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Monthly Archives: October 2015

  • Sensory Christmas Activities

     

     

    Don't tell us it's too early to be thinking about Christmas, we know you've got heaps of planning to do! If you still need one or two extra ideas look no further, we're sure you'll like our sensory Christmas activities - they're all designed with your setting in mind and are nice and easy to put together!

     

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    Sticky Christmas Window

     

    This is a great activity for busy little fingers and you get a pretty display at the end of it as well!

     

    Items needed

     

    • A window!

    • A sheet of sticky book covering

    • Masking tape

    • Christmas bits and pieces - Sequins, pom poms, glitter, pipe cleaners, cotton wool, fake snow, stencils, stars etc.

     

    Sticky Tree

     

    Instructions

    • Measure up your book covering against the window, ensuring you have a nice big piece.

    • Stick it up with masking tape so that the sticky side is facing you

    • Set up a table with all the necessary items for your children to use, encourage them to make pictures on the window and explain to you what it is they are doing and why.

     

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    This activity is great if you're teaching abroad in a country that doesn't get any snow. It's got so many touchy feely loose parts and is a fun way for children to create their own snowy scene, and set a story to go with it. A pretty pink angel was made on our window!

     

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    You can discuss the colour and shape of the items they're sticking down, as well as the texture. If a child needs prompting into conversation give a choice of descriptive words to help them. "How does that feel, is it hard or soft?", "fluffy or scratchy" etc.

     

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    Giving children free reign brings out their creativity and usually provides some effective if not amusing results - Turns out that a highlighter pen is a great addition to any Christmas tree!

     

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    Christmas Foam

    This is another great activity for all ages that will have them desperate to get involved.  The thing about sensory play is that it is so unstructured and open-ended - brilliant for learning through exploration!

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    Ingredients

    • Shaving foam - a sensitive brand is usually kinder on little hands

    • Food dye or paints in your choice of Christmassy colours (optional)

    • Mixed spice and/or peppermint essence (optional)

    • Christmas bits and pieces - glitter, sequins and pom poms etc

    • Children's tweezers or tongs or any kind of mark making items

     

     

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    Instructions

    • Spray the shaving foam out onto a mat covered table or tuff tray, we used about half a can but obviously it depends on how big your group of children is.

    • Ensure sleeves are rolled up and aprons on if you feel it's necessary.

    • Put all the loose parts in small bowls for the children to help themselves to, demonstrate how to add the items to the foam and offer the use of spatulas, stampers etc.

     

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    We love playing with foam because it's so hands on! Brilliant for working on fine motor skills and enjoying that ooey gooey feeling. Try giving children some tongs or plastic tweezers to pick up objects out of the foam, it's great for practising that pencil grip. Use number and letter cutters to incorporate literacy and mathematics into your foam play, you could also do counting with added beads or buttons.

     

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    This also a great medium for practising letter formation, think about it - writing the same letter over and over again on a work sheet is boring compared to drawing it in foam!

     

    Why not set up a white board next to the foam so that the children can see how it reacts when stuck to something vertically, or you could let them smear it across the window to make a snow scene if your setting allows for it.

     

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    Don't forget we'll be posting Christmas ideas and activities right up until the big day so stay tuned!

  • Bonfire Night

    Remember, remember the fifth of November
    Gunpowder, treason and plot.
    I see no reason, why gunpowder treason
    Should ever be forgot!

    Each year around the 5th November, our skies are littered with fireworks from Bonfire Night celebrations, this is done as a reminder of what could have happened if the gunpowder plot had been successful and is a time honoured tradition. For young children it is especially exciting as they get to stay up late past bedtime and see a colourful display like no other.

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    One of the traditional bonfire night activities that seems to have fallen by the wayside is the making and burning of a guy. Children would stuff old clothes with newspaper, forming the shape of a man. The creation used to be carried from door to door where children asked for a "penny for the guy", afterwards the guy was placed on top of a bonfire to be burnt.

    Although it is unlikely that your setting will be holding a bonfire, you can still make a Guy Fawkes as an activity! It's extremely versatile in that children of all ages can get involved and participate in the creative process. Why not request that each child bring in a piece of old clothing from home to stuff with newspaper or straw.

