The National Children’s Gardening Week: gardening with pre-school children

“What doing Grandpa?”

“I’m going to put some plants in the garden.”

“My help!” (Daisy’s preferred personal pronoun is ‘my’, as in “my do it”)

Daisy squatted down next to her Grandpa and while he sorted out the small geranium plants; Daisy grabbed Grandpa’s trowel and started to randomly dig in the soil.

It didn’t take long to get Daisy interested in gardening!

Trowel

Daisy’s at an age where she is curious about everything and so she’s ready to find out about some of the processes involved in gardening, and the tools we use.  Instantly, Daisy wanted to use Grandpa’s trowel and small fork to dig in the soil – using those skills she has already developed when playing with sand.  It took Grandpa a little while to explain to Daisy how he was going to dig a hole with the trowel, put a plant in the hole and then replace the soil so that the plant could grow.  Daisy watched, dug in the soil and then together they planted some of the geraniums.

Fern

Once they had finished the planting Daisy used her small watering can (from her water play toys) to assist in watering the young plants.

Next time Daisy visits we’ll remind her about how she helped us to put the plants in the garden together we will look at the plants to see how they have changed.

This kind of activity can be repeated to suit the space that you have available, all you need is a plant pot, some compost and some plants (they could be edible ones).  If you want more inspiration, you’ll find plenty in the Things To Do section on the National Children’s Gardening Week website.

Granny Smith says

Tool set

If you are choosing gardening tools for your children/grandchild, select ones which are smaller versions of the ones that you use.  I prefer children to use wooden and metal gardening tools rather than plastic ones which can sometimes frustrate children because they’re not always as durable as the traditional tools.  With your guidance, they will be more successful gardening with the wood and metal tools as they learn how to use them safely.

Mummy found a set of gardening tools for Daisy at their local supermarket and I’ve also seen them available in garden centres.

50 years of The Very Hungry Caterpillar

We visited our local library again last weekend. Daisy always enjoys exploring the children’s area; with its book stands, displays, posters, small tables, chairs and beanbag cushions it’s a very stimulating environment.  We introduced a variety of books to Daisy and she took the opportunity to select some books herself. After a while, we sat together on the small chairs and enjoyed each other’s selections.

Library

Daisy chose some library books to borrow and we came home with her selection of books along with a Story Sack for The Very Hungry Caterpillar. 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a children’s classic that’s become a favourite book for young children around the world.  Through the book, children have an opportunity to practise their counting and the order of the days of the week while the story explains the life cycle of the caterpillar to butterfly.  The caterpillar eats his way through a range of different foods and this also gives us an opportunity to talk about what we eat and what is healthy.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar was first published on 3rd June in 1969 and next month it will celebrate its milestone 50th birthday.  There is a special 50th edition with a golden cover so if you haven’t read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to your grandchildren, I recommend it to you.  It’s also available as a flap book, a pop-up book, a board book, large and small versions, something to suit your grandchild.

 

Granny Smith Says

Watch out for a Story Sack blog coming soon!

Listening Walks

I’m writing this blog while sitting in my garden, listening to a chorus of birdsong, some distant traffic and the sounds of the breeze blowing through the trees.

Last week I read about some recent data that shows, on average, Britons spend five percent of the day (an hour and twelve minutes) outside.  While another study commissioned by the National Trust found that children spend half the time playing outside that their parents did.  This research showed that nowadays children are playing outside for an average of just over four hours a week.

You don’t need to have lots of outdoor play equipment or have somewhere special to help your grandchild benefit from being outside. Wherever you live you can share outdoor time with your grandchild; use this time to develop their senses and, in particular, their listening skills.  Simply sit outside together and listen.

When you want your grandchild to listen, use the baby sign language for ‘listen’, cupping your ear.  We do this with Daisy and now she’s started to use the ‘Listen’ signing too.

