Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Eep! I know I promised another post in my big list of outdoor ideas, but I wanted to have a quick interlude to share my excitement about our Chinese New Year activities!

I'll start by admitting that I wasn't really going to do a whole lot with my children to celebrate Chinese New Year. I had set up an interest table which had been (and continues to be) very popular and that was that. I wrote up my planning as usual which, although educational, wasn't very exciting and thought nothing more of it... 

Then, as I lay in the bath on Sunday night, my brain started buzzing ' Why was I not following the children's interests?' 'Why was I not providing depth of learning?' and most importantly 'Why was I not planning activities and experiences that are FUN?' 
That settled it, and last thing on Sunday night, I scrapped all of my hard work and started again. This time it didn't feel like a chore and as I flicked through pinterest and other web pages, I jotted down more and more ideas on the topic of China! Roll on Monday morning!

Oh and guess what? The activities that I was excited about, the children have been excited about too! As I explained the day's activities to my group, I was thrilled to hear one of my more challenging children say "Yes, this is going to be so fun!"

So here's what we've been up to:

As I mentioned before, we have an interest table which, at present, consists of a beautiful red tablecloth, some oriental bowls and plates, chopsticks, a bamboo steamer, a Chinese newspaper, the delightful story of 'Lanterns and Firecrackers' and some lovely traditional Chinese dressing up clothes.

We have created some stunning Cherry Blossom pictures simply using crayons to draw branches, and scrunching up pieces of pink tissue paper.

We made Chinese lanterns by decorating paper, cutting slits in it and bending it into shape.

The children developed their mark making and fine motor skills while also learning about different cultures as they tried their hand at painting and writing Chinese characters.

The children (and Staff) discussed some of the traditions that surround Chinese New Year, for example the colour Red which is considered to be lucky, and the red envelopes that can be given and often contain money.

We all learnt a new song together "Gung Hay Fat Choy"

We coloured China as well as our own country, Scotland, on a map to build on our awareness of the world around us

We learned about The Great Wall of China and even had a go at building our own 'Great Wall'

And lastly, today we had our very own Chinese Tea ceremony! The children helped to decorate an area outside (we chose an area underneath the trees as it was raining quite heavily) using brightly coloured materials and some of our paper lanterns. Then we all sat down together and the children were allowed to take a small taste of tea. We tried regular breakfast tea, peppermint tea and camomile tea. The children were very eager to try each of these and were fascinated to watch the tea leaves (inside the tea bags) swirl and mix until the water became infused with the flavour.

We have many more activities planned for the week, including making a traditional Chinese Dragon and taking part in some traditional ribbon dancing as well as tasting some Chinese foods and learning about Pandas!

I hope you're having as much fun as I am! Gung Hay Fat Choy - Happy New Year!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

86 Ideas for fabulous outdoor fun (Part 2)

No Resources? No Problem!

Whoever said that you have to have tonnes of fancy resources to engage and teach children?

Here's a few ideas that wont cost you a fortune:

  1. Make a daisy chain! 

    How many of us remember this one from when we were children? It allows children to use their observational skills to hunt out the daisies and also their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination while poking a hole and threading the stalk through. You can count the daisies, notice the colours and make comparisons to other flowers, 
  2. Flower pressing. Go for a walk with your children and allow them to pick some flowers. Then, trim your flowers and, using some heavy books with absorbent pages (telephone directories etc), place them in between the pages. Unfortunately, to do this properly, you do need to leave them for some time (I've heard it can take up to 4 weeks!) but for the purposes of learning and fun, you could experiment with different amounts of time. This activity allows your children to appreciate plants and flowers as they pick the ones that they love, they learn about weight and size and can make comparisons between different books when selecting the appropriate ones to use and of course, it can lead on to some fantasticly floral Artwork using the finished product.
  3. Potions. One of my particular favourite activities! I have blogged about potions before...(http://piratesandprincesses.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/lets-go-outside.html). You can allow the children to choose their own 'ingredients' out of anything and everything that they can get their hands on - and let the learning commence! 
  4. Splashing in puddles. Peppa pig loves splashing in muddy puddles and so do we! Just because it's raining outside doesn't mean we should stay cooped up! Splashing and jumping helps to develop children's Gross motor skills, they begin to make connections between how high they jump and how big a splash they can make, they can learn about how water moves and changes and they can learn about depth and volume. You could also extend this to look at the different clothing that is suitable for different weathers and find out how the water can affect different materials - "would a paper raincoat keep us dry?" "What about wellies made out of wood?". 
  5. Climbing trees. Yes! It's so important to encourage and allow your children to take risks and manage their own safety! As long as there is an adult on hand to help if they get into a bit of a sticky situation and to ensure that this risky play doesn't turn into dangerous play.
  6. Counting the rings on a tree stump. Around my nursery there have been a number of trees chopped down. The children noticed the stumps while we were out walking and while they were climbing on them and having all kinds of physical fun play, I asked if they knew about the rings. Surprisingly none of them did! This lead on to a wonderful discussion about the age of the trees and encouraged the children's counting skills. It also prompted them to begin wondering about the different types of trees and whether all of the big trees were old and small trees were young? (Mathematical language and comparisons.) 
  7. Mud pies. Mud is fascinating. One minute it can be hard and solid, the next dry and crumbly, the next powdery and dusty and the next sloppy and wet! Making mud pies can encourage children to talk about these changes and experiment with some descriptive language. They can develop their hand - eye coordination while scooping and pouring and they can definitely use their imagination!
  8. Cloud spotting. The next time you have a nice-ish day with some fluffy clouds, take the children outside, lay down on the grass and look at the clouds (yes, you can tell the boss that you're 'working!') Encourage the children to use their imagination and language skills to describe what they see. You can make this as simple or complex as your children's needs require - for example spotting shapes or extending this into telling a story using the 'characters' that they can see in the sky. You can also take this into Art and allow the children to draw the things that they have seen
  9. Rolling down the hill. The children at my nursery LOVE this game. We are lucky enough to have a hill with a steeper side and a more shallow side so that the children can make decisions and assess what they feel comfortable and confident with. Again, allowing the children to manage their safety by showing them how to take turns or space themselves out appropriately is very valuable. And while the children are rolling down the hill, they are beginning to learn about gravity, and about speed and motion (and they just think that they're having fun!)
  10. Hide and seek. This game works best in an area where there is plenty of space, but clear boundaries. An enclosed garden perhaps (at least to begin with) or an outdoor space that the children are familiar with. This game encourages turn taking, counting skills, spatial awareness, problem solving and logical thinking skills. It's also tonnes of fun!
Next post: Out in all weathers!

