Summer holidays on a budget – my summer scrapbook

Summer holidays on a budget – my summer scrapbook

The summer always seems to be a long time coming. Yet, when it eventually arrives, it can be daunting for those parents who have to think about entertaining their little ones during the holidays (as well as trying to keep their creative and literacy skills alive) – all on a budget!

What better way to keep the children’s minds active – whilst making precious memories – than to create a summer scrapbook?

Scrapbooks not only help preserve memories for years to come, they’re also a fun and educational way for children to occupy those days when there is nothing planned or when the weather is inclement – a regular occurrence during the British summer!

Here are some of our top tips for making a super summer scrapbook!

Low key or lavish?

This depends on the children – there is no right or wrong and try and let them lead on this if possible – sometimes, ‘less is more’! Some will choose to have simple drawings (or scribbles!), others might use written captions (age dependent) and some will want to use physical mementos, such as digital photos, a ticket to an exhibition, cut-out pictures from an attraction leaflet – in fact, anything that reminds them of that particular day.

Get started

If you already have some days out planned, make sure you collect as much as you can from your trips. Postcards, photos, feathers, shells, straws, even sand. You will need lots of different things to be able to colour, decorate and stick as much as you like! 

Make the pages really stand out!

The great thing about taking photos is that you can take hundreds but only need to print out the best ones. You could make a photo collage of your favourite snaps and add some colour by sticking coloured or shiny paper around it. The children can improvise by using bits of wrapping paper or even kitchen foil.

They can add texture by sticking leaves, twigs, grass or sand to the pages – anything that has been collected on their day. If the children love to paint, they could use a couple of pages to interpret their day out through their painting.

If they run out of things they have collected, they can use little bits from around the house, like buttons, fabric or colourful cut-outs from magazines. The list is endless – you can really let their imaginations run wild!

Scrapbooking can be such a fun and relaxing activity that most children love – the result of which will be a beautiful keepsake that they will treasure for years to come.

If you decide to embark on a summer scrapbook adventure, there are many ways in which you can make memories and collate content that won’t break the bank! Here are a few ideas – but above all…enjoy!

A day of cooking or baking

Let the children pick a recipe, then visit your local shops for the ingredients and cook something together that you can all enjoy eating. Cake baking always seems to be a firm favourite!

Fruit picking

Pick your own (PYO) is a fun, less expensive (and almost always messy!) way to buy your fruit. Save pennies and find out where your local PYO farms are – you can even have a little competition to see who can pick the most fruit!

 

Have a movie day

Choose a couple of favourite films, get some popcorn (and hot chocolate if the weather isn’t great) grab the favourite teddies and blankets and put your feet up with the children.

 

Museums don’t need to be boring

Whether the children are interested in sports, animals, art or history, there is usually at least one free museum in the area, some of which will have interactive family-friendly activities during the holidays.

 

Den building and camping

Weather permitting, you can build your den outside. All you need are some boxes or sofa cushions, a few blankets, and a bit of imagination. If you have a tent, you could arrange a camping trip in your garden with the children for one night.

Garden races

Hold your own garden races with games that don’t need much equipment…a sack race with pillowcases, a tug of war with a dressing gown belt! Jumping over boxes and under old blankets – you can let your imagination run wild!

 

Visit your local library

Local libraries are often under-used but can be a real blessing in the summer holidays. You can borrow audio books (great for long car journeys) and DVDs as well as normal books, and many libraries run a Summer Reading Challenge. You can also use the library to research free events in your local area.

Dressing-up

As well as delving into the children’s dressing-up box, have a look in your own wardrobe and play dress-up with your old clothes. You can also use this as a recycling exercise by sorting through your clothes together, and taking to the charity shop or clothes bank the ones that you never wear and the little ones have grown out of.

 

Top tip for settings:

Being able to take their summer scrapbooks into nursery after the holidays also presents settings with a great opportunity for children of different cultures to be able to share some of their experiences with others. This is an excellent way of promoting the British Value of mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.

National Playday – 7th August

National Playday – 7th August

George Bernard Shaw famously wrote: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” How right he was!

