Everything that I share here is in use within my own kindergarten and home. Where the source of any material or ideas is known I will share it. It is never my intention to steal anyone ideas or copyright. If you feel something I have offered should be credited to another source please let me know, and I will do so. Where I have used ideas or text for sometime it is possible that I no longer remember where it came from. I may never have known as I have worked in this business for a long time.

I am always happy to learn. Ria.

Friday, 10 December 2010

The 'Textures' and 'Smells' of Christmas

For me this time of year has a lot to do with textures and our senses. The smell of Christmas, although undefinable, is something that evokes thoughts/ideas/memories in anyone you say the phrase to. The 'Christmas smells' of Cinnamon, Oranges and spice that, for me, bring back allsorts of happy thoughts.
Cinnamon and Ginger can be added to home made Playdough as a welcome alert to the senses. Glitter to could be added as long as you were sure that you did not have anyone who would try to eat it. ( I will list a great playdough recipe to add it to later in the day)

The texture of ice and snow that is etched on our own memories from childhood, always erases the sight and feel of the ice and snow that makes it difficult for us to get out of the farmyard at all. Although it makes life difficult for us now it still seems to bring joy and excitement.  The children relish in the experience of getting out there in it -snugged up in scarves and coats and gloves.

So much can be achieved in basic terms of Self-esteem, and personal development for each child, as well as experiences for the EYFS.

  • The planning and act of making a snow or ice shape and then seeing it dissolve as the weather changes is an experience that provides evidence for EYFS CD, PSED and PSRN.
  • Measuring and monitoring Temperatures outside introduce routine and rhythm to our days, and also helps introduce negative numbers (PSRN and beyond) They also help the children note daily changes and give them a value.
  • Comparison to an online temperature measurement system like this one from the Antarctic  gives us a real grasp of just how cold things can get. Early math comparisons and graphs can be made here if you feel confident to do so. If wanting  to keep it simpler than that a pair of wall displays showing a temperature scale here with the childrens' photos as the marker against a temperature gauge for the Antarctic with a Penguin as its marker.
  • Montessori ideas of clothes sorting and folding can be used really well at this time of year. If you provide a selection of cold weather clothes and a few warm weather ones (like a swim costume and shorts) the children can be encouraged to sort and fold them into the right laundry baskets. Back this up with a story of an animal or child living in a cold place needing to have their laundry back and great discussions can follow.
My favourite use for textures and the senses however is the introduction to play of silks, velvets and fur ( fake of course!) Over the years I have collected a selection of pieces of material in all sizes, I use some of them for my seasonal display tables but also for dressing up and play. The velvets are always popular at this time of year; they make cloaks for the travelling princess caught in the snow, or wraps for an animal in need of warmth. They can be hidden under, wrapped around and generally made into anything the mind decides. 

White silk used at this time of year can be used as snow on the ground for rhyme, song and story time. It can provide a puppet apron for the wintry finger puppet stories told, and best of all thrown or blown into the air to fall to the ground as snow ( this can keep us giggling and puffing away for an age)

And at the end of it all to calm us all down sitting on the cushions draped  by fake fur ( material shop bargain bin £1.50!) as we tell stories of bears and badgers caught in the snow with the little pixie fingers lovingly stroking the cover and imagining it to be whatever anumal we are talking about.
Happy, snowy  days.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

An Advent Blessing

Time goes quickly when it snows.
Its already the second week of Advent and there were so many things I wanted to add here, but then it snowed...lots!

Our Advent Blessing I would like to share though.

Winter is dark
Every spark
lights the way
to Christmas Day.

Books for Snow

Lets face it the act of walking and playing and watching snow in itself meets the EYFS experience requirements all across the board but just in case you are flagging for the CLL unit I thought I might list a few of our favourite Snow Books.

Snowflake Bentley is our all time favourite book for snowy days with hot chocolate in front of the fire.

The Old Mans Mitten is a beautiful inspiring traditional tale with repeated phrases that draw the children in.

Snow Bears is a cute cuddle up book.

The Snow Speaks, and First Snow are also pulled out to entertain us at this time of year.
Whatever you are reading I hope you are warm and snug.

p.s. thank you Sarah x

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A Quick Link a great Gingerbread resource for use with early years from a friend of ours Shelley. She produces free activities and resources every week in keeping with a seasonal theme. This one is a Gingerbread - What Do You See? game.

Just remember Shelley is American and sometimes the spellings may be Americanised.

Lebkuchen: getting ready for Advent

OK, so the run up to the big day is already looming and the children are getting fired up about the festive season. My town had its light switch on on Sunday and the children are now buzzing. Its a hard time of the year to keep it all calm and flowing. So what theme shall we apply this week which nods its head towards Christmas but still keeps it at bay.

Gingerbread? Good idea!

