1. A couple of weeks ago my youngest child turned five.  Five!  Where did that time go?? 

    Now we don't do big birthdays every year in our house.  We normally have a big family and friends first birthday, smaller family parties at 2-4yrs, a big fifth birthday then day trips/small family parties or sleepovers for 6-9yrs then a bigger tenth birthday (although my nearly ten year old is still deciding).  

    Due to an illness in the family, the big first birthday party we'd planned for our youngest had to be cancelled a couple of days beforehand and she ended up blowing out her candles on a store-bought chocolate cake from Woolies in between visits to hospital and since then, it doesn't much feel like any fuss has been made about her birthday.  So armed with a fair amount of mother guilt, this birthday was going to be different!

    As you can probably tell by now, this post is all about home this week as we share our rainbow butterfly inspired 5th birthday party.


    I am a list maker so after being given the 'rainbow butterfly' brief, I started planning a few weeks out from the party after finding myself in Adelaide for the day without kids.  I grabbed gifts for the party bags and pass the parcel from Kmart and IKEA.  I also found some cute butterfly invites and some rainbow party bags at Kidszone on Unley (love that shop!).



    We'd seen these butterfly wings at IKEA last time we were there and thought they'd make a perfect gift for our guests.  Even better, they were getting rid of the last few so they were slightly cheaper again.  I also found these super cute bag tags which I thought would be perfect in the pass the parcel. 




    After a few goes at this, I've realised that putting edible treats in each layer is not smart as then everyone stops to eat instead of playing.  These would also form part of their party bags too at the end of the party.



    In the centre of the pass the parcel, I like to have something different to finish.  This year, I grabbed one of these from Kmart. 
     
    It did make the starting parcel rather large though after we added 17 more layers!  My eldest child suggested playing pass the parcel in our trampoline - genius!  It was very windy during the party and the net trapped all the paper and then provided even more entertainment afterwards too :)
     


    So finally the day had arrived!  I'd done as much as I could in the days beforehand.  I'd made lots of different finger food for lunch - pinwheels, mini pizzas, zucchini bites, sausage rolls, fairy bread and bought more - party pies and chicken nuggets.
     


    I'd made jelly cups and cupcakes the night before.  I'd also made up some extra lolly bags for those siblings that might come along.  You can see them at the bottom of our rainbow lolly jar.  I found this jar for $6 at a local discount store and thought I could fill it with a rainbow of lollies to decorate the table.  Turns out that finding blue lollies is near impossible but I think it turned out okay.
     

     

    I'd also baked the cake the night before.  I cheated a bit, I used four packets of basic cake mix.  I learnt after making my first born's cake from scratch that some shortcuts are okay.  I mixed two packets at a time and then added seven equal amounts to some large ziplock bags before colouring them.   I could have made one of those fancy seven layered cakes we've all seen on Pinterest but this was much easier, quicker and surprisingly fun at 10 o'clock at night.




    On the morning of the party I started by cutting out the shape of the butterfly from the two cakes, iced them all over with plain butter cream then added coloured sprinkles to hide the sides.  I then coloured the remaining icing into seven different colours.  I use the paste colours as they give you such intense colour without having to use very much.  I then used a small amount on the end of a palette knife to spread onto the cake starting from the outside working into the centre.
     
    



    I could have taken more time and made it perfectly symmetrical but the birthday girl was more than happy with it and helped add the M&M's to the body.  It was one of the easiest cakes I've ever made and I loved the finished product.
























    Cutting into the cake revealed the swirling rainbow colours inside which suitably impressed out 4-5yr old audience ;)
     



    Everything else had been done.  The party bags were out, the decorations were up, the butterfly making station had suitable amounts of glitter, balloons had been taken up to the top of the drive and there was a quiet shady spot to play.  We were ready for our guests!



    On arriving, everyone was given their wings and could explore for a while.  We then played our first party game.  We'd made some paper butterflies earlier in the week using our liquid watercolours.  We tried to paint every page a different combination of colours then once dry, cut out simple butterfly shapes.  

    I then cut each of the butterflies in half and my two older children hid them around the garden waiting to be found and put back together.





    After having a bit more time to play, we had lunch before playing pass the parcel.  The weather had closed in after that so most of the kids headed inside (not ideal) but this is the reason I didn't wash the floors before the party!  We went back outside to light the candles on the cake and sing 'Happy Birthday and before we knew it, parents were arriving to collect their children.
     
    My top five ways to make a child's party more manageable?
     
    1. Make a plan as early as you can.
    2. Do as much as you can from that plan before the party.
    3. Ask for help whether it be from other family or friends to lighten your load.
    4. Stop looking at Pinterest!  Yes, you might find another idea that you hadn't thought of but it might also make you feel like none of your own ideas are worth doing.
    5. Try to relax and enjoy the day.  It's your day too after all!

