Author Archives: Laura Clifford

Sharing the Masterpieces

We have written about sharing art and exploring galleries with you lgt-2before, but we just adore the sound of this wonderful company, now taking bookings in London. The Little Grand Tour echoes and supports all our beliefs and thoughts about bringing learning alive in meaningful ways. Masters L and H have a couple of years before they can join in these fabulous tours, but one to certainly share and even consider as a present for all those 6+ children in your lives. Isabel Lamb, Founder, says:

“The Little Grand Tour provides small, tailored gallery and lgt1museum tours for children in London aged 6-12 years. All our two hour tours are delivered by our fabulous ‘art wizards’ who engage children with carefully chosen artworks through a combination of listening, interaction and creativity, specifically designed to match the rhythm of the child’s mind. Above all, we want your children to have an experience that shows them learning can be fun. We hope to inspire an appreciation of art and history, which can compliment learning at school and the tours will hopefully stimulate discussion at home, so children can share what they have learnt.”
For further details and bookings please see www.thelittlegrandtour.co.uk

Sharing Stories

Everyone loves a new story to share with their child and I often oi-doghave requests for some exciting and different book ideas, especially with  Christmas coming up. Another genius book based idea is a subscription to The Little Reading Club, who send the most beautifully packaged parcels full of books as often as you wish http://www.thelittlereadingclub.com/

Here are ten of the latest favourites in our household as well as suggestions from all our little learners. Happy reading!

  • Little Explorers range- mixed authors, excellent non fiction books
  • The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright
  • Pip and Posy Collection by Axel Scheffler outer-space
  • 10 Little Pirates/Princesses etc by M.Brownlow & S.Rickerty
  • How Big Was a Dinosaur? by A.Milbourne
  • Oi Dog! by K.Gray
  • Little Children’s Bedtime Music Book by F.Watt & W.Squillace
  • I Love You Blue Kangaroo by E.Chichester Clark
  • The Night Pirates by P.Harris
  • The Large Family Collection by J.Murphy

 

 

Nothing, nothing, nothing!

The end of a school or nursery day is not always a calm, smooth and question-marksjoyous time. Tired brains and bodies, hungry, sometimes fed up and ready to let loose on their nearest and dearest probably all ring a bell. The automatic question from a parent “What did you do at school today?” The typical answer “Nothing!” Many children do not share much information at all about their days spent at nursery or school, but we as parents are desperate to know what’s been going on. Try these questions and conversation starters below as these will often open the box and get your little learners gabbling away about their super busy days!

  • What made your brain really think today?
  • If I called your teacher tonight what would she/he tell me about you?
  • Tell me a new word you learned today.
  • Tell me something special that happened today.
  • How did you use your pencil today?
  • Did anyone do anything cheeky today?
  • Who did you sit next to/opposite at lunch/snack?
  • Who made you laugh today?
  • Did you talk to anyone new today?
  • Were there any visitors at school today?
  • Did you have a favourite lesson? Why was it the best?
  • Was there anything you didn’t like at school today?
  • Tell me something you learnt today.
  • Did anyone do anything funny?
  • Who made you smile today?
  • Did you do something kind for someone today?
  • Did someone do something kind for you today?
  • Were there any tricky challenges today?
  • What did you today that made you proud?

 

 

School Starters

School uniform is hanging neatly ironed, shiny school shoes waiting starting_school_200vfor their debut outing, book bag at the ready and nervous parents wondering how on earth the time has come for their darling four year old to start school? Not long now till the start of the academic year and little learners are expressing many different feelings about their impending ‘big school’ days. Most have probably been in some form of setting, whether it be full or part time and are therefore used to being apart from a parent. However a new school, with many new faces and routines can always cause a few very normal jitters from both children and their parents. To help you all along the way try sharing some of these lovely story books, which will help ease that transition.

Starting School Books: available at your local library, high street book shops or online at Amazon or The Book People.

