Chat Chat Chat

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

 

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. 

Aiding Anxiety

Anxiety in children can be caused by many different factors and for many imagedifferent reasons. There are many articles out there on dealing with child anxiety and I’m not a child psychologist; however I often get asked my advice on how parents can help their children with certain situations in which anxiety is the underlying issue. From many years in the classroom and now as a parent, as well as being a very anxious youngster myself I have found many ways of helping aid a feeling that all children will have at some stage growing up. Anxiety can be caused for many reasons including change, new situations, leaving a loved one, a loss, over analysing, fear, failure, low self esteem etc. Below I share books, objects, television programmes and ways that have aided different levels of anxiety and I hope you find them useful if your little learner is anxious at any time.

Talking: Sharing feelings is something that should always be encouraged. Teaching children that it is ok to have both positive and negative feelings and how everyone has these feelings including grown ups often puts them at ease. For some children feelings such as anxiety may not easily go away and therefore teaching them how to deal with it is hugely important.  Asking questions about how and why they may have feelings may well provide lots of answers. Some children are reassured with warnings and talking through situations before they happen so they aren’t caught by surprise. If this is the case just remember that children may worry more if given too much notice, the element of time is very abstract so sometimes not too much warning is better. Children also may not need to know ‘all’ details of a situation, as again this can worrying them further. So the key is to strike a balance between timings, how much is shared and when is best to do it.

Role Modelling: As a parent we act as a constant role model to our children. If you act calmly and controlled in situations, children will often react in a similar manner.

Books:

  • Owl Babies, M.Waddell- brilliant for teaching children that parents do come back so perfect for a nursery or school starter.
  • The Huge Bag of Worries, V.Ironside- fabulous for encouraging children to talk about their worries.
  • A Pocketful of Kisses, A.McAllister- a very sweet story about starting school.
  • Topsy and Tim collection, J.Adamson- a brilliant collection of scenario style stories, such as going on an aeroplane, a new baby, going swimming etc.

Objects: Many classrooms may have a ‘worry box’ for children to post their worries into. These are fantastic for children to feel that they can express their feelings without actually telling anyone, so the sense of anonymity is there. Teachers are then able to plan for dealing with these worries. A friend recently told me about a very friendly looking ‘worry monster,’ which is a perfect way for children to put their worries into both written or orally and the monster eats them up: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Worry-Eater-Soft-Toy-Schnulli/dp/B004H7RM3U/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1461272195&sr=8-10&keywords=worry+eatersimage

Television: ‘My First’ is a Cbeebies programme aimed at pre-school aged children. It shows children in a new scenario such as going on holiday, going camping, having a haircut etc.

Bringing Stories Alive

Master L has always been very keen on books, stories and rhymes. He is now at the age where he is developing image favourite characters and certain books are very much loved. Bringing stories and rhymes alive can help children in many ways such as: feeding imaginations, being creative, aid story writing / story telling and understanding settings, characters, story structure and plot. This week we share easy ideas to help bring stories and rhymes alive for you to do with your little learners at home.

Character creation: make characters using junk modelling, natural resources such as leaves and sticks, play or clay.

Drama: act out scenes from stories, extend further with using props, set and dressing up costumes.

Puppets: make character puppets using paper plates, wooden spoons or simple finger puppets. You can then put on a puppet show.

Masks: make masks of your favourite characters. image

Outdoors: when out and about look for features that match or look like locations or settings from stories such as ‘a log pile house,’ or ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’s’ tunnel. Find natural resources which look like characters. We currently come home with a collection of ‘Stickmen’ from all our walks, which sadly for them always end up on the fire! This is great for encouraging small legs to walk further too!

Predicting and Variation: ask children to predict events and endings in stories. Creating new endings to rhymes or stories can be great fun for talking about and even acting out.

Story Maps: make a map marking out the main events of a story, children can add new settings, characters or events through pictures, words or both.

Theatre and Events: look out for performances of well known children’s stories at local theatres. Websites worth visiting are www.tallstories.org.uk, www.birminghamstage.com, www.polkatheatre.com, www.theatrehullabaloo.org.uk and www.telltalehearts.co.uk. The Forestry Commission often have story trails, they currently have ‘Stickman’ trails in many of their forests nationwide, see www.forestry.gov.uk/stickman to find your nearest event.