Extend these listening skills with a listening walk. If you have a smartphone or other recording device record some of the sounds you hear on the walk so that you can listen again creating your own Slow Radio.  Once you start you’ll be surprised by the varied sounds you can capture: we recorded our footsteps, the buggy wheels, passing dogs, birdsong, vehicles and background conversation. Later, you can get more value from the recorded listening walk with your grandchild by trying to replicate or make versions of the sounds that they have heard.

A listening walk works wherever you are – town, countryside, seaside, park, woods, by a river…

Each listening walk will be different. Vary the timing of your walks, go out early morning and early evening.

Now Daisy will stand by the house door and tell us that she wants to go outside; I think that she would be outside all day long if that was possible.  Daisy is too young for unsupervised outdoor play so we dress her to suit the weather and we join her outside!

Granny Smith says

Helping your grandchild become a good listener is so beneficial.  Listening is a vital skill that will help your grandchild/child in many activities and in particular it will help them as they learn to read and write.

 

Learning in the Garden: Load, Lift and Push a wheelbarrow

Barrow 1

When Daisy comes to stay she loves to spend time in our garden and she’s now developed an interest in our garden tools and equipment.  So when we recently spotted a child’s metal wheelbarrow in a charity shop, we knew that it would be perfect for Daisy.

Daisy has a toy buggy at home and loves to push her dolls and cuddly toys around in it.  Like the buggy, the wheelbarrow needs to be pushed, but with only one wheel at the front, it requires some balancing and more skillful manoeuvring, especially around our garden!

Daisy was delighted with her little wheelbarrow and immediately wanted to use it.  Once she had mastered manoeuvring the little it around the lawn, Daisy decided one of us to should join in the fun with our the adult-sized wheelbarrow.

Barrow 2

There’s a slight slope into part of our garden and while walking around with her wheelbarrow, Daisy discovered the slope. First she spent time repeatedly pushing her wheelbarrow up the slope and then down again.  At one point when we were at the top of the slope, Daisy told me we were going to wait to catch a train.  Reflecting on this I realised that this bit of imaginary play came from her personal experience; sat in her buggy, going up the slope at their local railway station to the platform, to catch a train!

I had expected that the first outing for Daisy with her wheelbarrow would be a short one but she wanted to stay outside and play more.  We had recently had some branches cut off a tree and the branches had been sawn up into logs which were stacked on the lawn.  Daisy selected these logs to be the first items that we would transport in our two wheelbarrows.

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Loading the logs into the two wheelbarrows gave us an impromptu opportunity to talk about the logs’ size and weight.  Daisy has now mastered the language of size and weight (bigger, smaller, heavy) so she selected a few small logs for her wheelbarrow while I had to pick up the bigger logs.  Of course I made sure that her load wasn’t too heavy for her to lift and push.

 

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And so off we went around the garden transporting logs, stopping occasionally to unload a log, move on, to then repeatedly return to collect the logs.

Within one playing session, Daisy discovered how to use her wheelbarrow and was also discovered that wheelbarrows are great for transporting all sorts of items.  On her next visit we plan to will give Daisy a chance to transport some different types of loads; sand or compost, some flower pots or small garden tools.  We will show her how we use our wheelbarrow as she begins to discover more about the garden.

Daisy slept really well that night.  Lifting and pushing a wheelbarrow is a strenuous activity.

Granny Smith says:

Children’s wheelbarrows are available in all sizes and different shapes.  Keep an eye out for second-hand ones on auction sites and at local charity shops.

Letting Go

Guest Blog by Daisy’s Grandpa

Just watch Daisy’s face throughout this whole experience: the mixture of anticipation, delight, exhilaration and yes, maybe, a tiny hint of fear. You can see how quickly that small amount of apprehension is washed away by the flight through the air and the soft landing.

Its so good nowadays that there are so many safe environments where we can take our young grandchildren to experience the freedom of just letting go and thereby build their confidence This is great preparation for that leap into the swimming pool, the sea, or maybe down the sand dunes; personally I cannot wait to take Daisy to the beach this summer!

