Letters

Writing for a Purpose

Showing children that there is a purpose to writing can really inspire them to make marks. Get them involved with writing shopping lists, birthday cards, signs etc and they will quickly become interested. Here we made birthday cards for a cousin and she signed her name.

Water Play

Using water is a great way to expose children of different ages to letters. Here I put some magnetic letters in coloured water and suggested to the girls that they try and collect as many of the letters as they could using a variety of tools. So many skills are being practised here and I was able to differentiate for the two girls despite the almost two year age gap.

Letter Formation

Using familiar toys to engage little ones with letters is a great place to start. Here I made the first letter of her name and suggested she place more lego on top in the same places. She loved it and repeated it several times.

This is a great activity for practising letter formation and the letters can be made larger or smaller spending on the stage your child is at. I wrote some familiar letters on a tuff spot using chalk and suggested she trace over the top using water and a paintbrush.

Using water and a paint brush meant we could practise forming our initial on the ground in the garden. This encourages gross motor development and confidence with letter formation, as the water just dries up so mistakes don’t matter!

Letter Recognition

This was very simple to set up and is great for children who are just beginning to recognise the initial letters of their name.

Getting together a variety of letter resources is a good idea once your child starts to show an interest. I picked these letter stickers up from Home Bargains and they are great. I let the girls just explore the stickers here and as I took a back seat I could hear my eldest pointing out the letters she knows.

This simple activity was set up to allow the girls to practise recognising their initial. The aim of the game is to clean away any letters that don’t belong. Quick to set up and can be made easier with the exclusion of upper- or lower cases, or more difficult with the inclusion of more letters.

We both believe that it is important to stress there should be no pressure for children to write before they are ready. The activities we set up are purely to spark an interest, and this is how we worked when we were Early Years Teachers. It is so important to take the impetus off the final product and focus on the *process*.

Writing a shopping list, card, letter, sign, name – whatever – in front of your toddler, without even mentioning the fact you’re doing it, will be sparking an interest and they will want to copy.

All these fine and gross motor skills we mention will be preparing children’s muscles for writing. We don’t just mean fingers and hands, we mean forearms, upper arms, elbows, shoulders, core – it’s all important!

Advertisements

Holidays

Whether you’re jetting off somewhere hot or just escaping to the British seaside for a weekend, holidaying with children is so much fun. This week we loved thinking about holidays. From discussing what we need to take when we go away, to daydreaming about all that ice cream, it’s been great! Here’s what we got up to this week.

Small World

I set up a little seaside small world for the girls. Using things we had around the house I was able to create a little beach scene. My youngest enjoyed splashing in the water and moving the stones around. My eldest began taking on the roles of the different people. We love the seaside and this was a great way to think about holidays.

WritingIt’s important that we let children see us writing. List writing is a great place to start as you can do this with the help of your little one. It shows children that we can have a purpose to write. We wrote a list of the different things we would take on holidays. My eldest then added some drawings to the list. You could write a list if your going on holiday, going on a day trip or just to the shops and your little one will love getting involved.

Matching and Sorting

We used our Ice Cream Memory Game from Flying Tiger to practise some sorting – we sorted by colour, the style of the cone, whether they had fruits. It was a great way to learn to notice the small details.

Messy Play

We used our kinetic sand and some plastic cones to run an ice cream parlour. It gave us the opportunity to develop gross motor skills, as well as vocabulary and discussions about prices and day-to-day conversations.

Homemade Ice Creams

We used just three ingredients – skyr, strawberries and honey – to make some homemade, sugar-free, fat-free ice creams. The girls loved this activity, as it was one that they could do almost entirely by themselves!

Writing

We updated our writing box to include holiday- themed puzzles and stickers. This inspired the girls to mark-make and practise fine motor and pincer grip.

Our holiday theme gave us the chance to think about what we will need when we go on holiday this summer and helped the girls understand what to expect!

World of Work

For this theme, we were keen for the girls to explore a variety of different jobs and careers that “grown-ups” do – giving them an understanding of how we earn money and the different ways we can do so.

Emergency Services

The fire brigade were doing a practise excercise in our local park and both girls were so interested. We spoke to some of the fire fighters including a female fire fighter. It’s great to read about different professions but it’s even better to see it in real life.

