Friday, 31 October 2014

I am smart and I am strong and I can do anything!

There have been lots of busy bodies this week at pre-school.  Fingers in the playdough finger gym and in the green exploring tray to whole bodies stretching in the Brambles Yoga Studio.  Outside busy bodies have been used to scoot on the scooters, pedal on the trikes and climb on the climbing frame.


All staff this week planned various activities that support Physical Development both fine and gross motor skills.  Miss Sallie planned an activity using the leaves from out in the garden alongside the Leaves Poem by Elsie N. Brady.  This activity supports a child's gross motor skills by using the whole arm and body to re-trace the vertical lines where the leaves are going to fall to the floor or have fell to the floor.


The children used their fine motor skills to colour in their own Flat Stanley picture before cutting it out. Some children find scissors easy to use and can cut with little or no assistance, others use scissors that are designed to be used with an adult and cut together to support the cutting action and grip of the scissors while other children are at the spring loaded scissors which supports the stage they are at with using scissors. 

The children learn about their wider community throughout their year at Brambles.  The topic is introduced with a story of Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown. In the story, Stanley Lambchop wakes up one morning to find a notice-board had dropped on him in the night, leaving him happy and healthy, but is only half an inch thick.  It's a little unusual, but he finds he can fly like a kite and can even be sent on holiday through the post! Once the children have coloured and cut out their Flat Stanley's, staff laminate each one and a letter that explains the story and ask if their Flat Stanley could go on it's travels as far as possible.  Over the years Brambles have had some fantastic photos, diaries, letters with postcards and memorabilia that has been returned to pre-school to share with the children so they can see lots of different communities and places.  One past Brambles family continue to take their Flat Stanley on their travels and continue to share photos of his travels with pre-school! Brambles staff are looking forward to seeing how far this years Flat Stanley's will travel!

EYFS Links
Physical development involves the muscles in the whole body.  There are two groups of motor skills; Gross and Fine.  Gross motor skills are the large muscles and fine motor skills control the precision of the muscle movements. 

Gross Motor Skills - Sitting, standing, walking, running, and balancing.  Also throwing, riding a bike, scooting, lift objects etc. It is really important that these muscles are used and developed to build muscle tone and strength.  These muscles in turn support a child's fine motor skills.

Fine Motor Skills - Writing, drawing, grasping objects, tearing, cutting, controlling a computer mouse and picking up a small objects with the index finger and thumb (pincher grip).  

Significance - To enable a child to pick up a small object, it requires awareness and planning from the central nervous system to muscles.  Muscles require strength, coordination and sensation to synchronize the muscles and movements. 

Home links - Physical development can easily be enjoyed at home through many activities that are probably already been carried out:
  • Running around the garden or skipping to pre-school, jumping in puddles, slithering across the floor, rolling on the bed, crawling under and over objects at the park etc
  • Climbing up the stairs one foot on each step and coming down the stairs two feet each step carrying a small object
  • Balance on one foot whilst waiting in a queue
  • Catching a large ball
  • Draws big lines and circles with chalk or water on a paintbrush on the wall or floor
  • Tearing, snipping and cutting with fingers and scissors
  • Picking up corn kernels, uncooked rice, uncooked small pasta etc with pincer grip
  • 'Writing' a shopping list with a crayon, pencil, pen on paper
Health and self-care - Physical Development also includes health and self-care in the EYFS.  These statements include:

  • Observes effects on their body
  • Tell a grown up they are hungry , tired, or want to rest or play
  • Attends to their own toileting needs
  • Is usually dry and clean during the day
  • Wash and dry own hands
  • Dresses with help
  • Eats a variety of foods
  • Puts objects such as cutlary or scissors away safely
  • Can manage some risks independently i.e. jumping off an object 

Next week is half term.  The children have their Autumn Treasure Bags to fill with their families and staff will be busy planning for a shared week: Understanding the world - Technology. Gadgets and technology will be explored along with pulleys, flaps, leavers and more!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Don't be afraid to use BIG words with little kids.....if they can say Tyrannosaurus Rex..... they can say anything!

