Friday, 27 April 2012

Sewing a Freedom Quilt

We were reading Adolphus Tips recently as part of our WW2 explorations and in it there are two black American soldiers featured. They talk about freedom and hint at past slavery and it got Eve interested. So now we are off on a tangent about the history of slavery in America! I found some lovely books from this book list. I chose:
  • Sweet Clara and The Freedom Quilt (this is a really nice explanation of the freedom quilts)
  • Harriet and the Promised Land (this is a story told through poetry, but the illustrations are quite disturbing in my opinion and I haven't showed the girls yet!)
  • The Waggon (introduces how slavery ended for many with Lincoln, a nice story) .
  • If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America (Factual book - really good)
  • Escape North: The Story of Harriet Tubman (This is a graded reader, American, but is in chapters and is proving to be a nice introduction for Eve - we read a paragraph each and it is really nicely written.)
I could have got them from the library I suppose, rather than bought them, but our library never seems to have the books we want, and it takes time and frustration and then I end up buying them anyway! The girls get so much pleasure from having books to look at and I like the idea of having a home library of mixed story and factual books for us to return to time and time again (plus remember Idris will grow up to them too!).

I digress - so we cuddled up to read and Eve was really taken with the Clara book, as I thought she might be as she loves to sew! We have returned to the same story a few times and got talking about freedom quilts and what they were for and why they were made and I suggested that we could make a freedom quilt together. That was it - she was off and full of ideas........ she decided to make a journey quilt about travelling to Canada to see Uncle John Auntie Lorri (and Sam next time we go!). We looked on the Internet for some ideas about quilts and gradually a plan evolved - we sketched it out in Eve's sketch book.

We talked about how the slaves knew how to escape, and compared it with how we knew how to get to Canada. She came up with road signs, maps, and instructions and wants to work out a way to incorporate those into her modern day freedom quilt! The sketch above shows the UK on one side, Canada on the other and the Ocean in between. She wants to put two rows of seashore in between the land and the sea.

I remembered feeling inspired reading about a quilt that Soulemama made a few years back. It appealed to me because it didn't call for exact measurements and that suits my style - I don't DO precision sewing! I also thought it would allow Eve's creativity to flow without the pressure of 'making mistakes'. We are both learning sew much (snigger snigger - sorry, couldn't resist the awful pun - shan't do any more I promise!) as we go and it has been really fun.

Here are the bundles of fabric that we have to work with sew far (sorry - I know I said I wouldn't!). We raided Dunelms for the turquoise colours this morning and a trip to Hobby Craft is in order on Sunday I think. The yellow and brown fabrics are duvet covers donated by a friend today (thanks Erin!). Eve handles my Nana's sewing machine like a pro already - she likes routine and logical steps, so very quickly got to grips with the way to do each little seam and I left her to do them by herself. The first block is nearly finished (see the first pictures) and we are going to cut it to a template square shape so that all of the blocks will be of uniform size when we sew them together. I will post updates as we go - I'm not sure of the final outcome as we are making it up as we sew!
 Above are the Ocean Colours, below are the shore and land colours so far! Not all of them are traditional quilting fabrics but Eve loves the textures and we are on a budget!!!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

St George's Day Bunting and a Patriotic Muffin Tin Dinner!

I like to mark some national and multi-cultural festivals and celebrations with the children, but I like to keep it simple and make it meaningful to the children. I plan them all along similar lines - food, craft, story telling and celebrating. Keeping this format means that although the event may be from another culture, it is recognisable to even the youngest children as a special celebration to someone. It also makes it simpler for me to plan them as I know roughly what I am looking for and even if pushed for time, I can often pull them together at the drop of a hat - like I did this week for St George's Day! 