Last month, the Government published the KS1 and KS2 SATs results, and for many young children, it marked their first stage in the race to reach the expected national standards in academic subjects by the ages of 7, 11, and 16. To some, this is the culmination of years of hard work studying maths, English and SPAG (spelling, punctuation and grammar) and for many year 6 students, much of their last year at primary school has been focused on achieving top results in these exams, sometimes at the expense of other curriculum items. It’s no wonder that ‘playtime’ has become a dirty word in some circles!

However, in the same month, we also heard about the increasing incidence of mental health problems that many young people suffer from nowadays, often due to the pressures they face to do well across the board in exams and academic subjects, as well as feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem that can be caused by social media and a culture which constantly promotes a comparison with others.

And yet early years professionals know that children learn best when they are engaged, interested and excited by a subject; and that often means that the best learning is done through PLAY and a holistic approach to education!

So perhaps the time has come to put ‘play’ back on the curriculum and high on the list! But fear not, the humble playtime does have its fair share of supporters too – in fact it has its very own awareness day!

Set up in 1987 by 3 London playworkers, Mick Conway, Paul Bonel and Kim Holdaway, Playday’s initial aims were to raise the profile of play and alert people locally to the potential loss of children’s play services. But their idea quickly gained momentum and in 4 years, it went national, and it is now the biggest celebration of children’s play in the UK. Last year communities celebrated Playday at more than 850 events. The United Nations have even officially recognised the right to play in their “Convention on the Rights of the Child”.

You can read more about Playday on the official Playday website, and you might also be surprised to know that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also have their own charity groups dedicated to promoting play in their regions. This year, Playday is on Wednesday August 7th and there are hundreds of activities for you to join in all around the country. Or you can always set up your own event too.

“Every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.”

Article 31. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The theme for this year’s Playday is “Play Builds Children”, and the organisers and their coordinating partners want to “highlight the many ways in which play is beneficial to children and young people.” Recent research has shown play has many benefits, not just for the children undertaking the play, but also for their families and wider communities too. It can:

  • improve and maintain children’s physical and mental health
  • give them the chance to socialise with other children of different ages and social backgrounds
  • increase their confidence, self-awareness and self-esteem
  • develop imagination and creativity
  • promote independence
  • build resilience through different physical and mental challenges and risk-taking
  • offer opportunities for problem solving and new encounters

hat’s why this year’s theme says that play can “build children and communities” – through their friendships, their resilience, and their health and wellbeing.

What can you do on Playday?

The answer to this is quite simple – PLAY!

There will be lots of organised events you can attend, either as an early years setting, a family or an individual. A quick review of the some of the events around the country returned a whole myriad of activities including: farm activities, inflatables, crafts, pop-up play, giant games, messy play, circus skills, willow weaving, balance bikes, quad bikes, water/mud slides, hay bales, bouncy castles, sports, a mobile skate park, tree-planting, bolder-climbing, face painting, magic shows, water-play activities, Sumo-wrestling, Capoeira, and a plan “to fill a car park with cardboard boxes!”

So it seems that ‘anything goes’ as long as you are playing and having fun!

It’s summer – why not try some water play?

Since the warm weather is finally kicking in, why not have fun this Playday with some of our suggested water-based play ideas.

Sprinkler Spree! Everyone loves running through a sprinkler, thinking that we will somehow dodge the water droplets and come out dry on the other side. Oh, how wrong we are!!

Set up a water run. You could set up a water run by connecting different items together such as plastic/wooden tubes, tilted bowls and old pipes. How far can you get the water to travel?

Try some pond-dipping. This is great fun and highly educational as well, helping you introduce mini-beasts and different habitats/environments to your setting too.

Test your water pouring and maths skills. Collect together a range of different containers of different shapes and sizes that could hold water. Get the children to pour the water from one container to another and to say whether they think the water will fit in or not.

Jump in muddy puddles! Although it’s summer, there is no rule to say that you can’t make your own muddy puddles to jump in. After all, if you can’t jump in a muddy puddle when you’re a toddler, what has the world come to?!

Check out what is happening near you by visiting the Playday website, and there are lots of resources to help you if you want to plan your own event too, including logos, posters, tips and an organiser’s checklist.

 

For more information:
www.playday.org.uk

Reference for research on play:
www.playengland.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/play-for-a-change-low-res.pdf

Healthy cold food for the perfect teddy bears’ picnic

Healthy cold food for the perfect teddy bears’ picnic

“If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise
If you go down in the woods today, you’d better go in disguise
For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain
Because today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic”

Everyone loves a teddy bears’ picnic – including the teddies, of course!

