Friday, 31 May 2013


Nearly 2 weeks ago I posted about a mud sensory tray that I had set up in the garden. Unfortunately the weather has been so rubbish since then, we have not really enjoyed it as much as I had hoped. We have had a couple of chances to have a little explore though. 
We set the scene for this sensory tray by reading Jaspers Bean stalk and planting our own Bean plants in jars to watch the Bean brake open and the roots and shoot come out.. We had a conversation about what plants need to grow. Water, sunlight and soil to grow in. 
The tray itself just has compost from the local garden centre in. I would have liked to have some top soil but I did not have access to any extra  soil so decided compost was probably the next best thing.
I lay out watering cans, digging and raking tools, plant pots, a couple of jars of beans, buckets and some spinning windmill decorations that the children cleverly utilised as flowers for their pots.

I lay all the items out and just stood back. Watching how the children approached this. Little "R" and "L" got stuck in right away. They filled buckets and  pots with soil. Using the spades to transfer it. They experimented with the rakes but very quickly worked out that these were not great for the task and went back to the spades.  While this was going on, Little "X" stood back and just watched. He picked up the dinosaur watering can and hovered around the edge of the play. Every now and then he would step in a bit closer and comment on what the girls were doing. 
" R dig it"

Before long little "R" noticed the Beans in the tray and told me she was growing a beanstalk. She was very focused on using a bucket while Little "L" had started to fill plant pots and was laying them out on the floor next to her. They both placed Beans in their pots and then proceeded to cove them up with more soil.

Little "R" started to use the rake to pull soil on to the spade. This was interesting as I have been showing her how to use a knife to push the food on to the fork at meal times and she was drawing on this knowledge and transferring it to other areas.

Little "L" seemed to have the planting process very much secured in her understanding. She had a clear task to complete and didn't seem to need to think about the stages as she set about planting her bean.

She really surprised me by picking up one of the mini windmills and adding it to her pot, telling me it had grown and was a flower! This caught the attention of the other children and both wanted to look at her new flower and then try it out for themselves.

She then emptied out her pot and started the whole process again.
Little "X" came closer and started to dig in the soil, picking it up with his hands, looking at Beans and talking to the girls about what they were doing.

He now felt confident enough, after standing back and watching, to try it out for himself. He filled a bucket and added a Bean. He chatted the whole time about everything he was doing.  It is wonderful to hear his language develop and he seems to be interacting with the other children much more as a result of this. Little "X" is Bilingual and was much more confident in speaking Spanish than English, but in the last month or so his English has really taken a leap and I love listening to him sharing his thoughts.

He was very pleased to show everyone he had planted a Bean and was not too keen on covering it up.
Little "R" was getting brave now and balancing soil on her spade and carefully walking to her bucket, which she had placed a little bit further away. She walked slowly and carefully saying that she was not going to drop it, before pouring it in to her bucket.

She took a windmill with her to plant as a flower just like Little "L" had a few minutes earlier.

Little "X" watered his Bean...... the only child to remember this part of the story!

Little "R" decided to add other bits to her plants and picked some mint leaves from the herb box. I have planted herbs near the mud pie kitchen so that there are lots of plants that children can pick and add to their creations and potions. I chose herbs as I wanted something that would stimulate the senses. They can taste these and smell them which makes them even more appealing.  We all had a sniff!

Little "X" decided to improve his chances of growing something by adding all the Beans to his pot!

After a good 45 minutes of play we suddenly realised our hands were dirty!

Before we all went in for lunch, Little "X" was fully involved in the play and helping the others with their planting. They were all chatting together and swapping ideas.

 Each of the children showed great involvement in this activity. Even little "X" who initially stood back and watched, very soon became engaged in the play and willing to give it a go. They all used knowledge from the story we had read and the initial "Beans in a jar" activity, and transferred it to this one. Remembering what they had learnt and reinforcing it by practising  the process over and over again in a more hands on way.
 Each child wanted to share what they were doing, showing the others the Bean in the pot or the windmill growing! Sharing their achievements and ideas. They worked things out for themselves and used items to represent other items. Making links with past play or learning and bringing that to the current activity.

