The sun is shining and summer seems to be well and truly here for the moment! Naturally the boys have been spending a lot of time in the garden. This morning we decided to get out the chalk and do some chalk activities, which they really enjoyed
I was struck by how long my 5 year old wanted to stay on the literacy and numeracy games we had started – just because it was outside and done in a different environment! For the younger boys it was a great chance for them to practise their mark making and explore the different colours and shapes.
We started off with lying on the floor and drawing silhouettes of ourselves, or for those who could not stay still for that long – just drawing around the feet or hands, although the whole body is more fun to decorate.You can do this by getting different colours and drawing on the face, clothes and adding any details like glasses. I don’t mind lying on the floor to let the kids draw round me – nearest thing to sunbathing I get! lol 😉
We also collected a few leaves to draw round. You could bring out different toys or items of loads of different shapes and experiment with drawing round all sorts of things.
After drawing on the floor, the boys wanted to move on to different surfaces. I’m happy enough to let them draw on the walls and fence, as it will wash off when it rains.
I am really meaning to make a giant chalk board to go over most of the space on the brick wall though. I am thinking just get giant piece of MDF or wood, paint it with chalk board paint and screw it to the wall? If anyone has done this, please do let me know how it went and pass on any handy tips! I have seen these kind of blackboards in some children’s centres and they are great for water play as well as chalk – using wet paintbrushs for mark making.
Drawing on both the wooden fence and on the brick and the stone paving did give them a chance to feel the different effects of the textures and surfaces though. In the end, the fence seemed to be the favourite as the chalk shows up really brightly.
My 5 year old wanted to play teacher and he started to write sums for me which I had to answer, and then he would give a tick or a cross. He loves numbers and learning but sometimes tires of sitting with a pen and paper for too long (he is only just turned 5, so is to be expected!). He absolutely loved this and we also reversed roles and I wrote some for him too but his favourite is to be the teacher and set me the challenges. Obviously I have to sneak some wrong answers in to make him laugh and see whether he notices and marks them wrong 😀
My 3 year old was also able to practise copying the number 1 which is really good for him.
As well as sums, we moved on to writing sequences and leaving gaps to be filled in and then moved it away from numbers onto literacy activities – done in a similar way by writing words and leaving some letters out to be filled in. I used this chance to help my 5 year old revise some of the “tricky” words he gets sent home from school (the high frequency words from reception year) and it worked really well for this.
There’s so much more you could do with the chalk too, the possibilities are almost endless which is what is so lovely about simple toys like these.
Some other ideas could be:
Draw a treasure map on the floor
Draw a scene of your choice, then you could add toy figures into it or if it is on a large scale then the kids could lie down on it – to make a cool effect for a photo!
Draw a road or train tracks, and bring the cars and engines outside to drive on it
Colouring in – You or your child draw a picture or shape, and then have them colour it in. This could work well with the older ones doing the drawing, and the little ones just colouring it in
A giant rainbow – Make sure you have all the colours ready, then use the chalks on their sides rather than the tips to make wide beams of each colour for a cool rainbow effect
Copying lines – bumpy, wiggly, zigzag, or circles. This is really good for developing pencil control later on!
Have you got any more to add? Let me know in the comments 🙂
I have two children with difficulties or delays in their speech and language, so I know from experience how worrying it can be especially with waiting lists so long to be seen by speech and language therapists. You just want to get started so you can help your child, but sometimes end up waiting weeks or months! If you are in a similar position, here are some tips for helping your child’s speech and language, and some recommended resources which may prove useful while you are waiting.
I have been given a couple of speech and languages resources to try out and review recently so I thought I would make a little guide of some of the resources or help that is out there, also including others that I have been using for a while with my little ones and hopefully it will prove useful for anyone who is not sure where to look for help!
Many of the resources will be helpful for typically developing children too, who don’t have any difficulties with their speech and language but you just want to encourage them and help them along. At the end of the post I share some general strategies which can help.
