31 July 2007

Creative Cards

We've had a few birthdays amongst our family, being known for 'doing stuff' with the children it's come to be expected that I'll (sorry our children will) produce a handmade card. I've learnt from experience that simple is generally the most effective as Mr I Can Do It (aged 3) wants to do it himself and has the concentration of a typical three year old and Mr I Want To Do It Too (aged 1) thinks he can join in.

These two cards have been made using a similar theme.

A piece of white A4 card folded in half and 'coloured' with a base colour by Mr 'I Can Do It' with a few doodles from Mr 'I Want to Do It Too'. We discussed the colour needed and sorted the crayons so only the correct colour ones were on the table (incidental learning of colours / matching and sorting!).

For the windsurfing card we did a google image search for sailing but then Mr 'I Can Do It' explained he wanted "a boat the man falls off" so we found a windsurfing picture and printed it off, cut it out and glued it on. I did the cutting but if you are card making with an older child / or have a simpler shape picture they could cut it out themself.

For the flower card, I cut out six 'flower' shapes and we cut out the three contrasting circles together. We assembled two flower shapes and topped off the flowers with the circle inners. The bumble bee was coloured and striped by Mr 'I Can Do It' and he stuck on the star glitter.

There are some more easy card making ideas in my article Father's Day Cards at Treehugger Mums. Have a go and create some home made treasurers for your friends and family whilst practicing the important fine motor skills of writing and drawing and cutting.

26 July 2007

Things to do on a Rainy Day

The school summer holidays are here but the weather is being far from summery, here are our top 10 things to do on a not so sunny summers day.

  1. Build a den – use dining chairs / clothes airer and blankets to make a cosy tent, add cushions or duvet to snuggle inside.
  2. Play with playdoh – roll it, squash it, cut it, shape it; you are only limited by your imagination!
  3. Have a treasure hunt – hide some treasure and make up some clues to it’s location; younger children can follow picture clues (either of the location or something you find there) and older children can have fun guessing the answer to cryptic clues, questions or solving anagrams.
  4. Turn your living room into a cinema – make some popcorn, pull the curtains and put on a favourite video or DVD; if you want to really get into the role play make yourselves some tickets too!
  5. Do some cooking – check out Pinkfairycake’s blog for information about cooking with children.
  6. Go on a puddle jumping walk – make the most of the rain! Dress up in waterproofs and wellies, take your umbrella and have a splashy walk; who can find the biggest puddle?
  7. Play turn taking games – our favourites are Shopping List and Cock-a-doodle Moo.
  8. Get out the craft box – cutting, sticking, drawing and colouring are great for developing fine motor skills.
  9. Have a disco - put on your favourite music and dance!
  10. Share a book - we like spotting things in our copy of Everyday Words.

Let us know what you are up to, so we can all fill these wet days.

24 July 2007

Summer Holidays - Free gift with every order!

To celebrate the start of the school holidays we are offering a copy of the Usborne First Experiences Going on a Plane book with every order until 1st August.

Plus we still have some great bargains so hurry and take a look.
Our new look website will be coming soon so don't forget to keep checking back!

16 July 2007

Story Sacks

Yesterday I had an email from Michelle who owns Chelltune asking if I had any articles / experience about story sacks, I believe she is looking at them from a visual learning point of view with her signing books and finger puppets. I've seen them used in classroom situations when working with children with autism and then used the resources from the sacks in small groups / individual work to help the children understand the book and the surrounding topics and vocabulary. Many of the resources that we sell at Littlesheep Learning could be incorporated into story sacks and we are currently researching some new products and eventually hope to have some of our very own style of sack - "Story Sack Topic Packs" including some of our favourite resources.

Here is some information about Story Sacks, their use and their assembly to get you started!

What is a Story Sack?
A story sack is a teaching and learning resource. Typically it is a large cloth bag containing a children’s book along with supporting materials to help make sharing the book more interesting and engaging.

Why make Story Sacks?
Story sacks are a fun way for carers and children to share stories together. They were developed by Neil Griffiths as a popular, non-threatening way of encouraging carers to start to share stories with their children in a way that is positive, theatrical, special, interactive and fun.

