27 February 2007

New Visual Perception Skills Book

We are now stocking a NEW Visual Perception Skills book which is written by the same authors as the popular Cutting Skills and Fine Motor Skills book. This fully photocopiable book contains over 40 illustrated activities to improve the visual perception skills which are vital in effectively accessing the learning environment. It features tasks that are sorted into topics and cover a range of visual skills such as visual discrimination, matching, size grading, figure ground perception and recall.

26 February 2007

March Dates 2007

As we approach the 1st March I thought a list of diary dates might help those of you in childcare or educational settings complete your months planning. Hopefully blog posts around the days will also help you with activity ideas.

1st - St David's Day (Patron Saint of Wales)
1st - World Book Day
3rd - Magha Puja (Buddhist
3rd - Holi (Hindu)
4th - Purim (Jewish)
5th - Lantern Festival (Chinese)
8th - International Women's Day
12th - Commonwealth Day
14th - No Smoking Day

14th - Sikh New Year
16th - Red Nose Day
17th - St Patricks Day - Patron Saint of Ireland
18th - Mothering Sunday (Mother's Day)
18th - British Sign Language Day
20th - World Storytelling Day
21st - World Poetry Day
21st - First Day of Spring - Spring equinox
21st - World Forestry Day
22nd - World Day for Water
23rd - World Meteorological Day
25th - British Summer Time Begins
27th - World Theatre Day
27th - Rami Navami (Hindu)
31st - Mawlid-un-Nabi (Muslim)

Look out for more information coming soon!

23 February 2007

Are you home educating?

A study, commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills, has concluded that there is no accurate picture of the extent of home educating - an attempt to find out how many children in England are being educated at home suggests the number might range between 7,400 and 34,400, based on the sample study of nine local authorities found between 0.09% and 0.42% of school populations being taught at home - but this would not include any children who were not registered as home-educated. The study concludes that even a full national survey would not be likely to deliver a reliable figure, because many home-educated children would remain unknown to local authorities and home-education organisations. Read more about the report here.

So what is home educating? who does it? why? and how?
Most people choose to send their children to a school to be educated, but it is legal to educate your child at home. Home-education is an alternative to school and any family can choose this option for their child which means parents choose to keep the responsibility for the education of their children instead of delegating it to a school. Some families make the decision to home educate long before their child reaches 'school age' whereas others deregister their children from school later after finding that their child does not fit in at school for whatever reason. Lots different types of people home educate their children for many different reasons so whoever you are there are bound to be people like you!

The method of learning is entirely up to you and your child, you can use any approach that you consider suitable - there are as many different ways of educating as there are families. Most home educating families tends to fall somewhere between formal curriculum based teaching and totally child led learning. Some parents teach in a formal manner (sometimes called home-schooling), using a fixed timetable which keeps school hours and terms, and a curriculum based on traditional school subjects (sometimes the national curriculum). This appproach may be chosen when a child is first withdrawn from school where the routine offers stability or when a child may be returning to school in the future. Other families take advantage of the fact that home-educated children do not have to follow the national curriculum or a timetable, allowing them to have far greater flexibility. They may choose an autonomous approach, allowing the child to determine the areas of study and to decide how, when and what to learn, using individual interests and a natural curiosity as a starting point. Children whose enthusiasm for learning has been seriously affected by school problems often benefit from this relaxed and child-centred approach (sometimes known as free-range education). However you choose to home-educate you may find that your methods will change on grow.

For more information
Education Otherwise is a membership organisation, with over four thousand families, groups and individual members distributed throughout the UK and abroad, and has evolved into a self-help organisation which can offer support, advice and information to families who are practising or contemplating home-based education as an alternative to schooling.

Home Education Advisory Service (HEAS) a national home education charity based in the United Kingdom, dedicated to the provision of advice and practical support for families who wish to educate their children at home in preference to sending them to school.

Muddlepuddle a site full of information about home educating with ideas on themes to help youngsters and links to resources, it is a must for parents of all young children.

Are you home educating? Let us know about your activities!

15 February 2007

Handwriting Aids

This is the second part of a series of posts looking at the question of how to help children with hand writing. The first post looked at letter formation and this one will highlight some of the equipment than can assist the development of the correct triangular hold of the writing implement.

One of the simplest aids are triangular pens and pencils, for example, the Handhugger Pencil. These triangular HB pencils are popular in schools and nurseries and have a strong lead for younger writers. They are ideal for all early writing and drawing activities because the chunky triangular shape enables children to hold the pencil easily. Handhugger pencil's are also great for those with fine motor difficulties and helping children to use the correct grip.

