Friday, 21 November 2014

Outdoor Play Party. Making a Difference.



I was fortunate to have a fantastic P.G.C.E Early Years student on her teaching practice with us for the past 5 weeks. It was great to have a fresh pair of eyes on our practice & to have someone full of new ideas working with us. Sometimes when you are in the middle of an environment it is very easy to take what you have or do for granted, then someone new comes along & it does make you take stock. 
Lesley from Takoma Park Cooperative Nursery School & I chat regularily to reflect on our practice & have often talked about 'being in our bubble', by this we mean that we can get so used to doing what we do in our settings that we can tend to assume everyone is doing the same. For the past 7 years we have been following a similar outdoor play approach; we go outside first thing every day, we allow stick play, going up & down slides, riding bikes in any direction & climbing is actively encouraged. We now just see this as the norm, so it was amazing to watch the initial reaction of the student, she was like a rabbit caught in the headlights, there were just too many 'new' things going on for her to take in! However I have to say, she fully embraced us & our ways, she bought waterproof trousers, boots & a coat. In the past most students have been happy to borrow spares from us but this lady wanted her own 'for next time'. I have no doubt that when she has her own class in the future, she will do her best to introduce some if not all of the many 'firsts' she saw at Windmill!
My favourite post in the last link up was from a lovely new blog to me, Wild Tales Of.....  This fab post is full of practical tips for anyone to try to ensure they can get outside even in the depths of Winter. As Kate points out, living in Seattle if she waits for dry days to just go outside, she is going to spend lots of time indoors!

"Now it’s time for this week’s Outdoor Play Party. We would appreciate it if you included a link back to this post (either in your post or sidebar) to help us spread the word about the importance (and fun!) of outdoor play! In return, we’ll gladly further share your post on Pinterest. Please feel free to grab the Outdoor Play Party button from the sidebar and/or include a text link back. Please note that by contributing you are giving permission for an image and link to your post to be republished if featured.(If you have been featured, please feel free to grab the ‘featured at’ button from the sidebar.) Share your ideas for outdoor play activities with us every other week!"

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Friday, 14 November 2014

Transient Art In Bear Woods.


Mouse mat seats.
My original piece.
Some of you might have already seen the mouse mats I picked up in the scrap store over the summer, I got about 60 of them altogether & figured we would use them as seats when up in Bear Woods. Then we began to use them in the playground as seats around the fire when the logs were damp but we still took some up to Bear Woods each week in case anyone wanted a seat but really when in their rain gear the children are happy enough to just sit on the grass, stumps of pallets. One child had turned them over one day & chalked on the black side, so I then wondered about using them as a background for some transient art. all it took was for me to bring some out & then sit down & start making a picture myself before some children wandered over to see what I was doing & then they wanted to make their own. Some were a little confused by the fact the 'art' didn't stay on the 'page' but once they realised they could tip everything off & then start all over again, they fully embraced the idea. 

The mats are brightly coloured & even the coloured side made a nice background for the art too. Now of course I am mad I didn't take loads more!

Friday, 7 November 2014

Outdoor Play Party - Welcome to two new co-hosts!

I am delighted to announce we have 2 new co-hosts for the Outdoor Play Party, joining in with myself, Jen from Kitchen Counter Chronicles & Leila from Mud, Mud Marvellous Mud are Linda from Rain or Shine Mamma & Catherine from Adventure Togs. I am very excited to have 2 such amazing bloggers joiing in the fun with us & to have 5 fabulous ambassadors for outdoor play all working together in the one spot!

I am still pretty amazed to have vistors to the nursery declare that we are unique or special simply because we go outside every day for at least an hour - I am a bit weary of the question 'But not every day - not in the rain?' - and the shaking of heads when I say yes, every day & some seem to find it hard to believe that we are not forcing the children to be outside. Sometimes when visitors are due at the school they will purposely choose to arrive after 10.30 when they know we will be inside! But if only they would arrive an hour earlier they would see how purposeful & settled the play is outdoors, the children are spread all over the space engaged very different activities - some might be 'cooking' in the mud kitchen, some might be reading in the book corner under the slide, others might be climbing on the logs & stumps, some might be playing on the slide, others eating snack,  whilst others will be playing at the various tables under the roof.

As the temperatures dropped in the last few days, the children have begun to look for the gloves & extra coats we have on offer. I try to ask the parents to layer the children up rather than just 1 big heavy coat. Most of the adults wear long sleeved t-shirts under their polo shirts, as well as fleeces under their coats but we are aware that we are moving about just as much as some of the children so they may not need just as many layers but it's better to be too warm than too cold.

After the children were finished pounding golf tees into some pumpkins I put them into the mud kitchen & they have had so much fun playing with them - the seeds have been added to the leaves, bark chips & pine cones as ingredients for all the cooking they do. They have had fun watching them float in the big red top & they have become the key ingredient in pumpkin soup.