Who Uses Story Sacks?
Originally it was mainly schools and nurseries that used story sacks, however, they are now increasing used by other groups such as childminders, libraries, health visitors, speech therapists, social workers, children’s hospitals, prisons, family centres and adult learners.

How do you make a Story Sack?
Start with a bag – it doesn’t have to be a fancy one, infact you can make a story box or basket if that is more convenient. It’s just something to contain all the resources in one place.

Next you need to choose your story. The story you pick will depend on the child or children you are making the sack for and any learning objectives you want them to gain from the sack. When making your first story sack choose a favourite story – it will make it easier to think of things to add to the sack!

Then you need to fill the sack! With some stories the possibilities for items will seem endless and with others you will need to be more creative. Here are some of the things that are often included:

  • soft toys / puppets of the main characters
  • costumes / props / scenery / photos to support the story
  • an audio tape / CD of the story
  • a video of the story or related material
  • a language based game
  • a related non-fiction book
  • craft and activity ideas / colouring pages

When choosing items for your story sack, read and re-read your story, what are the themes, who are the main characters / where is it set / does it use colours / counting / letter sounds / listening skills. How could you use it as the basis of non-fiction work; can you incorporate first experiences, new vocabulary and other topic based activities. What art and craft ideas can you think of that link in with the book you have chosen - if you search for the title of the book you want to base your sack around you can often find example activities and colouring pages!

Here are some quick ideas I've had for some contents for story sacks based around popular books to get you started:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle (Puffin Books)

  • Soft toy caterpillar / butterfly
  • Lifecycle of a butterfly sequencing cards
  • Days of the week / number sequencing cards
  • Play food props
  • Non-fiction book about caterpillars and butterflies
  • Activity ideas / colouring sheets including suggestions for fruit printing and painting butterfly pictures

Peace at Last, Jill Murphy (Walker Books)

  • Three bears
  • Puppets for the other animals in the story, e.g owl / cat
  • Environmental sounds listening game; for example Orchard Toys Crash, Bang Wallop! or Cock-a-doodle-moo! or the listening lotto game Soundtracks
  • Activity ideas / colouring sheets including making paper aeroplanes / clock faces

Little Red Riding Hood, Heather Amery (Usborne Books)

  • A doll dressed as Little Red Riding Hood
  • Puppets for the Wolf / Grandma / Woodcutter
  • A basket with pretend cakes / flowers
  • Wolf mask / Red Riding Hood’s red cloak / Granny's glasses / shawl for dressing up as the characters
  • Pictures of forest / grandma’s house
  • Non fiction books about wolves / forest wildlife
  • Activity ideas / Colouring sheets including making cakes for Grandma!

Incey Wincey Spider, Annie Kubler (Child’s Play)

If you are making your story sacks to lend to children to take out of the setting also include some learning targets, a short guide to questions to ask / discussion points to consider and other ideas to extend the activity. Finally it is worth laminating the activity idea cards to protect them and including a list of what is in the bag so that nothing gets lost!

Story sacks are also ideal for sharing popular dual language books in areas where people speak English as an additional language.

If you are still stuck for ideas feel free to ask! I'd also love to hear about your favourite story sacks and resources and how you've used them so please add your comments below!

12 July 2007

Campaigning for Better Education

I just received an email from my husband and someone he works with has found the petitions on the Number 10 website and searched for the education ones – here’s an edited list of the ones I thought might interest you! I'm sure I've missed some - if I've missed your favourite please let me know!

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Autismtraining/ petition to Make Autism training COMPULSARY for all teachers.

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/aspergersupport/ petition to increase support services in the UK for people with Asperger’s Syndrome and other Autistic Spectrum Conditions, their families, schools and employers.

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/HomeSchool/ petition the to Keep Home Schooling Legal.

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Steiner-Waldorf/ petition to Create more state funded Steiner Waldorf Schools in the UK.

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/NEG-funding/ petition to Increase the Nursery Education Grant for children in Early Years Education.

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/SpecialEducation/ petition to Review the special needs provision across the country and provide clear rules and targets local education authorities must comply with in order to remove the local authority lottery of special education provision across the country.

