26 March 2008

Learning to Tie Shoelaces

Our nearly four year old was helping me sort some parcels the other day and he spied the Tie Me Shoe and declared that he needed it as he can't tie shoelaces yet! At the moment he has velcro shoes but as he seems keen, we are going to give tying laces a try this afternoon.

From a quick internet search it would appear that most children have the fine motor dexterity to tie their laces between the ages of four and six, but as with all skills different children will learn at different times. It is important to ensure your children learn this skill, even though alternatives are available as whilst velcro shoes and elastic "no lace" laces may be fun for your children they will need to learn how to tie their shoes eventually.

My previous post on Tying Shoelaces has a link to a site that has clear diagrams showing the different methods of shoe lace tying.

When teaching your child to tie their shoelaces there are several things that you can do to help. First, choose one method of lace tying, and teach it consistently. Make sure that everyone who may be trying to help your child learn this skill is demonstrating it in the same way otherwise they may get confused. When you are demonstrating the lace tying make sure that you and your child are side by side rather than opposite each other, that way he'll be able to copy your movements rather than mirror them. Lastly, remember to give your child lots of encouragement and praise and if they find it too difficult this time leave it for a few weeks and try again.

At Littlesheep Learning we have a range of products to help teach self-help skills including tying shoelaces - the Tie Me shoe, Tie-a-bow Book and a Dressing Skills Book.

If you have any top tips for teaching shoe lace tying please let me know!

20 March 2008

Incidental Learning

I forgot to post the other day to highlight an article I have had published at Treehugger Mums looking at Incidental Learning - But I didn't teach them that.

Incidental learning is unintentional or unplanned learning that results from other activities and is the way many children learn whilst they are playing. The article gives ideas as to how children learn through everyday activities, take a look and see what learning you can incorporate into your daily life.

Treehugger Mums - is a website written by mums for mums with pregnancy and parenting-related information, articles and the Treehugger Mums Shop where you can buy baby slings, real nappies, breastfeeding accessories and natural toiletries.

19 March 2008

Developing Imagination / Story Skills

I was reading a post on a parenting forum yesterday about encouraging children's imaginative development and there were some great ideas so I thought I'd share some with you.

Make sure that you spend time reading and sharing a variety of different books, stories and rhymes because the more ideas your child comes into contact with the more ideas they have to build on when creating their own stories. Ask questions when sharing stories; for example, why do you think that happened? how did he feel? what do you think will happen next?

Try to think imaginatively yourself when showing you child stories, use story sacks to develop story ideas. Gather props relating to stories for example puppets and games and use these to enact the stories. Make props such as wooden spoon puppets, playdoh food and cardboard box houses to help you.

For children who really struggle with writing / drawing / thinking imaginatively the Nonsenses puzzle. These puzzles encourage reading and building sentences; each card has a character, place or an action and by mixing the beginning, middle and end pieces you can have hours of fun as you try to compete to come up with the silliest sentences possible!

Make stories up co-operatively; depending on your child's drawing / writing ability there are several ways you can do it. The most simple way is to do it orally, you start a story and then take it turn to say a sentence or part of a sentence and see how silly it can get and how much detail you can put into it. If your child likes drawing you can make a story board by drawing squares on paper (start with just a few squares and then build up to longer ones as your child gets more confident) and taking it in turns to draw the next picture in the story. If you child struggles with drawing you could ask them to tell you what to draw and draw if for them. Lastly you can create stories by writing ideas down, take a strip of paper each and write down a character, fold it over and swap and add a location, fold and swap again and add an activity, fold and swap etc building up ideas and then open them out to see what has happened.

Draw random shapes / lines on a piece of paper and see what your child can make them become, for example a square could become a house, a circle could be made into a pig and a triangle could become the sail of a boat or the top of a rocket a wavy line could become the sea or turned into a caterpillar. This a great game for children who need to practice their fine motor and drawing skills too.

As with all learning activities the key is to keep it fun.

18 March 2008

Dyslexia in the News

I've just been reading this article which reports on some new government-funded research into children who did not achieve expected levels in SATS tests. The study by Hull University academics of 1,300 children said dyslexia was a major cause of failure with over half of those who did not achieve expected levels in SATS tests displayed all the signs of being dyslexic.

The research has led to calls for more specially-trained teachers in schools as well as better diagnosis. The study, commissioned by dyslexia charity

Campaigners say the research shows many such children are being let down by schools as they could overcome the reading disorder if they received a diagnosis and specialist teaching. They claim the reading disorder could affect as many as one in five children and that too often it is ignored in the classroom. The government is piloting a scheme using specially-trained dyslexia teachers, but says it will not roll it out nationally until it is sure the teachers make a difference.