    I was very fortunate that my eldest two children and their two invited guests helped out a great deal during the party making sure no-one was left out and that everyone was kept busy playing games.  I was incredibly proud of them both and it certainly made for a much more relaxing day than it could have been leaving me to organise the food. 
    What other tips can you share to make a child's birthday party relaxing? 




    
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  2. 'I wrote to the zoo to send me a pet...' and so begins one of my (and my kids) favourite books.  'Dear Zoo' is a must have book in your home library. 




    This past week, we've been reading 'Dear Zoo' at preschool as it's a perfect book for early readers in so many ways. 

    Firstly, because of its subject matter.  Lots of children have either been to a zoo, read about a zoo, watched Madagascar or seen animals on TV.  They can easily make connections and for those that can't, the book provides plenty of opportunity for sharing experiences during group time by those who can - who has been to a zoo?  What was it like?  What animals did you see there?  What animal was your favourite?  And so on.  I've written about activating prior knowledge before.  You can read that post by clicking here.

    Secondly, because of its language.  It's simple, repetitive, beautifully descriptive and, perhaps best of all, funny.  It is a great read aloud and a great one to read to a child sitting on your lap, the two styles not always being the case.  The lift-the-flaps make it engaging and suspenseful read both ways.  At home we used to make the animal sounds to match and depending on your group size, you can try that at school.  With numbers over 30 in each group, I haven't gone there ;)  Instead after we have read the book a couple of times, I get them to finish each sentence - 'I wrote to the zoo to send me a pet.  They sent me an...'  'Elephant!' they yell back. 

    Thirdly, I love this book for the vocabulary it allows us to talk about. During group time I've also used this aspect of the book to have children make different connections and comparisons.  Again, this is something you would do after a few readings but not on every page.  I read the book aloud, page by page and then I pause and ask a few different children if they can name something that is big or something that is tall or too jumpy. 

    There's also been lots of different invitations to play around the centre for children to explore.  Imaginative or small world play is a staple in my house and in my classroom (I've shared many to an album on FB) and 'Dear Zoo' lends itself beautifully to this type of play.  This space has been so popular but think we'll try to introduce some more natural elements this week.  The zoo printable and editable Welcome to the Zoo poster can be found at Early Learning HQ.





    The children have also been making stripy zebras using the tape resist method and fine brushes to add the stripes.  They've been sorting the animals by size -




    They were making patterns with some other printables and dressing up like animals using some costumes I made a few years ago.



    They could sort the animals into two hoops labelled farm and zoo, do a numbered animal puzzle or weigh the different animals from the book. 




    Anything with paint is popular at the moment so we've been introducing lots of different objects to paint or produce prints with.  The plastic animals have been very popular so we decided to make animal prints a bit like these ones at Teach Preschool.  It's a great activity for promoting reasoning - why are the elephant's footprints so much bigger?  The kids also enjoyed making their own version of the book to take home to share.  I'd found this printable story wheel over at L.C.SLP blog and with many children still learning how to master their scissors, this provided some useful cutting practice too.
    
    Photo credit - L.C.SLP

    It's also been interesting observing the work of children done at the easel compared to the tabletop easels when painting these past few weeks. Their work becomes more detailled and images sometime mirror that of their tablemate. With that in mind, and feeling inspired by Picklebums latest drawing invitation post, I've create a few different drawing invitations for preschool.  I found some images of empty zoo enclosures on Google and created five different canvases to draw on.  I imagine these would work well as a literacy centre too.  As the images are not mine, please forgive me for not providing a printable version of these but this is how they looked.







    Another one I've made is this lift the flap drawing prompt.  Just print it out and the stick on a flap of coloured paper for the children to draw behind.  This one you can download a copy of here.



    I've also made a couple of other printables to help capture some data for assessments.  They would also work as a maths centre - here is the link to download it.



     

    Or there's this one for matching.



    Some of you will notice the links to the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) on each of these printables.  Here in Australia where I teach, the EYLF is the national curriculum from birth til starting school.  At the centre I work at, some of this work may be kept to create a portfolio of the child's work along with photos, observations, artwork and anything else the children would like saved.

    During group time, we do a range of different activities.  We've viewed 'Dear Zoo' on youtube which the kids loved.




    We've sung songs about animals, any ones with actions are being well received at the moment - Leo the Lion, Five Joeys Jumping, One Grey Elephant Balancing, Wombat Wobble.  We've used stuffed animals to help us sort their names by syllable as demonstrated in this Word Game clip.




