Guess How Much I Love You in the Spring by Sam McBratney

‘Guess How Much I Love You’ has to be one of the sweetest books you’ll ever read to your child. I’d decided long before the girls arrived that it would be a favourite bedtime story and I wasn’t wrong. Along with the classic original, Sam McBratney has written this seasonal series which continues the tales of Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare.

The ‘In the Spring’ book is a perfect introduction into this wonderful season as Big Nutbrown and Little Nutbrown spot plants, caterpillars, tadpoles and birds eggs. Big Nutbrown gently intiates conversation about each living thing they come across. Little Nutbrown, as inquisitive as ever, wants to know more.

Guess How Much I Love You in the Spring Inside Pages. Book review and Spring Activity.

Squidge says: “It’s about bunnies and tadpoles that turn into frogs!”

Suitability: Ages 2 – 5 years

Length:  5 minutes

Related topics: Seasons, changes, growing, love and relationships

Published by Walker Books

ISBN 978 1 4063 0452 7

Spring Activity

There are so many activities that could be inspired by this book and the season of Spring. Squidge, Boo and I have already been out in the garden planting our Spring bulbs after they’d sprouted in the shed! Today we went on a walk to spot some of the flowers already growing. Squidge spotted Snowdrops and Crocuses, but we couldn’t see any Daffodils blooming yet.

For our follow up activity, we dug out our transient art tree. If you’re an avid reader you’ll remember the tree from our Noticing the changes in Autumn post. It’s been safely stashed away ready to be used in each new season. We used pink and pale green buttons to symbolise the new leaves and blossom. The tree itself is drawn with felt tip onto the back of a place mat, a paper version would work just as well though. Both girls enjoyed this activity, Boo enjoyed it so much I couldn’t get a picture without her little hands coming back into the frame!

I suggested in the Autumn that you could try using different media to complete your tree if you were worried about buttons going into mouths. This time round we also tried ribbon, knotted for a better effect, and felt leaves. I think it looks just as pretty!

 

This activity is great for working that pincer grip, perfect when working towards writing with a good pencil hold.

What activities have you got planned this Spring? and which are your favourite Spring themed books?

Happy reading!

Love Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

(This is not a sponsored post)

If you enjoyed this review and activity you might like My First Book of Dinosaurs 

My first book of dinosaurs front cover

My First Book of Dinosaurs by Mike Unwin

This book is on loan from the local library, we go on a fairly regular basis. Our library does a free weekly craft session that we’ve attended a few times and enjoyed. If you have a local library and you haven’t been with your littles yet, I must insist you go!

We decided to borrow this book as Squidge and I didn’t really know many of the names for our collection of dinosaurs. We knew the more obvious ones like Tyrannosaurus Rex and Diplodocus but after that we were struggling. Rather than searching the glorious internet I thought we had the perfect opportunity for some good old fashioned style research.

There were a few dinosaur books to choose from, but this one seemed to be the best choice for us as it has a really simple layout, with just enough information for Squidge to digest and a really handy phonetic spelling of each dinosaur name for me.

The illustrations prompted Squidge to go get her dinosaurs from the shelf to match up to some of the ones in the book. After we’d read it, I could see she’d retained some of what she’d found out while watching her play, she kept using the T-Rex to eat all the small her small dinosaurs!

I think we’ll definitely borrow some more dinosaur books on our next library visit to see what else we can find out.

Squidge says: “It’s good, it tells me about Dinosaurs”.

Suitability: Ages 3-10 years

Length: 10 minutes

Related topics: History, Animals, Living things, Food chains

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

ISBN 978 1 4729 0545 1

 

 

Dinosaur Activity

In the introduction to the book the author explains that Scientists know what dinosaurs looked like from looking at fossils. As Squidge has never heard of or seen a fossil before I thought a good activity would be to make some of our own.

