It is no coincidence that you often hear that key learning stages are referred to as the 'building blocks' of life. Building blocks have the most marvellous property that while a single block is uninspiring, small and unnoteworthy, put together with many others it can create the most fantastic palaces or castles, the greatest zoos or fun parks or the most wonderful houses. A building block is a unit of a much larger creation, and the possibilities of what a pile of blocks can become are limitless.
The same is true when it comes to learning fundamental principles. Learning letters is the first step on the way to learning to read and write; learning numbers is the first step to learning complex mathematics. Craft play includes many fundamental principles that help to develop fine and gross motor skills, as do sports and games. Each small step is repaid with much more value by way of long term reward.
Active children who participate in a healthy mix of games, craft and learning will be collecting 'building blocks' through life. These building blocks will make well rounded individuals, and in the same way that traditional building blocks can make almost anything, so fundamental learning blocks will create a child capable of almost anything they put their mind to.
Theme days offer a great way to spice up the lives of your little ones a bit, and help them to learn new concepts along the way. If you hold a theme day once a week or once a month, it will also help to mark time for preschoolers who will begin to understand the concept of a week or a month respectively.
Choose a theme, dress up for it, play themed games and undertake themed craft. There are lots of colourful themes to choose from, here are a few ideas:-
- Emergency services
- Doctors and nurses
- Princes and princesses
- Fairy Tales
- Literary characters (from adult or children's books)
- Animals (farm, zoo or wild animals)
The only limit is your imagination, you can even choose really abstract themes - your little ones don't mind, they will simply love the involvement.
As excitement mounts for the queen's Diamond Jubilee this weekend, your little ones are probably just too young to understand the significance of what is going on, but they certainly aren't too young to join in the fun. Here are some fun ideas to explore royalty and help them learn who the queen is:-
- Coin Rubbing: Take a selection of coins and tape them to an A4 piece of card. Place a sheet of paper over the top and rub over them with chalk or a thick wax crayon, watch as the queen appears in front of you.
- Queen for a Day: Have one of your children act as queen for the day, see what they imagine the queen gets up to in a normal day!
- Flagging: Draw out the lines for the union flag and have your little ones colour them in. Stick them onto straws to make a flag they can wave, or attach a number of them to a piece of string to make some royal bunting.
- Royal Tea Party: Discuss what food and drink the queen might enjoy at a royal tea party and then hold a tea party with all the foods they talk about. Don't be too concerned, their ideas are probably less caviar and Champagne than jam tarts and sausage rolls!
- Create a Stamp: Look at some real stamps and show how the queen is always portrayed. Cut zig-zag lines around an A4 sheet of paper and have your little one design their own stamp; have them use lots of royal imagery such including the queen, a castle, a royal carriage and anything else that a queen might have.
As little girls' hair grows longer they get more and more adventurous and demanding when it comes to styles! Pony tails, pig tails, French plaits, braids with ribbons, bows or jewels. Here are a few great ideas to get the children making their own hair accessories and making mum's life a bit easier (and cheaper!).
- Many ladies clothing and children's tops come with loops of satin ribbon to use when hanging the clothing on a hanger in the shop. Snip these out and very soon you will have a colourful collection of ribbons to tie in hair or use in craft activities.
- Many markets or cheap fabric shops sell very reasonable lengths of satin ribbon to tie into hair. It makes the simplest bunch of hair look pretty if a co-ordinating ribbon is tied round. Or tie a ribbon onto the pony tail when doing a plait so you include a length of ribbon with each section of hair.
- Fabric strips make gorgeous hair ribbons. Simply cut a length of fabric about 5am wide and use to tie up bunches. Or, if you catch all the hair in the bunch and wrap it round, you can make little side buns. So cute!
- Buy inexpensive hair clips and decorate them yourself. Get some ribbon and tie through the holes leaving a length dangling down. Use PVA glue to stick on sequins or glitter or jewels. Thread some beads onto ribbon and tie these on too to have a dangling bead decoration clipped in.