    The head can be made out of a variety of things, an old football, hessian sacking or papier-mâché around a balloon. Once painted you can add wool for hair or even an old wig. Use the time whilst stuffing your Guy to discuss the reasons behind the celebrations, teach them the rhyme or ask questions to meet specific learning criteria such as "does the straw feel soft or rough?". Once your Guy is complete consider setting him up as a scarecrow if you have an outdoor area, that way it ties into harvest festival as well!

    image courtesy of goldendays.org.uk

    A nice and relatively easy science related activity you can do in your setting is Salt Fireworks, this craft looks at 'colour crawling' and is great fun for kids to have a go at.

    Items needed: 

    • Salt
    • Water
    • PVA glue
    • Black construction paper
    • Water colour paint, food dye or inks

     

    Instructions:

    • Pre-mix your chosen paints with a bit of water, note that when doing so, make sure it is thin enough to travel along the salt as well as being slightly darker in colour as the salt will make it appear lighter. Set the colours up in bowls so that children are intrigued and will want to take part when they see them.
    • Firstly, encourage the child to create some firework inspired designs and patterns on the paper, they can do this with a pencil or crayon or just go for it straight away with the pva glue, using either a spatula or brush.
    • Next, let them sprinkle a good amount of salt onto the glue so that the whole picture looks crystallised. You may want to limit the amount of salt by putting it in a bowl with a spoon for the children to handle.
    • Once the salt has been applied, shake the paper off and wait for it to dry a little.
    • Show the child how to use a pipette or paint brush to drop the colours onto the salt before letting them have a go themselves. You don't want them to end up brushing the salt off of the paper so this may require some hand control. The colours should spread slowly along the salt as it absorbs the water, making the firework appear! You can have some great discussions whilst doing this craft about colours and how the salt is able to 'suck up' the water.

     

    image courtesy of icanteachmychild.com

    Remember, all activities relating to Bonfire Night can be linked to Understanding the World and British Values!

  • Pumpkin Activities

    It's nearly upon us.. That one time of the year where it's acceptable to demand sweeties from strangers! Hopefully you've already got an idea of what you want to dress up as, so now it's time to look at all the different activities you can do within your setting.

    First things first, you've got to have a pumpkin, It's mandatory! Actually, pumpkin carving itself is a very beneficial task for a child to complete. If they're old enough, they get the responsibility of being able to handle a safety knife and if they're younger then they can come up with the face design and help scoop out all the innards - very sensory friendly!

    Before you set about carving your pumpkin there are a few things you can do while it's still intact:

    • Arts and Design - let your children stick plasticine or playdough onto the pumpkin to create patterns or faces. This way they get to experiment with designs that they might like before actually cutting it open.
    • Physical Development - Set up some toilet rolls in a skittles like formation and add ghostly faces onto them to make it even more halloweeny. Use your pumpkin as a bowling ball to see if you can knock the ghosts over. You can always drill some holes into the pumpkin if you need to get a better grip on it.
    • Maths and Science - Set up a table with your pumpkin and different things to use on it. You can add a magnifying glass, a tape measure, weighing scales and even a bucket of water to see if the pumpkin sinks or floats. Print out some questions or a check list for the children to fill in so that they are able to explore unassisted and answer questions on their own if they are able to.
    • Arts and Design - There are plenty of ways to decorate your pumpkin without actually carving it. You can paint it, cover it in stickers, cover it in tin foil or add toilet paper to turn it into a mummy. Something that's got quite popular recently is to drip melted candle or crayon wax onto your pumpkin to create a nice colourful arty effect. You could also pin buttons onto the outside or cover it in glitter - the possibilities are endless!

     

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    • Instead of cutting the top off of the pumpkin and using it as a lid, try slicing off the bottom! It means that you can easily rest your candle or battery powered light without the hassle of reaching in and accidentally knocking it over or getting your arm all sticky in the process. The pumpkin can be placed on top of the base which makes for a more seamless finish.
    • If you do decide to cut the top off you can use it as a stamper, simply dip it into paint and press down on paper to create some lovely pumpkin pattern stamps.
    • After you've scraped out all the innards you can dry the seeds out and plant them as a separate activity. You could also use them in cooking or you could collage with them to make a Halloween or autumnal picture. If you're working on numeracy with your child then using the seeds to count is a great idea. Lay out some number cards and encourage your child to put the amount of seeds they think is correct on each card.

