Category Archives: early education & play

Upcycle Your Kids Old Toys or Shoes into Planters

Last week I was invited by Goodwill to visit Sumner, to see how small businesses there are upcycling thrift store purchases into desirable and unique household goods and clothing. I’d never been to Sumner before and was surprised to find a pretty little High Street full of independent shops selling art, antiques and other unique and interesting finds. I will definitely return, especially since it is the Rhubarb Pie Capital.

We started at Goodwill and my upcycling advisor Juli from Junkers Nest, helped me choose interesting items that could be turned into planters. The great thing about buying from Goodwill is that all the store profits go to helping career path job training for the unemployed and disadvantaged.

Goodwill Puyallup Treasure Hunting 01

I wanted to choose something that would appeal to my kids or would be cool decor for a preschool so we went for the toy section.  Old toy cars, toy animals with a hole cut in them or small dolls houses would all make great planters. It would also be a great way to save the environment from the multitude of plastic toys thrown away every year.

I plumped for a Halloween theme and chose a Monster High coffin. I also chose a pair of baby shoes. Sadly, I threw out all my baby shoes when I moved to the US (including the ones featured in my logo), if only I hadn’t, I could have turned them into something like this.

 

shoe planter

At Blue the Goodwill Boutique, I found this little table and chairs and an old tea set at Junkers Nest.

small table and chairs

My intention, once the rainy season is over, is to plant in the little cups and put it out in the garden. For now the girls have commandeered it for their American girl dolls.

We spent the day gaining inspiration for upcycling goods from Inta Vintage . By the end my mind was racing with ideas of how to upcycle some of my old furniture.

At VanLierop Garden Market the ladies worked their magic to turn our items into planters.

VanLierop Garden 05

The kids helped me make some extra embellishments and here is the finished article displayed (a little early) ready for Hallowe’en.

coffin planter made from toy

Inspired by some of the other bloggers projects, on our thrift shopping trip to buy birthday presents for their dad, the girls looked for items to turn into planters

We chose a pot and my daughter painted it with her own design.

upcycled planter

I’m looking forward to many more trips with the girls as we find fun items to upcycle for family and teacher gifts.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, sponsored by Goodwill WA.

pinterest upcycling toys and shoes

 

 

 

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How to Make a Pine Cone Zinnia Wreath

pine cone zinnia wreath

At this time of year, my lawn is littered with pine cones.  After collecting a huge bag full of pine cones, I browsed Pinterest to get ideas for something to make with them. I kept being drawn to crafts using the base of pine cones to create zinnias.  The kids loved them too, especially the beautiful bright colours.

I set to work painting the pine cones with acrylic paint.  The girls loved mixing up different colour combinations. In fact, the bright pink and turquoise/teal colour my youngest daughter mixed, were my favourite by far. I love that this was a project that we could do together as a family but that also turned out so beautifully.

You will need

 

Step 1

painted pine cone

Paint the bottom of a pine cone with acrylic paint and continue to paint to around half way up the cone. Most colours will only require one layer but some lighter colours may need two.

Step 2

pine cone zinnias

When they are dry, paint the centre in yellow or a contrasting colour of your choice.

Step 3

pine cone zinnia wreath step 3

Arrange the pinecones on the wreath.  Push the top, unpainted half of the pine cone through the wreath and secure with hot glue or florist wire. If you want to stick pine cones on top of the greenery, you will need to saw off the top part of the pine cone to make it lie flat.

Step 4

adding greenery to pine cone zinnia wreath

Weave the greenery through the wreath or stick on leaves with hot glue. If you use a repurposed wreath as I did you may be able to use the greenery already attached.

pine cone zinnia wreath

I have had so many great comments about the finished wreath and it was so easy to make.

If you like this post add this image to Pinterest

How to make a pine cone zinnia wreath

 

 

The Steves: Picture Book Review

If you are a fan of  ‘I am Bat‘  you will love Morag Hood’s new book, The Steves.  Written and illustrated in the same quirky but simple style, it captures perfectly young children’s competitive nature and their drive to be bigger and better than friends and siblings. I can almost hear the words flowing from my daughters’ mouths.

Kids will laugh out loud at the insults they throw at one another and the wonderfully, comical illustrations. I love the way Morag Hood captures emotion in her illustrations.  Simple, beautiful and funny – a perfect package. I have no doubt the Steves will become a classic favourite for young children.

The Steve’s is available on Sept 4th 2018.

