Winter Ice Play

During our walks in the woods we have spotted a few snow drops and daffodils poping their heads up in anticipation of Spring. But Little Moo is hoping that it doesn’t come too soon, and has been waiting patiently for snow. While we wait, here’s a little fond look back on the wonderful fun we had with ice play last year!

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What started out as an easy ice sculpture/decoration activity soon turned in to ice play!
Moo began by collecting twigs and leaves from the garden and arranging them in foil containers and old ice cream tub lids. Then topped them up with water and added drops of food colouring before poping in the freezer. We also made an ice ball by freezing a balloon filled with water and food colouring.

Top tip! If you’d like to make beautiful ice decorations for hanging in the trees, remember to add loops of string or wire to the ice trays before putting in the freezer! (I forgot this stage, but it proved fruitful as Little Moo came up with her own uses for the finished ice blocks!)

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The finished ice blocks were beautiful! Little Moo took them outside and started to play. The circles quickly became ice cookies, which she bought from the shop and transported home again in her sleigh. And the big ice ball became a meatball! 🙂

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More fun and learning was had when the ice later started to melt. Moo was quite upset when her cookies and meatball began breaking, but it gave good opportunity to show how water changes state in different temperatures. And we had fun helping the melting process along with sticks and a little bit of mushing! 😉

I’m looking forward to Spring, but here’s hoping Little Moo gets her wish for snow so we can have a little more exciting frosty fun and discovery first. 😉

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Posted by Cheryl

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Autumn Discovery

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Autumn this year was a season full of discovery for Little Moo.
During our weekly trips to Forest School, Moo got to experience the season for herself. Seeing it, feeling it, smelling it, hearing it. The woodland offered so much opportunity to learn. Moo felt the change in weather, she saw and heared the wind rustling through the trees, and watched as the brown leaves fell around her. Every week we would bring home bags full of treasures, autumn gold! Leaves of various autumnal colours, shiny conkers, fluffy feathers, and an abundance of nutty acorns which the giant oaks had thrown down on to the woodland floor (and often on our heads!)
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We saw ladybirds, newly transformed from their grub stage, ready to find a cosy spot amongst the moss to hibernate through the coming winter. We found worms getting full off the crunchy leaves which had formed a beautiful yellow, orange and brown carpet on the woodland floor.
This was a classroom, but there were no walls, no pictures in books, just a real sensory rich learning environment ready to teach Little Moo all she needed to know about the changing seasons.
Autumn truely is a wonderful, beautiful season, and there’s no better place to experience it than in the woods!
The experience didn’t stop there. Back at home we set up an investigation table ready for Little Moo whenever she felt the desire to continue her autumn discovery.
This began as a simple collection of her ‘autumn gold’, a magnifying glass, paper, and pencils, but grew and evolved as Moo’s needs arose.

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After previously discovering a millipede amongst her nature collection, Little Moo was keen to explore the acorns, twigs and conkers to see if she could find any more little creatures. Breaking open the acorns soon became a popular task. Moo used her fingers to break the shell, and soon asked for more tools to help with the job, such as a pencil and a knife.

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During the dissection of one acorn, Moo discovered that it was full of what looked like tiny little black seeds. Most of the acorn was otherwise hollow, except for one little wriggley creature. And Moo was keen to find out more…
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On closer investigation, and with a little help from Google, we concluded that our little visitor was most likely an ACORN MOTH CATERPILLAR. Acorn moths lay a single egg near to or inside an acorn, the hatched caterpillar then lives inside the acorn, eating the inside, until it is ready to emerge and transform in to a cocoon.

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So, the little black seeds Moo had found, were in fact the caterpillar poo!
Later, when Moo found a baby snail in the garden, this gave her an opportunity to learn about and compare tiny creature poo 😉
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After our investigations, Moo decided that as acorn moths needed acorns as their home and food, it would be best to put him in to the garden with some acorns 🙂 But the learning and discovery didn’t end there. The abundance of acorns later became useful as a counting game, using some old plant pots painted with numbers for Moo to count the acorns into…
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And the ‘autumn gold sorting game’, where Moo sorted the various items into named plant pots. This began as a simple 4 pot game, but Moo quickly pointed out that we needed more pots for the extra items she had found. “I need one for the feathers and the stones too, mummy”.
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Little Moo’s adventures through the wonderful, discovery rich autumn, has reaffirmed for me the vast benefits of child initiated play and learning. By keeping our minds, time, and plans open to opportunity and discovery, Little Moo’s instinctive, investigative nature has taken us both on an exciting journey of discovery, fun, and learning 🙂
Thank you for visiting.
From me and Little Moo xx

Posted by Cheryl

Remembering to observe, trust, and respect.

