19 December 2007

Competition Winner

We are pleased to announce that the winner of Littlesheep Learning's Christmas Competition is 6 year old Daniel from Saddleworth.

Here is his winning tree:

13 December 2007

Happy Christmas for the Birds

I provided some Christmas / winter themed activities for Sally at Treehugger Mums as part of her Christmas countdown series which she is posting on her blog each day in the run up to Christmas.

One of them is bird feeders and as it's started getting frosty we're going to make some this afternoon (plus wrap a few up for grandparent presents!).

You will need:
Yoghurt pots and string
Good quality birdseed, raisins, peanuts, grated cheese
Suet or lard,

How to:
Carefully make a small hole in the bottom of a yoghurt pot (if you are making them as gifts decorate the pot first).
Thread string through the hole and tie a knot on the inside.
Leave enough string so that you can tie the pot to a tree or your bird table.
Cut up the lard into small pieces and put it in the mixing bowl.
Add the other ingredients to the bowl and mix them together with your fingertips.
Keep adding the seed / raisin / cheese mixture and squashing it until the fat holds it all together.
Fill the yoghurt pots with bird cake mixture and put them in the fridge to set for an hour or so.
Hang your bird feeders from trees or your bird table and watch for birds.

Children can have fun identifying birds by matching what they look like to a picture book. Will a Christmas robin visit your garden?

11 December 2007

Decorating the Christmas Tree

We've just been decorating our tree and I've realised that even something as simple as this can offer endless possibilities for learning and generalising knowledge.

First, there is the waiting - that is the bit where the adults are putting on the lights! Our pre-schooler found this very difficult as he was very excited to be involved in decorating the tree.

Then the decorations, these hold several different learning opportunities, you can label the items - tinsel, baubles, beads and the ornaments - snowmen, angels, Father Christmas, reindeer. You can practice colours and shapes (depending on your decorations!). You can practice prepositions / adjectives / opposites - on the tree 'v' off the tree, high 'v' low, top 'v' bottom, put it next to the star / above the snowman / below the bauble / under the tree.

Lastly there is the big lesson of not touching the finished tree! Our toddler is still learning this one so I keep being presented with the baubles with him saying 'ball'.

08 December 2007

Paperchain Learning

We've been making paperchains and whilst threading, looping and sticking (and stapling!) I started to think of all the learning opportunities that this activity can create.

Firstly, if you aren't using a pack of precut strips (like we did) then there are lots of skills needed to prepare your paperchain strips and then the paper needs to be measured and lines drawn on using a ruler or folded to divide up the page, then the strips need to be cut practicing scissor skills.

Whilst making the paperchain, the repetitive threading is an excellent fine motor task. Incidental learning can also occur if you label the colours / pictures on your paper strips or make patterns with different colours to practice sequencing skills. Precut strips are often gummed so licking and sticking the ends is good for children who have oral-motor difficulties and need to practice sticking their tongue out. Fixing your chains with a dab of glue or sticky tape will help children co-ordination and using a small stapler is also great fine motor skill practice.

Have fun making your paperchains this Christmas.

06 December 2007

Christmas Colouring Sheets

Did you know that at Littlesheep Learning we have a whole host of Christmas colouring sheets that are FREE to download? These simple picture outlines are great for young children who are just starting to colour in. There are currently five to choose from Christmas tree, Elf, Father Christmas, Robin and Snowman. There are also a range of activity sheets targetting matching skills, finding the 'odd one out' and wordsearches of varying difficulties. Look out for more worksheets being added soon.

Also don't forget that your children can enter our Christmas Colouring Competition by decorating a Christmas tree outline and sending it to us. Look out for the best trees being featured here later this month.

05 December 2007

Christmas Cooking - Christmas biscuits

If your children are anything like mine getting into a mess in the kitchen is a great way to keep them busy. Cooking is a great tool for incidental learning; you are making use of maths skills with the measuring, using literacy skills - reading and following the instructions and the mixing, rolling, cutting and icing are great to help develop motor skills.