  • Starting School by J&A.Ahlberg
  • Topsy and Tim Go to School by J&G Adamson
  • Do I Have to go to School by P.Thomas
  • Charlie Chick Goes to School by N.Denchfield
  • The Kissing Hand by A.Penn
  • The Things I Love About School by T.Moroney
  • Going to School by A.Civardi
  • Chu’s First Day of School by N.GaimanI am Too Absolutely Small for School by L.Child

 

Book Love

There is nothing better than getting lost into the fictional adventures book-time-2of a book, sadly not such an occurrence these days apart from the wonderful world of picture books! Master L and H both adore books and I am a huge fan of reading to both boys, as well as them having easy access to books at all times. All our delights go through the stage of choosing the same book every night before bed, which as much as we love reading, it does get rather dull for us, especially by that stage in the day! This week, I share our favourite books of the moment, which I hope inspires your book collection and gift ideas with some new characters, settings and stories. book-pile

  • Scaredy Cat! by D.Howarth & M.Joyce
  • Cops and Robbers by J&A.Ahlberg
  • Beautiful Bananas by E.Laird & L.Pichon
  • How to Hide a Lion by H.Stephens
  • Little One by J.Weaver
  • I Took the Moon for a Walk by C.Curtis & A.Jay
  • Sam who went to Sea by P.Root & A.Scheffler
  • Oh No, George! by C.Haughton
  • You’re Too Small! by S.Roddie & S.Lavis
  • The Giant Jumperee by J.Donaldson & H.Oxenbury

Make Maths Magical

Maths is not normally a favourite subject from school days imageand if you were like me not many memories about it are particularly pleasant! This may well be true, but it is so important to not put your little learners off the subject, but instead display a positive attitude. There are so many ways in which you can aid Maths at home, which I’ve shared in the past, but I thought this time I’d create a resource list of helpful bits and bobs to expand those mathematical brains further.

  • Create a number washing line to have as a visual display. Draw, paint or decorate numbers to peg on and use for number recognition, counting forwards & backwards or play ‘What’s the missing number?’ when a number thief steals a number card off the washing line.
  • Number Line/100 square: create a simple number line to use as a visual aid for all aged children. A 100 square is also a very useful visual aid for children working with larger numbers. Lots available online for you to print out or make one to help with writing numbers.
  • Flashcards: brilliant for number recognition, ordering numbers, matching pairs, hide & seek numbers or number snap. So many different options out there, but we particularly like the Ladybird version available on Amazon for £6.99 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ladybird-Early-Learning-flash-cards/dp/140930275X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489090550&sr=8-1&keywords=ladybird+number+flash+cards
  • Counters: you do not need fancy counters, use any objects at all for counting with. Cheerios, pastas, bricks, pencils, buttons etc all make great counting buddies.
  • Calendar: great for introducing time concepts by talking about days of the week and months of the year. Share your diaries or calendars with children to show them how a week, month or year is made up.
  • Shoes & Socks: brilliant for teaching about pairs, counting in 2’s and odds and evendoor numberss.
  • Tape measures, rulers, measuring jugs & scales: great for playing around with to measure/weigh items, talk about units of measurement, how we measure things and the language associated with lengths and measure.
  • Songs: so many songs use numbers so enjoy some singing together.
  • Books: lots of first picture books include numbers in their stories so enjoy sharing these stories together and highlighting the numbers.
  • Coins: let children have access to coins for number/coin recognition, for playing shops with or simply for putting in and out of a money box or wallet/purse, which is a favourite activity for Master L.
  • Shapes: spot shapes wherever you are, talk about their names and properties.
  • Puzzles & Games: a huge range out there and a fun way for children to gauge concepts. As ever Orchard Toys have a superb range, available in many shops, through Amazon or directly http://www.orchardtoys.com You can often find games in supermarkets too, so have a look.
  • Playing Cards: can be used for number recognition, matching amounts to numbers,  to make number sentences, snap and times tables.
  • Magnets: number recognition, making number lines, ordering numbers or use to make number sentences.  maths-app
  • Apps: there are so many out there to choose from, but my absolute number 1 favourite for school aged children is Maths Primary- buy the whole bundle as its brilliant and links with the UK Maths curriculum.

 

Winter Wisdom

Jack Frost has become a favourite character in our house at the ice-1moment and as soon as it gets light Master L inspects his damage through the windows! There is something magical about waking up to a glistening, icy scene and the adventures that lie ahead, all thanks to an imaginary man who works his freezing magic overnight. Don’t be afraid to still take learning outdoors, just wrap up warm and enjoy all winter has to offer. Below are some winter themed learning ideas for both indoors and outdoors.

Indoors:

Make snowflakes using paper, card, glitter or glue. Folding a paper circle and cutting bits out is also a quick and effective way to create a snowflake, as well as developing scissor skills. You could extend this activity through counting how many you’ve made or ordering them in size.