Looks great and fun to make!
Making a collage is easy, fun and a great way for little ones to practice their fine motor skills. Once assembled, they can see their work and touch it too experiencing all the different textures and materials. Collage is actually one of the areas of artistic experience that children should be exposed to within the EYFS, along with painting, drawing, printing, textiles and 3D.
So, how to go about having some collage fun:
- Find your materials: go out into the park for leaves, to the shop for paper, look in the recycle bins for other materials. You could make the looking an activity in itself by talking about how each item feels, how heavy it is, whether it will stick onto paper and what colour it is.
- Then you can start sticking and gluing!
- Make sure the paper you use is heavy enough to hold the collage. You don't want it ripping.
- Make sure you have plenty of strong but non toxic glue so bits don't fall off!
- Make sure you have plenty of space to really get stuck in!
- Make sure everything is covered i.e. clothing and table tops to ensure no gluey accidents.
- Don't tell the children what to do necessarily; let them experiment!
- Cotton wool, wool, string.
- Leaves, grasses, flowers.
- Tissue paper, wrapping paper, newspaper and magazine pictures.
- Glitter, sequins, beads.
Other associated activities:
- Foraging for the materials can be fun. Talk about looking high and low, up and down, round the corner etc. Use lots of different words to describe where you are looking and what you are looking for.
- Close work: look at the materials you find closely. Are they rough or smooth, are they prickly or bumpy? Again, describe the items and talk about them.
- Sorting: sort them into little piles and then put them in pots. Label them for next time. All the buttons together, all the cotton wool together etc.
- Look at the letters that each material begins with: p for paper, and g for glue etc.
Have fun with apples - here are some activity ideas for you to try with your little ones...
Apple prints - Start by covering the table and putting out different coloured paints in shallow dishes. Cut two apples in half; one vertically so you get the core and seed shape. The other horizontally so you get the seeds in a star shape. Dip each paint brush into the paint and cover the apple. Carefully press each print onto card. Paint on a stalk or some more seeds, when its dry, to finish it. Think of someone you appreciate or care about to send the card to them as a surprise. Talk about how nice it is to send other people notes of thanks. This is a great way to show the little ones how to appreciate others.
Hand-print apple tree - Take some brown paint and cover hands with it to make a great tree trunk! Press onto some card or paper. Take an apple and cut it in half then paint on green paint. Do lots of apple prints to make leaves for the tree! Use a finger dipped in red paint to add apples to the tree. Talk about apple seeds growing into little saplings, then growing into big trees and producing apples on them.
Apples and counting - Take an apple and cut it into slices. How many slices can you count together. Then pick out all the seeds. How many are there to start with? What about if you take one away or add a few more? Eat some of the slices and how many are left? Do lots of counting activities and see how good even the smallest toddler can be at counting with a bit of help.
Number recognition - Draw some apples - about ten of them - and colour them in in red, yellow and green. Write the numbers 1 to 10 on some paper and cut them out. Place a number in front of a couple of plates and ask your little one to count out the right number of apples into each place. So, if the number 2 is written they must count out 2 apples.
Colour sorting - Take 3 envelopes and draw an apple on the front of each one. Colour one red, one yellow and one green. See if your child can sort all the apples you coloured in the above activity and put them in the right envelope. Help them to start with, and then see if they can do it alone without you looking. Try it with some other things too.
Healthy eating - Show your little ones how lovely apples can be to eat too! They are great for printing, and counting and craft but best of all they taste great!
Go on an apple tree hunt round your area and see how many you can find... or other trees with fruit on them. Have fun!
It is amazing how much children love making things out of old cardboard and boxes - they can create great buildings, instruments and who knows what else just with a few tubs and a bit of tape! Here are a few ideas if you need some inspiration to guide them:-
- Rocket: an old favourite made from a kitchen roll tube, some yogurt pots and some silver foil wrapped around it to make it shiny
- Robot: Always a good one! Make a robot by sticking all sorts of boxes together, with tubes for arms and legs. Add a face and cover with foil
- Buildings: Take a cardboard box, add some cling film squares for windows, a flap of cardboard for a door and another flat box for a lid
- Castle: Lots of different sized boxes taped together into a castle shape. Cover with brown paper and draw on some windows. Add a cardboard box door and some flags on top
- Treasures Box: Use boxes and lids to create a special treasure box for craft materials or collections of bits and pieces
- Shapes: Just make any old shape and decide what it is!
