Dinosaur Investigation Table

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Invite your child to explore the world of dinosaurs (or any other of their interests) by setting up this simple Investigation Table.

I don’t know if I have mentioned this before, but my T has a serious obsession with Thomas The Tank Engine. I cannot stress enough how passionate he is about Thomas. We now own ALL the Thomas dvds, books and puzzles that are on the market, as well as a ridiculous number of trains and track pieces. We have had oodles of fun playing trains. I really could probably write an entire blog JUST on train play, but this amazing lady has already done that. I stumbled across her blog a while back and it is truly mind-blowing how many brilliant ideas she has come up with to play with trains and track.  It’s well worth a look if your little one is into trains – she has some fantastic ideas for getting all sorts of learning into your train play.

Anyway, I have reached the point where I feel we (well, mostly I) need to expand our horizons a bit with just *some* non-train play (is that too much to ask?). Of course there is no point in trying to push a child into anything – they will follow their own interests. Luckily, thanks to a new Thomas film that involves fossils, T has now begun to show an interest in dinosaurs. Hooray! This is a very exciting moment for me. I love dinosaur stuff!

When I taught in a Nursery, we always had what we called the Project Table. Here we displayed objects, books, words and pictures related to our half-termly Theme, and the children loved exploring the stuff on the table. I have been thinking about setting one of these up for a while, to encourage him to explore his interests even further. With only one table, which we use for pretty much everything – painting, messy play, drawing, sticking, play-dough, reading, doing puzzles – I need to be able to set it out and tidy it away easily. I also want it to change a bit so there are different activities and play invitations on different days.

Here is how I set it up: I covered the table with a length of green felt and put up a dinosaur poster I picked up for £1 at the library.  Then I added an upturned basket, some toy dinosaurs, shiny blue card for a lake and some brown felt for a muddy swamp.  I used some magnetic letters to write the word dinosaur, as a simple letter matching activity, and added some dinosaur information books.  When I need to clear the table away, all I do is scoop the objects into the basket and fold up the felt.  Here is how it looks right now:

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I just thought I would share this as you could easily set up your own investigation table on any subject really, with a basket, some felt, a poster and some books.  My big plan is to have a sort of dinosaur “play box” to keep all this stuff in, and to create different play boxes for different themes.  As T gets older, I know that he will have more input into how the table is set up, and what goes into it. Right now, I cannot predict how this table will evolve, as it all depends on where his interests and ideas take us…but that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it?

Now that we have it all set up…watch this space for more dinosaur stuff..! And thank you for stopping by, as always :-).

Marianne x

Draw A Story (a simple mark-making game for 2-6 year olds)

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This Invitation To Play with crayons and toys encourages mark-making, and also develops creativity, mapping and story-telling skills.

T’s imagination is developing more and more. He loves telling stories with his trains, his puppets, his little dinosaurs and animals. This Draw-A-Story game was one of my favourite activities in Reception Class, because it is versatile and easy to set up, at a moment’s notice. It is an Invitation To Play.

I am a big fan of Invitations To Play. For me, this is exactly what Early Years teaching is all about: provision (as opposed to instruction). You provide the resources for play, presenting them in different ways to inspire play.  Then you come alongside the children, provide a simple prompt or a bit of modelling, then let them play! Invitations to play match the principles behind the Reggio theory of education, which sees the environment as “the third teacher”. If you are interested in this sort of thing, this lady has written a useful, informative post on how to create inviting small world scenes, and she talks a bit about the educational thinking behind them.

So here’s how I used to set up “Draw A Story”:

Very simply, I would cover a table with paper, and add crayons/colouring pencils/pens and some small world animals/mini beasts/people/dinosaurs. Sometimes the children might need a little verbal prompting to get started with their story, so I would ask a question, like: “who lives here?” or “where is the ladybird going?”. This would either prompt creative mark-making or story-mapping (mapping a familiar story)…or both! It is so fun and open-ended, that it prompts even the most reluctant scribblers to do some meaningful mark-making. It really supports creative thinking too, something I am a huge fan of. Here is what I gathered together to draw our story this time:

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And a roll of masking tape, for taping to the storage unit.  This isn’t in the photo but is very important to keep the paper from moving around and distracting your little one.