To make our Dinosaur Fossils we used salt dough, which is really simple to make. All you need is one cup of flour, half a cup of salt and splashes of water until it forms a dough (just over half a cup). We rolled out the dough and cut circles ready to imprint with our dinosaurs. Once we had a tray full we baked them in the oven on the lowest setting for around an hour, turning them half way through. Both Squidge and Boo enjoyed this activity. As a follow on, I plan to bury them outside in the sandpit, then we can go searching for them with paintbrushes like real Archaeologists!

Before reading this book we’ve played Dinosaur Land many, many times and the photos have featured on our Instagram page. If you’re not following us there yet, I’ve included a photo here. You can have a peep at our Instagram feed in the sidebar and find us at @squidgeandboo.

Squidge playing dinosaur land

It’s really simple to set up as a small world activity. We used storage tubs stacked up and covered over with material for our mountains, shiny material for a lake and the rocks and trees that came in our tub of dinosaurs. Our Ikea rug already looks like grass which is very handy for lots of different types of play. Small world play is always a sure fire way to promote lots of language.

Happy reading!

Love Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

(This is not a sponsored post)

Front cover of Stick Man by Julia Donaldson

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson

Julia Donaldson is my all time favourite children’s author. Her books never fail to entertain. I’d already built up quite a collection, throughout my teaching before Squidge arrived. Be warned, this fabulous author will keep popping up on the Squidge and Boo Bookshelf!

Stick Man was one of the books we bought for the girls this Christmas, which turned out to be good timing as the animated version (which they both love) was released. We got a copy with an Audio CD. The CD features the story read by Imelda Staunton, an action game, The Stick Man song & an instrumental version, plus a read-along version of the story.

The story goes that Stick Man gets picked up and used by various characters, taking him further and further away from the family tree and his beloved Stick family. It includes a repeated refrain as Stick Man tries to explain he’s not just a stick. This gives children a great opportunity to join in the retelling of the story. It’s a good hook if you choose to recreate the story through role play too.

Donaldson’s rhythm and rhyme throughout the story keep it upbeat and lively (even when poor Stick Man is in dire straights laid on top of a fire grate!). Her way with words combined with Axel Sheffler’s beautiful cartoon like drawings make the story one that Squidge reaches for time and again.

Stick Man inside pages

Squidge says: “I like the bit with the Swan. It’s exciting”.

Suitability: Ages 4 – 8 years

Length: 10 minutes

Related topics: Being lost, family, nature, imagination, Christmas

Published by Alison Green Books

ISBN 978 1 407117 29 4

 

Stick Man Activity

Now I can’t really claim credit for this one as it was a self-chosen activity from Squidge. We had the paints out and she decided she wanted to paint the stick man. We’d already begun a collaborative painting (inspired by one of the awesome Instagrammers – I really need to start taking notes on names of where I get these ideas!). I’d shown Squidge how to do a wash for the background of her picture. She painted the grass while I did the sky.

This is when she decided her picture was going to be of the Stick Man. We had a look in the book and she chose to paint the family tree. We continued to work together, Squidge giving directions on which parts I should paint and completing the bits she wanted to do herself. Squidge painting her Stick Man picture

This way of creating a picture was really good, both Squidge and I enjoyed it. It naturally encouraged a lot of language use. It also meant that Squidge ended up with a picture similar to the one she had planned out in her head, avoiding any frustration with bits she ‘couldn’t’ do. It’s definitely something we’ll do again in future. I hope it will help her build confidence in her art skills.

Another activity you might like to try is going on a Stick Man hunt. We’ve searched several times on our walks for a near perfectly shaped stick, but we’re yet to find one. When we have come home without one, Squidge is happy that he must be hiding safely in the family tree.

There’s also a nod to Pooh sticks in the book – this one be another good one to try!

What’s your favourite Julia Donaldson story?

Love Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

(This is not a sponsored post)

Have you read our review of ‘Penguin’ by Polly Dunbar?

