Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thank you for taking the time to pop by and share the journey.

I look forward to next year and sharing more ideas and information with you all .

Sarah xx

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Reading with 5 to 6year olds

This is the stage when children can tell you about their favourite story and when they begin to pick out well known words or phrases, e.g, once upon a time, in a dark, dark wood.

♦ Take turns to read bits of a favourite story.  A whole story is too daunting for a new reader.  Don't worry if your child has memorised words or phrases.  This is an important part of learning to read. It gives a sense of satisfaction.  Recognising words will soon follow  once the story is familiar.

♦Talk about pictures and details that catch your child's interest.  This will help with understanding the story and with guessing new words.  Guessing is important when the child understands what the story is likely to say and chooses words which make sense.

♦ Run your finger under the words as you read together.  In this way, words are seen and heard together.

♦ Don't make a fuss if your child can't read a word.  Either say the word yourself or encourage your child to think about what it might say.  Draw attention to the starting sound of the word.  Don't get cross.  At this stage it is more Important that your child enjoys sharing stories  than getting every word right

Reading with 3 to 5 year olds

(Remember , children develop at their own rate this is guidance only)

At this stage children should learn that books give pleasure. They need to handle books, enjoy the pictures and hear lots of stories and rhymes.  This is not the time to worry about testing them on the words they know or sounding out words. Just enjoy the time you spend together sharing books.

This will give children the best foundation for learning to read and love books.  Grandparents and big brothers and sisters can be part of this too.

♦ Read to your child as often as possible - any time, any p!ace, anywhere - in bed, in the car, in the bath.  Also, try to keep a special time for reading, when you can cuddle up together

♦Bring stories to life with lots of expression and silly voices

♦Talk about the stories and pictures and play 'Guess what's going to happen next'

♦ Read favourite books  over and over again. You might have had enough of reading 'the Hungry Caterpillar' but young children love familiarity

♦Learn rhymes and songs together so you both know them by heart and can point to the words as you recite them together

♦ Car boot sales are a great place for book bargains.

♦ Go the library - books are free to loan and they have a great selection of books for children.  Librarians love having babies and children in the library.  Remember if you enrol your child so they have their own card, they will receive no fines if books are late!

♦ Play a game of spot the words on signs and labels - on the street, in shops and in your cupboards

♦ Make sure your child sees you reading newspapers, books and magazines - show them it's cool to read!

(Taken from the booklet: Read to me from Welsh Government)

Sunday, 28 September 2014

COOL PHYSICS EXPERIMENT - Ocean in the bottle - how to make - Full HD.mp4

Ocean in a bottle:  calming for any little one.  I have also added glitter and small fishes to these to bring them to life when I made them with my families.

How to Make Ice Cream Play Dough

Last week I went on an amazing conference with Bookstart Cymru.  There were lots of workshops on bringing stories alive including messy play ones on which children could experience the sensations in some oft he stories.

I carry out a lot of messy play activities with the families I work with...however I have never come across this fabulous idea before...Ice Cream Play Dough!

Simply made with cornflour and hair conditioner.   Smelt amazing, felt amazing and cheap to make too.    Total winner!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

i. child - dedicated to your child's development and education

Printable Activities and Education Resources for young children and kids.
You will find lots here to keep your children busy and entertained, including hundreds of free printable activities, worksheets and resources.

Pop on over and have a look guys. Really great ideas from babies up to 11 years covers communication and literacy, personal, social and emotional development and much more.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

More on story cube's...

Here are some links to other great sites where you can download some printable cubes or have a go at making your own with a dice template:

And there's many more on line.  You can find a link to a dice template to make your own in a recent previous post which I use from sparklebox.

Have fun....Sarah x

Story cubes

Story cubes are fabulous! A great way to develop communication skills, imagination  and creativity. I use these a lot within my work as I can use them with all age groups from babies upwards.

The whole point of them is that they can be shaken like die and stories developed from the pictures.  The child and adult can take turns in telling the story or children can use them to tell the whole story.

With babies I use the same kind of idea but add pictures of family members and pets to talk to them using the pictures through play.

The cubes I use with older children consist of character, background, animal or item pictures in order for them to mix their story up.

You can find some great printable story cube ideas or make your own from the dice template.

Here's a few pictures of the ones I have made up from

Sunday, 27 April 2014

The use of mirrors with babies (accompanied)

Babies love mirrors.  Watch their reactions to how they see themselves in the mirror.  
If you have a large mirror on a wall, lift older babies up so that they can see themselves.

Playing with mirrors helps children to:

  • Try out different expressions and movements
  • Look at themselves very carefully
  • Explore their own body language
  • Try out different moods and feelings in a playful way
  • enjoy pretending
And that's just from an everyday mirror......which provides a whole lot of learning.

CHILDREN should not be left unattended with the mirror.  This activity is for children and parents to try together while interacting an communicating through play.