Try These Ideas for Summer Fun with Bubbles

We have had fun with bubble painting in previous summers, but usually use straws. To try something a little different, we made bubble blowers using plastic bottles and netting.

How to make a bubble blower

  1. Cut the bottom off a plastic bottle
  2. Tape on mesh or netting,
  3. We used 3 different types to investigate how the bubbles would differ.
  •            Christmas tree netting with large holes
  •            Netting from a bag of oranges
  •            Tulle
  •           We made 3 with tulle, 1 layer,  2 layers and 3 layers

 

For the paint, we mixed bubble mixture with a table-spoon of powder paint.

We tested the blowers to see which one we liked the best.

  • The Christmas netting made three or 4 large bubbles.
  • The orange netting made lots of clear bubbles
  • The tulle made a foamy snake of bubbles and the more layers there were, the better the effect.

 

 

 

The best paint effects were made if we blew the bubbles away as soon as they hit the paper, otherwise they melted into a splodge and you couldn’t see the bubble shape.

We made another discovery. A plastic straw makes a perfect bubble wand.

 

I wonder what else we will discover about bubbles over the summer?

IdeaS for  Summer Bubble fun (1)

The Story of Two Nests of Sparrow Chicks in our Garden and How they Ventured into the House.

Every year, sparrows nest in our bird box. We watch the mother and father fly in and out, building the nest. We hear the chicks when they are born and see the parents feeding them. When the nest is empty, sometimes we watch the chicks in the trees as they learn to fly.

sparrow chick in a tree

As I was sitting in the garden, a few days after observing this chick in the tree, one of the chicks flew into the house.  I followed it in and opened doors and windows to entice it out.

baby sparrow in the house

Shortly after the mother entered the house looking for her baby. Her distinctive clicking cheep sounded desperate as she tried to get the chick to respond to her.

 

After some time the mother left. We thought we saw the parents  flying around with the chick outside.  I could still hear the chick’s squeaky chirp, but assumed it was coming for the garden. We left the house, as we needed to go out. Some hours later, on our return the children came running, saying the chick was still flying around inside the house. It settled on a high window ledge and we could see the parents flying around outside and frantically calling.  I opened windows and doors again and the mother came in and out, searching and calling. The baby flew to above the front door but didn’t work out how to get down.

 

 

Eventually, after hours inside the house, the bird flew to the ground and hopped outside to be reunited with his parents.

A few weeks later, the girls were playing football in the garden and discovered a nest near a rock, shaded by fern. Inside were 3 tiny eggs. A few days passed and the girls ran in to tell me the eggs had hatched.  We watched them for the next few days. Sometimes the mother sat on them and sometimes they were left while she searched for food.  She was never far away and a number of times we saw her swoop down to scare off an inquisitive baby bunny.

mother sparrow on her nest

We watched  as the strange bald creatures with huge eyes grew into fluffy chicks.

Sparrow Chicks in nest day after hatching
Day 1
sparrow chicks in nest
Day 2
Baby sparrows in a nest
Day 4

Then one morning my daughter ran to tell me to come and look at the nest.  The nest had been pulled from its hiding place and was on the lawn. The birds were nowhere to be seen. Had an animal discovered them, or was it time to fly the nest?

sparrows nest

We soon discovered the latter was true. Carefully camouflaged by brown leaves, one of the chicks was hopping around the ground and waiting for the parents to come and feed it. We could hear the other chicks too but we think perhaps they had gone into next door’s garden as we couldn’t see them.

sparrow chick before it could fly

After 24 hours the chick had gone, probably learning to fly. We heard them for a few days and then no more as they moved on to discover the world.

I love that we have learned so much about birds simply from sitting in the garden on a summer day.

Reflections on the Wonder of Learning Exibition (Reggio Children):What role does technology play in Reggio schools?

It is 13 years since I last visited the Reggio exhibition. Education and childhood have evolved dramatically in that time. I was interested to see how the schools of Reggio Emilia have adapted to meet the interests and fascinations of this new generation.

The projects and learning I observed 13 years ago embraced the physical world. Investigations were made through exploring physical objects and environments, through discussion and experimentation, using art, photography, written and spoken word.  The documentation of more recent projects followed a similar pattern, except for one key difference. The schools of Reggio Emilio are now embracing technology as a tool for learning and artistic expression.  This is not a piecemeal attempt to use technology to teach concepts, but rather a way of using new ways of investigating and deepening knowledge and curiosity, that were not possible before. They have fully embraced it as one of the hundred languages.