    We've played Sleeping Animals which is requires everyone to lie down firstly, pretending to be fast asleep.  While the children are lying quietly, you tell them that when the music starts and they wake up, they will be bouncing kangaroos, snappy crocodiles or tiny mice.  You turn the music on for half a minute or so and then they all lie down asleep, ready to be turned into another animal.  One word of advice though, don't start with roaring lions - save that for closer to the finish ;)

    We've also enjoyed lots of other picture books that include reference to the zoo.

    Mr McGee and the Big Bag of Bread by Pamela Allen (great read aloud and good vocab)Chatterbox by Margaret Wild (another good read aloud and familiar characters)
    Put Me in the Zoo by Robert Lopshire (great rhyme throughout, easy to predict text)Edward the Emu Sheena Knowles (great read aloud with good rhythm and illustrations)

    Of course, all this talk of zoos and the animals they help protect, provides the perfect opportunity to include some non-fiction books too along with others for reference in your classroom.  We'll often include books with an invitation to provide some visual support for learners.

    I hope you've enjoyed this post and if you want to read the next one, maybe follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, Bloglovin or on Instagram :)Instagram

     
     
     
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  3. Today I thought I share some making my own children did recently.  It was totally child-led with little input, if any, from me.

    It started with these.


    I'd purchased something on line and it arrived surrounded by all these packing beads.  As soon as they were out of the box, the eldest was grabbing the Sharpies, sticky tape, straws and a handful of other bits from our making cupboard (yes, we have a making cupboard and a big cane basket full of boxes and other recyclables in our spare room - I am a Early Childhood teacher after all) and they started making puppets. 

    Some were quite simple.





    Some were more detailed.

    







    And some were quite elaborate.

    

    






    It's fair to say we love our puppet play here...



    And whilst these were mostly made by my nine and seven year old, there are plenty of different types of puppets that can be enjoyed by any age group.
    Take a look at some of these -
    Some super cute, easy Peppa Pig finger puppets from Danya Banya.  Or maybe minions are more your style like these ones from Red Ted Art.
    Nursery Rhyme inspired craft stick puppets from One Perfect Day which would allow for easy retelling of familiar stories.
    These five little duck ones from Picklebums were very popular at preschool and Kate has also made lots of other printable puppets for play- five speckled frogs, three jellyfish, five cheeky monkeys.
    I bought this book, Puppet Play: 20 Puppet Projects secondhand on Amazon a while back and it provides great inspiration and how-to info to make a range of different hand puppets.

    Of course, any drawing can be turned into a puppet as shared here by Kids Activities Blog.
    Cathy at Nurture Store posted about puppet play during their recent Simple Play:complex learning series.  It includes links to peg puppets, magnet puppets, shadow puppets and one of my favourites, cardboard puppets, where the child uses their own fingers to animate the character.
      
    To encourage your child's play, why not set up your own simple puppet theatre like Jackie over at My Little Bookcase did?  While I too have seen some lovely DIY doorway ones over on Pinterest, sometimes simple is just fine.  She's also made their own shadow puppet one too.  You can find a truly beautiful shadow puppet stage over at Creative Play Central or if you have a little more time, you could make something gorgeous like this from Childhood 101. 
    We made our own (very simple) theatre out of the box the packing beads came in as the outside was printed with stars.
    There's also fantastic series of posts by Susan over at Wonder Teacher about the value of puppet play in the classroom that I enjoyed reading during the summer holidays.  You can visit those herehere and here.


    
    Looking for more? You can always join me on Facebook or Pinterest and I'm starting to play around on Instagram too :)
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    Some of the links above are affiliate links which means I will receive a small commission from any of those items purchased but at no extra cost to you. While any support is appreciated , please be assured I only link products I personally value and would recommend regardless.
    

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  4. Last weekend on my Facebook page, I shared a photo of some stones I was making for play.  They were so well received both at home and at preschool I thought I'd share them here as well.

    I have made some story stones before, some pirate themed ones from some stickers we had.  This time I made some just using pictures I'd cut out of some old toy catalogues and it can be as simple as this - pictures from brochures, old books, stickers or print some out and use them.



    They're super easy to make.  You'll need some clean stones (these came from a landscape supplier but large hardware stores also sell bags as do some discount shops sometimes), your pictures, a brush and a pot of Podge Modge.  We've had ours for ages and have hardy used any.


     
    Compared to the stickers, I found the pictures much easier to work with as the thinner paper was much more flexible.  After painting the stone with a thin layer of Modge Podge, add your picture and then seal it by painting over it with more Modge Podge.  I usually do two coats, letting them dry in between.




    
    And here they are in action at our house.  They also spent the week at preschool.