Why do modeling?
- Making models is great for learning about construction
- Craft helps to develop fine motor skills
- Craft and model making is tactile, so children get used to touching and feeling different boards, plastics and materials
- Making things grows imagination and children can choose their own design and structure thus empowering them to make decisions themselves
- Children encounter problems along the way, so this is great for thinking and problem solving
- Reusing old cardboard and materials offers a good lesson in recycling
Child experts are increasingly concerned that technology is replacing physical activities in the lives of young children - children spend more time tapping away on computer keyboards, playing with pretend mobile phones and watching television than they do playing outdoors or doing craft and other traditional learning activities. Parents are becoming more lazy, preferring to sit children in front of a TV or a computer rather than interacting with them and undertaking physical games and activities.
Interacting with others is a vital component for children to develop properly. Traditional activities such as craft, drawing and doing puzzles, with an adult nearby, encourages fine motor skills and physical development, and language skills are learned by conversing with grown-ups. This is all bypassed by children sat passively in front of a TV or left to their own devices being entertained by computer games or pretend technology devices.
Even though parents today have less time to spend with their children than for previous generations, it seems that we are all too happy to spend that little time we do have separated from them while the children are expected to entertain themselves.
Spend a moment to reflect on your own lifestyle, and ask yourself whether you are dedicating enough time to your children?
As your baby grows into a toddler and then into a little boy or girl, you'll collect a mass of scribbles, artwork, craft, models and all sorts of other creations. Many of these will carry evocative memories, perhaps their first colouring in, their first writing, their early scribbles, the first time they wrote their name. You probably won't want to keep all of your little one's art, but keep a scrapbook of some, and find a wall to hang some of their art too. One important thing is to add dates to their work so that when you are looking back on it in years to come, you can chart their progression.
In addition to dating work, you could also make a few notes to remind you of the context under which the artwork was created. Write simple notes like 'First day at nursery', 'Our day out at ...' and so on. This will give you a gallery of your little one's work that you can return to and keep your early memories alive!
Bath toys can turn a fairly boring part of nighttime routine into a bit of an adventure - there are so many fun toys, games and ways to make bathtime interesting, why not treat your children to a new experience every few weeks?!
So you don't think there's room for doing craft in the bath? Wrong! Older children will love bath crayons which can be used for drawing on the inside of the bath. Rub them out after bath as otherwise they can be more difficult to remove, and if left too long, may stain permanently. Younger children will enjoy foam shapes, letters and numbers that adhere to the side of the bath when wet. All of these are widely available in toy shops.
Many more traditional toys allow children to play with water, experimenting with pouring, flowing and other properties. Bath toys can be quite expensive, so look at the value you think you'll get from the toy before buying. Well designed toys will teach children about the properties of flowing water, and of course, will offer hours of fun!
Bubbles and Potions
Children love bubbles, bath colourings and fizzy bath bombs or balls which you will find in most supermarkets and chemists. Do be aware that bubbles may dry your children's skin if they have sensitive skin so use a new formula with caution. You should find bubbles formulated for gentle skin but you may find even these aren't good for your little ones.
Your children may be more receptive to having their faces washed if they have fun flannels, and none are more fun than the magic expanding flannels that come as small dry blocks and unpack into full size flannels in water. These are widely available from toy shops and supermarkets, and make a great little stocking filler at Christmas time!
Today's children are spoiled for choice in the sheer array of bath toys on offer! Brighten up bathtime and have your children look forward to their evening dip, as much as anything, it will help make routine easier for you!
