I recently cleaned out the linen cupboard and gave the kids a huge bag of old sheets to play with. They like to make them into royal capes or build dens with them. In amongst them was a white sheet. I thought it could be used to build a shadow puppet theatre in the garden. We have a swing set that isn’t safe to use, so I removed one of the swings and fastened the sheet to the frame.
The children and I made puppets from cardboard. The children chose characters and I helped them draw them in silhouette. They collected sticks from the garden, whittled them to smooth them out and stuck the cardboard characters on with tape.
I also found images of hand shadows. I printed and laminated them and stuck them on the swing set frame for reference.
We had to do a bit of work cutting back the tree branches to make a clear screen, but soon it was ready. The magical stories they have created have been wonderful. I think this would be a great resource for a school or pre-school to encourage story telling and build the foundations of story writing. You could build it outdoors or inside with a light source behind.
Videoing the story showed the children where they needed to improve. They saw that sometimes you couldn’t see the characters well because they were too low or placed at an angle. They also noticed that the size of the puppet changed according to how close to the screen it was.
I love the way my daughter played with accents and voices. It particularly love the voice of the bird and banana man in the land of the forgotten.
Disclaimer: Links to the book title are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you purchase the book from my recommendation I will receive a small financial incentive.
The Queen is Coming to Tea by Linda Ravin Lodding, is a sweet book that children who love to play at tea parties will adore. My girls love to grab a blanket, turning it into a royal cloak and lay out all their cuddly friends for tea parties. As such, they loved this story about a little girl travelling around the world to gather essential items for the Queen’s tea.
Ellie finds out the Queen is coming to tea and with her best friend, Langley the Elephant, travels to Paris, China, Italy, and New York to make sure they have everything they need for tea with the Queen. But will the Queen patiently wait? And what exactly will be waiting for the Queen?
I love the bright colourful illustrations by Constance Von Kitzing, but they may be a little too pink for some boys to enjoy. The illustration of Ellie’s playroom gives clues as to where Ellie’s ideas about gathering items from around the world came from. I liked this insight into the child’s imagination.
The Queen is Coming to Tea would be a great book to read aloud and inspire play and learning.
Bake cakes, or traditional British teatime treats like scones, biscuits and cucumber sandwiches and prepare a tea party or picnic.
Watch footage of real royal events like the Queen’s coronation or a royal wedding and plan your own pretend street party. You could make flags and bunting, make posters or invitations, play games or have races and dance to music.
Taste or smell different types of tea. Which country do they come from? Which is your favourite? How do the leaves turn into a drink? investigate with loose leaf tea, tea bags, warm water and tea strainers.
Make a graph or tally chart of the children’s favourite types of tea.
Could you make tea from herbs or leaves you find in your garden? These could be real or pretend.
Give the children tulle, paper and plastic bags and scraps of material. Can they design an outfit fit for tea with the Queen.
Are there any people from your community who have been invited to tea with the Queen? Perhaps recipients of MBE’s or OBE’s. Invite them to come and talk to the children.
Further investigate some of the places featured in the story – perhaps some of the children have visited them.
Practice squeezing lemons or perhaps try this fruit tea recipe
Peach Mango White Iced Tea RecipeIngredients:
4 Cups Water
3 White Tea Bags
½ Cup Chopped Frozen Mango
1 tbsp sugar plus Sugar to TasteInstructions:
Boil the 6 cups of water; remove from heat
Steep the tea bags about 5 minutes; remove bags and allow tea to cool to room temperature
Add chopped peaches and mango to a mixing bowl and mix with sugar; let fruit soften
Place fruit in pitcher and pour cooled tea on top; add sugar to taste and stir
For a chance to win a copy of The Queen is Coming to Tea and a porcelain tea set enter the giveaway below. The closing date is August 6 2017.
My kids love any kind of cooking show. A particular favourite is The Great British Bake Off (or baking show as they call it in the US). In true bake-off style, they decided to make a mud cake. “The theme is cakes”, they told me “but it can’t be just a cupcake it has to be a proper cake”.
Today is International Mud Day, when children around the world celebrate the most diverse, low-cost and accessible plaything on earth. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate.
They build a plan and get to work, problem solving all the way.
They gather things from around the garden to create their designs.
The children explain the rules for the judging.