Hairdressers

We set up a hairdressers in the girls bedroom and they loved it! All the items came from around the house or were bought from bargain stores for under £1. We like to keep things simpler when setting up role play and tend to go by the rule, “the younger the child, the simpler the role play”. This stops things becoming jumbled up, lost and meaningless.

For this set up, we included:

  • A mirror
  • Dolls
  • Toy laptop and phone
  • Pad of paper and pencil
  • Hair rollers
  • Hair clips
  • Hair bands
  • Combs and brushes
  • Spray bottle of water

Artist

Chef

We took on the role of our Uncle Declan, who is a real life chef! So we decided to make some wholemeal carrot muffins. We took it very seriously; washing our hands, measuring the ingredients, following the recipe (crucially taking it in turns!) and clearing up afterwards.

Dentist

Anyone else got a little one that’s not so keen on brushing their teeth?? My youngest hates it. This tuff tray set up worked as a little bit of encouragement for my youngest and a dentist role play activity for my eldest. It’s great when an activity can be accessed by both girls at the same time!

Family

We looked at some photos of the people in our family and asked about the jobs that they do. We then drew some pictures of what they wear to work. We focussed on her very clever Auntie that works as a cancer nurse.

Books and Games

We picked up some books at the library that focussed on different jobs. She was particularly interested in a book about doctors and nurses.

Small World

I set up a little village in the tuff spot to encourage some role play around different jobs. We had teachers, builders, farmers etc. I took on the role of one of the figures and soon enough we were chatting away about a lost sheep!

Its been great to explore the different jobs there are. It’s meant we have done a lot of role play which is great for developing their imaginations and their language.

Mum Friends

When I was pregnant with my first I was insistent that I didn’t need Mum friends. I had friends after all and they were great. Why would I need new ones??

Fast forward to the weeks and months after she was born and I really regretted that decision. Nothing had gone to plan. It was so hard. My confidence was knocked and other than family, I didn’t really know anyone who had a baby.

When baby number two came along everything was different. I’d gone from someone who struggled to make small talk at rhyme time to someone who was asking to swap numbers. Who was this person?? I think having a second baby basically made me care about what people think a lot less. Lets be honest; who has the time to give a crap about anything when you have a baby and a toddler?!

Mum friends are really important and I’ve learnt a bit over the last three years about what makes an amazing mum friend and what you want to avoid at all costs.

  1. We all do it differently but a good friend doesn’t tell you that their way is right. They accept your weird mothering ways and just crack on with being your friend.
  2. I’m all for telling your best mate that your child is a genius but seriously AVOID all mums that tell you their child slept through at four weeks old or that their 18 month old was toilet trained in three days. No one needs to hear that. A good Mum friend will compete with you but only about how equally crap/ridiculous/infuriating their child is.
  3. You know when you accidentally eat 12 chocolate digestives and you’re ashamed of yourself so you text your friend and they text back and say “That’s nothing, I ate a block of cheese yesterday”, you know you’re on to a winner.
  4. Avoid people who dole out advice when you haven’t asked for it. They’re basically saying you’re doing it wrong. Once when my youngest was a few weeks old, I’d taken them both to playgroup and a woman approached me and said she thought I’d benefit from some Gina Ford in my life.
  5. When you’re having a massively crap day and someone’s crying and throwing themselves on the floor and/or breaking things and someone offers to help with your bag or your other child; if you don’t have their number already ASK FOR IT. They are probably your bestest Mum friend in waiting.
  6. When something scary happens like your baby falling over and losing consciousness, what you really need is a super chilled friend to say “what do you need me to do?”. Followed by a quick call for an ambulance and then once you are on our way to hospital, tidies your house?!?!With two babies of their own to contend with??!!I mean, seriously?! Gold dust! (THANKS ROSIE)
  7. When you’ve been having a bad time with sleep or weaning or general toddler sass and you come out the other end, a good friend will be just as pleased as you are. They’ll be there to high five your amazing mum skills.
  8. A really good friend doesn’t mind if you text them half an hour before you’re due to meet to say you can’t make it. We have all been there when you’re about to set off and your child vomits all over themselves.
  9. Someone you can rely on to whip out the wipes when your little one does an impromptu poop in the middle of the woods is invaluable.
  10. A good Mum friend doesn’t mind if your children cover them in snot and yoghurt and is just as quick to pick your children up if they fall as they would their own.

