Two Can Learn Better than One!

Tags: learning

EYFS In Everything We Do

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: ToucanLearn, Parenting, Child Development, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), Childminders and Childminding , Tags: chores, daily diary, eyfs, learning, routine

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Although the EYFS is a prescriptive programme to help cover a wide variety of development topics, almost everything we do covers aspects of EYFS without even having to try, and that's because EYFS is really gearing us up to learning about the real world.

Take a trip to the supermarket for example, your little ones are learning where their food comes from, they can help find products on the shelves, they help you with the money when you come to pay.  These activities touch elements of health and bodily awareness (PD), place (KUW), and shapes, space and measures and calculating (PSRN).

Picking up siblings or other children from school and chatting with mum's at the school gate aids language (CLL) and sense of community (PSED) as well as helping grow confidence (PSED), the walk alone contributing to Physical Development.

Familiarity with the goals of EYFS will let you turn every routine task or chore into a learning game.  Accentuate the lessons across the different areas of the EYFS and at every step you will be nurturing your children in understanding the world, their place within, and in how everything works. Don't forget to log the lessons learned in your Daily Diary at ToucanLearn!

Ice Cream Fun!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Food, Drink and Eating, Kids Activities , Tags: fruit, ice cream, learning, sprinkles, texture, words

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An ice cream cone full of lovely swirly ice cream can be an expensive treat for little ones when you are out, so why not save the money, invest in some treats and serve unique ice creams at home instead!

Get some ice cream cones and simple vanilla ice cream.  Invite the children to use a spoon to ease out some ice cream and mash it down into the cone.

Put a selection of the following in some little dishes and let the children create!

  • Coloured or chocolate sprinkles
  • Chocolate buttons
  • Fruit drops
  • Blueberries or raspberries or strawberries
  • Fruity sauce

Invite your little ones to be creative... look into the dishes and describe the shape and colour of what they see.  Pink and yellow strands, brown round buttons etc.  You could let them taste each one too and ask what it tastes like?  Then, let them loose to decorate their ice creams

This activity is learning new words (as well as enjoying a tasty treat!) so for each bowl use and encourage words to describe what you are doing.  "Sprinkle" the coloured sprinkles; "pop in" the chocolate buttons; "dip" in the fruit drops; "place" the berries; "dollop" the sauce etc.

Talk about the texture of the ice cream and the taste of the toppings.  Use lovely descriptive words that describe the what your doing in a new and fun way.

Choose Me, Miss!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Child Development , Tags: bbc, class, dylan william, hands up, learning, london university institute of education, school

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In schools where children are banned to put their hands up in class, the pupils learn twice as fast according to an experiment carried out last year where children were told not to put up their hands. In a class of 13 year olds, it improved their academic performance and they learned quicker when not made to answer teachers questions by raising their hand. Instead they were all told to write their answer on white boards on their desks and lift the boards at the same time to show the teacher their answers.

The study was carried out for a BBC documentary.  The new way of working helped not only the shy and less able pupils but it also helped the more confident child too.

The study was led by Professor Dylan William, deputy director of the London University Institute for Education. He admitted the children and teachers did not like the new system at the start. Bold students missed showing off that they knew the answers, uninterested children had to actually contribute and work, and teachers too had to chance their way of working.

The study also found that making the students exercise at the start of each day also helped with their performance. Children worked together more and the dynamic of the class changed for the better.

21st Century Skill Set!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Parenting, Health , Tags: bike, computers, digital age, games, learning, physical, television

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It has been found that children today are more likely to be able to use a mouse to play a game on a computer, than tie their shoe laces or ride a bike.

While it seems a shame that so many can't or won't ride a bike, is it really their fault?  After all, it the parents who put them in front of the computer and are pleased when they learn to use it.   It's the parents who use their iPhone in front of the children or encourage them to play a game to 'keep them quiet' and it's the parents again who are not helping them tie shoe laces by providing them with velcro fastening shoes!  But, as long as parents try to show and teach a balanced way of life (a bit of TV and a bit of swimming; a game on the computer then a nice blowy walk) then it's great that our children are being exposed to such brilliant and creative technology that computers provide.

The research published information that suggested 70% of children aged 2-5 can play computer games but that only 20% of them could swim on their own.  Well, to be honest, the stats may sound threatening, but swimming unaided is actually a great deal more tricky to master at 5 than using a computer which is, after all, very simple to use, and the type of games the children play are specifically designed for children... It's not rocket science to suggest this might be the case!

