05 November 2010

Remember, Remember the 5th of November...

gun powder treason and plot...

I see no reason why gun powder and treason should ever be forgot.

The children have been doing firework things all week... The eldest has learnt a bit about Guy Fawkes and loves the rhyme above. The middle one has been writing firework sounds e.g. "bang" "pop" "sizzle" and was very proud of his work (and his wishes and stars feedback - "my writing was brilliant but she wish-did that I did my 'g' the right way round") and at Stay and Play they were painting fire with orange and yellow paint and making sparkly glittery pictures.

So today is firework night and this morning we went to school to hear the foundation stage children singing their firework song...

10 sparkling fireworks ever so bright, one went bang in the dark dark night...
9 sparkling fireworks ever so bright, one went bang in the dark dark night...
8 sparkling fireworks ever so bright, one went bang in the dark dark night...
7 sparkling fireworks ever so bright, one went bang in the dark dark night...
6 sparkling fireworks ever so bright, one went bang in the dark dark night...
5 sparkling fireworks ever so bright, one went bang in the dark dark night...
4 sparkling fireworks ever so bright, one went bang in the dark dark night...
3 sparkling fireworks ever so bright, one went bang in the dark dark night...
2 sparkling fireworks ever so bright, one went bang in the dark dark night...
1 sparkling fireworks ever so bright, one went bang in the dark dark night...

And of course they were told about the firework code...

Keep fireworks in a closed box

• Follow the instructions on each firework
• Light all fireworks at arms length
• Stand well back
• Never go back to a lit firework
• Never put fireworks in your pocket
• Never throw fireworks
• Keep Pets indoors

We are off to fireworks tomorrow night - wonder if they'll like the bangs this year???

01 November 2010

Booktime Book Research

As a parent of a reception age child we have recently received the Booktime pack of books for those starting school this year - a copy of “Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,” Said the Sloth by legendary author and illustrator Eric Carle and Why is the Sky Blue? by Geraldine Taylor and illustrated by Amy Schimler. These two books have certainly gone down well in our house and this backs up the recent research!

According to new reader research animals and nature are top page-turners for children across generations. The research reveals that animals and nature are the favourite reading topics for both children and their parents.

The research, commissioned to coincide with over 1.3 million books being given to 4 – 5 year-old children as part of the Booktime programme, found that animals are the favourite subject matter for more than half (52%) of children. 49% of parents also said animals were their favourite thing to read about when they were growing up, suggesting that books with animal characters and environmental themes are enjoyed across the generations.

Booktime’s research, which polled over 1,500 parents and carers across the UK, also showed that reading books featuring animal characters motivates children to find out more about the natural world: 44% of children are inspired to want to go to a farm, zoo or safari park to see the animals for themselves. 90% of respondents stated that reading books about animals increases their child’s interest in the natural world and more than half of Britain’s parents report that their children are more inquisitive about animals and nature after reading a book on the subject.

One of the reasons for this enduring call of the wild was hinted at elsewhere in the research with parents and carers overwhelmingly agreeing that animal and nature themed books help their children to make sense of human feelings, relationships and the world around them.

Key findings:

  • 42% of parents say that reading about animals and the natural world inspires their children to read more books. This figure rises to 48% in the North East.
  • 97% of parents find that reading books encourages their child to talk with them about new things.
  • 67% of parents find family discussions useful in exploring their children’s questions about the natural world: 58% turn to books for answers.
  • 92% of parents and carers feel that reading books where animals are the main characters can help children to make sense of human feelings, experiences and relationships.
  • 90% of parents state that reading books about animals increases their child’s interest in the natural world. Parents in the North West are most likely to agree, with 93% stating books increase their children’s interest in the wider world – this is the highest in the UK.
Eric Carle, author of “Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,” Said the Sloth:

“I love all animals, and have since I was a boy when I used to go on walks with my father. I hope that my books can help children to develop a love of the natural world so that they will treasure and care for their environment. I am happy to be working with Booktime to inspire a love of reading that will lead children to engage with their world and every living thing in it.”

Researchers asked parents to tell them some of the most difficult and funny questions they had been posed by their children and the responses ranged from the challenging to the funny to the downright bizarre:

Why is the sky blue?

Why is water wet?

Do dolphins drink water?

Why are there no dinosaurs anymore?

How high can cows jump?

How does the moon stay in the sky?

Was the orange named after the colour, or the colour after the fruit?

Why doesn’t the dog use the toilet?

Was the world in black and white when you were young?

Can I be a vampire when I grow up?

Do you need a passport to travel to the moon?

Geraldine Taylor’s Why is the Sky Blue? is a compilation of questions asked by inquisitive children; a special shortened edition of the title was produced specifically for Booktime.

