Monday, 27 May 2013


This week we have been learning about vegetables. The children all seem to have enjoyed this mini topic and gained a lot from it. They have loved having real vegetables to hold and sniff and lick and try and cut up!
All too often we give plastic versions of everyday items and the children seem quite pleased to play with them.
 But they all feel the same, weigh the same, smell and taste the same. The only difference might be the size, shape or colour. I have tried to address this a little by replacing the huge selection of plastic play food that I did have, for a smaller but better quality selection of felted, knitted and wooden play food items. I have gone for quality over quantity. Something was still missing though.
It became very clear once I offered a selection of fresh vegetables in to the home corner last week. The first thing I noticed was the smell in the playroom. A lovely smell of fresh vegetables, a sweetness in the air.

The second thing I noticed was the time the children spent exploring each item. In the past I have watched as they have filled bowls with play food and then very quickly passed them to me and urged me to "eat up!"
This week however, the children all seemed to take time over preparing the imaginary meal. The held each vegetable and commented on its shape or size.
 "That's a long carrot!"
"My onion's round look!"
There was conversation about the weights of the items. Children held up Turnips and sweet potatoes and told me it was a heavy one!!
There were lots of discussions over the feel and look of the Aubergine! New words were used such as rubbery and shiny.

The learning opportunities and quality of play was enhanced and improved by a simple change. Adding real items to the activity rather than toys. The change was not expensive either as vegetables can be bought cheaply at your local market. Before any items became bad and unusable, we either fed them to the rabbit or chickens, used them in our painting activity, added them to the mud sensory tray or used them in a meal.
This has left me thinking about how I can offer real food items in the play area more often. Maybe Pastas, beans and lentils. Dried foods seem like a safe place to start. Cereals would also be fun and maybe dried herbs and rice.

 Any spillages can be swept up and popped back in the bowl, they can be used as the base of a sensory tray and the sweeping up of spills can be used as a fantastic opportunity for learning life skills. Maybe add a small dustpan and brush to the home corner or a child sized broom. Anything left can be easily hoovered up at the end of a play session.

 I have set myself a challenge of providing the children with more "real" play items. Old mobile phones, broken digital cameras and laptops are far more appealing to the children in my setting, than the toy versions. They certainly get more play time than the plastic toy versions.

My children's tool set is very rarely chosen despite being available and accessible. But I can guarantee you that as soon as I place a broken electrical appliance on the table and a couple of screwdrivers out, all the children come flocking and everyone wants a tool of some sort to take apart this wonderful treasure!

I wonder how many toys we can find to swap for something more real?
 I would love to hear you thoughts and idea on this.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013


As part of this weeks vegetable topic we have been exploring and playing with lots of vegetables. They have been chopped, dropped, licked, sniffed, rolled, bounced, kicked like a ball and all manor of other interesting things. They are now, as you can imagine, looking rather battered. I thought now might be a good time to do the painting activity that I had planed,
I gathered a selection and chopped them in half. I squirted some Tempera paint on to paper plates and then placed the chopped veg on to them.
I tried to match, as closely as I could, the colour of the vegetable to the paint. I also stuck a fork in to each halved vegetable as this made it much easier for the children to hold the vegetable, dip it in paint and then print it on the paper.

We talked about the colours and the names of each vegetable. We looked at the patterns that each one made.

Once we had filled one strip of paper, we hung it up to dry and lay out another strip. It looked like a big piece of vegetable print wall paper!
I chose to use large paper as the vegetables were quite large. I wanted the children to be able to print away for a length of time without the frustration of running out of space too quickly or not being able to fit on a print.  I drew a line down the middle of the paper and explained to each child which side was theirs and to be honest they mostly respected this and each others space.

The second time round, the girls needed less of my involvement and modelling of how to print. This was what I hoped for and it was great to see them become a bit inventive. They started to roll the sweetcorn over the page so that it made a speckled pattern. Little "R" also broke a piece of sweetcorn in half and printed with the small end to see how that changed the print that she was making.

Little "L" started to paint her prints in neat rows across her paper!

Little "X" arrived a little later in the day but he really enjoyed this activity as well.

I noticed that both Little "X" and Little "L" are making much clearer prints this time compared to the prints on our African men a couple of weeks ago. They seem to have got the idea of pressing down and then pulling up again.

The children all found this activity fun and it was a good chance to recap on the vegetable names that we had been learning this week. They were using knowledge that they already had from our previous printing activity and applying what they had learnt that time, to this session. As a result the children made much clearer prints and there was much less pushing the print item around to spread the paint. There was lots of sharing and asking for a colour or a specific vegetable to be passed to them. Each child was involved, concentrating and wanted to add their mark to this big picture!

Today's play, meets the following EYFS Prime and specific areas
  • Communication and Language
  • Personal, Social and Emotional
  • Expressive Art and Design
  • Physical Development

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


I run a Toddler session at the local school and usually it is just a few families from the village and those near by. We are not a big place with ride on toys and lots of organised activities. We are more a free play session where parents and children can meet up for a drink and snack and play with some lovely toys for an hour.
We run it from the school hall and some of the younger Pre school children come over with a staff member for a play. The 3 childminders in our village, the school and the pre-school (which is based on site) all have a close relationship and for the most part have shared care of many of the local children. It is a very close and unique set up which I very much value.