S0me people suggest that in this digital age, children's skills are being measured by their ability on a computer.  It says that parents are too busy or too lazy to help their children learn practical and physical skills.  This is rather harsh.  The fact remains that we do live in a digital world.  It's not negotiable.  We have to embrace the digital age or we simply won't be able to function!  What we need to do is teach them all the traditional values and skills in addition to all the new-fangled ones.  Then we will develop balanced and well rounded young people who don't sit in front of the TV all day, but who can ride bikes, swim but also use a computer.

What is a Smartboard?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Learning Play, Preschool Children , Tags: education, games, ict, interactive whiteboard, learning, smartboard, teaching, technology, television

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If your children attend a nursery, there's a good chance that they come home talking about what they've done on a smartboard, and you're possibly left wondering what on earth a smartboard is?! Classroom technology has shifted from blackboards to whiteboards, through acetate projectors and onto computer projectors. The smartboard is your children's generation classroom presentation equipment!

A smartboard is an interactive whiteboard.  A computer projects a video display onto a touch sensitive screen and children and teachers can interact with the screen using their fingers or special 'pens', which may also have buttons on like a mouse.  Smartboards can be used for a variety of purposes including:-

  • watching television and videos
  • playing interactive games
  • drawing and writing
  • story telling

At one level a smartboard can be used just as a large screen for a computer, but it is enhanced with interactive games that allow people to interface in all sorts of fun ways.

In nursery schools, smartboards are often used for projecting children's TV programmes, telling stories (sometimes interactive) and for educational games to introduce colours, numbers, letters, shapes and other basic learning.

All of this is introducing children to information and communication technology from the age of 3 years and upwards.  There's no doubt that children are growing up in a world very different from the one we grew up in; by the time they are starting school at the age of 5, most children already have varied exposure to computers, ICT and numerous digital gadgets!

Get Kids Enthusiastic About Books

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Child Development , Tags: books, fun, learning, playing, reading

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Whether they are learning to read, just looking at the pictures or starting to sound out letters, whatever stage your child is at, it is vital to get them enthusiastic about books. No matter the style of book, whether it is the latest release or an old favourite from your own childhood, or if it is from a book shop, a library or is borrowed - get them excited about books. Here are some easy ways!

Bring it alive: That doesn't just mean fun voices and emotion in your voice when you read... why not introduce some sensory experience too.  If it's a book about a fish, swimming in rough water, panting to get to the party on time to eat cake... why not get them to take their socks off and paddle in a few inches of water in the bath, then run on the spot and have a mouthful of cake for them to eat along with the characters!

Pictures: There are some super illustrations in children's books, so sometimes just look at the pictures.  Spot things, talk about what's not mentioned in the story but that feature in the pictures.  Focus on one thing and make up your own little story.

Familiar books: If you have read a book too many times for your liking, talk about changing the ending and decide what else could happen.  Change the character and discuss how different animals or people would make the story different.

Other means: Try all sorts of books, cloth books, out sized books, ones with lots of words or just a few.  No matter the age of your child, they will get something out of looking or reading a new book, even if its not officially aimed at their age.

Get everyone involved: If you have family visiting get them to read a book or if your little one is starting to read, get them to read to your family or act out their favourite book.  Do a puppet show with teddies or dress up in the characters and do a version as a play.

Library: The library will have books in different forms: A book you may have read may also be available in audio CD/spoken word format or as a cartoon or film on DVD.  Use these formats too.

Write your own story together: Take some photos of things and print them.  Then create your own story.  Write the words in a book, stick in the pictures and it will become your own, unique masterpiece!

Inspire your Child to Love Reading

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play , Tags: books, learning, play, reading

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Teaching your child to enjoy reading, to love stories and grow their imagination is really a very easy thing to do and you will both reap the rewards.  Reading is not only essential at school but it is great fun too!

  • Get your child to choose the book or at least the topic to read about.
  • Treat them occasionally to magazines to get them interested in different sorts of books and words and the way words and stories are presented.
  • Go to the library; ask friends about good books that have inspired them and try to get hold of some.
  • Swap good books with your children's friends... like a kiddie book club!
  • Make sure your child sees you read: whether it be books, magazines, papers etc.  They will learn from seeing you.
  • Do research on things together: look up on the internet or go to the library together is something has triggered a thought.
  • Keep books around the place so they see them as part of every day life.  And, keep the children's books at a height they can reach!
  • Reward your child when they do start to read and show them how pleased you are for them.
  • Make time each day to read together - even once your child is reading independently its still nice to read a book
  • Make it fun and enjoy reading together!

