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
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.
Spring is with us and it is the time of year to get outside and think about brightening our outside spaces. Even if you don’t have access to a garden or balcony, you can still do a lot with pot plants inside and on your window sills. Gardening with children is a really gratifying activity. It helps children to learn about where our food comes from and the cycle of life. A sensory garden enables children to explore the properties of plants, their look, feel, texture, smell and taste.Take a trip to the garden centre. For a child, this is a novel and colourful experience. It gives you the chance to show children a wonderful variety of plants. Talk about the differences between them, the shapes and shades of leaves, the fact that some plants are good to eat but others would taste bad and could make you ill. This teaches them to be cautious about the things they may see in the wild and to be careful about picking and eating.Look for seed packets of herbs and spices. Good ones to choose are the many varieties of mint, parsley, oregano, basil, marjoram. Read the backs of the seed packets out to the children to get them to think about what we need to do next and what other equipment you may need to plant the seeds in. In many cases it is best to plant the seeds in pots indoors to “chit” them. This is when you start the seeds sprouting before you transfer them to bigger containers or to the garden. A good and immediate way to show children what will happen to the seeds, is to plant cress. Place the cress seeds on damp cotton wool or paper. If you keep them in the warm and damp they quickly sprout and develop and soon the children can put the cress in their sandwiches.Happy gardening!
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.