The great thing about having a teddy bears’ picnic is that you don’t have to wait for the good weather to arrive – you can have one pretty much anywhere. It can be just as much fun whether it’s indoors or outdoors and is a great form of entertainment for little ones of all ages! You will almost certainly find that even the quieter children become engaged and animated when it’s time to get the teddies out and have some fun! Children just love to compare their teddies, play teddy bear games and of course, eat some scrumptious food.

With the warm weather upon us, here are some ideas for healthy, cold, tasty treats for your very own teddy bears’ picnic…and they won’t break the bank!

Ice lollies

Everyone loves an ice lolly on a hot summer day and the children can get involved with helping to make them. You can buy some lolly moulds and sticks easily in any household store. For a quick and simple lolly, make up some fruit squash, use fruit juices or yoghurts and put them in the freezer to set. You can also make more natural ice lollies by whizzing up in a blender strawberries, natural yoghurt or apple/orange juice and adding honey for sweetness.

Crudities for kids

There’s nothing like a delicious dip to tempt children to eat their veggies! Chop up some carrots, peppers, cucumber and celery – you could let the children make faces out of the different shapes on their plates! You can prepare in advance a couple of tasty dips which can be enjoyed by children and adults alike – some easy to make healthy dips can be found here.

Two-ingredient strawberry ice cream

Ice cream is usually a firm favourite with children and this delicious vegan-friendly, gluten/dairy free, and no added sugar ice cream is sure to be no exception! You can prepare the fruit in advance by chopping up a punnet of strawberries and 4 or 5 bananas. The children can help by placing the fruit into zip-seal freezer bags and sealing them tight, being careful to squeeze out the air without squeezing out the fruit! Freeze for 6 hours, break up into chunks and blitz in a blender until it is the consistency of a smoothie. Pour it into a big dish, cover and freeze for a further hour. The children can then spoon the ice cream straight from the freezer and serve it to each other in a cone or in a cup. Don’t forget the sauce and sprinkles!

Fruit and vegetable teddies

Cut up some fruit and vegetables into different shapes. You need some round shapes to be the head and body, and some longer, thinner shapes for the arms, legs and ears. Get the children to make some edible 2D teddies on a plate. For example, you could use half an apple for the body; some celery for legs and arms; a slice of orange for the head and some grapes for ears. Don’t forget some raisins for eyes! Use your imagination and see what lovely teddies you can create…. but sorry, teddy…..you’re going to get eaten!

Sugar-free still lemonade

Lemonade is loved by children everywhere – not so much by parents and carers when it is packed with sugar! Let the children get messy with this sugar-free, non-fizzy lemonade which is fun to make. Use a natural sweetener like honey and add a couple of tablespoons to a cup of 5 or 6 freshly squeezed lemons. Add this to a jug of iced water and a few squeezed limes too.

For more healthy summer food ideas, read our top tips for favourite fun summer food activities including making your own here.

If you want to learn more about diet and nutrition, or refresh your existing knowledge, why not take a look at our eLearning CPD course “Diet and Nutrition” here?

National Colouring Book Day

National Colouring Book Day

What will you do on 2nd August? Change a few nappies? Get stuck in traffic? Struggle to get everyone out of the door on time? Chances are that you might be doing at least a few activities that could cause you some anxiety or stress.

But did you know that 2nd August also happens to have the perfect antidote to stress, in that it is National Colouring Book Day? You didn’t? Then read on, to find out how you can use this age-old, creative technique to not only entertain the children in your care but reduce your own stress levels at the same time.

National Colouring Book Day was started in America in the 1970s when a company, Dover Publications, launched the first colouring book for adults. Until then, colouring in had been the preserve of children, and mostly very young children at that. But since then, colouring for adults has really taken off, and more recently, as adults struggle to find non-screen-based activities for children to keep them occupied, the humble colouring book has seen a resurgence in its popularity.

Nowadays, you can get colouring books on virtually every topic under the sun, from simple patterns to complex, meditative mandalas; animals to the human body; and characters from every TV show or popular film have found their way onto the pages of a colouring book somewhere!