Today I've promised the children that we'll make Christmas biscuits this afternoon. If you want to join us making Christmas Biscuits, you will need:

Equipment:
  • scales
  • mixing bowl
  • fork
  • plate
  • teaspoon
  • biscuit cutters (you can get some lovely ones from PinkFairyCake)
  • rolling pin
  • baking tray
  • oven gloves,
  • wire tray
Ingredients
  • 175g/6oz plain flour
  • 50g/2oz caster sugar
  • 100g/4oz butter
  • 5ml/1tsp vanilla essence
  • Icing / sprinkles to decorate
Method
  1. Heat the oven to 170˚C/325˚F/Gas Mark 3.
  2. Grease the baking sheet with butter or margarine.
  3. Weigh the flour and sugar and put them into a bowl.
  4. Weigh the butter and cut into small pieces.
  5. Add the butter to the flour and sugar.
    Mix together with a fork and rub everything together with your fingers.
    Rub the mixture together until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.
  6. Measure the vanilla essence and add it to the mixture.
  7. Gather all the mixture together and squeezing it gently to make a ball
  8. Sprinkle flour on to a clean work surface and put your mixture on to it.
  9. Knead it with your fingers until you have a smooth, firm ball.
  10. Put some flour on the rolling pin and gently roll out the mixture until it is about half a centimetre thick.
  11. Then cut out your shapes using your cutters (f you want to make tree decorations from your bicuits use a skewer to make a hole for your ribbon).
  12. Gather up any spare bits of mixture and roll it out again to make more biscuits.
  13. Carefully pick up the biscuits and put them on to greased baking sheets.
  14. Put the baking trays into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until the biscuits are a light golden colour.
  15. Leave the biscuits to cool for 5 minutes before lifting them on to the wire cooling tray. (If you are making decorations poke the skewer into the holes to make sure they don’t close up as the biscuits cool).
  16. Use icing / sprinkles to decorate if you want to.
  17. Eat! (or give away as presents)

04 December 2007

Other Festivals - Hannukah

As Christians, we are busy looking at the Nativity story, in the Littlesheep Learning household, as well as following the secular Christmas traditions for example the magic of Father Christmas from our childhoods. It is important though that children learn about other cultures / religions and their festivals. One thing that seems to be a common theme throughout the winter festivals is the use of lights - we have an Advent candle being lit each evening as a preparation for the Christmas season. The children celebrated the Hindu / Sikh festival Divali at nursery at the end of October / beginning of November by making lamps and sunset tonight marks the start of the Jewish festival of of Hannukah.

Hannukah celebrates the miracle of the oil for the menorah (the 6-branched candelabrum) that should have only lasted for one night but lasted for eight days. For more information about Hannukah some activities for you to share with your children see this article at Treehugger Mums.

03 December 2007

Letters to Father Christmas

Most children will be wanting to tell Father Christmas what they would like for Christmas and historically children will be writing letters to him and putting them up the chimney / posting them to the North Pole. The prospect of writing this important letter is a challenge for toddlers and children with fine motor difficulties so here are some ideas to make it easier for them and you.

  1. Write the letter for your child and get them to decorate it by sprinkling glitter, sticking on Christmassy stickers and doodling borders, they could also add their own name.

  2. Write the letter for your child to copy / trace

  3. Let your child type their letter (I believe you can even email Santa these days!)

  4. Get your child to 'cut and stick' their letter, help them select the things from Christmas catalogues and stick them to create a picture list.

Christmas


December is now here so over the next month I'll be posting some suggestions of art and craft activities and other learning opportunities with a wintery and Christmas theme. From writing letters to Father Christmas to making Christmas cards and wrapping paper there will be ideas for everyone. I'll also share some of our favourite books from our Christmas story box which made their appearance by magic on 1st December.

20 November 2007

Christmas Competitions and Offers

Today at Littlesheep Learning we are launching our Christmas Colouring Competition and Christmas Offers. More savings and weekly / daily specials will be added throughout December so keep checking back.

To enter our Christmas Colouring Competition - simply print the Christmas tree outline, colour and decorate your tree and post it to us before 17th December 2007 to be in with a chance of winning a copy of the Big Book of Things to Make and Do. Good luck and get decorating! The competition is open to all children under the age of 12.

Also a special Christmas present enter the code Christmas at checkout and you can save 10% but hurry this offer ends on our last Christmas posting date of 20th December.

19 November 2007

Five Little Ducks

Everyone knows the rhyme 5 Little Ducks went swimming one day and this is an excellent rhyme to use to start teaching children about counting and about ducks. Here are some ideas!




Activity ideas:
Different activities will be suitable for children of different ages so you may be able to revisit this list over a number of years!

  • Go and feed the ducks
  • Play with bath ducks in water
  • Share rhymes about ducks (see suggestions below)
  • Share books about ducks (see suggestions below)
  • Play with the 5 Little Ducks Teaching Song Mitt
  • Draw and colour pictures of ducks
  • Talk about the noise ducks make - you could play listening games and listen for the duck
  • Talk about where ducks live
  • Talk about the lifecycle of ducks from eggs, to ducklings to grown up ducks

Songs and Rhymes
The most popular duck rhyme has to be 5 Little Ducks went swimming one day (start with 3 for younger children!), this is a rhyme that varies everywhere it is sung but here is our version!