This is a site with videos from Speech and Language therapist Fiona Barry. There are a mixture of premium and free videos and you can also download the free app. The free videos are shorter and give a general overview and the premium ones are longer and more in depth, with specific ideas to help encourage language at home with your child. I watched the talented talk video aimed at age 3-5 years and although I would say it is targeted more at typically developing children, many the techniques suggested are similar to those used by my sons speech and language therapists and you would just adjust them to the level of your child. Some of the ideas you may be doing already with your child, without realising that these things are already helping to develop his speech and language, and some of the ideas may be something new you could try. An example of one of the suggested short activities includes:
Listening activities – When reading a book, give your child a special word to listen out for, and ring a bell or clap their hands when they hear it. This helps to develop their attention and listening skills.
Small Talk by Nicola Lathey
This is a new book by Speech and Language therapist Nicola Lathey, which I was sent by Mum Panel to try out. The book starts right at the beginning and covers ways of supporting your child’s speech and language develop from birth, and even in the womb! This is a great book to support and encourage parents to make it easy to give your child the best start.
As with the video packages above, I would say it is more focused towards typically developing children and is a more general book to support speech and language development, rather than being something targeted towards any specific difficulties but it is a very good book and it really does cover an awful lot. I found the case studies quite interesting and there are lots of little small talk game ideas which you can use.
These are DVD and flashcard resources devised by Speech and Language therapists. They also have some useful tips on their website which may be worth a look. I have had these for quite a while now. They were recommended to me by some mums on Mumsnet – which btw is a fantastic resource if you do have any concerns about your child, the behaviour and development, parenting or special needs sections of the forum are a wealth of information and support.
You can watch some clips of the Sookie and Finn dvds on the website to see whether it will be suitable for your child. I found them pretty good. If you want something for your child to watch which would be more beneficial than regular TV, then Sookie and Finn could fill that role. When I first watched these, I could tell without a doubt the whole way through that yes it is developed by Speech and Language therapists, but family and friends who have seen them couldn’t really notice anything. “Isn’t it just like normal toddler’s TV?” one asked me – That is because the differences are quite subtle! Which means that your child won’t notice that you are making them watch speech therapy DVDs and they will just consider it something to enjoy.
We have the “Our Day” DVD and flash cards and just looking at the site now I’ve noticed there are also a couple of DVDs about going to school. We also have the flashcards which can be used for a variety of activities to help speech or understanding (my 3 year old really likes the flashcards!). It’s really nice that the flashcards and DVD go together so you can connect what your child has seen, with the activities you follow up with with the flashcards.
Sookie and Finn Our Day DVD is available on Amazon UK / US
You can also buy the matching flashcard sets on Amazon UK / US
I would recommend picture flashcards as a really helpful resource in general, as well as picture books – NOT to quiz or drill the child with the flashcards if they are not ready, willing or able, but just to use with simple games to help support their language.
Picture and Vocabulary books
Any of the books which have lots of pictures and words have been really useful for my children and make a nice change from story books. With a not so developed attention span, I have found these better for my younger two on some occasions as the child can go at their own pace and does not have to sit still and listen for so long, but is still able to listen and attend at their own level and pick up some language.
These can be bought from most book shops but some I would recommend are:
In general, Dorling Kindersley and Priddy Books are some of the best for these kind of books as they have loads but I even have one which I got from the 99p store which was published specially for them and my children have used it loads!
Story books do obviously have their place too and simple books with repetition or rhyme can be great for those who are still developing their first language skills, like the That’s not my…. series from Usbourne eg That’s Not My Dinosaur (Touchy-Feely Board Books)
I actually don’t have these books! But I have heard them recommended so much that I think it would be wrong to leave them out, if you want a more in depth book these have been really highly recommended. “It takes two to talk” for language delays and “More than words” specifically focusing on Autism.
Simple board games can be really good to help develop children’s attention, listening and turn taking skills which are all the basic skills they need to help language progress, and Orchard Toys have loads to choose from. Simple matching games or puzzles can also be used.
