Easy Rainy Day Artwork

Summer is beginning! You know what that means right… rain! Well that has certainly been the case around here recently. But we wont let the rain dampen our spirits. Here is a really quick and easy way to make some rain drop artwork:

 

What you need:

  • Sugar paper (as big or small as you like, but preferably a light colour)
  • Felt tip pens/ crayons/ chalks in a variety of colours and sizes (thick/ thin)
  • Rain

What to do:

1. Hold your piece of sugar paper outside in the rain for a short time, until it is covered in rain spots.

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2. Use those multi-coloured felt-tips or whatever you have chosen to draw around the spots. This can really be done however the children like, they could draw around each dot just once, or many times, making the circles bigger each time. They could create a pattern of colours, or just be totally random.

There is also a nice link to be made here with grouping. You could ask the children to circle the dots in groups of 2’s, 3’s etc!

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OK, I’m not going to lie – this isn’t the best version of what this wonderfully creative activity can produce. That’s because it’s my own example (and I have a serious lack of fun pens) but you get the idea.

 

What other pieces of art can we use the weather to create? Comment below or tweet to me @EarlyYearsIdeas – I’d love to hear from you!

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PedagooPerth CPD

Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to attend PedagooPerth – an event where teachers and education professionals from around the area come together and take part in learning conversations.

 

I joined in with 3 conversations:

  1. The wonderful world of lego – how lego can be used to develop a range of skills in primary children.
  2. How can we develop education outdoors within our community?
  3. Music in the primary classroom.

I chose these conversations because

a) I’ve always been a lover of lego and I was looking for ideas as to how I can bring that fun and engaging resource into my lessons at school,

b) Outdoor learning is one of my big passions and I was interested to see how it can be implemented effectively within a primary school,

c) My next university placement (‘learning from life’) is music based and I was hoping to gain some ideas and inspiration for this.

 

The Wonderful World of Lego

This first conversation provided me with loads of ideas that I would like to incorporate into my future practice. One of these ideas was using lego challenges as a soft start activity. These can vary in complexity and can encourage creativity, for example: a challenge can be as simple as ‘build a car’ or as tricky as ‘build a nightmare’. HERE is a blog with an example of some lego challenge cards.

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Image from morguefile.com

I also learned about a kit that schools can acquire which links lego with technology and ICT. These kits include the pieces and instructions needed to build a robot. Once the model is made, children are required to use simple coding in order to make the robot move. Children can then use these robots to enter into a competition known as the First Lego League. It was easy to see all of the various learning and skills which the children can gain through these experiences; from problem solving and teamwork, to the mathematical and computer skills involved in coding.

During this talk, the leader also spoke about the lego club at her school. This club was completely run and managed by the children themselves, and was used to allow the children to build, code, and try out techniques to allow them to score points for the competitions. I really like this idea and would love to see something similar in practice. This might even be something that I look into setting up in the future.

How can we develop education outdoors within our community?

This talk was really interesting as we were able to hear about how a primary school was developing their outdoor area and small patch of woodland to not only allow the classes to use it for learning, but also to encourage the local community to get involved.

The project was being run in a way that the children were given ownership, involving them in all stages of planning and even allowing them to help with the practical development i.e. digging up the ground for a path! We discussed all of the brilliant learning that can take place with a project like this, such as budgeting (as the children were helping to decide what was going to go into the wooded area). We also were able to hear about the future plans, such as allowing each class to keep an allotment within the woods, and using this for enterprise as the children could sell on the produce.

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Image from Morguefile.com

I was particularly interested to hear that, as the site is community owned, the plan was for the community to take an active role in using and maintaining it. This would mean that the area would be open to families, even when the school was closed (for example during the summer holidays).

Alongside all the positives of this project, there are also barriers and challenges which must be overcome. One of these challenges is that in the past, the area has been subject to littering and vandalism. It is hoped that as the site is improved, and everyone is involved in its development, this will deter such activities. Another challenge is ensuring the sustainability and minimising the negative impacts of human activity on the trees and the wildlife. Rangers and the Forestry commission can be used for this purpose, for example conducting a tree survey, however it is important that staff, pupils, and the community are educated and made aware of what they must do to look after the environment.

This talk left me enthusiastic and feeling positive that forest school and outdoor learning can take place effectively within primary schools. Obviously, this is easier for those schools which are lucky enough to have a natural outdoor area which they can use (rather than a concrete playground), however I am confident that all schools can find a way to incorporate more of this valuable learning.

Music in the Primary Classroom

This conversation included lots of really practical ideas on how to teach music to primary school students. I was able to see how children could learn rhythms and patterns using their bodies, or spots on the floor, and how this would link with eventually reading written sheet music.