Noticing the changes that Autumn brings

I love the summer, but Autumn is such a beautiful follow up. We decided to head out on an Autumn walk and see what we could notice. It took Squidge a short while to warm up to noticing what was around her on our walk. I may be to blame for this as many times when we are out walking we’re on our way somewhere, so we whizz past all the wonders that nature has offered us. However, with a few yells of “Wow what’s this?” and “Ou what can you see over there?”, she soon got into the swing.

After we’d found a few acorns and added them to our collection bag, Squidge spotted some orange berries. We had a talk about their colour and what/who might eat them. Next she had a go at one of my favourite Autumn activities, crunching through the leaves. The top layer made a lovely crunching sound, but Squidge noticed that the layer underneath was all ‘Soggy and squelchy’. Good job she’d worn her wellies!

Just around the corner from where we live we found a single, magnificent conker tree. The delight of finding those little spiky balls could be seen on Squidge’s face, and I won’t lie even I still find myself getting excited. Possibly the teacher in me, or maybe I’m still just a big kid. We found a few and added them to our collection, along with a variety of different leaves.

img_6634

Once home we tipped out our wares and put the best of it together with some of our logs. I decided to leave the berries out of the display, just incase Boo found them too tempting whilst unattended.

Squidge recalled where we’d found most of the objects and began to compare what we had, “Look at this leaf Mummy, it’s longer and it’s yellow”, “This conker is the biggest”, “We have lots of leaves but we didn’t find a lot of sticks did we?”

Simply noticing things on a short walk had sparked so much talk already.

 

Later I added some magnifying lenses, a mini telescope and a prism viewer. This gave Squidge an opportunity to take a closer look and notice things from a different perspective. The lenses we got from the local scrap store, which I’ve raved about to you before. Seriously, have you been yet?

 

img_6671I had a few ideas in mind to follow up our Autumn walk. After talking to Squidge about the different colours we’d noticed on our walk, I added crayons to the leaves we’d collected with some paper so the girls could have a go at leaf rubbing. This unfortunately wasn’t their idea of fun, I was left colouring all on my own! Oh well, this happens. I didn’t push it and decided to leave the colours and paper out incase they changed their minds or wanted to explore in their own way. Boo was the most eager to do this and revisited the Autumn collection and drew often.

Another activity which I’ve seen on Pinterest in various forms, also linked well to the colours we had noticed. I knew as it was messy they’d both love it and it would make a lovely piece to add to our display. We made an Autumn tree. All you need for this is large paper, paint in various colours and something to stamp with, we used corks (another scrap store find).

Both girls really enjoyed this activity and it is one we’ll definitely do again. I’ve seen a mini version using cotton buds which looks like it’d be great fun to try, a test of perseverance and good fine motor practice. It also inspired the next actovity.

img_6633Our button tree. Now I know not everyone has a huge collection of buttons in their cupboards, but I do, I love buttons. There are other ways you could make this activity yourselves at home, you could try using pom poms, felt or foam shapes, or paper leaves would work as I suggested over on my Instagram. You’ll have to be sensible in your choices if you have a little one who’s still mouthing things.

For the tree itself I drew on the back of a place mat with a felt tip. I love the different texture it offers and it’s a bit more sturdy than paper. I’m planning to reuse the tree with different colours come Springtime. I may also try some of the ideas I suggested above.

Both Squidge and Boo had a go at this one. I wasn’t sure how long they’d persevere with it, but they both spent a good length of time adding buttons. I supervised closely to begin with, but felt it could be left out for them to play with and revisit. The magic moment that came from this activity was when Squidge dragged all the buttons to the bottom and exclaimed “Look all the leaves are falling down off the tree!”. If this had been a glue and stick it activity she may not have had the same chance to explore and play. All our talk about Autumn must be sinking in!

Have you been on a noticing walk? What did you find? What activities did in inspire?

