Grandparents and You Tube; a great combination to help preschoolers learn new words

Research shows that pre-school children have a vocabulary of around 1,000 words by the time they are three and they will continue to learn another 500 – 600 words by the time they are four years old.

Recently I had been sitting on the floor with Daisy while she played with her mixed collection of small world of animals.  There had been a lot of imaginary play going on until Daisy had to stop for her lunch. After lunch we had to go out, so the animals were collected up but not put away.

Later when we returned home I again sat with Daisy and her animal collection and this time we talked together.


We talked about the animals and named the ones Daisy had seen on a recent visit to a wildlife park.  Then we sorted the animals into groups by the number of legs that they had.  First of all we looked at the group of two legged animals and named their parts, talking about how these animals eat, where they live etc.


Onto the four legged animals – this time we when we looked at the animal’s features.  We looked at their tails; we found there were lots of different types of tails to look at and describe: – curly, straight, long, short, longest, shortest.  Then we moved on to their ears.


Our talking homed in on the gorilla and chimpanzee and as we were looking at the model animals I showed Daisy that a chimpanzee and gorilla walk using their knuckles.  This fascinated Daisy and then sent her in a different direction because she pointed at the television and asked her Daddy if she could watch a gorilla, please.

Oh, the joys of today’s technology that gives us instant access to such information.  Daisy’s parents have started to use You Tube to enable them to show Daisy details which give her an insight and help to answer her question(s).  Our talking had stimulated Daisy’s curiosity so together we watched a couple of short videos on You Tube showing a gorilla moving about as well as caring for its baby.

Daisy was satisfied, the television went off and Daisy went off to play with her mother and baby gorilla, balancing the baby on the mother gorilla’s back….

Opportunities to talk

We need to keep talking to our pre-school grand children.  Their word learning takes place in these conversations – and this also enables our grandchild to continue to develop their understanding of the world.

Granny Smith says

This is an activity can go on for as long or as short a time as you think suits your grandchild, and be prepared to go off at a tangent!

More Creative Autumn-Themed Activities For Pre-schoolers, Using Black Sugar Paper

A pack of sugar (or construction) paper is a great investment offering lots of opportunities for crafting activities including some that perfectly suit events in Autumn.

Sugar paper has a slightly rough surface and so is ideal for young children to use in craft activities. (Just in case your grandchild asks: the term “sugar paper” comes from its use in making bags to contain sugar in the ’olden days!’)

Daisy really enjoyed her ‘pumpkin’ sticking activity.  After she had finished, we realised that it was the first time we had used black paper in her activities.  Daisy has used plenty of white and bright coloured papers but no dark sugar papers.

My next activity with sugar paper gave Daisy an opportunity to try using chalk for mark-making on the paper.  Chalk is so easy to use on the sugar paper and any child can successfully make their marks with ease.  In fact, soon after Daisy had made her first marks on the paper she began to flourish displaying some new drawing skills and confidently drawing circles to which she added hair, arms and digits.


As we approach Guy Fawkes’ Night on November 5th there’s another opportunity to use the black sugar paper. This date usually heralds a week of fireworks displays so chalk and neon colouring crayons can be used to create vivid firework inspired pictures.

Daisy has been creating her firework pictures while watching firework displays on You Tube, making colourful patterns on the paper and adding a few stickers to complete her pictures.

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Granny Smith says

These activities give a pre-school child the opportunity to be creative and expressive in their own way.  While they are trying out different mark making equipment the zigzag lines, the loops and curves of the firework pictures are a fun way for them to develop the coordination that they need to be able to write.

A Simple Autumn Craft Activity for a Three Year Old

When Daisy comes to visit us she has plenty of play time.  There’s a different set of toys her for her to play with, she has our garden to explore, and I enjoy having those special one-to-one moments with my granddaughter.  As well as joining in with her play-time, I try to  prepare a few simple craft activities for each visit; activities that last about 10 minutes with Daisy and can slot in anywhere in her day.

To try some more seasonal activities with Daisy on her most recent visit I bought a pack of black and coloured A4 sugar paper (sugar paper is better than card for these activities).  I had already put some pumpkins out on our doorstep and Daisy was interested in looking at and handling them and this inspired our first activity.

Preparation for my first activity

Cut out several (small hand-sized) pumpkin shapes from orange sugar paper and cut out some stalk shapes from green sugar paper.

Have a piece of A4 black sugar paper ready.

Prepare a small amount of PVA glue in a jar lid. with a glue spreader


What to do

Daisy used the glue spreader to spread glue onto one side of each pumpkin and to then turn it over and stick it onto the black paper.