Tell Us A Story!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Parenting , Tags: books, characters, fun, learning, reading, stories, story, voices, words

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There are lots of ways to liven up story time, both for you and your little one!  Try some of these tips!

  • Do the voices!  You may think you sound silly, but children LOVE it when you do the funny voices for different characters in the story you are reading!  Make them laugh, and they will enjoy reading, words, communicating and the story itself even more!
  • Have a special time of day for stories.  This means you won't forget to have stories and you'll both get used to the time slot as part of your routine.
  • Read in different places as a treat.  Hide in the shed and read a story or go out to the park with warm coats and some warm milk and read there!
  • Theme your stories. If you know your little one likes farms, then get some farm or animal books and read them one day at a local farm!  Go look for pigs as you read about them in the book etc.  Bring it all to life!
  • Keep them alert!  Ask questions as you go along: how many sheep in the field; What colour is the ball? etc.
  • Recap at the end of the story.  Go over the story together to make sure they have understood.
  • At the end, go back through the book together and find out which bits were best, which pictures were most fun, what happened next?
  • Don't force them.  Encourage them to want to hear a story, but don't force them if they are overly reluctant otherwise they won't enjoy stories!
  • Let them make choices!  Get them to choose the book themselves.  Look at it together and make sure its a good one etc!
  • And, most importantly... have fun!

Stumbling over Words

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Health, Child Development , Tags: doctor, learning, speech, speech therapy, talking, words

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For many children, speech comes naturally - they babble sounds and copy words spoken to them, then they start saying a few words on their own and before you know it they are speaking in sentences and chatting to anyone who will listen.

However, sometimes they stumble over consonants and make errors especially if they get excited or are constructing a long sentence.  They ask for some "ninner" rather than "dinner" or say "wellow" rather than "yellow".  But this is perfectly normal.  There is nothing to worry about .

For many, it is simply that they don't have the muscle co-ordination to enunciate properly.  Or it may be a new word that they need to practice.  Or they are just trying out a new sound.  In each case, try not to make an issue of it.  Just repeat the word back to the correctly.  Do you want some Dinner? The ball is Yellow, isn't it.

Between 18 months and about 3, it is natural that toddlers will make mistakes.  They are exploring new word sounds and beginning to remember which letter sounds make up which words.  They may even correct themselves if a word doesn't sound right.

Once they hit three, most of their words should be perfectly understandable, with a few errors here and there.

If however your child seems not to talk much, or even never,then you should consult a GP just to ensure everything is OK.

If they are still making frequent errors by age six, you may wish to ask you GP about it, just to be sure.  Speech problems, may hide a hearing problem or indeed a learning issue that a doctor can help with.  A speech therapist can offer exercises and game sto help with muscle control and speech formation.


Fine Rhyme Time!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play , Tags: games, learning, rhyming, sounds, words

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Rhyming words can be great fun for children - they make the words they say, and new words they learn, sound happy and sing-song!  The easiest words to rhyme are short words of one syllable, words like pig, dig; fat, cat, far car, see, me.

How to introduce rhyming games:

Nursery Rhymes - Get hold of some nursery rhyme books and have some fun learning and acting them out.  Dress up as the characters and act the words.

Make up your own rhymes - Change the words to existing rhymes to make them your own.  Add in the name of your child if you can as that will be very exciting for them!

Find a Rhyme -  Find things that rhyme.  So, hold a block and go find a clock.  Hold a pen and find a picture of a hen!

Word Catch - Think of a word: 'go' for example.  Throw or roll a ball to each other and as you get the ball, you have to say a word that rhymes with the first word.  Go, so, throw, row, tow, bow etc.  See how far you can go,then change the word.

Word swap - purposely swap words around that rhyme and try to guess the proper word.  So, say something like, I am hungry; I need my 'bunch'.  And, try and get your little one to guess you mean 'lunch'!


Get Them Writing!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play , Tags: labels, learning, letters, words

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Once pre-schoolers get interested in letters and sounds and writing, there is so much you can do to encourage them and inspire them to really enjoy the idea of writing and learning about words.  Here are a few easy ideas to introduce words into their everyday life.

