A morning at Hall Place & Gardens

A few months ago, on a dreary Saturday, Decima and I attended a training session about Experiencing the World through the children’s eyes. We sat there a whole day and the most important thing I came away with, was called active participatory learning- is all about the process of learning rather than the final product.

It is proven that children learn best from having real experiences “We learn 10% of what we read, 15% of what we hear, but 80% of what we experience” Daryden & Voss (1994) The Learning Revolution.  It is for this reason that we at Dee’s Childcare are committed to providing our children with as many “real experience” opportunities to support and extend their learning.

We visited Hall Place and Gardens some time ago on a sunny but very cold day. Nevertheless, the children enjoyed the visit very much and we are planning to go back.

Hall Place and Gardens is located in Bexley, Kent and is a Tudor House surrounded by magnificent gardens. We did not visit the house, we were more focused on visiting the gardens and the Butterfly Jungle.

So we started off in the gardens, first stop was the maze where the children warmed up by chasing each other around

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The children led the way and our next stop was the Wildlife Corner

River Cray runs through the garden so it was a huge attraction for us. Lots of ducks and geese were on the banks so the children were able to observe the birds close up.

The topiaries planted at the time of the Queen’s coronation are striking, but the children were more interested in playing hide and seek around them

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A quick stop in the Botanical Gardens. Amazing plants, flowers, pond with fishes, even a banana tree which was the highlight of the trip.

And finally the Butterfly Jungle. Before entering the gallery we stopped in the shop and the children were shown different species of cocoons. Beautiful I might say, never thought I’ll use this word to describe cocoons but look:

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We were given safety instructions and then entered the gallery. Inside is very hot as they recreate the natural habitat of the butterflies and some may find it a bit frightening with all the butterflies flying around but I assure you, there’s nothing to be afraid of, they are so delicate and beautiful. The ones resting on the leaves, give you the opportunity to observe their detailed features, the ones flying around might land on you if you’re lucky…

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The children loved it, they were so excited to spot the butterflies around them and when some landed on their little hands, they showed no fear, only curiosity and fascination.

Even now, months later they remember this experience which shows us how important it is for the children to explore and understand the world in their own way.

This further benefited the children as in the setting we have three groups,  Caterpillars (under 5’s) Cocoons (5 – 8) Butterflies (Over 8’s). So the visit to the Butterfly Jungle and witnessing the process has helped to reinforce our room names and the older Caterpillars look forward to moving up to becoming Cocoons, as do the Cocoons to Butterflies.

A few useful things if you want to visit: there’s free parking, the gardens, cafe and visitor’s centre are free to visit, there is a small fee for the Butterfly Jungle. It is open every day and there are other exhibitions -one that we are definitely going to visit is All About Owls. You can always visit their website for more information should you want to visit.

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Chinese New Year- Dee’s Childcare Style

At Dee’s Childcare we go big on Chinese New Year.

For two weeks (end of January- beginning of February) we focused our activities on the Chinese New Year and included the school children who come in the afternoon alongside the younger children who are here the whole day.

Here are some of the most enjoyed activities:

Trip to the farm

2017 is the Year of the Rooster. And to start off, we visited the farm to see some roosters and introduce the Chinese New Year story to the children.

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Book Club

First, we read the Chinese New Year story and then we did an arts & crafts activity and painted a rooster. We’ve simplified the story for the younger children and used puppets, also the globe to locate China to give the children an idea of its location and size.

The painting was great as a sensory experience as we encouraged finger painting but also a mark making opportunity for the younger children.

The pre-schoolers showed control in painting inside the lines and technique when changing colours, using the water pots appropriately and not soaking their sheets with the water.

Shopping at the Chinese Supermarket

We took the after-schoolers to the local Chinese Supermarket in preparation for our Chinese New Year celebrations.One of the store staff gave a talk to the children about the traditional foods and customs, showed us around the store and presented us with a gift of a Chinese calendar for the setting.