It's very easy as parents and carers to pass on, without being really aware of it, some of our fears or phobias; a fear of spiders might be one of the most obvious ones! However, in an attempt to counter this, and as a fun way to introduce children to one of the most common and varied insect in our gardens (and houses!), here are some fun activities to do with children, all about spiders! Don't be alarmed if you are nervous of spiders, they're made of chocolate, cardboard and lots of coloured paint!
Tasty Spider - take a chocolate cup cake or chocolate covered round biscuit and pop on 2 cheerios as eyes. Take 4 chocolate fingers and break them in half and stick them in the side to make a spider! Perhaps share between two children to eat or you may have a sugar rush situation! Yum!
Rainbow spider - draw a round body shape and 8 chubby legs to make a spider picture to decorate. Cover it with glue and stick on lots of coloured tissue paper in the colours of the rainbow. Stick on some eyes and a happy smile and stick on a window so the light shows up all the lovely colours.
Egg box spiders - cut out the mounds from egg boxes and paint some bright, spidery colours. Poke in 8 short lengths of pipe cleaners and bend half way down each to look like spider legs. Draw on some eyes and thread some wool through the top so you have a spider hanging from a web. Spooky!
Spider's Web - with a tube of glue draw a web shape on a piece of black paper. Sprinkle silver glitter or sand all over the page. Shake off any excess and you have a sparkly web covered in dew. Draw a little spider on black paper and stick this on ready for action.
Number Spider -Draw a big spider body and eight wide legs on the back of a cereal packet and paint it lovely sunny colours. Cut out 8 small circles or use stickers and number each leg. Practice counting 1 to 8 as you count the legs together. Try taking the stickers off and encouraging your little one to recognise each number and stick it on in order.
Happy plate spider - take a paper plate and cover with paint. Stick on some long thins strips of card as legs and paint these too. Add some googly eyes and a big smiley face!
Who's scared of the spider! Not Us!
Here is the famous rainbow song; teach it to your child and sing it often as a reminder of all the colours around you!
Red, And Yellow, And Pink, And Green,
Orange, And Purple and Blue,
I can sing a rainbow,
Sing a Rainbow,
Sing a Rainbow too!
Have some fun learning colours with rainbows, the most colourful things in the world!
- Rainbow picture: Cut out all sorts of colourful things from magazines and catalogues. Place all the red things in one pile, all the green in another etc. Then draw a big rainbow on a page and stick on all the coloured pieces of paper in each appropriate arc.
- Floor rainbow: Go round the house collecting things that are colours of the rainbow. Find red bricks, blue cars, yellow socks. Then make a huge rainbow on the floor placing all the red things in one arc, all the blue in the next etc.
- Rainbow puzzle: Draw a rainbow shape on a page using a thick black pen. Use paint, glitter, coloured pens to fill in the colours When dry, cut out each arc to make a rainbow puzzle, and go round the house finding things that match each of the colours. Re-make the rainbow like a puzzle.
- Rainbow of clothes: Children often have such colourful clothes. Head off to the wardrobe and find items for the colours of the rainbow. Make them into a big clothing rainbow on the bed.
- Sing the song: and as you say the colours, point to something int he room that is that colour. See how you get on!
- Colour Eye Spy: Take a look round the room and play I Spy with my little eye, something that is.... and add your chosen colour. It's very easy for little ones to get the hang of this game and they will quickly be good at spotting colours!
Have lots of colourful fun!
Why not make some fun 'stained glass' effect pictures to hang in your little one's windows and see them light up in the bright sunshine? For this activity you'll need:-
- some black card
- assorted coloured tissue papers
- a craft knife (for you to use in preparation)
- some child safe scissors
Prepare some templates one evening whilst the children safely tucked up in bed! Take the sheets of card and cut them into shapes and then, using the craft knife, cut holes in them. Make sure you have thick borders around your holes because these will become 'frames' for the tissue paper to be stuck to. Here are some ideas of pictures you can make-
- Parrot: cut out a parrot shape then cut out holes inside the tail, holes for the body and wings, the head and perhaps a crest on top
- Rainbow: cut rainbow arcs into a whole piece of card, making one arc hole for each colour of your rainbow
- Fish: cut the card into a fish shape then score out stripy markings using the craft knife
- Peacock: If you're feeling really artictic, cut out the shape of a peacock making a fan tail with long holes with small round holes at the top
If you aren't overly artistic, just cut shapes into the card because once the tissue effect has been created, they'll still make wonderful patterns.