  1. Menu: Write a list of what's for breakfast; a choice of cereals, toast and spreads etc.  Ask them to match the words on the menu with the words on the milk carton, jam jar etc.  Look at the letters together and make a match.
  2. Name cards: If you have some friends or family over to dinner, write out some name cards.  Write each person's name on a piece of card and place it around the table.  Ask you little one to help with this and decide who sits where.
  3. Tea party: Get some tea things ready (sandwich, cake, tomato, cucumber) and write on some paper what each thing is.  Stick the labels onto some cocktail sticks and ask your child to poke the labels into the appropriate food.
  4. Headed paper: Take some paper and write or print your child's name at the top in fancy writing.  This can be used for thank you notes or letters.  Get them to decorate it or colour in the letters of their name.
  5. Labels: Write some labels for items round the house: television, door, window, sink etc and ask your child to attach the labels with tape or blue tack to the right things.  Take the labels off after a day or so and see if they can re-attach them on their own.  They will eventually recognise the words and match them on their own.
  6. Letter spot: If you are reading a newspaper or magazine, see if your child can recognise some of the letters in the headlines.  Show them and look at the letters and easy words together.  Cut some out and make a sign or send a message made of letters cut from a newspaper.

World Wide Reference

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Learning Play, Preschool Children , Tags: encyclopedia, illustrations, internet, learning, pictures, reference, world wide web

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The World Wide Web provides the most amazing reference to help our children learn about and understand the world.  Going back a generation to our own childhood, you would be lucky to have an illustrated encyclopedia, suddenly we have a live reference where we can find information and pictures not only on anything in the past, but on everything new in breaking news stories.

Talk with your toddlers and preschoolers about world events that help to teach topical awareness.  Talk with your children about natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, flooding and famine.  Describe how lucky for what they have and that not everyone is so fortunate.  When stories of natural disasters unfold on the news, talk about the issues and show them pictures and videos on the World Wide Web.  Obviously avoid showing imagery that is too distressing, and drop the topic if it begins to cause anxiety in your little ones.

You can also use the World Wide Web to augment teaching and understanding of other topics that you cover.  When learning colours, look for pictures predominantly portraying each colour.  When learning about animals, the sea, space, food or any other topic, find pictures online to give your little one a proper understanding.  If you have a smartphone with web access, you can even find explanations  and reference pictures when you're out and about and your little one asks a searching question!

Today's children are growing up in a world that we wouldn't have predicted when we were young, knowledge is available instantly and by sharing that with your children, they have the potential to learn and understand at a faster pace than has ever been possible before!

Why Encourage Children to Play as they Grow Older?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, ToucanLearn, Child Development , Tags: babies, fun, learning, playing, toddlers

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Surely, once children begin to read or learn their numbers they should be doing that in their spare time, rather than playing?  This couldn't be further from the truth!  In fact, children that play tend to become better and more attentive learners on average, and what you must remember is that when chidren are playing, the are learning the whole time too!  This is what ToucanLearn is all about... sharing ideas of games, activities and crafts that are GREAT FUN, but we show you the learning elements too so you can see exactly what your little ones are actually learning about.  As they are doing the activities with you, they are learning even more (Two CAN Learn much better than one)!

Do you need special equipment at each age stage in order to encourage your child to play?

NO!  Play can involve anything (more or less!).  From wooden spoons and saucepans, to folded socks and a washing basket!  It can mean jumping in puddles to learn counting or throwing gloves to see how far you can get them or posting junk mail into a shoe box made into a letter box.  All sorts of things can be used as long as you are there to help the game along!

What do children learn through play?

They learn about the properties of objects and how they work.  That if you throw something hard, it will go far.  They learn about their own limitations: they may be great on the scooter but not so confident on a bike.  They learn about their environment (stairs and steps) and other places (on a walk to the park).  They learn how to play with other children and how to interact with adults.

Will playing make them better at school?

Many studies have concluded that children that play with their parents are more curious and interested in learning.  Playing is a great way to get them active and interested.  It may also help their social skills and helps develop healthy relationships with other children.

Plus, possibly most importantly, by playing with your children, you are developing and securing your won relationship with them - which is absolutley vital.

So, just get out there and do some ToucanLearn activities, fool around, have a laugh and enjoy these special years when playing can be so much fun for your both!

Friends and Family

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Parenting, Child Development, Family , Tags: cultures, family, friends, interests, learning, siblings

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Having friends and spending time with family is important for a child's development, not just because its fun, but because it's a great way for them to learn more from different people who do things in different ways.  Grandad knows all about birds and nature, Granny is great at cooking, Uncle Joe is funny and makes us camps, Aunty Caroline is brilliant at horse riding and lets us try.  When children and toddlers are with other people, they watch and learn just as much as when they are with you and its good for them to experience other homes and families.