I could go on and on about this but if you do find a great Mum friend cling onto them! Even if you don’t meet up that often, having someone you can text when your having a bad day really is priceless. The friends I’ve made over the last few years are great and I can’t believe I thought I didn’t need them. I do! They’re the best people!

Gardening II

Tuff Tray

This was actually meant as a distraction for my youngest as she was taking mud from he vegetable patch and throwing it around the garden. I gave her a couple of handfuls of soil and some small rakes in the tuff tray and left her to it!

Roleplay

We set up a Garden Centre outside and the girls absolutely loved it. It was an opportunity to develop some new vocabulary while taking on a role and gave me a chance to play alongside them. We even learned the difference between Open and Closed, using our blackboard as a sign.

Sensory

I have very fond memories of making perfume as a child. I think I used to pinch the petals from other peoples gardens. We stuck to petals and leaves we could find on the floor with the addition of some lavender that I let her use. It actually smelt amazing! Such a lovely sensory activity.

Creative

My eldest has been asking to paint the Wendy house for such a long time so I thought we’d better get on with it with all this lovely weather we have been having! She helped with the first coat and she did a brilliant job! This was mark making on a large scale which will help to develop muscles she will need for writing further down the line.

I got the clipboards out and suggested we draw some of the flowers in our garden. My eldest chose some and we got to work. This is a lovely activity if you need a bit of quiet time after a busy morning.

Planting

We planted some seeds on a patch of soil that needed attention! We prepared the area by removing weeds and stones then added new compost and made sure the seeds were well watered.

We planted out some of the seedlings from our previous Gardening Week, which were ready for he great outdoors! This gave us a chance to look at the roots, talk about what plants need to grow and use the information to decide where to put the pots.

Measuring Sunflowers

We used our Numberblocks to measure the sunflowers we planted last time. We then transferred this to paper so that we can compare it in a few weeks.

We were able to talk about tallest and smallest and thought about why some are stronger than others.

Helping

My two girls love watering the garden. We have lots of watering cans so there’s no arguments. They love having a little job to do and they take it very seriously. It’s also great for gross motor development; lifting those heavy watering cans is tough!

Both of my girls have recently discovered dandelions and we had talked about how they are actually weeds and we don’t really want them in our garden. I set my eldest off on a mission to collect as many as she could in her bucket! She loved it and my garden is pretty much a dandelion free zone now!

We used scissors to cut the grass and neaten the edges – a job that really needed doing! This gave us the chance to strengthen hand muscles, practise scissor skills and develop fine motor.

Our Gardening Week this time round involved a lot more one in the actual garden, as last time it snowed!! We’ve really enjoyed revisiting this topic, as it’s given us a chance to see just how much our seeds have grown and got us outside in the fresh air every day.

Jungle

We were so lucky with the timing of this theme! The sun came out over West Yorkshire and we were able to spend most of the week outside!

Books and Puzzles

We always support our themes with a big pile of books – some from our own collection and some from the library. We like to have a mixture of picture books, lift-the-flap, touchy-feely and story books to give the girls variety and the opportunity to read independently or have stories read to them.

There are loads of books with a jungle theme out there and this one is a favourite for us. I read the story aloud to both girls and encouraged them to find the animals as I read. My eldest even began to take on different roles. This is great for developing language and story sequencing.

We’ve been completing some puzzles we’ve had hidden away for this theme. Children often get frustrated by puzzles and not being able to complete them. With the little one, her perseverance is pretty non-existent, so Making sure we spend the time together to complete them and giving her lots of praise is encouraging her to have another go. With the 2.5 year old, it’s more a case of asking her questions that help her come up with the solution herself. For example, for the elephant, I would say “what colour is the elephant? Is its skin wrinkly or furry?” This way, she’s finding the pieces and completing it herself while developing this skills to ask these questions herself in future.

