Fifty Blogs Later

It’s a year since I wrote my first Granny Smith blog!  Fifty blogs later, those warm elephant socks that I wrote about are now worn by Teddy and Daisy only uses baby signing when she’s really tired.  We continue to use the local library regularly but now Daisy enjoys looking through the story boxes to make her own selection.  When I visit her, it’s a new pleasure to be asked by Daisy to read her stories and share books with her. 

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Daisy’s bedtime routine has changed now that she sleeps in a bed, has a duvet and a pillow and chooses which of cuddly toys she wants in her bed alongside her.  The toy pram and buggy are still popular and Daisy has mastered going round corners and avoiding people’s ankles – mostly!

This week Daisy shovelled compost as she helped Mummy to plant bulbs into pots.  More messy play continues through mud club and play on the builders tray outside in the garden.  She’s a bit of an outdoors girl, investigating in the park and enjoying running in the open spaces.

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The cooking activities that Daisy enjoys in the kitchen like helping Mummy prepare vegetables or buttering toast or icing Daddy’s birthday cake are all reflected in her imaginary play with her kitchen and her tea parties for her teddies.  Last week I watched Daisy search for her small tea towel so that she could take something ‘hot’ out of her play oven.

At some point each day Daisy will pull out her building bricks, wooden blocks and track.  She has started laying the wooden train track herself, making the noises of the trains and animals as she recreates some of her favourite stories.  

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Now Daisy chatters, sings her favourite nursery rhymes as she plays, she listens attentively to readily soaks up vocabulary and expressions from the world around her.  Last week she joined in with the current train announcement “See it.  Say it.  Sorted”! 

During the past year we’ve seen the rapid changes in Daisy’s physical skills, walking, running, kicking, manipulating.  Suddenly Daisy is two and already this year is proving to be the year that her cognitive skills flourish as she makes connections. 

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Through songs, chat, play and some tv shows, Daisy is learning the names of colours, is counting up to ten and is beginning to count back from ten to one.  She  uses the language of numbers to express herself “One more please Mummy” which shows that she is now understanding how we daily use numbers.  Daisy has continued to use ‘Daddy, Mummy and Baby’ to differentiate sizes and she lined up three different sized snowman decorations for me in the shop last week.  

Be it first thing in the morning or at bedtime, whenever there’s a ‘spare’ moment, one of the greatest joys of being one of Daisy’s grandparents is being able to have a conversation with her.  In the past month we’ve noticed that Daisy has started to talk in the first person and talk about ‘my bed, my teddies; it’s mine’ instead of the third person, ‘Daisy’s teddy’ etc.  We’re making sure that when we talk to Daisy, we’re setting an example by actively using the first person ‘Shall I help you’ rather than ‘Shall Granny help you’…

In the year, I’ve continued to knit for Daisy.  I made that green chunky jacket (bulb photograph) for her second birthday and I’m currently working on a cardigan; target date – Christmas!

Although Daisy is our only grandchild, her parents have ensured that she spends time with other small children and one of the biggest changes in recent months is to watch Daisy become aware of other children.  Daisy likes the company of other children whether they are older or younger and we see her starting to mimic what the other children are doing.  

Granny Smith Says

I’m looking forward to another year, recording more of Daisy’s experiences, play ideas, our crafting together and all the rest that comes from being a grandparent.

Making meaningful marks: getting ready to write

Messy play for Daisy regularly involves paint and different papers.  She has paint brushes and sponges and sometimes she just enjoys the paint itself, tracing her fingers through the paint.  Sometimes I see her ‘play’ with her food in the same way, running her fingers through the sauce.  Daisy’s hard at work ‘mark making’, using her senses and the physical sensations to investigate.

Mark making develops in different situations and with different equipment. It gradually develops into meaningful mark making that eventually becomes writing.

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From toddler through to preschool age we can give our grandchildren different opportunities to develop their skills and it doesn’t always require stationery equipment.

Some ideas –

Squeezy water bottles, droppers, pipettes, paintbrushes and a container of water for outside mark making present opportunities to develop muscles for gripping and controlling.