Five little ducks went swimming one day,
Over the pond and far away,
Mummy Duck said "quack, quack, quack, quack",
But only four little ducks came back.

Repeat with four little ducks, then three, then two, then one until 'no little ducks came swimming back'. Then we sing:

Daddy duck went swimming one day ,
Over the pond and far away,
Mummy Duck said "quack, quack, quack, quack",
And all the ducks came swimming back.

Another rhyme is:

Five little ducks that I once knew,
Three were fat and skinny were two,
But the one little duck,
With the feather on his back,
He led the others with a quack, quack, quack,
Quack, quack, quack,
Quack, quack, quack,
He led the others with a quack, quack, quack.

Down to the river they would go,
Wibble, wobble, wibble, wobble, to and fro,
But the one little duck,
With the feather on his back,
He led the others with a quack, quack, quack,
Quack, quack, quack,
Quack, quack, quack,
He led the others with a quack, quack, quack.

Back from the river they would come,
Wibble, wobble, wibble, wobble, ho, hum, hum,
But the one little duck,
With the feather on his back,
He led the others with a quack, quack, quack,
Quack, quack, quack,
Quack, quack, quack
He led the others with a quack, quack, quack.

Lastly,

Isn't it a bit of luck
That I was born a baby duck
With yellow socks and yellow shoes
I can go wherever I choose?
Quack, quack, quack quack

Books

There are many books based on the 5 Little Ducks song, my favourite is

  • Five Little Ducks by Penny Ives

Other 'duck' books include:

  • One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root and Jane Chapman
  • Nine Ducks Nine by Sarah Hayes
  • Duck (Read & Learn: Life Cycles) by Richard Spilsbury
  • From Egg to Duck (How Things Grow) by Sally Morgan
  • I am a Duck by Linda Bygrave

18 November 2007

New Series of Posts

I've been tidying up and I've come across the piles of handouts from the Stay and Play sessions we go to, so I thought I'd write a series of posts based on these. This term the theme has been animals and each week there is a song, a story and activities based on the theme. I'll try and post every few days for the next week or so and then continue to post them each week. Look out for suggestions surrounding ducks, frogs, farm animals, jungle animals and more! These play ideas are great for incidental learning and increasing a child's general knowledge.

06 November 2007

Road Safety Week

This week (5th-11th November 2007) is Road Safety Week. The theme of Road Safety Week 2007 is child pedestrian and cyclist safety. Brake will be urging drivers to slow down around schools and homes and calling for measures to help protect children on foot and bikes.

Some things to remember to keep children safe when out walking...
  • Hold your child's hand / keep them close by you - young children are often unpredictable and could easily run into the road
  • Always talk to your child about finding a safe place to cross and use pedestrian crossings when they are available
  • Make sure you STOP, LOOK and LISTEN before crossing the road - wait until there are no cars coming
  • If going out after dark - wear light or reflective clothing
For more resources - check out the resources for parents here and the resources for 3-10 year olds here. Resources for other groups are also available.

01 November 2007

Competition Winner

The winner of our 'Write a Review' Competition is Jane from Stoke on Trent. Jane wins a The Complete book of First Experiences - this padded hardback book is a lovely collection of nine titles from Usborne's First Experiences series.

Jane wrote a review of the Today's Chart a colourful chart showing the day, date, month, year, season and weather. In the review Jane praised the chart for being a "great way to incorporate lots of different skills in a fun and easy way".

To celebrate this review winning the competition Today's Chart will be November's Monthly Special.

25 October 2007

MPs urge rethink on special needs

I was reading an article today about the Education and Skills Committee's repeated call for the government to rethink its refusal to separate the assessment and funding of special educational needs, to increase parents' confidence in the operation of the system in England.

Local councils are responsible for assessing what extra help children may need in schools, as well as funding it. In 2006 around 1.5 million children, or 19% of all pupils in England's schools, were recorded as having some sort of special educational need (SEN) and around 3% have an SEN statement, which sets out the extra help to which they are entitled and follows the formal assessment in question. It is the process of getting this extra help that proves troublesome for many parents, with some taking their cases to special tribunals.

The report said it did not matter how diligent a local authority was in assessing how much help a child might need, dissatisfied families would "conclude the assessment was tainted by the need to restrict costs".

The committee first called on the government to take the responsibility for assessing the needs out of the hands of the local authorities that fund them in a report published in July 2006. But the government refused, saying this would inevitably result in a new agency to carry out assessments having to be created. However, in its latest report, the committee suggests a range of options, including assessments being commissioned by local authorities or delegating the responsibility to schools.