Small World

Using bits and pieces from around the garden and some of our animals, we set up a jungle whilst the youngest napped. We even had a little watering hole! The eldest took on the role of a few of the different animals and moved them around the jungle. When the little one woke up, she was really excited by the whole thing and enjoyed splashing with the animals and rearranging the greenery!

We took our small jungle animals outside and sang songs with them whilst using them as props! Because the grass needed cutting, it made the perfect setting!

Creative

We updated our writing box with some jungle themed bits and made bobs – a little book about wild animals, some jungle-themed number puzzles, some wooden puzzle parts and some magnetic animals from a book.

I set this up for the girls to make some animal tracks. We talked about the different animals and made a few tracks. The girls quickly decided they wanted to make some tracks of their own! My youngest really enjoyed stomping in the paint and marching all around the garden.

Sensory Play

I asked my girls to “Save the tigers” and they set to work straight away. My eldest used some garden tools to smash open the ice and my youngest threw them on the floor to set them free. Not only is this developing their motor skills but is a great way to problem solve with young children. Beneath the ice is used some coloured water and cornflour to make a swamp. The girls then took it upon themselves to wash their animals, demanding some clean water and some bubbles.

This was a really simple set up – we used different spots of playdough and imprinted these wooden animals from a safari truck, then left it out on a tray as a puzzle. Afterwards, we got creative with the playdough and created swamp ice cream!

Days Out

The whole gang got together at the beginning of the week for a trip to Manor Heath Park in Halifax. It was a glorious day and we spent a lot of it outside in the sunshine, playing in the play park. We then went to the Jungle Experience, which is within the park and houses tropical plants, butterflies, quails, fish and terrapins. For just £1 entry (free under 3), it was well worth the visit to get the girls excited about our jungle theme!

We took a trip to Lotherton Hall – east of Leeds – which has a newly-refurbished Wildlife World. We saw flamingos and capybaras and stayed to watch the penguins have their breakfast. The estate is huge and has two great play areas with picnic benches, manicured gardens, a house and chapel, café, gift shops, a woodland walk, a deer park… we’ve been several times and still not managed to do it all in a day!

Starting Preschool

My eldest has recently started preschool. Whilst I was an Early Years teacher and have supported families with this transition, nothing prepared me for how I would feel when it came to leaving her for the first time a few weeks ago.

First of all came the selection process. I know what I like and I know what I don’t. I looked around three nurseries and none of them were perfect. I’ve been very lucky (or unlucky depending on your viewpoint) that neither of my girls have had to go to a nursery or a childminder. So this was the first time I’d ever had to select a suitable nursery for my first-born and it felt overwhelming. I wanted to get it right.

I won’t go into why I chose the place I did. I think choosing a nursery or school is such a personal choice. What I would say is don’t go purely by an OFSTED report. Go and look around the setting. You can’t get a feel for a place from reading someone else’s opinion on it.

Then came the settling in sessions. Both times I dropped her off she was happy for me to leave her for an hour. Whilst I will admit this left me feeling a little heartbroken, the fact that she felt happy there made me feel better about the whole thing.

I’d decided to just use ten hours of the allocated fifteen to begin with, with a view to increasing it possibly further down the line. So, after two happy drop offs in her first week, I felt like it was all going to plan.

Then came week two. I’d told her where we were going and she said she didn’t want to go. When we got there she screamed. She glued herself to my leg. One of the members of staff managed to peel her off me (something I had done previously when I was teaching) and suggested I leave. I did as I was told and then hid around the corner with my toddler in the pram, had a little cry and rang my husband.

I wanted to go back in and get her. The guilt was awful. She isn’t going there because I need the childcare. I’m a stay at home Mum. She’s going because she’s entitled to some hours. My husband convinced me that she would be fine and I went home. I had a sudden flashback to all those mums I’ve shooed out the door, whilst their three year olds scream for them to take them home.

The next day was more of the same. The week after was worse somehow as she didn’t cry, but ran to a corner where she looked completely defeated and refused to kiss me. I hadn’t anticipated it being so tough! Or that I would actually consider keeping her at home.

This week I’ve dropped her off without much fuss. She’s gone in without tears. I still feel guilty. I’ve come to the conclusion that you feel guilty whatever you do as a Mum.