I was also able to make connections between the learning ideas presented, and the methods that I observed and have read about for my learning from life placement. This style did not use figurenotes, however the progression was very similar, and it was obvious that there was very positive results.

I particularly liked the idea of a noise pyramid activity which involves children making individual sounds, but being brought in, and brought off at different times so that the sounds build up in layers. I feel that this has clear links with helping children to understand written music notation.

While I have always been fairly keen and confident in using music within the early years, this talk has provided me with lots of ideas which I feel I can bring into my practice, both within my next university placement, and throughout my future teaching career. It has helped me to feel more confident about teaching music to primary children.

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Overall, I feel that PedagooPerth was a really worthwhile event. I was able to meet with some really interesting and incredibly friendly people and I learned a lot too! If you have to opportunity to attend one of these in the future, I would highly recommend it.

5…4…3…2…1…Blast Off!

Following the absolutely amazing experiences of the British astronaut; Tim Peak (if you haven’t watched the video of his space walk yet, check it out here), my fascination with space and our solar system has been renewed!

If I’m feeling this way, I’m willing to bet that others are feeling the same, therefore this is a brilliant opportunity to do some space themed learning with our children!

The curriculum for excellence includes a line of discovery which is directly related to space:

I have experienced the wonder of looking at the vastness of the sky, and can recognise the sun, moon and stars and link them to daily patterns of life. SCN 0-06a

That being said, as always, the experiences and activities which you offer to your children will cross into many of the curricular areas. Below are some of the ideas which I’ve come up with and how they may link to the curriculum:

Language & Literacy

  • Make a ‘Word Wall’ display with the fantastic new language that you’ll be using, for example “rocket”, “planet”, “moon”…
  • Stock up your story corner with Space books – both information and story

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    Image from morguefile.com

  • Make up stories together about the man in the moon, astronauts or friendly aliens.
  • Decorate paper plates to look like the different planets and add their names. Display these around the room.
  • Add glitter/ coloured sand to your light box (and let the children know that it’s moon dust), then allow the children to mark make. Perhaps add ‘astronaut gloves’ for an extra challenge.
  • Singling space songs (this also links in with expressive arts):
    • Twinkle twinkle little star
    • Mr moon, Mr moon, you’re out too soon
    • 5 little men in a flying saucer

Numeracy

  • Countdown (5,4,3,2,1, blast off!)
  • Building up rocket pictures using shapes and colours (for example; can you make a rocket shape out of 3 squares, 2 semi circles and a triangle?)
  • Comparing sizes, and using mathematical language – Jupiter is the biggest planet, the Earth is smaller.

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    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA from morguefile.com

  • Add a sundial to your garden or outdoor area and observe with the children how the shadow moves. You may want to use chalk to draw around the shadow at different times so that the children can clearly see the movement. Link these observations with the idea of time. Perhaps take photos of the different shadows and display them around your clock.
  • Connect the stars (like connect the dots) to make simple constellations – you can do this on paper with a pencil, or can bring in some fine motor skills by having the children thread wool through card, making a small hole at the point of each star so that the constellation becomes clear.

Expressive Arts

  • Work together to create a fabulous cardboard space rocket or turn your role play area into mission control! Don’t forget to add space suits, helmets and space boots. There are loads of wonderful role play ideas on pinterest – I would encourage you to take a look! Simply search ‘Space role play.’
  • Bored of paper? Paint space scenes onto tin foil for an interesting effect.
  • Planet stamping (use sponge stampers or potato halves to stamp colourful circles onto black paper – add glitter/ sequins for a shimmery space result.)

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    Image from morguefile.com

  • Build your own junk model rockets. As well as being creative, this activity also involves children thinking about which materials they are going to use (“should I use the square box or the cylinder tube?”) and problem solving (“how can I get this tube to stick on?”)
  • Make some papier mache planets for the added bonus of sticky, sensory fun.
  • Get dancing with some music and movement (why not have the children pretend to be rockets blasting off, or experiment with taking great big ‘moon steps’)
  • Listen to some space themed music (why not try Holst’s Planets or Bowie’s Space Oddity)
  • Try using musical instruments to imitate Sounds of a rocket (experiment with playing them loud/quiet/fast/slow)

Science

  • Build your own vinegar and baking soda rocket! Tutorial here
  • Explore light and darkness with torches and lights in a Dark den
  • Go out and look at the stars. If you have a real telescope then fantastic! If not, make some pretend ones with cardboard tubes – you can still go star gazing on a clear night!