    Why make these things?   I believe it is important for children to have access to both realistic materials and materials without clear function (objects capable of taking the place of something needed in play but not readily at hand) during their play.  Providing them the space and materials to encourage their play without controlling it.  To me the story stones are unexpected but still familar, allowing children to play confidently but also with the growing understanding that objects like rocks can be used in place of realistic models in play.

    Imaginative play is so very important as it helps children develop their oral language skills through story telling; it encourages longer, sustained periods of play which require greater concentration; it helps develop their understanding of emotions - both their own and those of others they are playing with; it improves memory function by allowing them to re-enact and reinforce the world they've seen either in real life or through books; it allows them to be creative and imaginative and, perhaps most importantly, it's fun! 

    Originally I saw the story stones idea in the book Show Me a Story by Emily A Neuburger.  I love this book!  And it's also now available on Kindle.



     
    Emily also blogs at Red Bird Crafts although she's been a bit quiet after the birth of her son.
     
    Last weekend we went a bit rock crazy.  We also painted some colourful stepping stones for our fairy garden play and my second born managed to get the house paint we were using down the front of her school uniform (sigh).  You can find the wings I used here at the fantastic blog Filth Wizardry.


     
     
    And I finally got around to making some mix and match rock people like these and theseThey're been used in one of our interest areas at preschool this past week to tie in with our 'bucket filling'.  After undercoating the front of the rocks with a white prep-coat, I then sketching in some details before painting them.  I start using some acrylic paint but finding that too thin, I switched to some old house paints we had in the shed.  Once dry, I used some paint pens and a black Sharpie pen to refine the details.  I then coated them with a layer of Modge Podge to help protect the paint.  They turned out okay but not quite as nice as I saw them in my head.  The kids like them though.
     


     
     A lot of ideas I see like this I save to my Things to Make board on Pinterest and, then, sometimes I even get around to doing them ;)
     
    Looking for more? You can always join me on Facebook or Pinterest and I'm starting to play around on Instagram too :)
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  5. Anyone who follows my FB page will have seen me share posts from Relief Teaching Ideas.  It's a great online community of teachers who are happy to share and help each other out with ideas.  I consider myself lucky to have found it.

    Denise, the teacher who hosts the FB page also has her own blog - Relief Teaching Ideas which is full of great ideas.  I've bought a couple of books based on her recommendations - one of her favourites 'Wanted - The Perfect Pet' included.  So you can imagine my surprise and joy in reading one of her latest posts where she nominated me for a Liebster Award!  Me!!?

    A Liebster Award is a blogging award given by other bloggers and it’s a great way to learn more about others, helps build community and spread the word about lesser known but up and coming blogs.

    I am very flattered!  I am slowly building this blog and it is gradually finding its voice as we go along.  My goal for 2014 is to blog more consistently and at a level I am happy with but we'll have to wait and see how that pans out.  Blogging is a great self-reflection tool - one I would encourage any teacher to take up.

    Apparently I can't nominate Denise in my own list but here are the other guidelines to follow -

    1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog - done!
    2. Answer the 10 questions sent to you as part of the nomination - done!

    These were Denise's 10 questions for us -

    1. What made you start blogging?

    I started blogging when I went back to uni a few years ago to become a teacher.  I was also involved in getting a kitchen garden program established at my kids school at the same time and thought they could be blogging about that.  I didn’t know anything about blogging so thought what better way to learn than to start a blog myself.  I stopped for awhile after finishing uni but then came back to it last year because as a contract/relief teacher, it helps me to meet the teaching standards and to showcase the sort of teaching I do – a living resume I guess.  I’m also enjoying the connections it’s allowing me to make and it’s proving to be a great record for the stuff we do at home too. 


    2. Which do you prefer…. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other?

    I use FB mostly although it frustrates me sometimes and am learning to use G+.   Should probably start using Instagram again but have never been on Twitter.


    3. Did you have a favourite teacher? Tell me about them.

    I liked pretty much all my teachers but I think I took them for granted a lot of the time.  I was a fairly capable student right through school.  I loved Art in high school so much that I wanted to become an art teacher at one point but my mum, who was a teacher, talked me out of it.  I revisited the idea again when I was home with my eldest but didn’t want to compromise the time I had with her.  A few years later, more external options to study were available so I went back to uni when my youngest was two. 


    4. If you could teach any year level, any subject, what would it be?

    Tough question.  I’ve taught preschoolers, Receptions (first year at school for those not in South Australia), Year 1s and 2s and I’ve enjoyed teaching each year level as you can try different things.  I tend to incorporate a lot of cross-curriculum activities in my teaching so it’s not unusual for us to be painting during English or outside for Maths.  I do like the freedom preschool allows for play.


    5. What’s your best tip for a new teacher?

    I am still a new teacher myself :)  Find a mentor, someone you can turn to with questions, who will guide you when your head is so full of ideas you can’t see straight.  I was very lucky to have some great mentors during my pracs and they continue to support me now.


