Fabulous Phonics

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.


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


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/




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. 

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.

Playdoh Love

We love playdoh! Probably one of the most useful resources and my trusty teaching bag of tricks never goes imageout without a pot of it. Brilliant for all ages, easy to make, comes in different colours, has so many uses, it’s therapeutic, sensory and most of all fun. My husband used to despair at me, the night before term started and the playdoh making box came out! This week Master L and I decided it was time to make playdoh, we had so much fun together and I forgot quite how easy it really is and lasts for so long.

Playdoh is easily available to buy on the high street; however do try making it together with your little learners. I have used lots of different no cook recipes, but the brilliant people at The Imagination Tree certainly have the best recipe: http://theimaginationtree.com/2012/04/best-ever-no-cook-play-dough-recipe.html

Ideas to enhance learning with playdoh:

  • Make names, spelling words or tricky/sight/high frequency words. image
  • Make numbers out of it.
  • Make shapes.
  • Use it to show or make simple fractions. Create a playdoh pizza or cake, cut into halves, thirds, quarters etc
  • Create patterns using cutters, shapes, colours or tools.
  • Develop fine motor skills through rolling, cutting, squidging, pinching, chopping, poking, squeezing and pulling.
  • Knife skills, brilliant for developing knife skills, how to hold and handle a knife. Master L is obsessed by “cutting up” so this is a great solution with a plastic knife! image
  • Mark making using fingers, playdoh tools or simple utensils and cutlery.
  • A tool for story planning. Use it with older children to create figures and scenarios to act out before story writing. This can provide many ideas and inspiration for writing.
  • Use it to make letters to help with reversals, eg p, d, b.
  • Make and create objects, animals, buildings, food etc which can then be used for imaginative play and building on creativity.
  • Explore textures by stamping objects into it. Look at and feel different textures made. Try using the following to create different textures: stick a bricks, lego, buttons, pine cones, coins or pasta shapes. image
  • A therapeutic, calming and soothing resource.
  • Matching prints- use toy animals to print into the playdoh then match the object to the print. With older children you could use magnetic letters to imprint and little learners could match the letters to the prints.
  • You are never too old for playdoh, used with a 1,5 and 9 year old this week!




Tricky Words

All those with early readers will have had the pleasure or pain of trying to tackle tricky imagewords. These highly important words can be referred to as the following: high frequency, tricky, sight or key words. These words occur most often in written material, for example, ‘and,’ ‘the,’ or ‘he.’ Some of these words can be sounded out using basic phonic rules, e.g. ‘at’ is an easy word to read using segmenting and blending skills. However, many of these words are not phonetically regular and are therefore hard to read in the early stages as well as having very abstract meanings. Learning the first one hundred of these words gives a beginner reader access to 50% of virtually any text. Unfortunately these words need to be learned by sight on a regular basis due to them not following a rule as such. A combination of early phonics and recognition of these trickier words allows a child’s reading to really take off. These words are pretty dull to learn, but I hope some of these ideas make the whole experience more exciting for your little learners. Just remember little and often is the only way with these words. 

  • Write them on post it notes around the house, going up the stairs is great as they have to read them on each step.
  • Make them out of magnetic or bath foam letters.
  • Write them in mud, glitter, sand or shaving foam.
  • Use flashcards- www.highfrequencywords.org is a brilliant website for lists and ready made printables.
  • Write them on Lego or building blocks and create a word wall. image
  • Play snap or matching tricky word pairs.
  • Create a tricky word book (add to it each time you come across a new word whilst reading) and carry it around with you in your bag to look at in the car, waiting for appointments or on journeys.
  • Write them on biscuits using icing pens, what a yummy way to learn!
  • Use flashcards in fun and silly ways, such as sticking them on your forehead till they say the word.





Super Sounds

Summer holidays are over and it’s all back to the routines of school and nurseries. This year I know of lots of school starters and I’ve been loving all the photos of them standing proudly in their uniform clutching their book bags, with new shoes shining away! You as parents will be bombarded with information over the next few weeks about school life and your child’s learning. The teaching of letter sounds (phonics) can be quite complex to get your head around (see our previous phonics posts) and your child will soon be wowing you with knowing their letter sounds. I thought I’d share some fun activities you can easily do at home to reiterate, revise and review letter sounds. Please remember to use the letter sounds rather than letter names.