Build snowmen using marshmallows and spaghetti. Super fun and brilliant for designing, problem solving, creative thinking and motor skills. ice-2

Snow writing- use either salt or shaving foam in a tray to practise any form of writing or simple mark making. Very sensory and lots of messy fun!

Read winter themed stories and talk about the scenery, clothes, weather and things you can do in the winter reflecting on the stories read.

Cook- find warming drinks and food recipes to prepare together. Hot chocolate or soup are simple and fun for children to make as well as to taste! Cooking develops so many skills including; reading, taking turns, following instructions, fine motor skills, number concepts, speaking and listening and working together. Usborne have some fantastic child friendly cookbooks or my favourite one for smallies is ‘The Tickle Finger Cookbook’ by A.Woolmer: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tickle-Fingers-Toddler-Cookbook-Hands/dp/1785040561

Outside:

Go on a nature journey, see what you can find, collect your treasures and make them into a nature journey stick or nature garland when you get home. The landscape may look bare, but its amazing how much you can find if you look closely.

Ice cubes: use ice cubes to build igloos or use them to create a wintery imaginary play area with animal figures such as penguins. Experiment to see how long ice cubes take to melt – great for making predictions, observations and evaluations. Painting on ice cubes is great for exploring texture, colour and colour mixing.

If you have freezer space, try freezing a variety of small plastic toys such as figures in a block of ice. Take it outside once frozen with toy tools and enjoy an icy excavation activity! Great for fine motor skills.

Walks- “We are going on an icy adventure,” sounds so much more exciting than “We are going on a walk.” Look and discuss what has happened to the landscape, how weather changes things such as puddles, leaves and trees. Look and listen out for any signs of bird or animal life. Frozen tracks are a firm favourite of Master L’s at the moment. Play ‘guess the track?’ Tractors, animal prints or a vehicle’s tracks are much more clear once they’ve been frozen! ice-3

Frost- make tracks of your own in the frost using footprints or toys. Frost on the car is great for chilly icy writing practise.

Make bird feeders- so many simple recipes out there to help those poor cold birds find something to eat. Helps children to understand about caring for birds and they’ll love watching feathered friends enjoying their tasty homemade snacks. Check out these brilliant ideas http://happyhooligans.ca/32-homemade-bird-feeders/

 

 

 

Does Pasta Grow on Trees?

Excuse the absence, my hands have been rather full welcoming Master H into the family. We are five months down the line and life is pretty busy with two boys in tow!

This post has been inspired by Master L who is currently fascinated mapsby where things come from and how things are made. The questions are endless and his three year old mind is not always fully satisfied by my answers! “How are our bodies made?” “Where does milk come from?” and “What is our house made from?” are a few of the latest examples. I hope the resources below aid your little learners inquisitive minds.

Books: Usborne have a superb collection of non fiction books and flashcards, written in a child friendly, colourful way with brilliant illustrations and diagrams. Their ‘Lift the Flap Questions and Answers’ range covering topics such as ‘the body,’ ‘animals’ and ‘the world’ I would highly recommend. Available at high street book shops as well as online. Approximately £9.99. books-group

Maps & Globes: excellent visual support for all those geographical questions, planning routes and making observations. Making maps is always a fun activity too. If you are looking for a child friendly maps book, look no further than the wonderful ‘Maps’ by A & D Mizielinska, approximately £15 from all high street book shops and online. The illustrations and information will keep your little learners entertained for many many years to come.

Do You Know?: a brilliant, very informative CBeebies show, which explains how and why things work. A firm favourite in our house at the moment.

Materials: exploring different materials in play is a fantastic way for children to understand how and why things are made from different things. Wood, plastic, fabric, metal etc are all great for investigating texture, strength, durability. Using different materials in construction activities can aid creative critical thinking skills from a very young age. A pile of junk, packaging, building blocks and sticks can all make a wonderful starting point.

Food: talk about where food comes from and how it’s grown really helps children’s interest in what they eat. New flavours and tastes are even more exciting when they come with a story!

 

 

 

 

Summer Learning

The holidays are well under way and I’m sure you aren’t being driven too crazy by all your little imagelearners quite yet! The summer holidays is traditionally very long and it is very common for children to have an educational ‘dip’ between finishing the summer term and starting their new academic year in September. There are many fun filled learning opportunities to encourage your child to keep their focus, concentration and learning brain alive as well as having a well earned rest this summer. These ideas are great for problem solving, critical thinking, independent learning, reading, writing, mathematical, fine and gross motor skills.