Friday, 10 January 2014

86 Ideas for fabulous outdoor fun! (Part 1)

Over the next few posts I'm going to list some of the oh so many wonderful experiences and opportunities that children can gain from getting outdoors! I've broken then down into sections (rather that writing one long list) for your convenience and I've even added links to the curriculum! I spoil you so!

Let's start with some action...

Let's get physical!
  1. Nice and simple to start with: Games. These can be as simple or as complicated as you like or your children can manage.

    A favourite game with my children just now is "What's the time Mr Wolf." Races are also lots of fun and can be adapted to become accessible to children of many different abilities.
    Football is also an ever popular game - particularly with the boys. 
    (Counting, running and chasing, taking turns, teamwork and following rules.)

  2. Balls: How about a game of throw and catch? Or throwing balls into containers of various sizes! What about rolling the ball to each other? Maybe I can even throw the ball all the way over the top of the slide! (Gross motor skills, spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination.)
  3. Parachute: If you work with children and don't possess a parachute then I urge you to get one!
    There are many different games and activities that you can play:
    'colour swap' is a game where children who are standing at particular colours must run underneath the parachute to swap places (colour recognition, listening skills) Another parachute game for you to try is 'don't drop the ball!' where you place a large (I recommend a fairly soft) ball on top of the parachute and the children must prevent it from falling off at their side
    (Team work, co-operation, gross motor skills)

  4. Bikes: What could be more fun than whizzing along the path on a bike, or bumpity bumping along the grass on a push along toy? Bikes and scooters are fantastic resources for gross motor skills, confidence, balance and coordination. Push along toys can be helpful for building up strength in children's legs as well as building their confidence before moving onto bikes.
    (Turn taking)

  5. Ropes: skipping ropes and chunky ropes can be used in many ways. A rope could mark out a pathway, create a barrier, allow a place for washing to dry or could encourage children to jump and hop. Why not try wrapping a rope around trees and encouraging the children to climb over and underneath? (Gross motor skills, coordination, balance)

  6. Obstacle course: This could be introduced in 2 different ways.
    It could be a course that is set up and built by adults to promote particular movements and allow for children of different abilities to explore and investigate. (Gross motor skills, balance, coordination, turn taking, safety awareness)

    Or it you could provide the materials and resources (for example planks of wood, crates, logs, stepping stones...) and allow the children to create their own course. (Problem solving, gross motor skills, balance, coordination, turn taking, teamwork, safety awareness.)

  7. Walk the line: is a simple game where the child simple has to walk along a line which could be straight, wiggly, zig zagged, form shapes... the possibilities are endless! A nice way to extend this activity would be to allow the child to then draw a line for themselves/the teacher/ their friends to try. (Balance, shape and pattern recognition)

  8. Stepping stones: Let's pretend that the grass is water! Or lava! This activity is very open ended and allows for all kinds of imaginative play. (Gross motor skills, coordination, spatial awareness)

  9. Cutting plants and flowers: I'll finish with a fine motor activity. Providing a tray with petals, leaves and any other soft natural items that take your fancy, along with some children's scissors, can be a lovely invitation to practice and develop children's cutting skills but I feel it is also important to explain to children that plants are special and important, and should not be damaged or destroyed without reason.

There are many, many more activities that I could list here, but I believe it's time to move on!

Next post: "No resources, No problem!"