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?

Mini Post – Valentine’s Water Resist Pictures

It’s still only January, but in true blogger spirit I’m thinking ahead to Valentine’s. Watercolour resist pictures can be used on any occasion really and my girls love an excuse to get the paints out. This activity is such a simple one but it’s always a hit.

What you’ll need:

  • Paint (We used watered down poster paint 1:2 parts approx)
  • Paper (We used the newspaper print type, to soak up the water)
  • A white wax crayon
  • Aprons
  • A trusty bucket of soapy water & towel

As this is the first time Squidge and Boo have tried this one, I added all the wax crayon doodles to the paper before they started. I wrote simple messages and love hearts  sticking to the Valentine theme.

Both girls got stuck straight in. Squidge managed to spot the white crayon marks glisten on her paper as she was next to the window – “Ou look Mummy, I can see letters”.

They both had completely different approaches to the activity, which is more indicative of the difference in their age than their personality. Boo splodged the paint on thick and fast, circling the middle of her paper until it had all but disintegrated. I gently encouraged her to fill the edges, but she wasn’t too fussed. Squidge was very careful and precise, filling the entire paper all the way to the edges. She was slow and steady. As ever with our messy sessions, Boo stuck around for 10-12 minutes, completing 5 pictures in total. Squidge spent a good 20 minutes (possibly a little longer) completing her 3 pictures. She was happy to wash up the mess afterwards too. 

The next time we do this activity I’ll be encouraging Squidge to do the white crayon drawings and letters. We’ll likely start with writing her name and drawing simple shapes. I’ll let her experiment with what works well so she can modify it as she explores.

This is a great activity for reluctant writers – ‘Secret messages’ are much more inviting to write than regular writing.

A little tip for this one – make sure you’re colours are watered down well, if your paint is too thick or dark, the wax crayon won’t show through (Our red paint was a little too thick).

Have you tried this activity before? Will you try secret messages this Valentines?

Lots of love, Cat, Squidge and Boo xxx

Please leave us a comment <3 x

 

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.

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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.

Marble Painting

On a meander through the bargain stores the other day we picked up a huge bag of marbles for a pound. I wanted them for the Water Wall  and I knew we’d be able to use them for Marble Painting

For this activity you will need:

  • Paper (we used the last of our big roll from Ikea, but A4 will work just as well)
  • Tray/box
  • Paint
  • Marbles
  • Double sided tape (or my favourite trick, a short piece of normal tape, rolled back into a loop, so it’s sticky on both sides ;))
  • A bucket of soapy water and a towel (for the clean up)

I decided we’d use all the colours in the first go – I have a thing for rainbows. I thought if it came out as well as I was expecting it could fill some of the magnolia/beige walls in the playroom. This room has been dubbed the most liveable since we moved in a year ago, so it’s last on the list for decorating. This means Squidge, Boo and I have to jazz it up any way we can.

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I squirted blobs of paint in a diagonal line to try encourage the girls to roll the marbles all over. It took them quite a while to figure this one out. I explained to Squidge that the marbles needed to roll through the paint, after some serious contemplation she picked up a marble and threw it in. I let her do this a few times so she could explore what happened. Boo was also keen to pick out the marbles (then run off up the garden with them! Cheeky monkey).

After some exploration (and a few laps of the garden chasing the marble thief) I pulled out my favourite starter ‘I wonder… what would happen if you lifted the box up?’. I’ve mentioned ‘I wonder…’ statements before but if you’re visiting for the first time, I’ll rave about them again. By thinking aloud as the adult, you are introducing an idea to a child, without them having to take it. There is no push, no command for them to do it, it’s their choice to take the idea and try it out or dismiss it. Most times children will give it a go and you’ll get a much better response than if you simply tell them what to do. These type of statements can promote and challenge children’s thinking in all kinds of situations. Give it a try, I’d love to hear how you get on.

Once I’d introduced the idea, Squidge did indeed lift the box. Both girls squealed as the marbles made trails through the paint. I helped Boo lift the box from the other end. Neither of them seemed to like it when the marbles got stuck in the blobs so they kept stopping to fish them out. I tried to reassure them that they’d roll out on their own eventually, but they were having none of it.