There are also charities around like I Can where you can go for some more help or advice if you are worried about your child’s communication
If you want to go down the private route, there are sites where you can find details and contact info of speech therapists in your area and what they specialise in – eg Help With Talking. Often there are waiting lists with the best therapists even with private, but most will be willing to discuss your child with you over the phone to see what kind of help they would need and whether that is something they could offer. As a lot of NHS therapy is group based in some areas, you might consider private for one to one. Not all therapists would suit every child and don’t feel that just because they are a qualified speech therapist that you can never disagree with their approach to your child. If you are not happy, then maybe it is not the right therapist. I did have to change therapists as one I originally got from Help With Talking did not work out for us, although I would recommend the website in general!
Personal recommendations from other Mums are often priceless though and the best indication you could go on. As one of my sons has a specific disorder (Verbal Dyspraxia) rather than a general language delay, I got a recommendation from another mum who’s child has the same condition. That way we got someone who is really brilliant for him! Forums and Facebook groups can be a great way to find out this kind of information.
I find signing so useful for my 3 year old, he uses Signalong but Makaton is another very similar language and these really can help to support language development. It eases the frustration by giving the child a method of communicating while words are still developing. For visual learners, signing seems to help them to remember and get the words out. My son joined two signs together long before he joined two words together. I would recommend going on a course if you can, then you can buy extra resources like books of signing vocabulary, and pick up extra signs even from the internet or Mr Tumble. The course gave me the confidence and foundation to get a great start in it, so that we could go further with it and that made a massive difference. Ask at your local children’s centre in case there is anything available, otherwise the courses can be quite expensive
One of the main strategies Nicola Lathey is recommending is “Say what you see” – which could be otherwise described as commenting, rather than just asking a lot of questions. This is also explained in the Talented Talk video from TalkingTipsForKids.
When talking to children it is not only quantity that counts but also quality. A lot of the time people without realising talk to babies or toddlers asking a lot of questions like “ooh whats that? what are you doing?” as well as quizzing them “what colour is that?” “how many dogs?” etc – But what speech and language therapists would recommend is that instead of doing this, it is better to focus more on commenting and describing – basically you just say what you see! This is such a simple concept, but it really does help and the great thing is that it can be done easily throughout the day while your child is playing. It takes no extra time or effort as you are playing and talking with them anyway but by using this technique, your child would get more out of it.
I use this myself, and at first if you are not used to talking like this it can seem a bit unnatural or forced, then you get used to it and it would be second nature. So rather than asking a young toddler “what are you doing with the car?” you can comment to them “You’re playing with the car. The car is in the garage!”
For me I find this so much more beneficial for my younger two children who are actually not very verbal at the moment (as one has quite severely delayed language due to a combination of Autism, Speech disorder and mild hearing loss, and the other is still quite young and not yet developed so much language) – If I think logically, why would I be asking them questions that I know they are not able to answer, whereas if I comment then they will be absorbing all of this information.
Obviously no one will say never ask questions to your child! There is a a rule of thumb which I have seen suggested: One question for every 4 comments – Like the digits on your hand, one thumb and 4 fingers which makes it easy to remember just as a rough guideline
Another technique which I have found had a really good impact for my children is simplifying the language, and this works really well alongside the commenting strategy. You always hear the advice “Talk to your child. The more you talk, the more they will learn.” This is true BUT if you talk non stop in complex sentences with advanced vocabulary and difficult sentence structure, for many children this can be really difficult and they may not take any of it in.
Because my 3 year old has Autism, we went on a local Earlybird course and this was one of the communication strategies mentioned. It’s really helpful for children with delayed language and understanding, or very young children who don’t have advanced understanding because of their age.
You can use one word sentences to reinforce what the child is seeing or doing, and then expand on this with two words or very simple sentences. For example if the child is playing with a car just simply commenting “car”, and if they hold it up to show you, you could say “big car” or “red car” rather than a long complex sentence about look at the car, how fast its going wow its so shiny and red and has 4 wheels and etc etc etc. With some children less is more then it allows them to consolidate what they have learned and heard.