It seems to me it’s our privilege, and maybe our duty, as grandparents to be the ones that help our grandchildren let go and experience that thrill of freedom.

One of the greatest moments as a grandparent is when your grandchild takes your hand for the first time; I think the next greatest moment is when she feels confident enough to let go.

Taking the messy play outside

Like most children, Daisy loves messy water play.  One afternoon, during a recent visit, the sun was shining and so it was the perfect opportunity for us to set up water play outside.

You don’t need any special equipment to cater for water play activities at Daisy’s age. We quickly set up a water play area on Daisy’s little table using a washing-up bowl of lukewarm water, a small amount of washing-up liquid, a plastic jug, some kitchen utensils, unbreakable picnic cups, an small empty drinks bottle, a few bath toys and a small sponge.

It can still be chilly at this time of the year so Daisy’s waterproof coverall went on over her coat and she was happy to play with the water and ‘toys’, until we all had to go indoors to warm up!

Funnels 1

Daisy is becoming more dexterous so this was the perfect time to introduce her to funnels and how to use them.  She quickly understood where she should put the funnel and then how to use it, carefully pouring water into the top of the funnel and watching the water filter through the funnel.  Through her play, Daisy watched the water flowing into the different containers, using the funnel.  Gradually this play will help her to see how a funnel makes it easier for the water to flow into a narrow necked container.

Funnels 2

Now that Daisy is more active, her water play tends to be more messy than it used to be so the benefits of messy outdoor water play are obvious.  There are some additional benefits to being outside too.  Being in the sunshine, even in early spring means that Daisy is naturally absorbing vitamin D.  Vitamin D has a positive effect on behaviour and moods, so some time outside in the sunshine helps us all after dull days indoors.

In the evening, Daisy insisted that the funnel was part of her bath time play.

Granny Smith says –

Let your grandchildren explore funnels in other activities (indoors and outdoors).  Set up activities which enable your grandchild to use funnels with different containers and scoops and use a pour-able solid such as rice or lentils instead of water. Add different sized funnels and you will give your grandchild hours of play while they develop physical skills and co-ordination as well as begin to find out about capacity and gain an understanding of cause and effect.

Scooters Part Two

I took Daisy to the local playgroup last week and it was interesting to see how her play had changed since the last time.  First of all she went to play with the large wheeled toys; she likes to sit in the cars or on the tractor and (after a fashion) pedal herself around the room.  She doesn’t have these toys at home and so the playgroup gives her the space to move around freely, in a safe environment.  While playing with  the four wheeled vehicles, Daisy spotted the scooter, pulled one over to play with and this time I did see Daisy briefly scoot!

After experimenting with sitting on the scooter and walking along beside it, Daisy is now ready to try scooting herself about.  With guidance, she’s learning how and where to position one foot on the deck, find her balance, feel stable, before starting to push off with the other foot.

Scooting requires of children balance, coordination, plenty of concentration and lots of patience for repeated attempts until that special moment when they realise that they can do it.  So the next day, Grandpa and I took Daisy out on the local pavements with her scooter to continue to practise her skills.  It was essential to find a smooth surface without hazards that might distract Daisy or stop her from being successful.

We supported Daisy on her scooter in much the same way as helping a child who is learning to ride a bike: one hand on the handlebar to help with the steering and the other hand poised at her back, a ready prop for her if she loses balance.

Scooter

Learning to use a scooter is more demanding than learning how to use pedals on a toy car or tractor.  But once mastered, compared with the pedal cars and tractors, using a scooter gives a child so much more independence.  And watching Daisy, I’m reminded of that pure pleasure that comes with the new experience of being able to propel yourself about without an adult’s assistance.

Granny Smith says –

it’s important to pick the right scooter for your grandchild – there are lots of different types of scooter available for different ages.  Daisy has a scooter which has three wheels which gives her greater stability and it’s not too heavy for her to manipulate.

Ensure that your grandchild wears a helmet whenever they use their scooter.  It’s a good habit to encourage and they’ll become familiar with the sensation of wearing a helmet.