    6. How did you learn how to blog/set up your own page?

    I’m self taught which is probably why my blog doesn’t always look how I’d like it to.


    7. How often do you post on your blog?

    Not as often as I would like to but it takes a lot of time to create a post, a good post, one that I’m happy with and, with three kids of my own at home, finding that screen time can be challenging.  I’m going to try and post more often in 2014.


    8. What has been your most popular blog post you’ve ever published?

    My roundup of literacy centres continues to get a lot of traffic - Literacy centres - the first six monthsIt’s been the slow and steady turtle which overtook the hare.  The hare being my post about block play was very popular immediately after being shared by Teach Preschool on their FB page.  


    9. What is YOUR favourite post you’ve ever written?

    I think my favourite would be my post about teaching shapes Teaching Shapes as it was me thinking out loud but my post about play makes me smile as I look back at some of the things we’ve done at home over the years.


    10. By this time, next year, where do you hope to be? What do you want to have accomplished?

    Another tough one!  A year long contract teaching somewhere would be nice but I’ve also learnt so much working relief and doing short term-long contracts too that I probably wouldn’t have if I had remained at the same school.  I want to keep blogging but haven’t decided yet if stats and numbers are my goal, it’s still finding its voice but I do want to do more with it.

    Thanks for letting me visit Denise xx

    For the next part I need to nominate 10 blogs with 300 followers or less and then give them 10 questions to answer so I might think about that over the weekend then post this part :)


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  6. I love colour.  I love playing with colour, making new colours and using colour for learning so it's a little surprising I haven't finished this post before now.  It's been sitting in my draft folder half-written for ages.  I've shared a couple of posts that involve colour exploration before.  You can see those here and here.

    Today I thought I share some of our favourite art activities to start with.  One of my favourites that we've done, both at home and at school, would have to be making chalk paint.  It's so simple but the kids love it and it combines lots of useful skills such as hand-eye co-ordination, colour recognition, encourages creativity, expression and experimentation both with blending of colours and as an early science (changing a solid to a powder then to a suspended state in a liquid).

    You just need a hammer (or more depending on how many kids there are), some different colour chalks (we used Crayola sidewalk chalk which wasn't too hard to crush, beware of some cheaper chalks as they don't break down to such a fine powder), some ziplock bags, a hard surface to hammer on and then a container to transfer the powder to along with some water and brushes suitable for outside use.


     
     
    Then all you need to do is decide on which colours to crush and this is the part I love.  You can just crush the chalks as they are or you can experiment.  By adding two primary colours (blue/yellow/red) together, you can watch the secondary colour appear as you're hammering! It's a great visual for younger children still working out how colours are made.




    You want to keep crushing until most of the chalk is powder so your paint will be nice and smooth.




    Then carefully tip your powder into a palette (or a muffin tin like us),


     
     
    Slowly add some water while mixing.
     
    
    
     
     
     
    Repeat with many more different combinations and then you're ready to paint. 
     
    



    The paint appears quite pale when it first goes on,


     

     
     
    But dries to a much brighter, more intense colour.  The best bit - it's still just chalk so you can paint on pretty much anything and, over time, it will either wear or wash off.




    The kids also experimented with some different techniques.  This splat one belongs to my mess-loving eldest child.


     
     


    And some different styles.  These were their more abstract works.


     
     


    Alternatively, and more quickly, you can make paint from water, corn flour and food colours.  Add a heaped tablespoon of corn flour to each well, top up with water then add your colour and mix together.  It's basically runny, coloured goop but with brushes added.

     




    Another simple art activity we love is using liquid watercolours.  I included it as one of our invitations to create late last year.


    http://youclevermonkey.blogspot.com.au/#!/2013/10/invitation-to-create-first-15-days.html

    This one we did with liquid watercolour paints but with younger children, I prefer to use liquid food colours - washes out much more easily and the colours can be just as vibrant. Using these plastic pipettes is a great fine motor strengthening task too for small hands.  It works well as individual projects or as a much larger collaborative work.

     
    You can drop one colour on top of another and watch a new colour appear. Great for those visual learners and lots of fun.
     


    Or try it on different mediums like shaving cream as posted by Blog Me Mom.





    Photo credit - Blog Me Mom


    Another simple play idea we have loved uses a whole box of bi-carb soda and coloured vinegar. 




    It's like the volcano experiment every child has done (see image above) but this one re-orders the ingredients and uses the reaction caused when the vinegar hits the bi-carb to mix colours instead.  The first time we did this, my then 6yr old was there for over an hour playing.




