 July 2010

Friday's Favourite's!

This is my favourite picture this week..... my girls making a 'king bed' as they called it.  It harks back to visiting Chirk Castle and my eldest being fascinated with the idea of curtains around a four poster bed to keep the draughts out in a cold Winter castle.  This is their version made using the trampoline, some den making cloths and a fair amount of pegs!

This week has been the first time that I have used my overnight registration to child mind..... I had one of my little ones all week from Monday morning until Friday morning and she was such a treasure to have.  She knows us well as I've cared for her since she was four months old, but she just slotted in as if she was a member of the family.... so lovely..... although I think her mum was jealous that she slept twelve hours through every night for me!

My favourite picks from the week's blog roll are:
  • Scroll down this post a little way to find out how to make ice treasure to dig for!
  • I'm liking this idea of doing a themed art week for the children I will be looking after over the holidays..... I'd really like to take them to the beach for a natural day out too!
  • Making dream catchers would be a perfect end to a day hunting for the twigs in the woods.
I'm also mulling over ideas on kick-starting some new role-play scenarios such as a visit to the cafe for mid-morning beans on toast with a salt-dough food making session and then tweaking our role-play resources to make a cafe, and a visit to the vets with some toy animals in tow!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Exploring Friction

I was inspired to make this activity after watching how interested the children are in rolling vehicles down slopes during their block play.  I wanted to extend this further with a science activity that could be returned to over time as understanding and knowledge of friction built up.

In the basket there are two chocks to place the planks against; two because I think the children might then explore how the angle of the planks (i.e. stacking two chocks) affects the movement of the vehicles.  There are also seven planks in all.  one is plain wood, one covered in a carpet sample that I begged from the local carpet fitters, one covered in rough sandpaper, one covered in plastic made from laminating coloured paper, one covered in wool from a jumper, one covered in bubble wrap and the last covered in textured wallpaper!  I chose these as they are a range of different materials and different textures and will challenge the children's assumptions about surfaces and textures.

To make this activity you will need:
  • 7 planks of wood cut to the length that you require (offcuts from DIY will do nicely!)
  • 6 different materials to fix to the planks (I left one as wood!)
  • A glue gun and staple gun (tacks and a hammer would do also!)
  • A stanley knife and heavy duty scissors.
  • Sandpaper or an orbital/belt sander.
  • Two wood 'chocks'.
  • One or more small vehicles with freely moving wheels.
  • A basket.
  • Cut and sand the planks and chocks so that they are smooth to the touch.
  • Cut the materials to shape by drawing around the planks and cutting out the sections marked. I had to use a stanley knife for the carpet and scissors for the rest. Leave an extra edge round the wool/fabric to fold under to prevent threads and runs!
  • Fix them securely to the planks using the most suitable means - I hot glued the carpet and staple gunned the other materials.
  • When dried and ready, arrange in the basket and add to a suitable section of materials in your learning area.... in a Montessori classroom this may be the cultural area but equally alongside the blocks is a valid place to encourage exploration and experimentation!
Introducing it to a child:
  • Wait to see if the child/ren notice the basket, if they do and start to ask questions or explore then join them and explain that the planks are to roll the vehicles down and they can be propped up on the chocks (show them if you need to).
  • Encourage the child to explore and use all of the planks, talk about what the surface feels like; introduce new descriptive vocabulary such as bumpy, rough, smooth, shiny, bobbly etc. 
  • If you feel it is appropriate for that child, draw attention to the effect that the different textures have on the car; you could group the planks according to whether the vehicle goes fast or slow down them, then talk about why the child thinks that happens. Ask the child to predict what they think will happen for a particular plank if they have noticed that some are slower and dome are faster.
  • Don't automatically correct the child if they propose an incorrect theory, but talk about it with them and explore why they think that - you might well be surprised at the logic behind something and it isn't always helpful to override that and give instruction on the 'correct' science behind friction.  At this stage it is important to nurture positive tendencies for scientific exploration and the child will eventually when they are older discover and learn all the theories of forces, for now wonder, questioning and testing are enough!
Just so you know what you're talking about....... friction is a force that affects all types of movement on earth. When two surfaces come into contact (here the surface and the vehicle wheels) there is friction between them - the greater the friction, the greater the grip between the surfaces and the more resistance to movement. A real-life example is flat-soled pumps versus ridge-soled walking shoes; on an icy path the ridge soled shoes have the greater friction and therefore resist movement and prevent you slipping!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

French with Children

This is a picture of the delicious spread of French snacks that we made with the little ones this morning! From the top left going clockwise, there are Cheese thins, White Bean Puree, Basil Parmiers and Goats Cheese with Honey and Thyme.  Just a few notes to add that we left the mustard and the cayenne pepper out of the cheese thins to make them cheesy instead of spicy, and we used smaller pieces of goats cheese than those pictured.  We also did half basil and half sun dried tomatoes for the palmiers as that's what we had!  the children enjoyed joining in the processes and loved tasting them afterwards!