Try and find out what special skills or interests family members have; especially older generations.  Encourage them to teach your children or just spend time with them telling them stories about how thinkgs used to be!  It's so valuable to learn about different cultures and people that spending time with our families can be interesting and beneficial for you all.

Similar Aged Children

When they are with other children the same age existing skills can be developed or new things discovered.  They communicate, and understand and negotiate.  They may squabble but try to find a solution and come to a decision.  Try not to interfere and leave them to work out their problems.  Obviously if they start fighting, then intervene!

Older Children

When they are with older children, they may be nurtured or guided by them and can learn about new things and games.  Older children can be very caring towards younger ones and can be great teachers.  The younger children see this and copy.  Older children can also be great academic teachers.  See the 5 year old teaching a younger 3 year old how to hold a pencil and do a "loop-de-doop" in order to learn and write an "o".

Encouraging siblings to teach and help each other:

  1. Get them to read to each other.  The younger can look at the pictures and tell the story.  The older can try and read the words.
  2. Leave them!  Try not to interrupt - even if it's to say well done!  Let them get on with it.
  3. Praise them!  Say well done, especially to the child who is teaching, as it will make them feel very proud of their efforts and encourage them to do it again!
  4. Encourage imaginative play: allow them to make a camp or splash around in water outside.
  5. Try not to jump in as soon as there is a squabble.  Keep a distance and they will sort it out!

Why Won't My Baby Play?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Learning Play, Child Development , Tags: activities, baby, learning, play, toddlers, toys

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For many months a new born baby will not be interested in playing with their toys - no matter how colourful the toys or encouraging you are, toys are not something they seem really interested in.  Until the age of one, most babies will not be able or interested to play alone for very long.

In the early days, you will be far more interesting to your baby.  They'll want to follow you round with their eyes, try to mimic what you do, be around you and it's a great time to spend quality time together.  Even if baby does begin to enjoy playing with toys, make sure you are always near so you can share with the experience.

Toys present only one small way that children learn about the world and their place within it.  The brain develops more in the first two years of life than at any time.  Playing and interacting without people is the way babies learn.

How do Babies Learn?

As babies learn to reach and hold things, they become more interested in toys.  "What happens if I bang this?"  "What a soft feel this teddy has."  "I like the sound of that."

Then, they realise they can make things happen themselves.  "If I drop this, it makes a noise and someone will come and pick it up.", "If I shout, someone comes.".

Playing, chatting and singing of course is the way children babies learn about speaking and language.  From birth they hear your voice, the sounds of music, the noise of cars and talking.  All these influences go on to combine to make up their knowledge and understanding of words and language.  They pretend to chat on the phone, they sing and babble.

What Toys Could You Buy for a 6 month old?

Toys that are tactile and feel nice are always good.  Choose things with lots of bright colours and lots of fun shapes and sizes, things that make a noise and things that are easy to hold.

... and for a 12 month old?

Try things that move or pop open or have doors that shut, this begins to teach cause and effect: if I press this, then that happnes.  Physical aparatus to encourage moving is also fun at this age: tunnels and tents.

... and for an 18 month old?

There are thousands of manufactured toys for toddlers, such as building blocks, role play toys (phone, kitchen), puzzles and games, outdoor equipment and so on. But remember you are the best thing for a baby to play with!  There are so many things you can so easily do together:

  • Play in the baby bath with water and bubbles
  • Sit and read books together
  • Listen to music
  • Have some rough and tumble: swing your baby through the air, have a dance together
  • Go to the park: have a go on the slide, swings and climbing frames
  • Study leaves and flowers together, feel the texture and look at the shapes and colours
  • Look at photographs of people you know
  • Look through colourful chldren's catalogues and just chat about what you see

Lots of simple, easy, and non-expensive ways to spend time together.  Who needs toys?!

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Hi! I'm Tikal the Toucan, the mascot for ToucanLearn. Follow my blog to find out interesting things relating to babies, toddlers and preschool children!

Sign up FREE to ToucanLearn to follow our activity based learning programme for babies, toddlers and children. We offer hundreds of fun learning craft, games and activities - every activity is aimed at the capabilities of your specific children. Download custom activity sheets, and log their progress in each child's unique Daily Diary!

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Fill in our Daily Diary to log progress against the EYFS and add photo entries instantly simply by sending them straight from your phone. You can share diaries back with parents or childminders so that everyone can enjoy watching your children develop.

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