Technology

  • There are many wonderful websites which can be used for finding information and also for games and activities. Take a look at:
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    Image from morguefile.com

    Let the children see the ISS live feed

  • Watch videos of rocket launches, space walks and life in space. YouTube is a wonderful resource for this, but please always check the videos before you show your children and ensure that the ‘related videos’ bar is not showing anything inappropriate!
  • Use the bee-bot or other programmable toys to learn about the space rover and remote control robots in space.

 

 

Blog Hopping

While writing this post, I also came across some other wonderful ideas which I would like to share!

Galaxy Oobleck from Twodaloo

Loads of space themed ideas here from Fun in Pre K-1 and Kinder (I particularly like the sounds of the ‘squishy sun’)

Moon Maths from Stir the Wonder

A lovely, visual activity to introduce children to the concept of planets orbiting the sun here from Gift of Curiosity.

 

I hope that I’ve given you a few ideas to inspire you when broaching this wonderful topic with your children! If you have any further ideas that you’d like to share, please comment, or tweet to me at @EarlyYearsIdeas. I’d love to hear from you!

Have a brilliant week everyone! Don’t forget to join us on Wednesday at 8pm for our weekly #childcarehour chat.

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Happy Halloween

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Halloween is a wonderful excuse for some silly, spooky fun! I’ve been having a think and here are some of my favourite Halloween themed activity ideas:

  • Spiderweb threading – using a paper plate with holes punched around the outside, encourage the children to thread wool across as many times as they like to make a wonderfully tangled web. For added fun, try drizzling some glue over the top and sprinkling with silvery glitter (Health and Wellbeing, Creative, Science)Spider
  • Spiderweb on floor – Using masking tape, map out a large spiderweb on the floor, then add colours/ numbers or shapes and turn it into a fun game by shouting out one (colour/number/shape) and having the child jump on it/stretch to it (Health and Wellbeing, Numeracy, Science)
  • Pumpkin carving – for more on this see Enjoying Autumn
  • Dancing – play some spooky music and get involved in some dance and movement! Think about the different ways that different Halloween characters might move – a stiff skeleton, a floaty ghost, a slimy monster… (Creative, Health and Welllbeing) One of my favourite pieces of music for this activity is Greig’s Hall of the Mountain King (I love how it builds up to an exciting climax!)

  • Haunted castle bingo – use an outline of a spooky castle (plenty to be found on google), then add numbers – using either computer skills or by hand. Numbers can be hidden in windows or could just be added onto the castle using clear white circles/stickers. Remember to blank out a few so that not everyone has the exact same sheet! Then practice number recognition either by matching the number to the one you hold up, or identifying it by name alone. (Numeracy) 302589_10150902988750374_423956221_n
  • Spooky slime – Halloween is the perfect opportunity for some gloopy fun! Why not experiment with adding hair conditioner or even soap flakes for an exciting sensory experience!
  • Darkness and Shadows – set up a dark den or create an area which is as dark as possible, then let the children explore with torches, glow sticks and other light up toys. Develop this further by shining a light on the wall/ floor and experimenting with creating weird and wonderful shadow shapes. You could even try telling a story using shadows as your pictures. (Language and Literacy, Science)
  • Go for a torch walk – everything looks different in the dark, and now that the dark evenings are closing in we have more time to enjoy it! Take the torches outside and use them to look at the trees, buildings, landmarks etc. My favourite time to do this would be at dusk, however ff the light levels are really low when you go out, please make sure to use an enclosed garden or very safe space. (Health and Wellbeing, Science)

Skeleton

Other people’s ideas that I love:

These fruity treats from One Little Project

This super cute masking tape mummy from No Time for Flash Cards

Cotton bud skeletons from All Free Crafts

Pumpkin potato prints from Roaming rose

Have a great week everyone!

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Enjoying Autumn

Autumn is one of my favourite times of year! The cold, crisp and clear skies, the colours of the falling leaves, the cosy feeling of being snuggled up in wooly jumpers and scarves…

There are many lovely activities on an autumn theme – some of which I explored in a previous blog post (see Bonkers for conkers) and I feel like blogging a few more – particularly focusing on getting outdoors:

Nature walks (H&W, Social, Lit&Lang, Num, Creative, Science)

Oh yes, this one again! Never underestimate the learning that can take place on a walk! You can:

  • Look for changes that are happening around your area2015-10-21 14.03.12
  • Collect interesting leaves to be sorted and compared
  • Jump in the leaves or over the puddles
  • Listen to the crunching of the dry leaves
  • Look out for any animal homes
  • Explore the light at different times of day – what happens to your shadow? (Try standing in the same place and having someone draw around it with chalk!)