I Spy: an old fashioned classic, easy to play anywhere and particularly great for journeys. Younger siblings canletters take part using colours rather than letter sounds. You can also make an I spy bottle using an empty bottle, filled with rice, lentils of pasta and pop in some little objects such as lego men, leaves, pens, mini toys etc and children can shake the bottle and play I spy using the objects inside the bottles. These are great for keeping little people distracted.

Sound Swat: the flies and wasps are at last disappearing, so those fly swats can now have a new use! Write out or print out letter sounds on post its or on fun shaped templates. Say a letter sound and your little learner has to swat the matching sound template. Lots of fun and a real hit for those active learners!

Sound Washing Line: make up some letter sounds, add some fun decorations to them and create a washing line using ribbons and pegs. Make sure it is at child height so they can peg sounds on or off.

Hunt the Sound: choose a sound or sounds to focus on and go on a sound hunt around the house or when you are out and about. See if your little learners can spot objects beginning with a chosen letter sound. You can always extend with creating mini sound pots, filling them with objects to match a sound.

Matching Sounds: using magnetic letters, sound flashcards or wooden letters see if your child can match two sounds together. Alternatively play sound snap.

Playdoh Sounds: use magnetic letters or cutters to imprint or cut out letter sounds using playdoh.

Dig for sounds: bury magnetic letters or wooden letters in sand or mud and see if your little learners can dig them out and say the sound as they find them. This is also fun in the bath with foam letters, especially with lots of bubbles and a mini fishing net! image

Sound Puzzle: we love these wooden sound boards, which say the sound when you place them in the correct shape and it is also in an English accent. Available in both the initial sounds (a-z) and then the digraphs (such as sh, oa or er). £19 each (a brilliant investment) direct from http://www.desidollcompany.com/english-language-products.html



Smart Start

Smart Start Read & SpellMaster L and I were out and about this week and stumbled across these fantastic learning resources, which I had to share. Packed full of activities, games and learning opportunities, these Smart Start learning pads are well worth buying. Smart Start PhonicsWith the Easter holidays fast approaching, these pads will keep children entertained for hours, as well as providing a huge range of fun learning experiences. Smart Start MathsEach pad is large and covers Letters and Numbers, Phonics, Maths Puzzles and Read and Spell. Perfect for Ages 3-5 approx. Available in store at The Works (£2.99 each) or online at www.theworks.co.uk  where you can pick up the bundle of 4 (£8.99).Attachment-1 (1)


Learn with Lego

Lego is a major hit with most children. From a young age children enjoy using building blocks to create all sorts of wonderful inventions. Over the last few months I have seen, tested and been sent all sorts of brilliant ideas using Lego to aid learning. I’m sure the Lego inventors never thought that their timeless product would be so versatile, but from the list below it certainly is! lego alphabet

Reading books: Lego along with Dorling Kindersley have published early reading books using Lego characters. A brilliant theme for those reluctant boy readers. Available online www.amazon.co.uk or www.thebookpeople.co.uk

Word Building: use Duplo blocks as individual letter sounds with either permanent marker or sticky labels. Brilliant then for hands on word building. Great for learning spellings, practising early blending and segmenting skills for reading words or even building an alphabet strip. Write those tricky sight words on bricks and build a tricky word wall.

Patterns: building blocks provide endless opportunities for following given patterns, building pattern towers or creating own patterns.Lego spellings

Sequencing: Lego has visual instructions, which are brilliant for teaching children to follow a sequence to an end result.

Sorting: using a mixture of Lego, Duplo or building blocks see how children will sort them. Categorising and grouping is part of the early years curriculum and you’ll be surprised how many inventive ways little people can sort! Colour, size, shape, likes or even dislikes etc.