One of the other childminders organised a scrap session for us this week with someone from our local scrap store. We asked parents to gather any bits they could and to bring them along to share on the day. The lady running the session brought everything we needed. She lay out a big sheet and poured lots of boxes, tubes, fabrics, strings, buttons, bottles tops and other wonderful scrap items in to a big heap on top! Very soon the room was filled with busy toddlers and Foundation stage school children, rummaging about and creating away! The Pre-school children joined us and set about building things to take home!

Little "L" said she wanted to make a "Babbit!" Rabbits are her absolute favourite thing in the world! She chose a pot and some strips of tissue paper and set about gluing the tissue paper to the pot!

Little "R" did not know what she wanted to make so she started off finding a box and then choosing sticky backed plastic to decorate it with before adding bottle tops and other decorative items. Her idea I think was more about creating a sculpture rather than a defined thing. Her Art grew and developed as she made it.

Little "J" was not really himself today and so a little tearful and coldy.  But he had a lovely time with this plastic bottle and I gave him bits of labels and sticky coloured plastic to add to it. He managed to get the lid off at one point and put items inside. We popped the lid back on and then gave it a shake to see what it sounded like. This has been a clear aim in most of his play of late. To see what things sound like.

 Little "L" worked very hard and with amazing focus and determination to cover every side of her Babbits body!

She wanted a face so I cut a circle out of a white label and she drew on it with a pen. Before long she looked at me and with a big smile said, "My name,  look, my name!"
We then looked at drawing features on to it, like a mouth (which she asked me to do) and she added whiskers. We found some googly eyes to stick on as well!

Little "R" spent a lot of time asking people to cut out sparkly shapes for her which she stick on to her creation with great care!

Look! All finished!

Little "R" sat with my sister, who had come for a play, and filled and emptied this little pot with plastic clip things! She had seen other children making shakers and decided it would be fun to make one of her own! She tried several pots and fillings until she found the one she liked.

After we finished our building, we started stacking. Building glitter towers!

Here are our finished items! They were so proud of their creations and quick to show parents and grandparents when they came to pick them up this evening!

Today's play, meets the following EYFS Prime and specific areas
  • Communication and Language
  • Personal, Social and Emotional
  • Expressive Art and Design
  • Physical Development

Monday, 20 May 2013


Today we looked at Vegetables. Some of the little ones can be quite selective about food and I hope that doing a short topic on vegetables and even growing some of our own will encourage a few of them to try some new foods. 
I filled baskets with a large selection and left them out with the play kitchen for the children to explore and to observe how they approached this activity.

Little "R" looked at each one and asked me what they were if she didn't already know. She pretended to chop some and actually managed to chop some of the baby sweetcorns.

Both little "R" and little "L" filled bowls with veg and cooked lots of dinners.

Little "L" liked the Radish and said that her "Babbits" would like to eat it!

Most of the morning was spent cooking and serving food! I am pleased that I chose real vegetables to use in this play. The wooden and felt one we have are very nice but these were much more rewarding for the children in their lay. They all feel different, the sweet potatoes are rough and the Aubergines are rubbery and shiny! They all smell different and are different sizes.  If the children bit one (which they did with the Peas and Baby sweetcorn) then they could taste the Vegetable as well.

We set the table and had a little dinner party!

Baby enjoyed her vegetables!

After snack time I read "Jaspers Beanstalk"  I filled a bow with beans for the children to play with while we read.

  After the story we counted the beans. Little "R" can count to 20 getting most numbers correct and Little "L" can count to 10 but gets a bit stuck on 9!

This story was my introduction in to growing our own Beans in jars. I remember doing this ass a child and every time I do this with children we are all amazed to see the Bean grow roots and sprout! It just never gets boring!

We filled our jars with kitchen towel. We over filled them as the paper will shrink down once wet.  I used to use a filter paper when I was little and I have tried it with cotton wool as well. It all works just the same.

I gave each of the girls a small label and asked them to write their names on it. They each made marks on the label and held it up to show me. "My name!"

We stuck the labels on to the jars so they would remember who's jar was who's.

We added our beans to the jars.

We talked about the story and the things that were needed for the Bean to grow.
Then we watered them.

We popped them on the window sill so that they would get day light.

All afternoon the girls have been running over to the jars to see if they have started to grow. I have explained that it will take a couple of days before they see a change but hopefully before the week is out, they will see some roots and shoots!

We chopped up some vegetables to roast with our Pork joint for dinner. I do not normally roast vegetables and tend to serve most of them steamed. I do love the tastes of roasted veg though and I was very pleased to see that Little "E" chose to eat his carrots which he is not usually keen on and Brendan even tried some courgette and pepper! Kenzie took it upon himself to get a jar of gherkins from the fridge and munched his way through a good quantity of them! While I cooked dinner tonight I played a game with the girls. I asked them "Who can find me....." ad then named a vegetable. They would run off and bring me one back. Most of the time they got it right but some of the new vegetables caught them out. It was a good way to reinforce the new words and information that they learnt today!

Today's play, meets the following EYFS Prime and specific areas
  • Communication and Language
  • Understanding of the World
  • Literacy
  • Mathematics 


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