I’m sure there will be more difficult drop offs but I think overall I like what I see at this setting. I also love watching her play with other children through the window when she can’t see me. It’s really lovely and I know she’s learning so much from these new interactions.

Have you recently settled your child in at nursery or preschool? How did you find it? Whilst the first few weeks have admittedly been pretty awful, I feel like we might have come out the other end and be ready to embrace this next stage.

Maths II

Maths is in almost everything that we do when we play but sometimes it’s great to really focus in on developing those skills.

Monday

As the weather was so lovely at the beginning of the week we had the paddling pool out. I added our foam bath numbers and my eldest went fishing. You don’t need a fishing net, we used a sieve!

I drew around some foam stickers and then supported the girls to match them. This is a great way to develop number recognition. These foam stickers from Home Bargains are great for little fingers as they are easy to pick up.

Tuesday

Taking full advantage of the lovely weather we did some more water play. This was something my eldest did spontaneously. We had our easel out and our paddling pool and she combined the two to create some green water. This is a great way to begin using the correct vocabulary around volume. She also began counting how many containers it took to fill the buckets.

These number rocks were easy to make. We picked these up for just 49p from Home Bargains and then I drew the numbers on using a sharpie pen. We have been talking about numbers and counting this morning, We can’t wait to use these again and again!

Wednesday

My youngest loves to pull leaves off in the garden. As she pulled them off I counted aloud. I then laid the ones she had pulled off into a line and modelled counting them. You can count pretty much anything!

This is an Orchard Toys game that focuses on telling the time. We aren’t ready for actually telling the time just yet but it’s a good idea to begin to introduce the use of time to toddlers as it’s quite a tricky concept to grasp.

Thursday

I set this counting activity in the tuff spot in a matter of minutes. We counted cars but you could use any toy that you have a lot of.

Using these number blocks we got in a magazine we did some ordering by size. This is a great way to begin to use the correct vocabulary around size.

Friday

I had left out our activity from the day before and using different counters, I worked with my eldest to extend the activity. It is a good idea to leave activities out occasionally for children to revisit.

We had a go at a tangram. I drew around some shapes onto card using the shapes and their matching colours and we used it like a puzzle. My eldest took to it straight away and really enjoyed it!

Saturday

Our girls love a writing box so today I created a Maths box for them. I included stickers, number puzzle pieces, pens and some paper.

I set this graph up so I could get a few jobs done. Using our number blocks again I’d hope she would use the correct amount and the correct colour and she did a fantastic job! We even spoke about which was the tallest and shortest.

Story Week

Story Week has been a great success. We focussed on the amazing Julia Donaldson and we’ve had a lot of fun! We looked at one book per day and set up two super simple activities. Everyone has at least one of her books and they are usually a family favourite.

Here’s what we got up to.

Superworm

Superworm is the tale of a worm that’s always helping his friends in their hour of need. When the tables are turned and he has been captured by the evil wizard lizard, his friends return the favour and rescue him!

We started with some simple playdough worms. I set this up in the tuff tray to make it accessible for both girls (aged 3 and 17 months). We read the story first and then began rolling the playdough!

Next, we used tweezers to rescue jelly worms from the sand! The sand was as oil and wholemeal flour mix to make it safe to taste. This was great fine motor practise and she was rewarded with a jelly worm or two to finish!

The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo is a favourite, it tells the story of a mouse, who convinces the creatures trying to eat them that he’s having lunch with a monster who likes to eat them! The inconceivable monster he describes turns out to be real.

We started the day off with a bit of baking – we’d seen the recipe for these “Gruffalo Bites” in the Friends magazine a few weeks back and asked a friend over to give us a helping hand! Made with oats, Rice Krispies, honey, peanut butter and raisins, they were a big hit!

Next up, we had some fun with some felt, which we cut into orange eyes, green poisonous warts, claws, tusks and black tongues. As we read the story, which uses rhyme to describe the monster, the girls added the features of The Gruffalo and absolutely loved it – they did it again and again.

The Smartest Giant in Town

This is the lovely story of a giant that gives away all his new clothes in order to help his friends. They then thank him with a crown and a thank you note. This was so much fun! We used some of my husbands clothes and my three year old dressed up as the giant as I read the story. She then wanted me to dress up as she told the story by looking at the pictures. This was a fantastic way to do some story sequencing!Our second activity for this story was so lovely. I asked my eldest to think of someone that is kind to her. We then made that person a crown like the animals do in the story. We called it a “kindness crown” and will be passing it on to her chosen person.