Animal character books featured in the research as the favourite books for both children and adults, with one of Eric Carle’s classic titles appearing on both lists:

Children’s favourite books 2010   1. The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson
2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
3. Peppa Pig – Ladybird Books
4. Mr Men series – Roger Hargreaves
5. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – Michael Rosen

Parents’ favourite children’s books (when they were 5 years old)

1. Mr Men series – Roger Hargreaves
2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
3. The Snowman – Raymond Briggs
4. Thomas the Tank Engine – Wilbert Awdry
5. Just So Stories – Rudyard Kipling

As well as inspiring inquisitiveness and intellectual curiosity, books help to fuel children’s interest in interacting with the natural world. After reading books about or featuring animals, nearly half of 10 year olds ask for a pet while 17% of children say they would like to be a vet when they grow up.

World famous primatologist Jane Goodall who wrote the foreword to “Slowly Slowly, Slowly,” Said the Sloth:
 “I’m told I was already watching insects and in love with our dog from before I could talk. Mum got books about animals knowing I would learn to read quickly in order to read them! Reading is so good for the imagination. When I was a child there was no TV and books were the only window to the wide world. Today it is even more important to stimulate the imagination. My mother always told me that if I was disappointed or sad, I could go into another world through reading. It still, for me, is a way of experiencing another world.”

To help encourage a lifelong love of reading, 1.36 million free books will be given to schoolchildren in England through the free books programme Booktime, administered by independent literary charity Booktrust in partnership with Pearson. The programme promotes reading for pleasure at an important transition stage in children’s learning and development.

Inspired by Bookstart, the free books programme for babies and toddlers, Booktime will distribute 680,000 book packs to children in over 17,000 primary schools across England. Over 25,000 resource packs will be given to schools and libraries in England to support the programme.

Geraldine Taylor, author of Why is the Sky Blue? and BBC Wildlife Writer of the Year 2000:

“As a mother and wildlife author, and as a mental health professional, I know how important wildlife is to us all. We have to love the planet, and know things about it, in order to be committed to helping it in realistic ways. In my wildlife work with children and families, I’ve noticed that it’s the small details that captivate the curiosity; the melody of a blackbird; the way that rabbits’ ears move; watching bees weigh down the petals of flowers to make a landing stage. Books are a gateway to learning so much more about the world. It is this lively curiosity and joy of discovery that Why is the Sky Blue? celebrates.”

29 October 2010

Half Term Halloween Cooking

We are nearly at the end of half term - are you bored yet? If so you might want to try some Halloween Cooking ideas.

If those recipes are too complicated - try decorating your cupcakes for halloween by adding a spider to the top (a chocolate button with legs drawn with an icing pen) or a jelly worm - or just add green food colouring to the mixture before cooking to make green cakes!

22 October 2010

Parent's Evening

This week along with many other parents (judging by friends Facebook and Twitter statuses) we had parents evening. Thinking about parents evening reminded me of the poem "Parents' Evening" by Allan Ahlberg which describes a family and teacher waiting for parents' evening. I think this poem sums up parents evening for a lot of us.

We're waiting in the corridor,
My dad, my mum and me.
They're sitting there and talking;
I'm nervous as can be.
I wonder what she'll tell 'em.
I'll say I've got a pain!
I wish I'd got my spellings right.
I wish I had a brain.

We're waiting in the corridor,
My husband, son and me.
My son just stands there smiling;
I'm smiling, nervously 

I wonder what she'll tell us.
I hope it's not all bad.
He's such a good boy, really;
But dozy - like his dad.

We're waiting in the corridor
My wife, my boy and me.
My wife's as cool as cucumber;
I'm nervous as can be.
I hate these parents' evenings.
I feel just like a kid again
Who's gonna get the stick.

I'm waiting in the classroom.
It's nearly time to start.
I wish there was a way to stop
The pounding in my heart.
The parents in the corridor
Are chatting cheerfully;
And now I've got to face them;
And I'm nervous as can be.

Luckily our experiences this time weren't bad - our boys are meeting age related expectations, behave well and enjoy learning... we have been set more targets for them so look out for more posts about these and how we are supporting them with these at home.

21 October 2010

Favourite Toys

It was interesting to read this article today about a survey by World's Apart's Dreamtown website that says children only play with five per cent of the toys they own. According to the survey of 3,000 parents, the typical child owns 238 toys in total but play with just 12 'favourites' on a daily basis making up just five per cent of their toys.

Is this true of your children?

Sadly, I think it is true of mine...

I can think of toys my children own that stay (almost permanently) in the cupboard, those that come out intensively for a few days at a time (e.g. they get a jigsaw or board game bug and do them non-stop for a day or two and then they go back into the cupboard for a month or so) and those there are two that I would say are firm favourites that are out all the time.

1) wooden train track (we have lots of BigJigs Rail from PlayMerrily)
2) Duplo (and slowly moving onto Lego)

What are your children's firm favourites?

11 October 2010

Messy Play Learning

play academy
We have blogged in the past about messy play but saw that The Play Academy are looking for messy play posts for the end of October so thought we would write a new post on this theme.

Judging by the four year old's school uniform he has been doing a lot of it at school so I asked him about his five favourite messy play things and have added some learning!