You may have noticed I have mentioned noticing a lot in this post ;). This is one of the learning behaviours of Building Learning Power (BLP). This philosophy is something I worked on with students whilst working in my last school and I believe it to be a very powerful way of helping children to become successful learners. It’s all about how we learn. It’s something I have adopted at home to help my own children engage in learning. I’m hoping to link a few of my posts to BLP, exploring the different behaviours and how these can be developed from an early age.

Our fairy garden

If you’ve read some of my previous blogposts you’ll already know that this summer’s project has been our garden. It’s been a long, but rewarding task. We had a general plan in mind when starting, but as with many projects some things have evolved along the way. When relaying our patio we had planned to have the path curve and lay grass right up to our existing driveway. However, much as hubby tried with the cutter he had, he could not cut through the slabs straight, let alone on a curve. We had to re think the plan.

We put forward various solutions and asked family, that visited in the interim, what they thought. We agreed ending with a straight edge would look neater. That left us with a small, awkward triangle on a bit of a hill. The whole point of renovating the garden was to take out the trip hazards so we decided we’d turn it into a flower bed so the girls would need to walk around.

Here we were with this extra flower bed to fill and I’m no gardener, there’s not even a tinge of green in my fingers. However, I am pretty creative and I have seen so many gorgeous little fairy and sensory gardens on my late night Pinterest trawls. Plus Squidge loves all things small and she is role playing more and more.

First off we needed a trip to the garden centre. I wanted to choose plants that offered variety from a sensory point of view. I’d tell you the names of the plants I chose if I knew them all, but I’m afraid I don’t. I did warn you I’m not a gardener. The first in the series of photos is a rockery plant and a ground spreader. If it manages to flower they will be a gorgeous shade of blue. I chose this one as I think it has the best chance of living in a shallow bed plus the leaves have quite a rubbery texture. The next one is my ‘show stopper’ huge yellow blooms against dark green leaves- it attracted Boo instantly. She keeps attempting to pull all the petals off and you can see her below imitating Mummy ‘Noooo’. Perhaps I need to retire the pointy finger?!

There’s lavender and rosemary, both there to add scent. We may use some of the rosemary to cook with and I’m almost certain you can add either of these to play dough for extra sensory fun. The little conifer has spiky leaves and is meant to smell like lemon, though I’m yet to be convinced. I love that this is a miniature version of a larger tree. I will be tracking down tiny baubles at Christmas.

With all the plants in pots I did what I have seen real gardeners do (my parents included) and I placed them around the flower bed, I moved them a few times – trying to get a balance of colours and heights. When I was happy with the layout I planted them all, making sure to split up the roots so they could bed in well. I gave them a good watering when I’d finished too.

Whole levelling the garden we cand across an assortment of pebbles and I kept them to one side. I chose the largest, best shaped ones to use as little fairy houses. I painted them using poster paints. It took a few coats particularly for some of the lighter colours and for adding the details. Onice they were dry I coated them with a PVA/Water mix as a varnish. I’m not sure they will last in our delightful English weather, but it won’t be terribly upsetting if it washes off. We can try again with acrylics and I should probably let Squidge have a go!

I placed the houses and remaining pebbles around the garden. This looked ok, but there was definitely something missing. We had some left over pebbles from filling in the side of the patio, I decided these would make a perfect little path between the houses. I also raided one of my vases for the glass beads in the bottom, knowing they would male a perfect fairy pool.

Boo was straight in! She loves the glass beads and has been transporting them all over the garden ever since they went in. She also likes to remove all the pebbles around the edge. I don’t mind as the whole idea of this little patch is that the girls are allowed to play with it. Nothing in it is irreplaceable.

As the days have passed we’ve added a couple of other bits, mini solar lights, which I have placed along the paths. A little wooden flower windmill which also fascinates Boo, the spinner and the little beads underneath. I certainly think we’ll keep adding to our fairy garden, whether it’s bits we buy or things we make – I’ve already started hoarding lolly sticks with grand plans of mini fences and benches.