My inspiration on this comes from an old favourite of mine, my friend Rhoda at  Many moons ago she published a series of newsletters on her site that suggested themes for most weeks of the year.(I think they are still available)  At times like this I use them to shape my own thinking. This weeks is called Lebkuchen.

So our books for the week are:
The Gingerbread Man  A traditional tale that we all love, my own copy is my pride and joy- my niece wrote an illustrated a copy just for me and my Pixies when she finished her illustrators degree this year. Suitable for all ages. This will be supported by the puppet box coming out to encourage the opportunity to re-tell the tale with a puppet show.

Maisy's Gingerbread for my younger Pixies.  We will follow this up by making gingerbread cookies on Thursday.
Hansel and Gretel for my older Pixies. This particular version of the story is stunning in its illustrations and well deserves its award. On Friday we will introduce our Hexen House (recipe here) Which keeps the interest of the children until the advent scenes arrive. The leftover dough will keep and become decorated ornaments for our Christmas tree very soon.
And at the end of the day our chapter book is the Gingerbread Rabbit A sweet tale that addresses the need for friends.

Crafts wise we will be making collage gingerbread men to take home, as well as our yummy cookies on Thursday.

This is our craft session, at first we made gingerbread shapes and then the Pixies decided that they wanted to make Puppets too. So the shiny purple fox ( "because pixie likes purple!) and the gingerbread man was born. ( the wooden sticks are coffee stirrers that I always end up bringing home in a handful. Thank you big corporate stores!)Now being played with with glee. I love spontaneity- I never do a 'here's one I made earlier' to copy rather preferring talking through the ideas and then watching as the Pixies create their own.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Why Wooden toys? Add the Squirrel and his friends.

My last post showed you a little friend of ours Add the Squirrel, I wanted to take this opportunity to chat a little more about their value.
Add is a Holztiger wooden squirrel figure one of many wooden ones that we own - the others being the Ostheimer brand. I am often asked why I prefer this type of  play thing especially with the cost implications (they are not cheap) Its easy really ..they have much more depth and tactile qualities than the plastic equivalent. But it does go beyond that - their weight and size are just right for little hands and they are very robust and very very long lasting. More importantly if they do receive some damage they can be repaired rather than binned. 
This is for me a very important point, I intend to teach my pixies that toys, just like a lot of things in life, are not actually disposable and deserve respect and care. A damaged figure can be sanded, repaired and still be a valued playmate, and in fact the children can be involved in this process. My African animal set (Ostheimer) has been with us a very long time.

How many broken plastic toys can be retrieved or treasured in this way....?
These figures can also be washed, and then waxed with simple beeswax which then provides a treat for the sense of smell too. Win win on all the senses.
The cost of these can sometimes be daunting, particularly in this financial climate, but it is possible to find a second hand toy here or there. The elephant opposite we found for ten pence at a car boot sale, he was easily repaired and restored to play. The fact that this is possible is a testament to the quality and longevity of these toys. I, however, will be hanging on to mine, and bringing them out for the grandchildren many years from now.
My source for these great toys is usually Myriad, and I have a habit of buying just one or two every month or two, works out cheaper than a daily hit of chocolate or two weekly visits to the coffee shop, and actually feels more rewarding somehow.
More details here

Free Blog Giveaway..

...just to launch the new blog.

A great little planning book ready for Christmas, just leave a comment and/ or sign up to follow this blog

Practical Pre-school Planning for Learning  through The Twelve Days of Christmas

Please feel free to spread the word I really would like to add as many followers as possible and to get others input too.
Winner will be drawn at random on Friday  at 6pm GMT.
Good Luck.

Have a great day

Autumn Counting

In a Forest, in a wood
An ancient, counting castle stood.
In the castle lived a king
a king who counted all the things

In the Forest, up the trees,
Add the Squirrel counted leaves.
When the king heard he could,
he called the squirrel from the wood.

"Dear Squirrel can you lend a hand,
as we count the food for all the land?"
Add was happy to help his King
and together they counted everything.

This is an activity which is initially adult led but
quickly becomes a child-centered activity.

In our nature walks, all through the Autumn, we collect acorns and
seeds and leaves. We find conkers and teasles and bring them all
home and then soon after the counting castle appears.
Any castle would be great, our castle has deep towers which
helps as we can deposit our 'finds' into each tower as they
have been counted.

The king stands at the top of the tower and asks Add to count the
acorns (or pine cones or whichever you choose) and away the
children and the squirrel go. The activity can firstly involve sorting
the different types of seeds or leaves, or can just be a straight counting activity depending upon the age if the children involved.
We count the groups and present them to the king ( with a bow of course)

"Dear King we have found  (7 Acorns) and present them to you.
"Thank you dear squirrel, the kingdom is grateful. Now can you find  me some oak leaves for my sandwiches." and off we go again.............