Take for example, investigations that occurred during the building of the Malaguzzi centre. The children were taken into the space. They ran and danced around the pillars, making patterns of movement. They were then invited to design their own pillars.  Once the designs were completed, they were projected onto a large screen containing an image of the Malaguzzi centre. The children saw,  that in the image of the Malaguzzi centre, some of the pillars looked smaller than the others. “Were they smaller?” they asked, “or did they just appear that way?” The children’s pillars all looked the same size when they were added to the image, so they used Photoshop to shrink some of the images and make a realistic picture. I have often seen images of how the Reggio schools use projectors to aid learning but the addition of computer technology added a whole new angle to the learning.

img_2535

In another project, the children were fascinated by the sound their feet made on the metal stairs.  They decided to give the gift of sound to the stairs. To achieve this, they tested ways to make different sounds by changing shoes and using a variety of movements.  The sounds were then recorded.

The children decided how they might be able to annotate the individual sounds and used the symbols to create a sequenced map of sound. The children drew a picture of the steps and scanned it into the computer.  Using music software, they added individual sounds to each stair to create their desired sequence.

I love the way these projects can take an idea further than they ever could before. In the past the discussion and investigation would have been similar, representation in art would also have been used, but it would not have been possible to make a working model.

Many educators would uphold the Reggio approach as an example of why technology isn’t necessary in early education. Yet, when it is used as one of the hundred languages, it enriches the learning experience without reducing creativity, curiosity or discussion.

It makes me feel sad that schools are often encouraged and expected to use technology more in the classroom, but I rarely see it used in a creative or enriching way.  I mostly see teachers using screens to impart knowledge or show examples.  I have never seen teachers use music software to investigate the science of sound, use photoshop to create art projects or see it in any way as a tool for the children. It has certainly made me contemplate how we might ‘play’ with technology at home too.

The Wonders of Learning is in Boston until November 2018. Then it will move to Maddison WI.

 

Picture Books About Numeracy

Picture Books

Books are a fun way to learn about number, practice counting and understand number in practical contexts.The following are some of my favourites for introducing and reinforcing number skills.

Counting up: 1-10

One Mole Digging a Hole by Julia Donaldson

Julia Donaldson’s wonderful rhyming text and Nick Sharrat’s comical illustrations are a perfect combination.  Brightly colored numerals appear in the middle of the brief rhyming sentences, along with the corresponding number of animals to count. The engaging illustrations make this my favourite counting book.

Father Christmas Needs a Wee by Nicholas Allan

At each different house that he visits Father Christmas drinks and eats all the goodies left out for him. At number one there is hot chocolate and at number three, three cups of tea. By the time he reaches ten, he is desperate for a wee!  This comical rhyming book will appeal to all kids who love toilet humour.

Counting Down: Simple Subtraction

Sesame Street- 5 Little Rubber Duckies

This is a sweet interactive board book featuring familiar Sesame Street characters. Ernie starts with 5 rubber duckies but along the way the rubber duckies stop off to play with other Sesame Street friends.  Each page features a feel and trace number and 5 ducks you can move and count as each one disappears. Perfect for introducing numbers 1-5 to young children.

10,9,8…Owls up Late

This rhyming bedtime countdown features 10 mischievous baby owls and their antics to avoid bedtime.  As a sturdy board book with peek through pages, it is perfect for little fingers.  The individual character of every owl is illustrated perfectly and children will enjoy looking out for other characters in the tree, like the book reading caterpillar, busy bees and the mouse storing berries. The back of the book has a clear counting chart to practice number recognition and counting.

Ordinal Numbers

10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle

This sweet Eric Carle story features 10 ducks that fall from a boat and what happens to each of them along the way.  The hardback copy also features a squeaker to help children count along and interact with the text.

Numbers Greater than 10

One Thing by Lauren Child

This is my favourite book about numbers. It features the adorable Charlie and Lola and is perfect for any child who is interested in numbers.  It shows number in everyday contexts, explores counting , time, addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. It even investigates children’s fascinations with numbers beyond one thousand. A wonderful book, with numbers interwoven amongst the illustrations in Lauren Child’s own unique way.

The Real Princess – A Mathematical Tale

The familiar story of the Princess and the Pea is retold to emphasise numbers within the story and to encourage children to understand number problems.  The questions in the back of the book are designed to look back at the text and illustrations, counting and working out simple mathematical sums.

 

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