Sometimes you get mums complaining about simplified language or babyish language, saying “why do people speak like this it will teach the children to speak wrongly” and that kind of thing, for example I’m sure we all have heard people moaning about the way the characters speak on Waybuloo or Tellytubbies. This is wrong and I wouldn’t agree with them at all. Simplified language does not make children grow up speaking like that forever, it simply gives them the chance to start understanding language more easily when they are at a basic level, and once that understanding is there then they have the foundations to move on.
There is so much more that can be said but hopefully some of the resources there will be useful. I would also like to say, I am not a fan of the “don’t worry they all learn eventually” attitude which leads parents to believe they should not seek help or assessment about speech and language concerns. Sometimes it’s true and a child will just suddenly have a language explosion and off they go! BUT not always. Well meaning people may try to reassure parents by saying “so and so never spoke til they were 5”, “boys are always slow at talking” or comments along these lines. If you have a genuine concern, it is always so much better to have your child seen! Speech therapy waiting lists can be very long and this is something to keep in mind when taking the “leave it and see” route.
For more ideas, and specific activities to try, follow our Speech & Language Pinterest board
We recently had the chance to review some Djeco Toys from Crafts4Kids. It was not easy to decide what to try as they have so many great looking products but I chose the Djeco Enchanted Fishing for my younger two boys (aged 22 months, and 3 years)
It is a very simple activity, which can be done by one child on their own or as a turn taking activity. The box contains two fishing rods with magnetic hooks, and 12 beautiful wooden fish all with different designs and patterns on them. The box itself doubles up as the fishing pond, and is illustrated on the inside. I love the style of the illustrations!
The activity kept both the boys attention for quite some time. They were better playing separately, although there are 2 fishing rods, because these two do squabble! It worked really well as a one to one activity for me to do with each of the boys.
I love that this is simple enough for my youngest to do and that it is developing his hand eye coordination and fine motor skills. The activity can be adapted to focus on whatever you prefer, so if you want to support your child’s numeracy skills then you can focus on counting the fish as you catch them. If you want to focus on colour or patterns, you could sort the fish by asking the child to pick only the spotty ones, then only the flowery ones and so on.
The designs on the fish are really attractive and appealing. All 12 are different so there are plenty of patterns for the child to explore. The fish are all a good size, so no choking hazard as they would be too big for any baby or toddler to swallow. The magnetic piece is well attached and not at risk of coming loose at all. The magnet being right in the middle of the fish and fairly large makes it easier for those at the younger end of the age range to manage. After only a little practise, my youngest boy easily got the hang of it as you will see in our video. He then had to practise taking them back off the fishing rod again. This can be done by shaking the rod but with the younger ones it may be simpler for them to just pull it off with their hands.
The boys really enjoyed this activity and I can definitely see the early learning benefits in it for them, so that is a definite positive for me. It’s a brilliant activity to have for young children, and with it being so beautifully made this would make a lovely gift too.
Have a look at the short video below to see Mr R in action catching his fish and enjoying himself 😀
We were recently sent this Shelby’s Snack Shack game from Learning Resources to review, and my 4 year old (Mr Z) was really excited to get started.
The game comes in a large, shaped cardboard box and says it is recommended for ages 4-8 years. It helps to develop number and counting skills and it is for 2-4 players.
Inside the box you find:
One Shelby the Dog tweezers to pick up the bones
A packet with loads of bones (40)
4 different coloured bowls for the players to collect the bones
A board with two spinners
The rules of the game are quite simple and were easy for my 4 year old to pick up. It took him a couple of practises to get good at using the Shelby Tweezers but then he easily got the hang of it. I really liked the element of including these tweezers to help with fine motor skills. Both my 4 year old and 3 year old do have some difficulties with their fine motor skills and strengthening the muscles in their hands will also help give them skills for better handwriting.