Visi bottles

Visi bottles are very similar to sensory bottles and are designed to stimulate a babies eye sight.  They help babies to:

  • Look and think about what they see and hear
  • See what happens when they shake, move and wiggle things
If you want to make one you will need:
  • An empty washed out small drinks bottle (which can either be held or rolled depending on the age)
  • Food colouring  - optional (depending on whether you want your water to be coloured)
  • Glitter, coconut or similar for movement
  • Glue gun (to make the lid stick tight to the bottle) or masking tape to seal around the top of the bottle
REMEMBER: Close the lid tightly.  Do not leave your baby alone with this bottle as small parts can cause a baby to choke. 

These ones are from 'you'll thank me one day'.  You will find more really great ideas here so pop on over to have a look:

What can babies hear?

Babies can hear from the moment they are born.  Even before birth they are aware of sound vibrations from both in side and outside their mother.  When we gently pat a baby on their back to soothe them, this can remind them of the thud of the heartbeat the baby used to hear when they were in the womb.

Babies can be startled by sudden sounds but sometimes like the background noise of a whirring washing machine or vacuum cleaner.

What babies really listen to is our voices.  Even in the early weeks when the baby can't turn their head towards you, they are still listening.  As they are dependent on you they learn to tune into your voice very quickly.

It is really important for your baby to have time with you everyday without the background noise of the television or radio to help them to do this.  As they get older, even as a young child this is important to help their listening skills develop and to help them to be able to tell the difference between the sounds that make up different words.

Image from

Babies and black and white images

Young babies see close up objects clearly when the ideal distance is about 20 - 25cm, which is about the distance from your face to your baby in your arms.  Babies are fascinated by faces and study them with great interest.

Young babies also prefer black and white, high contrast images to colour graphics.  You can now buy lots of black and white baby books, mobiles for the cot and other black and white contrasting play items.  

The following link is a great resource which I use lots within my baby groups when working with parents and babies together developing early language skills through play.  The pictures are so striking that I use them on home made building blocks.

Watch your little ones reactions while you talk to them : )

My building blocks are made from a dice template.  A3 versions make great dice for babies.  This one is from  Make sure you round the corners to make them safe.  Fill with shredded paper.

If you want to make a different variety when they get older try making a set with family members and pets, favourite characters etc.  

Water play at bath time with babies and young children

When babies have a bath they usually enjoy the freedom and the swirling of the water around them.


  • With a very young baby, while supporting their head with your lower arm, with the other hand squeeze drops of water from a flannel or sponge onto their tummy while talking to them.
  • Watch their reaction as they feel the trickling water on their tummy.
  • With older babies who can sit up in the bath, try a variety of containers and objects some of which float and sink.  Objects can include spoons, empty drinks bottles to fill and empty, colander or sieve or a clean plastic plant pot to watch the water trickle through while you fill and lift it.
You don't have to go out and buy lots of bath toys.  Look around your house, you'll be amazed at what you can find that's safe and free!
Water play helps babies to:
  • Get to know about themselves
  • Enjoy the freedom of being in the bath with no nappy on
  • Explore how water behaves as it surrounds and supports them while with you at all times
  • Have fun with you
It's a great time to sing with them too......5 little ducks when swimming one day.

Here's a selection of everyday items I found to have fun with:

  • Ice cream scoop - to scoop and pour
  • Set of measuring cups (large, medium and small)
  • Measuring spoon
  • plastic medicine syringe (never used) tickles toes with the short blasts of water
  • Rubber glove - these are brilliant with small pin pricks placed in the fingers.  Fill with water and then use as a water gun!  Great stress relievers too (tried and tested). PLEASE BE AWARE: Many children now have serious allergies to latex.  Check before hand!
  • Water proof pot to hold it all in.  The best bit is when your child gets a little fed up with the items, you can change them easily.  Add colanders, sieves, sponges, spoons, empty plastic bottles...the list is endless.

Have fun : )

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Treasure baskets...why no plastics?

Many plastic objects are similar in many ways.  They are often all smooth, have no smell and no taste.  In our manufactured world, adults and children use plastic objects everyday and a child gains experience of these objects from handling bottles, cups, toys and rattles.  by offering a whole range of objects which are not plastic, we increase the opportunities for a child to explore and learn.

You know your child best and can experiment with likes and dislikes.  It is sometimes best to start with a small number of items at first and to introduce new objects gradually.  This way your child can find their favourite objects and notice when new items have been added.  Popular items for treasure baskets include natural objects, natural materials, wooden objects, metal objects, textiles and paper / cardboard items:

  • Pumice stone / a lemon / natural loofah / wicker baskets / wooden nail brush
  • paint brush / wooden curtain rings / wooden clothes pegs / wooden egg cup
  • spoons / keys / leather purse / different textures materials / ribbon / lace
  • grease proof paper / boxes / kitchen rolls / hair scrunchies / nylon pan scourer
  • egg whisk / pine cone / powder puff / pastry brush / wooden spoon

The list is endless

Image from

What do children gain from treasure baskets?

Following on from the last post......

Children learn by exploration and experience.  A treasure basket brings many items within a child's reach that they may not have had the opportunity to handle before but can with you by their side.  A child may handle the items with their hands, feet, fingers or mouth.  By having this opportunity they can also start to discover weight, size and textures.  Does it smell?  Can you taste it?  Shake it....does it make a noise?  Drop it and what happens?  Can i put it inside another object?  Can I join two items together?  What happens when I bang one item against another?