We've had 2 fires so far, we cooked some popcorn & then some hot chocolate with mini marshmallows - always a firm favourite & for the next fire we plan to have hot chocolate again. The children have been really good at walking around the outside of the fire circle & loved smelling the smoke from the wood on the fire. It's always amazing to see children who wouldn't normally drink milk taking hot chocolate - everything really does taste better with chocolate!
My favourite post from the last Outdoor Play Party was from Coombemill featuring some of the #countrykids out surfing - the photos in Fiona's posts are always great but the sunsets in this post were outstanding.

"Now it’s time for this week’s Outdoor Play Party. We would appreciate it if you included a link back to this post (either in your post or sidebar) to help us spread the word about the importance (and fun!) of outdoor play! In return, we’ll gladly further share your post on Pinterest. Please feel free to grab the Outdoor Play Party button from the sidebar and/or include a text link back. Please note that by contributing you are giving permission for an image and link to your post to be republished if featured.(If you have been featured, please feel free to grab the ‘featured at’ button from the sidebar.) Share your ideas for outdoor play activities with us every other week!"


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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Puddle fun!

Today proved to me what an amazing set of parents we have, they have truly bought into our outdoor play approach & fully understand that there really is no such thing as bad weather. It was still quite dark at 8.50 as the children arrived & the rain was really heavy & unrelenting, yet as each parent arrived not one of them batted an eye at the idea of us being outside. Some stayed to help their children into their rain gear while others headed off saying 'Off you go & have fun in the puddles'.

I love really heavy rain as we use it as an excuse to bring out the powder paints & decorate the playground using the rain as the mixer, today I also brought out some old shower gels that I had picked up in the scrap store last week, so when the children jumped in the puddles thye could make bubbles.
We were outside in the heavy rain for over an hour & almost all the children got on their rain gear & just enjoyed playing outdoors, they were so excited that the water barrel was full again - they had emptied it last week & were most disappointed that it hadn't rained since to fill it up again. They made soup with the pumpkins we had been pounding last week & enjoyed going down the slide really fast.
It was particularly heartening to see one child, with sensory issues, put on his rain gear & enjoy just standing in the rain & jumping in the puddles - a major step forward for him.


Friday, 24 October 2014

Outdoor Play Party - A whole new class!



My new class are now all one big group now, they have been in school for almost 7 weeks & in the big class of 28 for just over 2 weeks. It never ceases to amaze me how different each class is & how they use the space in unique ways - this is the one aspect of my job that I love & the reason why it never feels like I am doing the same job year after year.

This class has 17 boys & 11 girls but it doesn't feel that way, the girls so far are the more dominant force in the class, they decide what games will be played & where & when, the boys tend to trail after them. So far hide & seek & chasies (tag) seem to be the most popular games - I honestly don't ever remember a class introducing hide & seek either by themselves or this early in the year. They love the mud kitchen & after a really dry September, they have embraced the rain of October & loved having water to play with in the kitchen. Mrs Carson's dad was good enough to make us a water station for the kitchen from a couple of pallets & some of our Cosy bowls.
Our new water station - adds a new element to the mud kitchen.
For the first time ever, the children began to try to climb the willow dens - 2 boys started climbing up the inside like spiderman but then realised they couldn't go too far inside & moved outside, one got right to the top of one of the dens. We could have stopped them but as the willow are very strong & they'll only be able to see the branches to climb in the Autumn & Winter, we decided to let them get this climbing urge out of their systems. After a week some are still climbing the dens sporadically but it's not like all 28 are lining up to scale up the dens.


We have had 4 visits to Bear Woods & 2 as a big class & they are enjoying this space as well. The ropes are proving a big hit but so are the books that we have in 'we go' storage system on the fence. 
The 'We-go' storage system allows us to have books, gloves, hats etc. to hand in Bear Woods.
We have also had a practice run with the fire circle - where they learned about not running across the fire circle & how to move from seat to seat by walking around the back of the logs.

Then on Friday we had our first fire - a disposable BBQ - when we cooked some popcorn. Considering it was the first time it went very well & only a few forgot about how to move about the seats without crossing the fire. I had picked up a load of mouse mats at the scrap store over the summer with the intention of using them as seats up in Bear Woods but they have proved perfect for the fire circle when the logs are damp & it saves having to make everyone get into their rain gear just to sit on the logs.
Mouse mats make perfect seat pads on damp days!
As the weather gets colder & damper it will be interesting to see how this class reacts to the challenges this will bring & how it will impact on their play.

A very kind past (and future) parent made this new seat for us!


My featured post from the last Outdoor Play Party was from Mommy Crusader & her Knights & Ladies - you can read about their scavenger hunt over here:

  • Any kind of children's outdoor play-related posts are welcome!