 THE BENEFITS OF COLOURING

Children have always loved colouring in pictures, and for them, it’s a way to learn and practice many important skills including:

  1. Development of fine motor skills
    In order to colour, children need to hold pencils/pens or crayons in their little fingers, so practicing colouring helps the development of their muscles in their hands and fingers and helps them to get a good grip.
  2. Colour and shape recognition
    By using different colours, children can learn to name and distinguish them, especially if helped by an adult, who says the name and repeats it. By blending or colouring over things, children can also learn about the subtleties of colour and the affect they can have on their own work.
  3. Hand and eye coordination
    Hand and eye coordination is extremely important in life when doing many practical tasks – pouring, catching and writing to name but a few. When you look at a very young child’s colouring, you notice how they appear to scribble over the image and find it difficult to stay within the lines, but by practicing, children gradually become more adept at this skill as their hand and eye coordination improves.
  4. Concentration
    Colouring things requires a good deal of concentration and children can extend their concentration spans by practicing and focusing on tasks, so colouring is great for developing this skill. You can even break the task down if needed, by say, focusing only on one part of the picture or on one colour to start with.
  5. Sense of pride and self-esteem
    There is a huge sense of achievement and pride attained from finishing something well and feeling you have done your best. It’s even better if your work is admired by others too, so remember to praise the children for completing their work and watch them smile.
  6. Creativity
    Everyone experiences the world in different ways and so allowing children their own version of ‘reality’ can help with their creativity rather than stifle it. As they become more confident, they may also experiment with their creativity more using special effects or even ‘pushing the boundaries’, and colour over the lines again.
  7. Self-expression
    Who says you can’t colour the grass blue and the trees purple? This is linked to creativity too, as colouring can be a great way to allow children to express themselves and their mood. Art therapists understand that using different colours can reflect children’s own experiences or their mood, so be aware of this and be careful not to criticise a choice of colour even if it does not fit with conventional reality. It could just be the child expressing themselves in that moment. And where would Art be generally if we always had to stick with one version of ‘reality’?
  8. Spatial awareness and boundary recognition
    Learning spatial awareness is important in everyday life. Colouring can help with this on a micro level by making the child aware of 2D boundaries and of different shapes and areas.
  9. Handwriting skills
    Developing fine motor skills is essential for the development of legible handwriting. Colouring helps develop these muscles so that mastering letters later on can be more easily achieved.
  10. Reduced stress and anxiety
    Recent studies have shown that colouring can help reduce stress and anxiety in adults due to the focused and creative nature of the activity1,2. Researchers found that colouring for as little as 10 minutes a day, can have positive mental health outcomes, which suggests that colouring is no longer just for children: you can add some stress-relief to your staff’s day as well, by encouraging them to get involved and colour something in too.

SOME IDEAS FOR NATIONAL COLOURING BOOK DAY

One of the great benefits of colouring is that you really don’t need a lot of expensive equipment. There are colouring books you can buy on a variety of different topics, and the internet is full of free, downloadable resources too.

Why not make your own patterns to colour by using a large marker pen to trace or draw the outline of an object or a pattern and then photocopy them for the children to colour in?

Think big! Colouring does not have to be just a two-dimensional activity. You could colour something in and then wrap it around a cardboard tube to make a spaceship; or download some maths nets from the internet to create a giant, colourful dice; or cut out some paper patterns to make animals, pencil pot covers or murals. And with a bit of research, you can turn your finished designs into mugs, T-shirts or tea towels so use your imagination and let us know how creative you can be!

We’ve created some free downloadable pages for you to use in your setting too. Click here to access them.

References:

  1. www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10400419.2017.1376505
  2. files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ688443.pdf

 

Summer outdoor activities – have fun but stay safe!

Summer outdoor activities – have fun but stay safe!

There are generally 6 weeks of summer holidays, that’s 42 days to fill with something to do, including the weekends. The summer is a great time to get outdoors and give your body a chance to make some vital vitamin D, a nutrient that is essential to the body as it helps maintain healthy bones and teeth; supports the immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems; and may also protect against a range of conditions such as cancer, Type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis(1).

Vitamins are nutrients that cannot be created by the body and therefore must be taken in through our diet, but despite its name, vitamin D is actually considered a pro-hormone because it can be synthesised by the body in response to sun exposure.

