Children love to have the opportunity to experience messy play; many children love to experience getting really, really messy - even playing in the dirt. In our clean environments we now sadly worry about this. However, there is a school of thought that indicates that getting dirty is actually quite important for children and something that children are actually programmed to do for reasons of survival. The publication “The Dirt on Dirt” by the US based National Wildlife Federation summarises the benefits of playing in the mud for developing the immune system and preventing allergies. The Forest School movement advocates that playing outdoors also decreases children’s stress levels and improves their concentration abilities.Many nurseries have developed “Mud Kitchens” where children can play in a hands on way, get stuck in and as messy as they like. As they get absorbed in squishing, moulding and mixing, their imaginations roam free. They spontaneously make potions, mud pies and develop their own little worlds. If you have the opportunity to have a space in your garden to make a digging area where your child can also do this they will develop their own way of playing that will help them problem solve and encourage their own creativity. If you have no garden, go for walks in green spaces and gather natural materials to bring back and make potions on the kitchen table. Blossom trees and wild flowers are starting to spring up and these can be used for “magic”!Different ways of learning emerge as we mature but learning through our senses is not something that we entirely lose throughout our lives; who hasn’t been reminded to use oven gloves by touching a hot pan? We don’t want children to learn everything this way but experiential learning does have an important place as it helps to develop understanding and skills and gives the brain important feedback.For more information go to:http://www.muddyfaces.co.uk/download/Making%20a%20mud%20kitchen.pdfhttp://www.nwf.org/What-We-Do/Kids-and-Nature/Why-Get-Kids-Outside/Dirt-is-Great.aspx
Babies need daily opportunities to move freely on their tummies in a variety of stimulating, safe spaces without constraints such as clothing, or straps in baby chairs.Floor TimePut your baby on the floor on different surfaces and materials, eg blankets, changing mat, and in different positions, eg, front, back and each side. This will encourage free movement and balance.Tummy Time- Let your baby have lots of tummy time from as early as possible - little and often is best. This will encourage neck and head control. - Lie little one on your chest while sitting in a reclined position or lying down. - Get down on the floor with your baby. This will help their balance, as they sense the ground beneath them.- Encourage interaction through talking, singing and shaking toys.- Incorporate tummy time into nappy changes.- Interact with your baby in lots of different ways - talking about what you're doing and about what they're doing, singing and reading. This will encourage listening and moving.- Spend time stroking their hands and feet using different soft items such as feathers, ribbons and cuddly toys, and hard items such as plastic toys. This is good for sensory stimulation.- Carry your child in different positions - in arms, on shoulder, face down on forearm. This helps with their neck and head control.Experience the OutdoorsTake your baby outside for a walk in a pram or place on a rug/blanket, or grass if dry, under a tree to watch the leaves. This will stimulate their senses.
Sand - or a sunny beachA stick or index finger
Use a stick to make marks in the sand - vertical and horizontal lines, circles and crosses are good to start with.Encourage your child to copy you then ask him/her to make marks for you to copy.Talk about the marks and letters you make and the movements you do to make them. “I’m starting here, then going down, then stop”. “I’m starting here then going round and round and round”. “I’m going to make M for Mummy”
This helps your child develop skills and confidence in forming and connecting the curves, vertical, horizontal and zig-zag lines that form the bias of letter shapes.Starting big then gradually working down to smaller develops as your child’s hand and eye co-ordination skills and manual dexterity skills mature and integrate.As your child associates the language of the mark or letter shape with the action of forming these, he/she will be getting kinesthetic feedback which is essential for any motor action. Kinesthesia is the knowledge of where each body part is and direction in which it is moving.It is an important component of motor control for legible handwriting.
Plastic bottles - different shapes and sizesPlastic JugsPlastic Funnels
Collect up different size plastic bottles, plastic funnels and jugs for bath-time maths.Have fun pouring water into the bottles, whilst playing talk about; Filling the bottle to the top, “Is it nearly full?”, “How many little bottles of water does it take to fill this big bottle?”, “Shall we fill it half full?”.You can add some stretch and challenge by marking up quantities with a permanent marker pen or coloured waterproof tape. For example, marking up 250ml on a 500ml bottle, and marking up 50 ml units on a 200ml bottle.If you have 2 different shaped bottles that hold the same amount ask your child which one he/she thinks will hold the most water. Help him/her test out to see what happens.
Playing with water in this way helps children explore capacity and volume.Talking with your child as they fill up bottles helps them develop understanding of mathematical terms associated with capacity and volume in ways that are meaningful.Exploring how the volume of water stays the same regardless of the size or shape of a container is an important mathematical concept to develop. This is referred to as conservation of volume; having the ability to understand that redistributing liquid does not affect its volume. Children usually master this at around the age of seven years.Children are likely to think that a tall narrow bottle contains more liquid than an equal amount in a short fat bottle. Through playing with water and different shaped containers that hold the same amount, children will begin to explore conservation of volume.
A note padA pen or pencil
When you sit down to write your shopping list provide your child with a shopping list note pad and pen and sit together writing your lists.As you write talk about what you are writing down “We need more milk”. “I need some tomatoes”. Ask your child to write down what he/she thinks you need to buy.Take your shopping lists with you when you go shopping and refer to them as you go round the supermarket. “This says I need to get some tomatoes”. “What does your list tell you to get”.Don’t worry if your child’s marks and squiggles don’t look like words, your child will be able to recall what his or her marks mean.
When children see adults writing they perceive that writing is important. This this creates a inspiration to be a writer and to be part of this fascinating world of writing and reading.By sitting at your elbow as you write, your child will see how spoken words are converted to words and will imitate what you are doing. This is an important element of creating a desire to write for a purpose.This activity will help your child develop an understanding of the instrumental function of writing and how it helps to him/her to obtain goods and services.