When you spin the first spinner, you will land on either the bones symbol (the most likely option as it comes 3x on the spinner) which allows you to pick up a certain number of bones from the beach (this number is found by spinning the 2nd spinner), or you can land on a seagull so that some of your bones will be stolen back onto the beach, a dog with a bone which allows you to take bones from other players, or a lazy dog with a slipper which causes you to miss your turn. I liked that the game box doubles up as the beach for when you are playing the game. This is a clever use of the space and means less waste as the packaging has a double use!
Mr Z really enjoyed the game. He has loved counting since he was quite small, so counting the bones was not too challenging for him but he loves the competitive element in a game, and luckily for him he always seems to manage to win!
After playing the game with Mr Z, I felt it was not as difficult as I thought it might be with a 4+ age recommendation, so I decided to call my 3 year old (Mr T) along to have a turn. As some readers might know Mr T has some special needs and I would not normally expect him to be able to manage a 4+ game at all but he was able to grasp the concept, and with support from me he was able to play the game, and enjoyed it. I was so proud that he has managed to play this whole game, and it reinforces skills like turn taking which he is always doing in his speech and language groups. He is also showing an interest in counting at the moment so this game was really ideal for him. I do think the recommended age of 4+ is possibly a bit high and many children would be fine from age 3 years.
Learning Resources are giving one of you the chance to win a copy for yourself – Just click here and fill in your details. The competition ends July 9th.
I have just made a short video so you can see some of the game in action
I would definitely recommend the game. I love Learning Resources and have never been disappointed with any of their products, they have a massive range on their website – if you haven’t looked before go check it out but beware you might get tempted to spend a lot and buy everything! (its just too tempting!! they have a lot of unique and really good products)
Ramadan is coming and it’s always good to get some ideas of themed activities or crafts to do to help get the little ones into the spirit of Ramadan and help them feel a strong connection to our special month. Here are 10 Ramadan activities for children which may come in handy!
Inside each one you can have either a slip of paper with an activity for the day (print a set of these here) or you could have a small treat for after iftar, or a quiz question for the children, or many more ideas. This calender could be made very large and from fabric, to hang on the back of a door, or it can be made much smaller simply from cardboard. You could get the children involved in making this the week before Ramadan, to build some anticipation.
Helping to make Iftar.
Simple tasks like helping to make mango lassi or smoothies to drink can be great fun even for preschool children. Or give them jobs to do like getting the dates ready onto the plates or pouring glasses or water or milk. Remind them of the rewards for feeding a person breaking their fast, so they feel proud about what they are doing. Post here about children making roti
You can use these as a template to decorate your own prayer mat, or for something more crafty, why not let them experiment with fabric to make and decorate their own prayer mat. It will be easier if you make it thinner than the usual prayer mats. What about with several children, allow them to have a go at making a large prayer sheet for them to use in congregational salah. It’s a good opportunity to speak about what designs are acceptable or not on a prayer mat, like no animate forms, and keeping it simple and not overly “blingy” so it does not take away the concentration or khushoo in Salah.
You can buy canvases quite cheaply and make an Arabic calligraphy canvas. I have had them from the pound shop before! Then encourage the children to make a canvas with their name in arabic or any word they choose. For little ones you could trace the letters onto it yourself and they can paint it in. You could give them diamontes to decorate it or glitter paint to help make it more sparkly and exciting. We have made Arabic alphabet candles, plasticine letters, and tried out Rosetta stone for fun Arabic language learning. If your child needs to improve their Arabic language there is no better time than Ramadan, your efforts will be greatly rewarded at this time and it is important part of their identity as a Muslim. Learning Arabic through books and games helps to keep things fun.
We are crafting our way through the Arabic alphabet using simple materials like paper plates. Check out the first letters we have completed, and stay tuned for more:
Have a look at images together on the computer, then you can talk about what do we all do the same, what do we do differently. It can be interesting to see the different foods for iftar, and different customs.