This was our lunch time meal - a Muffin Tin Dinner (MTD). I am proud of my creativity on this one with very limited fridge contents - I shall elaborate!!! From the top left there are carrots (for St George's charger of course!!), sticky rice horse shapes, spicy chorizo to represent the dragon's fire. On the bottom row from left to right there are bread shields (made using a heart shaped cutter then inverting the top to make the shield shape), these are covered with cream cheese and tomato slices to make the red cross. Next are boiled eggs painted as the English flag and lastly - red jelly - it has become customary to have red jelly in our MTD's!! Thanks Mum for the proper muffin tins to put them in!! Here are some more MTD's we've enjoyed.
We also made some very simple paper bunting using red paint on the edge of a piece of folded cardboard, that I cut into triangle shapes and threaded onto wool to hang up. Whilst we ate lunch under our bunting, I read to them two poems that tell the story of St George, which they found very entertaining - we had the paper mache castle and the happy land people out after lunch to play out the story!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Driftwood - an Amazing, Flexible Resource!

I love open-ended materials that are beautiful, natural and lend themselves to all sorts of imaginative, creative and interesting play. I have hollow wooden blocks which get a lot of use and I would like to develop the use of these materials. I planned to add driftwood to the block play a long time ago and looked every time we went to the beach but came up with very little that was useful - so I sourced some from good old eBay and was delighted with what arrived!

 We had an exciting time unpacking 8 kilogrammes of driftwood that arrived by courier - we were all enthralled by the different sizes, shapes, textures and patterns of the pieces of wood and we told each other the stories of where they came from - this one held a door lock that locked a princess in a tower........ this one was the top of a table that a family sat around and ate their dinner....... this one was the handle of  a spade that dug a vegetable garden like ours..... this one came from a tiny fishing boat eaten by a whale........ it was wonderful to hear the imagination flow!
 Many of the pieces had holes in them that intrigued Faith!
 I had carefully picked out boxes that had different types of wood - and Faith noticed this - she started to classify them into baskets and it threw up some interesting questions of how to sort them - she decided in the end on five groups - long and flat, chunky, wood wormy, twisty and little pieces. Many of the pieces fitted more than one category - long and flat but riddled with worm holes, or a little piece, but it twisted - I was fascinated watching her work through the wood.....
 Here are her efforts about half way through!
 It didn't take long for our resident explorer to notice that something new and unusual had arrived and he scooted on over to join in the action!
And what was Eve doing all this time? She was cutting holes in the cardboard box to make a lion's den - there's always one that plays with the packaging isn't there???!!!!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Union Jack Playdough

This activity was born out of a rainy day and one eye on the Jubilee celebrations coming up in June! I offered up the idea of making a Union Jack from play dough coloured red, white and blue. We are usually very free and easy when we make play dough and don't have any particular goal in mind, except to enjoy it. This time though I introduced a focus as the children had been a bit wild with the awful weather we had yesterday and some direction was in order! If you wanted to be more relaxed about it, you could just put out the three colours and some pictures of flags and other resources like glitter, sequins etc and see what the children come up with!
We pulled up some images of Union Jacks on google images and talked about how the Union Jack is made up of flags from England, Scotland and Ireland (poor Wales don't get a look in!). This page from Wikipedia was useful to show them the different shapes on the flags and help to break it down. We talked about the shapes that they would need, what they would make first (the white rectangle they decided) and how they could make the shapes they wanted. It was a challenge to them to control their hands to make the flag pieces they wanted. They started with a white rectangle, then made the large central cross, before adding the diagonal cross and finally, the blue triangles.
I thought they turned out really well and provided lots of chatter about shapes, techniques, and of course the United Kingdom and flags. I put them in the oven on a low heat to dry out. I hadn't really planned on starting Jubilee things this early but a rainy day forced my hand and it was fun - flags will be a good theme to follow through to the Olympics this year also.
I used my Mum's old failsafe recipe for the dough - 1 cup salt, 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 2 cups water with a dash of oil. My food colouring is really weak so I added a squeeze of paint and kneaded it through to make the colours.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Mechanics Role Play With Real Tools

