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.

IMG-20190725-WA0001 a

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.

IMG-20190729-WA0000 a

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.

Preschool Clambering to Climbing

It is a while since I wrote a blog with a focus on physical skills.  This isn’t the blog that I was going to write but, as any grandparent knows, grandchildren have a knack of changing our plans and Daisy is no exception! Daisy has always liked climbing, but lately it’s something she’ll do at any opportunity; she will climb up and down anything that resembles a ladder.

w high chair

Daisy quickly learned that she could use the front struts on the typical restaurant high chair to climb up and now she independently gets herself into her seat at the table.

In the playground and at playgroup Daisy enjoys the climbing frames and the ladders up the slides (she’s less keen on coming down the slides).  Rope ladders and soft play areas give her endless joy, exploring and climbing.

Out and about, Daisy’s discovered that different designs of bar-style gates are also perfect for climbing.


I’ve noticed that Daisy’s has developed different grips when climbing.


Through climbing, a preschool child will develop different physical skills.  These skills range from the grips that they use as they are climbing to the strength they gain in their arms and legs, pulling and pushing themselves up and down as they climb.  Their balance improves as they develop their core muscles and there are often moments when they need to work out how to get up or down or move in a different direction; that entails some problem-solving skills too.  There will also be moments of uncertainty creating emotions from exhilaration to anxiety.  As adults we will have experienced those emotions in some of our physical challenges as well!

Last weekend Daisy saw her Daddy using his step ladder in the garden.  Daisy watched for a while and then asked if she could climb the step ladder too.  Mummy and Daddy know Daisy has developed some climbing skills so they considered the risk of letting her climb a step ladder and decided that with a couple of simple rules, she could have a go.

Important rule : NO climbing a step ladder without an adult nearby. Mummy and Daddy now make sure that Daisy always sees them following this rule when they are using the step ladder, making sure that another adult is nearby.

Daisy is old enough now to understand so we have talked to her about the basic safety considerations and maintaining her grip while going up and down the ladder.

This experience of climbing a step ladder has also given Daisy an opportunity to use her builders’ tools to do some ‘repairs’.  Daddy is standing at the bottom of the ladder with a firm grip on the frame.

At the end of the afternoon, Daddy took the step ladder and put it back into his shed – out of sight and away from temptation.

Some climbing requires taking ‘risks’.  Assessing the situation, taking risks and learning how to manage risks are life skills that every child needs to have some experience of in order to be able to develop those skills.  A child learns through practice and they need different experiences where there is an element of risk-taking, in order to acquire this important life skill.

IMG-20190723-WA0006Granny Smith says –

Soft play centres provide perfect opportunities for climbing activities and they are well constructed to allow plenty of exploration and problem solving, in a well maintained, safe environment.  Adults are often able to join in and support and encourage their children at this play.

Left, Right, Ready to Write?

For several days recently, a delighted Daisy would keep telling me that it wasn’t my birthday yet! When the day finally arrived, almost bursting with excitement, Daisy handed me an envelope.


This was of course a special birthday moment for me as Daisy had ‘written’ on the envelope and ‘signed’ a birthday card for me.

This moment indicated that Daisy’s early mark making has progressing to making marks for a purpose/ for a reason.  Daisy is also reaching the age where she will start to show a left or right-handed preference in her writing.  At the moment she still enjoys using both hands during her craft activities but when ‘writing’ and practising her pencil control, her natural writing hand preference is beginning to emerge.

A young child’s grip on pencils and crayons changes as their muscle control develops from their shoulders, through their elbows, to their wrists.  Each stage of improved control brings a more refined grip on a pencil.

cl - childminder day 12th March

Daisy’s grip on pencils and crayons has developed from the sideways, fist-like grasp, with the pencil held in the palm of her hand.  Currently, like the majority of 2 – 3 year-olds, Daisy has started to use a grip where her fingers are on top of the pencil and the palm of that hand is facing downwards.


To help to make gripping a pencil as easy and as comfortable as possible it helps if your grandchild is using chunky crayons and pencils.  The next change in grip will come as Daisy begins to use her elbow and wrist to control the pencil movements; then her grip will change towards one where she is gripping the pencil/crayon with all of her finger tips.


Plenty of drawing and colouring helps your grandchild to develop control of crayons and pencils.  All children need good pencil control before they start to form letters.

Practising pencil control can be fun with activities such as following dotted line patterns on plain paper progressing from straight lines to zig-zags, curves and loops or using simple dot-to-dot books.

Granny Smith says 

After my birthday, we talked to Daisy about everyone having a birthday and that she is the next one in our family to celebrate a birthday.  Next month we’ll circle the date of her birthday on the calendar and put the calendar up on the fridge door for Daisy to see.  Daisy can practise more mark making by crossing off each day, in anticipation of her birthday.

Using Story Sacks to bring Story Books to Life

Back in May, I wrote a blog about 50 years of The Very Hungry Caterpillar  and described a visit to the local library with Daisy where we selected some books and a Story Sack to borrow from the library.  While Daisy is now familiar with borrowing library books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar was her first story sack.

 A story sack is a large fabric drawstring bag which contains the story book, some story props, a related non-fiction book and a game of some ideas for activities.  Here are the contents of The Very Hungry Caterpillar story sack.


 Using props with a story book provides an interactive way to engage children in storytelling and helps them remember the story  The props stimulate a child’s imagination helping them relate to the characters in the story which in turn will strengthen emotion development.


 The contents of a story sack provide a wealth of story-linked activities.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar story sack also included an A4 sheet of activity suggestions for parents (and grandparents!).  You’ll find more ideas will emerge as you use the book and story sack. 


 As I was reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar to Daisy she was determined to match each story prop to the appropriate page in the book and she particularly enjoyed fitting the food over the images in the book..  This, in it’s turn, lead to plenty of counting and talking about the caterpillar eating MORE each day which made more links back to our recent grocery shopping outing (previous blog) 


 After we had read the book and had used all of the story props, Daisy held onto the butterfly imitating a butterfly in flight.  Daddy arrived at this stage and Daisy began to talk about butterflies.  Then Daisy went off with Daddy to see if there were any butterflies on our garden as Daddy talked to her about different sizes of butterflies. 

 It wasn’t long before Daisy was able to tell me that we had white butterflies in our garden. 


 Our first story sack experience demonstrated just how stimulating a story sack can be.  While listening to the story Daisy used the story props to follow along, then she practised her counting skills, had an introduction to the life cycle of a butterfly, looked and found butterflies on our garden. All of this prompted Daisy to remember our visit to the Butterfly House at the London Zoo where a huge, brightly patterned butterfly sat on her buggy and refused to move off!

Story sacks were first created in the 1990’s and they have become a popular resource in nurseries and schools.  Nowadays story sacks are also accessible to parents and grandparents, through local libraries.  (Our story sack counted as one item when we took it out on loan and had was on loan for the same length of time as a book would be).

 Granny Smith says

As the school holiday approaches, the summer reading challenge ‘Space Chase’ is underway at local libraries.  It’s a great opportunity for grand parents to encourage our grandchildren to borrow books and story sacks from the library and to take up the Summer Reading Challenge.