Saturday, 24 September 2011

Sand & Surf Imaginary Play Gift

We have just returned from a friends birthday party so I am now able to share this idea for a birthday gift without it's recipient seeing it before opening it.  I've been thinking about giving some homemade play dough to little friends for their birthday's for a while.  I didn't want to just give the dough on it's own so I put a few different resources together on a 'sea' theme along with the dough.  It's intended to be really open ended with scope for all kinds of play and to encourage creativity and the imagination.  Here's what is included.....
The play dough is blue (added green and silver glitter) and yellow (added gold glitter.)
A boat shaped cookie cutter.
Three small plastic tropical fish.
A selection of seashells.  I also put in a small book about underwater creatures.
Then I made it look attractive by wrapping the items in a cellophane gift bag and putting the dough into a kilner style jar.  A blue ribbon and some blue paper to write a tag and it was finished!  I think it's a lovely idea to put something like this together for a child's present.  There are so many commercial toys on the market but it can be difficult to find something original that children can really explore and get creative with.  I intend to make some similar ones on different themes for some more birthdays coming up.  I'll post these once they're done!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Autumn Antics

Now that we walk to school and back every morning we have the perfect opportunity to collect some leaves on the way home.  When you really start to look there are some amazing colours.  We got home and I asked Girl what she wanted to do and she said 'play!'  We narrowed it down to play dough so we made some in autumn colours.
She experimented with the leaves and seeds we had collected pressing them into the dough.
She used cutters to make prints on the dough.
The contrast of the colours of the dough against the leaves was particularly striking and we enjoyed comparing different combinations.
We found we could make some lovely prints too.
Now we are on the lookout for other interesting autumn things to collect and play with.

Another great post on a very similar theme can be found here at Nurture Store.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Easy Kite to Make

It's so very windy today and so we made a very easy kite this evening and tried it out.  So simple all you need is a plastic carrier bag of any size and some wool or string.  Tie one end of the string or wool to the handles of the bag and, hey presto, kite finished!
Add some wind and you have a really easy activity which can spark plenty of questions about scientific topics such as weather, speed, flying, capacity.  Besides which kites are loads of fun and there is something very exhilarating about the wind which children seem to enjoy.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

British Science Festival 2011

We visited two of the exhibitions at the British Science Festival this weekend.  First 'Science in the Early Years' at Bradford University and then the BBC Bang Goes the Theory Roadshow.  Both were brilliant!
We explored cornflour gloop and found that we could hit it with a hammer.  They were even kind enough to give me this rather stylish lab coat so I really looked the part!  We made slime by mixing pva glue and borax, we also did some experiments with red cabbage and dry ice.
Boy was particularly fascinated by the dry ice!
Then we moved onto circus skills.  Boy was really interested in the diabalo and learned to spin plates.
Girl really enjoyed playing with the water and exploring magnets and natural materials.
Whilst Boy followed a recipe to make some very simple play dough with the help of one of the staff.
Then we made a rocket and launched it using a foot pump.  Brilliant!
This was one of the best events for young children I have been to and it has given me loads of science based activities and ideas to try.  Watch this space to see how we get on!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

What I learnt from Potty Training

You may have noticed these past few weeks we haven't posted much.  The reason for this is that we have been focusing our efforts on helping Girl to master using the potty.  Our approach (for those who are interested) was to spend one week taking her to the potty every hour although she was still wearing nappies.  Then after this she went into pants and we continued to take her to the potty regularly.  This has worked really well for us and she is now confidently telling us when she wants to go.  The whole process has taken only two weeks.  Girl is 22 months old so by some standards she is quite young but has been very keen to do it and really initiated it herself.  I'm not suggesting this would work in all cases.  In fact, Boy was much later to toilet train and was really scared of the potty and refused to use it.
Now to the title of this post.  What I learnt from Potty Training.  It has nothing to do with the potty.  We do a lot of activities in our home.  This is no bad thing of course.  The children and I enjoy doing it and they are never forced to do anything.  If they're not in the mood then we don't bother.  However, these last few weeks we've done far fewer planned activities because all our energy has been on remembering to visit the potty at regular intervals.  This has given the children much more 'space' and opportunity to play freely.
Boy has been 'reading' to his sister and some toys.  They made picnics, played shops more, in fact, a great deal more role play than they would usually do and for extended periods of time.  Girl has really shown far more interest in books and has been constantly bringing her favourites to me to be read to.  As a result, her speech and language has progressed.  I have found quite a few photos on the camera that Boy has taken (one below further down).  He has been experimenting on his own without being directed or restricted.
What I have learnt is that sometimes we can be so busy doing things that we don't always really watch what is going on with children's play.  This was re-iterated to me earlier this week when I was having a conversation with our fantastic Nursery Manager Steph.  We were talking about planning for a staff training session next week.  We make use of flipcams at the nursery to assist in observing children.  She had been looking back over some of the videos and had noticed that the vast majority of flipcam film observations are of children doing 'activities' rather than engaged in their own free play.  This isn't that children don't play freely but just that adults are not observing them at these times so much.
 It reminded me of the following poem 'Leisure' by William Henry Davies;
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
 Our lives can be so busy.  Toddler groups, nursery, activity classes, school, homework, visiting family, shopping.  Our staying in the house for the past few weeks has enabled me to really just sit back and watch the children.  Sometimes you don't need to be doing things with them, just be with them and let them involve you if they want to.  It has been in these times of free play in the past that I have been able to identify when my children have been showing schematic behaviour and then I have been able to plan activities for them in line with this.   Boy starts Primary School this week so the two children will be spending less time together from now on so I'm really pleased that they have been making so much creative play together in recent weeks.  In fact, right now they are hiding behind a chair together, pushing the chair backwards and forwards together and laughing and smiling.  So what I have learnt is simply to watch them more!