Fairy Houses in the Woods.

fairy houseLook I think someone has been building fairy houses in the trees!

Do you believe in fairies? On a quiet walk around Beaver Lake Park, we discovered that they had taken up residence. Had the fairies crafted their own houses or had someone else built them to entice them in? Either option was equally magical to a 3-year-old. Having recently finished our own fairy garden, she was desperate to build a house herself and ran to fetch her sister. We carefully tiptoed around the trees, discovering at least a dozen fairy houses and rooms.

Fairy Hogwarts

Complete with ledges for the fairies to climb on

Complete with ledges for the fairies to climb on

This one had a swing made from blades of grass and a piece of bark.

This was my favourite.

This was my favourite.

fairy bathroom
It took a while to find the perfect tree to build in, untouched but with interesting levels and holes.

This one had a nice hole to make into a cosy home.

This one had a nice hole to make into a cosy home.

fairy steps

Maybe I could build some steps to go up to this room.

Meanwhile on another tree, her sister was building a bridge to reach from one tree stump to the other.  We searched for the right sized piece of wood.

That's perfect.

That’s perfect.

They set to work making tables and benches, carefully scouring the area for the perfect materials.

furniturebuilding a fairy house

fairy house 3

They really wanted to stay but the night was drawing in and mummy was slowly being eaten alive by mosquitos. Every little girl knows that fairies come out at dusk and are afraid of humans. We needed to leave the woods quickly to give the fairies a chance to discover their new home. I wonder what type of fairy will choose to rest there?

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Pirate Play

pirate play

The crocodiles don’t like this colour so they won’t pull it into the swamp.

In the hot sunshine the girls don’t really need a lot of encouragement to play with water.  When I suggested we set up their pirate ship in the garden and make a plank that they could jump from into the paddling pool, they thought it was a great idea.

To make it truly authentic, we made pirate swords so they could push each other off the plank in true pirate fashion. They coloured them with chubbie paint markers  before adding jewels.

making pirate swords pirate sword

We emptied the paddling pool to clean it, leaving water on the lawn.  The girls decided that this should be a swamp where crocodiles lived.  They collected branches to lay across it so that they could cross the swamp.

branches to cover a swamp

Leaves are the only thing that works to help us cross the swamp, everything else sinks.

 

They then went on the lookout for something to use as a plank and decided on a large branch that had been pruned from our maple.

I had been changing the words to songs to fit a pirate themed music class. ‘If you’re a pirate and you know it say aaarh’, ‘1 little, 2 little, 3 little pirates’ and , ‘there were 10 in the ship and the pirate said walk the plank’.  The girls made up songs of their own, counting down as the pirates walked the plank one-by-one.

walking the plank

Next they set out on a pirate treasure hunt. One of the girls hid the treasure and made an X from sticks to mark where it was. My eldest made a map and clues for the girls to follow.

We should find a green ball here.

We should find a green ball here.

Now we need to go this way towards the den.

Now we need to go this way towards the den.

Open the chest with the magic key. Wow, look at the treasure!

Open the chest with the magic key. Wow, look at the treasure!

More Pirate Play Ideas

Winter Pirates

Quills

Pirate Phonics

 

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. Some of the art materials were gifted for trial purposes.

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Building a Fairy Garden

Years ago, when my eldest was small, there was a tree stump at the bottom of our garden.  I thought it would be magical to put a fairy door on it and pretend that fairies lived there.  My daughter left notes for the fairies (some suitably spoiled by the great British weather) and they replied in tiny writing.  The stump was soon forgotten as the winter set in and the bottom of the garden seemed such a long way to travel.

When we moved here we made a rudimentary attempt at creating a fairy garden in a planter.  The little ones saw this as a perfect opportunity to smother it in glitter leaving my eldest a little disappointed with the messy results.

tree trunks

The moment I saw the garden in our new house, I knew that the cluster of trees would make the perfect fairy garden.  When I suggested it to the girls they were very excited and we collected ideas, requested materials and made plans.

The fairy door was made from those mysterious small pieces of wood that come attached to a painting canvas.  A lentil was chosen for the door knob.

fairy door

Next we collected small stones to make a pathway to the door.

pathway to the door in a firy gardenWe made gates from the same pieces of wood as the door and placed small sticks around the edge of the path to create a barrier.

fairy garden doorway

Many of the materials were gifted by the Buy Nothing Group including the little bells we hung across the entrance, glass beads to make the stream, jam jar lids for table tops  and our very own fairy.

fairyAt a garage sale we found packs of miniature accessories for teddy bear collectors.  We decided to use them to make a tea room for the fairies.

The tables were made from jam jar lids and cardboard cylinders.

