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.

10 simple activities you can set up, using things you already have!

Sometimes all these Pinterest ideas can seem a bit far flung, or that you need a Blue Peter style cupboard of tricks to be able to set them up. This can put you off before you even get started. For me, there’s nothing worse, as both a parent and a teacher, than spending a long time setting up an activity for the children to use it for all of five minutes, or for it to take forever to clear up after that 5 minutes of fun. Here I’ve put together some quick to set up, minimal clean up activities you could do the minute you’ve finished reading this post because you will likely already have everything you need.

Colour Sorting

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Wonderfully simple. To set up you can use a large sheet of paper, lots of small sheets, hoops, starter objects – just something to mark where to put objects of certain colours. You can do as many or as few colours as you like. For very young children you could take them on a hunt for one specific colour, taking a basket or bag to fill along the way.

For pre schoolers you can begin to talk about which colour has more/less objects. You can count up and tally how many each group has. You can open up ideas about where to put an object that has more than one colour on. Lots of naturally evolving numeracy links – sorting, classifying, counting and comparison. Plus it’s so pretty!

Weaving

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Now I know not everyone have a box full of ribbons – but hold on! You can weave with anything really, so long as its long, thin and flexible. Strips of carrier bags or old unwanted t-shirts, wool, string, leaves, feathers…. go mad! We used our cooling rack to weave through, but a shelf from your oven will work just as well. You could always go bigger and weave through the garden gate.

There’s lots of fine motor practise in here for little ones, meaning all those little finger muscles needed to manipulate a pencil and other tools such as scissors are being exercised and strengthened. You can see in the last picture that Squidge is using both hands – perfect for pre writers who are yet to decide whether they are lefties or righties (not in a political sense ;)).

Water Play

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Water play is a really easy one, you need a tub – a washing up bowl is perfect, and something to put in it. Anything can be used, when Squidge was tiny and we didn’t have a collection of bath toys, I used to use any plastic containers I could find such as baby bottles and tupperware. You can add sieves, colinders, giant spoons from your cutlery drawer, ladels, whisks – anything so long as you deem it safe. I often colour our water with liquid food colouring, chuck in some glitter or just a squirt of soap.

My two always get in the tub – always. So be prepared with a towel and a change of clothes. If you try this one indoors put a towel underneath your tub so you’re not worried about the splashes. Boo loves water play and there’s a whole post dedicated to this session here.

Kite flying

Now you cannot get much simpler than this one. A carrier bag and some string – tie your two carrier bag handles together, tie a loop at the bottom as a little handle et voila, you have yourself an awesome kite. Can be made in a breath as soon as the wind picks up – or if you’re an avid weather watcher, you could make your kite in advance and give your little ones the opportunity to decorate it.

Squidge loved flying this one, and when the wind died down she would run the length of the garden to get it flying again. Great exercise and plenty of giggles. There’s lots of opportunity to talk about cause and effect and the weather. You could also talk about what happens to your body when you run fast – “Feel your heart beat, is it pumping fast or slow? What do you think is happening inside your body when you run fast?”.

Puzzles for letter and number recognition

This little activity took 5 minutes to set up and kept Squidge busy while I made tea. Squidge had completed this jigsaw quite a few times before I introduced this match up activity. She doesn’t know the name of many of the letters yet. We play with the sounds much more – ‘Oh look you’ve got k, k, k, can you say that k, k, k?’. Playing with and listening for sounds in the environment is the step before actual phonic knowledge. So have a play, make animals sounds together, stop and listen in different places, at home, the park, near a busy road, and ask what they can hear.

This activity will obviously work with numbers too. You could draw around different shapes, draw around the bottom of familiar toys and see if they can match them up. I’ve seen some great ideas for matching colour patterns with buttons and pegs (red, blue, red, blue etc). Just look what you have around you and see if you can turn it into a simple game – a new use for what you already have.

Jump the River

This quick and simple game came from Fiona over at Coombe Mill. They use two large sticks, each child jumps across the ‘River’ in turn. In Fiona’s video there’s a line of children, varying in age, and by using the sticks they were able to quickly adapt the breadth of the river for each and every one. We didn’t have any sticks, so I used a piece of fabric. We started with a slim river and I made it wider and wider. A great one for gross motor skills.