Maths: endless opportunities for visual hands on learning. Build tower sequences to continue, make number lines or towers, write simple sums on blocks and find the answer to match, make a bar graph using Lego blocks, use blocks as counters, make fraction towers, (write a fraction on each block and make towers i.e. 3 blocks for thirds) use blocks for measuring in non standard units e.g. how many Lego bricks high is the table?Block number line

Construction: brilliant for developing fine motor skills and inspiring a visual for story writing. Try making a Lego rainbow, buildings, scenes, a maze for a Lego figure or a Lego marble run.

Fine Motor Skills: use chop sticks/giant tweezers to pick and place blocks, try using pipettes to pick up and place water in Duplo holes, build towers as high as you can, balance marbles on Duplo holes, make and copy a Lego shape or make and trace a Lego shape.


Super Spellings

Learning spellings can let’s face it be very dull! A totally necessary skill for life, but the complexity of the English language doesn’t exactly make spelling ‘rules’ easy to teach or follow. Weekly spelling words usually start coming home to learn from Year 1 or 2 and children tend to be tested on these words once a week. More often than not, the words will come home as a list and children are asked to learn them through the ‘Look, Cover, Write, Check, Correct’ method. This may well work for some learners, but if it isn’t for your child or you fancy spicing up your child’s spelling practice here are some alternative ways of learning the list!

  • Find words within the word (there’s a ‘hen’ in ‘when’!).
  • Write the words in sand, mud, a glitter or salt tray (glitter or table salt in a recycled fruit or vegetable tray). Salt tray
  • Make the words using playdoh, magnetic or bath foam letters.
  • Write the words using bright colours or bath crayons.
  • Write each word out 5 times.
  • Draw a picture for each word.
  • Put your words into sentences.
  • Make up a silly sentence using the letters (big elephants cause accidents under small elephants spells ‘because’).
  • Break the word up into smaller parts  (Wed + nes + day = Wednesday).
  • Break the word up into syllables and tap them on your knees.
  • Find a word that rhymes with it: is the spelling the same?
  • Make and decorate a flashcard for each word: build a visual word wall with each word being a brick, play hide and seek with the word cards, put them up around the house in places your child always looks.
  • Decorate biscuits with words using writing icing.
  • Play ‘how do you spell…’ games in the car, on the bus or when scootering along.

Apps of the Moment!

The App world is vast and can be very overwhelming. There are many learning opportunities from Apps, but I often have parents asking which ones really are worth downloading and spending money on? The Apps below I often use as a learning tool and their content is not only excellent, but children love them.

For early Reading and Writing:

Hip Hop Hen AppHip Hop Hen (£1.99 each or £3.99 for bundle)- 3 superb App’s focusing on sound flashcards, letter tracing and letter jigsaws. A brilliant App for an introduction to early phonics for pre-school children. English App and English accents. We cant wait for their new CVC (consonant vowel consonant) word App to be released in 2015.

Ladybird Phonics iconLadybird I’m Ready for Phonics! (£2.99)- very much progressive, so you have to complete levels before moving on. I particularly like the ‘Brilliant Blending’ and ‘Super Segmenting.’ English App and English accents. The levels cover many aspects of early reading skills. A very thorough App.

Cbeebies appCBeebies Storytime (free)- a lovely free storytime download. I like the different options of the story either being read to or you having a go yourself.

For early Maths:

Primary Maths appMaths Primary (Lite- free Main- £4.99)- currently I have the Lite version, which I have been very impressed with and I feel an upgrade coming up! Activities can be linked to your child’s year group and the mathematical language is superb. Covers all areas of the curriculum in a fun and varied way. English App and English accents.

Count to 20 appMaths Practice- Count to 20 (£3.99)- brilliant for basic counting skills, matching amounts to a number and emphasising the need for accuracy. English App and English accents.

Finger digits appLittle Digits (£1.99)- a fun sensory based app for counting. All completed using the touch of fingers. Counting, simple addition and subtraction skills. American App with American accents.

Moose Maths appMoose Math (£1.49)- a fun App for children to practise maths skills. Early counting, matching and number recognition are all covered. Very child friendly characters and animations. American App with American accents.

Fine Motor Skills:

dexteria-jr-iconPreschool Motor Skills (£1.99)- a must have app for developing fine motor skills. Practise finger movements through, squashing, pinching and tracing. I think my favourite has to be ‘Pinch the Pepper!’


All available on the App Store.