1. Shaving foam
Very simple and very messy - squirt on the table and then spread out with the palms of your hand and draw shapes, patterns and pictures or write letters, numbers and even words. This is a great activity for children who don't really like writing as they are too busy drawing to realise they are practicing and developing these fine motor skills!

2. Paint
He likes paint (claims he hasn't done it this week but someone has because there was green paint on his school shoes this morning)... He then talked about rolling marbles in paint to make patterns and mixing colours.

3. Finding Buried Treasure
Hide coins in a sandpit (doesn't matter if the sand is wet or dry - wet is messier though) and dig for them - you can use spades or spoons, sieve for them or just find them with fingers.

4. Noodles
He still remembers this from Chinese New Year - a big tray of cooked noodles to stir, pick up with large tweezers (trying chopsticks if you are brave!)

5. Playdough
Probably one of every preschoolers favourites - blogged about before with recipes - lots of learning opportunities. This week they have been thinking about birthdays and have been making playdough cakes.

08 October 2010

Book Week

Ooops I nearly missed Children's Book Week - it seems to have passed our school by...

Children’s Book Week (the first full week in October) is an annual celebration of reading for pleasure for children of primary school age. Schools, libraries and bookshops all over the UK hold events and activities aimed at encouraging children to view reading as a source of pleasure, explore libraries and bookshops and even start writing themselves.

Have you taken part? What have your children been doing?

07 October 2010

Today's Target: Spelling (Look, Cover, Write, Check Method)

The "Look, Cover, Write and Check" spelling method is an easy activity for learning new spelling words.
First, write the list of words to learn onto a piece of paper.

Get the child to "Look" at the word. They should really study the word - taking the time to say it out loud, looking at the whole word, saying the letters aloud and looking for identifiable patterns or shorter words inside the bigger word. During this step they are looking for anything that will help commit the word to permanent memory. Before moving on to the next step encourage your child to close their eyes, picture the word and to try spelling the word from memory and then opening their eyes to check accuracy. Looking at the word one last time before attempting to spell it on their own can be of help.

Now they need to "Cover" the word; they can a hand, a bookmark, or another piece of paper so that the spelling is hidden from sight.

The "Spell" step is self-explanatory - they need to write the word down on the paper

The final step is to "Check" the accuracy of what they have written. This is done by comparing it letter by letter to the original. If they use both hands they can simultaneously point to each of the letters in the word to make sure they notice any mistakes. If there are mistakes, the process should be repeated from the beginning until the word is spelled correctly.

We found using the Reception Key Words Whiteboard a really useful tool for the learning these words as it saved having to write a new list each time we wanted to practice.

04 October 2010

Why do Elephants help spelling?


Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants
So there you go - a simple mnemonic from the 6 year old...
Mnemonics are sentences or phrases in which the initial letters of the words spell out a word which many people find rather tricky to spell. He was really proud of remembering this - do you know of any others that he can learn?

01 October 2010

Today's Target: Spelling High Frequency Words

We have now managed to read the high frequency words and we have moved on to learning to spell them... here are ten ways we tried with varying levels of popularity / success.
  1. Traditional spelling test - me reading the word, him writing it down on paper
  2. Using magnetic letters
  3. Copying the words, saying each letter as he wrote it
  4. Typing spelling test - as above but typing the answer on the computer
  5. Writing silly sentences of target words
  6. The look, cover, write, check method (more about this method on another post but we found also found some games online - have a search)
  7. Backwards spelling - I said the letters and he had to work out what the word was
  8. Using the letters from Pass the Word
  9. Oral quizzes - "how do you spell..." This was great when driving or waiting for appointments
  10. Correcting my spelling (for words I knew he knew - not good for learning!)

30 September 2010

Farm Animals

Old Macdonald is once again a firm favourite in our house and if I hear e-i-e-i-o once more...

Anyway, it reminded me that I blogged before about learning about farm animals so I won't repeat myself - but thought it was worth sharing these finger puppets with you. Hope your little ones enjoy making them as much as mine.

We have also had fun playing Old MacDonald Lotto; a game which encourages you to make lots of noises and actions as you find the farm cards to match the pictures on your playing board.

Altogether now... Old MacDonald had a farm, e-i-e-i-o!

19 September 2010

Talk Like A Pirate Day

Today is 'Talk Like a Pirate Day' so whilst it isn't a real "Jobs People Do" it is one that a lot young children wold say they want to do when they grow up - so I thought that it was worth a post.

Maybe you could have a pirate learning day?

Here are some ideas:
  • make maps (art skills plus try coordinates)
  • counting treasure (either make simple circles of gold card or practice real money skills)
  • treasure hunts (writing, reading and solving clues)
  • singing pirate songs
  • reading pirate books

17 September 2010

Today's Target: Reading High Frequency Key Words

Over the last week we have continued to work our way through the learning to read high frequency words... here are the top five ways we have practiced reading them:
  1. Reading books together and seeing which ones we can spot
  2. Matching pairs (using two sets of word flashcards - read as you turn over)
  3. Find the word (we printed a sheet with them on in a wall arrangement and coloured the bricks)
  4. Fishing (a paper clip added to the word flashcard and a magnet on a string for a rod) - read the word when you pull it out)
  5. Quick reading lists - list ten-twenty of the words in a list, how fast can you read them all correctly
How have you been practicing these words?