Then I gave Daisy the cut-out stalk shapes and asked her if she could remember where the stalk is on a pumpkin.  I asked Daisy to put a stalk onto each of the pumpkins.  One stalk at a time, Daisy spread the glue on the stalk shapes and decided where they went on her pumpkins.


The result is a simple seasonal picture.


This activity helped Daisy to use tools correctly, develop dexterity and hand – eye coordination as well as giving her an opportunity to follow a simple instruction and use her powers of observation.

Granny Smith Says

This simple activity is perfect for children of Daisy’s age,  Well prepared and short in duration it will hold their attention just long enough and results in a successful outcome.

Sharing and Learning from what happens in Autumn

We adults are familiar with the sequence of the seasons and the gradual changes that take place in nature during autumn. As part of beginning to understand the world around her (part of the Early Years curriculum), this year we’ve started to talk to Daisy about the way trees change in autumn, and to observe some of the changes as they happen.

While Daisy and her Grandpa were busy collecting up the conkers that cascaded from the trees, I decided to gather up some of the leaves that have fallen on the grass.  Daisy had already gathered leaves with her childminder and had an opportunity to look at the collected leaves using a magnifying glass.

I had something different in mind for those leaves that I had picked up in the park.

I’d collected a variety of different shaped leaves so I could show Daisy that leaves are all different shapes and sizes.  Back home, we looked at the leaves together.  Some of the leaves were still green, blown off the tree by the strong winds, while some had turned orange/yellow and brown.  These leaves were ideal for an activity with Daisy that allowed her to explore colours while trying out an early form of printing.

Leaf printing

Three year olds aren’t keen to wait for messy play to begin so I had already prepared a simple form of paint pad, using paint in the three colours of autumn that we’d seen, placed side by side on the paint pad.  I had also taped some art paper to Daisy’s small table.

Together we pressed a leaf onto the paint pad and then pressed the leaf onto the art paper, repeating the process with different leaves.  Don’t expect perfect leaf prints; for a three year old the pleasure and the discoveries come from the process of printing.  When Daisy had enough of leaf printing (at her age about five – ten minutes), I let her paint with her paint brush to use up the remaining paint from the paint pad.  By now the colours on the paint pad had mixed and Daisy could see colours changing, just like autumn.

When the printing had dried, I used PVA glue so that we could fix the original leaves onto the art paper, in among the printing.  The finished printing went up on the door so that we could continue to admire Daisy’s artwork.

Whenever you decide to do some printing with your grandchildren, it’s a good idea to be well prepared, having the protective clothing, the paper and the paint pad ready.

I always use a paint pad for any printing activity.  A paint pad ensures that there isn’t surplus paint on the object being printed so that the print process is much more successful and rewarding for any child.

Making a paint pad

I made the paint pad for the leaf printing using a shallow container.  I put several layers of paper towel into the dish and added the poster paint on top of the paper towel allowing the paint to soak into the paper towel before the printing started.

Granny Smith says

If you have a favourite park where you regularly walk with your grandchildren, you can help them to observe the seasonal changes by looking at the trees on each visit.  You could take photographs of the same tree over the months and together look at the different images to spot the changes.

Conkers for Counting

This week the fine Autumn weather tempted us to the local park with Daisy, while Mummy and Daddy did more boring things at home.  As Daisy ran along the tree-lined path to the playground a strong gust of wind shook the branches overhead and conkers dropped from the sky, one bouncing of Daisy’s head (no harm done).  The swings had to wait while Daisy and Grandpa harvested the windfall and soon conkers, in and out of their green spiky shells, were piled in the buggy.


When the possibilities of the playground were exhausted the conkers were ferried home, Daisy carrying a special ‘baby’ conker.  At home we put groups of conkers out and talked about them.

We selected five conkers and helped Daisy sort them into size order talking about the biggest and smallest ones.


We then used the conkers as counters, and together we counted them into groups of two, three, four and five.


These activities were perfect ‘natural’ ways of continuing to use the language of size and practising counting.  Based on your grandchild’s age you can decide how many conkers to count.

Finding conkers about to emerge from their ‘shells’ gave Daisy the opportunity to explore how they may be prised free, their shiny appearance when fresh, their soft ‘bedding’ and the contrasting tough outer shell.   Daisy also tried fitting some of the conkers back into the spiky shell pieces.


Some spiky shells house two conkers and this ignited childhood memories from Grandpa and he explained the relative merits of the different sizes and shapes including the much prized ‘cheese-cutter’.   Further research by Grandpa revealed that as seeds, conkers will germinate if still fresh; they need to be soaked well in water before planting into pots.

Granny Smith says

Conkers can be a choking hazard and are classed as semi-poisonous so please take care and keep away from pets.


Helping your grandchild with Scissor Skills

I know that, at some point on most days, I will use a pair of scissors: to cut open a sealed packet, to cut a piece of string and, in my crafting time, to cut some fabric or yarn.