So what should you do if you think your child may be dyslexic? The British Dyslexia Association has a number of factsheets that can help; Indications of Dyslexia and Getting Help for your Child.
Xtraordinary People, claims to be the first to firmly identify dyslexia as a major cause of underachievement in primary schools. It looked at seven and 11-year-olds who failed to reach expected levels of reading and writing in national tests.

15 March 2008

Fun Fine Motor Activities

I've just had my weekly email from Play Activities and it had two fun fine motor activities I thought I'd share with you.

Activity ~ 3-D squeezey chalk

  • 1/2 cup of cornflour
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • food colouring
  • glitter
  • bowl
  • ziplock bag


  • Mix the flour and cornflour together.
  • Add water and 3-5 drops of food colouring
  • Add the glitter.
  • Mix until it looks like paste.
  • Pour mixture into the Ziplock bag and seal.
  • Cut a small hole in the corner of the Ziplock bag and squeeze the chalk out to make patterns / write words / draw pictures.
Activity ~ String picture


  • sheets of paper
  • different coloured paints
  • string 40cm or longer
  • old newspaper


  • Lay a sheet of paper onto a newspaper covered table top
  • Dip the string into some paint until it's covered.
  • Place the string in an interesting shape on top of the paper.
  • Make sure small part of the string is off the sheet of paper.
  • Carefully put on a second sheet on top of the string.
  • Parent: hold the sheets paper together.
  • Child: hold string and gently pull it out from between the paper.
  • Remove the top sheet of paper and you will see a pattern.
  • Try another colour and repeat.

Play-activities is a free and fun educational e-mail for parents of children under 5. It is run by Melitsa Avila who is a qualified teacher. Melitsa wanted to create a source of activities for parents and children to enjoy, which offered a balance of gross and fine motor activities, social & personal activities, and problem-solving and language activities all in one easily accessible place. If you sign up you can gain access to a wide range of activities to help your child develop a balanced play life, have fun, and enjoy a good mix of the early childhood skills identified by child health professionals. They also have a blog with lots of other ideas and links to other sources of ideas to keep your children busy!

14 March 2008

Are you receiving our Newsletter?

Littlesheep Learning's monthly newsletter has been on hold for the last few months as we have been looking into various newsletter service providers because our mailing list was getting too big for us to manage ourselves. We are pleased to have now registered with Vertical Response - all our existing subscribers have now been transferred over, however if you haven't been on our mailing list before please sign up today! If you haven't seen a copy yet, our newsltter contains news about our products, special offers, competitions and special discount codes!

Sign Up Today!

Email Marketing by VerticalResponse

11 March 2008

New Products - Shopping List Game Booster Packs

Following on from the success of the Shopping List game, we are now pleased to announce that we are stocking two Shopping List extension packs; Fruit and Veg and Clothing.

These lovely Booster Packs add value to the original Shopping List game. Increasing the range of items available by adding these packs allows you to fill your trolley with even more familiar, everyday items.

As with the original game, these packs are great for teaching children turn taking, matching and labelling skills. Packs contain an additional two trolleys and shopping lists with the matching cards.

Be first to fill your trolley with all the items on your shopping list - Happy Shopping!

10 March 2008

Write a Review Competition

Don't forget to enter the 'Write a Review' Competition at Littlesheep Learning.

Simply choose a product, add your review and you could be in with a chance of winning a copy of The Usborne Book of Everyday Words - Each page in this first words book has a scene or category with labelled objects to discuss, an excellent resource to encourage the direct association of words with objects and reinforce known words.
You get one entry for each review you write - so get writing!

Here are some of the reviews we've received so far:
by Joanne Rivett
Date Added: Monday 18th February, 2008
An excellent game for little ones to learn there shapes and colours without even realising it, 2 different games in one so a great price!
Rating: [5 of 5 Stars!]

Going to the Hospital
by Stephanie Moore
Date Added: Thursday 14th February 2008
I have bought a few of these books because I do find they help my son before a new situation. He had to go into hospital for a little operation and this book helped him know what was going to happen and what to expect.
Rating: [5 of 5 Stars!]
by Stephanie Roberts
Date Added: Thursday 14 February, 2008
I have been playing this fantastic game with my 3.5yr old son. He loves it and will play it over and over again!! I bought it because I thought it would help him learn to listen a bit more and it worked!
Rating: [5 of 5 Stars!]
by Anne Ritchie
Date Added: Tuesday 12 February, 2008
Excellent item - really big cube in gorgeous bright colours all kept clean in a poppered see through bag. Great for using with small groups as a game or individually as a discussion point around emotions. Fantastic!
Rating: [5 of 5 Stars!]
by Karen Frost
Date Added: Tuesday 12 February, 2008
My kids (age 2 and 4) love this game. Simple pictures and simple instructions, perfect for young children. It really has helped my younger one especially to differentiate between shapes.
Rating: [5 of 5 Stars!]