The children play a lot with the plastic tools and I have noticed recently that they are getting broken as they are used with some force! Also plastic tools don't really 'do' the job that tools are supposed to do they??!! So when we were in Wales at the weekend, I went to 'The Famous £1.20 Shop' (I know, I laugh my socks off every time we go!) and bought some small tools including a double ended spanner set, a ring of Allen keys, a screwdriver and a ratchet set.
 These proved a huge and instantaneous hit and the children set about taking apart the pedal car and were delighted to find that the tools really did undo the nuts and bolts! I have to admit I hadn't anticipated that one and got my husband to side step them by getting them to take apart an old lawn mower instead (under supervision of course!!). It didn't last long though and they were back to the car - sigh!
 So I provided a tub for the small pieces coming off it and hoped that they could remember how to reassemble it!
 The imaginative play was wonderful - they pulled in ideas from all over the place and used some wonderful maths language!
Then the foreman dropped by for a site inspection - and checked the wheel had been put back on properly, tasted the headlamps, tickled Faith's toes that were sticking out from under the chassis......
...... and then moved on to explore other wheels!!

Friday, 13 April 2012

A Maths Toolkit

I was discussing with the parents of the children that I child mind recently about how they learn about maths. the nurseries that they attend are teaching them ordinal numbers, days of the week, addition and subtraction when these children don't consistently count ten objects accurately. Neither can they use the words that they know for a useful purpose, to them it is merely another nursery rhyme that they sing along to. We are required though to work alongside other settings so with this in mind as well the ethos of MY setting, which is natural learning through play, I had a think about what I could do to ground the words they were learning at nursery into something meaningful for them.

I have often observed the children playing with calculators, measuring things with my husband's tape measure, counting the steps they take, well, you know how much maths goes on in every day life don't you?!! I decided to gather together real resources that adults use into a 'toolkit' for the children to access and include in their play.

This is what we have so far:

  • A marking gauge.
  • A spirit level.
  • A right-angle measure.
  • A 360 degree angle measure.
  • A 10m measuring reel.
  • A luggage weight gauge.
  • A forehead thermometer.
  • A sand timer.
  • A compass.
  • A measuring jug.
  • Number strip.
  • Counting bead strings in fives and tens.
I have also printed out coin fans, number word fans and place value fans, laminated them and secured them together with book rings. I will observe the children using it and add more things to it as I go. Whilst thinking of ideas for this I found some useful information here about tool kits as well as all aspects of children in the early years exploring number.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Painting With Feet!

This was born out of a lovely idea that I had to make butterflies from foot prints on canvasses- I may put he pics up if they are a success! The children so loved the sensation of paint on their feet, that we extended the activity. I taped a line of white paper along the lounge floor and then the children painted each other's feet before walking or running or jumping along the line.
Eve was very creative about how she painted Faith's feet, making symmetrical patterns....
....... that were wasted on Faith as she jumped around the paper!!
 Hopping, skipping, jumping, running walking - forwards, backwards, sideways - anyway you did it, it made a lovely mess, and not just on the paper (predictably)!!!!!
 Of course, Idris just couldn't resist getting in on the action....... oooh, scrumply paper.....
 Hang on a minute - is that paint on the floor....... really Mum? Really? Oh you fool!
 Thankfully for his taste buds he turned the brush around before seeing how it tasted!
 Clean-up time was just as much fun - look at that tongue stuck out in concentration!!!!

It was such a good fun afternoon - I'm going to print some of the pictures and put them up with the sheets of painty paper in a display and write up what the girls remember about it.

My mindee said it was' tickly and beautiful' - what a quote!!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Plastic Bag Butterflies

We had a lovely time today making these plastic bag butterflies - I had the idea from here. It provided lots of opportunities for practising scissor skills, talking about the sizes, shapes and colours of the items going into the bags, using some ordinal numbers, counting and discussing the lengths of strings to hang them from!

Eve experimented by making her pipe cleaner antennae into different twisty shapes....
 Faith carefully chose lots of Easter card toppers to go in her butterflies (we raided all the left over bits and bobs from the bottom of the craft box!!
 This is one of Eve's butterflies.....
 We hung them up from the curtain pole with wool, some high, some low......
 Idris really loved looking at them when I held him up to show them to him, and I have to admit, although very simple to make, they are very effective! My little mindee let me hang one up and took one home to her Mum!!