Committee chairman Barry Sheerman said: "We were very disappointed in the government's response to our original report on SEN, which seemed to demonstrate an unwillingness to consider alternative ways of addressing vital issues on assessment of need and service provision." He added that children with special educational needs and their families deserved better. Evidence to this follow-up inquiry showed that assessment of need could be made more independent without introducing a whole new bureaucratic structure. The report also calls for much greater transparency in how money for children with special needs is spent and it asks the government for an explicit commitment to provide a national framework for special educational needs.

Schools Minister Andrew Adonis said improving the chances for children with special educational needs was one of its priorities, which was why funding had been boosted. He said "We agree with the report that ensuring parents have confidence in the SEN system is important." He outlined a commitment to undertake research to look at the experience of parents through the process (with the tribunals service) and identify how schools, local authorities and the SEN and disability tribunal can increase parental confidence - this research should be published next summer. In the shorter term, he said that careful consideration of the ideas that the committee has put forward for increasing parents' trust in the system.

The general secretary of the NASUWT teachers' union, Chris Keates, said changes to the assessment process would be unwise stating that the MPs' recommendations were based on anecdote and perceptions about alleged conflict of interest rather than hard evidence.

I think it's interesting that the NASUWT seem to agree that the current system is adequate when nearly all parents I know have had to fight to get their child the services that they believe they need - there definitely needs to be more research to assess whether it is anecdotal or whether it is factual.

What do you think? Did you have to fight for services / the education your child deserved? Let me know!

24 October 2007

The Bercow Review

John Bercow MP has been asked by the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families to carry out an independent review of services for children and young people with speech, language and communications needs.

The review's call for evidence was launched on 16 October and will run until 18th January 2008. School staff, students and parents are invited to contribute. The evidence will contribute to an interim report to both Secretaries of State in March 2008 and a final report making recommendations in July.

Visit the Bercow Review page for more information and add your evidence to help make a difference.

23 October 2007

Carnival of Family Life

We are pleased to announce that our post: Fun Fine Motor / Sensory Activity has been included in this week's Carnival of Family Life. Blog carnivals are a great way of finding out other blogs on subjects that interest you - take a look there is lots of reading there!

To check out the
Carnival of Family Life's Index for past and future Carnival Hosts or to submit your blog posts.

Free Handhugger Pen

Spend over £5 (not including any discounts / P&P) between 23rd and 30th October 2007 and get a FREE Handhugger Pen.

These triangular writing pens have a special chunky, hard-wearing nib and washable ink. The nib is designed to give slight resistance to the paper so that it gives greater control when first learning to write. These pens are popular and comfortable for all age groups including those with fine motor difficulties as well as children learning to write.

18 October 2007

Fun Fine Motor / Sensory Activity

I just came across this activity posted on a forum in a Facebook group I'm a member of - Babies Toddlers Kids Early Learning Group Help your kids take giant leaps. It looks a fantastic way to engage children in sensory play helping them develop their fine motor skills and encourage the use of descriptive language.

All you need for this game is a pillow case and househild objects. Fill the pillowcase with anything interesting you can find around the house. The objects should be preferably small and should vary in shape and texture (and of course be safe to touch under supervision).
Here are some of the objects that you can put in the pillowcase:
  • cotton reel
  • cotton wool ball
  • small sponge
  • building block
  • marble
  • toy car
  • key
  • small teddy
  • tennis ball
  • teaspoon
  • and anything else you might find around the house!

The more objects are in the pillowcase, the more interesting the game will become.

The first and the easiest stage of the game is to sit with your baby on the floor, get them to reach inside the bag and take out one of the objects. Let the baby hold and play with the object for a while. While you are examining the object you can say things like "How does it feel?", "Is it smooth?", "Does it feel soft?", etc.

The next stage of the game can be played with children who are a little older and are beginning to talk. Again, get the child to reach for the object in the bag but before they take it out they have to guess what the object is. After they take it out ask some questions about the properties of the object (for example; What shape is it? What color is it? What do we use it for? How do we use it?).

This activity could also be used as part of a circle time activity with children taking it in turns.

17 October 2007

Is your five year old meeting the targets?

I've just been reading a report that says 'Five-year-olds short on skills'. Assessments of children observed in reception classes show only 45% of five-year-olds in England meet government goals for their learning and development. The statistics are drawn from assessments made by teachers in a child's first year of formal education - reception class looking at how far children go in reaching what are known as "early learning goals" in areas such as: personal social and emotional development; communication, language and literacy; mathematical development; physical development; creative development; and knowledge and understanding of the world. Only 35% of five-year-olds in deprived areas were reaching the early goals compared to 45% of the population as a whole.