Zog

Zog tells the story of a dragon, eager to please, who has a few mishaps on his journey to earn a golden star. He is helped by a young girl along the way, who just wants to be a doctor.

One of the lessons Zog learns is to fly, so we took inspiration and made our own kites to take out flying. We found the tutorial on YouTube and the girls went to town decorating their kites. The method appealed because it didn’t involve any rods, dowels or tape, just a piece of card, a staple and a length of thread! The girls had a hoot trying to get them off the ground whenever there was a gust of wind.

For our second activity, we were inspired by the doctors in the story. We went to the shops for some real bandages and plasters, which we added to EJ’s doctor’s case, then set to work helping her teddies and dolls. The addition of the real life first aid items really engaged her in becoming a doctor for the day!

The Everywhere Bear

We got this book for Christmas and it was an instant hit. A lovely story of a class bear that goes on an adventure of his own. We took our bears with us on all our adventures this week. From Lidl to the recycling bins, they’ve had quite the adventure! My eldest renamed her rabbit “The Everywhere Rabbit”.To thank our bears we had a tea party! We used real tea pots and cups and included flour to add a sensory element. The girls love playing with flour and if you have the hoover the hand it’s relatively easy to clean up.

Night Monkey Day Monkey

Minibeasts

Whether your little one likes creepy crawlies or not, there is so much to be learnt from observing tiny creatures. We have had two weeks to explore this theme and there’s been a huge variety in the type of activities we have completed.

Here’s what we got up to.

Sensory Activities

I hid some minibeasts in our sand pit for my eldest to find. She pretended to be a detective and really enjoyed using her spade to find them.

Shaving foam and food colouring is great for sensory play. If your child still likes to put everything in their mouths you could use squirty cream instead. Using a variety of kitchen utensils we rescued the minibeasts!

Kinetic sand is amazing and you can pick up a pack relatively cheaply. Here we made beds for our minibeasts.

Jelly is great as it is edible and its texture is so crazy it makes for amazing sensory play. I asked the girls to rescue the minibeasts and whilst they were reluctant at first, they were soon squashing and splatting the jelly with their hands.

This playdough activity was well received. Once again she didn’t engage with it in the way I had anticipated but that’s fine! Her ideas are always better than mine!

Minibeast Hunt

We visited Farnley Hall and spotted this beautiful butterfly! The girls were so excited!

We found a caterpillar in our back garden and decided to take a closer look by using this pot we bought last year. The girls were really interested and spent a lot of time looking at it and asking questions.

We made a simple bumble bee house using a clay flower pot. Very easy to do and it’s generated a lot of questions from my eldest. We keep checking to see if we have had any visitors.

The girls worked together to find minibeasts in our garden. They collected them in this pull along cart and were so proud once they had found them all.

We used our magnifying glass to take a closer look at some snails and woodlouse. This theme has really helped to develop my eldest confidence around insects.

Books

Our library is fantastic and I think it’s always helpful to have a selection of books that fit in with whatever you are learning about. There’s no need to buy them!

We did buy one book from a charity shop and it’s turned out to be our new favourite! It’s got loads of facts and experiments you can try.

Minibeast Artwork

I stuck some large paper to the tuff spot and left some of our plastic minibeasts out for inspiration.

How cute out these little fingerprint minibeasts! We added some legs with a pen and it inspired some great conversation about how many legs different creatures have.

Baking

Using our simple biscuit recipe we decorated them to make ladybird biscuits! So cute and by adding the raisins we were able to do a bit of counting too!

Letters

Using letter stickers we thought about the initial sound in these minibeast words. This took a couple of minutes to make and inspired my eldest to draw some spiders.

Roleplay

As if we needed an excuse to see these two gorgeous minibeasts play in the garden! Dressing up and taking on a role really helps to develop confidence and language skills.

I’m sure as the weather continues to improve we will continue to explore this theme over the coming weeks and months. It’s been great to see the girls confidence improve with little creatures.