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/aspergers/ petition to Abolish the concept of Inclusive Education.

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/FitForPurposeSEN/ petition to Undertake a major review of the Special Educational Needs policy as recommended by the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee and make provision for a system of special educational needs that is fit for purpose.

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Education3-6/ petition to Implement successful European models of the teaching of pupils aged 3-6 years into mainstream nursery, pre-school, and early years education.

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/langedu/ petition to Teach languages in schools from the age of 5.

Although my personal favourite is…

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Cbeebies/ petition to put forward Cbeebies Presenter Justin Fletcher for a OBE.

The petition's organisers say

"Apart from Derek Griffiths in the 70s, i cant think of another children presenter since who has brought Sign Language / Makaton to mainstream childrens televison. Justin Fletcher is a communication genius!! Justin both entertains and educates our children and does this with just intelligence and panache without patronising. My 3 year old daughter has no learning / hearing. disabiliies to speak of, yet she signs words she has learnt, to me sometimes, and she is so proud of herself for doing it. Although at my daughters age now she is not yet aware of people with disability and special needs, i cant help thinking that programmes like 'Something Special' can only help bridge the gap that sometimes sadly appears between able and not so able bodied people in our society and help banish the unkindness that disabled people sometimes face due to ignorance. I have a feeling our children may be the generation to banish this ignorance, and this is helped by such positive role models as Justin, helping us show our children the way. I think it would be fitting to recognise Justin Fletcher in this way and be honoured for his services to childrens broadcasting and communication in general."
Get signing these petitions and make a difference to the education of children in our country!

09 July 2007

Travelling with Children

Sorry for disappearing for a while - we've just been on our holidays. With the imminent start of the school holidays a post on travelling seemed about right!

Long car journeys, waits at airports, flights, ferry trips and train rides are not the easiest parts of a holiday with excited children who just want to be there and doing. This article gives some of our top tips for the journeys and some activities to keep them entertained on the way.

Firstly, try and plan your journey time around your childs routine, so either leave at bedtime and travel with them asleep or travel during the day so that you travel for a bit, stop and have lunch, then have a bit of awake time in the car, nap time and then another awake bit of journeying before a dinner stop / arrival. Try and find places to stop where the children can run around and get some fresh air.

Whilst travelling there are plenty of games and activities that can keep your children amused.

A top tip is to make sure you are prepared for the journey. Take lots of small toys / books and snacks so that during awake periods your child has new items to look at to relieve boredom. You could wrap small items for a ‘lucky dip’ to increase interest (and the length of time spent on each thing!). Older children who can tell the time could have a series of ‘packages’ to open at designated times, or points on the trip.

The classic car games are guessing games – the most common of which is ‘I spy’! This can be adapted for younger children by spying objects that are a certain colour. Another one is the more abstract ‘Guess?’ where someone thinks of something and everyone else asks yes / no questions until someone can guess what it is.

Popular word games include word association, alphabet games and variations of ‘I went to market and bought…’. To play word association – start with a word e.g. holiday, the next person could say aeroplane (you travel by plane), the next fire-engine (both vehicles) and the next red (as fire-engines are red) and so on – how long can you go on without repitition? To play an Alphabet games pick a theme and see if you can find something for every letter of the alphabet – for example – vehicles; aeroplane, bike, car, dustbin lorry, etc. Variations of ‘I went to market…’ are good for memory skills – try ‘I went on holiday and packed…’ each person has to recite the previous items and add theirs on the end.

Observation games are also good for keeping children enthusastic at looking out of car windows. Play ‘Spot’ where everyone has to see if they can find things on a list during the journey, for example a Royal Mail lorry, a sheep, a police car. This can be adapted for younger children by making them picture pages. Either give each item to be found a score and then total up who’s seen what to find a winner or make lists in different orders and you can’t move onto the next item until you’ve spotted the first one, the winner being the person to finish their list first.

Don't forget if you are travelling by plane the Usborne First Experiences: Going on a Plane book is a handy little story outlining what will happen!

Overall, enjoy your holiday, and have a safe and relaxing journey. Happy Holidays!