The government has put a lot of resources into schemes designed to help lift children out of the poverty trap and improve their life chances, believing that early intervention is crucial.
Sure Start children's centres have been set up in 1,500 of the most disadvantaged areas, offering nursery or play group sessions as well as health advice and parenting classes, however this has yet to significantly improve the outcomes for these children.


So what can you do to help ensure your child meets the standards?
  • work in partnership with your child's school, attend parents evenings / curriculum advice sessions, join in with school activities and help your child with their homework,
  • don't assume that your child will learn everything they need to know in school, spend time sharing books, playing games and teaching them informally through outings and household activities

15 October 2007

My Child Magazine

I'm pleased to share with you that as Littlesheep Learning is run by me as a 'work at home mum' (WAHM) I am featured in the October issue of My Child magazine in an article about Mums in Business. The article aims to help inspire other women to take the plunge and go self-employed and begin to run their own businesses from home.

My Child is the leading magazine for parents of 3-13 year olds and covering many subjects including learning and development, the National Curriculum, family days out, health and nutrition, special needs, and great articles like riding a bike, getting enough sleep, children and technology and all the things that concern parents.

Enterprise Nation - Home Business Awards

A while back I entered Enterprise Nation's Home Business Award. In the last few weeks they announced Wendy Shand from Tots to France as the winner and distributed Finalist's Awards - you can see ours here! You can read Wendy's entry here. Some of the entries will be featured on their website and in a book that's coming out in March - so fingers crossed they include me!

10 October 2007

Littlesheep Learning Sponsor Mumszone!

We are pleased to announce that Littlesheep Learning now sponsor Mumszone; a great friendly forum for mums (and dads) to chat about parenting and every other aspect of their lives! Mumszone also has a really friendly work at home (wah) parents section.

Come and take a look!

Mumszone Parents Forum

08 October 2007

Littlesheep Learning's New Banner

I'm pleased to announce that we now have a new banner - anyone who had linked to the old one should now be seeing the new one! Thank you to Alison at Daffodil Design for all her hard work. If you would like to display our banner please contact me and I can email you the link or the file.

05 October 2007

BT Tradespace

I've just found out that Littlesheep Learning's BT Tradespace has been declared BT Tradespacer of the week - see here for details!

National Bookstart Day


Today is National Bookstart Day and the theme is Jungle Party!
Bookstart aims to provide a free packs of books to every baby and toddler in the UK, to inspire, stimulate and create a love of reading that will give children a flying start in life.
There are lots of events taking place all over the country to celebrate - we're off to one later, but if you are reading this too late to join in there are ideas for jungle related activites you can do at home; including a monkey mask, colouring sheets and special rhymesheets. There is also a suggest list of jungle related stories to share.

Our favourites from that list are:

From the author and illustrator of The Gruffalo; Monkey Puzzle, is full of the same fantastic rhymes and beautiful illustrations. Our eldest child loves to finish the rhymes and spot all the different animals.





The traditional tale Dear Zoo is a favourite from my childhood which has now been shared with both our children. We have the board book edition which has sturdy flaps so they can look at it on their own. Our youngest loves lifting the flaps and especially likes 'roaring' at the lion!



Another favourite in our house which isn't on that list is Rumble in the Jungle. From the very first poem it is an open invitation to enter the jungle and experience this wonderful collection of animal poems. This book is great and has been popular since our eldest was a toddler and now he knows most of the rhymes by heart! Written by Giles Andreae, (known to many as Purple Ronnie), and illustrated by David Wojtowycz using bright colorful pictures, the whole book an amazing combination of words and colour and fun.

Any of these three books would be ideal for use in story sacks, and check out these lovely finger puppets to celebrate the Bookstart Jungle Party.

04 October 2007

The Changing Treatment of Children with Disabilities

I've always been interested in the history of health and social care in the UK and the developments of improved understanding, care and integration for people with disabilities.

I've just read this article about the changing attitudes surrounding care for children with Down Syndrome over four generations of families with a child with Down Syndrome. It's quite eye-opening to read how recently systematic institutionalisation still occured. The article reminded me of a school my aunt taught in who were among the first to welcome children with Down Syndrome into mainstream schools which is no-longer considered unusual. I think it's great how attitudes to inclusion are improving (although I'm sure there is still a long way to go).

Well done everyone who has helped to make a difference and change the care systems - I hope that things continue to improve for all children with disabilities.

03 October 2007

New Fine Motor Activities

At Littlesheep Learning we've always stocked a range of items to help children with writing, drawing and cutting but we appreciate for children with fine motor difficulties these activities are not fun. We are now stocking a range of fine motor activities to help children develop the manipulation and dexterity skills needed whilst having fun.