Once you have prepared your templates, have your children cut out coloured pieces of tissue to stick over the holes. Use this as an exercise to practice your colours by talking about the colours you need and what colours you are cutting out. Glue the tissue shapes into place and then hang your pictures in the window. As the light shines through, you'll have some lovely bright art!
A Dreamcatcher is a handmade object made up of a small wooden hoop with some woven thread or wool knotted around it and then decorated with little feathers and beads. The idea is that the dreamcatcher is tied above a child's bed at night and used to protect them from bad dreams. Only good dreams are permitted to get through the woven web and bad dreams stay in the net and don't interrupt the sleep. They simply fade away in day light. However, good dreams trickle down the beaded, feathery strands that hang below onto the sleeping child.
The dreamcatcher originated in Ojibwa Nation in the 1960's and was adopted by other Native Americans over the years. The idea of dreamcatchers to help children sleep has become more and more popular since then and now dreamcatchers come in all shapes and sizes.
If your child suffers from nightmares or wakes during the night after bad dreams, make them a dreamcatcher! Get your child involved and maybe it will help with the night time wakes!
Making a dreamcatcher
- Collect some bendy twigs and secure them safely into a circle using some wire or tightly wound string.
- Cut some more lengths of string. Secure one to the circle, stretch it across the other side of the circle and wrap a few times to secure. Thread some beads onto some of the strands. Do this with all the string until you have a spider's web effect. Lots of crossed strands of string securely tied onto the wooden circle.
- Tie a few more strands to hang down underneath the circle and thread more beads and a couple of feathers.
- Hang above your child's bed.
Here at ToucanLearn we offer a lot of art and craft based activities, besides keeping children occupied, there are very practical reasons why art and craft is important to learning children.
Before they can talk, art offers young children a way to express themselves and communicate ideas. Just as their sounds may not make much sense, so their splodges and scribbles may not mean an awful lot to you, but they are communicating ideas and this gives children a sense of freedom that develops further with language. They are also using their imagination and expressing what they see and experience in an abstract form.
Craft offers a way to explore the physical world. Art is tactile, you are experiencing different materials and textures, and interacting with objects to understand how they 'work'. There are malleable materials such as plasticine, sticky tack and dough; there are items that bend into shape and stay that way such as pipe cleaners, wire, even paper when folded and tucked into shapes. There are runny substances like paints and glue, they can be poured and spread. The variety of craft materials that a toddler experiences helps them explore the physical world and teaches the how different materials act.
Craft is about making decisions, not important ones, but decisions all the same. The thought processes that go on whilst your little ones are being creative inform their approach to problem solving. What are the options to make a googly eye stick to a piece of paper? Which one is best in this situation? How do I apply glue to the back of a small googly eye? As adults these 'problems' are second nature, but to a young child, these have to be learned and the lessons learned at this stage of their lives will inform all sorts of practical needs throughout the rest of their lives.
Of course, craft is also about developing fine motor skills, the ability to colour in within the lines; to stick glitter to parts of the page; to roll a piece of card into a tube and stick it into place. All of these and so much more rely on the ability to control hands and fingers in ways that are easy for adults but for children form an important part of learning. How can they learn to write when they get to school if they still haven't mastered fine control of their hands?
In addition to being graded according to the Early Years Foundation Stage areas of learning and development, all the activities we offer at ToucanLearn are classified by one of four overriding key development areas: making, moving, learning and speaking (relating to communication more generally). Most craft activities are classified as 'Making' activities with the focus on development of fine motor skills, but as you can see, art and craft activities help to promote development in all four of these key development areas!
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