Making toadstools for a fairy garden

Corks were painted with nail varnish to make toadstool seats.

toadstools from corks

The embellishments were added to make a perfect fairy tea room.

fairy tea roomfairy tea room

One of the girls wanted to make a pool for the fairies, we found a pot, dug it into the ground and she added glitter and sequins.

fairy pool

The girls decided to use a wicker ring  as a fire pit and arranged twigs inside for the bonfire.
fairy fire pit

Next we added a stream made of glass beads and outlined the edges with pebbles.

fairy stream

Small flower pots created a boundary between the stream and the tea room and we sprinkled a few seeds on top.

planting

During the winter we found a log in the firewood with a knot that looked like a door.  My eldest saved it to make a fairy house.  She carved windows with a pocket knife and stuck twigs along the edges with wood glue.  The roof was made from moss.

fairy houseAs  a finishing touch we added steps leading up to the house.

The fairies and elves seem very happy with their new habitat.

fairy garden

 

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Water Gun Activities for Summer Fun

We recently acquired a set of water guns because the girls love a water fight. On a hot day a water fight is great fun but it isn’t always warm enough. When a water fight isn’t the best option, here are some other water gun activities you could try.

1. Ping-Pong Blast

fun with a water gun

Line up golf tees with ping-pong balls placed on top.

Ready, Steady, Blast…….

How many can you knock down?

water gun

2. Fireworks Display

“Come outside, we’ve got something to show you”,  the girls called out one evening, shortly after July 4th. They treated us to a watery firework display, creating shapes with their water guns and giving each one a different name.

water gun play

3. Skittles/Bowling

Using a set of garden skittles (or in our case bottles, tin cans and cups) line them up and see how many you can knock down by squirting water at them.

garden bwling

4. Ball push

Lay out different types of balls.

Which ones do you think you can move with the water gun?

ball push

It moves just a little bit.

5. Duck Race

Race ducks in the paddling pool, using the water gun to move them from one side to the other.

duck race

6. Ring the Bell

Hang a bell , saucepan lid or other metallic object from a bush and investigate the sound it makes if you squirt it.  You could try a variety of objects and listen to the different sounds.

cowbell

7. Trampoline Splash

My youngest decided to spray the trampoline and invited me to bounce. As we bounced the water splashed into the air like jumping in a puddle. Great for bouncing on  a hot day.

spraying the trampoline

8. Water the plants

If you are looking for little helpers, why not let them water the plants with their water gun?

watering

9. I’ve challenged the older girls to design a water gun obstacle course and race against each other or a timer.

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Free Resources for Play and Ideas for How to Use Them.

We have recently joined a wonderful group called Buy Nothing. The idea is that people in the local community share, via a Facebook group, the things they no longer need and offer them to others for free.  It is a great way for an outsider like me to feel part of the community. Our group also has a central meeting point, where you can drop off and collect reserved items or look through the other items, to find little gems.  Browsing the things people have offered has inspired lots of new play opportunities.  Here are a few to share. You may be inspired to use some of the things you have stashed away or maybe even set up a Buy Nothing group of your own.

 

The Flower Shop

We were given a huge amount of fabric flowers from a member. I  had often considered  setting  up a play flower shop at nursery but the flowers were so expensive and we needed a large quantity.  I was very excited to finally have the chance to try it out. The girls have been making flower arrangements, taking telephone and internet orders and delivering the flowers in a little car.  After posting  photographs of the shop on the group page, we have been gifted even more flowers; such is the beauty of a community like this.

The girls have loved this so much and it looks really beautiful in the garden.  They asked if there was such a thing as a real flower shop; so that’s next on the agenda.

Baby Bath – Water Beads and a Nail Salon

There was a poor, lonely baby bath, crying out for attention on one of our recent visits.  A few water beads and hollow eggs later and we had an activity for my toddler class.

water beads

The girls had more great ideas when I brought it home. The water beads in the bath made a perfect foot spa for a nail salon.

foot spa

Squeezy Bottles for Puffy Paint

Someone was giving away squeezy bottles, they were perfect for  puffy paint.

puffy paint

My eldest was very impressed

Wow! What is this?

she remarked, when she spotted the dry pictures.

Mirror Play

I saw an image of a beautiful mirrored table recently, so when someone offered mirrors, I thought we could recreate something similar.

 

I am so lucky to be able to provide my children with these opportunities due to the generosity of others. Inspired? Why not create a Buy Nothing group in your locality?

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Teach Preschool Science

I don’t make assumptions about what my children will learn from an activity.  I don’t presume that they will learn anything, I’m happy if they are absorbed and having fun.