Obviously this offers experiences in PSRN on all levels, but also encourages co-operation and communication too ( PSED and CLL) I quickly find that the activity gets a life of its own with counting going on all day, costumes being found to look and feel like the kings subjects and recipes for the collected food to feed the
King and his courtiers in the castle ( hence the Oak leaves needed for the sandwiches)
There is also a huge opportunity for discussion of natures response to Autumn, as the leaves fall and the nuts and berries form to feed the wildlife and the need for animals to collect food and store it ( if not necessarily in the local castle towers)

This activity is also extended to older children with the possibility for Addition ( we had 18 acorns and Add the Squirrel found 10 more- how many now?) Division ( the kitchen boys all want conkers for their conker beer, how many can they have each) and so on........

The only note to add on all this is the Health and Safety aspect of small seeds and nuts ( watch for allergies) and younger children who may still be at the stage of putting things in their mouths. Supervision and knowledge of children will show you when it is appropriate to deliver this activity. If all else fails printed or painted cards could be used with similar effect but it would be sad not to have that connection with nature and the experience of handling the fruits of the trees and hedgerows.
Have Fun.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Autumn Leaves: a simple activity

A simple and rewarding activity for all ages. It takes a little preparation but is well worth the time as the children will use it for a long time..
Using leaf templates like those found here or here or on many other places on the net, print on to a selection of autumn coloured craft paper ( red, yellow, brown, light green etc) then simply cut them out.

We have 100+ plus of them in a basket and use them in lots of ways:

  • Counting activities and colour sorting (PSRN)
  • Throwing them up into the air and watching and listening as they fall to the floor in a way similar to natural leaves (KUW)
  • Use the leaves for sticking and crafting when you no longer need them for 'falling' activities (CD)

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Autumn Books a list of books we enjoy.

To supplement our last post here are the other books we enjoy at this time of the year, curled up on our cushions in our reading corner, drinking our hot chocolate. We hope you like them too.

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf   by Lois Ehlert

Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper

The Story of the Wind Children by Sibylle Von Olfers

Autumn Story Brambley Hedge by Jill Barklem

The Prickly Hedgehog by Mark Ezra

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

Which are your favourite Autumn Books?

Books for the Autumn: Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert

Leaf Man 

This week we have been reading this lovely book from Lois Ehlert.

The illustrations are beautiful and the colours are just great.

The text is simple and engaging. and the sculptured pages entice the children into the text.

We have been on long crunchy walks, and sloshy puddle jumps to experience the sights, sounds and feelings that this wonderful time of year evokes. Experiencing these things with our senses help us all to learn and grow.

Our song of the week has been

"Autumn leaves are falling down, falling down, falling down
Autumn leaves are falling down into my Garden"
( sung to the tune of London Bridge is falling down)

Guess Who?

Guess Who
An old favourite in our Mushroom.
This game is a great aid to number and early maths in the slightly older pixie. Its all about sorting characteristics and recognising differences. Oh and its fun too. Its regularly brought out first whenever we decide to play games.

Skills and experiences:

  • comparing groups of objects ( PSRN) 
  • vocabulary about differences and similarities ..ginger hair, beard etc (KUW)
  • sorting objects using characteristics ( PRSN)
  • turn taking and wining and losing ( PSED)
Available from lots of places but definitely from Amazon

Orchard Toys: Big Bad Wolf

 Big Bad Wolf by Orchard Toys
This game is suitable for young Pixies and those who are a little bit older too.
It involves several distinct skill areas:

  • Sharing ( PSED making relationships)
  • Number and colour recognition  ( PSRN colour, shapes and patterns)
  • Turn taking ( PSED behaviour and self control)
  • Fairy Tale awareness. 

In older children it also allows for some 'nonsense' mixing of figures too, which itself leads to story formation and use of rich language to give new names and character descriptions .

A dice is used which has just basic colours on and then the pixies must match the colour on the dice to the colour spots on the back of the cards. An easy skill in which to engage the youngest members of the group. Matching of three cards to make a character from fairy tales allows basic jigsaw making and recognition of  matching pictures, all wrapped up in a very good  game that does not go on too long.

Sadly not a game currently available at Orchard Toys but maybe it can be picked up from Ebay or from a local charity shop.

Lets play!

Welcome to our Living Learning and Laughing Blog. We are a happy, healthy troop of Pixies living in the fells of the beautiful Lake District in England. We spend our time reading playing and learning together. We choose our play mates and playthings carefully and want our little Pixies to have the best experiences in their play possible. With that in mind we are constantly looking for good things to play and do. This Blog will be our record of the the things that make us all smile. We hope that you might find our ideas and reviews helpful too.
With love form our home to yours.