We have started learning to spell them too - look out for a post on that next week!

16 September 2010

Special Offer: Half Price Numberball

Does your child have the target of learning their times tables? If so this special offer is just for you!

A HALF PRICE Numberball: a great aid for learning basic multiplication.

The set includes two giant tactile eight-sided dice, as well as counters, number grids and timer.

Numberball is a fun and colourful way to help memorise the basic multiplication tables - the colour coded Numberballs and chart make finding the answer easy, and remembering it too!

There are many different ways to use Numberball; playing 4-in-a-row, using the timer, filling in the blank chart, or placing counters on the squares all of which help children remember the times tables. Suitable for 1 to 4 players.

10 September 2010

Today's Target: High Frequency Key Words

Children in Reception / Year 1 and Year 2 have a list of high frequency words that they need to learn to read and spell. Our eldest has been given the challenge of ensuring that he can read and spell them and he is very excited about ticking them all of his list! So over the next few weeks that is what we will be doing and I will blog about the different ways we do this. If you have any great ideas please let me know!

First of all we have dug out the set of Magnetic Reception High Frequency Words and they are stuck on the fridge so we can check the reading of them by making sentences - I will leave some there for the boys to read in the morning.

I think he can read all of these and probably spell most of them but it makes sense to start with checking the reception words before tackling the list of Year 1 & 2 ones.

07 September 2010

Fairy Tales for Boys?

Over the holidays we went to Warwick Castle and went into the Princess Tower. They have warning signs that it is "not for boys" but boy #2 wanted to go in the Princess Tower so we did.

The story goes that Princess Tower is home to Warwick Castle’s very own fairytale princess, Princess Arabella and that preparations are underway for her wedding. Children go into one of the castle rooms and meet a princess who tells them all about Princess Arabella's forthcoming wedding to Prince Toby and along the way she shows the children various things from other fair tales. So they meet a frog (who she kisses to see if it will turn into a prince), Sleeping Beauty's spinning wheel, the bed from the Princess and the Pea, one of Cinderella's old ragged dresses and help to chose the fairy tale outfit to go with Princess Arabella's dress. Then they go into another room and dress as princesses (with boys dressing as knights as a bit of an afterthought) before going onto the room of wishes where they write their wish in the book.

All in all it would seem a great introduction for children to fairy tales - so why then is it all "pink" and why are they discouraging boys from getting involved?

Surely, all children need to know traditional tales not just girls? and is it any wonder that boys are not achieving the same results in literacy if they are not being given encouragement at even this most basic level.?

06 September 2010

Back to School

I had been meaning to write a post about starting school and transitions - but I had written about that before in these posts about starting school and transitions and I couldn't really think of much to add. I had plans for blog posts that didn't work out for various reasons but today we are "Back to School".

Tara's prompt for this week's Gallery is Back to School - and here are my two big boys going back to school.

For Littlesheep Learning this "Back to School" means a few less children at home during the day, more time to focus on the business and a new year with new plans - watch this space!

05 September 2010

Autumn Fair

Today I went to the Autumn Fair to see what new things my old suppliers have and see if there are any new suppliers that have nice things I want to stock at Littlesheep Learning.

As usual I came away a bit overwhelmed with lots of catalogues and ideas. Now the hard work starts trying to choose what to add to our range. Lots of planning to be done over the next few weeks.

When I have blogged about it before I have managed to meet up with some other mums in business but sadly that wasn't the case this weekend - maybe next time!

01 September 2010

Incidental Learning – But I didn’t teach them that!

How often does your child demonstrate their knowledge and you sit there thinking – how on earth does he know that, I’ve not taught him it? I know it happens a lot in our house. We don’t sit around all day with colour, letter and number flashcards (although we do have some that they play with from time to time!) yet somehow; maybe through osmosis, children seem to manage to learn this and so much more.

So how do children learn acquire general knowledge? The answer is simply by their observational skills and being given the opportunities to see things, ask questions and have information shared with them. All of this learning is incidental so they don’t realise they are doing it, as far as they see it they are going to the supermarket, watching television, having a bath or sharing a book but in reality they are doing so much more.

This post gives some ideas of how you can incorporate these incidental learning opportunities into your day.

First, make use of clocks! When your children wake for the day show them the time it is – talk about the big hand being on the (whatever) and the small hand being on the (whatever – preferably after seven!) or read the numbers on a digital clock. You’ve immediately started teaching telling the time / number recognition and you are still all in your pyjamas! You can repeat this activity throughout the day pointing out lunch time, bath time, bed time etc and telling them that at certain times things will be happening.

Breakfast and getting dressed give a whole host of opportunities. Labelling foods and clothes, colours, counting as you do up buttons, reading labels on food packaging plus developing the self-help skills related to eating and dressing.