Well, I must confess, I had started out a few days ago with a pretty clear vision in my head of how this particular post would look and how it could be titled- ‘Halloween Den’. ‘Halloween Activities at Home’. ‘More Halloween Discovery’ ?

Little Moo was once again showing a lot of interest in Halloween. So we set out to make a ‘Halloween den’. We dug what was left of last year’s loot out of the garage, and picked up a few new spooky finds on a trip to the shops.
We cleared a corner of the playroom ready for the den.
In my mind I envisioned making a den with the black spider web table cloth, which I had intentionally bought for that very purpose. I imagined providing various areas of interest and invitations to play, such as messy play, mark making, number recognition etc.
I had a plan all set out in my mind, UNTIL…

Moo began to PLAY.

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As she sat surrounded by the Halloween goodies, Moo began to group and count the toys…

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I sat watching her play independently like this for over 20 minutes.

And Moo had her own ideas for the black spider table cloth…

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This made me stop and think.
Does Moo really need/want me to make a den with my own pre planned areas of discovery and learning? What if I just left the toys for her to investigate for herself? What does Moo want from her Halloween play?

So I left my intervention as simply this- a single invitation to play, the Halloween items and toys on the playroom table and some on the floor. Then I stepped back and watched & facilitated while Moo played. And what an exciting, diverse afternoon of play this led to!

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After counting, Moo turned her attention to the packets of Halloween confetti, she asked me to open them and poured them in to the partitioned tray, along with some of the tools and scoops from her investigation box,

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and began to arrange the confetti onto a piece of A4 felt.

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And then on to plates for our lunch,

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After our spooky lunch, Little Moo asked if she could have the ‘spready glue’.

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Then came the request for paint…

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Which turned into a colour mixing discovery!

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During the post-paint clean up, Moo discovered that her toy frog had been splashed with some red paint, this led to a spot of role play as ‘Doctor Moo’ proceeded to take care of frog’s bleeding foot! 

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Whilst frog was in recovery, Moo’s attention returned to the Halloween goodies, particularly the pumpkins which she wanted to move to her market stall. This provided an opportunity for Moo to show off her strength. “I can carry it all by my own, mummy.”

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I asked her if there was anything else she needed or would like to add to the room. She asked for a bed and some playdouh, so we set to work…

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Moo proudly showed me how she had added one matching coloured button to each ball of the newly made playdouh. She solved the problem of not having any orange buttons to match the orange playdouh, by choosing a closely matching yellow button-

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Then continued to add confetti, buttons and acorn cups before asking for my help in removing them all with the tweezers, another tricky task mastered!

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By throwing away my own preconceived plans and allowing Moo to take the role of chief planner, we went from the possibility of having a small den in the corner of the playroom, to the reality of an entire Moo designed ‘Halloween Room’ full of opportunities and the potential to play for days to come.

In one afternoon, without any pushing from me, Little Moo practiced many skills- counting, problem solving, writing, colour mixing, fine and gross motor, role play, empathy, communication, cause and effect, to name just a few!

And as it came time for Little Moo to go up to bed after a very busy, exciting, creatively spooky day. I sat and began to think about writing this post.

Looking back over the pictures I had taken and the ‘Moo-quotes’ I had scribbled down, I soon realised that this was no longer going to be a post about Halloween dens or Halloween themed activity ideas, but rather a post, or diary of Little Moo’s self led journey of play, discovery, creativity, and learning.

And most importantly the experience has reinforced the importance for me as mummy/facilitator/teacher/guide/play mate, to remember to pause, step back, observe, trust, and respect Little Moo’s instinctive ability to take responsibility for her own play, learning and discovery 🙂 

Thank you for visiting!
Happy playing, and happy Halloween!
From Me, Moo, and froggy too! 🙂

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Posted by Cheryl

Halloween discovery tent

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With Halloween fast approaching and Little Moo showing great interest in the seasonal aisles of our local shops, I have started to think about making a Halloween themed area in our playroom.

