Allotment day

We go to the allotment at least once a week and today was allotment day. And what a great day it was- playing in the sand pit, mud kitchen, swings, helping around and looking for minibeasts are a few of the children’s favourite activities. Today they did all of them.

First things first, let me tell you how nice our vegetables are doing. Even better, let me show you :

We are growing the peppers and the tomatoes in pots in the greenhouse, to be planted out later. The salads are very plentiful, we harvested some today, the courgette has flowered and we have our first ripe strawberry.

It feels like this month’s most important job has been weeding, especially with all the rain, the weeds grow very fast.Also trying to protect the smaller plants from slugs is proving to be difficult. Aside the slug pellets we also tried eggshells but it didn’t work as the kale and the rocket salads have been totally eaten.

Now, the fun part. I told you we have so much fun at the allotment. And the best part is the learning that’s happening while having all this fun.

Cooking a chocolate cake in the mud kitchen or  making coffee are the most loved recipes. Ha ha even the children know our coffee addiction as they keep offering us coffee. Joke aside, is lovely to see the children emulate what they see at home- mixing ingredients together, adding a bit of seasoning, washing up the dishes, they even help clean the whole kitchen before we go. And the language going on is the best- from telling each other what they are making to problem-solving when a difficult situation arises.

The swings are very popular. And let me tell you how uninspired we were when we bought two plastic swings from the shop. Lucky someone stole them(didn’t think that way when it happened) and we were forced to find an alternative which was to make swings using tyres. The children either sit or stand on these, they now learnt how to go on them and swing without any help. One of the boys actually used the swing as a climbing frame and climbed on and off the apple tree. Yes it was a bit scary letting him do that but taking risks safely brings so much satisfaction. You should have seen his happy face when he first did it.

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The sand pit- building sand castles and volcanoes, filling and emptying buckets, making pies…the play is endless, so imaginative, such a perfect place for practising teamwork, sharing and taking turns…

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Looking for minibeasts has become one of the children’s favourite activities. Snails and lady birds are definitely the best ones and today was a good day.

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Observing little creatures in their natural environment, being able to touch, feel and play with is the easiest way to understand and learn about animals.Telling the children that snails are slimy will never compare to them touching and actually feeling.

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Today we found three snails and the children got leaves to feed them, put them to sleep under the leaves and even named them.

Helping around the allotment is very rewarding for the children. They come and ask what they can help us with and take pride in doing a good job. Today they watered the plants, moved the weeds in the compost bin and helped clean the pond. And a lot of the “why” questions are answered while helping-why do we need to water the plants, why do we need to take the weeds out, why do we need to clean the pond, why why why…

So yes another great day at the allotment.

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Spontaneous activity- Cloud Dough

Being spontaneous is one of the best things about this job. Yes, we did plan for an indoor activity but seeing how nice the weather was today we decided to go play in the garden.The slide, the cars, the ball pit, you know- the usual can get a bit boring. Sooo I thought let’s do a sensory tuff tray. I had seen the cloud dough online and always wanted to try it.And we did, tried it, played with it, got messy but had so much fun.

The advantages are countless. It’s very simple to make, only two ingredients- flour and oil, it feels great, safe to eat (you know the babies like to do that a lot), keeps it’s shape and invites to open-ended play. But the disadvantage is that it can get very messy. I personally don’t even mind it because from my experience the messier the more fun but I think of the parents. But to be fair it did wash off with a damp cloth.

The children helped to make it, we followed the original recipe, 8 cups of flour and 1 cup of oil, mixed together and we tripled that. The recipe stated baby oil but we decided to go with normal sunflower oil and it worked just fine.

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We then added cups, spoons, cupcake silicon moulds and an ice cream play set. Let me tell you that the children not only spent the first half an hour playing in there but went back to it many times during the day.

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Did I say it was open-ended play? The children filled and emptied different sized cups, measuring quantities, pretended to make cakes, drinks, ice creams, built volcanoes and castles, practised on sharing and taking turns(especially with the ice cream scoop) all this while socialising and reinforcing communication skills.

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So yes, definitely recommend trying this, easy, simple but messy. Just keep that in mind.

Mirela

Buttons, buttons and more buttons

We love buttons, there are so many things you could do with them. Because they come in different colours, shapes and sizes, they’re great for sorting, matching, colour recognition, counting and comparing.

Today we used them in a new way.

The aim of the activity was to practice fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and control; but let me tell you, the learning was open ended. The children added so much more to this simple idea. Some of them chose a specific colour, while others looked for the buttons with the most interesting shapes. Also watching the children developing their own strategies in order to complete their task, the language and socialising going on while sticking and the concentration levels were amazing.

Ok, so let’s get started. Basically, you need buttons and glue, card and  a marker pen.

I decided to use the tuff tray to keep the buttons contained and because it was such a lovely day so we took it out into the garden.

On paper, I drew swirls, waves and zigzags and let the children stick buttons on the lines.

