Tuesday, May 27, 2014

3-D frozen ice castle

Like most 3 year old children, my daughter Bee loves the new Disney movie Frozen. Merchandise from this movie is few and far between, so we have made most of our Frozen themed toys our self.

It started with making a Frozen ice castle out of a cardboard box and a few spare Christmas decorations. Then, when throwing out the packaging from Bee's new bed I saw some polystyrene blocks. They were white and resembled blocks of ice, perfect for an opportunity to develop Bee's creativity, imagination and physical skills, whilst attempting to build her own ice castle.
Bee loved building and knocking down her castle and keeps returning to this activity
The blocks are so open ended, children can rebuild their castles and they can be easily stored . Bee made ice castles, mazes, towers and slides.

What the critique had to say:
"I loved playing it with you and I could build really high towers" Bee aged 3 years 10 months.

Who can play?
The activity is aimed at children aged three years plus, however this depends on their age and stage of development.

Ensure that your child is supervised at all times. Polystyrene, if swallowed can swell in the stomach.

Questions to ask:
  • Open ended questions such as what can we build? and how?
  • How tall/small is your castle/tower?
  • Do you think it will be hot/cold to live in an ice castle?

What do you need?

  • Polystyrene blocks 
  • Small world figures. we used Disney Princess', however you can use whatever you have available.
  • Pine cones and silver Christmas decorations.

What did we do?
Before giving Bee the polystyrene blocks, we talked about the importance of not eating the blocks as they can swell in her stomach. Even though I know this is not what she would normally do, for safety reasons I just wanted to make sure she knew. I also gave them a shake as they had been in the garage. where the lovely spiders like to live.
Once they were ready, I placed them on the driveway, ready for her to explore. As soon as she saw them, she instantly said "I can build an ice castle with them!"

Bee showed creativity as she created slides for her Princess' to go down and used her shoes for beds.

It was quite windy outside and Bee began to get frustrated with her castle being blown over, so we took the activity inside.
Bee really unleashed her creativity, she stacked the blocks creating towers. This created a great opportunity for maths development as she used lots of maths language when describing what she was doing "My towers getting bigger", "I'm using this small brick" and "I am putting this on top"

She would also carefully position the blocks, Christmas decorations and Princess', showing hand eye coordination and developing an awareness of space.

The castle changed shape several times throughout the afternoon, as Bee experimented with the design. She played imaginatively with the small world toys and involved me in her play, making up story plots and dialogue. She developed her own thoughts and ideas.

Towards the end of the activity Bee used the polystyrene blocks to create a maze. She said that the Princess' were stuck in there and Buzz light year had to rescue them. I think this was due to a visit to the farm last year, when we struggling to find our way out of the maze maze.

What did we learn?
  • Communication and language- Talking about what she is doing and using speech to convey meaning.
  • Physical development- Fine and large manipulative skills when building and hand eye coordination.
  • Personal, social and emotional- Making relationships, social skills such as sharing and turn taking. Working towards the same goal and fun and enjoyment. 
  • Mathematics- Learning about shapes, space, measurement and sizes, such as small, medium and large. Counting the bricks.
  • Understanding of the world- Possible opportunity to learn about ice.
  • Expressive arts and design- Engaged in role play, designing a castle and using their imagination. Developing resourcefulness and creativity.
What could be done next?

  • Substitute Princess' with cars, balls or any other toy your child is into. They will love rolling them down the ramps, learning about trajectory.
  • Create a Frozen ice castle, by using a cardboard box and other items found from around the home.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Fizzing letters

I am always looking for interesting and new ways to create fun and exciting learning opportunities for my daughter. She loves hands on and messy activities, so when I came across some children's activity sites that created some fizzy fun, I knew I had to give it a go.
The first site that gave me the inspiration for my fizzing letters activity was provided by www.themotherhuddle.com. They used the ingredients to create mini fizzy volcano pictures. Another great activity was making fizzy side walk chalk. I found this on handsonaswegrow.com.
I wanted to add a literacy twist to the fizzy fun, so I came up with the idea of the fizzing letter game. Read on to find out how to play.
Who can play?
Children two years plus, but this depends on the child's age and stage of development.

As with all activities children need to be supervised and the area used made safe.
I would strongly discourage children to drink or eat any of the ingredients used in this activity. They may make them seriously unwell. 
Ensure the knife that you are using is blunt, so as not to cut little fingers.

