Thursday, 28 January 2016

Making marks: The beginnings of writing

  • Talk about and let them see you do ordinary writing tasks such as: making a shopping list or writing a birthday card and get them involved.
  • Ask them to read their writing to you
  • Provide a variety of writing ,materials such as: chalks, crayons, paint and brushes, pencils, felt tips etc
  • Make some home made play dough (see older post).  Make marks on it or make shapes
  • Make patterns together
  • Make a book or play shop or post office
  • Give them lots of paper, even old wallpaper and let them make squiggles.  Praise them when they do
  • Write with water and washing up bottles, paint rollers, paint brushes - outside
  • Let them make mistakes!  It's all part of learning

Sharing books and stories

Enjoying books and stories with your child

  • Encourage other family members to share books and stories with your child
  • Let your child see you and other family members reading
  • Listen to stories on cd's or similar too
  • Take a book or cd in the car
  • Join the library and make visits part of a regular outing
  • Make enjoying a story together a part of your daily routine.  It doesn't have to be just at bedtime
  • Make your own books using photos, drawings and cuttings from catalogues and magazines
  • Make some home made puppets and use them to tell the story
  • Use clothes for dressing up as characters from the story
  • Make up new parts to favourite stories or just add / use your child's and / or other peoples names

Talking and playing - Out and about


  • Save empty packages and labels
  • Gather together a variety of shopping bags, e.g. baskets, handbags, purses
  • Find clothes for dressing up, e.g. hats and scarves
  • Set up a shop and play with the children, taking on different roles
  • Greet and use 'shop' phrases, e.g. 'Please can I have?', 'Can I help you?'
  • Play games with the labels: recognising labels (early reading skills), take labels to the shop to match / buy in the shop instead of a shopping list
  • At home, and on the way to, from and in, the shop, talk about size, shape, letters, colours, number, use, contents, favourites, what you need

Talking and playing in everyday routines

A sense of order

Knowing what will happen next is important to young children:

  • It gives them a sense of security and helps them to begin to make choices
  • It can help to reduce the feelings of confusion that can lead to tantrums - but there's no guarantee
  • A sense of order in daily routines helps children to understand numbers and how they work, e.g. first, next
  • Routines can develop around the daily loves of family members, e.g.
      -  Child: dressing, eating, changing, washing, sleeping
      - Family: going out, coming back, appointments
      - Time: morning, afternoon, evening, night
      - Order: in which toys, machines, books work etc

Did you know?

  • The earliest months and years are the most important in a child's language development.  The sooner children hear language, the sooner they begin to understand and use words.

  • Young children find it much easier than adults to learn more than one language - they don't have the hang ups that we can have as adults.

  • By the age of five years, children's spoken language has been acquired through talking, playing, sharing books and stories with you as well as singing songs and rhymes. 

  • How you interact with your child, giving them warmth, love and stimulation matters most

Top ten activities for developing and improving your child's speech and language skills

There are many simple activities that you can do with your child to develop their speech and language skills.

1. Be a good model – speak clearly and slowly and face your child when speaking. If your child says a word or sentence incorrectly, rather than correct them or ask them to repeat it, just say the word / sentence back to them correctly to show you have understood. This way your child always hears the correct version. This is how children learn language.

2. Remember your language level – don’t use words or sentences that your child will not understand. Speak to them using language they can understand, and explain any new words.

3. Make time to sit down with your child – even if it is just for a few minutes a day (although the more one-to-one time the better), spend some quiet time with your child, away from distractions. Look at a book together and talk about the pictures.

4. Turn off the TV and take out the dummy – children do not learn language and social skills by watching TV, and new evidence shows that too much TV watching prior to starting school can affect listening and attention skills, which will impact on their learning once they start school.

5. Observe and comment – when you are playing with your child, take a step back, do not feel that you have to fill the silences, just comment on the things your child is doing so they can here (and learn) the new vocabulary.

6. Let your child lead – let your child lead the play, let them be the boss of play. This can build self-confidence and does not put pressure on them to talk and respond to the adult all the time.