Mud with sticks; spray foam, foam soap, spray cream with wide-toothed combs, straws and small brushes all give mark making opportunities that help to develop manipulation skills, strengthening wrists.

Toy vehicles, a large home-made stamp pad and a left over piece of wallpaper to make wheel tracks marks will develop co-ordination skills.

Chunky chalks  – we gave Daisy a set of chunky chalks which she enjoys using on the patio and on pavements where we chalk together, making and copying patterns.

Pens and crayons – if you want a quieter play time with your grandchildren, they will enjoy scribbling on scrap paper with chunky felt tip pens (make sure they contain washable inks).

Our grandchildren’s pretend play is based on what they see around them and this applies to writing too.  I know that it is often easier to use our smart phones for writing but children also need to see us actually doing some writing and using a variety of pencils and pens – write a shopping list on a piece of paper and take it to the shop together, write your message in a greetings card and invite them to add their ‘signature’.

Meaningful mark making by your grandchild is their way of expressing themselves and we should show that we value their work by putting it up where they can see it on display.

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Granny Smith says

Word of warning – if your grandchild has recently enjoyed participating on a vertical colouring wall and also enjoyed using chunky chalks on the garden wall they have become aware that vertical art work is possible.  And they will be tempted to do more mark making by that clear area of emulsioned wall, particularly if crayons are accessible.

If you decide to leave crayons and felt tips out, be sure to leave out some paper for them to colour on and if your grandchild is interested in creating large pieces of art work, I recommend buying a roll of lining paper which can be spread out and cut to the desired length.

Grandparents and toys: the time and means to buy and play

As you may already know my husband works in the toy industry.  He shared a report he had seen (from the USA) that said: Grandparents account for about one-quarter of sales, or nearly $7 billion, within the $28 billion U.S. toy industry

Most readers of my blog won’t be surprised with this news and will probably agree that the same is likely to be true in the UK.  I think that as we grandparents are doing the toy buying ‘second time around’ we may be a bit more discerning about what we buy.  Certainly, as many of us have the luxury of spare time to spend with our grandkids, I believe we are even more interested in their development and education.

The report also says that 50% of grandparents report that they spend time playing with toys or board games with their grandchildren; no mention of screen-time there!  This just confirms to me what an important job it is to be a grandparent, and what it is fun watching them play, grow and learn.

Here is a link to the press release.

Pumpkin maths

Have you noticed the array of pumpkins and colourful squashes at your supermarket or greengrocers?  And have you bought some to decorate your home or your doorstep?

Pumpkins and squashes are brilliant additions to our homes at this time of the year and you can also share them with your young grandchild.

Before you even consider taking a carving knife to a pumpkin or squash, let your grand child investigate them.  You can start by talking about the colours of the squash or pumpkin and then let your grandchildren touch and hold them.  Along with numbers, learning about shapes and measurements is also part of the Early Years curriculum.

At the weekend Daisy had to show us their pumpkins and told us that they had a Daddy pumpkin and baby pumpkins.  This was her way of telling us about the difference in the sizes, in a way that she understands.  She also counted her baby pumpkins “one, two” as she picked them up.  Then she tried to pick up the Daddy pumpkin but couldn’t lift it and told us “Too heavy!”  Number, size and weight, all in a few moments of play.

Daisy has a book of Opposites.  Reading this book with her and using words such as big, little/ small in everyday situations helps her to develop her vocabulary and understanding about size.

Using opportunities in everyday situations is a an ideal way to help your grandchildren as they learn these mathematical concepts.  The best way to find out is in practical situations so next time that you go grocery shopping with your grand child, let them help you count potatoes into a bag and see how the bananas grow together in a curved group.  Let them hold the cauliflower and see how heavy it feels then put it onto the balance scales to watch the needle on the dial move.

Meanwhile, Daisy is taking great care of her baby pumpkins –

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Granny Smith says

Once you’ve carved your pumpkin ( if your grandchild will let you), making pumpkin soup is a great activity to share.