     

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    • Another activity you can do is to observe the decomposition of the pumpkin over a period of time and document it as a fun science experiment. Kids are bound to find the rotting process interesting as it's not something they usually get to see or experience. Encourage your child to draw a picture of the pumpkin day by day to see how it has changed. It's also a great way to learn some lovely descriptive words, which means working on communication and language as well as understanding the world.
    • The insides of a pumpkin are great for exploring textures and holding discussions about the senses - feel, colour, smell etc. If any of your children are uncomfortable about touching the the innards then simply put them in a ziplock bag, this way they are still able to look and squish the the bits around without the worry of getting their hands messy. You can even add googly eyes, glitter or spangles to make the bag more exciting.

     

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    Hopefully you've been inspired by some of our fun and interactive pumpkin ideas, so now you can put them into practice and have a go yourself! If you do get up to anything exciting be sure to send us a photo on facebook or twitter, we love seeing your creations!

    Next week we'll be looking at Bonfire Night crafts so stay tuned!

  • Ensuring Your Setting is Allergy Free

    With the amount of young children now being diagnosed with food allergies and Celiacs, it's time we became more aware of the problem products within our setting.

    When we think of allergies at school, the first thing that springs to mind is banning peanut butter and ordering special gluten-free bread. What a lot of us fail to realise is that the everyday products we're using in our setting, such as glue and paint, have allergens in them too!

    Even though little research has been done into whether allergens in non-food items can actually cause an allergic reaction, it is better to be safe than sorry!

    According to the Anaphylaxis Campaign, you can never be too cautious. They say that "Because uncertainty remains with regard to many products, our advise is to play it safe and avoid any product that contains a food ingredient to which you are allergic." Common sense really!

    Here are some of the products you may need to watch out for:

    • Craft Paste - This may contain wheat

    • Dustless Chalk - This often contains casein (milk)

    • Crayons - These can contain soy

    • Papier-Mâché - This can contain wheat

    • Playdough - This can contain wheat

    • Finger Paints - These can contain wheat, milk, corn and oats.

    • Slime and Gloop - This can contain corn

    • Stickers and Sticky Tape - These can contain gluten

    • Pasta used for threading and collage

     

    It goes without saying that toddlers and young children are forever putting their fingers in their mouths so what better way to ensure peace of mind than to use products that are hypo-allergenic. Our main paint suppliers - Brian Clegg and Scola, make certain that their products do not contain latex, nuts, wheat and gluten.

    All items on our website are labelled accordingly and we pride ourselves on the fact that hundreds of schools, nurseries and clubs have ordered from us specifically because of this. These paints are by no means specialist and our prices reflect that! They can be used by everyone and are a great staple to have in your nursery, school or pre-school.

    Click HERE to take a look at our gluten free product range!

     

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    What to do...

    Check the ingredients on everything! - Annoying, but it has to be done.

    When setting up an interactive play area avoid using anything like soap or shaving foam or stick to brands specifically for sensitive skin. Don't use any food products that could be a problem (such as pasta). You could always try putting materials into ziplock sandwich bags for the children to squish and prod without skin contact - this is a great sensory activity!

    An alternative is to get them to wear gloves but be aware that rubber and latex can also cause a reaction in some children.

    Every setting needs some play-dough! Follow this allergy-free recipe to make your own.

    Or if you haven't got time, click HERE to purchase our soft dough!

     

    Gluten Free Play-dough Recipe

    Ingredients:

    1 cup salt
    1/2 cup cornflour
    3/4 cups cold water
    Optional: Natural food colouring and essential oils for a nice smell

    Directions:

    1. Pour the salt and the cornflour into a pan.

    2. If you are using food colouring and/or essential oil, mix a few drops into the cold water.

    3. Add the cold water to the cornflour and salt, and mix well.

    4. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken, starting at the bottom of the pan. Scrape the pan as you stir.

    5. When the play dough becomes very thick, take it off the heat and turn it onto the table or counter. Allow it to cool until you can handle it, then have your child knead the warm play dough until it’s smooth and pliable.

    6. When you’re finished playing with it, store it in an airtight container or zip lock bag.

     

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