Giving food to neighbours
Helping to build community spirit and neighbourly relations, to include others in our celebrations, to show people we are friendly and approachable. It’s important to me to teach kids this, that we can have pride in our own religion, celebrations and culture without cutting ourselves off from others or shunning others! Personally we sometimes just give out chocolates to people in the street at various times of year rather than cooked food – I think it’s more the thought/guesture that’s nice to do so doesn’t matter what you give them.
Making Lanterns – Making lanterns is a traditional Ramadan craft. Check out these 10 ideas from traditional fanoos, to paper lanterns and mason jar lanterns.
Very simple to make and can be used to decorate the house. I think this is one of the easiest decorations children can help with from a young age. Sometimes I find the self adhesive ones wont last and fall apart so you can be better actually cellotaping it. You can do as little or as much as you like in decorating the chains!
The Islamic calendar is measured by the moon, but how much do your kids know about the moon? Try these 14 moon themed activities to learn about the moon, from moon phases to moon themed crafts and sensory bins. Teach your child about the way the moon is sighted for the beginning of Ramadan, and for Eid, and about the 3 “white days” (ayyam al beed) when the full moon shows and its recommended to fast them during any month.
Making a model mosque.
This can be done in 3d, junk modelling with cardboard boxes and kitchen rolls, then painted and decorated. Or 2d with a sheet of card cut to show the building outline, then scoring out holes for the windows and doors, and then decorating. This makes a sillouhette kind of effect. Check out my full list of 10 ways to make a mosque with your little ones.
There are loads and loads more ideas! I will be coming back to add more as the month approaches and throughout the month, and will post up pictures of the things we get up to. Also check my Pinterest board where I have collected a few of the ideas I found
Save The Children are starting a campaign to raise awareness of the effects of malnutrition on education:
The information displayed here is really saddening. Education is perhaps an aspect we might not have considered immediately, when thinking of malnutrition, but so many children are suffering due to this and it is affecting their ability to read and learn. Save The Children are publishing a new report today, entitled Food for Thought showing the massive impact that nutrition is having on so many children’s education worldwide. Together with Britmums and many of their bloggers, I have joined them to try and raise awareness of this issue.
Access to education and the ability to read makes a massive difference in any child’s life, and it is so wrong that children are missing out on this opportunity because they do not have enough food to eat to keep their brains and bodies nourished ready to learn. There is enough food for everyone, if only it was distributed fairly. When I think how much food we buy without thinking, and how much sometimes gets wasted, I feel so ashamed to think of these children and to think of the mother’s worrying about when and where they will next find food for their child.
Here are some case studies I would like to share from Save The Children. This is the story of Kasturi, aged 8 from India:
Kasturi is the youngest daughter of Srinivas and Lakshmi, who worked as agricultural labourers in Andhra Pradesh until Lakshmi became pregnant with twins and Srinivas found it impossible to find work. They moved to town with their eldest daughter, Sangeeta, and Lakshmi gave birth to twins, one of whom died after ten months. While Lakshmi was pregnant and when Kasturi was small, the family struggled to make ends meet and couldn’t afford to buy nutritious food. While Sangeeta is doing well at school, Kasturi is struggling.
Chandra Kala, Kasturi’s teacher
“I’ve been Kasturi’s teacher for two years now. Her learning’s very slow and there’s been no major improvement. She has difficulty writing but can identify alphabets and pictures.
Even though she’s in Class 3 now, Kasturi still struggles with words and maths. She can’t even keep up with the class 2 students.
Sangeeta was one of our bright students in the primary school. She was very active and still is. I hear a lot of good things about her from her teachers in High School.
A lack of proper food usually hampers children’s ability to grasp things and slows down the pace of learning. There are a lot of children like Kasturi.”
Srinivas, Kasturi’s father
“We went through a very bad phase in life. We had very little to eat and there were times when we were hungry for days. I felt very sad as I couldn’t provide for my pregnant wife.”
