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.

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 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.