What do you need?
  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Vinegar
  • food colouring
  • Spray bottle
  • Water
  • Patio/sidewalk/pavement depending on which side of the Atlantic you are on.
  • Chalk
  • Blunt knife
Questions to ask:
what do you think will happen when we put the liquid on the bicarbonate of soda?
What is happening?
what can you see?
why do you think the liquid is causing bubbles?
can you name the letters?

What did we do?
As always the first thing you need to do is prepare the area. This can be done by pouring the bicarbonate of soda onto the the floor, into 4 letter shapes, but you could do more depending on the age and stage of development of the child. I chose the letters J,K,M and L. Older children can also help out at this point by making their own letters.
To add another dimension, interest and possible colour recognition to the letters, I took a blunt knife and scraped it along the side of the chalk, making the coloured dust fall on the letters.
Before Bee was invited to play the game, I filled a spray bottle 3/4 of the way with vinegar and the rest with water. The activity was then ready.

Bee was curious as to what we were going to do. I explained that we were going to play the fizzy letter game. I would ask her what the initial letter of the words, jump, kick, mum and love were. Once she guessed the letter correctly she could squirt it with the vinegar and water solution. Not only was this activity promoting letter recognition but Physical skills too, as she would try squeeze the trigger on the spray bottle and aim with precision at the letters. 
At first Bee was surprised at how the liquid bubbled and fizzed. She commented on it being "fizzy like lemonade" and how the letter began to disappear once she had squirted a lot of liquid on it. She also noticed change of state as the powder changed to a fizzing liquid.

When all the letters had been washed away, Bee asked could she draw er own picture, who was i to pass up an important child initiated activity?! It seemed that she had been watching closely as she made a pattern on the floor with the bicarb, scraped the chalk like i did and squirted it. She seemed fascinated by the way her picture fizzed as it disappeared.
What did we learn?
  • Communication and language-Speaking and listening. Talking about what we are seeing and what will happen next
  • Physical development- Fine manipulative skills as she learns how to squeeze the trigger on the spray bottle. Hand eye coordination and precision when aiming the spray at the letters. 
  • Personal, social and emotional- joining in with a game and listening to the rules. Making relationships. Fun and enjoyment. self help skills and independence 
  • Literacy- Linking sounds to letters, learning how to read and write. Segmenting words so that she can find the initial letter.
  • Mathematics- making patterns and developing concepts of space and measurement. 
  • Understanding of the world- Experimenting with the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar solution. Predicting what will happen next
  • Expressive arts and design- Designing her own picture with the bicarbonate of soda

What could be done next?

  • For children who prefer visual clues, you could use objects and ask your child to guess the initial letter of the object.
  • Add scents such as vanilla, peppermint and almond essence to the vinegar solution, this will create a sensory experience
  • The purpose of this activity could be changed, so that instead of developing letter recognition you could promote shapes, numbers or even colours.
  • Try making the sidewalk chalk or fizzy volcano pictures that are mentioned above.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Father's Day cards

Last weekend was Mother's Day in America and my friend Nina gave me the inspiration for these cute Father's Day cards (Although the examples I have provided are for Granddad's) She told me that her child's school had asked her daughter a few questions on what her Mum liked, how tall she was etc and wrote it down for her. I thought that this was a lovely idea and knew that Bee's Granddads back in the UK would just love them. I was also interested in what Bee would say when asked how tall she thought they were... the answers were quite funny.   
The card was really easy to make. All you need are paper and pens...simple, but lovely!    
Who can play?
If your child can hold a pencil, then this activity is for them. Even young children can mark make a drawing of their Dad/Granddad and maybe you could write down things that your Husband/Dad does with your child.

Supervise young children with the writing equipment

What do you need?
  • Felt tip pens
  • Paper
  • Card
  • Glue
What did we do?

Firstly, I folded a piece of card in half. On the inside left I wrote the title, 'This is how I see you through my eyes Gramps' (this is the name Bee prefers for her Granddad) The statements about her Gramps were then wrote underneath:
  • You are...........tall
  • You are ....... years old
  • You weigh.....stone
  • You like to eat................
  • You like to drink.............
  • You like to watch............
  • You like to......................
The final things I had to prepare was the piece of paper that Bee was going to draw her Gramps on. This was done by cutting out a piece of paper, small enough to fit on the card and a slightly larger piece of blue paper to back the picture on.