  • We'd appreciate it if you included a link back to this post (either in your post or sidebar) to help us spread the word about the importance (and fun!) of outdoor play! In return, we'll gladly further share your post on FacebookTwitterPinterestPlease feel free to grab the Outdoor Play Party button from the sidebar and/or include a text link back. Please note that by contributing you are giving permission for an image and link to your post to be republished if featured.(If you have been featured, please feel free to grab the 'featured' button from the sidebar.) Share your ideas for outdoor play activities with us every other week!



    Sunday, 19 October 2014

    Nourishing Creativity.

    I don't often go for controversial statements on my blog but here goes: my grammar school education stifled my creative side at the age of 11. At primary I was a fairly good all round student who enjoyed all subjects equally but once I started grammar school I was being constantly told that I was no good at certain subjects or needed to work harder. This was especially true of the more creative subjects like art & home economics (or domestic science as it was in my day) but also maths & science. So I think around the age of 12 I began to actually believe that I was no good at art or drawing or thinking creatively & I shut down that side of my brain & concentrated on bring more academic & 'wordy'. 
    I would also say I began to believe that I wasn't practically minded as I was instead bound for university & an academic route, I often heard it said that many teachers (university graduates in general) have no common sense & I really think I believed that.

    Fast forward to 2013 when I had the opportunity to become friends with & then spend time in the company of two incredibly practical, creative & innovative people. I use the term entrepreneurs in the real sense of the word when describing these two men, they never stop seeing the potential in things & are constantly challenging themselves to make the next thing or create the best resource they can. Neither rests on their laurels & by spending time with them I too began to view things differently. 
    Martin, came over to visit & built us a mud kitchen in 2 days! (with the help & supply of materials by a dad)
    'Mr Cosy' as I like to refer to Pete!
    They are Martin Besford from Highway Farm Activity Centre,  (www.highwayfarm.com& Peter Ellse from Cosy Direct, (www.pinterest.com/cosydirect/pins/I feel very privileged to have spent time in their company & to have them as friends. I would also describe them both as being more like hyperactive 3 year olds than grown men but I do believe that is what makes them both so successful in what they do. If you spend any time in their company, you can't help but feel that anything is possible & sure what's to lose by trying something new or out of your comfort zone. Don't get me wrong, both are the ultimate in professionalism when required to give presentations or running successful businesses but their enthusiasm for life is infectious. As a direct result of being friends with these two I have rediscovered my creative side! 

    I signed up for an 8 week art course this Autumn & was convinced I'd really struggle with the whole creative side of it, as I was so sure I was not artistic, I often joke that I can't even draw a stick man. However, this course has been a real eye opener, mainly because the artist, Anna O'Kane, puts no expectations on any of us. She shows us lots of open ended inspirations & then encourages us to have a go for ourselves. There is never a set look for any end product & each week the 17 of us all usually end up engrossed for an hour & half & with totally different pieces at the end of each session. It has been so refreshing for me to have others pass by as I work & comment 'Oh you are so creative' or 'You have great ideas', I almost feel like looking behind me to see who they are talking to! 
    The idea was to make a willow lantern - I just saw a fish the minute the willow was bent!
    In the past 5 weeks I have really begun to see the value of being allowed to try new things without fear of getting it wrong or making a mess. It is weird that the very approach I make sure to have with the children in my class is the one I should have been taking in life for myself. That can do attitude is what makes me love teaching nursery & the fact that the children are willing to take risks, try new experiences on a daily basis & dust themselves down if or when it goes wrong & just try again, makes it the most rewarding job in the world. 
    So here's to nurturing the creative side in us all & realising that we are never too old to learn new things, embrace different experiences or think outside the box. 

    Sunday, 12 October 2014

    Printing - circles.

    This is my print - just experimenting with the shapes & textures.
    Sometimes I like to do large art activities that a group of children can work on together, without a particular end product in sight. It is always a good activity early in the school year & sometimes draws those reluctant painters in too.
    I signed up for an 8 week art course down in Belfast at the Play Resource Centre & each week we get to try different art styles or approaches using mostly the materials from the scrap store, paint & glue. It has been great as I can get new ideas for my class but also can visit the scrap store before the class starts & pick up some new materials for class. Last week I had spied these round foam circles & then in the class we also used some foam dabbers, that were on sale in the art shop. 
    So I decided to let the class have a free reign with these foam shapes & different colours of paint on white card. Some were very precise just printing circles, whilst others used them more like a paint brush to sweep paint across the page. 
    I was particularly pleased when one child, who hasn't painted yet or even really got messy, decided to join in & he even wore an apron - a major step for him. He loved squeezing all the paint from the sponges onto the page before getting his hands onto the page & moving the paint around like finger paint. The white card was shiny so the paint slipped around on the surface.
    I loved watching one boy print with one colour & a big circle & then add a different colour with the smaller circle into the middle of the first print. Some spent ages at this activity while others did a few marks & then wanted to move on elsewhere. 
    At the end of the hour or so, they had created some lovely art work to hang up in the story room. When I went back the next week there were smaller foam circles in the scrap store in the same material that I plan to gather up next week for some more printing fun.