I introduced you to the Floopy yesterday, in addition we now have:
  • Snap beads - brightly coloured, textured beads that snap together easily

  • Tactile beads - large tactile foam beads that make threading easy and fun
  • Chunky threading shapes - colourful and chunky, soft shapes that can be threaded in many different ways

These fine motor activities are all great for developing mathematical, sequential and sorting skills, learning colours and shapes as well as improving hand-eye co-ordination and fine motor dexterity whilst having lots of fun.

Look out for more fun fine motor activities to be added here in the future!

02 October 2007

Floopy - Threading Toy

A long time ago a friend who has a daughter with down syndrome mentioned a great threading toy - I think it was her Portage worker who showed it to her.

We've tracked it down and are now pleased to announce that we are stocking the 'Floopy' at Littlesheep Learning.

The 'Floopy' consists of a chunky, flexible, stripy pipe and six brightly coloured textured jumbo sized foam beads that can be threaded onto it. This toy is great toy for children who are starting to develop threading skills and can help improve dexterity, hand-eye co-ordination, colour recognition, tactile and fine motor skills.

30 September 2007

New Site for Networking

I've just joined Giant Potential this is a new website for networking with other work at home mums.



28 September 2007

Teaching Emotions

I've posted before briefly about some ideas for teaching emotions and I am now pleased to announce the arrival at Littlesheep Learning of our Emotions category - starting with three great products that will help making learning about emotions, understanding feelings and recognising expressions easier and more enjoyable.

Firstly, the Mr Face Wall Hanging, this wall hanging is the ideal way to introduce children to emotions, feelings and facial expressions. The detachable pieces make it easy for any child to create their own version of happy, sad and any of a multitude of other expressions on the outline of Mr. Face. This fantastic resource can be used to promote the recognition of expressions and children change the expression to match how they are feeling.

Secondly, the Miss Face Cube, a delightful complimentary resource to the Mr Face Wall Hanging. The Miss Face cube features a different emotion on each side and is great fun for activities and games - a perfect way to discuss emotions and feelings.

And, lastly, the
Emotions Teaching Mitt as introduced in our Puppets post earlier this month. A lovely glove puppet that fits onto an adults hand and features the expressions of happy, sad, angry, surprised and worried.

27 September 2007

Bean Bag Learning

We've just added these lovely Letter Beanie Bags - a bean bag for every letter of the alphabet. These lovely bean bags each have letter stitched on - lowercase one side and uppercase on the reverse with the consonants stitched in blue and the vowels in red to help children distinguish between them. Each bean bag measures approximately 7cm and can be stored conveniently in the drawstring cloth bag.

These bean bags join our popular shape, colour and number beanie bags and are ideal for a wide range of letter and phonics games.


As promised on my previous post announcing the arrival of the shape, colour and number beanie bags here are some ideas to use them to make learning fun.
  1. Put the bean bags in their storage bags and take turns to take one out and identify it
  2. Spread the bean bags out and see who can find a specified one first
  3. Match the bean bags to shape, colour, letter or number flashcards
  4. Match the bean bags to objects (and objects to bean bags) - the same shape or colour or starting with that letter sound or the same quantity
  5. Try and put the letter or number bean bags in order
  6. Spread out the number or letter bean bags and using string make a giant dot to dot
  7. Identify colours / shapes / numbers and letters by practicing throwing - throw me the red one, the square one, the number three or the letter f
  8. Seperate the vowels / consonants or odd / even numbers by throwing into seperate hoops

Let me know how you use yours to enhance your child's multisensory learning experience.

26 September 2007

Down Syndrome Fundraising

I've just been sent an email about two fantastic fundraising projects that will help you get ready for Christmas!

Firstly Downsed Christmas Cards - there are six designs to choose from including three of collages made by Downsed Pre-school Early Intervention groups - my favourite being this lovely Father Christmas card.

The Down Syndrome Educational Trust is a charity that is leading international research to examine how developmental and educational interventions can improve outcomes for people with Down syndrome. Their work improves the lives of many thousands of people living with Down syndrome around the world today.

Secondly, the PROUD Calendar 2008 - This calendar is produced by P.R.O.U.D and features photographs of the children from PROUD and other children who are gathered from various online communities from the UK and across the world, whose parents feel as proud about their children.
P.R.O.U.D. (Parents, Relatives & Others Understanding Down's) is a parent led support group (based in Walsall), which aims to provide for the needs of individuals with Down’s syndrome, to offer support, acceptance, advice and encouragement for parents, carers, family and friends of persons with Down’s syndrome, to increase awareness and knowledge of issues relating to Down’s syndrome and to educate the community about the presence, the potential and the needs of people with Down’s syndrome.
If you have any similar fundraising projects please let me know and I'll try and feature them here.