How small world animals can inspire early role play

I’m sitting on the dayroom floor playing with Daisy and we are surrounded by her array of small world animals.  I can see a variety of animals from her wild animal collection and her Happyland sets that she’s had for nearly a year.  Daisy regularly plays with them in different scenarios including hiding them in her kinetic sand and washing them all at bath time.  Today her panda and the farmyard dog are visiting the policeman and Red Riding Hood in her house and everybody is ringing the doorbell and everybody is saying “Hello”, repeatedly.

Through her small world characters, Daisy is acting out what she experiences daily when she goes with Mummy to visit relatives and friends, and Daisy always has a friendly “Hello” for anybody calling at their house.

This is just one example of the role play that I’m starting to see as Daisy begins to copy the actions of adults to explore and make sense of the world around her.  Her toys and play equipment are essential ‘tools’ that enable her explorations.

At the end of the day, as we are packing away the Happyland house and characters, it occurs to me that although Daisy has plenty of wild animals and farm animals, where were the woodland animals?  Where is the hedgehog, the squirrel, the badger and all of the wild animals that Daisy knows of through stories such as Peter Rabbit and Pip and Posy.  These are the animals that are more familiar to her and the ones that she has and will see in the park and our garden.

Doing some research I found that Jo Jo Maman Bebe have a wooden set and Playmobil have a small set of woodland animals but to find a set of animals that are similar to Daisy’s existing play animals the choices are limited.  Extended internet searches and eventually I found that Yellow Door have a set of British woodland animals.

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We purchased a set of these woodland animals for Daisy’s birthday and they are all perfect additions for her play.  She has quickly learnt about a badger and a stoat and she’s happy to finally have a squirrel and a hedgehog to carry around.

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Daisy recently spotted squirrels rushing up a tree in the local park.  This set of play animals has given us opportunities to talk about the woodland animals and where they live, helping Daisy to understand more about her surroundings.

Granny Smith says

There are alternatives to having a set of woodland animals.  Baker Ross have Woodland Animal Sticker Scenes and Woodland Foam Stickers if your grand child enjoys stickers, though you do need to monitor this play as the sets include small parts.

There are colouring pages and photographs of local wildlife on the internet and you can use these to talk to your grandchildren about the living things in the area near you.

What to look for in Autumn; a guest blog by Grandpa Smith

Autumn is Grandpa’s favourite season so I’ve invited him to write this –

Daisy may be too young to understand the turning of the seasons but she’s not too young to savour the assault on the senses presented by the arrival of Autumn. It is the most sensory of the seasons providing stimulation colour and texture, sounds smells and tastes that herald the depart of summer and the promise of change.

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I am of the ‘Ladybird’ generation, educated in part by those compact masterpieces that conveyed ‘grownup’ things in digestible collectible volumes. ‘The What To Look For’ series first published in 1960 deals with the seasons and the book on Autumn was, and still is, my favourite.

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It will be a while before Daisy and I share E. L. Grant Watson’s succinct descriptions of C. F. Tunnicliffe’s evocative illustrations, but she is ready to get her yellow wellies on and experience the crackle of dead leaves, the glory of the red and white fly agaric toadstool (don’t touch!), the tang of early apples freshly picked from the tress and the contrasting textures of the conker’s prickly skin and its polished nut.

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The many shapes, colours sizes and textures of leaves at this time of year provide an endless resource for tactile learning as well as a natural soft play area (always check for hidden hazards!).

Where we live she will also hear the honking of the geese as the form their V-shaped fly past and smell sweet woodsmoke in the crepuscular light.

 

 

Much of Autumn’s bounty can be brought inside for further examination and display (yes, I am of the ‘nature table’ generation as well). Learning Resources’ Sensory Tubes are perfect for storing this kind of scavenging  Such collections of leaves and twigs, nuts and berries, moss and bark can be enhanced by extras from Yellow Door; take a look at their Coloured Leaves and Wooden Tree Set. Their Natural Sorting Traysalso provide an opportunity for a little simple classification and make great display items.

With or without extra resources Autumn is a gift of sensory learning for all children and a magical time of sharing for grandparents.

Grandpa Smith says

Put some potatoes on to bake before you go outside!

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