Whilst this is underway, here’s a recap of the Halloween discovery tent I made for Moo last year…

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In our previous house we had the luxury of a fairly large playroom (previously known as, dining room), Moo permanently had a tent/gazebo up in one corner. It was usually used as a play house, but when Little Moo was becoming interested in all things Halloween, the dolls and kitchen were temporarily moved out to make way for Halloween discovery!

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The tent was initially made up of three main areas,

Pumpkin Patch,
A corner to investigate- Pumpkins, apples, halloween cobwebs, light-up skull, small toy spiders & mice, and the autumn leaves we had collected from the garden.

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Scooping & pouring,
Moo was interested in pouring, scooping and mixing, so I provided an area which included bowls full of dried lentils & peas, and halloween confetti. I also provided various sized scoops, spoons, bowls, and cups.

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Mark making,
I included a small area using a wooden chopping board, for mark making. Coloured pens, pencils, halloween note books & douh cutters. We later made black, orange, and green ‘spooky play douh’ together to add to this area.

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I also provided halloween dress up outfits & accessories, trick or treat bucket, battery operated hanging pumpkin lights, hanging ghosts, skeletons & bats.

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                        Tip!
I had originally used a plastic tarpaulin on the floor of the tent, but swiftly replaced this with a blanket when Moo started to play with the lentils and peas- the tarpaulin had them slip sliding away all over the place, which made them difficult to contain to the tent area, and made tidy up time a much bigger job than it had to be!

It didn’t take Little Moo long to get stuck in investigating all the spooky delights!

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She spent long periods of time making cakes with the lentils and peas, I added a ‘table’ to enhance this area of play, using an upturned toy bucket covered with green halloween material. This proved to be a great addition as Moo enjoyed using it as a place to put her cakes and drinks.

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Whilst pouring and scooping the contents of the large bowl, Moo began to find the little halloween confetti, and we had fun sorting them into different cups. Little Moo decided that she would find all the pumpkins and gave me the task of finding the spiders. This was a great way for Moo to practice her concentration and fine motor skills as the confetti was quite fiddly and hard to find amongst all the peas and lentils!

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Discovery of the pumpkin patch soon turned into ‘colouring’ of the pumpkin patch! Moo had great fun colouring on the pumpkins and discovered that the pen would easily rub off on to her fingers, which soon became an activity of its own!

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In the mark making and play douh area, Moo continued to colour herself more than the paper ;), enjoyed making play douh spiders, and discovered that dry autumn leaves were a great canvas for making dots and holes.

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Later, on discovery of the small toy spiders and mice, the pumpkin patch became home to ‘Spider and Mouse’. Moo said that Spider had a sore leg so he went to see Doctor Mouse. This was a good opportunity for me to facilitate counting practice as we counted Spider’s legs.

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The Halloween discovery tent provided Little Moo with weeks of creative and investigative play!
Some of the areas like the scooping and pouring, were kept on when the dolls and kitchen returned to the tent. We kept a box of lentils and peas for further cooking adventures! 
And after the pumpkins had been decorated, we opened them up to carve and used the ‘innards’ as a great sensory messy play activity!

Not sure how this year’s Halloween area is going to compare with last year’s! We don’t have enough room in our new house for an entire tent, but maybe a smaller den could be constructed….

Whatever we do come up with, I’ll keep you posted! 🙂

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Have a great spooky Halloween!

Posted by Cheryl

Millipede!

The day making dinner was put on hold!
When Little Moo found a strange wriggley thing hiding amongst her conker collection, we stopped to investigate, and here’s what we found…

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On closer investigation, what Moo thought was a tiny worm, turned out to be a millipede!
‘He’s got legs!’ she declared. ‘He’s definitely walking!’
We quickly set up an investigation area in the playroom, and Moo spent time looking at and making pictures of the newly named, ‘Millie’.
She tried to count his legs, ‘one, two, three, four, five, six……’ and concluded he had eleven! 😉

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After watching Millie’s movements for a while, he was taken to live in the comfort of our bug garden, under a rock with the slugs and spiders 🙂
A simple impromptu activity which offered so much learning for Moo.
So, next time a mini creature turns up uninvited, rather than swiftly shooing it away, grab a magnifying glass and mark making tools, and see where your little one’s inquisitive nature takes her/him 😉

Posted by Cheryl

Early Years Forest Play

Seeing as so much of our play is inspired by the outdoors, I thought it would be nice to begin my blog with an account of what started it all, my passion for forest school!