    Thanks to Pinterest, we've also played with foamy bubbles like those found at Fun at Home with Kids but we just mixed up a big tub of bubbles (Lux Soap Flakes work a treat for this) then added some colours using our plastic pipettes.  I think using spray bottles full of different colours would be fun way to apply colour too.

    We've also played with this rainbow foam dough after seeing a post by Fun at Home with Kids (love that site!).

    Photo credit - Fun at Home with Kids


    There are so many ways you can explore colour.  Of course, it doesn't get any simpler than finger painting - a perfect activity for all ages.

     



    If you liked this post and want more simple play ideas using colour, take a look at my Colour Play board over on Pinterest. I’d love for you to join me on Facebook or Pinterest :)











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  7. Late last year we did The Art Pantry's invitation to create challenge.  You can see our first 15 days here.  If you follow me on Facebook, you would have seen the remaining 15 days but I didn't get around to posting them on the blog until now.


    Day #16 was a simple invitation - the three primary colours, cotton buds and foil to paint/mix on.

     
    Day #17 was an invitation for one as her sisters were at school.  My youngest loves bugs so has really enjoyed this book we'd borrowed from the library.  We also found some gorgeous stickers at our local newsagent.  She drew a lovely garden full of flowers then covered the page with all the stickers.  I had thought she might make several pictures but she wanted just to make one for her best friend which is also why I don't have a finished photo as she given it away before I realised I hadn't taken one.

     
     
    Day #18 was an invitation to draw from real life.  I brought some flowering gum from outside and set them up along with a new medium for us - soft pastels.  I had posted a similar invitation a while back which you can find here which the girls had asked to do again.
     

    Day #19 and one of my girls wanted to recreate some 'firework pictures' she'd made in a science lesson at school.  It turned out it was the milk experiment I'd seen pinned all over the place.  You just need a shallow plate of milk, food colouring and some dishwashing liquid which reacts with the milk, making it move, mixing the colours as it goes.  My 4yr old enjoyed this so much, she wanted to do these the day after. 

     
     
    Day #20 was a simple one.  I'd made up and printed out a few different pages full of frames, added some pencils and let the kids do the rest.
     
    
     
     
    Day #21 was an invitation to experiment - oil pastels and vegetable oil.  I seen this idea posted by Kate at Picklebums quite sometime ago but we'd never tried it.  Our cotton buds weren't very fluffy so they made it hard to spread the oil around.  I'd try it again but with small brushes I think.

    Day #22 and it's RAINING!!!  That's exciting because it doesn't happen that often here.  It also means we can do our challenge to create outside.in.the.rain!  In our art cupboard we have some powder paint so I got some out for my 4yr old to shake out onto some paper before taking it outside where we watched the powder turn into paint.  Unfortunately, it stopped raining while we were watching so we only got to do one.  We have done similar with water spray bottles but using raindrops was more novel.
     
     
     
     
    Day #24 and one comes home from school wanting to make a PowerPoint about wombats as she'd learnt all these facts about them.  Instead I showed her how to use the iPad to firstly search for images then use PicStitch to create a collage before using another app, Over, to add text.  Of course then the older one wanted to make one too.




    Day #25 and this invitation was inspired by a post by the Happy Hooligans.   They made these super cute paper dolls -


    Photo credit - Happy Hooligans

    But given mine all love puppets, I put out some extra wide craft sticks along with a few bits of scrap fabric, wool, fine tip pens, craft glue and a few of bits I thought might be useful.

    This is our family :)




    Day #26 and I've been reading the book Blocks and Beyond which I've mentioned before here which talks about children who fold paper in their early years having better spatial awareness.  From a square-shaped page, I simply folded it over and over on itself until it looked like this.  I can't explain why but this one was one of my most favourite invitations.



    Day #27 was borrowed heavily from Elise over at Creative Play Central.  Her blog is full of inspiring posts like this one.  We love our water play around here and given we also have large sliding glass doors around much of our house, the foam play idea at the end of her post looked like lots of fun. 

    Sorry, no during or after photos as we all ended up wet but will try harder when we do this again which we will - it was so much fun and a great activity for mixed ages.

    Day #28 sees me using something else that had been hiding in the cupboard.  I'd bought these blank jigsaw puzzles years ago for our playgroup but found the children were too young to use them.  My 7yr old and another visiting 7yr old had lots of fun creating these.



     My daughter's first puzzle -
     
     
    Our visitor's -

     
    My daughter's second, more abstract, puzzle -

     
     
    Of course, if you don't happen to have blank jigsaws sitting in your cupboard like us, you can always just cut up a picture drawn or painted onto lightweight cardboard.
     
    Day #29 was a simple collage invitation.  In the same box with the blank puzzles, I found a stack of animal print paper so I put that and this Schleich catalogue out with some glue, pencils and blank paper.
     