7. Books, books, books – books can be used in many ways to develop language and early literacy skills. Evidence shows that children that have more exposure to books prior to schooling often find it develop early literacy skills earlier.

8. Sing songs and nursery rhymes – songs and rhymes contain rhythm and rhyme, skills that help with speech and literacy development.

9. Feed language in, don’t force it out – comment and expand on your child’s words and sentences, rather than asking them to repeat words. If your child says “car”, respond with “big car” or “yellow car” or “fast car”. This is how children learn words, by hearing new vocabulary and linking it to the items or events they are focussing on.

10. Make every opportunity a language learning activity – if it’s a trip to the shops, or bath-time, you can make every activity a language learning activity. Point to things, name them, sing a nursery rhyme, or ask a question. You don’t have to set aside a specific time of day to learn language, every activity is a language learning activity.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Just average Jen

I would like to introduce you to a lady I have met through the amazing charity we both support....
Post Pals  Click on the link to find out more about this amazing charity that helps to make lots of very sick children smile.

Anyway getting back to Jen......Jen is a pretty amazing, inspiring young lady.  You see Jen has lost an amazing 10 stone through slimming world in 16 months and has become an amazing inspiration to many including me. Because of her I was inspired to loose weight as I was finding it really hard.  Through her support and encouragement and those who follow her on her face book page I have managed to loose two stone.

My point is this.....we all have different personal circumstances that can make our path in life twist and turn, sometimes in ways we have no control over.  However it's how we face them and deal with them that makes the difference and this is one lady who has decided to use her journey to support others. 

Jen has now set up her own blog page....Just average Jen.
This paragraph is from her page....

'So, I'm Jen, a thirty-something vegetarian, full time mum and average kind of woman! I am a target member of Slimming World and have lost over ten stone in 16 months by healthy eating and no exercise! I cook for myself and my boyfriend on a budget and love experimenting with different foods and flavours in the kitchen! I am not ashamed to admit that I have depression and my son has special needs but he is my world, he is amazing! Blogging about life, food and me!'

If there's one blog I would recommend (apart from mine of course)'s this one.  I for one am truly grateful that Jen came into my life as I don't think I would have made the change without her support.  A real down to earth girl who gets it and I don't just mean loosing weight....although that's a bonus!  Pop on over, take a look and say hi.

Sarah x x

Kim's game

When I was little we used to play a game called Kim's game.  It was a memory game which I know most of you would have played and probably still do with your children, although it may be called something else.  Basically its a game of  memory skills, developing vocabulary and hiding objects.

You will need:
  • A tray or something similar to put the objects on
  • A selection of your child's toys - small enough to fit on the tray but not too small.  Only use a few items at a time depending on the child's age. 
  • A tea towel or towel to cover the items
How to play:
  1. Add the selection of toys to the tray.  Only a few items for younger children.  You can add a few more for older children as soon as they get used to the game to make it a little harder
  2. Make sure you both have a comfortable place to sit and play the game.  By the table or on the floor depending on where you are most comfortable
  3. Show each item on the tray and name it with the child.  Let them have a good look at what is on the tray
  4. Cover the items on the tray with the towel and take an item away without your child seeing the item 
  5. Once you have done this uncover the tray and ask your child to see if they can tell you what's missing
  6. Take it in turns to have a go.  This is a good old fashioned game that is totally free to play because you have everything you need at home
This game helps children to:
  • Take turns
  • Develop eye contact
  • Develops social skills
  • Develops listening skills
  • Develops vocabulary
  • Develops memory skills
  • Develop a sense of achievement by finding out the missing item
Here is one I played recently with my friends little boy who is dinosaur mad .

Balls and chutes

One of the best free items that can be used to make lots of different toys for a child is the inside cardboard tube from a roll of wrapping paper.  Whether its Christmas or birthdays we usually end up with one of these at some point.  You could even use a poster tube. 

Babies love posting things into holes and young children love the element of surprise of what's going to come through the other end.