Squidge really got into it and was running from one end of the box to the other to lift it. Picking out marbles that got stuck and dropping them back in. Boo observed from the sidelines, encouraging Squidge with her giggles and squeals as the rainbow grew.

Once most of the paint had been rolled, we took out the marbles and washed them in the waiting bucket of soapy water and dried them on the towel. I asked if Squidge would like another go, she said she did. This time around I let her choose which colours she’d like and gave her a few options as to where she’d like the blobs.

Before we started Squidge wanted me to take a picture – she too is getting into this blogging frame of mind! Then she threw in the marbles. I left her to this one, no intervention or suggestions needed on my part at this stage – she was free to explore.

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When Squidge had finished I hung both masterpieces on the washing line to dry out. They looked fab blowing in the wind – even if my neighbours think I’m crackers. They are both now pride of place in the playroom. Hanging children’s work can be a good reminder of what they’ve done in the past. Sometimes you may need to draw attention back to it ‘Do you remember how you made this?’, as after a while anything hung on a wall will become wallpaper, no longer noticed.

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In hindsight, it may have been better to try this activity on a small scale first, so Squidge and Boo could really manipulate the marbles, rolling them in different directions. I think I will give it another try in a smaller container, perhaps with one blob of paint in the middle and only a few marbles. It would be nice to see the difference in what they produce. We could then move onto two colours, with a challenge of trying to mix them.

The idea with this activity is that they enjoy the process, it doesn’t matter what they produce in the end (even if I did make Squidge wash her hands half way through after she squashed her hand in the pink and I wanted it to look pretty for the wall…I think she forgives me now she can see it up there).

What do you think, will you give this one a go?

Lots of love, Cat, Squidge and Boo

If you enjoyed this post check out this messy play delight – squirty cream is involved 🙂 

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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

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‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ inspired Fruit Printing

After finding caterpillars in the garden last week followed by reading ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle several times, I decided we’d do some fruit printing this morning. I hedged my bets with the weather and set it up outside. Any excuse to get out in the new garden!

For this activity you will need:

  • Paper – we used a large roll
  • Paints – we used poster paints and mixed a couple of our own colours
  • Fruits – To follow TVHC – Apple, pear, plum (I didn’t have a plum so cheated and used a new potato :)), strawberry and an orange
  • Plates for the paints
  • A bucket of soapy warm water at the ready
  • A fluffy towel

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Before we got started, we re-read the book. We have two different copies, the original board book and a finger puppet version. The finger puppet one is simplified and just gives the number, an adjective and the fruit. When Squidge retells the story herself, she merges the two together. Reading is a great way of building vocabulary.

I half expected Squidge to just dive in and go crazy, but she was keen to count how many of each fruit she needed. I didn’t ask her to put them in a row, she just did. Reading the story before we started certainly influenced both of these. I used the finger puppet book to support her throughout as the pictures are much larger and were easier for her to count as she was printing. You can see her double checking how many she needed in one of the photos.

For each fruit she counted aloud – an early years practitioners dream observation! Luckily as her Mummy I don’t have to fill in any paperwork, I can just enjoy the fun. Squidge printed all of the fruits in turn. Besides the counting, she was very quiet and focussed on the task.

After Squidge had finished counting all the fruits, I said she could print as many as she wanted. She continued with a few more oranges and then, as with any good painting activity if you ask me, she decided to really dive in…

I love her face in this series of pictures – you’d think she’d never printed with her hands before! We’re slowly building a hand and footprint alphabet so we have done it a lot. Clearly it still fascinates her every time though.

She then got her feet in the paints. One foot first, then both. She worked her way along the paper carefully, making sure she pressed her foot all the way from back to front, ensuring a clear print. Squidge was eager to wash her hands and feet between each set of prints, so having the warm soapy water and towel to hand was great. I’d definitely recommend this if you decide to get a messy activity out. You don’t want to have to leave it unattended, especially with a smaller sibling in tow!

I always encourage both girls to get involved in the clean up – they had all the fun making the mess after all. They are usually happy to do so, especially if it’s washing up. They don’t always get the clean up finished, but I’m happy that they show willing and want to help.

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Here’s our finished Hungry Caterpillar inspired print plus hands and feet. We hope you like it! 🙂

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If you enjoyed this post you’ll love our Marble Painting activity!

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