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The activity does require getting a bit messy but they love that so it was another bonus. And they used their fine motor skills to peel the dried glue off their fingers at the end so there you go, perfect way to reinforce what they just practised.

It’s that simple but so rewarding watching these very active children staying put, concentrating and trying to do their best.

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Room On The Broom-Book Club

One of our favourite activities is Book Club. The way I do it is: first, read the story – using props if available – then, do an activity linked to the story.

Today’s story was Room on the Broom as we are momentarily focusing on rhyming words, rhyming and rhythmic activities, being aware of rhyme and recognising  it. And the children love this book so I was set for a successful activity.

I didn’t have props, but, I did find an interesting idea on Pinterest, of course, and that is to make my own story box, with bits and pieces found randomly.

The idea stayed with me, so a couple of weeks ago, I was in a charity shop, not looking for anything specific, just books, and on my way out I saw a small Winnie the Pooh dressed as a wizard!!!My excitement couldn’t be contained. It had a hat, a cape,  and ta da aaa, a broom! Perfect for my Room on the Broom story box!

So having the basics, I went around the setting and added a soft toy dog, a bird from Noah’s Ark toy set, a cat mask and lucky enough, one of the children came in with a ginger haired dolly. This was meant to happen. I got down the big red dragon that we had used for Chinese New Year Celebrations and a piece of dark colored fabric for the monster. Just when I thought I was set, Decima brings in a big, huge cauldron.

So, yes, now we’re set.

Story box
The props I used

All these details are meant to show how easy is to come up with your own story props without having to spend much.

Story time, finally. Definitely need the right voice and actions, which I am not very good at, but I do try my best. The children don’t mind, they’re too engrossed in the story and the props.

“Do it again, do it again” they say when I finish and that means it’s a success.

But we don’t read the story again, instead, we go in the garden where I’ve set up the Tuff Tray for making our own magic potion to give us our chosen magical powers. Why not be a ballerina, or jump high, or be strong or be a baby? I for one would love to concoct a magic potion to turn me into a baby, ha ha.

Before
The Tuff Tray Before

Ok, so I got excited, and when I get excited, I get creative. I proper imagined myself being  a child and having fun,  making a magic potion, that’s how excited I was choosing the ingredients. Of course, I followed the story, why else would I put a bone in there? A bone? Yes, of course, it’s in the story, I had to do it. I played with textures and colors- added beans, flour, glitter, colored water, flower petals, shaving foam, rice, creepy crawlies…

Anyway, it was good, so good, the children played for about an hour, mixing, touching, feeling, measuring, chatting, sharing…everything went into the mix.

Potion making in progress

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Potion Making in Progress

And this is the aftermath…

After
The Tuff Tray After

Hope you liked our activity and found some useful ideas, do come back for more

Mirela

 

Allotment Journey 2015

Humble Beginnings

I hope you have read the previous blog on our allotment journey because that will give you an insight as to where we’re at. If someone had told me that I should get an allotment I would have laughed in their face, me and an allotment really?? But all in the line of duty and my commitment to outdoor learning has lead us to where we are. It all started with a child making a statement “apples come from Tesco” so my mission was set to educate our children.

Having read the last post you will know that Mirela came from a farming background so when it comes to planting, tending and harvesting she takes the lead. I like the projects, providing stimulating and educational activities to engage the children whilst at the allotment.

Since getting the allotment I have developed a skill and passion to upcycle any and everything I might find in skips or just while driving around (Mirela is always amazed how I notice stuff whilst driving)Pinterest has become a firm favourite.

Before I continue I feel I should explain that we have three groups of children in the setting ‘Caterpillars’ are our under 5’s  ‘Cocoons’ are our 5 -8 year old and Butterflies are our over 8s. Just so that you can understand when I start referring to them.

The allotment is a place for our children to take risks and get dirty because “the mud will wash off but the memories last a lifetime”

Projects

ABACAS

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I found an old wooden window frame on a skip…Mirela asked what are you going to do with that, I wasn’t sure but knew it would come in handy. So having checked out Pinterest I decided to make a number wall. I got the children to choose a colour and together we painted it green. My husband Norman (Uncle Morning as he is called by the children) drilled the holes in the side which we then threaded with washing line wire and plastic balls. As you can see from the pictures the Caterpillars love this new addition and spend lot of time there playing independently.

HERB GARDEN

Herb garden

Our second project was the herb garden, we collected old tyres from various garages in the area, asked parents to donate any old paints they may have in their sheds and we got to work. Although the children wore aprons we were amazed how much paint they got on their clothes, oh but we had so much fun.  Once they dried we then applied a coat of external varnish to protect them. We layered the bottom with black matting using a staple gun to hold it in place, then we labelled and arranged them before transferring our seedlings.

MINI BEAST HOTEL

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During a visit to Woodlands Farm the children admired the Minibeasthotel and I thought we could do that!! We collected some more pallets and set the Cocoons and Butterflies a task to research minibeast habitats. Following their findings, we placed logs, bricks, soil, straw, plant pots and tin cans to create a wonderful environment for them.