I asked Bee to draw a picture of her Gramps. Even though I let Bee draw her own version of Gramps, we still talked about the body parts to draw, their positioning and counted eyes etc. I thought it was quite funny how she only gave him 2 strands of hair (as he is going quite fair on the top) See if you can spot the difference between her own drawing and the real Gramps.
Bee's drawing of her Gramps
Bee's gorgeous, playful funny and loving Gramps

Now for the fun part, during a quiet time of the day, I sat with Bee and we looked at a picture of her Gramps and we talked about him. I read each statement to her and asked her to tell me how tall etc she thought her Gramps was, 70 foot 3 is ginormous I know and obviously not his accurate size, but she was experimenting with numbers and making me laugh at the same time. Once she had told me her answer I would write them down in front of her, spelling the words out as I went along.
In the picture below you can see some of her other answers.
What I think of my Gramp's
The last thing that we had to do was to sign the card. I think that the name frame we have been practicing with, over the past week or so, have been helping Bee with keeping the letters of her name in one line.
Love from...
Here is the final product...                                

Final product
I know my Dad (Bee's Gramps) will just love this card and it will make him giggle. Hope you like it just as much too.

What did we learn?
  • Communication and language-Speaking and listening. Talking about her Gramps
  • Physical development- Fine manipulative skills and hand eye coordination when holding her pen to write and draw
  • Personal, social and emotional- Making relationships and recalling happy memories with her Gramps. Pride from finished product and increased self esteem.
  • Literacy- Linking sounds to letters, learning how to read and write
  • Mathematics- Shapes, space, measurement and counting body parts when drawing her Gramps.
  • Understanding of the world- learning about her family unit
  • Expressive arts and design- Drawing her Gramps and designing her own card
What could be done next?
  • Instead of putting the picture and statements on a card, you could also add them to a frame, perfect for giving away as a present
  • The cards can be adapted to any time of the year, for example mothers day, religious celebrations or even a birthday
  • If you have older children who are able to write, allow them to fill in the blanks instead of you. This will encourage writing for a reason.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Letter eating robot

To help your child become familiar with letters and stay away from the dull method of repeating flash cards, turn an old shoe box into a letter eating robot!
'Metal Mike', to give him his real name was used a lot during my time working with reception/kindergarten children and the children seemed to enjoy playing with him.
You can download the Metal Mike mask from Sparklebox or if you are creative draw your own. 
In Great Britain we use the Dfes Letters and Sounds Document within State schools and the private sector, as a tool to help learn phonics through exciting and fun activities. You can find lots of similar activities on their website featured above.

Metal Mike ready for his alphabet lunch

Who can play?
Children aged two years plus, depending on their age and stage of development. At first they can just experiment looking at the letters and posting them. As they grow older and skills increase they will begin to name the letters.

Supervise children at all times.

What do you need?

  • Shoe box
  • Glue
  • Cello tape
  • Scissors
  • Metal Mike print out or pens and paper to draw your own.
  • Letter flash cards or letters wrote on card. You could even use magnetic letters
What did we do?
To prep the activity I downloaded the Metal Mike picture from the website Sparklebox UK. I would like to keep this for a long time, so I chose to laminate it, however it will work just as well if you cut it out and glue it onto the front of the box. I then proceeded to cut out a small rectangle where his mouth was so that Bee can post her letters through.

To make sure we have access to the letters once they have been posted through his moth, I cut the lid of the box in half and cello-taped it to the back of the box.

The back of the box

Now for the fun part...playing with the letter eating robot.
First of all I told Bee that Metal Mike was really hungry and all that he fancied eating today was letters. Bee laughed and said "OK mummy, I can help him" Picking up the letters that she recognised, she began saying their names and posting them in his mouth. After each letter she would say "Is that yum Metal Mike?" I would reply in a robot voice "Th-a-t was y-u-m!" introducing word segmenting.
We went over the letters she was unsure of and posted them together whilst making eating noises when the letters went in.

This activity led us into talking about words that begin with certain letters such as c for cat. As we posted in the letter c we would say "c-a-t" I also introduced the use of robot arms when segmenting the words (moving your arms up and down alternatively when saying a letter in the word). This is used as a visual tool to help the child recognise the individual letters.

Metal Mike and his letters were placed on the shelf in Bee's playroom, for further child initiated play.

