Weather makes for a great long term project, especially at this autumnal time of year when the weather is quite changeable. Observing the weather ticks a number of EYFS boxes, particularly in Communication and Language and Understanding the World but you can also extend it into Literacy by having your older toddlers write weather symbols, and you can easily create counting games based on weather observations.
You can buy some really good weather and calendar charts, but you can make them yourself at almost no cost. Just create a chart on a large sheet of paper covering the days of the week and cut out some weather symbols stuck onto card. Have your little ones select the right weather symbols to match the current weather.
Because the weather can change, they can add symbols for each type of weather during the day. It may start off sunny, cloud over and then rain before clearing up again. Instill observation in your little ones by encouraging them, proactively, to add a symbol to the weather chart each time they observe a change outside.
If you have some garden space, why not create a haven for insects and log, with your little ones, what you see over time? Plant flowers and make other insect friendly features. You could start by planting wild flowers from seed and allowing a small section of your garden to 'overgrow'. Let a small patch of grass grow long naturally and sprinkle wildflower seed down. Don't worry if nettles or other weeds grow, these are perfect for insects!
If you want to create an insect garden more quickly you could buy some more established plants from a garden centre. Look for lavenders, budleias, cornflowers and wallflowers. These typical cottage garden plants attract butterflies and other insects.
Ladybirds are a gardeners friend - they live off many other insects regarded as pests, including aphids. You can buy ladybird shelters in most garden centres but you can also make one very easily. Take a plastic drink bottle (1 or 2 litre) and cut the bottom off it. Find a length of corrugated card and cut the width to match the length of the bottle. Roll the card up and place it inside the bottle. Thread some wire through the bottle and the card to keep it in place. Put the 'house' in the garden and see what you attract!
Make a log book with your children. Have them draw pictures of the flowers and insects, and make notes on what days you see different insects. Note which plants you see which insects on and create a project to follow throughout the spring and summer. Talk about the life cycle of insects, especially ones such as butterflies and ladybirds that go through a process of metamorphosis.
Learning to recognise colours takes time and patience but it comes to all toddlers with practice. To help toddlers to learn their colours, undertake long term colour projects. Create a 'colour wall' in your home or setting, create a label for each colour, written in its own colour. Write balloon letters, coloured in for best effect. Attach the labels to the wall leaving space around them and you are now set to start your project.
Every few days, select a magazine or catalogue and look at the pictures with your little one. Identify an object in the picture that is primarily a single colour, point to it and talk about what colour it is. For children who aren't yet talking, tell them what colour it is, for young toddlers who are babbling, ask them what colour and see if they can guess correctly.
When you have talked about the picture and identified the colour together, cut the picture out and lift up your toddler so that they can stick the picture to the wall around the correct colour label.
Over a few weeks, your wall will grow into a great big colour chart with large swathes of each colour around each label. It will look pretty and serve as an aid for remembering colours and the repetitive nature of the project will help them to identify and learn their colours.
Watching plants grow is a lovely experience for your little ones, and the rapid growing nature of cress makes it a great plant to monitor for a project. You can buy packets of cress seeds in supermarkets, garden centres and hardware stores; a single packet will have plenty of seeds for a few growing projects.
Cress grows very well on cotton wool which is less messy than using more traditional soil. You can grow cress in any receptacle, here are a few ideas:-
- Create growing 'pots' out of Duplo, Lego or other building blocks
- Take some egg shells and grow in there, draw faces on the front to make 'cress men'
- Use an egg box to create a mountainous landscape with cress 'trees'
- Grow cress in the shapes of your childrens initials, try creating their whole name!
- Use small boxes, tins or any other containers
Lay some cotton wool inside your chosen 'pot', sprinkle seeds on top and saturate it with water. Leave it in a warm and light place such as a windowsill. Look at the pot each day and see what happens. Watch as the seeds start sprouting and then grow into tall cress. After a few days you will be able to harvest the cress - chop it with a pair of scissors and sprinkle it inside a sandwich and enjoy the reward of your labours!
Oranges and lemons don't grow easily in the UK, we just don't have the climate for them - give your children a geography lesson by showing them where you live on a world map, and explain in which countries citrus fruits grow well!
During the middle ages citrus fruits were rare and luxurious fruits. They were valuable and used as a trading commodity. In the 18th century lemons and later limes were discovered to prevent scurvy and became an important cargo on any exploration.
Buy some oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit and have your children discover the different fruits. Citrus fruits are fun because of their vibrant and distinctive colours. Study the shapes and sizes of the different fruit, have your little ones draw them and colour their pictures.
Cut little wedges of each fruit and have your children taste each - ask which they like and which they don't like. You would expect them to find the lemon and lime to be particularly bitter, but young children may not find them as bitter as you probably do, they may even find they like them!
Here's a fantastic recipe for lemonade, perfect for sipping in the summer sun! Your kids will love this and although it's loaded with sugar, it's very healthy and the occasional treat won't do any long term harm!
Explore other groups of foods, plants or anything else - themed 'projects' offer a great way for young children to learn about topics.