Something always goes wrong on Bake Off. The trial run didn’t quite go as planned so the girls think again.
The trial run of the frog mould cake works perfectly, but when the final one is made it drops too early and spoils the mint and grass lily pad. After a few failed attempts a final frog is made by moulding it with hands instead.
And Master Baker this week is…..
The mint and rose surprise – sadly the frog was a great idea but there were a few problems with the batter.
Don’t you love that play can be inspired by so many things? Happy International Mud Day.
Disclaimer the links to books referenced in this post, contain Amazon Affiliate Links.
Many years ago, I attended a training course where we were encouraged to follow the acronym OWLSin our teacher-child interactions. OWLS stood for
Children are naturally full of curiosity. Sometimes questions are asked as a way of thinking out loud and sometimes asked directly to obtain an answer from an adult. In both scenarios, if we follow OWLS we will discover a great deal about the children’s way of thinking and enable them to provide their own hypotheses.
If we are to support, rather than limit, children’s developing understanding, we need to allow them to help us recapture some of the wonder and innocence we have lost and to gain insight into their struggles to make sense of what is often a confusing and worrying world. Teaching is not about imposing our views, concerns or values on others. It is about enabling children to carry out their own investigations and draw their own conclusions. (Margaret Edgington – The Nursery Teacher in Action)
My children watched the fluff flying around the playground and wondered what it was. I’m not sure if they wanted a direct answer from me or a means of discussing possibilities together. I took it as the latter and listened to their thoughts.
The children used their existing knowledge about fairies, clouds, snow and cushion fillers to create hypotheses. They also borrowed ideas from the familiar story Cloudland by John Birningham to create a new story. Their answers could be a springboard to a project where the children create worlds, stories and characters involving the mysterious fluff.
Jerome Bruner explains that when we see children as thinkers, understanding is fostered through collaboration and discussion. The child is encouraged to express their views to achieve a meeting of minds with others with different views.
As the discussion ensued, the girls used their senses to explore the material and build on what they already know about the world to find answers. My role was to build an exchange of understanding between the two children and myself, to find the roots of the children’s systematic knowledge.
As we turned the corner we found a clump of the fluffy stuff.
The children began to construct even more elaborate stories, connecting with worlds they had previously imagined.
Encouraging these moments to develop into projects is described by Carolyn Edwards in The Hundred Languages of Children. She describes the role of the teacher in Reggio Schools.
The teachers constantly pay close attention to the children’s activity. They believe that when children work on a project of interest to them, they will naturally encounter problems and questions they will want to investigate. The teachers’ role is to help the children discover their own problems and questions. At that point, moreover, they will not offer ready solutions but instead help children to focus on a problem or difficulty and formulate hypotheses. Their goal is not so much to facilitate learning in the sense of making it smooth or easy, but rather to stimulate it by making problems more complex, involving or arousing. They ask the children what they need in order to do experiments – even when they realise that a particular approach or hypothesis is not “correct”. They serve as the children’s partners, sustaining the children and offering assistance, resources and strategies to get unstuck when encountering difficulties – Carolyn Edwards.
I wonder how many rich learning opportunities are missed in our school system because there isn’t time to slow down and teach in this way? Perhaps, all the more reason to share these experiences with our children when they are at home.
The children went on to discuss the ‘fluff’ with their friends. One friend told them it comes from a tree and they thought it was Dogwood. The next question was ‘What is a dogwood tree?’. This will be the next step in their discoveries.
One of my favourite workshops to lead at a local play centre was scrap workshop.
I liked it because it was suitable for all ages, it was a natural extension to my heuristic play workshops with toddlers and it gave children the freedom to develop both creativity and skills.
We collected all kinds of scrap materials, large and small and displayed them in separate containers.
Examples of materials
Sometimes we would give the children a project
make something that moves
make something that makes a sound
build a replica of the Mayflower
or a problem arising from a project or book
invent something to help Rapunzel get out of her tower
Can you build a house that can’t be blown down
How could you be rescued from a desert island?
but best of all we would make sure there was plenty of tape, string, scissors and markers and let them create and explore.
Sometimes they worked on small projects
or larger group constructions
they practised threading
made things for dramatic play
and problem solved
‘ When children engage with people, objects, ideas or events they test things out and solve problems.They need adults to challenge and extend their thinking. (EYFS 2008 – Active Learning).