Rice play

This was a messy one. Be prepared for the mess because we were not. However, it was worth it, having seen the children so invested in the activity: filling and emptying cups and bowls, imaginative play, using mathematical language when talking about quantities, comparing and making predictions of who has more/less.20170130_100432

Lunch at the Chinese restaurant

To further enhance the children’s understanding of the differences and similarities between cultures, traditions, foods, we took them to the Chinese restaurant for lunch. One of the children said “Oooh spaghetti” when the food came and it was the best time to talk to them about how noodles are similar to spaghetti but at the same time a bit different in shape and taste. Having tried the chopsticks and the fork, most of them finished their food using…fingers. And the prawn crackers were by far the most enjoyed.

Chinese New Year Party

To finish the two weeks of learning about Chinese New Year, we organised a party. The school children prepared a little performance, dressing up in Chinese clothes and dancing to Chinese music. I would say that was the highlight of the party but the children might think different when presented to an array of Chinese foods and sweets. When they left, they received a fortune cookie and a selection of Chinese sweets in a money envelope which I’m sure they appreciated more than they would have if they were to get money.

We did lots more but these were the most enjoyed activities. Hope this post inspires you and gives you some ideas to build on for next year’s Chinese New Year Celebrations.

Allotment in Winter

Our visits at the allotment during Winter are infrequent. The cold weather dampens even the most enthusiastic gardeners. So we visited maybe twice a month and for very short periods of time.

The allotment looks very sad compared to the lush vibe of the greenery and summer life so our visits were purely to check on the last crops we left growing through the winter.

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Early December we had some very cold days so during one of the visits we found the allotment frozen. The children were delighted to play with blocks of ice that we found in the plant pots.

dsc03412 The children handled the ice, commenting how cold it was and explaining their knowledge of how water turns into ice when it’s “freezing cold”.

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Even the pond was frozen.

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The last visit of 2016 got us harvesting the remaining parsnips that surprisingly fared very well even in the frozen ground. We’ve had some funky shaped parsnips, some very big ones and some “babies” as the children referred to them.

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We had enough parsnips to roast and make soups and also to share with the Dee’s Childcare families.

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2017 is here and we’ve only been to the allotment twice- to harvest the broccoli and to do a bit of clearing and preparing the soil for spring.

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I cannot wait for Spring to come so we can start working on the allotment again.

 

 

 

The Bluewater Nature Trail

Today we visited the Bluewater Nature Trail in Kent. We are always on the lookout for new places, to offer interesting experiences to the children we care for. If it’s outdoors it’s even better.

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The nature trail is in the grounds of the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, near London. You can find more information on their website  but I want to share our experience and some of the pictures we took as the Autumn scenery is so beautiful.

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The shopping centre is built inside a quarry so it’s surrounded by white cliffs all around. There are lakes, bike paths, walkways and playgrounds.

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The Nature Trail is highlighted by animal paws on the ground and signs, accompanied by Sidney the Squirrel who shows the way and gives detailed information about the flora and fauna around the area.

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The children loved the walk as much as we did, stopping very often to admire the view, the lakes, the ducks, swans, to look for minibeasts under the logs, to look at the map and finally to play.

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The playground we stopped in is very challenging so maybe children aged over 5 would appreciate it more, but our little ones gave it a try nonetheless. They are fearless and willing to tackle any new challenges that come their way.

They were also responsible to lead the way, so they looked for the paw prints on the path and consulted the maps on the way. We also came across Sidney, the squirrel who pointed arrows towards the way so we couldn’t stray from the path.

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The wildlife is rich, we saw lots of ducks, swans, black headed gulls, minibeasts but the information on the plaques advised to look out for bats, herons, lizards and even grass snakes.

Flora was as amazing as the wildlife. The path is surrounded by trees and being Autumn, the colours offer an amazing view, backed by the white cliffs.

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There is a picnic area in the playground but today was too cold to have lunch outside so we headed to the food court inside the shopping centre.