This basket contains:
  • Pieces of animal pattern fabric
  • Ribbon
  • Clothes brush
  • Sponge
  • Set of three nesting boxes
  • Silky make up bag with zip
  • Fluffy pig finger puppet
  • Wicker heart
  • Blue bathroom pouffe
  • Draw fragrance sachet

This one was made up in less than ten minutes just by looking around the house for items.  Have a go you will be surprised at what treasures you will find : )

What is a treasure basket?

A treasure basket  is a shallow sturdy basket containing a collection of everyday items, none of which are plastic.  Most of the objects are in everyday use by adults and are made of natural materials.  The items in the basket vary in weight, size, texture, colour, taste and sound.  All the items are chosen to stimulate one or more of the five senses.  Babies and young children explore the treasure basket using their senses to discover what the objects are.

If you don't have a basket you could use an empty shoe box or something similar as long as your baby (when sitting upright) or young child can access it easily while you are with them.  When you use a treasure basket  / box you would normally put other toys away so that your little one can really explore the contents. 

Your baby will put thing to their mouth to explore.  This is their way of exploring and finding out about the world around them.  This is why its important that you choose safe items for them and never leave them unattended with the items but let them explore them with you by their side.

See the next post to find out more........

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The importance of talking with babies

Talking with our babies is something that happens naturally everyday, but do we ever stop to think about what we may be teaching them everyday?

Here are some examples:

Language development - talking to them, teaching them new words, listening to them.  They may only be babies but their brains are like sponges and they are taking everything on board.  That's why singing, reading and playing with them is so important from birth onwards. 

Social development - the interaction that takes place between you and your baby helps to develop realationships with other people. 

Listening skills - listening is important to be able to distingusih between sounds that make up the words that we use every day.  It is really important that babies and children have quiet time with no back ground noise daily in order to develop these skills.  Even ten minutes a day can help to make a difference.

Showing that we value what they have to say and by giving praise for achivements (even small ones), helps to develop their confidence, self esteem and their potential for further learning.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Mini Beast sorting

I love this activity with the parents and children.  Everyday learning opportunities are the best and free.  Visiting the park or the woods or even your back garden can find some really interesting mini beasts lurking.  

This activity was set up really quickly for a session: A bucket, one pack of compost from Asda (other suppliers available), some plastic mini beasts hidden in the compost and the sorting trays....plastic cake tray packaging from the supermarket.

You can find the mini beast spotters guide on the sparklebox web site (link on the right hand side bar).

  • Lots of language opportunities here (talking and listening skills)
  • Counting
  • pattern
  • Colour
  • Sorting
  • Sequencing

Plus lots more fun to be had.....

Home made musical sock puppets...Sensory

Home made sock puppets in various sizes.  These have been made from various textured socks for a sensory experience.  The hair is made from various textured ribbons.  They have a bell sewn into the nose to make them musical.  The smaller ones can be put on babies feet for musical song time which is how I use them in the sessions.  

Another great recycled, easy resource to make that can also cover the areas of :
  • Colour
  • Pattern
  • Size
  • Sorting
  • Singing
  • Role play

Hair gel...ocean bottle

This is one of the coolest sensory bottles I have made.  It contains mini plastic goldfish and blue hair gel.  When the gel is placed in the bottle it forms bubbles which make it look as though the fish are breathing.

I use the sensory bottles with the older children too and encourage them to make their own with their many opportunities.

Have fun!

Bead sensory bottle.....

These children's beads from jewellery making kits are fantastic for sensory bottles as the holes through them make them float through the water inside the bottle.  

Sensory ice bottle....

I made this sensory bottle to make it look like it contained ice.  The nuggets inside are usually found holding up floral stems in vases, however they reflect light beautifully and look like ice cubes too.  Make a great sound when turned.

Rain maker sensory bottle.....

This is one of the best sensory bottles I have ever made from recycled items.  The white pieces are Styrofoam packaging pieces.  Add one washed out empty drinks bottle and some small sequin stars and you have one of the easiest and beautiful sounding rain makers ever.  Give it a try and you will see what I mean.  Stunning to observe too!!!! 

Button sensory bottle.....

This is one of my favourite simple bottles, filled with....buttons and water.  Because of the holes in the buttons, they glide beautifully up and down and just mesmorise.

Sensory bottles

Hi everyone, I have been away from my blog for a short while due to personal circumstances but i'm back!

I have been recently making sensory bottles for the baby groups that I work with developing early language skills through play.

I love sensory bottles you can use anything to make them.  They are also great for time out to calm down....the little one has to wait for the bottle's contents to settle, especially if it contains something like glitter.

Ocean bottles:

These bottles have water with blue food colouring added, star sequins and a plastic ocean creature inside too.  One has a crab and three have a fish.  I use these when I sing the song fishes swimming to the tune of frere jaque.....

Fishes swimming, fishes swimming
In the sea, in the sea
A splishing and a splashing, a splishing and a splashing
Look at me, look at me