Expressive Arts & Design

Bringing The Learning Play Into Your Home

Yesterday, through the wonders of modern technology I was able to watch Daisy playing at home with Mummy and Daddy.  When Daisy plays at home, her play is different from the play she has when she’s at a playgroup or with the childminder.  In Early Years environments, activities usually have ‘zones’ for different types of play. There’s a quiet area to enjoy books, there’s a messy craft area, a physical play area and there are pretend/imaginative play spaces.

With imminent early years settings and school closures there will be pressure on the home environment for many weeks to come. If you can set up similar zones at home, you might find that you are able to do some work during the daytime while young children can continue to play (play is how young children do their learning).

Depending on your available space, put some cushions on the floor beside the books, set up a small occasional table for crafting, put the physical play in the hallway or outside and leave the toy corner for the imaginative play.  The craft table only needs to be set out for one particular craft, not all crafts at once.  And if you don’t want your children to play TOO physically indoors, then encourage some music and dancing instead.

Once the zones are set up you will need to encourage your children to play in each one and not just play in one area.  How you encourage this will depend on your children, but if they are familiar with these different areas because they regularly go to playgroup or nursery they will happily adapt to that routine at home, with your guidance.

It’s useful to have a timer to hand; anything will do from an egg timer or cooking timer to your phone’s timer for activity timing to encourage play in each area; then reset the timer for the next play area.  You might consider using incentives or small rewards for your child to complete activities.

Home doesn’t have the same big space as most early years settings but any garden play, park or covered outside play area is a welcome change.  When appropriately dressed for outside play, most children will stay outside for ages!

Then they’ll be ready to come indoors for a snack and some quiet time with CBeebies.

Physical Development

Helping your grandchildren from a distance

I’ve realised that I need to change the focus of my blog.  It’s hard to accept but soon many grandparents will not be able to have close contact time with their grandchildren.  We’re used to being the reliable backstop, not the vulnerable ones aren’t we?

I don’t expect it to be long before schools, children’s nurseries, playgroups and clubs etc are to close and your grandchildren will be at home all the time.

Now you have an opportunity to help your families to prepare for these closures and by doing so, that might help you to feel in touch with them all.

Sit down, go online and order some equipment and materials; books or games to be sent to your families addresses so that it’s there and ready for them when the closures happen.

I’d start with ordering some craft materials as most children enjoy sometime doing craft activities.  Start with the basics like craft papers, crayons, paints and paint brushes, glue  and probably some stickers.  Baker Ross have a fantastic ranges of goods for children of all ages and they often have promotions too.   Amazon also stock children’s craft materials.

Children also need to have some kind of physical play in their day and that might be a challenge in some homes.  What about some beanbags  – not the kind that you sit on, but the kind of bean bags that can be held in small hands and used to toss into/onto targets.  Or maybe some hula hoops which could also be used with a light fabric to make a tunnel.

Your grandchildren will also need some quiet time at home and another option for you to consider is to treat your grandchildren to a new book.  Usborne books have plenty of choice and you can search by age group.  Puffin books have a colourful website too, full of ideas.  Or browse the booksellers Waterstones site for ideas.

If you know that your grandchildren have plenty of craft kit, a good selection of books and physical play kit you can still treat them with an educational toy or game.  I’m going to recommend the Learning Resources website to you as I know that they have a large range of toys and games to suit different school ages and the full curriculum subject range.

Granny Smith says

These websites should give you plenty of ideas and the opportunity to make purchases from home.  I hope you enjoy this distraction and, whatever the news, think positive


World Book Day; Sharing a story “The Tiger Who Came To Tea”

Today Daisy is sharing one of her favourite stories, dressed up as Sophie from Judith Kerr’s classic The Tiger Who Came To Tea.

The Tiger Who Came To Tea  was first published in 1968.  Judith Kerr said that she made this story up as a bedtime story and she told it again and again to her daughter.

A young girl marking World Book Day dressed as Sophie from the Judith Kerr book The Tiger Who Came to Tea

Mummy did a great job decorating some white tights so that Daisy can look just like Sophie!


Returning to the library

A visit to my local library is just as familiar to Daisy as a visit to the library near her home.  Our visits to my library now begin with Daisy returning the books she’s had on loan from her previous visit to the library.  The process of putting the books under the scanner and then putting those books onto the returns trolley is part of her developing curiosity and independence.