Add some of your child's smaller toys (but nothing too small that could be a choking hazard) such as cars or soft balls etc to make one of the best games.  This activity will help develop listening skills as you wait for the toys to roll and drop.  If you hold the tube in deferent ways the toys will take a faster or slower time to come through the tube. 

How will this game help children?
  • To have fun and enjoy taking part in the interaction with you
  • Develop their language skills / communication skills - taking turns in the conversation and listening
  • Develop concentration skills by listening and watching
  • Develop prediction skills - ask the question what do they think will happen next?
What you will need:
  • Cardboard tube
  • Soft balls or smaller toys (but nothing too small that could be a choking hazard)

Tickle games

Lots of children love tickle games played with them, especially the element of surprise of where they are going to be tickled.  Will it be their feet, hands, neck etc.  Round and round the garden is a great rhyme for this and one that most of us know.  So how do tickle games help babies and young children?
  • Helps them to react to the words and actions in the rhymes
  • They encourage taking turns in conversations
  • They encourage children to become more confident in communicating
You could also add a feather to the game if children are not allergic to them in any way.  A really good rhyme to add a feather to a tickling game / rhyme is this one:

The terrible tickle

I've got a little tickle
In between my toes.
Tickle, tickle, off you go!
Away the tickle goes.

Now that little tickle
Is tickling my knee.
Tickle, tickle, off you go!
Don't you tickle me!

That silly little tickle
Is tickling my tum.
Tickle, tickle, off you go,
Or I'll tell my mum.

That naughty little tickle
Has jumped behind me ear.
Tickle, tickle, off you go!
Stop it, do you hear!

That terror pf a tickle
Is tickling my nose.
Tickle, tickle, off you go!
It's gone.....
back to my toes!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

CBeebies: Something Special - Hickory Dickory Dock - Nursery Rhyme

HIckory Dickory Dock

One of the best loves nursery rhymes I use in my session is Hickory Dickory Dock.  In the session we make a prop to go along with the rhyme to add to our home made song boxes.  The actual prop we make varies depending on the ages of the children on the programme. 

I also sing four verses instead of just one which the children love.  This is the version I use. 

Hickory Dickory Dock,
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one, the mouse ran down,
Hickory Dickory Dock.

Hickory Dickory Dock,
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck two, the mouse said BOO!
Hickory Dickory Dock.

Hickory Dickory Dock,
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck three, the mouse said weeeeee,
Hickory Dickory Dock.

Hickory Dickory Dock,
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck four, the mouse said No More!
Hickory Dickory Dock.

An example of one of the resources I make in the sessions is this paper plate clock.  This image is taken from

You will find step by step instruction on how to make it, what you will need as well as a mouse template to print out.

This version found at the link above will also tell you what you need and has a printable clock face.

Or if you would like a printable version of the rhyme to make into a book and use time and time again with your child, pop over to
If you have a toy mouse add this too for more fun or make one out of paper or card.
You can find the You Tube link  in the previous post to make one out of scraps.

How to make a puppet mouse with scraps - EP

Words for Life - Communicating with your baby

Words for Life - Communicating with your baby

What's your earliest memory of a rhyme?

Think back to when you were little.  Can you recall a nursery rhyme from this time in your life?  Where where you?  Who was it that sang it to you or with you?

We know that songs and rhymes are really important for language development and listening skills.  Rhymes usually have lots of repetition and rhyming words.  But....lots of songs and rhymes we know today is only because of family members that have handed them down to us by singing them to us when we were younger.  Then we pass them onto our children and the link goes on. 

Not all families have extended families to pass rhymes down through generations.  It's really interesting looking at songs and rhymes today which ones we still sing and which ones are relatively new.  For example when I was little I remember vividly 'Ride a cock horse to Banbury cross, to see an old lady upon her white horse, with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, she shall have music wherever she goes'. 

I don't hear this rhyme as much now that I am older, however I do hear rhymes such as 'Wind the Bobbin up' and 'Wheels on the bus', two rhymes which didn't exist when I was younger.  It makes you think doesn't it?

Here are some other rhymes I don't hear as much today, do you sing them with your children?