Local Library: your local library is an amazing (often free) resource for bringing stories alive. Check out sessions such as story telling, puppet shows or bounce and rhyme at your local library.

Taking Risks

Risk taking is not a skill which comes easily to all learners. However having the ability and confidence to take imagerisks is hugely important for all ages. Younger children are often natural risk takers, which can be seen in their play and behaviour. Once smallies start at school, are influenced by those around them and become more self conscious sadly the ‘having a go’ attitude can diminish. If a child always wants an ‘answer’ as such they often find subjects such as creative writing, the arts, science and many comprehension questions trickier. Making mistakes should be encouraged and seen as a positive learning experience. From experience children who are happy to make mistakes are more confident happy learners who tackle new tasks with a fantastic attitude. There are plenty of activities you can do at home to encourage inquisitive minds. Have fun trying some of these out.

Make predictions: this is easy when reading with your child. Look at the front cover and predict what may happen in the story. Stop on certain pages and again predict what may happen next. Always model predicting by sharing your prediction with your child and sometimes make it really whacky to encourage imaginative ideas. Making predictions about time is fun too, if minutes and hours are too tricky, make tasks or questions general such as “how many times can you run round the garden before we go out?” Predict colours, how many objects you’ll see on a journey, what  a cake will look like, how food will taste or feel etc.

Science tasks: there are plenty of amazing science experiments and kits for home use. Science concepts encourage making predictions, watching things change, following processes and comparing things. The Science Museum, Horrible Science, John Lewis and Amazon all have a great variety of kits. image

Problem solving: making treasure trails with clues, construct given objects with different materials, play board games, ask questions, ask open ended questions, give a choice of answers to questions, encourage children to ask questions.

Logic games: brilliant for children to play and feed their ways of thinking differently.

Festive Learning

After a super long term, the Christmas holidays are upon us. Exhausted and over excitable smallies can be a imagerecipe for disaster. This time of year is madly busy with visitors, family to see and often lots of travelling. Below we share some festive themed learning activities for you to enjoy as a family.

Reading: get relatives to read stories- new voices are always fun, let your child read to you, enjoy Christmas stories, listen to story cds, allow siblings/cousins etc to read to each other, read cards, read cracker jokes, read recipes and newspapers or magazines.

Writing: letters to Father Christmas, thank you letters for presents, shopping lists, name writing for place names, Christmas cards, menus, gift tags, write jokes for crackers or a holiday journal.

Maths: Christmas baking, count decorations, make Christmas patterns with colours, paint or stickers, laying the table, shape hunts, play adding and subtraction oral games, board games or sing number songs. image

Other thoughts: Christmas crafts, museum visits, explore local National Trust properties and their festive themes, visit Father Christmas,  make a photo journal, set up a Christmas themed competition, put on a play, play charades, collect greenery and make a wreath, research some Christmas traditions from around the world, make and try some Christmas food from a different culture, go carol singing, make a board game, junk modelling or den making using the many present boxes! Most importantly have fun and recharge your batteries for 2016.

 

 

Little Learning Seeds wishes you and your families all a very Happy Christmas.

We look forward to returning in the New Year with lots more inspiration.

Puppet Power

When I was in the classroom, I often used puppets for a variety of reasons. Children often react very differently imageto a puppet than they would to a real human being. They may find it easier to express themselves or even talk to a puppet openly about thoughts or feelings. They can not only be used as a teaching tool, but also brilliant in a play situation. Below are ways in which you can use puppets to enhance learning. A great addition to any toy box, so start collecting or making a puppet collection today.

Speech and Language: puppets allow children another ear to talk to, build on conversation skills through talking to puppets, experiment with funny voices, allow children to create conversation between themselves and a puppet or between puppets.

Performance skills: a puppet show is a great way for children to perform in an unintimidating way.

Creativity & Imagination: making puppets can be really fun, finger puppets, wooden spoon puppets or paper plate puppets are super easy, performing with puppets as well as creating puppet conversation are brilliant for expanding imaginations and role play skills, why not try making a puppet house to keep them in? image

Stutters: brilliant for helping children who may have a stutter, often if a child has a stutter they feel more comfortable talking to a puppet, a brilliant aid to gently help stutters and build conversation confidence back.