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My first experience of Forest School came a few years back when I was working in a children’s centre. My manager sent a few of us off on training, I went with only a little knowledge which a quick google search had given me, I returned after 5 days training in a chilly December forest with a newly found passion for outdoor play and learning! I was so inspired by what I had experienced and learned, that I can honestly say it changed my life! The experience opened my eyes to a whole new approach to early years play and education.

And unsurprisingly when Little Moo came along a few years later, I was quick to get her out playing in a woodland environment as early as possible!

You can find out more about the history of forest schools here,
http://www.forestschools.com/a-history/

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I believe children are never too young to be introduced to the natural world! As a young baby I would lie Moo under a beautiful big oak tree in our local park and she would be captivated by the leaves and shadows swaying in the branches above. I always carried a cheap small bottle of bubbles in my pocket, and would lie next to her blowing bubbles up and she would watch them float up towards the branches. It was a peaceful quality time for us both (and only cost the price of a 50p jar of bubbles!).

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From the moment she could sit up, I would sit Moo on the woodland floor and allow her to play with the leaves, sticks, pine cones, and explore the different scents and textures, providing her with an enriched holistic play experience.

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Once she turned two, I searched out our local forest school and family woodland groups-
http://www.wackywoods.co.uk
and
http://naturetonurture.co.uk/
The experience has been fantastic, Moo loves being out in the woods, I have loved seeing her confidence grow and I am often amazed by her ability to master the uneven terrain. Most weeks she has a little tumble on a tree root or leaf-hidden hole, but she is un phased, she just gets up and carries on saying, ‘I stumble tripped again, mummy!’.

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One of her favorite activities in the woods is making cakes, such as her brilliant ‘googleberry cake’. I am usually sent out to find the ingredients for her while she does the mixing.

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We recently made mini acorn-cup cup cakes for the fairies! It is so nice to just have a moment to stop, sit, and play with Moo without any interruptions or distractions. We chat and bond over mud cake making!

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I also love how she is learning to manage risks. She learns and respects the rules around the fire circle and has even sat and practiced whittling on a carrot…

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And used a hand drill to make a hole for a mast on her bark boat…

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She loves to crush acorns with the mallet to add to her cakes…

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And drill holes in conkers to make a conker necklace…

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Some people ask how I keep her away from all the brambles and nettles, but even from such a young age she learned to identify them and keep herself away from the ‘spikey plants’ and they’ve never been a problem. Just the other day she successfully negotiated her way around the brambles to get to a berry and picked it without a scratch!

Being in ‘the wild’, Little Moo always comes across lots of little creatures.
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She investigates every single one, holds them, lets them crawl up her arm.
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She isn’t phased or alarmed by their tickley legs or slimey skin, she’s not afraid by some of them looking like nothing she’s seen before.
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I’ve even seen her stroking a big beatle like it was no different to her pet rabbit! (We could learn a lot from three year olds!) 😉
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Every week she has practiced balancing on the ‘balancing tree’…

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Just recently she took 4 big steps all on her own! When we first started she couldn’t even stand on it unaided! The look of joy on her face when she stepped and shouted, ‘look, I’m balancing!’ was priceless!

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From starting off holding on tightly to me at all times, now she lets go of me voluntarily and isn’t afraid to fall, she’s learned to judge and trust the falling distance and she just gets back up and tries again.

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And she’s always rewarded with a tasty campfire toasted s’more at the end of it all!

I could easily talk forever about the enjoyment and benefits we have both gained from forest school! Over the last year, Moo has learned such a lot about the changing seasons by being there, seeing and feeling the changes for herself.

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The experiences are on going and I plan to continue to take her along to sessions for many years to come. We love going home smelling of camp fire and covered in mud!

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I hope this personal account of our woodland experiences has sparked a desire for you and your little ones to get out there and make adventures of your own!

For those of you in the north west of England, I highly recommend,

http://www.wackywoods.co.uk

and

http://naturetonurture.co.uk/

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Thanks for visiting.
Come back soon! 🙂

Posted by Cheryl