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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10 fantastic ways to have fun in the rain

10 play rain

Living in the UK, there’s no escaping the rain – even during the summer!

But does that mean we need to stay cooped up indoors? NO! Unless it is torrential or in some way dangerous, there is no reason that we can’t go out to play. Here are some simple play ideas for a rainy day:

  1. Puddle Splashing: 

    Take a leaf from Peppa Pig’s book and jump in those muddle puddles. After getting nice and soggy, try stomping on some large paper to see the footprint patterns. Don’t forget wellies and wet suits!

  2. Making potions: 

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    Image from pixabay.com

    Rain water can used to make some exciting potions – add leaves, petals, mud, grass, anything else that can be found in the garden. This activity can be great for learning about measurement – using measuring jugs, containers and funnels to scoop and pour the liquid; counting – how many leaves/ petals shall we add?; and motor skills – as the children chop up the ingredients and use a spoon to mix them all together.

  3. Listening to sounds: 

    There’s something soothing about the sound of rain falling. Why not find a quiet spot and encourage the children to listen? In our busy lives, it’s an important skill to be able to take time to be quiet.

  4. Making sounds: 

    On the other hand, children love to be noisy! Baking trays and metal pots and pans outside can make a brilliant sound as the rain hits them.

  5. Collecting water:

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    Image from pixabay.com

    Ask the children to decide which containers they think will catch the rain. Will a cardboard box work? Why? Teach the children about volume by using different sizes and shapes of containers. It might also be interesting to put the containers in different places (under a tree, on top of the shed roof…) to find out if one place collects more water than another.

  6. Rainy art:

    Playground chalk looks great on a wet surface! Another way to create art is to use powder-paint and allow the raindrops to mix.

  7. Finding shelter: 

    Are there any places in the garden that have stayed dry? Maybe we can build a dry den? What materials should we use? Den building can develop lots of important skills such as team-work, and problem solving.

  8. Bike wash:

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    Image from pixabay.com

     Are those bikes looking a bit muddy? Use the rain as an opportunity to get out the sponges and cloths, and make your own bike-wash!

  9. Make some ripples: 

    Allow the children to see how the rain drops create ripples in the puddles and then explore making your own – using pebbles. What happens when we throw a big/ small pebble? Can we throw more than one at a time? What shapes and patterns can we see?

  10. Small world play: 

    Bring out some toy cars and trucks/ plastic animals/ dolls and let the children enjoy some imaginative play.

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Image from pixabay.com

 

As you can see, there are loads of way to have fun outside in the rain! If you have any more ideas, share them in the comments or tweet to me @EarlyYearsIdeas!

Have a great week!

 

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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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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.

Wonderful Walks

I know, I know! Anyone who has read previous posts will be sick to death of me talking about nature walks – but they are brilliant!!

Today, I had a long overdue day off. I’ve been on teaching placement for the last 4 weeks which has kept me more than busy – getting up at 6:30, working until 4 and then coming home and planning/ evaluating until midnight. But now it’s all finished (I passed first year WOOHOO!) and my summer holidays have well and truly started.

So… how did I spend my day off? I went for a lovely walk in the sunshine!

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Feeling inspired; I thought I would blog about some of the learning opportunities that I stumbled across:

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The first thing I noticed were that there are lots and lots of Dandelion clocks! I have many fond childhood memories of picking these and using them to ‘tell the time’.

There is a very obvious connection to simple counting here (count how many puffs to blow away all of the seeds). You could also use them to spark children’s curiosity in telling the time – do the dandelion clocks really work? What time is it now?

A different way to explore these would be to think about simple seed dispersion. Why did these dandelions grow here? What will happen to the seeds when you blow them away?

Blowing the dandelion clocks has the added bonus of developing some of the muscles in the mouth. These types of experiences can have benefits for speech and language.

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Of course, it wasn’t just dandelion clocks that I saw. There were all sorts of flowers and plants!

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The next part of my walk involved sitting in the shade and looking up at the trees.  It’s important to take a break and sit in the shade – particularly if it’s a really sunny day.  Encourage your children to look at the patterns that appear as the trees move and sway. Can you move your body in the same way?  Children can also see how the sunlight sneaks through the gaps to create speckled patterns on the ground. Can we sketch any of these patterns? Could we make a similar pattern using paint/ collage?

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Speaking of light and shadow, how much fun would it be to trace the shape of these shadows with chalk onto the pavement? You could also have the children explore their own shadow shapes using their bodies or loose parts. Come back to the chalk outlines later in the day/ the next day. Are the shadows in the same place? Why do you think this is?

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Time to look up at the trees again! At this time of year you’re bound to find all kinds of beautiful blossom! What colours can you see?

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Consider using colour match cards or some kind of chart to note down the different colours that you spot while walking. I’ve seen some great examples of this using paint cards e.g. Dulux (with the various shades).

Again, this is a great link to some fabulous art – you could use tissue paper to imitate the soft, delicate blossom petals.

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As I was heading back towards home, this tree caught my eye. Firstly, the bark looks perfect for some fantastic rubbings, but also the bottom looks like a fairy door! If you have any trees like this near you, why not work with the children to turn the tree into a fairy house, and create a little fairy garden at the bottom? There are LOADS of great ideas for fairy gardens to be found on pinterest.