What did we learn?
  • Communication and language-Speaking and listening. Talking like a robot, adjusting the way she talks and segmenting and blending words
  • Physical development- Fine manipulative skills when picking up and posting letters. Large manipulative when making robot arms. Coordination and hand eye development.
  • Personal, social and emotional- Making relationships, social skills, learning about feelings,fun and enjoyment and taking turns
  • Literacy- Linking sounds to letters, learning how to read and letter recognition
  • Mathematics- Space, measurement and capacity. 
  • Understanding of the world- Talking about robots and how they work
  • Expressive arts and design- Pretending to be a robot and becoming involved in role play.
What could be done next?

  • Use the Metal Mike cut out as a mask. Your child could hold it up to their face and blend/segment. 
  • Introduce a guessing game, for example what is Metal Mike spelling.
  • Instead of using letters, you could use colours, numbers and shapes, depending on which one you think your child will enjoy the most.
  • To encourage writing skills you could leave paper and pencils next to the robot, to provide an opportunity for your child to either write a letter for him or draw a picture.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Painting with natural materials

Fancy getting creative but do not have any paint??? No problem! Reach into your fridge and cupboards and get creative. Today, we experimented by painting with beetroot, spinach, coffee, tea and curry powder (it was a bit stinky but very effective) This activity uses natural materials, so therefor it is safe for little ones to explore. You do not have to use the items we did, just get creative and raid those cupboards!!
From this to...

Who can play?
Due to the paint being from natural materials, I would recommend this activity for children aged around 8 months and above. Consideration needs to be given to the age and stage of development of the child.With young babies I would just use coloured yogurts, avocados or any other food that your child is being 'weened' on.

To make the natural paints, I had to use hot water. I would only recommend an adult do this stage to prevent potential scalding.
The liquid from the vegetables and coffee etc will stain clothing, so I highly recommend covering the table/easel and clothing with an apron.
If younger children are involved, use food that they have already tried and experiment with them on the paper

What do you need?
  • Half a beetroot,  half a cup of spinach, 1 tsp coffee granules, 1 tea bag and half a tsp of curry powder, but you can use anything in your fridge/cupboard that you think will make a coloured liquid
  • Hot water
  • Small containers to hold the home made paints
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paper
  • Apron
  • Newspaper to protect the table/painting easel
What did we do?
The first thing I had to do was make the 'paints'. To do this I placed each of the ingredients in their own container. I boiled some hot water and then poured one teaspoon in each of the containers. We spent a few minutes predicting the colours that each if our natural ingredients were going to make. 
The coffee and curry just needed a stir, but I left the beetroot, teabag and spinach to soak for around 5 minutes. Once I was happy with the colours, I removed them.
The natural paints 
Bee commented on how the natural materials made the hot water change colour. 
We talked about how the 'paint' smelled and which one we preferred. The coffee was her favourite and the curry she said was in her words 'pongy '.
It didn't take Bee long to start creating a natural masterpiece. She enjoyed using different techniques such as using the brush to make lines, swirls and splashed.
                                Experimenting with mark making                                
She held the teabag between her fingers and made marks going both up and down the paper, sometimes squeezing it to make it drip. Bee said it was getting quite messy, so she chose to daub her paintbrush on the top and then onto the paper.

Painting with the teabag
During this activity, Bee experimented with mixing the coloured liquids together. I introduced words such a light and dark when she had made a darker/lighter colour. 

Mixing colours
Bee enjoyed making her own paints and completely covered her paper. She had lots of fun and enjoyment and couldn't wait to show her Dad what she had been up to.
The final product...looks like a beautiful watercolor painting.
What did we learn?
  • Communication and language-Speaking, listening and talking about the things that they are doing.
  • Physical development- Fine manipulative skills when holding the paint brush and making marks across the paper.
  • Personal, social and emotional- Making relationships, social skills and developing a sense of smell. Fun and enjoyment and pride from finished product
  • Literacy- Mark making on the paper 
  • Mathematics- Shapes, space and  measurement when making marks on the paper.
  • Understanding of the world- Learning that you can make coloured water from food sources.
  • Expressive arts and design- Developing an awareness of colours and being creative with paint.