I’m really pleased with the result and the girls have definitely been making the most of it, both in their individual ways. Boo mostly moving pieces and touching and feeling the plants. Squidge with little role play sessions using small world characters and the spare pebbles. She has also been helping to water the flowers and noticed that one of them has flowered.

Please do me know what you think, or feel free to send me a picture or links to your own fairy gardens!

Lots of love Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

Pinterest-fairy-garden

 

Pinterest worthy? If you think so, add this (or any of the other images) to your board. Thank you x

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Caterpillars!

We moved to our ‘Family Home’ a little over a year ago now. We used to live in a chocolate box, 1900’s stone built cottage, wedged along a cobbled street. It was tiny. Beautiful, a perfect starter home but far too small for a family of four. So small in fact, that when people came to view it, we had to hide most of the kids toys in our cars and park them a street away, but shhh!

We’ve done various projects in the new house throughout the first year, but for the past couple of months we’ve been renovating the garden. The ‘before’ consisted mostly of low red brick walls, pebbles, paving slabs at varying levels with steps and corners everywhere. I’d say a toddler nightmare, but they were quite happy – it was me that was in a nightmare. I was following them around franticly saying “Careful”, “steady”, my arms outstretched ready to catch them. All the while envisaging hospital trips where they had chunks missing from their little heads where they’d inevitably fallen and hit a corner.

Our aim in the revamp was to have a level-ish garden, with no deadly corners or serious trip hazards. This has meant a lot of digging, three skips full worth of digging. I have regularly blasted out the Gnomes’ theme from Ben & Holly “Dig, dig, dig, in a garden blah blah blah” (Ok, so I don’t know ALL the words). The point to this whole tale is that with all the time and hard work it’s taken, I’m very proud of the each part of the garden as we finish it. So imagine my horror as I see one of the plants in my new flowerbed has been devoured almost overnight.

I was furious and began my hunt for the horrid little beasts that had been so greedy. Exactly how many slugs and snails was I going to have to get rid of?! My mood changed the minute I spotted them….

Squidge was almost as excited as me. She observed them closely for quite some time. She kept finding more and more and pointing them out to me. We talked about the story ‘The very hungry caterpillar’ and how these caterpillars definitely were very hungry because they’d eaten so many leaves and were still munching!

Eventually Squidge plucked up the courage to gently pick one from the plant. She put him in her palm and watched carefully as he crawled around. She didn’t want him to get hungry so she pulled off a leaf for him to eat. She wanted to go get him a drink from the kitchen, so I explained how they got everything they needed from the plant (I didn’t want a drowning on my hands, or caterpillars in my kitchen to be honest).

Squidge got more and more confident handling the caterpillars and before long she had several in her hands at once. We counted them carefully and this prompted Squidge to sing a new version of one of her favourite number rhymes “Five little caterpillars jumping on the bed….”.

At one point one of the caterpillars did indeed fall off (there are no confirmed reports as to whether he bumped his head). Squidge was very dramatic and exclaimed “The birds will eat him, I can’t watch”. This has sprung from previous conversations as to why worms might like to hide under the soil and why we should put them back in a safe place after we’ve handled them. They really do listen to everything we say – even when we think they’re not paying attention.

Squidge spent the majority of the afternoon playing with the caterpillars. It was wonderful to see her be so gentle and nurturing towards these tiny creatures. Her face in the pictures say it all. Before bed that night she chose to read both copies of ‘The very hungry caterpillar’ by Eric Carle. The original and the finger puppet book.

To follow up from this I’d like to do some fruit printing linked to Eric Carle’s book. I’ll definitely try get some counting out of it, but won’t let it dictate or distract from the fun of printing. If the weather stays nice we’ll go for the big roll of paper in the garden, or the new easel. We’ll also keep observing the caterpillars and see if we can see them making their cocoons. Exciting times at Squidge and Boo!

Thanks for reading,

Love Cat & Squidge xx

We linked up for this blog with #CountryKids and #SharetheBlogLove


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Dear Bear and Beany