Outdoors: scavenger hunts, creating nature pictures, taking photographs of scenes, bug hunts, make an assault course, create a nature diary, explore new places, collect objects for a nature potion or flower petals for perfume, make and create a picnic, explore the many opportunities local National Trust properties have on offer for children this holiday.

Water Play: make bubbles, create a car/tractor/toy/dolly wash, use different objects for imagepouring/filling/collecting, create water shoots/slides for toys, experiment with floating and sinking objects, freeze small toys in ice blocks and then excavate them out.

Writing: use outdoor chalks, paints, sand, shells, seaside finds for name/word writing, write postcards to family, friends or godparents, create a holiday journal with leaflets, photos and memories, lists for packing, shopping lists, write instructions for making nature potions/perfume.

Reading: explore your local library, listen to story cd’s especially on long journeys, create a book together, sort through books and find stories you haven’t read for a while, look at recipe books, make up stories about places you visit, swap books with friends, set up a reading challenge, read maps and plan journeys, goo on a sound/letter/word hunt.

imageMaths: count objects,  make sand towers and count in 2’s, 5’s or 10’s, explore new recipes and make them, lay the table, count out objects ready for a picnic, shape hunts, sing number songs, make patterns with paint, shells, outdoor finds, go on a number hunt, label with numbers and fill containers with objects, play hide and seek for counting practise.

Other: dance, create songs, make musical instruments, try new foods, discover a new park/beach/place, enjoy a local pick your own, camp out in your garden, make a den, make a memory book, visit local events and attractions, try out a new sport and most of all have a super fun time.

Excuse the upcoming pause, Master L is about to become a big brother, but please keep following us, our ideas and activities, which will be updated as often as possible. 

Food Glorious Food

We are very much into where food comes from in our house at the moment. imageMaster L is constantly asking questions about food and drinks such as: “What is this fruit called?” “Does that cow make my milk?” “Is this barley or wheat in this field?” Living in rural Devon, the fields are alive with crops at the moment, so I too am learning about fields and their contents, thank goodness for the wise ‘Tractor Ted’ education! I’m loving the fact Master L is showing such an interest in what he is eating, as food plays a pretty major part in our immediate and extended family life. It got me thinking about ways you can get your children more involved in their eating especially for those with fussy or reluctant eaters, a topic  which I often get asked advice on. Below are some ways to help your little learners become interested in what they are eating and drinking.

Explore crops: touch, look and take photos of crops. Often footpaths run imagealong the edge so you wont destroy them for the poor farmers. If you aren’t sure of whether you are beside wheat, barley or maize for instance, take a photo and identify it back home with the help of the internet or books. Extend this further by discussing how these crops are used and who eats them- both humans and animals?

Supermarkets: if you take your smallies shopping with you, embrace looking at new foods (apricots for us this week!), talk about the names, where they come from, how do they grow, what they look like, how they feel, do they smell, do they change when they are cooked, can you eat them raw etc. Occasionally buy a new food, especially if your child has chosen it, great for encouraging new tastes, Choose recipes and then help your child find the ingredients at the supermarket.

imageFarm Stalls/Farmers Markets: becoming more common throughout the UK and at this time of year many farms/gardens may have temporary stalls on the side of the road. Great for exploring food, especially fruit and veggies and seeing where and how they grow. Plus you are supporting local producers and buying delicious fresh produce.

Animal/Tree/Plant products: Master L is a keen meat eater and he likes to know which meat comes from which animal. Discussing which animals, trees and plants provide food for us allows children a better understanding of the origins of what they eat. Our other major interest is what Master L finds inside his fruit at the moment, apparently nectarines have a “huge rock” inside them! Planting fruit or veggies in the garden also really brings the whole experience to life in a hands on way.

Books: I like the look of ‘How Did That Get in My Lunchbox- the story of food’ by C.Butterworth. Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Did-That-Get-Lunchbox/dp/0763665037

Board Games: ‘Food Snap’ by Green Board Games looks great from a young
age. Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Green-Board-Game-Co/dp/B000F46CVC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1466710768&sr=8-1&keywords=Food+snap+green+board+games The wonderful Orchard Toys imagehave a great fun game called ‘Veg Patch Match.’ Again available on Amazon or direct through www.orchardtoys.com.