One of my mindees went to France last week with her mum so I decided to do a few french inspired activities with the children.  At first I planned for a week but they have enjoyed the language side so much that I am planning to run it alongside 'normal' service for as long as they want to!  I printed out some posters from i-child on French language, mainly as a prompt for me but they have acted as conversation starters too! I printed animals, clothes, family and greetings.  I have started with Bonjour, Comment ca va? Ca va bien, merci, and the children love it.  This morning when we went to join friends to cook, my littlest mindee (not yet two) was greeted with 'Bonjour' and she replied 'bonjour'....... how wonderful!  The children have also been using 'Bon appetit' at mealtimes!

Tomorrow we are going to use red white and blue to create representations of the tricolore.  I have felt really inspired to find more activities for the children to explore alongside the language. has printouts for drinks that you could order from a French cafe.  I think that this will be a fun twist on the usual activity that the role-play corner sees!

Friday, 9 July 2010

Friday's Favourite's!

Well it's the weekend and I'm glad this week!  My Mum and Dad have been in Canada for the last month travelling and visiting my brother and sister-in-law, and I have begun to miss them this last week!  Tomorrow after gymnastics I am taking the girls over to their house to drop off essentials and an 'oven ready' meal, and the girls have plans too!

I have made the decision to include our home-educating adventures on this blog too.  I tried to start another blog just for that but decided against it as I really want to concentrate on just one and the home-ed and childminding intermix anyway!

I had a busy week with the childminding group's Big Toddle on Wednesday morning, and a group meeting on Monday where we explored 'Working in Partnership with Parents'.  I will put the information together on here for you over the weekend if anyone is interested.

So here are my favourite's this week:
  • The Montessori Goldmine where my weaving frame was featured!
  • This colour matching game from 'I make stuff'
  • In Montessori, a farm is used to show children practical examples of how grammar works, and how it is used in sentence building.  I like this approach at 'The Work Plan' which has cards with a picture and the name of the animals on for toddlers to match to and provide a prompt for learning them.
Next week one of my toddlers returns from a holiday in France and we are going to have a French theme for the week, I have collected some nice resources together and hope the little ones will enjoy it!

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, 8 July 2010


I have always considered that I am quite creative and that I offer my children creative opportunities.  I have always valued process over product for example, very rarely do all the children make a version of the same thing.  Recently I had my last assignment for my Montessori course to plan; it had to be a creative activity.  I suddenly came up short.... I didn't ACTUALLY know much about children and creativity or how it should be provided for to achieve the best results for the children. Well I learned quite a lot!!

There are many different definitions of creativity but many include something along the lines of 'bringing past experiences into new situations, problem solving and creating something unique and original to the child'.  It isn't just about artistic materials, creativity occurs in block play, speech, construction, cooking, just about everywhere in fact!

I mentioned above that I value process over product and there is indeed a process to being creative.  It has two distinct stages; the first is exploring and getting the hang of new equipment and ideas, and the second is making new connections (i.e. being creative!!).  Have you ever noticed that after introducing something new to a child, they explore it for a while then go off and take no notice of it for quite some time (hours, days, weeks or more) then all or a sudden they return to it and seem to be using it really skilfully?  That is part of the creative process too, just letting it sit for a while and sink into the knowledge and structure that exists already within the child's brain.

Piaget described his theory of 'assimilation' and 'accomodation'.  Assimilation is when a child comes across something that is new but fairly similar to what they know and understand already and the information is assimilated into the existing structure.  Accomodation is more of a challenge for the child because this happens when something different occurs and the child's brain must alter the understanding it already has to accomodate the new information.  An example would be a child that has experience of playing with wet sand.  To extend the learning another day, water and flour are combined for the child to play with; this is different to the wet sand but the properties are not too far removed from what the child knows already and the experience is assimilated.  Another day the practitioner puts out cornflour and water that behaves very differently to wet sand and flour.  This requires more time as it has challenged existing understanding and must be accomodated.

The reason I have explained all this is beacuse there is a fine line between planning creative opportunities that are challenging, but not so very different from what the child alrady knows that they see it as threatening and won't get involved at all!!  Just as in planning in other areas of the curriculum, planning for creative development should follow the child, building on what they know and can do already.  I am working on improving this for the older children in my setting by enabling open access to a wide variety of materials for the children to follow their own interests for as long as they want to.  Most of my plans won't be put in place until September after my veranda has been built as outdoors is a key component in my planning!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

A Bit of a Gap!

I am shocked to realise that I haven't posted for two weeks!  Why? Nothing especially exciting really, just trying to get on top of a few things with the childminding and it's not particularly interesting to post about as no lovely pictures to put up!!  I would love to write about it but I need to get to grips with putting my documents in PDF format first as it's a bit hard to describe some of them and would be easier to show them to you!  I've carried on working on the garden and will put up a few things this week.  Oh yes and I've just handed in my final assignment for the Montessori Early Years teaching certificate that I am doing.  It has been a long hard slog over the last 18 months with 15 assignments in all and I am sooooo glad that they are finished..... just another 340 hours of teaching practice and two 3 hour written exams to go!!  I'm going to keep this short and upload my photos now which will jog my memory about the wonderful things that we have enjoyed that I can share with you!