Tuesday, 29 March 2016

More Toys, Less Toys

Having spent 25 years in childcare, 17 of those years as a childminding and a Mum,  I have amassed a lot of resources over the years and a few years ago reached the stage of questioning how I work, what resources I have out etc. So I started on a journey of change and discovery, as I started to home educate, I came across many beautiful blogs and articles on based on different educational philosophies, Montessori, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason to name a couple. The one thing I took from all these homes/classrooms was the beauty and the simplicity of the learning environment. This simplicity and uncluttered feel really appealed to me and I started to reduce the amount of toys we had out but those that know me well will know I am not a naturally tidy person and tend to squirrel stuff away just in case, so it has not been an easy journey to make and one I am still on but I can see the benefits of it everyday and the changes have had a positive effect on everyone here. During this time I have enjoyed reading many books on simplifying life, childcare etc, these include Simplicity ParentingUnder PressureImagine Childhood, enjoyed doing a Montessori course for childminders as well as lots of online articles. This wasn't about recreating an exact replica of X school etc it was about working out what worked well for my setting and the way I work. So we had a major rearrange when I went back to work after having L, knowing I would be childminding from when she was 6 weeks old, home educating M and started to create the environment I dreamed of but like all dreams they evolve and change to meet everyone's needs. For me less is definitely more, the children engage better and deeper with less resources, they become more imaginative and creative in their play, again this might not work for everyone but feels right for us.

So here are some photos of my setting, it is still a work in progress but we are getting there. These are taken when everything has been tidied away not during a normal work day as sometimes there is no floor space left! I am lucky that I have a couple of units that I can fit baskets or trays under, the basket contains musical instruments and the red tray is in theory baby toys but the older ones like to play, explore and fiddle with them too.

Toys in the bookshelf cupboard.

and the cupboard.

The other end, this cupboard still needs sorting, getting there.

I tend to have a basket of books out that are relevant to the theme we are working.

One of the major changes we have had here is reducing our dressing up clothes, actually we completely changed it. I now have a small basket of silk squares/scarves and coloured muslin squares instead of a large basket of dressing up clothes that lives on a shelf and the children can use.

They have sparked so much creative thinking as to what and how they are going to use them for. 
They have been used for 
  • Cloaks
  • Baby doll slings
  • Wrapped to make dresses/skirts
  • Bedding for baby dolls
  • Yellow square to make a sandpit
  • Blue square to make a paddle pool
  • Butterfly wings
  • Fairy wings
  • Hair
  • Scarves
 to name a few and I have used them to create many story scenes. I have found that the children are more creative than they were with a box of dressing up clothes and the children love trying to make new things with them. Don't get me wrong I do love dressing up clothes but if you haven't a lots of space you have to make a decision on what works best for you and your home/setting. We still have a couple of dressing up outfits - 2 princess dresses, Chinese traditional costume and a couple of high viz vests that come out from time to time.

I have started to look through my many books and really need to go through all the craft stuff, that is mine and the children's and then it will probably time to go through the toys again.

Questions I asked about my environment was :-
  1. Does it work for me
  2. Do I feel relaxed and happy in the room
  3. Do the children play well, is there enough space for what they want to do
  4. Are the children happy and relaxed
  5. How well do the children engage with their environment and resources.
  6. Where and how do they play
  7. What do they like doing
  8. How can I easily adapt the environment to meet their needs and interests
  9. Do you really need 10 baby doll etc ok the answer might be yes but it has to be right for you.
  10. Can the children reach everything they need easily
  11. Can we all tidy up easily
Another lovely blog is Playful Learning they also run some online course, I have decided to try their course Playful Learning Spaces, as I feel it is very relevant to what I am trying recreate here.

I have bought my playsilks from Myriad and I have just discovered Arwen Makes and was chatting to the owner about some of her lovely silks, she will custom make them as well, so think I might me adding a couple too my collection.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016


We spent near enough all day yesterday in the garden, making the most of the lovely warm weather. The children enjoyed running, hopping, jumping and trying to skip up and down the garden as well as playing on the slide and the swings. Then time spent building sandcastles, playing with the dolls and play food. They were also fascinated with the different size daffodils we had, we talked about the different parts of the flower and they could see lots of pollen. I found a good picture showing some of the flower parts

and a more detailed drawing for M.

Seeing their interest yesterday, I thought we would pop into the florist after toddlers to get some white carnations to dye, some tulips and find another flower with obvious stamen that we could take apart and they could see all the parts and compare them. We were so lucky when I asked if they had some carnations and tulips, explaining what they needed them for, she came back with those and a large bunch of flowers, apparently they were all going over so couldn't be used in any of their bouquets etc but we were welcome to them.

So our first experiment was to show how water travels up the plant stem to the petals. I filled a small glass with water and added a lot of blue food colouring and then waited.

After half an hour you could already see that the dyed water had travelled up the stem to the petals.

An hour later the flowers were dyed a lovely blue, even if I do say it myself


and a few hours later even darker blue. 

 We also looked at the tulips and took one apart, looking at the petals, stamen, carpel and pollen. They lined up the petals and stamen and counted them.

 They then enjoyed making patterns and people with the petals etc, this led to much make believe and story telling.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Mother's Day Crafts and Maps

My plan for Wednesday was to make Mother's day cards, which we did but they have also had great fun looking through this wonderful book called Maps. L loves finding out about different countries and luckily so do I and my minded children are really interested too.  After chatting with one of my minded parents, turns out they are the same, so my plan of looking at different countries and maps etc will be well supported. Each country is illustrated with main rivers, mountains etc marked on the map but then lots of other illustrations linked to that country, every time we look at a map again we see something new. Did see they also do a workbook to go with the Map book, L is a bit young for it at them moment but when she is older it might be one to add to our collection.

I also have a couple of sets of toob landmark packs, they are great the children can pick them up and really study them. We have then been naming them, finding which country they are from and then finding the country on our globe. As they were enjoying the buildings so much I found out this book - 13 Buildings Children Should Know and spent more time looking at the different buildings. They seem really interested in China still but also France and Egypt, so we will have a trip to the library to find some books on these countries and then plan some activities around them, as the children are really, really interested. We will still be using the activities from our favourite tales theme as some of them are linked into maps etc and they love stories and crafts.

For our Mother's Day cards, I made a heart template from a piece of cardboard, the children choose what colours and they sponge printed the heart and then wrote in the cards.