The library offers such a variety of books that it gives us an opportunity to find different titles by favourite authors/ illustrators or an opportunity to try out a new author.  Now that Daisy’s level of concentration is increasing we are trying books with a bit more text on a page. Before I read a new book with Daisy we start by looking at the cover together and talking about what we can see, then we chat about what the story might be about.

Sometimes a library book will become so popular with Daisy that I’ve bought a copy of that book for Daisy to have and to continue to enjoy.  If I’m luckily I’ll find it in a charity shop!

I always allow plenty of time for our library visit so that Daisy can range through the book stands, select a book and then sit on the beanbags or little chairs to read a book with me.  Sometimes that book goes back on the book stand and sometimes it comes home with us.  The process is then repeated with her next selection.  At other times, Daisy will enjoy picking out and looking through a book that she may have enjoyed a year ago.  Reflecting on past books enjoyed gives her confidence to move on in her book enjoyment.

Eventually, when Daisy has settled on the books that she wants to take home, we return to the scanner with Daisy’s library card and her selection.  Putting the books in the scanner, pressing the touch screen to ‘Borrow’ and collecting her ‘ticket’ from the printer completes her library visit.

Copies of two library books: The Ugly Five by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler and The Paper Dolls by Jilia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb

Granny Smith says

Libraries are becoming familiar friendly places to Daisy.  She enjoys re-discovering books she has enjoyed as much as discovering new ones.  This process, as well as understanding the process of borrowing books builds confidence and self esteem.


World Book Day 2020; theme to ‘share a million stories’; Thursday 5th March

Did you know that this year it’s World Book Day 2020 on March 5th?

The theme for World Book Day 2020 is to share a million stories and encourages us to share stories from breakfast to bedtime.  The official World Book Day 2020 website has resources for this year’s ‘sharing stories’ theme and ideas for grand children of all ages.  There’s a variety of things to make and activities, all based around story characters.

For grandchildren who, like Daisy,  are at the pre-school stage there is the Big Little Book Corner with activities and the Little Book Corner video books.


Counting on repetition: helping your grandchild to master numbers

Daisy first started to learn about numbers from rhymes and action songs then last year she started to watch Numberblocks programmes on Cbeebies.  This series of programmes has really improved Daisy’s understanding of numbers.

Over recent months, with the help of Mummy, Daddy and her childminder, Daisy has learnt the names of numbers up to 20 and now she can recite the numbers up to 20 in the correct order.

Once our grandchildren begin to know number names and can recite number names in the correct sequence we can encourage them to see how we all use numbers in a variety of ways, in everyday life.

By talking and counting out loud together we can help our grandchildren to begin to understand that numbers can represent objects and groups of objects.  As with all the activities, our grandchildren will learn through plenty of repetition.

Together we count out loud the number of little cakes just baked, count the pencils on the table, count the number of steps to go upstairs, the number of cars outside and the people waiting at the bus stop.   (After a visit to stay with Daisy I catch myself counting the steps down to the station platform, forgetting she’s not with me!)

Our next step will be more abstract as we start to show Daisy that we also use numbers to count the things that are not objects.  We will do this through activities such as clapping and counting each clap, walking across the garden and counting our number of strides and then listening and counting the different sounds we can hear in the garden.

There is always time for more talking and more counting; it’s the repetition that will help make numbers stick.


Matching, Sorting and Language Skills, playing with a set of Usborne snap cards

It was back in January last year that I wrote my blog Using Usborne Snap cards for matching, sorting and language skills and described Daisy’s enjoyment using these Usborne cards.  We packed the cards away, ready for this Christmas, hoping to play more games and Christmas Snap with Daisy.

This Christmas time we put these Usborne snap cards out for Daisy to discover again.  And as we hoped, she has continued to enjoy playing with them and again we have found ways to use the cards for more matching, sorting and language skills.

Daisy’s initiated the first activity, using the whole pack of cards.  This year she was able to take the cards, one by one, putting it down on her table, telling us what the image was and gradually sorting the entire pack into the 13 groups of images.

Daisy is now aware that along with the image on the card, there’s a word too – the name for the image.  In further play, again sorting the cards, Daisy started to point at a few of the words which are on the cards and then tell us the initial letter for some of those words.  This language development in Daisy is a result of doing regular letter activities with Daddy, particularly when they are travelling on the bus or train and there’s some time to fill and occupy Daisy.