    



    Day #30 saw me reveal to the kids some felt canvases I'd made.  I'd seen a post by Kristan at Munchkin and Bean but wanted to make something bigger, that would also stand up easily enough as well.  I bought three cheap canvases, sprayed them with fabric adhesive and then stretched the felt over before fixing the sides with double-sided fabric tape.  I'll probably staple the sides later but this will do for now.





    My kids have always enjoyed playing with their smaller felt boards so we already had some people and clothes for them.  For the invitation, I put out lots of different colour felt, scissors and some fabric paint we had.  I was interested to see what they would make. 


     
    
     
    They mostly made more clothes to start but then as they started playing with them on the boards, the stories started too which helped prompt other ideas like the addition of fairy wings...
     
     
    And then they were off to the beach so lots of different items were required - towels, sunblock, buckets, ball, bathers, hats....


     
    Thanks again to The Art Pantry for their challenge.  We had a lot of fun with it.
     
    As it's still school holidays here, we're following Nurture Store's simple play calendar right now.  Lots more easy play ideas to be found there.
     
     
    Looking for more? I’d love for you to join me on





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  8. It's hot, really hot here at the moment so we're inside a lot more than we'd maybe like.  While some of the world is caught in a polar vortex, we're sweating out 42C today with more of the same and worse expected for the rest of this week.  Needless to say some people are getting a little edgy so in an effort to placate the youngest member of our family who was having too many 'no-one will play with me' moments that afternoon, I set up this simple invitation to play for her.

     




    Simple because I have a tub of coloured rice in the cupboard along with lots of different loose parts (manipulatives) that we use for play at home but I use at school for maths mostly but sometimes in literacy centres or during activity time.


     
     
    If you're thinking of making your own - the coloured flowers and hearts came from the craft section of a discount store (Cheap as Chips I think) as did the clear plastic butterflies while I'd bought the glass diamonds at a homeware store.  They're for scattering on your table but we love them because they catch the light and sparkle.  The blue/green/white glass beads I'd bought from the garden section at Bunnings.  We use them for lots of our play.  The fake flowers were left over from when we made flower faires one afternoon.  You can visit this link to make your own - they were so easy to may and very pretty.  The Grimms rainbow she had received at Christmas from Santa.  Apparently it's very similar to this one.  Santa had also brought my other daughter some fairy garden furniture.  We'd made some small fairy gardens in baskets last summer.  You can see them here.  They were great fun to make but they lacked a certain something...
     
     
     
     
    Factory Direct Craft in the US has the most amazing range of everything really but has one of the best fairy garden selections too.  Visit them here.  I use a freight forwarder but they do ship to Australia or otherwise trust in Santa to deliver ;)  Needless to say, my middle child is very happy.
     
     


    Then the Lalaloopsy's got to play.




    And then (of course) everyone wanted to play...  peace at last.




     
     
    A few days later, it's changed again.  I love watching how their play changes over time when we leave something out for a little while.
     
     

     
    The Lalaloopsy's were back, they'd brought friends and their own house this time.  The rainbow made it into the garden along with some wooden biscuits and the timelessly beautiful paper umbrellas.
     
    What are you doing to escape the heat or cold where you are?
     
     
     
     
     
     Looking for more simple play ideas? I’d love for you to join me on

     

    Some of the links above are affiliate links which means I will receive a small commission from any of those items purchased but at no extra cost to you. While any support is appreciated , please be assured I only link products I personally value and would recommend regardless.
     


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  9. Happy 2014 everyone!

    One of my promises to myself this year is to blog more and to share more of myself here.  I am still finding my voice but as a beginning teacher that was one of my main motivators for blogging.  This space is for me to think aloud, to query, to experiment, to connect with others, to share.

    With that in mind, I thought I'd begin the year by sharing what's on my reading pile at the moment.  I love to read and people who know me would know how much I enjoy a good picture book as much as a novel.  I am of the belief that a good book is just that, a good book with or without pictures.  I love that my eldest at nearly ten still enjoys a good picture book.  She loved The Hundred Decker Bus when we read it last night.

    I loved this book - Journey by Aaron Becker.  It is a wordless picture book with beautiful rendered pictures.  The story follows a girl as she draws her way out from her bedroom, away from her lonely life, into the woods (my Narnia moment), down a stream, up in a balloon and on an adventure.  Her kindness is repaid with friendship by the end of the book.  A truly lush book.  It's not at all surprising that it has been included in many of the best books of 2013 lists going around.  


    Continuing with picture books, one of my favourites in 2013 was Goldilocks and Just One Bear which finds Goldilocks and Baby Bear all grown up.  I purchased our own copy just before Christmas along with Wanted: The Perfect Pet and Windblown, two books mentioned on Relief Teaching Ideas - it's a great blog by another South Australian teacher.  It also has a very useful Facebook page on which teachers happily support each other and swap ideas. 