Sometimes a simple activity can unexpectedly become a rich learning experience full of questions and discoveries. These for me are precious moments. I have recently become aware that the simplest craft activities lead us unexpectedly into an exploration of scientific concepts. For example,we recently acquired a movie reel canister, perfect for paint rolling .  I gave the girls a small box of marbles and small balls (a ping-pong eyeball and a golf ball) and a few pots of paint. The discussion that ensued was interesting.

paint rolling

 Child 1 : 5-years-old    Child 2 : 3-years-old.

eyeball

Child 1: The eyeballs go much slower.  I think because the eyeball is bigger it goes much slower but the marble is smaller so it goes faster.

Child 2: It’s too sticky

Why do you think it is sticky?

Child 2: Maybe there’s too much paint.

golf ball

Child 1: This one is not as sticky as the other one but it is much bigger.  Maybe it’s because I didn’t put as much paint on.

What makes the 2 balls different?

Child 1: One is bumpy and one is smooth…………..but that would make it slower.

It gets stuck and the other one goes really fast.  Maybe the material it is made from is sticky but now that we don’t have as much paint on, it goes fast.  Perhaps the paint sticks to the material and stops it slipping and sliding.

Maybe because the golf ball is hard it doesn’t stick to the paper, maybe the paint doesn’t like it and slips off.

When we went to wash the balls we checked to see which would float.

Child 1: The golf ball and the marble sink and the eyeball floats.  This one floats because it is all filled up with air.

Child 2: This one sinks because it is bigger…………………….. but what about the marble, that sinks?

Child 1: It is because it is heavier.

The connection between the mass of the ball and how fast it travelled did not register but there are many other projects we can explore to help them work it out.

These incidental science experiments happen a lot. There was the time I left an empty milk carton outside and they turned it into a tap by inserting a straw. The girls decided they needed to find a way to turn it on and off. Further experimentation helped them work out how to get the tap to drain all of the water.  My role as teacher was not to give them the answers but to ask questions like ‘How could you make it better?’ What could you use to…? or what would happen if…?

tap science

Having open-ended materials readily available makes it easy for them to instigate projects .  This week, I put pieces of foam in the water table soaked in bubble mixture and showed them how to squeeze the foam to make bubbles.  I knew my eldest would love this.  She had another idea, taking a piece of plastic tubing she blew into it creating lots of foam. The children’s ideas are always the best! She asked me for test tubes and filled them with  bubble mixture and opened her own beauty parlour with potions that made your hair soft or skin younger.

foam bubbles

 

In the TED talk, Science is Play , Beau Lotto views Science as a way of being. He explains,

“We normally walk through life responding. If we ever want to do something different, we have to step into uncertainty…. Science lets us step into uncertainty through the process of play.”

Our youngest children are full of uncertainty so they are naturally questioning things all of the time. Isn’t that the foundation of science? Our skill as teachers is not to feed them the answers but to give them the tools to make their own discoveries. Do we need to plan specific science lessons? Isn’t science and discovery the very essence of childhood?Children don’t call it science, they call it play and in play they work things out for themselves.

I love this quote from the American Scientist article entitled ‘Science as Play

When I grew up, every kid put in some serious sandbox time, and it often involved building (what seemed like) complex sand structures around which fantasies were composed and competitions took place with neighborhood kids. The organic chemistry labs (at Yale during the junior year) were fun in the same way. We constructed molecules and competed with each other in the class on speed and yield. We mixed things up, and chemical transformations took place. We separated, we isolated, we analyzed. The odors were pleasant, and the physical process of working with our hands, as with sand, was satisfying. The biweekly organic labs became the high points of my week. By the end of the year, I knew that I wanted to be an organic chemist, as I realized one could play in the sandbox for a living. (Joseph B Lambert)

Playing in the sandbox for a living? ‘Isn’t that what I do?

 

 

 

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How to Be a Playful Family

As a finalist in America’s Most Playful Family contest our task was to create a 90 second video showing tips that will help families become more playful. With so much to say about what we do and why play is important to us, this was a real challenge but here is the finished product.

For further detail about the activities and ideas featured in the video, follow the links below:-
Play Don’t Throw Away

Mud Kitchens -Why Playing in the Mud is Good for You

Music Garden – How to Build a Music Garden

Heuristic Play – Now Playing

Loose parts – When they Would Rather Play with Sticks and Stones

Playing With Household Objects

Water painting – Painting with Water

Playing Without Toys – Do Children Need Toys?

Outdoor Events – How to Stage a Garden Olympics    How to Stage a Winter Olympics

Playing in nature

Snow Day

Spring

Frost and Ice

Connecting with Nature

 Woodland activities

In the Rain

In the Dark

When Life is Busy

Literacy Games in the Car

Passing Down Traditions
Playground Games

 Party Games

 

 

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