As the lights were switched on at pre-school and the morning mist began to clear, lots of shapes were were beginning to appear - what's that noise? Did you hear?  There was swishing tails, huge claw-prints and a beak, there was definitely the sound of a roar and there was a certain shriek! 

The children have been very busy this week dressing up and becoming dinosaurs, or putting on the safari hats and wearing their binoculars to explore the dinosaur enclosure in the role play area inside to find which animals at meat - a carnivore and which animals didn't - a herbivore. Outside the dinosaurs continued to be spotted with children using masks and roaring around the garden and more safari hats and paintbrushes were used in the sand to uncover dinosaur bones by the Brambles palaeontologists!  

(Small world dinosaur picture to be added)

These dinosaur Playmobil toys were acquired from a school's catalogue though they can also be purchased from Toys R Us

During story time the children were teaching some of the names of the dinosaurs to the staff as they shared the two stories of the week: I'm sure I saw a dinosaur by Jeanne Willis and Adrian Reynolds.  Dinosaur Bones by Bob Barner.

Whilst enjoying all the fact finding fun about dinosaurs the children were very busy exploring shapes this week.  Over on the maths table there has been lots of designing taking place and many of the children have been very creative and made their own dinosaurs with the shapes.  Other shape activities have supported the children in naming a variety of shapes and making pictures using shapes.

These three activities were previously purchased from Early Learning Centre

Outside the children were encouraged to identify shapes in the environment and once they got going they didn't stop - there were shapes everywhere! The musical saucepans were circles, the bike and scooter cupboard door is many rectangles, the crane set in the construction area is made up of lots of circles and the large outdoor dice are squares.  For some children they were able to extend their existing knowledge by staff sharing 3D names with them such as pyramids and cubes.


EYFS Links
Shapes are all around us.  When you look outside you are noticing the rectangular bins, the square slabs on the patio and the triangle of a roof.  Children are able to categorise what they see and need support in identifying these shapes both environmental shapes such as the circle plate and the rectangle door bell but also those in their toy box such as magnetic letters or wooden bricks.

By learning shapes your child will also develop other skills they need such as mathematics and science as well as language and early reading.  If you child can distinguish between a blue circle and a red square the skills they have learnt to do that are the same skills to recognise between a letter and a number later on.

Whilst playing with shapes your child is learning to sort and classify into similarities and differences in shape (as well as colour), make comparisons and sizing into big and small. These are the foundations of maths and for life long skills such as sorting washing or finding a book in a library.

Exploring shapes with everyday items or with purposely designed shape toys, your child is using the observation of same and different; don't be afraid to use these words with your child as they will become part of their mathematical language. This concept provides your child with a basic process to use observing, comparing and discussing everything they see and encounter.

Providing your child with the opportunity to explore shape through finding other objects around the house that are circular like the plate or rectangular like the place mat is a cost free way of exploring shape together.  Encourage your child to experiment with drawing lines and shapes by providing lots of paper (or back of wall paper samples) with pencils, markers and crayons.

Going on a shape hunt with a cardboard (from a cereal box) cut out shape to hold is another way of discovering shapes without having to pay out for specifically designed toys.  You could take a pencil and keep a tally on the shape of how many you see. Whilst outside provide your child with a pot of water and some old paintbrushes to experiment with drawing lines and shapes on the floor and watch how it disappears! 

Drawing lines and shapes is the first step to writing letters.  If they are enjoying using pens, chalk and paintbrushes why not look how the initial letter of their name is made? They may notice that O for Ollie is like a circle or a I for Izzy is like a rectangle.

Eco Autumn Treasure Bags
Staff have been busy this week making these lovely little bags made from one sheet of newspaper. Brambles children will be encouraged to go for a autumn treasure hunt with their families during the half term break and collect as much 'Autumn Treasure' as they can fit into their bag to then bring back to pre-school. Upon their return, the children's bags will be explored and the children encouraged to identify, sort, count and look at the colour and shapes of all the different 'treasures' as well as seeing if children can make pictures with their findings for transitional art.

