Thursday, 22 January 2015

The great outdoors....Out and about

The outdoor environment provides lots of everyday learning experiences.  So how can children's skills be developed when out and about?

  • They get to explore and investigate their outdoor environment. 
  • It encourages their curiosity and encourages them to explore
  • It can help to develop their imagination and their role play ideas

A walk in your local area can provide lots of different experiences such as sounds, smells, shapes, numbers, colour, language opportunities as well as listening skills.

Road signs come in all manners of shapes.  Cars have registration numbers and buildings are made of shapes and patterns.  Finding out about the post office and who works there, the bank, the hairdressers are all every day opportunities to help extend your child's learning.

Ideas for the outdoors:

  • Making mud pies - Mixing, decorating then using natural objects, e.g. leaves and twigs.  Draw patterns in mud using sticks
  • Treasure hunts - Hide different objects outside.  Ask the children to find them using clues and following a trail.  You could also have a pattern hunt, number hunt or shape hunt
  • Water play - Enjoy splashing in puddles, explore the idea of floating and sinking.  Paint with water on the floor or the walls,  what happens as the water dries?
  • Music - Make a music tree.  Attach instruments the child has made or already has to the tree.  Children can then make their own music.  You can attach items to a fence if no tree.  Try adding spoons and pans from the kitchen
  • Imagination - Develop your child's imagination  using small  characters such as soldiers or fairies in the garden
  • Nature - make daisy chains.   Collect fir cones and see what you can make out of them.  Collect big, small and middle sized ones to sort
  • Windy days - Blow bubbles outside using simple mixture made from washing up liquid and water and see what happens.  Make some paper streamers and watch how they move in the wind

Fun at bath time

Bath time is a great opportunity to help develop your child's language.  Your child has your undivided attention, making it a great time to talk and play. 

Here are some ideas to try:

  • Name items: Engage your child's attention and name the bath items you use (e.g. soap, shampoo, sponge etc.).  You could name the parts of the body as you wash and dry them, e.g. hands, feet, nose, ears
  • Describe items: Talk about the colours of items, e.g. white towel, blue sponge etc.  Talk about how things feel, e.g. fluffy, soft, slippery etc.
  • Compare items: Engage your child's attention and compare the size of different bath items or talk about opposites, e.g. the towel is bigger than the flannel etc
  • Make a bath time basket: Bath time baskets contain items from around the home for your child to explore in the bath as you are with them all the time.  Most bath toys are made of plastic which is good for cleaning but not very tactile for grab a basket, box or something similar and let you child help you to fill it for bath time. 
Ideas include:

  • Clean flower pot  acts as a sieve
  • Bath books for a story
  • Bath mitt - You can use a character mitt to tell a story and sing with as well as to wash your child with
  • Rubber glove - put a small pin prick in each finger of the glove ad let your child fill with water.  Then squeeze.  Great fun and a great stress reliever for you too.  PLEASE NOTE: this is only for children who are not allergic to LATEX and is only to be used under adult supervision
  • Empty plastic bottles  and jugs for filling and pouring
  • Doll or teddy - let your chid wash a favourite toy.  This helps them to practice social skills and develop their imagination skills too.

Books and stories with babies ....Part 2

Introducing books at an early age helps develop the skills needed to be able to learn to read

They will learn how to handle books, e.g. how to turn the pages and how to enjoy the pictures.

When looking at the pictures they learn to recognise objects.  Pictures are a very important part of storybooks - even babies point at pictures.  When you talk about the pictures it helps them gain information from them which is a skill they can use when they come to learn to read.

Books are a great source of vocabulary for young children.  Sharing books helps a child to settle and encourages attention and concentration skills which are vital to be able to learn effectively. 

Libraries welcome babies and toddlers.  Babies can join the library from birth.  Don't worry if a book is lost or damaged, there are no fines to pay for books taken out on a child's card.

Tips on how to share books with babies

  • Find a quiet place and turn off the TV and radio so there are no distractions and background noise
  • Model how to hold a book and turn pages
  • Point and name things in pictures as well as talking about the pictures
  • Encourage prediction (lift the flap books are perfect for this)
  • Show how words go from left to right when they get a bit older by running a finger under them as you read
  • Use different voices and sounds, facial expressions and gestures
  • Use props such as puppets.  This helps books come to life and give your baby something to hold onto that relates to the story

Books and stories with babies ...Part 1

Reading to babies on a daily basis gives them the best start in life and it is never too early to start.  Sharing books with babies and young children is a great way to develop their language and help them to talk.

When sharing books your not teaching your child to read but you are helping them develop the skills needed to be able to learn to read and to grow up with a love of books and become more confident readers when they are ready.

Babies love the sound of their carers voices and reading aloud to them can be calming.  Grandparents, brothers and sisters can get involved too and support a love of books. 

First books need to be sturdy - babies explore everything through their senses and like everything else will put books to their mouths.  However they will soon learn what a book is for when they see how you handle them.

Be a good role model.  Babies watch adults and learn by copying them.  If they see you enjoy reading, they are more likely to enjoy it themselves.  Try and keep a book in your bag at all times.  Sharing a book together can help waiting times to pass by quicker and make it more enjoyable. 

Listening to the same stories over and over is good because the repetition of favourite stories helps babies and young children to learn.  Repeated phrases encourage listening skills, concentration, memory and learning.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The curiosity pool....

A curiosity pool is a great way to encourage children to explore and discover everyday objects.  The aim of the curiosity pool are:
  • To develop an awareness of objects
  • To develop a child's language skills
  • To develop an interest in games
It's a great way to have fun with your little one while developing their language and learning through play.