The Handhugger range includes pencils, pens (black) and (blue), colouring pencils and colouring pens so are ideal for all preschool and primary children to develop their writing and drawing skills.

The next group of writing aids are pencil grips. At Littlesheep Learning we sell three types of pencil grip; the Triangular pencil grip, the Tri-Go pencil grip and the Grippy pencil grip. These grips fit on to standard pencils or ballpoint pens and makes them easier to hold in the correct triangular grip. Ideal for children with fine motor or handwriting difficulties.

Different people find different aids best for them. Some people prefer a triangular pencil and other prefer on of the pencil grips, to help you select the type of grip most suited to you or your child at Littlesheep Learning we sell a special value Triangular Writing Set. The Triangular Writing Set includes: 1 Triangular Pencil Grip, 1 Grippy Pencil Grip, 1 Tri-Go Pencil Grip and 1 Handhugger Pencil.

13 February 2007

Heuristic Play and Treasure Baskets

I've just written this article for our local NCT magazine as it's all relevant to learning I thought I'd post it here.

Treasure Baskets and Heuristic Play
What do you buy for your second child for their first Christmas? – there are only so many rattles / bead frame / pop up toys they need and we already had a good selection from when our eldest was a baby! I remembered that when the eldest started nursery on my return to work he really enjoyed playing with ‘treasure baskets’ so for Christmas we made our younger son one of these.

Heuristic play is the term used to describe play for babies, infants and toddlers that actively encourages exploration by using and developing their senses. The concept was developed over 30 years ago by Elinor Goldshmied, a child psychologist from her work watching children and the way they gained knowledge of the world around them. Treasure baskets are collections of objects should appeal to all the senses and are usually made of natural materials. Children will enjoy exploring the objects to see how they taste, how they feel, how they smell, how they sound and what they look like. Heuristic playhelps children to learn for themselves and make choices.

During the activity the children should explore by themselves, without interference. The adult’s role is to be close to the children as a support, to collect the items, to set out the activity and to observe the children whilst playing. The children can develop their manipulative skills, imagination, solve problems, sequence, anticipate and rearrange objects. There is no right or wrong way for the children to explore the materials. The activity also promotes the development of concentration skills, through the exploration of interesting objects.

Every treasure basket is unique to its creator but its purpose is the same. The best treasure baskets are organic – growing over time when new items are spotted to add – older children can also help select items for their baskets.

Our treasure basket is actually a large hat box which is leather like on the outside and has a suede type finish inside (I wanted something with a lid!) however traditionally the items are placed in a low sided basket. The treasure basket should be filled with approximately 60 different objects.

Some ideas for items that can be included are:

  • Natural objects: fir cones, pebbles, shells, feathers, corks, pumice stone, loofah, conkers, natural sponge, avocado pear stones
  • Wooden objects: clothes peg, small bowl, curtain rings, wooden nail brush, wooden egg cup, spoons , wooden bowl, honey dipper, wooden egg, pastry brush, shaving brush, small baskets, paint brush, rolling pin, cotton reels, wood off-cuts
  • Metal objects: length of metal chain, spoons, tin lids, garlic crusher, metal beaker, brass curtain rings, bunch of keys, metal bowl, tea strainer, whisk, empty tin, bells
  • Leather, textile, rubber, or fur objects: coloured ribbons, velvet powder puff, piece of leather, flannel, woollen ball, leather purse, rubber gloves, small soft toy, small flannel, rubber ball, tennis ball, fur fabric, small raffia mat, leather glasses case
  • Paper / cardboard objects: notebook, greaseproof paper, egg boxes, sturdy cardboard tubes, the circles from inside sticky tape,
  • Other objects: small jar and lid, plug and chain, hair rollers, toothbrush, scent bags, bone shoe horn, ceramic bowl and anything else that takes your child’s interest!

It is important to ensure that all materials are safe and age appropriate - remember not to include small objects for babies and there may be some items which you would need to remove for older children (for example, chains which they might swing and hit others with). Heuristic play is safe if the objects have been checked for any obvious hazards and the adult is sitting close enough to observe when there is an imminent threat (and can move the child's hand or take an object from them). Only choose items you are comfortable with your child exploring.

Children should be observed during the activity, by observing adults will be able to remove the materials as soon as the children begin to lose interest and notice popular items, which can trigger ideas for additions to the basket. Watching the children can also show skills which can be incorporated into their other play. As with all toys it is important that children do not have unlimited access to these materials as they then become bored of the items and will not discover anything new.