Moving onto the household chores; sorting washing is great for learning colours – and the sooner you can get your child to pair up the clean socks the sooner it’s one job you can pass on! Tidying toys is an excellent opportunity to teach categories – all the animals in one box, musical instruments in another and the cars in a third. Cooking is a fantastic activity for incidental learning. Not only is your child learning the culinary skills, they are also reading (following recipes), measuring and counting, developing fine motor control – stirring, rolling, spooning, cutting etc, plus increasing their general knowledge by talking about food labels, where ingredients come from, plus all the describing words for example; dry, powdery, wet, lumpy, hot, cold, smooth or my son’s favourite ‘gungy’! Again a trip to the supermarket has a whole host of possibilities; colours, labels, counting, writing and reading lists (very small children can use picture lists) and money skills.

Of course children’s toys all have educational potential too. Whilst building with blocks talk about their shapes and colours. You can count the carriages on the train when playing with train sets and talk about where the people are going. Dressing up activities provide opportunity to explore topics such as people who help us through talking to your children about what they do, where they work, the vehicles they use etc, and role play with pretend food and plates / cutlery means you can talk about sharing, counting and even meal planning and healthy eating.
Games can teach turn taking, matching, counting and many other skills.

Then at the end of the day, counting the stairs to get upstairs reinforces counting and bath time provides another great learning opportunity, the simplest of bath toys – a set of stacking cups is a brilliant for learning colours, sizes, measuring volume and pouring. Lastly bedtime is a lovely time to share books snuggled up together – rhyming books help with phonic development, counting books are good for teaching numbers and all books provide the opportunity for learning to read simple words, talking about the plot, the characters, predicting what comes next and a whole host of other things.

Lastly, there are lots of reports about television being ‘bad’ for children – but a few well chosen programmes can enhance their knowledge base (and yours!). For example, at three my son was telling me about the sewage treatment process thanks to
Come Outside and Something Special has taught us all lots of signs and helped the children with their language development. Again, programmes such as the Numberjacks, Fun with Phonics and Alphablocks introduce numeracy and literacy skills without children really thinking about them.

So, in answer to the question – how did they learn that – the answer is you probably taught them without even thinking about it, what you see as a simple discussion about the weather will stick in a child’s head and before you know it they are telling you about the seasons, or even the water cycle!

31 August 2010

British Mummy Bloggers Carnival

The August British Mummy Bloggers carnival is now live: http://www.playingbythebook.net/2010/08/31/british-mummy-bloggers-carnival-books-and-play/ and we are pleased that one of our blogs have been included.

Please pop by and have a read of Zoe's fantastic blog (where you can find lots of ideas linked to reading books). Read the carnival, follow the links to have a look at the other posts and get playing with books.

30 August 2010


This week in the Gallery, Tara asked gave us the theme: One Day in August - not any day in August but more specifically Sunday 29th August... it could be a photo of anything just it had to be taken on that day. The reason for this challenge is that on that Sunday threee UK parenting bloggers Josie, Sian and Eva flew to Bangladesh for a week to help raise awareness of the work Save the Children is doing with mothers and children there. 

So my photo:

This was taken as I took my eldest to Beaver camp for the first time. It was the first time he has been away from home staying with people who are not family (he wasn't a bit phased) and the first time he had responsibility for organising his own belongings for a whole 24hours! So I left him (in his uniform) with his bag of clothes and his pillow, sleeping bag and mat (and teddy). He now has to organise the independent living skills or self-help skills as they are called for himself; he needs to dress (buttons, zips and velcro - I wasn't mean enough to make him learn to tie his laces!) himself, he needs to brush his teeth, wash himself (ok so I am not entirely sure little boys at Beaver camp do that!), comb his hair and of course I am hoping he eats using his cutlery!

Anyway, I have written about dressing skills before and maybe I should teach him to tie his shoelaces sometime soon.

On Wednesday take a look at the Gallery and see the other posts and photos we will all have taken part in one giant Blip for that day - a journal for a Sunday in August.

26 August 2010

Does Cooking with Children = Mess or Learning?

There is an article on the BBC website If flour + sugar + children = mess, why let them bake? written by Katy from I Can Cook which got me thinking about cooking with children.

Of course cooking with children is messy but it also has a whole host of learning opportunities.

First, you need a recipe. Finding a recipe using cookery books, shows the use of non-fiction books and gives the opportunity to use an index or you could use a computer search engine. We have found using an internet search for a recipe interesting to see variations of the same recipe and deciding which one works best for us.

Then reading the recipe - older children can read it for themselves, younger ones will need help. This shows that reading is a useful skill and demonstrates the use of instructional text. If your children like cooking get them a notebook and help them make their own recipe book. This helps them practice writing skills (don't forget to add photographs or illustrations of the finished product). They can copy in favourite recipes but also make up their own simple ones for their favourite things like cheese on toast, home made ice lollies or popcorn, which gives them practice at writing instructions.