25 September 2007

Starting School or Starting a School

Most school aged children will have settled back into school this month but what do you do if you can't find a school that you feel fulfils the needs of your child? Home education is one answer but it isn't for everyone, I just read this article and another option appears to be starting your own school. The article explains why and how four parents started their own schools; Lewes New School in Suffolk, The Family School at Larkhill in Clapham, Chrysalis School for Autism in Hertfordshire and Moon Hall School and Community College.
Lewes New School opened in 2000 and has sixty pupils, from ages three to 11 with fees 0f £1,750 a term. It was started by Adrienne Campbell and her friends Miranda and Stephanie, after they realised they kept moaning about their children's education. Their school has small class sizes, fosters respectful adult/child communication and involves creative and challenging learning, it does not follow the National Curriculum.

The Family School at Larkhill, Clapham, southwest London opened in September and has 12 pupils aged from ages six to eight with fees of £1,500 a term. The school was founded by Polly Griffiths, her husband Dil Green, and a group of other committed parents. Currently the Family School at Larkhall has no permanent home, but an eco-friendly building, will be ready next January. Currently teaching takes place four mornings a week, and the rest of the time parents lead activities such as gardening, cooking, dancing and days out to museums. The school took inspiration from the Human Scale Education movement that promotes small class sizes and values each child's individual talents. The families come from a variety of backgrounds, and all parents have to put in one day a week at the school, leading activities, cooking the school's organic lunches, driving or doing administrative work.


Chrysalis School for Autism, Codicote, Hertfordshire was opened in 2005 and has just three pupils, aged from four to 13. It has fees of £15,000 a term, with one-to-one teaching. Laura Dyer started the quest for a new school as she felt the LEAs special needs school did not meet the needs of her son William. Before he went to school, William had been using Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) at home, an intensive way of teaching autistic children that breaks tasks down into small stages and uses positive reinforcement to develop skills. Chrysalis aims to provide ABA teaching for other autistic children in the area.

Moon Hall School and Community College, Surrey. The school was opened in 1985 and the college in 2005. There are 100 pupils (aged 7-13) at Moon Hall School, and 88 (aged 3-13) at Moon Hall College. Fees are from £1,900 for mainstream teaching with dyslexia fees worked out on an individual basis. Berry Baker started the school as she was unhappy with the dyslexic teaching available locally for her child. With the encouragement from her friend Andrea, who also had a dyslexic son, she decided to teach the two boys herself at home whilst training in dyslexic teaching. When the school outgrewn her house, it moved into a new building in the 60-acre grounds of Belmont, a nearby prep school near Dorking. Moon Hall School's pupils have access to Belmont's games, drama and other non-academic facilities. Two years ago the charity bought a school near Reigate – Moon Hall College at Burys Court takes children from three to 13 years old, mainstream and dyslexic, with the intention of taking them up to 16 in the future.

These four stories are very inspiring - I'm sure it isn't an easy thing to do but certainly is worth considering as an option if you feel that your local schools are not meeting the needs of your children. Anyone can set up an independent school, but you are legally required to register with the Department for Children, Schools and Families (formerly the Department for Education and Skills) and undergo an Ofsted inspection to make sure the school reaches "satisfactory standards in relation to the quality of teaching, the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of its pupils, the premises and accommodation, the welfare, health and safety of pupils and the suitability of the proprietor and staff within the school". Independent schools can decide their own curriculum and ethos so do not have to follow the National Curriculum. Most independent schools are run as registered charities. More information about starting schools can be gained from Human Scale Education and The National Association for Small Schools gives advice and support to schools at risk of closure.



22 September 2007

Puppets now available at Littlesheep Learning

I've just realised I didn't write a blog post a few weeks ago that I kept meaning to write and that was about my trip to the Autumn Fair - a massive trade fair at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham. I spent a day networking with other WAHMs (the people behind Knot Just Jigs, PinkFairyCake, Boutiquetoyou, Gifts for Little People, Little Milestones, Kiddymania - shout if I've left you out?) and the best part of the day was sourcing some new products, the first of which - some lovely puppets have now arrived and are available to buy at Littlesheep Learning.

These puppets are great for use in
Story Sacks, to provide a visual reference point and to make learning fun.

People Who Help Us Teaching Mitt
A great glove pupppet for learning about occupations and the jobs people do. The puppet fits an adults hand and includes the following roles: fireman, policeman, postman, nurse and doctor.

Expressions Teaching Mitt
A fabulous glove puppet for talking about emotions; featuring happy, sad, angry, surprised and worried.

