Learning to use scissors is a skill that takes time and practice to master. Just like learning to use cutlery or learning how to walk, the children need to be given guidelines to help them, rules to make sure they are safe and plenty of practice to get it right!
Here are some scissor activities to get them trying it out!
- Holding the scissors - Show them where to put their fingers and how to operate them so they snip. Practice with of strips of paper or old wrapping paper: something easy to cut. Use all the snippings to make a picture!
- Cutting in straight lines - Take some strips of paper about 8cm wide and see if your child can snip down the middle to make two smaller strips! Then snip the strips horizontally so you end up with lots of little square shapes. Then, snip the strips diagonally so you get a feathery effect.
- Draw some curved shapes on some small pieces of paper and see if your child can follow the lies to make curve shapes. Glue them together, add some googley eyes and features to make a funny-shaped monster!
- Shapes - Draw a Square, Circle, Triangle and Diamond on some paper and see if they can cut the shapes out! Colour the shapes and make a shape picture!
Shape sorters feature in every nursery and offer a great way for babies to begin to understand the world around them and how they interact with it. Research over the last few years, however, suggests that babies learn shapes regardless of whether they have access to these sorts of manufactured toys. Studies of babies born in developing countries, without access to the toys we enjoy in the Western world, confirm that they are just as able to differentiate between different shapes regardless.
This prompts thinking that babies have a disposition to recognise lines that don't change as an object or shape moves in space before they recognise more complex shapes that do. For example, they can see that straight lines remain straight while an object moves, even though the angles between lines change, making them harder to recognise.
This research helps us begin to form an understanding of how babies really begin to understand the world around them which in turn will allow us to develop aids that may help and accelerate children in their learning.
Of course, shape sorters aren't just about learning particular shapes - they also help develop fine motor skills as babies practice picking up objects, rotating them in their hands and guiding them through holes on another object. The ability to post objects through holes offers the first steps towards being able to pick up and control objects in the wider world.
Early skills form an essential part of the Early Years Foundation Stage - make sure that your babies are interacting with objects in a nursery setting and you are already following several Areas of Learning!
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
Maths and counting and numbers may not be your preferred subject and it may bring back memories of dreading the maths lessons as school and struggling over homework, but it doesn't have to be like that! While hard sums are a long way down the line for our children, it's a great idea to get them in the swing of counting and using numbers, even when they are small, so they are confident when they get older. It will serve as vital building bock for future maths.
Here are a few simple way of incorporating numbers, counting and sums into your toddler's life. You'll see how easy it is!
- Count together at every opportunity: Count when drying toes and fingers, when marching up stairs, when passing trees, when stepping along the road to nursery, when passing cars in the street. Make it something you do at least once on every outing! It needn't be counting to 100; just to 10, and then 20, is a great start.
- Sort things: Arrange things in order and sort into groups. Mix coloured bricks or trains and cars and ask them to sort them into piles. All yellow bricks here and all red bricks there! Sort the washing together, sort the food after shopping: fruit here and vegetables here.
- Cooking: Make a cake together and mix in spoonfuls of raisins or cherries, measure and mix together to make a delicious cake. Or simply cut vegetables and count a few for each person at dinner.
- Shapes: Go round the house naming shapes, or when out for a walk spot things that are a particular shape: rectangle letter box, round, sign, square garage.
- Compare Size: Find the big book and the small book. Ask which is widest, which is longest? Sort books or other objects into size order.
- Patterns: Teach patterns and talk about patterns. Sort coloured blocks and make patterns with them or look at patterns on clothing or in books.
- Bath time: Even in the bath measure and pour water into little jugs. Talk about full and empty.
Making learning fun is the fundamental ideal of ToucanLearn, it's fun and learning for you and your little ones!
Getting young toddlers to sit still on the London Underground can be slightly tricky because it's such an exciting place to be, and lots of other tube passengers are standing, so why shouldn't your little one?!
Luckily there is so much distinct iconography inside tube trains that can inspire even the youngest traveller to play fun games. Look for different colours, shapes and letters. Look around a tube carriage and you'll see yellow warning triangles, red circles for London Underground's logo and no entry signs on doors between carriages, blue rectangles and squares with notices inside.
You'll see the tube maps with lots of coloured lines on - ask your little one what colours they see.
Look for letters in the signs and adverts stuck all over the carriage, look for the letters that your children's names begin with. Look for numbers - especially the number of how old they are.
Play I-Spy looking for items of different colours ('I-Spy, with my little eye, something that is red').
Older children can look around and spot all the different warning signs and instructions littered around the carriage - have you ever noticed just how many rules there are when you embark on an Underground journey?!
Of course most of these games will adapt to any train ride, and even journeys on buses or planes too.
You'll be amazed at just how quickly your journey goes, no matter how long it is. Just take care that you don't have so much fun that you miss your stop!