They made choices
Provide flexible resources that can be used in many different ways to facilitate children’s play and exploration’(EYFS 2008 – Supporting every child).
and tested strategies
they discovered how two different materials could work together
‘ Every child’s learning journey takes a personal path based on their own individual interests, experiences and the curriculum on offer.’ (EYFS 2008 – Supporting every child.)
and nobody asked them “What is it?”
Active learners need to have some independence and control over their learning to keep their interest and to develop creativity.’ (EYFS 2008 – Active Learning).
They worked at a table
or on the floor
and made discoveries using all of their senses.
An open-ended project like this gives plenty of opportunities to observe and work alongside children, guiding them towards their next steps and sharing ideas together.
’ When children have opportunities to play with ideas in different situations and with a variety of resources, they discover connections and come to new and better understandings and ways of doing things.Adult support in this process enhances their ability to think critically and ask questions’(EYFS 2008 – Creativity and critical thinking)
This child wasn’t interested in joining pieces or making anything. They explored filling and emptying.
This child wrapped and wrapped their construction with tape. They went on to wrap their hands with string. We provided them with materials they could explore wrapping in more depth – paper sheets, tape, string, ribbons , blankets, paper strips with tubes, poles, boxes, and table legs wrapped in string.
‘ Children need and will respond positively to challenges if they have a good relationship with the practitioner and feel confident to try things out.’ ( EYFS 2008 – Supporting learning).
The children were able to work in mixed ages. The youngest children were 2 and the oldest 10. All the children enjoyed the workshops and learned from and supported one another.
‘ In their play children learn at their highest level’(EYFS 2008 – Play and Exploration).
I took a blogging break this summer to concentrate on travelling with my family and now I am back, I have lots to share from my busy summer. Today is Roald Dahl day and would have been Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday, so I thought it would be fitting to share my thoughts on the West End musical production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
This was our first visit to London with the children. We only travel home every few years, so we wanted to show them the sights and experience a West End show. To be honest, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory wasn’t our first choice of show and we arrived with a little uncertainty. We couldn’t have chosen anything more memorable or spectacular. From curtain up it was visually mesmerising. Costume and set design were out of this world and totally lived up to the company’s aim to astound the audience.
Roald Dahl’s original story was preserved throughout but was cleverly tweaked with modern touches. The children were characterised perfectly and wonderfully portrayed by the cast. My kids spent time discussing who they would like to play; ballet dancing Veruca Salt, video game obsessed Mike Teavee or Violet Beauregarde the acrobatic child star. The parents were also brought to life in quirky and interesting ways.
Directed by Sam Mendes, this is the first stage adaptation in 50 years and completely surpassed my expectations. We all came out of the theatre feeling a little emotional. We had clearly witnessed something unique and special.
If you get a chance to see it before it closes at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 2017, I highly recommend it. Don’t despair if not, a UK tour is coming soon and for US audiences, the Broadway production will open in 2017.
Disclaimer: This is a personal recommendation, no monetary compensation or complimentary tickets were received for writing this post.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term loose parts, check out my post on the theory of loose parts. In simple terms, loose parts are moveable objects that can be used to create, explore and discover.
Educators often collect loose parts for their environments. Collections include buttons, feathers, beads, coins, shells and seeds. Loose parts are added to clay and dough, left in baskets around the room, used for weighing and measuring, to create art, on light and mirror tables and added to block play. I think though, that sometimes educators over-complicate loose parts. We get so excited about the different things we can provide for the children and the beautiful ways we can present them, that it is easy to forget the true essence of the theory of loose parts.
I was reminded as I played with my daughter at the park, that loose parts are everywhere. If we as educators don’t provide loose parts, the children will find them. A brick will become a piece of food, a calculator is a telephone, a sheet will become a cloak or torn paper will be money. Playing with loose parts is the way I played as a child, playing shops with empty boxes or filling empty bottles with leaves, petals, dirt and water. For the child, loose parts are everywhere, they probably don’t call them loose parts but they will find them.
For me the theory of loose parts is an attitude to how children play. It is an acceptance that children may use what is in their environment and make their own choices about what to do with it. Materials do not have to be displayed or stored beautifully, they simply need to be there. The following video illustrates children’s natural ability to find and use loose parts creatively.