Next we need the ingredients (learning through shopping is a whole other post see
summer holiday market shopping or super maths for supermarket for some ideas). Have you got everything you need or do you need to make some substitutes (strawberry jam for raspberry jam, sultanas for raisins (or chocolate chips!). Looking at the ingredients gives the opportunity to increase vocabulary and general knowledge - what is oregano? where is butter kept? how is tomato puree made? what are raisins made from? where do bananas come from?

Measuring out ingredients using both weight and volume is a great practical maths lesson, what is bigger a teaspoon or a tablespoon? How many cups of flour do we need - can you count them?

Then the making part - this involves many fine motor skills; pouring, scooping, cracking eggs, stirring, whisking, cutting, grating, spooning, kneading, rolling, squeezing, sprinkling, spreading - every part of the making process using motor skills (which in turn will help them improve their handwriting!).

Recipes that involve cooking (or freezing) also teach patience / time telling as you can't eat them immediately!

Some of the things we have made recently...

24 August 2010

What can you see?

One of our favourite types of book at the moment are 'first word books' and in particular - First hundred words. This book is popular because the illustrator is the same person who illustrates 'the Apple Tree Farm books' and the First Experiences Books and my children love Stephen Cartwright's illustrations!

This type of book is one of the types of book that grows with your child. To start with they enjoy picking out the odd words that they know and pointing to the "big" items on the page, then as they get older they can actually hunt (and start remembering!) the items to find on each page. They can also look at the picture in more detail, describe what is happening and spot the more subtle things. It is also great for children who are learning to read as the words are printed underneath the picture so they can start to recognise the sight words.

The book has scenes from around the house; the living room, getting dressed, eating breakfast in the kitchen (my children find the broken egg and the burnt toast most amusing), tidying up (uh-oh what is going to happen to Dad's plate?), bathtime and bedtime, in the community - the park, the street and the swimming pool and having a birthday party. The swimming pool and changing room pages show body parts, whilst the shopping pages illustrate colours and finally the very last page has a numbers 1-5.

We love this book and I am sure you will too!

23 August 2010

August Business Mums Blog Carnival

blog carnival blue

I am so excited to be hosting the Business Mums Blog Carnival - my first ever time of hosting a carnival. As my business is education based the submissions have been split into lessons... so prepare to go back to school! I hope that you will enjoy reading this post and the ones that have been submitted.

First of all - we all need inspirational teachers - those people who inspire us... Kate at Mum's The Word shares
three very different examples of business success. Who has inspired you?

In lesson time:

Literacy - Helen from Business Plus Baby explains:
What I've Learned About Writing Books and Antonia from Family Friendly Working wants you to write your story.

Numeracy - Alli (Motivating Mum) looks at the value of money in her post
My husband my detractor and Becky at Baby Budgeting looks into buying a family friendly franchise.

ICT - a lesson from Joanne Dewberry about
fan pages.

Music - Karen from Learning Made Fun tells us about the 1st musical mini.

Citizenship - MidwifeValerie explains how to campaign to save independent midwifery.

PSE - Heather (The Efficiency Coach) talks about self-confidence in her post the-dreaded-c-word-how-the-lack-of-it-can-sabotage-your-business-efforts/

For playtime, Sam and Helen from Mums the Boss ask
How free should our children be? and Nomita at ebabeelikes reviews the Cachatou Maggy a bright and colouful shape sorter.

In assembly teachers share the best work - Antonia tells us about Family Vie where you can share the best work you find, also most schools have some sort of prize giving, star of the week - the world of business mums isn't without its awards - check out the post from TJ at Support4Women: Awards - Are they Worth it?

Not forgetting babies... Antonia and Karen at Kiddibase share their top ten baby activities.

If you read a post that you find interesting, amusing, informs or inspires you, then please leave a comment for the author – bloggers love comments (and please let me know if you think I have passed or failed!).

You can find the 2010 Blog Carnival schedule by clicking here.

20 August 2010

Social Networking (Test)

Ooooh I think I have just set it up so that you can share your favourite posts from my blog onto Twitter and Facebook and the like...

Have fun sharing them!

ps. Please follow @littlesheep on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook

19 August 2010


As I was viewing the photos on my camera I came across one of the stone face that the six year old had made at Beavers...

and this made me think about how this idea could be adapted to create a craft activity to help children learn about emotions.
First of all you need a collection of pebbles or stones, then things to decorate them with - as you can see this one uses googly eyes, wool and a bit of pipecleaner but you can use whatever you want - if you wanted you could just use paint or a marker pen to draw on the pebble.
Then make a collection of different faces; happy, sad, scared, surprised, angry - talk about the emotion, what makes people feel that way, or act out scenarios with your pebble people. You could also make an identification game by putting the pebbles in a bag and picking one out - or a matching game matching the pebble to a picture of someone showing an emotion or a scenario.
You can find a range of resources to help children learn about emotions at Littlesheep Learning.