So often activities that the children enjoy doing can be beneficial in different ways besides them having fun. They may think they are just having some painting time but in fact they are learning about other things too. In the activity below, they are practicing their painting and printing skills, but learn all about shapes and numbers too with a little guidance.
Prepare an area for painting. Find some cookie cutters that are simple shapes (square, circle etc.) or some plastic shapes from a shape sorter. You could use household recycling such as kitchen roll tubes, the ends of small boxes or plastic pots. Put some different coloured paint into 6 different shallow dishes and place a shape into each one ready to go.
Ask your child to do some printing with the shapes Encourage them to do it neatly, in rows, so the shapes can be easily identified. When they have done a few, then suggest they do an abstract piece of art and drag the shapes, mix the colours and over print the shapes to make something of their choice. Ask them what the picture is? Is is a sunset over hills; is it a dinosaur on the beach? Keep a note of their explanation on the back of the picture.
When all the pictures are dry, have a chat about the shapes and ask some questions.
- Which is the square?
- What is the yellow shape called?
- How many circles are there?
- Which is the biggest shape?
- Which has most sides?
- How many blue shapes are there?
Count and answer the questions together first and then see if your child can do it alone. Display the picture and practice each time you pass by.
Learning can be so much fun and so easy! For lots more ideas for activities, and explanations about learning for parents and childminders, go to ToucanLearn!
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!
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!
There are times when you need to be getting on with preparing the next meal and you have your little ones snapping around your ankles getting ever so slightly in the way - if you can sit them down at a table or on the floor and keep them occupied, then you'll find that you can get on with your work that much more easily! Here's a great idea to help occupy your toddlers in the kitchen...
Take a mixing bowl and add a small handful of three or four different types and shapes of dried pasta - bows, tubes, spirals, twists and so on. Mix them all up. Give your little one a muffin tray and have them sort the pasta back into the right shapes, filling the cups in the muffin tray with each of the different types of pasta. Hopefully this will keep them occupied for some time and they will enjoy this as much as doing a puzzle.
For older children you can make the challenge a little harder by using rice, lentils and other smaller dried foods amongst the pasta.
This is a great activity to let your children loose on every time you want to cook in the kitchen and they want to 'cook' too! This activity incorporates shape matching and encourages their fine motor skills as they have to pick up small pieces of pasta and place them in the right place.
Recent tests demonstrated that children are more likely to eat fruit if it looks good - children were offered the same types and portions of fruit served in different ways; the more 'attractively' presented it was, the more popular it was.
The researchers studied 100 children at schools in the Netherlands and Belgium and discovered that presentation really did matter. The authors say that parents and schools should follow suit and make fruit look appealing in order to encourage children to eat more of it! The children were aged between four and seven years old and were invited to eat apples, strawberries, and grapes.
Here are our suggestions for presenting fruit in fun ways:
Fruity hedgehog - thread fruit pieces onto cocktail sticks and pop into an orange or potato to make a hedgehog. Add a few grapes as eyes and a slice of cucumber as a mouth.
Pretty plate - put the fruit on a special plate. Buy fun shaped plastic plates and always serve fruit on these special plates.
Make fruit fun - serve different colours of fruit and cut into different shapes: strips, cubes, triangles, wedges, rounds.
Fruit face - have your children make funny faces out of their fruit portions
Make a scene - use fruit cut into different shapes to make a scene, maybe a boat on the waves or a house?
Get them involved - ask the children to help choose the fruit at the shop, help peel it if they can and chop it themselves!
Have lots of ideas and do things differently each time - melon boats, melon smiley face with some grapes as eyes and a nose, melon cubes made into a tower!
Do a tasting - select a few fruits and taste them together chatting about which are your favourites.
Introduce new fruits slowly - you have to see and try a new taste seven times before you are familiar with it so research says! Introduce new exotic fruits from time to time.
Baby is best - baby varieties can be sweeter than the larger options (ie baby tomatoes are really super sweet).
Shapes and colours are amongst the first concepts that babies learn and learning them helps to stimulate connections in the brain that will continue to serve your baby as they learn throughout their childhood. Learning both shapes and colours with your baby can be fun for both of you. Here's a fun idea on how to familiarise your baby with both.
Take two potatoes and cut them in half so that at least one of the cross sections makes a circle. Now carve the other faces into a rectangle, square and triangle. You now have four large stampers!
Dip the face of the potatoes in finger paint and stamp different coloured shapes onto a large sheet of paper. Practice the stamping and discuss each shape with your baby - count the sides on the shape and point your finger around each shape as you show them. Start with a single colour and state the colour with each stamp: 'red circle', 'red square', 'red triangle', 'red rectangle'. Wipe the paint off the face each time and then start on another colour.
When you have played with these for a bit, show the effect of mixing colours; demonstrate how two colours mixed together create a different colour. Try mixing various combinations of colours to create a varied array.
Playing with shapes and colours will help to cement these concepts in your child's mind and start them on a learning path that will set them up well for school in a few years!