What could be done next?
  • Paint with mud outside. It is readily available and easy to wash off walls.
  • If you have any left over fruit and vegetables (after lunch/dinner) experiment with them instead of throwing them away.
  • Experiment with dying old clothes with the natural materials.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Name frame

Ever since Bee (my daughter) started to draw pictures, I encouraged her to mark make/write her name at the top of her picture. This was not only so that I could tell it was her creation, but to also encourage pre-writing skills and make meaningful marks on paper. Over the past few months Bee has been writing recognisable letters that feature in her name. During free play she tends to write the letters on the paper in the order that they occur in her name, but just not in the correct sequence or in a line (from left to right) 

Bee attempting to write her name.
I remembered using letter frames when working as an Early Years Practitioner in a mainstream school. Miss Fair, an amazing, inspirational teacher introduced them to me, when planning a phonics session. Normally they are used to write CVC words (consonant, vowel consonant) but, I am going to use them to encourage Bee to write the letters of her name in order.

Who can play?
Children aged 3 years plus, depending on their age and stage of development.

Supervision of children is advised at all times. 

What do you need?
  • Paper
  • Pen/pencil
What did we do?
To begin with I wrote Bee's name on the top of a piece of paper for reference. She could also go over it if she wanted to have a practice writing the letter. Underneath her name I placed a frame that had 8 sections big enough to write the letters of her name (in order)

The name frame

If your child is still learning how to form the letters in their name, you could always add a their name in the frame by making dots for them to go over.

Name frame with dots to help with letter formation
All that was left to do then, was to support and guide Bee in writing the letters of her name in the correct order in the boxes.  

Even though she wrote her letter 's' going in the other direction, she did write all her letters in the correct order.

We will continue practicing using the name frame and eventually, with a little bit of practice she will be able to do this without the frame.                          

What did we learn?
  • Communication and language- Talking about the letters that feature in her name and the order in which we write them down.
  • Physical development- Fine manipulative skills and hand eye coordination when attempting to write her name.
  • Personal, social and emotional- Accepting support and help from others. Developing an awareness of her own name.
  • Literacy- Linking sounds to letters, learning how to read and write. Learning the letters in her name and their formation.
  • Mathematics- Spacial awareness when attempting to write letters in the boxes and counting how many letters feature in her name. Sequencing the letters.
What could be done next?
  • Laminate the name frame so that you can use them again and again
  • Hide letters around the house/garden that feature in your child's name. Once they have been found, they have to organise them in the name frame

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Memory game

This memory game is so easy and quick to set up. You can use objects to enhance a topic/theme you are covering, favourite toys or even magnetic letters or numbers.
This game is great for developing memory, recollection, concentration and cooperation skills.

Who can play?
This game is aimed for children aged 3 years plus, however all activities depend on the child's age and stage of development.

What do you need?

  • Tray
  • 4 objects to start with and when your child gets confident with guessing which item has been taken away, increase the challenge by adding 2 more at a time
  • Towel/piece of material to cover up the tray
What did we do?

  1.  Place 4 objects on a tray. I used spring themed objects, such as a chick, egg, flower and a lamb small world figure.
  2. Bee and I looked at the objects on the tray, said them out loud and counted them.
  3. I told Bee that I was going to cover the items with a tea towel and take one away. When I had removed an object I would ask her which one she thought was missing.
  4. I placed the tea towel on top of the items and quickly took one away, hiding it behind my back, before she could see it.
  5. Whilst removing the towel, I asked Bee to recall the item I had taken away... to my surprise she did. To increase the challenge, the next time around I added a small bunny and a ribbon.
  6. Towards the end of the activity, Bee asked if she could be the one who took away the objects and I had to recall... of course I agreed and we spent another 10 minutes playing the game.
Here you can see the game set up. A towel covered the tray and I removed an object... Can you guess which one? 
We added two more objects to increase the challenge.

What did we learn?
  • Communication and language-Talking about what objects she sees and thinks has gone missing. Recalling items that have been removed.
  • Physical development- Fine manipulative when picking up and removing objects from the group.
  • Personal, social and emotional- Making relationships, cooperating and social skills when playing the game and taking turns. Developing memory skills.
  • Mathematics-Counting objects that are on the tray and been taken away.

What could be done next?

  • Instead of using a tea towel, you could use an eye mask to make sure the child does not see the object you have removed.
  • If your child enjoyed this memory game, you could play 'I went to the shops and bought' game. This is where you start off by saying "I went to the shops and bought an apple" The next person adds one more object, for instance "I went to the shops and bought an apple and a carrot" Carry on adding one item, until one player cannot recall all the objects
  • Play object finding games such as eye spy.