We promised the children a return visit, maybe in Spring and then in Summer so that we can compare it to the Autumn experience and hopefully see more of the animals that reside there.

The Nature Trail is surreal…a lovely place to visit, nature at its best especially after the hustle and bustle of the shopping centre.

 

Gym fun

We all know that physical activity is a big part of a child’s development. In the  EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage), Physical Development is a prime area next to Communication and Language, Personal Social and Emotional Development.

And as much as we love outdoors, there are rainy days or times when children need something different.On these occasions, we take them to gym sessions which are a combination of soft play and real gym apparatus.

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It’s pointless to try and explain how much the children love going to these sessions. It could be the enormous bouncy castle right at the entrance, or the trampolines, the different levelled beams, obstacle courses, or simply the idea of being able to run freely indoors that excites the children so much at the mention of going to the gym.

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It is a great place to practice their physical abilities, learn coordination, balance, negotiate space, jump and land appropriately all of this in a safe soft environment. Alongside physical development, the children learn about self-confidence in their own abilities, new skills, they explore and interact socially with other children.

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Trip to the seaside

What’s a better way to celebrate summer holidays if not with a trip to the seaside?

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We could not wait for the summer holidays. During school time, you get into a routine and every outing has to be carefully planned and timed because of the school runs. But summer means freedom. No stress about leaving at a certain time, even though the earlier the better and no pressure to be back by 3 o’clock .

So one of our summer outings was definitely the seaside. Now, the English seaside is not the traditional sandy beach but after a bit of research we found Minnis Bay which is the closest sandy beach to London.

Prepare yourselves for a long post with loads of pictures.

Swimsuits, hats, suncream, pack lunches, windbreaker and excitement at the highest levels, we were set to go.

Once there, we had lunch, got changed and were ready to play. The children were a bit wary of going in the water at first, so we started playing with sand, digging, filling buckets, making sand castles and burying each other in the sand.

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When the children worked up the courage to go in the water, we found it surprisingly warm. There was lots of seaweed which looked and smelt unpleasant but ended up not bothering us after a while. We looked for crabs and picked up loads of seashells to bring back home.

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We spent a lovely day at the seaside, the children enjoyed it very much.

In case you are planning to go, here are a few helpful tips- Minnis Bay is a sandy beach located near Margate in Kent.It’s not the most beautiful(as we were led to believe by reviews) because of the seaweed but you soon forget about it, once the fun begins.It has free parking, but just in case you don’t find a space, there is a car park. The toilets are located at the entrance of the car park, spacious and clean. The only downside is that once you are on the beach, walking back to the toilets is quite a distance, especially with young children. There is a bar and restaurant selling drinks and ice cream and what we liked the best were the life guards that stayed near the water the whole day rather than their cabins, giving you a feeling of safety and protection.

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We will be definitely going back next year.

Visit to the Library

Books…ok I’m stuck on this word, I mean what is there else to say than this word-books. You might not understand this unless you know me, books are one of my favourite things in the world.But, enough about me, this post is about getting children love books from a young age and visiting the local libraries is the best way to do it.

They get to walk around and have their own personal experiences with books. Maybe a bright colourful book cover will spark their interest, enough to pick it up and have a look at it. Maybe they’ll find a book with their favourite character, animal or things they are interested in at the moment.

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You can’t force a child to like books but you can create environments for them to experience books, give them opportunities to explore books. Library visits are perfect to do this.

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According to the EYFS, books and printed materials are to be enjoyed by children from birth to 11 months old. Next step is for young children to start handling books with interest, listen to stories and have favourites. Between the age 30 to 50 months they should look at books independently, handle them carefully and know the correct way of holding them up. From 40 to 60 months their vocabulary and form of speech will show the influence of their experience of books.

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Listening and attention skills are put to test during story time. We all know that young children have a short attention span so the satisfaction of them sitting and listening to a story is immense. A good book, maybe some props, even if it’s only your voice, will help and draw them in, catch their attention, sit and concentrate until the end of the story.

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I would say, this was a successful library visit.