MUD KITCHEN

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We started this project without the children as a surprise for them. We asked the children and parents to bring in empty food containers and pots and pans they no longer needed. The children tried to guess what we were going to do with them. Mirela enlisted the help of her husband Gabriel and I had my boys Nevan and Dante. Over the weekend, we cleared an unused area of the allotment which was full of timber and soil. Once cleared Gabriel worked his magic using pallets, cupboards we found on skips, and a sink donated by a parent he built us our very own mud kitchen. We kitted it out with a microwave, kettle, hotplate, pots pans and utensils which were mostly donated by our parents. The children loved finished product and it is one of the most used areas of the allotment.  Whilst the Caterpillars play, I take great pleasure just listening to their increased language and communication when they are in there cooking up a storm.

NUMBER WALK (Hopscotch)

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Whilst clearing the plot for the mud kitchen we found a pile of floor tiles. We asked the children for suggestions on what we could do with them. We combined some of their ideas and created a colourful number walk where the Cocoons and Butterflies could play hopscotch and the Caterpillars could use it for colour and number recognition.

Using leftover paints from the tyre project, the Butterflies set about painting the tiles, once dried, numbered them and then applied a coat of external varnish to protect them. We then laid them in place using the soil to hold them in place.

OTHER LITTLE PROJECTS-CAFE, GAMES TABLE, SCARECROW, SANDPIT

other projects

Planting, tending and harvesting

The main objective behind obtaining the allotment was to educate our children on where our food comes from.  So we engaged them in the whole process from buying the equipment and seeds, to planting, tending, watering and harvest.

 

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Planting and our first seedlings

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Helping around the allotment

Harvest time is always amazing- picking strawberries to eat after a picnic lunch, picking plums and apples from the tree for snacks, digging up a handful of potatoes and a couple leeks because we fancy leek and potato soup today.

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2015 crops-strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes and spinach

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2015 harvest-potatoes, strawberries, courgettes and radishes

Annual Barbeque

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Every year so far we have introduced a new project based on the children’s ideas and comments, so please come back to read our 2016 story.

Decima

Allotment Journey – 2014

If you haven’t read the Introduction post in our Allotment Journey , you need to know we have an allotment.

We love the allotment.

It’s been almost three years since we started this allotment journey  and we have invested so much time and energy in it but it’s so worth it.

I grew up in the countryside with a garden and chickens around so it was kind of natural for me to take on the side of planting/taking care of the plants. As for Decima- she used her creative side to the extent where she transformed the play area into an amazing fun, safe and educational environment.

Now you know the basics, let me walk you through our allotment journey in 2014.

The first time we visited the allotment, it was covered in grass so the first step was to clear it. To make it safer, we  asked one of our dads, who is a builder, to make a fence around it  using pallets that Decima and I picked up during a scavenger hunt in the neighbourhood.

Fence

Meanwhile, we went shopping  with the children and bought a small greenhouse, pots, utensils, compost and seeds and started planting.

Planting

I told you that the children got involved? Yes they did, from buying the seeds, planting and taking care of the plants, all the way until harvesting and eating.

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I will never forget the day we harvested the peas.We tried some straight out the pods and the children’s reactions were unexpected.They said it’s yummy and they wanted more. More? Bear in mind they were not the biggest vegetable fans. That’s when I knew the allotment it’s the best place to learn and encourage the children to eat healthy.

Here’s a few pictures of our crops

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And here’s some pictures of our projects.We wanted to reuse and recycle, most of the things we got for free or very little money. The tyres are from random garages, the water wall is actually a bed frame and the wellington boots on the fence are from car boot sales or donations.

Projects

At the end of the school year, we organised a big barbeque, invited all the parents and their children, we ate, shared our allotment adventures and harvested some vegetables and fruits for them to take home.

Barbecue

Hope you enjoyed this and do come back for the 2015 update.

Mirela

Allotment Journey- Introduction

Dee’s Childcare loves outdoors, we are committed members of Forest Childcare Association, meaning we go out a lot, visiting local farms, parks, woods…

So about three years ago, the opportunity to have an allotment came up. At first, we weren’t too sure about it and started very small but now, three years later, it’s our favourite place to spend time.

It is the perfect size, it has four main plant beds in the centre, another three on the side, there’s a little pond, a plum and an apple tree, a shed and a grass play area.

View

 

It’s been a great journey, we’ve learned so much along the way and for the children…well it’s an amazing learning environment.

Not only they spend time in the fresh air but they learn about where our food comes from, how plants grow, how to take care of them and ultimately appreciate food and eat better. Discovering mini beasts, handling mud, getting wet and dirty is oh so much fun.

Let me show you

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Like now, three years later, I watch the children play there and I feel happy. They are so comfortable in the open space, not afraid to pick up worms, get their hands dirty and describing the bean plants that they planted around the tepee as “brilliant”.

So you might have guessed by now how much we love the allotment.

Stay tuned for the next posts in the Allotment Journey.

Mirela