Leaf sorting (Science, Num)

When you return from your walk – or anywhere where you can collect lots of leaves; have the children sort them into categories of colour, size, shape or whatever else they are interested in (or skill that you’re working on). Then look at different ways that you can display the information, for example – make a pictograph by gluing the leaves onto the paper – making it easy to identify which category has the most/ least. What a wonderful, practical way to introduce some comparative, mathematical language!

Natural art (Creative, H&W, Science)

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  • Leaf or bark rubbings
  • Painting leaves/ twigs
  • Using glitter and glue to make some wonderfully sparkly autumn decorations
  • Explore autumn colours – mixing and experimenting
  • Use a hole punch on some sturdy leaves and then thread them to make leafy jewellery or even some fab autumn bunting

Cooking on the campfire

If you take part in forest school activities, or have a setting where this is possible – outdoor cooking is a favourite activity all year around. Just be sure to complete the correct risk assessments and ensure that you and your children are 100% confident with safety procedures

Pumpkins (H&W, Lit&Lang, Num, Tech)

No list of autumn activities would be complete without a mention of that halloween tradition: pumpkin carving! My preferred  method is to cut off the lid, then allow the children to get stuck in – scooping, scraping and picking out all of the insides. Don’t let it go to waste! The insides are great fun in your sensory tray as a squelchy, slimy experience, and the seeds can be roasted to make a tasty treat (see method here and perhaps add some literacy and numeracy by following a recipe).

Once the innards are well and truly gone, I allow the children to draw a face onto the pumpkin. This is often the job for just one child, so you might like to get the others involved by researching different designs and offering their own ideas.

Depending on the age of your children, you might allow them to do some of the cutting out of the face/design, but please be very careful (we don’t want any missing fingers!)

Finally, add a battery powered candle to complete the spooky effect!

More Halloween themed activities to follow in my next post. For now, wrap up warm, get outside and enjoy!

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Riverside fun at Whitby

I was lucky enough to spend a wonderful week down in the beautiful area of Whitby (England) recently while on holiday with my family. We stayed in a house that was right next to the river, and me being me spotted so many opportunities for learning that I just couldn’t resist blogging about them!

There were no children with us on this holiday – so I roped the adults into playing with me – and we all had a blast!

So! Here are some of the ways that you could use the natural environment around a river to promote some learning and development within children:

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Wildlife Spotting

This may seem like an obvious one to start with but there are so many different types of birds, fish, insects and other creatures to be found around the river. Why not introduce some wildlife books or spotter sheets for some literacy and language development.

Observing the tides

You can discuss how the tides change and the river moves. Is the tide always in at the same time of day? What does it look like when the tide is out?

Sounds and sights

Take some quiet time to listen to the water. What words can you use to describe that sound? Trickling? Wooshing? Swishing? Can you hear any birds or ducks? Also, what can you see? Look at the colours of the water and the reflections in it. Maybe even get creative and have a go at painting or drawing the wibbly wobbly reflections that you can see!

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Throwing stones

A very simple activity – throwing stones helps to develop a child’s physical co-ordination and control. You can also look at the way that the stones create splashes in the water, and the ripples that follow. Bring in some lovely ‘real life’ maths by looking at the size of the stones – does it make a different splash if we throw a big/ small one? What shape are the ripples? Watch as they grow larger and larger.

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Stone Sculptures

Another fun way to use the pebbles and stones that you may find is to make stone sculptures. This involves creative thinking, problem solving, fine motor skills and co-ordination. It could also involve team work and co-operation if children decide to work together.

Shadow art

The sculptures that you create, or through using other materials can cast wonderful shadows! Why not try to trace them onto paper or using chalk onto the path/ surface. An interesting extension to this would be to observe the shadows at different times of day and see how they change (growing longer or shorter). This brings some maths and understanding of time into the activity.

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Stone Measuring

Continue to use your stones and pebbles by using them for measuring. Here we compared the stones and decided to line them up from largest to smallest. This involved mathematical thinking and decision making. Another way to use the stones could be to create the longest line possible and then measure it in footsteps. Or to line them up against something/ someone to find out ‘how many stones long’ they are.

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Climbing and Physical Play

We were lucky enough to find this wonderful heavy piece of driftwood by the river, but there are always wonderful banks or large stones which children can climb on/ over. Be sure to let them take some risks – but risk assess carefully (and don’t let them fall in the river!)

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Natural Art

This is always a favourite of mine! Using anything and everything around, let the children create their own masterpieces. These could be actual pictures, or just patterns and arrangements. Let their imaginations run wild with different textures, colours and materials.

I’m sure that I’ve only scratched the surface of activities and experiences to be had down by the river! Please do comment or tweet to me at @EarlyYearsIdeas with any of your own – I’d love to read them!

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