What you need:
  • A small child's paddling pool or baby bath (empty - no water)
  • A couple of cushions so that your little one is comfortable in the pool / bath
  • A selection of items for your child to explore, e.g. fruit, toys, items from around the home which are safe such as empty boxes so you can hide items too, wooden spoons, clean shiny scouring pads (see previous post about treasure baskets for ideas)
Let your child sit in the pool and explore the items safely with you. remember o give them enough time to do this.  If a child is rushed they can become frustrated.  You can hide items in the boxes or behind cushions to vary the game as it goes on. 

Age range for this activity: From when your little one is able to sit up.  However older children can still have fun by joining in with it. 

In the summer months you can use this activity outside.  Try adding a little water to the pool and see if you can make items float or sink.  Remember though....DONT leave your child unattended!

Taking turns:
The skills needed to take turns start to emerge in young babies.  When a child is very young they will start to take turns in their baby talk, copying sounds they hear.  This turn taking  goes on to develop into the child's ability to take turns to look and listen to you as you speak and as you then take your turn to look and listen to them.  You will see this happen during the activity.

Out and about with babies and young children

Every time you go out with your baby whether it be to the park,  the shops, the bank are providing an exciting adventure and learning experience.  Your baby is treated to new sights, sounds, smells and sensations.  This all helps to develop their understanding of the world around them as they grow. 

Talk about where you are going and what you are going to do, remember baby's brains are like sponges and they take everything on board even from an early age.  Talk about the things you see, name animals that you come across.  use the correct name for the animal to avoid having to reteach animal names when they are older. e.g. dog and not doggie etc.

Baby's learn very much through their senses so when at the shops let your baby see, ouch and small the items you are buying. 

Eye contact:
This can be difficult with some pushchairs that face outwards.  Pushchairs which allow eye contact with your baby allow many more opportunities for interaction and language development.

Remember every day is a new learning opportunity : )

The importance of mark making....part 2

When children are making marks they are trying out new things to see what happens.  The marks children make slowly begin to have meaning to them and you will be able to see this by listening to what they say when they are involved in their mark making.

Through making marks, children are developing hand - eye coordination and muscle control, both of which are needed for writing to progress at a later stage.

Remember to encourage and praise your child.  You will be developing their sense of worth and self esteem.   This pre- writing stage is hugely enjoyable and rewarding for children and should not be rushed in an effort to get a child to hold a pencil and write letters.  Let them enjoy it and when they are ready the rest will follow!

The importance of mark making....part 1

Mark making is as simple as it sounds - children making random marks using different tools and / or materials.  It is an important stage of development and is a crucial early stage in writing.

Children who have had plenty of mark making opportunities tend to be more confident writers when they are older.

It is important to allow the free expression of 'scribbling' as it is a crucial stage to their development.  If they are pushed to learn how to draw or write correctly, the learning [process can be disrupted.

Make mark making fun and try and provide plenty of opportunities.  It doesn't have to be paper and crayon all the time.  Children love to experiment with blackboards, chalks, whiteboards and markers, different types of paper and anything they can make marks with using their fingers, hands or other tools.

Ideas to try:

Play dough is an excellent tool for mark making, especially home made.  You can find a simple recipe in a precious post.

 Wet and dry sand have different properties to mark make.

Gloop: corn flour mixed with water.  One of the best experiences ever.

Tooth paste: A writing implement ready to go.  (See previous post)

Glue: PVA runny glue makes brilliant marks on black card when it runs from fingers or brushes and dries bumpy too.

Shaving foam: Brilliant for mark making and for trying to sculpt into snowmen.

Chocolate drinking powder - sensory mud: (drinking chocolate mixed with water - See previous post)

Use your imagination and raid your food cupboards, also please be careful with any allergies children may have.

Songs and rhymes with babies .....part 2

Finding a voice:

Babies enjoy trying out new sounds themselves and singing encourages babies to do this.  They quickly learn t make themselves heard through their coos, babbles, laughs and cries.   By doing this they are developing their mouth muscles and their awareness of the sounds they can make.  Encourage your baby by watching, responding and joining in with the sounds they make.

Play mouth music games

Make up a pattern of different sounds with your mouth, e.g. clicking, hissing, saying the 'sh' sound, softly whistling, saying 't t t'. Watch your baby's reactions.  They may try to copy the sounds.  Imitate the sounds your baby makes back to them and try making them slightly louder or softer, faster or slower, higher or lower.

Playing these sound effect games helps babies learn to listen and concentrate and learn to take turns at making noises, like in a conversation.  They will also realise that their sounds are important to you which will encourage them to use their voice more.

Songs and rhymes with babies... Part 1

Babies benefit from hearing songs and rhymes and all kinds of music right from the very beginning, even before they are born.  They were able to hear the rhythm of your heartbeat and voice when they were in the womb.

Singing and musical games are great ways for parents and carers to communicate with babies.  Babies quickly learn to recognise the rhymes sung to them. 

Singing to your baby can strengthen the bond between you both and help baby's emotional wellbeing.  Singing rhymes and songs with your baby helps train the ear to hear the differences among sounds which is an important skill when learning to read and write later on.

Singing with your little one also helps babies learn to listen and concentrate.  Babies will enjoy the interaction and learn about the rhythm of the language.  Repetition of simple songs helps babies learn the basic structure of language. 

Music helps to distract, soothe and entertain babies and helps them to learn to listen and respond