17 August 2010

Obstacle Courses

Hooray, we've had a sunny day! We finally got to play in the garden and it was fun watching the boys play - they set themselves up an obstacle course... they had to go up the rock wall, down the slide, run along the decking, climb onto the grass and kick a ball.

The great thing about obstacle courses is that they are great for helping children develop their gross motor skills and improve sports skills. Some children like the addition of a stopwatch to keep track of their course times, others want to have a race with their friends whilst others would rather just go through the course for fun. It doesn't really matter which type of child you have they will still be getting active and improving their skills.

The list of possible obstacles in an obstacle course is endless - obviously some will be more suited to your individual child than others so choose these (and feel free to add any more ideas in the comments).

  • crawl through a pop-up tunnel
  • jump from stepping stone to stepping stone (paper / mats / hoops)
  • do star jumps
  • ride a bike / scooter / ride on
  • throw bean bags / balls into a box
  • throw hoops onto a hoopla
  • run in and out of cones
  • walk backwards for ten steps
  • hit a ball with a tennis racket
  • kick a football in a goal
  • walk along a “tightrope” (a skipping rope placed on the floor or a chalked line on the patio - the line can be wiggly too!)
  • stand on one foot
  • go down a slide
  • shoot with a basket ball
  • dribble a football between cones
  • jump over a line / small box / hurdle
  • complete a stage from a crazy golf kit
  • fire a “stamp on” foam rocket
  • walk on stilts
  • dribble a hockey ball through a slalom
  • shoot a hockey goal
  • bounce on a trampoline
  • skip with a rope
  • walk balancing a beanbag on head
  • hoola with a hoola-hoop
  • climb part of a climbing frame
  • jump off a box
  • walk heel-to-toe in a straight line
  • build a sandcastle
  • squirt water with a water pistol
  • hop
  • do a forward roll

16 August 2010

Marble Memories / Fine Motor Flicks

As readers of past entries will know I have just started joining in with The Gallery set by Tara at Sticky Fingers and this week the theme is "Memories" and I thought it really linked with a post that I was planning about Fine Motor Flicking Activities, so here goes...

First my "arty" picture of marbles - the toy of memories - ask any old person and they will give you tails about playing with marbles as a child (well my grandparents certainly did!).

And then about the "fine motor flicking"...

"Flicking" is a fun fine motor activity that can really help a child develop their fine motor skills. Flick by opposing each finger and thumb in turn (you can use either hand and when you get good use both together). Flicking can increase motor planning and accuracy, fine manual dexterity and can strengthen the muscles in the hand.

As you can see we were "flicking" the marbles... we had all sorts of games, for example; flick them the furthest, flick them onto the target, flick them to hit another marble and flicking two at the same time seeing if they could crash.
If you don't have any marbles (or you are worried about your children putting marbles in their mouths) you can scrunch up paper and flick that or make small balls of playdough or use peas.
Have fun flicking! And do have a look at the other photos in the "memories" photo gallery.

13 August 2010

Whatever the Weather...

I have been meaning to get involved in more blog carnivals and other blog linking things for a while and over the last week got more active on Twitter...

This lead me to find that there is a Gallery "challenge" each week set by Tara and that as she was away this week so set no prompt for the Gallery. Those who usually partake were missing it so instead, Chelle has a Pretend / Unprompted Gallery this week, with a water theme, for those who feel like they're missing out.

So for my first joining in - here's my offering for the week... this was actually taken two summer holidays ago but I could have taken a similar one several times this week!

Rain on the window pane

Where has summer gone?

Luckily we have a cupboard full of games to play (don't worry I have put a lock on Littlesheep Learning's stock cupboard so there are plenty for you too!).

Whatever the Weather - Rain or Shine!

What will the weather be today? Take a guess, then spin the spinner to see if you are right. You'll have to watch out for thunderstorms as you race to the pot of gold under the rainbow!

12 August 2010

Blog Carnival

At the end of August we are hosting the Business Mum Blog Carnival.

If you would like more traffic to your blog, links and comments and the chance to network online around the business mum community then this is for you. It’s free and will take you just a couple of minutes.

Here’s how it works. Each month, a different business mum blogger hosts the blog carnival, listing the best posts that month. If you’re a mumpreneur with a blog, you can submit your own favourite post of that month to the carnival.

We’re looking for posts that add value in some way, so maybe they inspire, inform or make us smile. It’s OK to talk a little about what you do (we’re all in business after all) but a post that’s just a sales pitch isn’t going to be much of a read and is less likely to be included.

Email posts to elaine (at) littlesheep-learning.co.uk by the end of Friday 20th August and the carnival will be posted on Monday 23rd August.

If you want to read July's for inspiration check it out at mumazing's blog.

09 August 2010

Water Safety

This week the big two are having a week's intensive swimming lessons to help them keep up their swimming skills over the summer break.

The Swimming Teachers' Association - the leading authority on learning to swim and water safety education, have produced a guide to give parents practical tips regarding water safety in the home, garden, at the beach and swimming pool.

Visit their
website for your free copy.