'I've got a body, a very busy body and it goes everywhere with me.' Next week is all about physical development and all the fun activities of the past five weeks of superheroes, space, pirates, cowboys and dinosaurs have been encouraging lots of gross and fine motor skills.  The Brambles staff have planned lots of fun activities that have consolidated all these physical skills for next week along with looking at what our body needs to help it grow.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Boots, chaps and cowboy hats!

On the Brambles ranch this week there has been some 'strapping' cowboys and 'cute as a cow's ear' cowgirls, who have dressed up and looked 'downright purty.'  They have been lots of these new expressions to learn through one of our stories this week; Bubba The Cowboy Prince - A Fractured Texas Tale by Helen Ketteman.  The children soon recognised the similarities between Bubba and Cinderella and thought the 'fairy godcow' was very amusing!  They also recognised Little Charley Bear from our other story this week who used his imagination to pretend to be a sheriff.


The art table this week has been popular as the children have made cowboy hats to wear by cutting around the edge and for the more confident cutters, the inside of the hat too. The Wanted Posters were also fun to watch the children draw as they had to draw themselves but instead of being wanted for something bad, they were wanted for positives.  Some of their responses were: 'wanted for beautiful singing', 'wanted for counting to 10' and 'wanted for looking like a beautiful cowgirl'. Free paining demonstrated how well the children were able to copy a variety of cowboy themed pictures from cowboys on horses to cactus' and sheriff badges to cowboy boots.  Designs were created  as the children had to make different patterns on their boots, choosing sequins to decorate their sheriff badges, colours were chosen to colour the song and rhyme of the week and some rather fabulous horses were made by using glue, paper and wool!

C is for cowboy
This weeks adult led activities were based on learning the Letter C and the sound c.  The lower case letter practice sheets were taken from Teachers Pet adapted to make a practice sheet and then laminated to they could be reused.  The first activity was to practice writing the letter C with their finger, before moving on to use a wipe clean pen.


String and playdough were also used to explore how to make the letter C using their fine motor skills to manipulate the string and dough.  These fine motor skills are really important to help support the development off writing.


Coloured sand (but salt would work just as well) on a baking tray was the other method used to help practice writing the letter C using a 'pointy finger'.

EYFS Links
Naming and writing the letter C comes under many areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage:
  • Communication and Language
Focusing attention, follow direction, responds to simple instructions, maintains concentration and use vocabulary focused on objects and people that are of importance to them.
  • Physical Development
Holds pencil between  thumb and two fingers, holds pencil near point between first two fingers and thumb with good control, can copy some letters, shows preference for a dominant hand, begins to form recognisable letters and uses a pencil and holds it effectively to form recognisable letters.
  • Literacy
Hears and says the initial sound in words, links sounds to letters, naming and sounding the letters of the alphabet, sometimes / gives meaning to marks as they draw and paint, uses some clearly identifiable letters to communicate meaning and write own name or captions, labels.

Brambles staff purchase their beautiful classroom furniture from Community Play Things who are also generously sponsoring free copies of a beautifully written book.

It’s high time for a hopeful book about childhood. Despite a perfect storm of hostile forces that threaten to deny children a healthy happy childhood, courageous parents and educators can turn the tide. Their Name Is Today looks at standardised testing, overstimulation, academic pressure, marketing to children and much more. It calls on everyone who loves children to find creative ways to help them flourish by giving them time to play, access to nature, personal attention and by defending their right to the joy and wonder of childhood.