Triangular Writing Grip
by Arianna Helm
Date Added: Tuesday 12 February, 2008
I purchased 2 of these items several months ago. As a bookkeeper I need to do a lot of writing and my fingers were starting to get very sore. The pencil grips made things a lot easier and I found that I was able to do more work at a time as my fingers were not getting sore. I will definitely be buying more.
Rating: [5 of 5 Stars!]

07 March 2008

Writing Difficulties

Many children with writing difficulties have dyslexia and / or dyspraxia (developmental coordination difficulties) − these conditions often occur together and affect all aspects of a child's life, both in school and outside. It is vital therefore, that schools and early years settings are able to identify difficulties in this important area and put in place appropriate interventions where necessary.

Some things to look out for are children who difficulties with:
  • throwing and catching
  • dance/music and movement
  • manipulating small objects (building bricks, jigsaws)
  • getting dressed/undressed
  • using cutlery / scissors
  • handwriting
  • organising themselves and their work
  • sequencing
  • laterality (knowing left from right)
  • following multiple instructions
Children with motor coordination difficulties may also have poor posture and limited body awareness, moving awkwardly and seeming clumsy; this can be especially noticeable after a growth spurt. They may also tire more easily than other children.
For children who find writing difficult the following things should be thought about:
  • the sitting position: ideally both feet on the floor with the table and chair at an appropriate height
  • the possibility of using a sloping writing surface
  • anchoring the paper / book to the table to avoid slipping
  • providing a 'cushion' to write on can be a help, for example, an old magazine, used paper stapled together
  • the writing implement − try triangular pencils or different pencil grips, for example standard triangular pencil grips, Tri-go grips or Grippy grips
  • avoid the use of a hard-tipped pencil or pen
  • providing opportunities for practising handwriting patterns and letter formation in alternative mediums for example sand, cornflour gloop or playdough
  • providing lines to keep writing straight
  • limiting the amount of writing required − think of other ways information can be recorded including making use of computers
The formation of letters is a very specific area of skill development and providing opportunities for practising, without making it a chore is important. Precision teaching is a good example of distributed practice and may include exercises such as a one-minute daily exercise to see how many b and d words the child can successfully write. This type of exercise provides the child with instant feedback and always focuses on success. Progress can be easily monitored by keeping a daily count or by using a weekly probe sheet.
Practising holoalphabet sentences, for example 'the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog' or 'the five boxing wizards jumped quickly' are useful, as these contain the 26 letters of the alphabet and make it easy to monitor progress on letter formations.

Other ways of encorporating writing are drawing / painting patterns (a wet paintbrush on dry concrete slabs) and encouraging incidental writing for example writing names in birthday cards, writing shopping lists, keeping a diary, writing out recipes. It is important that these activities are fun, and always praising the child for effort.

06 March 2008

World Book Day

Today (Thursday 6th March) is World Book Day, all over the country children will be taking part in special book activities this week, including dressing up as their favourite book characters.

World Book Day was designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and is marked in over 100 countries around the globe. The origins of the day we now celebrate in the UK and Ireland come from Catalonia, where roses and books were given as gifts to loved ones on St. George’s Day – a tradition started over 80 years ago. There is more international information about World Book Day on the UNESCO website.

World Book Day 2008 in the UK and Ireland takes place on Thursday 6th March as the initiative is so well established in schools in the UK and Ireland it is important that it happens in term time to help children really make the most of this opportunity to celebrate books and reading. Most other countries hold World Book Day on 23rd April every year. This year World Book Day is a great part of the National Year of Reading.

World Book Day is a partnership of publishers, booksellers and interested parties who work together to promote books and reading for the personal enrichment and enjoyment of all. A main aim of World Book Day is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own. Thanks to the generosity of National Book Tokens Ltd and numerous participating booksellers, children are entitled to receive a World Book Day £1 Book Token (or equivalent €1.50 Book Token in Ireland). The Book Token can be exchanged for one of the nine specially published World Book Day £1 Books (where stocked and while stocks last), or is redeemable against any book or audiobook of their choice at a participating bookshop or book club (terms and conditions apply).

To celebrate World Book Day, this month you can save at least a third off the RRP of all the books stocked at Littlesheep Learning, check out our First Words Books, First Experiences Books, First Numbers Book, plus self help skill books including telling the time and tying laces