06 August 2010

Special Needs Software

Recently on Mumsclub I bumped into Carol from Special Needs Software - a fab site that I thought some of my readers might like too.

Carol has a 3 year old son with severe learning difficulties and sensory issues, which make it really difficult for him to engage with toys and activities. Once a week, he attends a Child Development Centre for specialist therapy, where they have discovered that he responds really well to their touch screen computer. In fact, he enjoys it so much that it is the one activity they choose to calm him down if ever he becomes upset!

After finding this out she thought it would be a great idea to get a touch screen monitor for home use and as she is a web developer by trade, she decided to put her skills to good use by creating simple games for him to play using his new touch screen computer. Carol is still at the very early stages of developing the games, but she has found that her son enjoys playing with them even when the interaction is quite limited! So, she created the website to share the games with other touch screen users – many of the games are still in development, but are still playable to some extent!

Examples include:

If you’re using a mouse, the rocket will follow the mouse pointer around the game. Click anywhere to hear a rocket sound! For touch screen use, touch the screen and the rocket will head to that spot, accompanied by a rocket sound!

Paint the Screen
Click on or touch one of the coloured squares to change the screen colour. You’ll also reveal a hidden picture and accompanying sound! For older children, why not try using this as a memory game (e.g. after going through all the colours & pictures, ask if they can remember where the digger is).

This is a really simple cause & effect game, where there are two on-screen objects (ladybirds initially) which are stationary. By touching the ladybird, you can make it run up and off the screen. When both ladybirds are off the screen, another two objects appear (there are also ladybirds, spiders, frogs and rockets). This is also good for turn taking, as there are two of each object. Your child could touch one then you (or another child) could touch the other, and so on.

05 August 2010

Seaside Fun and Learning

Are you off to the seaside this summer holiday (not sure whether we are or not yet - it wasn't on the boys MUST DO list so it depends how things pan out) but if you are there are lots of learning opportunities at the beach.

First, the beach is one big open space and if you are lucky enough to go to one that isn't crammed full of other holidaymakers (memories of the Norfolk coast in mid-winter when we very definitely were the only ones there spring to mind!) there is lots of space for running, jumping and throwing balls; plus the obligatory digging - trenches and sandcastle building and carrying buckets of sand / water / pebbles. All of these activities will help children develop their gross motor skills which in turn help develop their fine motor skills. Another thing that you can do is write big letters and draw huge pictures in the sand - this is great fun for children who may usually be reluctant writers.

Then of course there are all the different object labels to be learnt - sand, sea, cliff, rockpool, lighthouse, shell, crab, starfish, seaweed , bucket, spade, ice cream - the list is endless! And for older children identifying the different types of creatures in a rock pool - how many different types of crustacean can you find?

Lastly the shells and stones can be used for counting, adding and subtracting, comparing sizes and much more.

Have fun on your trip to the beach and see how much "accidental learning" goes on!

04 August 2010


Today is Playday the annual celebration of children's right to play. On Playday and throughout the summer, thousands of children, young people and communities will get out to play at hundreds of locally organised events across the UK. As well as a celebration of children's right to play, Playday is also a campaign that raises awareness about some serious issues affecting children's play.

The Play Day 2010 campaign is 'Our Place,' which puts children at the heart of our communities, and asks everyone, young and old, to help create better places for all of us to live and play.

We are off to an event for 0-8 year olds at our local Children's Centre (shame about the rain!) where there promises to be: face painting, messy play, entertainers and a bouncy castle and a picnic afterwards.

See if there is something happening near you -

02 August 2010

Summer Reading Challenge

Have you signed up for the Space Hop at your local library?

The aim of the summer reading challenge is to get children to read six books from the library over their summer holidays. The challenge is designed for children of all ages and all reading abilities.

To sign up children need to visit their local library and enrol (completely free), they then receive a foldout poster, to keep track of the books they are reading and a membership card.

In our library they also decorate a rocket to put on the space race which they move along the board as they read their books. Then when they finish the challenge they get a certificate.

What books are you reading this holiday?

29 July 2010

Bottle Bugs

We have been to an art workshop - making minibeasts from plastic bottles... here are our creations:

The six year olds 'bee' all his own design - some help with the sticky tape!

The four year olds 'bee' (copying his brother's - except they ran out of black tape so his has strips of paper coloured black)

The two year old's "bottle-fly"

I am sure that you get the gist... get an empty plastic bottle and decorate it into a bug.

Things you could use:
  • tape (different coloured electical tape works well or masking tape means they can add details using crayons or pens)
  • fabric
  • ribbon
  • paper (tissue paper or cellophane makes good wings, wrapping paper scraps to cover the bottle makes it very colourful, sugar paper makes a good base for butterfly wings)
  • pipecleaners (antennae and legs)
  • straws
  • 'googly' eyes
  • pompoms
  • feathers

Make a real minibeast or an imaginary bug; maybe make lots and host an ugly bug ball or join in the creepy crawly calypso... but most of all have fun.