  • Boys and girls come out to play
  • Bye, baby bunting
  • Diddle diddle dumpling
  • Ding dong bell
  • Handy Pandy
  • Higgledy, Piggledy, my black hen
  • Little Boy Blue
  • Little Jack Horner
  • Little Polly Flinders
  • Little Tommy Tucker
  • Lucy Locket
  • Peter, Peter, Pumpkin eater
  • Sally go round the sun

Monday, 11 January 2016

I can sing a rainbow.....

I love the rainbow song and decided to use it in my latest Book Start sessions with the families alongside lots of colour recognition activities.  I love making props to go alongside songs and rhymes and decided to make a rainbow come alive for the children to dance underneath.

I went to my local fabric shop and purchased some strips of fabric in all of the colours as well as some fantastic fabric with clouds and lightning on for the backing. It was a bonus that the fabric was found in the off cut section and so was really cheap to purchase.  It had its debut in todays session and the children loved it! 

Red and yellow and pink and green,
Purple and orange and blue,
I can sing a rainbow,
Sing a rainbow,
Sing a rainbow too!

Home made balloon tennis

I had great fun making this cheap and easy home made tennis game.  I choose ladybirds because of the theme I am working on with the families I work with at the moment. 

The best thing about this game is that the bats can be personalised to your child's interests and can be easily replaced when worn out from all the fun.

You will need:
  • 2x paper plates for each bat
  • 1 x balloon
  • Red and black paper to decorate as ladybirds
  • White card or paper for the eyes
  • 2 x thick lollipop sticks
  • Sello tape
  • Stapler - You can use strong glue or double sided sticky tape
The children have had great fun playing with it in sessions.  Due to the balloon taking time to reach each child it gives them a really good chance of hitting it too!

Printable colour match game

An activity I found online to link into my sessions was this brilliant colour match game which saves lots of time making your own. 

I wanted something which could be used individually with a child or with a group of children in a variety of ways.

I will be using this game in the following ways:

  • As a simple matching colour game to develop colour recognition skills and vocabulary
  • As a colour hunt matching game to use around the home or setting
  • As a game with a small group of children to learn about taking turns, matching skills and to develop social skills
  • As a matching game using the cards to match items around the home or settingI found this printable colour match game on: www.homeschool

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Jungle animal story props.....

I wanted to include some jungle animals to my session and to show how easy it is to create a story / song prop to use to develop language skills, imagination and creativity.

I searched on the internet for a suitable jungle scene to use a back ground drop mat.  I then searched for a varied selection of animals to use with it.  This time I decided not to use lolly pop sticks but to leave the laminated pieces without.  This was to give the children a different alternative to play with than the puppet theatre. 

Home made table top puppet theatre and puppets

This week I have been working on ideas for activities to go along with a farmyard story book I will be using in some of my sessions from the Book Start packs that are given out to all families within Wales by their Health Visitors at the 18 month - 2 year check.

A simple idea that children can get involved with is to help make a table top puppet theatre.  They can help choose which theme they would like for their puppet theatre, e.g. farm yard, zoo, jungle etc as well as choosing the animals they would like to include so that it's personal to them.

You could choose some colouring pages together for them to colour and then laminate their finished work to use as the puppets for the show.

I chose a farm yard theme to go alongside the book.  I found a picture of a red barn on the internet with window sections that I could cut out for more options to play.

After printing, I cut it out and laminated it  to make it last.  I then stuffed an empty biscuit box with shredded paper, covered it in red paper and used sello tape to stick it securely to the laminated picture.  This helps to make the theatre stand up and not fall down.

I then chose a varied selection of farm animal pictures to print off.  After laminating them I then attached lolly pop sticks securely to the back of each of them.  Notice that I have attached the sticks horizontally due to the space available to play.

A really quick puppet theatre to put together and have fun with.  Lots of opportunities to use as a prop to tell stories with and sing with too.  How about 'Old MacDonald have a farm' or 'I went to visit a farm one day'. 

Happy New Year!

                                  Wishing all my followers a very
                                   Happy New Year!