Plus Five Little Ducks,
Five Little Speckled Frogs and Ten in a Bed to provide a visual aid when singing these favourite counting rhymes.












We have also added story puppets and first animal finger puppets - more about them another day!



19 September 2007

Advertising Co-operative

A group of Work at Home Mums (WAHM) who use the WAH forums on Mumszone Parents Forum have joined forces and produced an excellent shopping directory. These brochures have now been shared out and are being added to our orders and distributed to potential customers - I received mine today and they look fabulous - plus there are some great discount codes to help people with their Christmas shopping!

Place and order with
Littlesheep Learning today to get your hands on one!

The following businesses are included:

Mumszone Parents Forum

'Write a Review' Competition

Win a copy of the Usborne First Experiences Book - this padded hardback book is a lovely collection of nine titles from Usborne's First Experiences series.

To enter all you need to do is to write a review of one of the products sold here at Littlesheep Learning. You will get one entry for the draw for each review that is accepted and the winner will be chosen at random on 31st October 2007.

To write a review of a product, log in (you may need to create an account if you don't already have one), choose the product to review, click on 'Reviews' and then on 'Write Review' and add your review!


Please note: We will accept reviews of products we stock even if you haven't bought them from Littlesheep Learning

Who Does What? Article Added!

Once you have had a child diagnosed with special needs you may find that you are inundated with many different professionals with long and complicated titles and a variety of roles. So who does what? I've an article to the Resources pages at Littlesheep Learning: People You May Meet - Professionals Involved which tries to identify some of the most common professionals involved with children with special needs and their roles. I hope you find it useful.

15 September 2007

Competition Winner

We are pleased to announce the answer to the competition question:

How many dressing skills are in the Fabric Skills Book? is 7

And the winner of the Dotty Dinosaurs game is Samantha from Leeds.

Look out for new competitions coming soon on our Competition page.

13 September 2007

IEP's the Dr Seuss way!

I was just sorting out some old files and I came across a pile of old Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for children I have worked with and amongst them was Dr Suess's thoughts on the matter! I'll write a more serious post about good IEP / target setting another day!

IEPs by Dr. Seuss
Do you like these IEPs?
I do not like these IEPs
I do not like them, Jeeze Louise

We test, we check
We plan, we meet
But nothing ever seems complete.

Would you, could you
Like the form?
I do not like the form I see
Not page 1, not 2, or 3

Another change
A brand new box
I think we all
Have lost our rocks.

Could you all meet here or there?
We could not all meet here or there.
We cannot all fit anywhere.
Not in a room
Not in the hall
There seems to be no space at all.

Would you, could you meet again?
I cannot meet again next week
No lunch, no prep
Please hear me speak.
No, not at dusk.
No, not at dawn
At 5 pm I should be gone.

Could you hear while all speak out?
Would you write the words they spout?
I could not hear, I would not write
This does not need to be a fight.

Sign here, date there,
Mark this, check that
Beware the students ad-vo-cat(e).

You do not like them
So you say
Try again! Try again!
And you may.

If you will let me be,
I will try again
You will see.

Say! I almost like these IEPs
I think I'll write 6003.
And I will practice day and night
Until they say
"You've got it right!"
Author Unknown

08 September 2007

Super Maths for the Supermarket

As I was shopping in the supermarket with my children I realised that there are a whole host of learning opportunities that it offers. This post will focus on numeracy (maths) skills - maybe after next weeks trip I'll look at literacy or another development area!

So here are some of our teaching and learning experiences:
  • Counting; ask your child to get a certain number of an item e.g. get me four carrots or count how many are in the packet e.g. counting the three peppers in the sealed bag
  • Number recognition; what numbers can they spot - the aisles are numbered as are the tills (checkouts), look for the numbers on packaging e.g. the number of eggs in the box or the number of pints in the bottles of milk;
  • Size comparisons; which is biggest / smallest, longest / shortest
  • Weight; which is heaviest / lightest, how much does it weigh? (in stores that allow you to weigh your produce)
  • Simple story sums; we've got three potatoes and one more makes? if there are four of us for dinner and we are going to two sausages for dinner how many do we need altogether?
  • Identifying 3D shapes; for example, tins are cylinders, cereal boxes are cuboids and oranges are spheres

And for older children you can introduce money questions and budgeting questions

  • which one costs more / less?
  • how much for two?
  • how much change do you get?
  • price comparisons - if six yoghurts cost £3 and four cost £2.20 which yoghurts are cheapest?

02 September 2007

Starting School Offer

As children everywhere are starting school, Littlesheep Learning are giving away a FREE copy of the First Experiences: Going to School book with every order over £10* placed before 10th September.

* after any discounts and not including P&P