Washing Line

Do you have one of those drawers in your house, you know the one with all the odds and ends? Have a peep and see if you have any loopy picture hooks – we had a few so I used them and my never ending ribbon supply to make our washing line (String and drawing pins will work, but may be more temporary). I hooked it up to Squidge and Boo’s Wendy House so they could extend their role play (Boo is a bit little for this yet). I put out pegs and some of their old baby grows and more or less left Squidge to it. Using pegs is another great fine motor exercise working that pincer movement. Squidge did struggle at first, so this meant she had to persevere to get her clothes hung on the line.

I’ve also added a washing line to my slowly developing number area at the other side of the garden. We’ve used it a couple of times to hang flashcards on (which I got in a charity shop for 50p!). Hanging a certain number of pegs is another task we’ve tried.

Peg Number Match

Sticking with the peg theme, we used wooden pegs on a piece of card with numbers written on both. Admittedly if your pegs aren’t wooden ones you may find this more difficult – a permanent marker may work, but if not, you can pick up 100 pegs for just over a £1 in the bargain shops – then you don’t need to keep stealing them back for the actual washing!

The same applies to this activity with the fine motor skills as well as number recognition. You can adapt this activity in many ways, try putting coloured dots on and match patterns. You could add letters to match up their name or to spell simple words. We’ll definitely be trying other ways of playing.

Baking

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Now if you’re anything like me, this one may fill you with dread, but bear with me. When you do attempt baking do not set yourself up to fail by expecting to have Great British Bake Off worthy cakes. If you purely focus on the process – with so many maths opportunities, the chance to see the change as different ingredients are added and another change as it bakes – then the product at the end really doesn’t matter. Also have in the back of your mind, if they made it, they’ll love it anyway.

Back to the maths opportunities – counting how many eggs you need, weighing out ingredients (I like to draw a mark on the scales and get Squidge to tell me if I need more or less – she’s getting good at it, “More, more, a tiny bit more Mummy”), patterns with the bun cases if you happen to have coloured ones and possibly counting or pattern making with any decorations you add. Really worth it, even if your wares are not entirely edible.

Ice Attack!

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Another easy one assuming that your little person is as obsessed as Squidge is with teeny, tiny toys. If not you can use bigger ones in a larger tub – an old ice cream tub works great and I used one as well as the tray (that is a little Blue Petery – apologies). Throw in the toys, whack them in the freezer, you can forget all about them. Careful though, as anyone not in on the idea who looks in your freezer may think you’ve gone a little mad.

I got this one out on a hot day in the garden, less mess, virtually no clean up. I introduced it with a bit of a dramatic “Oh my goodness, look! Someone has frozen your little dudes!”, Squidge saw through this Oscar worthy performance in a nano second “It was you Mummy”. Gutted, I was fully prepared to carry out a whole drama about ‘Iceman’, a heinous villain with a dastardly plan to take over the world, but never mind.

The girls loved this one, they played for ages trying to rescue the little figures. They were delighted every time one was freed. They decided in the end that chomping and sucking the ice was the best way to get them out (obviously I was closely supervising). And yes, that is Boo climbing into a tray of ice cold water… she was perfectly content in there…

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So there we have it. 10 simple to set up, almost mess free activities that you can try. After looking through them, how many could you realistically have a go at? Which one do you fancy trying first? I’d love to know. I’d also love to hear about activities you’ve tried and loved in the past. If I’ve gained nothing else from joining the whole blogging community, I’ve definitely racked up a whole boat load of new ideas… maybe I’ll have to do a list of those I try and test!

As always, lots of love, Cat, Squidge and Boo Xxx

 
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Water beads

If you are yet to discover these little balls you are in for a treat! I first discovered them on Pinterest (where else?!). Their intended purpose is to keep flowers hydrated I believe, but they can be put to much better use in play. I purchased mine from a famous shopping site on the internet. You can get a small bag for just short of a pound, but it’s definitely worth purchasing a few at once. They are available to buy in multi colour packs, single colours and clear.