Today's play, meets the following EYFS Prime and specific areas
  • Communication and Language
  • Personal, Social and Emotional
  • Expressive Art and Design
  • Physical Development
  • Understanding the World

Monday, 27 May 2013


This week we have been learning about vegetables. The children all seem to have enjoyed this mini topic and gained a lot from it. They have loved having real vegetables to hold and sniff and lick and try and cut up!
All too often we give plastic versions of everyday items and the children seem quite pleased to play with them.
 But they all feel the same, weigh the same, smell and taste the same. The only difference might be the size, shape or colour. I have tried to address this a little by replacing the huge selection of plastic play food that I did have, for a smaller but better quality selection of felted, knitted and wooden play food items. I have gone for quality over quantity. Something was still missing though.
It became very clear once I offered a selection of fresh vegetables in to the home corner last week. The first thing I noticed was the smell in the playroom. A lovely smell of fresh vegetables, a sweetness in the air.

The second thing I noticed was the time the children spent exploring each item. In the past I have watched as they have filled bowls with play food and then very quickly passed them to me and urged me to "eat up!"
This week however, the children all seemed to take time over preparing the imaginary meal. The held each vegetable and commented on its shape or size.
 "That's a long carrot!"
"My onion's round look!"
There was conversation about the weights of the items. Children held up Turnips and sweet potatoes and told me it was a heavy one!!
There were lots of discussions over the feel and look of the Aubergine! New words were used such as rubbery and shiny.

The learning opportunities and quality of play was enhanced and improved by a simple change. Adding real items to the activity rather than toys. The change was not expensive either as vegetables can be bought cheaply at your local market. Before any items became bad and unusable, we either fed them to the rabbit or chickens, used them in our painting activity, added them to the mud sensory tray or used them in a meal.
This has left me thinking about how I can offer real food items in the play area more often. Maybe Pastas, beans and lentils. Dried foods seem like a safe place to start. Cereals would also be fun and maybe dried herbs and rice.

 Any spillages can be swept up and popped back in the bowl, they can be used as the base of a sensory tray and the sweeping up of spills can be used as a fantastic opportunity for learning life skills. Maybe add a small dustpan and brush to the home corner or a child sized broom. Anything left can be easily hoovered up at the end of a play session.

 I have set myself a challenge of providing the children with more "real" play items. Old mobile phones, broken digital cameras and laptops are far more appealing to the children in my setting, than the toy versions. They certainly get more play time than the plastic toy versions.

My children's tool set is very rarely chosen despite being available and accessible. But I can guarantee you that as soon as I place a broken electrical appliance on the table and a couple of screwdrivers out, all the children come flocking and everyone wants a tool of some sort to take apart this wonderful treasure!

I wonder how many toys we can find to swap for something more real?
 I would love to hear you thoughts and idea on this.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013


As part of this weeks vegetable topic we have been exploring and playing with lots of vegetables. They have been chopped, dropped, licked, sniffed, rolled, bounced, kicked like a ball and all manor of other interesting things. They are now, as you can imagine, looking rather battered. I thought now might be a good time to do the painting activity that I had planed,
I gathered a selection and chopped them in half. I squirted some Tempera paint on to paper plates and then placed the chopped veg on to them.
I tried to match, as closely as I could, the colour of the vegetable to the paint. I also stuck a fork in to each halved vegetable as this made it much easier for the children to hold the vegetable, dip it in paint and then print it on the paper.

We talked about the colours and the names of each vegetable. We looked at the patterns that each one made.

Once we had filled one strip of paper, we hung it up to dry and lay out another strip. It looked like a big piece of vegetable print wall paper!
I chose to use large paper as the vegetables were quite large. I wanted the children to be able to print away for a length of time without the frustration of running out of space too quickly or not being able to fit on a print.  I drew a line down the middle of the paper and explained to each child which side was theirs and to be honest they mostly respected this and each others space.