For more information
The Little Book of Treasure Baskets: Little Books with Big Ideas, by Anne Roberts and Sally Featherstone
Elinor Goldschmied –
Infants at Play

12 February 2007

Chatter Matters

I recently wrote about the Chatterbox Challenge which took place last week, I've just found out that 'I CAN' have launched Chatter Matters a DVD and poster set as part of their Make Chatter Matter campaign to help children with speech and language difficulties.

The DVD and posters inside explain how you can give children a great start in life by helping them grow into good communicators, by using everyday activities - from changing nappies and family mealtimes to shopping and getting ready for bed as opportunities for playing and talking together. Presented by Dr Tanya Byron (House of Tiny Tearaways, Little Angels ) the DVD offers dozens of brilliant ideas to help you develop your child's speaking and listening skills throughout their pre-school years. The pack also comes with a series of colourful mini-posters that help you to check the progress of your child's communication development. For your wall or fridge, they are packed with helpful tips. Produced in association with I CAN, the children's communication charity.

Parents can order a DVD and posters as a parent for just 49p postage,
here. I hope this is useful for someone - let me know what you think of it!

09 February 2007


Yesterday my youngest son had his 8 month check and we were given our Bookstart baby pack, a lovely canvas bag filled with two free books (we got Tickle, Tickle by Helen Oxenbury and Peepo Baby by Georgie Birkett) plus a rhyme sheet and lots of other information about sharing books with babies. I thought I'd write about them here just in case there were people who didn't know about these fabulous free resources.

Bookstart aims to provide a free pack of books to every baby in the UK to help create a love of reading. There are three packs; Bookstart for babies (given out in the first year), Bookstart+ (for toddlers 18-30 months) and My Bookstart Treasure Chest (for preschoolers) which are currently available in almost every part of the UK. There are also a special Booktouch pack that aims to give a love of books to blind and partially sighted children of 0 to 4 years and two bilingual Welsh / English packs available in Wales.

You can get your Bookstart packs from your health visitor / local health clinic, early years settings or your local library - so go and get your free books and tell us which ones you enjoy.

02 February 2007

New Maths Games

We now have stock of three new maths snap games - Time Snap, Money Snap, and Fraction Snap. These games are excellent to help children recognise, appreciate and understand equivalent values. Also great to use as flashcards to help children learn to tell the time and about money and fractions.

01 February 2007

FREE Downloadable Resources for February's Festivals

To help you celebrate the three main festivals in February we've added to our range of FREE downloadable resources at Littlesheep Learning. This February there are three festivals that lend themselves to art and craft activities, Valentines Day (14th), Chinese New Year (17th), and Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) (20th)

Valentines day offers the opportunity for using our cutting and colouring pages on our
Resources page. Hearts are a simple shape that can be coloured or decorated with scrunched up tissue paper, sticking on coloured paper, glitter or feathers. Cut out the heart shapes to practice cutting skills, make them into cards and give them to someone special. For children who find cutting skills difficult check out the range of adaptive scissors for both left and right handed children.

To celebrate Chinese New Year we have some fabulous festive colouring pages on our
Resources page including a great carnival dragon. Colouring is a fun way to improve pencil skills, for children with fine motor difficulties triangular colouring pencils, and pens might help them to gain the correct triangular pencil grip. Making oriental paper lanterns is a great way to practice scissor skills – fold a piece of paper in half lengthways and make a series of cuts from the centre fold to about two centimetres from the edge, open the paper out and join the two short ends to make the lantern, add a string to hang your lantern. Other fine motor activities for the Chinese New Year could involve eating using chopsticks (or the children’s alternative of tweezer like ones) or making lucky red envelopes (and filling them with money!). Some children may find it fun to copy Chinese writing too, use large paint brushes and rolls of lining paper to write big happy new year scrolls.

Finally, Pancake Day means making pancakes - this involves many fine motor skills. Pouring and measuring out the flour and milk, cracking the eggs, stirring the batter, ladling the batter into a pan, flipping the pancake and then squeezing lemons, sprinkling sugar or spreading on syrup or chocolate spread – are all good fine motor exercises so get your child to help you!. Please make sure children are well supervised when near the cooker / hot oil and frying pans. Alternatively, have fun making pretend pancakes using rolling out play dough (or colour and cut out the ones on our
Resources page) and flip pancakes in a frying pan to your hearts content! Shrove Tuesday is also well known for Mardi Gras carnivals so get creative, make opulent hats and masks sticking on coloured feathers, shiny paper shapes and sprinkling with glitter. When finished bang drums, shake shakers and jingle bells and do a carnival dance!