Once the Christmas presents were open and with new toys to play with, Daisy was too busy for more snap card activities for a while.  But one afternoon during their stay, the cards were nearby and I took out one card for each image.  Taking one card at a time, I asked Daisy if she could go and see if she could find that item in our house and to place a card beside each item.  She was so excited and busily set off, gradually finding all of the items.  I now have a couple of snap cards on the Christmas tree branches for baubles and decorations, our Christmas coasters for snowflakes and cards are placed beside her toys for the reindeer and elf.

Looking at the Early Years skills, this shows Daisy’s ability to understand and respond to simple instructions.  There’s also the beginnings of the use of prepositions with the cards placed on the Christmas tree, under the tree and beside the coasters…

I’m collecting up the cards again after Christmas and we still haven’t played Christmas Snap with the Usborne cards!  Nor have we used the cards to make up stories together – yet.

Granny Smith Says

Remember, these card games don’t have to be seasonal and Usborne do have different sets of Snap cards that can all be used to develop sorting, matching, memory and language skills.

Physical Development

Keeping Pre-schools Kids active in Winter: Expressive and physical play through ring games and action songs

At this time of year the days are shorter and recently we’ve had more than our fair share of very wet days too. There is only so much outdoor play that your grandchildren can do at this time of year; they still have the same amount of energy but they’re spending more time indoors. This is a good time to think about some indoor activities that encourage physical play and expressive development.

What counts as physical play and expressive development? I recently watched Daisy at her Playgroup Christmas Party when the children all joined hands to start to do the Hokey Cokey together; she was so excited and keen to join in with this chance to be physical and expressive.

There’s lots of incidental learning in a fun party round of Hokey Cokey (Hokey Pokey in some parts of the world) : following directions and copying actions as well as becoming aware of left and right. Of course the more opportunities you have to do the Hokey Cokey, the better you can become at it! Over the festive days, you may have a group of visitors who would also enjoy doing the Hokey Cokey with your grandchildren, it’s good for us all!

Daisy is also very keen on Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. This is another action song that promotes physical coordination. Before we introduced Daisy to this song we made sure that she could point to her facial features and had regularly shown her how to touch top of her head and her shoulders and to reach her knees and her toes. As it requires co-ordination and balance from your pre-school child I recommend starting by singing the lyrics slowly; if the song is sung too quickly to begin with it can challenge them.  Once they have mastered the actions then you can start to speed up the singing and move on, missing out the words while completing the actions.

I hope that I’m inspiring you, bringing back some memories of the ring games and action songs that you used with your children.

Other games:

Going on a Bear Hunt (all together as a family) – start by reminding your grandchild about the actions for each obstacle on the hunt.

The Walking song – we walk and we walk and we walk (with actions).

Here we go ’round the Mulberry Bush.

Duck, Duck, Goose (also adaptable to different animals and different ways of moving).

The Farmer’s in his Den.

Ring a Ring o’ Roses.

If you’re unsure of the lyrics and actions there are plenty of websites online for these action songs.  They all give our grandchildren opportunities to be physical and expressive and also encourage families to ‘play’ together!

Granny Smith Says

These ring games and action songs give our grandchildren opportunities to be expressive, but do make sure that every child has a chance to participate and have a turn so that no child is left out.


Feeding Rudolph and his friends with RSPCA recipes

Daisy and the family will be staying with us this Christmas so I am planning activities I can prepare ready for their visit.  One thing we will be making this year we will be a reindeer food mix for Daisy to sprinkle on our lawn on Christmas Eve; the perfect snack for Rudolph and the other reindeer.

The RSPCA website has some really useful advice for taking care of Rudolf and his friends with recipes and instructions available on a pdf to make both reindeer food mix and a reindeer cookie recipe.


I have made sure we have all the ingredients for the reindeer food mix ready at home.  It’s an easy mixture for us to prepare with Daisy so that it’s ready for an excited little girl to sprinkle in our garden on Christmas Eve.

The cookie recipe is also ideal for children of her age, but Daisy would be very disappointed not to be able to eat a cookie or two after baking them!

Granny Smith Says

I hope, like me, you get to enjoy some time with your grandchildren over the festive season.



Grandparents and YouTube; 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.

A young girl standing in front of a collection of toy animals.

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.

A set of avian children's toys, a fluffy chick, a wind-up chick, a hen and a robin

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.

A set of toy animals arranged by size: a dog, a horse, a tortoise, a giraffe, a ferret or stoat, a fox, a squirrel, a pig, an elephant and a tiger.
A set of toy animals arranged randomly: a dog, a giraffe, a ferret or stoat, a fox, a squirrel, a pig, an elephant and a polar bear

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!