To begin with the water beads are tiny and look a little like cake sprinkles. You immerse them in water and they expand over a few hours as they absorb it. If you have patient children – or plan on having a ‘Here’s one I made earlier’ it would be worth letting children see this process. It may also be worth letting them see them dry out again. Questions will naturally occur that promote the science behind these awesome little things.

After a good couple of goes in our ‘on loan’ paddling pool (Thanks Uncle M, love S & B), I decided this would be an ideal place to play with our water beads outside. They are incredibly bouncy and I wanted the girls to be able to play without having to chase them every two minutes. They are also likely to collect dirt from the ground as they are wet to the touch – though I have nothing against a little dirt during outdoor play, I didn’t particularly want in mixed in during this activity.

Encouraging Boo’s love of pouring and scooping I added spoons, scoops and various containers. To develop Squidge’s fine motor skills I included a couple of pairs of tongs.

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Squidge was first to dive into this activity. She and I have played with water beads on several occasions before, so she knew what was in store. Boo observed from the sidelines for a little while before getting in. I’d been reluctant to let her have a go with these up until now, as she still has a tendency to mouth things and water beads are not safe to eat. Both girls spent a good length of time just feeling the water beads, holding a few in their hands, letting them fall, picking them up individually and squeezing them gently.

Both Squidge and Boo were completely immersed in their play from the minute they started. It was hard to capture the delight on Boo’s face as she barely lifted her head. The girls were both playing, but were doing so independent of one another for the majority.

Squidge tested out the scoops and spoons first, scooping and pouring from each item a couple of times before moving on to the next.

She went on to try out the first set of tongs and was so proud of herself when she managed to grip one of the beads. She did return to the tongs later on during her play and used them to transfer a few of the beads. It was time consuming, so I was quite impressed she persevered for so long!

Boo made use of one the scoops in a different way to her sister, she filled it  with the little beads, one by one. Her pincer grip is brilliant (you should see her eat peas – a definite nod to baby led weaning). She then transferred the beads by pouring them from the scoop to a larger pot. This theme continued throughout the rest of her play.

Both Squidge and Boo kept switching utensils to move the beads. The blue scoops (one from a protein shake bag, the other a baby milk scoop) and the silver bowl type scoop (from the children’s utensil set sold at my favourite Scandinavian store) were definite favourites for them both. They happily swapped between themselves, still independent in their play, unconsciously mirroring one another.

Boo then began pouring from one container to another, over and over, losing a couple of beads here and there. She would watch them bounce away, collect them and add them back to her haul. Her concentration level still remaining high.

She stirred her pots a few times, though not always with an appropriately sized spoon. Notice how she uses different hands, and both at one point to gain more control when things didn’t work as expected.

The highlight of Boo’s play for me was when she attempted to fill the smallest blue scoop with an extra water bead than I’d have expected it to hold. I’d have been happy to carry just one bead in such a small scoop, but Boo wasn’t going to be satisfied until she had three in there. In the series of pictures, it looks like quite a straightforward task, but it took Boo at least 5 minutes to get them to balance. They are quite slippery to handle and pop out of little fingers and scoops when squeezed too hard. Several times the top bead fell out, with the second one being dropped a few times whilst trying to retrieve the top one! This didn’t phase Boo. She was determined and patient – traits that I feel are part of her character.

Meanwhile Squidge happily filled and emptied the various containers. She loved shaking the clear egg box and watching the beads bounce around in the tub.

It wasn’t until the very end of this session of play that Squidge and Boo played together. Squidge pouring the beads, making funny noises as they tumbled, Boo trying to catch them as they went.

This play lasted us a good 45 minutes outside. Both girls developed their fine motor skills in various ways. They both persevered with a difficult, self chosen task until it was complete. They were both deeply immersed in their play. Not bad for £2 and a bunch of tubs and utensils.

We’ll be playing with water beads again very soon, there are so many different ways to use them. Have you used them before? Have I tempted you to give them a try? Let me know!

Thanks for reading,

Much love, Cat, Squidge and Boo Xxx

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