2016-05-17 15.12.54 Here are some of the bits and pieces that I collected while I was out walking.

Be sure to explain to the children that we mustn’t pick too many plants/ leaves (especially not from people’s gardens if you pass by).

When you bring these items back home/ back to nursery, you could display them on a nature table for the children to investigate wtih magnifying glasses or mirrors. You could also add your natural materials into the sand/ water table, into playdough or into potions. On the other hand, they could be used for measuring and weighing, painting, or printing… the possibilities are endless.

 

I hope this post has given you a few ideas for your next nature walk!

Don’t forget – you don’t need the sunshine to get outside, puddles and mud are just as much fun!

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Fat Letters

This post is taken from my professional ePortfolio blog. To see this and many other posts, click HERE.

I was shocked to stumble across this article on the TES website. It applies to English Primary Schools but I feel that it is typical of the blame and shame attitude of today’s society.

Image from morguefile.com

The article describes how some teachers have been sending home ‘fat letters’ to inform the parents that their child is overweight. However (surprise surprise) this has not been found to be effective and health officials are now calling for it to be stopped.

Now, I’m not arguing that obesity is not an issue within the UK, the statistics clearly show that a large percentage of our children are overweight and this is a real concern for their health. My issue is that, of all the letters that were sent out;

Half (51 per cent) understood its purpose, while 20 per cent had received information as a result of the programme that had been useful in helping their child lose weight. (TES reporter, ‘Fat Letters’, Nov 2015)

This means that half of the families who received this letter did not even know why they were being contacted and even less were prompted to take action from it. In a way, this relates to my earlier post about feedback. It seems to me that these letters are likely to cause feelings of embarrassment, shame and guilt however, the statistics above suggest that they fail to provide the necessary information or guidance to allow the parents and child to tackle the problem.

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The article also makes suggestions about more effective ways to approach the obesity issue, including healthy food vouchers and more access to after school clubs.

I feel that although steps have been taken including a focus on ‘Health and Wellbeing’ in Scotland, it is still vital that we as educators place higher importance on teaching children and families about healthy lifestyles and providing opportunities for children to be involved in healthy, active activities. In my opinion, the development out outdoor learning experiences is an extremely valuable tool in fostering a love and enjoyment out exercise. This is embraced within many early years settings however opportunities are less within primary schools. This may be due to time restraints of lack of outdoor environments that are considered suitable.

I hope to be able to encourage and promote this style of learning as I begin my teaching. I have been reading a wonderful book entitled ‘Dirty Teaching’ which is a practical guide to taking your school lessons outside – packed full of really useful advice as well as ways to approach challenges that may arise. I hope that my passion and enthusiasm for outdoor learning will be a positive influence to the children as well as with the teachers and staff that I will be working with.

“Now that the weather’s turning cold…”

Permit me to have a little moan.

It’s becoming a commonly accepted idea that outdoor play is hugely beneficial for children in so many different ways. With the growth of forest schools and nature based learning; one of my favourite quotes is always “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” (Of course, I’m not suggesting you take the children outside in flash floods or hurricane winds but you get the idea!)

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Despite this, while scrolling through my twitter feed, I keep coming across tweets and blogs with messages along the lines of “Now that the weather’s turning cold, here are some indoor activities.” Now don’t get me wrong here; there’s nothing wrong with indoor learning and play, but I can’t help but feel that the theme of these posts is that children should completely avoid the ‘cold’ and stay wrapped up warm inside.

If the children are kept indoors during the Autumn and Winter months, then they are missing out of so much fantastic learning; from the increasing knowledge of the way that nature changes through the seasons, to the wonder and magic of sparkling frost on a spiderweb. Among other things, getting outside also allows children to burn off that excess energy which prevents them from being able to settle and focus on other activities.

And so, here is my plea:

By all means, post your lovely learning ideas (indoors or out) but please don’t spread the message that cold weather means that children should be kept inside!

Let’s allow all of our children to embrace the outdoors, whatever the weather! Remember, lead by example here – if the children see you being enthusiastic and leading the fun, they will likely follow.

Here are my Autumn/Winter outdoor play tips:

  • Wrap up warm – This means children AND adults! Jumpers, coats, waterproof suits, wellies, gloves, scarfs and hats are all necessary for the colder months. I find it’s always a good idea to have spares as some children at nursery inevitably forget their coat…
  • Promote physical/energetic play – If it is cold, a good run around is the best way to warm up! Why not play some sports or get out the bikes – any physical activity will keep away the cold!
  • Short bursts – if the weather is particularly cold/wet/brutal, take the children out in short bursts. This means that they can still benefit from outdoor time but do not get too uncomfortable.
  • Have a change of clothes – if you’re outside in the wet weather, ensure that the children have a warm, dry set of clothes to change into when they come indoors. There’s nothing worse than squelching in wet socks!

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Can you think of any more? Please comment or tweet to me @EarlyYearsIdeas

Have a great week everyone and please – spend some quality time outdoors!

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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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