Anand Shukla, Chief Executive, Family and Childcare Trust
Often challenging, occasionally provocative, always stimulating and uplifting, Their Name is Today is a joyous description of childhood, and at its heart, an acclamation of family life.
June O’Sullivan, CEO, London Early Years FoundationArnold’s book is a warm hearted exploration of what it means to be a child in today’s world. I have never met him but we speak the same language. Let’s use our shared language to explain to the public why we want everyone to value childhood.
Professor Barry Carpenter OBE
There is no greater challenge for society than nurturing its children and treasuring childhood. This timely book offers insight and inspiration.
Please click on this link to order your FREE copy Their Name Is Today book

You put your claws in, your feet out, in, out, in, out and scratch them all about you do the dino pokey and you turn around, that's what next weeks all about!  Roar! The dino pokey.  Roar! The dino pokey. Roar! the dino pokey, teeth out, tail stretched, Roar! Roar! Roar!  I wonder what Miss Joan has planned for next week?!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Work like a captain and play like a pirate!

'Shiver me timers' - there has been an abundance of pirate play and 'booty' (treasure) in pre-school this week.  The children have really got into character and become buccaneers to set sail on the seven seas in their boats and pirate ship.  They have had to work hard like captains to hoist the sail and share the outfits and gold coins.  Luckily the 'seadogs' (staff) were not made to 'walk the plank' just the 'scallywag' toy pirates on the wooden pirate ship in the small world tray (phew!)

'Not all treasure is silver and gold'

The treasure for staff has been seeing how much mathematical learning has been going on through the children's play!  Both on the maths island (table) but also during their play, 'I have two pirates' and 'we need 4 coins, 1,2,3,4'

To many adults, the word maths and play have nothing to do with each other.  For others maths was a torture, something we had to do, and something we didn't understand and couldn't do. Play on the other hand was something we loved.  What's more fun playing with your child, knowing that as you play 'shops', sort the washing together or take a walk in the woods you can be teaching your child maths without either of you eve realising?!  

Children have carried out some floating and sinking experiments this week.  Using mathematical language such as 'heavy' and 'light' they had to guess if each object would float or sink before they put it in the water.  Then afterwards they had to say if they were correct or incorrect and asked if they knew why. 

Matching quantity to numerals was also explored as part of our mathematics problems this week.  At Brambles we have some lovely pebbles with numbers on them and asked the children to find items that the children were able to access from around the classroom.

Number songs and rhymes relating to pirates also supported maths as the children stood up to be 5 Pirates subtraction song  and they had to remember the numbers for The day I went to sea pirate song 

EYFS Links. 
'Play is an effective vehicle for fostering Mathematical concepts and developing positive attitudes to mathematics' (Curricular Guidance for Pre-School Education) When we say a child 'knows their numbers' what we often mean is that she can recite the name of the numbers in ascending order.  This is quite useful to be able to do, but it means very little in itself.  Children need to come to know what the number system really means.  They can be helped to do this through play.  One of the first things they have to learn is about conversation - that 3 is always 3 no matter how it is arranged or presented, whether it is the number 3, the letters for three, 3 bricks, 3 buttons on a coat or 3 Billy Goats Gruff.  Before a child can understand numbers for things that can be seen - 3 miles, 3 years old and so on, they need real objects that can be seen and handled with a chance to check the count is right each time.

Young children have many mathematical experiences in their home environment.  For example:

  • they learn about money as they go shopping with you
  • become aware of numbers as they count the stairs
  • notice numbers on doors or wheelie bins
  • start to understand the concept of time as they become familiar with the routine of their day
A child's daily life offers many practical opportunities to learn about number, shape, space, sorting and matching. For instance:
  • setting the table: plate in front of the cup, cutlery at the side of the plate, napkins on the table
  • playing with water in the bath: heavy, light, empty, full, big and little 
  • steering a pram or wheeled vehicle: shape of the wheels, turning left and right, push, pull
  • helping to sort the washing: matching socks, big shirt, small shirt
  • tidying up - putting similar items together, counting the cars/trains as they go in the box, matching lids to containers

'Argh me hearties' what can we see when we look through the telescope?
There is land ahead, a barn oh and horses too!  I wonder what rootin' tootin' things we shall be exploring with Bubba, Little Charley Bear and Miss Sallie?