It is estimated that sensible sun exposure on bare skin for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times per week allows most people to produce sufficient vitamin D, but vitamin D breaks down quite quickly, meaning that stores can run low, especially in winter. Recent data also suggests that many people are actually vitamin D deficient and could benefit from vitamin D supplements.

So correct sun exposure is important, but obviously, sun exposure has to be safe, especially for younger children as it can cause sunburn, heat exhaustion and in the longer term, over-exposure to UV rays has been linked to skin cancer, eye problems and premature ageing.

The NHS have issued the following advice regarding sun exposure and young children(2):

“Children aged under six months should be kept out of direct strong sunlight.

From March to October in the UK, children should:

  • cover up with suitable clothing
  • spend time in the shade (particularly from 11am to 3pm)
  • wear at least SPF15 sunscreen

To ensure they get enough vitamin D, children aged under five are advised to take vitamin D supplements even if they do get out in the sun.“

In Australia, where levels of sun exposure are generally higher than in the UK due to the weather, the government created a ‘Slip, Slop, Slap” campaign in the 1980s that is still very popular today, and they have recently added “Seek and Slide” to the advice. It stands for:

  • Slip on a shirt
  • Slip on a shirt 
  • Slop on some suntan lotion 
  • Slap on a hat 
  • Seek some shade, and 
  • Slide on some ‘shades’ (sunglasses to you and me). 

The campaign is fronted by a friendly seagull named Sid, and has a very catchy little song and video that you can use with your children to advise them of the 5 ways to stay safe in the sun. You can find the updated video on the SunSmart website3 and the original video can be found on YouTube too.

So, once you know how to stay safe in the sun, there’s no excuse not to get out there and really make the most of the warm weather. And to make sure you don’t run out of ideas, we’ve listed 42 different things you can do outdoors with pre-schoolers this summer:

 

  1. Go on a nature walk and see how many different trees, plants and animals you can see
  2. Create a pavement chalk picture
  3. Paddle in a stream – but remember your water safety code though
  4. Take a trip to a beach and bury each other in the sand
  5. Collect leaves and make a scrapbook of different trees or a forest picture
  6. Learn to skip forwards and backwards
  7. Visit a local play area and have a picnic
  8. Learn a country dance
  9. Make some rose-petal perfume
  10. Roll down a large hill (avoiding the nettles!)
  11. Learn to ride a balance bike or normal bike
  12. Make a dandelion or daisy chain
  13. Create an outdoor show jumping course and ride over it on a hobby horse or tree branch
  14. Visit a children’s farm
  15. Make a den or a tent
  16. Visit a steam railway and ride on a steam train – miniature or full size
  17. Go on a boat trip
  18. Give an outdoor drama/dance performance
  19. Make some mud pies
  20. Feed the ducks at a local pond or park (bird seed, not bread though)
  21. Lie down and look up at the clouds – what shapes and stories can you tell?

22. Learn to do a forward roll
23. Visit a local wildlife or animal centre
24. Play football using your jumpers for goal posts
25. Fill a matchbox with something beginning with every letter of the alphabet – this one might take a bit of thought and more than a day!
26. Watch the sun set
27. Sit under a tree and write a story or poem
28. Go for a ride on an open-top bus
29. Make a wildlife or bug hotel
30. Set up an outdoor treasure hunt
31. Learn to skim stones on water – or at least see how far you can throw them
32. Go to an open-air swimming pool or start learning to swim
33. Chalk out a pattern and play hopscotch
34. Make giant bubbles with some rope and washing up liquid
35. Hunt for fossils at the beach
36. See how many stones you can balance on top of each other
37. Set up an outdoor assault course
38. Send yourself or your friends a postcard from at least 6 different locations – one for each week of the holidays
39. Find some unusually-shaped stones, clean and paint them – you can paint them to look like animals, cars, houses or anything else you can think of
40. Learn to catch a ball and throw a frisbee
41. Create a miniature fairy garden
42. Toast marshmallows on a campfire – with adult supervision and help of course!

Lyrics for the ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ song were written by the founder of Bonkers Beat Music & Wellbeing programs, Galina Zenin. The song is widely used in Australia. Take a look at Galina’s article here!

 

  1. References:
    www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/161618.php
  2. www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/injuries/skin-injuries/sunburn
  3. www.sunsmart.com.au/tools/videos/current-tv-campaigns/slip-slop-slap-seek-slide-sid-seagull.html

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