The second time round, the girls needed less of my involvement and modelling of how to print. This was what I hoped for and it was great to see them become a bit inventive. They started to roll the sweetcorn over the page so that it made a speckled pattern. Little "R" also broke a piece of sweetcorn in half and printed with the small end to see how that changed the print that she was making.

Little "L" started to paint her prints in neat rows across her paper!

Little "X" arrived a little later in the day but he really enjoyed this activity as well.

I noticed that both Little "X" and Little "L" are making much clearer prints this time compared to the prints on our African men a couple of weeks ago. They seem to have got the idea of pressing down and then pulling up again.

The children all found this activity fun and it was a good chance to recap on the vegetable names that we had been learning this week. They were using knowledge that they already had from our previous printing activity and applying what they had learnt that time, to this session. As a result the children made much clearer prints and there was much less pushing the print item around to spread the paint. There was lots of sharing and asking for a colour or a specific vegetable to be passed to them. Each child was involved, concentrating and wanted to add their mark to this big picture!

Today's play, meets the following EYFS Prime and specific areas
  • Communication and Language
  • Personal, Social and Emotional
  • Expressive Art and Design
  • Physical Development

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


I run a Toddler session at the local school and usually it is just a few families from the village and those near by. We are not a big place with ride on toys and lots of organised activities. We are more a free play session where parents and children can meet up for a drink and snack and play with some lovely toys for an hour.
We run it from the school hall and some of the younger Pre school children come over with a staff member for a play. The 3 childminders in our village, the school and the pre-school (which is based on site) all have a close relationship and for the most part have shared care of many of the local children. It is a very close and unique set up which I very much value.

One of the other childminders organised a scrap session for us this week with someone from our local scrap store. We asked parents to gather any bits they could and to bring them along to share on the day. The lady running the session brought everything we needed. She lay out a big sheet and poured lots of boxes, tubes, fabrics, strings, buttons, bottles tops and other wonderful scrap items in to a big heap on top! Very soon the room was filled with busy toddlers and Foundation stage school children, rummaging about and creating away! The Pre-school children joined us and set about building things to take home!

Little "L" said she wanted to make a "Babbit!" Rabbits are her absolute favourite thing in the world! She chose a pot and some strips of tissue paper and set about gluing the tissue paper to the pot!

Little "R" did not know what she wanted to make so she started off finding a box and then choosing sticky backed plastic to decorate it with before adding bottle tops and other decorative items. Her idea I think was more about creating a sculpture rather than a defined thing. Her Art grew and developed as she made it.

Little "J" was not really himself today and so a little tearful and coldy.  But he had a lovely time with this plastic bottle and I gave him bits of labels and sticky coloured plastic to add to it. He managed to get the lid off at one point and put items inside. We popped the lid back on and then gave it a shake to see what it sounded like. This has been a clear aim in most of his play of late. To see what things sound like.

 Little "L" worked very hard and with amazing focus and determination to cover every side of her Babbits body!

She wanted a face so I cut a circle out of a white label and she drew on it with a pen. Before long she looked at me and with a big smile said, "My name,  look, my name!"
We then looked at drawing features on to it, like a mouth (which she asked me to do) and she added whiskers. We found some googly eyes to stick on as well!

Little "R" spent a lot of time asking people to cut out sparkly shapes for her which she stick on to her creation with great care!

Look! All finished!

Little "R" sat with my sister, who had come for a play, and filled and emptied this little pot with plastic clip things! She had seen other children making shakers and decided it would be fun to make one of her own! She tried several pots and fillings until she found the one she liked.

After we finished our building, we started stacking. Building glitter towers!

Here are our finished items! They were so proud of their creations and quick to show parents and grandparents when they came to pick them up this evening!

Today's play, meets the following EYFS Prime and specific areas
  • Communication and Language
  • Personal, Social and Emotional
  • Expressive Art and Design
  • Physical Development


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