    The Day the Crayons QuitFraidyzooTap the Magic Tree along with another favourite we'd borrowed from the library this year,Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book?, stayed in my shopping cart for later.

    Some others that finally made it off my wish list and into my cart.  I chose a few maths books - Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics: Developmentally Appropriate Instruction for Grades Pre K-2  was one that was recommended earlier in the year at a Maths Professional Development day I attended.




    I also invested in a couple of other maths texts, Number Talks and Number Sense Routines as I've become more interested in the use of math journals and problem solving tasks this past year.

    Another book that had been on my wish list for a while was Beautiful Stuff!: Learning with Found Materials which was an interesting read following a preschool's journey implementing a plan to use found objects to support students learning and creativity.  A book I'm enjoying even more is  The Story in the Picture: Inquiry and Artmaking with Young Children.





    don't recall who had mentioned it on their blog but it's a great read for any teacher, art or otherwise.  With plenty of theory to support her approach, the author talks of using artworks in early childhood to encourage discussion and storytelling.  In the first chapter she explains the why then in the second chapter, she discusses the how of planning art 
    activities.  Interestingly, Mulcahey talks of art experiences as being too open or too 
    closed.  The example of too open she uses is painting at a standing easel which  might be used more by a child to relax, to unwind.  I had made some tabletop easels during my first contract at a preschool and all of the staff noticed how different the paintings were that the children did on those compared to the standing easels.  It had become more social. There was more talk, the paintings more detailed.  

    She also talks of the closed activities many children experience at preschool before moving on to the characteristics of a rich art activity -

    '- asking what the children will learn rather than what the children will do

     - connecting to the larger art world
     - allowing the children to make choices
     - asking the children to think like an artist
     - providing for a variety of outcomes
    - avoiding recipe-oriented activities.' (p.21)

    In the third chapter, the author looks at how to speak to children about their art work which is as far as I've read.  I imagine this will be a book I will return to again and again.

    One book I've already finished but will include here as I enjoyed it so much is 
    Life After Life.  

    Although I'll admit the ending bother me.  It felt unnecessary or a little out of order.  *spoiler alert*. I think I would have preferred knowing her brother had survived the war before she set out to change the course of history.

    Next on my fiction list are these books 





          


     Looking for more simple play ideas? I’d love for you to join me on


    Some of the links above are affiliate links which means I will receive a small commission from any of those items purchased but at no extra cost to you.  While any support is appreciated , please be assured I only link products I personally value and would recommend regardless.
    


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  10. It's hard to ignore that the bloggersphere has lit up this past week with Christmas this and that posts so I might jump on the bandwagon too and share what Christmas has looked like in our house in the past.

    For the last few years we've made our own Advent calendar.  Last year I got a bit carried away and it looked like this...


     

     
     
    Admittedly the kids had nearly as much fun playing with all the boxes as they did opening them, nearly :)
     
    



    The year before I'd made a much simpler one.  I used a big piece of cardboard, made some super sparkly pegs and stuck it all together with a hot glue gun.


     
     
    And two years before, we just made trees.  First, there was this beauty -


     

    This was a whole family project even our nine month old got to add her bit.




     
     
    We also made some ornaments to go on our tree from coloured rice and some shapes I'd cut out of lightweight cardboard.
     
     
     
     
    Not that the nine month old helped with those.  She much preferred the shakers we made from the leftover rice.
     
     
    
     
     
      
     
     
    The following year I made a felt year in an effort to stop the now 21 month old from rearranging all the ornaments on the 'real' tree.  To this day it remains one of my most favourite finds on Pinterest.
     
     
     
     
    Inside our Advent calendar, I usually print out a series of notes to go inside.  Sometimes I'll add something to the note like this fake snow and a couple of polar bears from last year.
     
     
     
    Often it will be an invitation to make something like making white Christmas and decorating gingerbread,
     
     
     
     
    Or to decorate pretend gingerbread houses - these I'd made from recycled cardboard from the packaging from The Book Depository
     

    
     
     
    Or make reindeer food,
     
     
     
     
    Or gifts for their teachers or grandparents,
     
     
     
     
    Or cards for their friends.
     

     
     
    In amongst all the making will be simpler notes like read a Christmas book, go see the Christmas lights, go swimming or go to one of the Christmas pageants.
     
    What do you do in the leadup to Christmas? 
     
    I'm pinning more things to my Christmas board so why not take a look there if you need some more inspiration?
     
     
     
    Here's hoping nobody gets too carried away this Christmas ;)
     



    Looking for more simple play ideas? I’d love for you to join me on






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