Lakshmi, Kasturi’s mother
“I use to breastfeed my children but my milk wasn’t enough for both of them [the twins]. We didn’t have enough food then.”
This is the story of Nyagol, a mother of 6 in South Sudan
All of Nyaguol’s six children, except the youngest two, are enrolled at the primary school in their village. However, they’re often too hungry and sick to go to attend, or too weak to concentrate on their lessons. Floods, drought and ongoing inter-communal violence have led to severe food shortages in the area. Often the family goes for days without food. Last year, Nyaguol’s youngest daughter, two- year-old Nyakuoth, was given peanut paste as part of Save the Children’s nutrition programme. Although she’s stronger now, Nyaguol is worried that lack of food is hampering her development. Nyaguol is a member of Save the Children’s Mother to Mother Support Group in Ukau village. The group received childcare training, for example, about the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for a baby’s first six months, how to introduce complementary foods, and about good health and hygiene practices. Their role is to pass on this information to other women in their community.
Nyaguol story in her own words
Our main problem here is insecurity. Last year there were also floods and drought, so people don’t have enough food. Whenever you want to go to find food you’re worried because of the fighting. People are just running here and there and aren’t able to find enough food for their children to survive. This has been a problem for very many years. Each year we hope it will be better but each year there are problems.
All of our crops were swept away in last year’s floods, so we have nothing. All I can do is try to earn a bit of money and then go and buy enough sorghum in the market to feed my children for one day. We mainly eat sorghum. We don’t have a mill to grind it so we grind it by hand and give it to the children.
There’s no way to make any money here unless you have a net and can catch fish in the river to sell at market. But when you put your net in the river you don’t know what you’ll be able to catch. You don’t know what there will be to eat tomorrow. You just hope there’ll be some way to feed your children.
My mind runs mad thinking about what my children are going to eat today and what they’ll eat tomorrow because I have nowhere to go and get food for my children. I can’t go very far to find work because it’s not safe and I’m worried that I might be killed while I’m collecting firewood.
This really is food for thought for all of us, and a reality check for some of the small things we may worry about. Not to know whether or not the children will be able to eat is such a heartbreaking situation.
Please join the Britmums #foodforthought Twitter chat on Tuesday 28th May 2013 from 1-2pm (full details here) marking the launch of Save the Children’s latest report on child nutrition and education. We will be talking about the importance of nutrition for education and learning to read.
Also please click here to sign the Save the Children petition, to show your support for this cause. The petition is to urge the G8 leaders to tackle this issue, in the hope that we could be the generation to stop this hunger crisis.
My 4 year old is in reception and this half term their topic has been ‘In The Garden.’ Until now, he mainly considered the garden as a place to run around and play which is of course really good for children! But there is also a wealth of opportunities for learning and getting kids interested in the garden.
Yesterday he came home from school with a bean stalk which he had planted in school, and he wanted to transfer it to our garden. He was telling me all about what the bean stalk needs to grow taller – sunlight and water.
There are so many different ideas you could do with children to grow things in the garden:
Growing vegetables – in the past we have grown some pepper and tomatoes in pots in the garden
You could even get an allotment or consider helping out in a community allotment if you notice your child has a real interest in it!
If you don’t have much garden space, the easiest one is to start with growing cress seeds in a pot on your window sill
You can look here to learn more about growing seeds with children
There is so much to talk about with them about the different flowers or vegetables which grow – the different colours, shapes, sizes, or tastes of fruit and vegetables that are grown. If you grow vegetables perhaps it will help get them enthusiastic to eat them up too! This is something I would love to do more of with the kids, its lovely to see how proud they are when they make something.
Plants are not the only area to explore in the garden – what about all the wildlife, birds and mini beasts! Even in cities or towns, there will be plenty of life to discover in the garden. My boys are a little bit squeamish about worms, slugs or snails (I think they have got that from me – sorry boys! I should have kept my discomfort to myself and let them experience these things to learn! ) but they are comfortable enough with ladybirds, butterflies or the local cats which some times come into the garden, and very keen on birds.