It was SO last minute – there was no thought put into which characters we would have in the story. I always have a basket of small world characters in his storage unit to get out and play with, so I just grabbed a random handful of these. In this case, it meant he could just get creative and use his imagination. But you could also use this activity to explore specific themes together, such as ocean creatures, mini beasts, construction sites, knights and castles. There really is no limit on your choice of subject. The paper is from a roll of wallpaper lining paper that I bought from a hardware store. It’s perfect for large scale mark-making, which is so important for little ones, as they need the space for those gross motor movements (which underpin their fine motor skills).

Here is our story (prompted by me, continued by T):

Once upon a time, there was a dragon. The dragon had been flying around all day capturing princesses, and was feeling quite thirsty. But there wasn’t any water around. So T drew a lake for him to drink from. Then he wanted a tree next to the lake, and drew this too.drawastory4

T then brought more characters to the lake to drink. Then the dragon decided he wanted a snack, so he chomped on the dinosaur” bibi” (biscuit). After a while, an elephant came stomping along, and he wanted to jump in a muddy puddle. So T drew an enormous muddy puddle with two crayons.

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The animals all splashed about so much that they made some bubbles…but T wasn’t interested in drawing those. That’s because he had found a car. The car wanted to go on a journey but it had no road, so T drew a really long road for it. (I was especially pleased about this as he hasn’t been so keen on drawing lines for a while). The car then drove along the road and chased all the animals to the edge!

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The End.

I’m not saying it was the best story..! T is no J K Rowling. But it was lots of fun, and each bit of the story was completely driven by his imagination (apart from the initial prompt). The added bonus was: it got him making marks!

I can’t wait to offer this invitation again soon. It is such a beautifully open-ended, limitless activity.

Variations:
For older or more experienced children, it’s fun to provide plasticine, building blocks or Lego to create a 3d story map.

Learning Taking Place (from the UK Early Years Foundation Stage Guidance)
Literacy – Writing – make meaningful marks (pre-writing skill),
Communication & Language – Speaking – develop their own narratives, connecting ideas and events (speaking)
Expressive Arts & Design – Being Imaginative – represent their own ideas using stories and role play
Physical Development – Moving & Handling – handle crayons and toys effectively, with control and co-ordination
What story will you draw with your little one today?
Marianne x

8 Cute Things To Do With Your Toddler On Valentine’s Day

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What do you do to celebrate Valentines Day with a toddler? I have just made a little list with a few last minute cute ideas here for you:

1. Read “Guess How Much I Love You”. If you don’t have the book, here is a lovely video of the book.

2. Sing Skinni Marinki.  I absolutely adore this song and  always sing it when T is under the weather or a bit sad to cheer him up.

3. Bake heart-shaped cookies

4. Or use a heart-shaped cutter to make heart pancakes! We are big pancake fans in this house so often do this with star-shaped cutters.

5. Make some Heart Art and give to Mummy/Daddy. If you want some ideas, check out my Pinterest board here.

6. Look at photos of family and friends and talk about how many people we love and who loves us.

7. Skype a family member with an “I love you” message

8. Send a video message by phone to a friend to show how much you care.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Marianne x

11 Games To Entertain a Toddler AND a Baby

Reblogging as some fb subscribers say it didn’t pop up in their newsfeed 🙂 x

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Try these 11 simple games to keep both your toddler and baby happy and stimulated.

Introducing…Baby H

Hello everyone, and Happy New Year!

This is a very special new year for me, as our family of three has now become four! I am very pleased to announce the arrival of the latest addition to our boy-heavy household: our enormous, beautiful H.  Wow – was I ever glad to meet him!  It was a long, uncomfortable Summer for me.   I found pregnancy with a toddler so challenging that I pretty much stopped writing.  Those of you who wrote lovely supportive comments when I felt well enough to write again – thank you for making me feel useful and not alone. For me, carrying a baby has felt a bit like transporting ‘The One True Ring’ to Mordor – it is the most precious thing any woman can carry, and the burden…

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