Daisy is increasingly aware of what we do; wanting to join in and use the equipment we use. Being able to use a pair of scissors is such a useful skill in her craft activities so we’ve purchased some small children’s scissors for Daisy. She has now learned how to open and close the blades, holding the scissors in a vertical position.

Recently she’s progressed to attempting to hold the scissors in the horizontal position, while moving the two blades with her both hands; just as I do when I’m using my garden shears.  This has enabled her to use scissors to make some tears in play dough.

But to successfully use a pair of scissors you need to be able to use one hand (the helping hand) to hold and guide what you are cutting while operating the two blades with the thumb and finger(s) of the other hand.  Using both hands to move the blades means that Daisy is frequently frustrated because she isn’t able to control the cuts unless she has an adult (helping hand) to hold the paper etc. for her.

Daisy needed activities where she could develop the strengthen in her wrist, hand and fingers for the grasp, squeeze and release action, using one hand.  We found a solution during the summer months of outdoor play and plenty of opportunities to play with water, using these three items.


Happily helping to fill her paddling pool up with water from the hose, Daisy quickly learned to use the trigger on the spray nozzle – a technique that requires her to squeeze and hold the trigger to control the water flow.  A technique we encouraged her to practice by also watering the plants in the garden and helping Granddad clean his car.

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A small water squirter was added to the paddling pool toys and Daisy rapidly learnt how to use the water squirter with great skill, hitting the moving target of an adult with ease.

Along with the small squirter, Daisy discovered Mummy’s trigger spray water bottle and she’s quickly learned how to use that too.  You might find a suitable trigger spray bottle at home that your grandchild can use.  Small clear trigger spray bottles are also available online and can be used for messy art sessions and outdoor water play.

All three items have given Daisy endless fun in the garden.  All three items require a one-handed grasp and squeezing technique along with the subsequent releasing of that grasp.  These tools all require similar coordination and strength to those we use when using scissors: grasping and squeezing the cutting blades together and then releasing, to part the blades after the cut.

Daisy will need practice and our encouragement to gradually master her cutting skills.  Now that she’s worked out how to open and close the scissors, she can begin to try to make small snips in the edges of pieces of paper.

Granny Smith says

There are lots of different types of scissors available for young children, so when your grandchild is ready to learn how to use scissors select a pair of scissors to suit small hands – there’s plenty of choice from soft handle, safety scissors, mini easy grip scissorsspring loaded scissors to training scissors.

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Wibble Wobble, Messy Jelly learning on a plate

Indoors or outdoors, Daisy regularly enjoys messy play.  Of course some of her messy play is spontaneous and sometimes we plan activities for her.  Messy play can involved all different types of media from mud and compost to things found in the kitchen like flour, custard and jelly.

Setting out the play

For a recent messy play activity, Mummy had prepared three bowls of jelly along with a selection of kitchen implements  for Daisy to use with the bowls of jelly.  As jelly has the potential to be a really messy activity, Daddy joined Daisy giving him the opportunity to talk with Daisy as she played.



Right from the start Daddy talked to Daisy about the sounds they could made with the jelly; from the sound of sticking the spoon into the set jelly and pulling it out, to the sounds coming from the potato masher as Daisy squashed it down on the jelly.  Listening to the sounds they were creating and describing what they are doing is an incidental opportunity to enhance Daisy’s language skills.  Next time she has jelly to eat they can recall some of these sounds.


Other aspects of the play with jelly

As Mummy had prepared three different coloured jellies for Daisy to play with there was also an opportunity for her to see what happens as you mix two different coloured jellies together.

In the past, Daisy has played with lentils, using a funnel to fill containers with lentils; she has containers to fill with water in the paddling pool and this time she had containers to fill with jelly.  Daisy used different spoons to fill containers with jelly and this process is helping her to see how jelly is different from lentils and water.


After messy play with jelly you can complement the experience through stories such as The Jelly That Wouldn’t Wobble by Angela Mitchell & Sarah Home; and be sure to include the Jelly On A Plate rhyme/action song. There’s several different versions – here’s a different one.

As Daisy is almost three we’ve started to include some of the development goals that nurseries use for 3 – 5 year olds.  Messy play activities give children first hand experiences of investigating and exploring while they’re also developing muscles, different grips and coordination as they use different implements.

This messy play can last as long as your grand child is captivated with the play.  Some children are unsure about the feel of jelly and other will enjoy the sensory opportunity.

Granny Smith says –

Other jelly messy play activities can include ‘hiding’ treasure such as pieces of fruit or small sweets in the jelly when you make it, to be discovered during the play; or add some food essence to the mix to give the jelly an extra fruity smell for even more of a sensory experience.