There are things you could do to encourage more wild life into your garden, so that you can observe them with the children. I remember growing up we had large lavender bushes in the gardens which really attracted so many butterflies, and lavender is great too with its strong smell and colour all adding to the sensory experience for the children in the garden! To attract birds you could think of getting a bird bath and putting out bird food. For some expert advice on encouraging birds, have a look here.
My 4 year old boy is mad about maths and numbers, so when he saw this Mathable Junior game he was really excited and immediately wanted to play.
It is a 2 in 1 board game, with a different version on each side of the board and comes complete with 60 number tiles, 4 tile holders, an instruction booklet and of course the board itself.
When you first look at the board it is immediately noticeable that it has some similarities to a scrabble board, and the game is like an adaption of the popular game scrabble but changing it from letter and words into maths and numbers. The rules involve adding or subtracting two numbers next to each other on the board, to get an answer which allows you to place one of your tiles. It seems to be a fairly simple concept and my 4 year old was able to grasp it with some guidance. The number tiles go up to 20, so the game requires the child to be able to do addition and subtraction only up to a total of 20.
The recommended age group is 5-9 years, which seems about right as my 4 year old needed a little guidance but a child of 5-9 may be able to play this game among themselves without needing an adult, depending on their ability.
My little boy really enjoyed it, and kept asking to play it again, and when his aunty came over he got it out and got her to play it with him too.
The game play was longer than I expected, it seemed to last about one hour to use up every single tile, but it kept his attention all that time and he wanted to play it again straight after. I would say for an adult its not the most exciting of games to play but for a child who enjoys maths they will really enjoy it and I felt it had a lot of educational value. My son is in reception year at school and I’m sure this game will be reinforcing the type of things he must be learning in school.
I have seen there are various other Mathable games available in the range, for older children. So those will be something to look out for in a few more years once my son has outgrown this one. There is ’Mathable’, ‘Mathable Deluxe’, ‘Mathable Quatro’ – a card game, and even a Mathable game book, and perhaps even more that I have not come across, so it is quite a good range for whatever age or ability of child you have. But for the younger maths enthusiast like my son, Mathable Junior is definitely a good option combining fun and learning!
We have recently joined the Little Tiger Press parents panel and received a couple of books to look at and review. All 3 boys really enjoy books and reading so they were eager to get started straight away! The first book I am going to talk about is the My First Touch and Trace: Count 123.
Count 123 is a lovely book with hard pages and flaps to lift up on every page but the aspect that really makes it stand out is the tracing. All of the numbers are slightly indented, creating a groove for the child’s finger and have arrows to show which direction to trace. It also has small indented circles on the last pages for the child to touch and feel while counting, first to ten and then to twenty.
It’s a simple concept – but very very good! The idea of finger tracing reminded me of sand paper letters which are used in the Montessori method, and is beneficial for children’s pre-writing skills. I felt that the tracing added a really nice extra tactile element to the learning, particularly for my 3 year old who is on the autistic spectrum and has very delayed speech. He’s not able to clearly pronounce any of the numbers but does have an interest in them and we are starting to teach him the concept of counting and numbers, so what I really liked was that with the tracing he is able to actively participate in the book rather than just passively being read to. He seemed to get a lot out of it and I will be revisiting it regularly with him.
Lifting the flaps and looking at the pictures also engaged him and kept his attention. All the pictures are very nice and bright, and modern.
I like that it goes up to 20 rather than just 10 as some books do, as that made it more suitable for my 4 year old too. Although it is probably more aimed at preschool children and my 4 year old is in reception and able to count and write these numbers already he just absolutely loves numbers so the moment he saw this he was all over it and really did enjoy it. The tracing is supposed to help improve motor skills, which would help to neaten handwriting so it may still help him.
I would really recommend the book, we were quite impressed with it.
Look out for our review of Look Out, Ladybird! also from Little Tiger press, which will be coming soon on the blog as that is the 2nd book we received.
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