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Word games

By | Top tips | No Comments

My nine year old daughter and I love playing different word games that we have made up when out and about walking.  We played these long before the big C came into all of our lives.  I thought I’d share three of the games with you in case you might enjoy them too while you are looking for different ways to fill the time.  They offer a nice relaxing idea for homeschooling too, which many of us have taken on at this time.  So, here goes…
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The first game we play we have called The Animal Game.  Here, one of us picks a random letter from the alphabet. It’s really important to pick the letter out quickly without thinking any further than this (my daughter always wants me to pick the letter out as she says she can’t help but think ahead of the answer).  Then, the first person who comes up with an animal that begins with that letter wins that round.  You can pick the same letter more than once, BUT, you have to come up with a new animal each time a letter is repeated.  You can of course have other things as the theme for this game too.  Yesterday, I said let’s do it with flowers. Little Wise Junior said, ‘Nooooo, I hardly know any flowers’.  I persuaded her to give it a go and she surprised herself at how many flowers she did actually know.
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Another game we play we have called The Letter Game.  Here, one of us picks a letter and the other person has to come up with a certain number of things they can see during the walk that begin with that letter.  The rule is that both players must be able to see the words they choose, and they have to be nouns (a person, place or thing) rather than an adjective (a describing word).  We usually go for around five words with each letter, but we tweak this a bit depending on how well used the letter is.
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The final game I’d love to share with you we have called Speed Letters.  Here, one of you chooses a letter, and then the other person has to come up with as many words as they can within a minute that begin with that letter.  We’ve ended up in fits of giggles playing this game when we get all flustered towards the end desperately trying to come up with more words.
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I hope that these offer nice relaxed ideas you can use for home learning when heading out together for your next walk. 🙂

Connecting with nature

By | Nature | No Comments
Britons are missing out on daily doses of connecting with nature. To give an example, new research shows that between 76 – 90% of children say they rarely or never take the time to look up at the moon and the stars, stop to listen to the birds singing, watch the sunrise, or take the time to smell wild flowers.
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While many children and adults are deeply concerned about the future of the natural world, they don’t always connect to it. If people fall in love with nature they’ll be more likely to look after it. Not only this, but having the opportunity to connect with nature also benefits our well-being.
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In light of these findings, it is fantastic that the National Trust has launched a campaign to encourage everyone to notice the beauty of the world around them.  This includes a weekly guide to noticing nature. As the National Trust say:
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“Spending time in nature not only boosts our connection to the natural world it also helps our well-being. Whether you spend 20 seconds or 20 minutes in nature, you can easily make it part of your daily routine. From looking up at the trees to walking barefoot in the grass, we’ve got a beautifully illustrated guide full of ideas to get you started.”
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You can read more about this fantastic campaign and download the weekly guide here.
 ☀🌈 ⭐️🌙🌼🐝🌺

Kindness

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Kindness

There are so many benefits to being kind.  Here are just a few…

Researchers have illustrated that kindness may be contagious, and that people are more likely to do kind acts when they see others being kind as well.  What a wonderful potential domino effect when a crowd witnesses an act of kindness.

When we witness an act of kindness it may produce a hormone called oxytocin which can aid in lowering blood pressure and improving heart health.  Oxytocin can also improve our self-esteem and optimism.

Research shows that being kind can make you happy, particularly when kindness is practised consistently

Studies have shown that people can feel stronger and more energetic after helping others.

Engaging in actions of kindness can produce the brain’s natural painkiller, endorphins.

Kindness helps to reduce the emotional barrier between two people and helps people to be more open and bonded with each other.

People aged 55 and over who volunteer for two or more organisations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early.  This is after sifting out other contributing factors such as physical health, exercise, gender, habits such as smoking, marital status etc.  That’s pretty impressive!

No wonder being kind is cool.  What kind act will you and your little ones be carrying out today?

The benefits of music

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Benefits of music for children

We know that children can benefit from learning how to play music, but why exactly is this?  This blog post explores what some of these benefits are.

Music can increase memory skills as learning how to play an instrument also helps children to learn how to create, store and retrieve memories.

As outlined in the Little Wise Toys’ phonics activity kit, listening skills and developing an awareness of sounds can play an important part in helping to lay the foundations for learning how to read.  Listening to and making music is a great way to support this.  One suggestion in the phonics kit is to make music by drumming on different items (loudly and softly) and listen to and talk about the different sounds that are made.

Music is also a great way to enhance maths skills. By understanding beat, rhythm and scales, for example, children are also learning how to divide, create fractions and recognise patterns.

When children improve their abilities with a specific instrument and achieve their goals, they can feel very satisfied and this can improve their self-esteem while also learning great concentration skills.

As outlined in the Little Wise Toys’ activity kit that focuses on developing social and emotional intelligence, it is also good to encourage children to engage in age-appropriate challenges that they can rise to.  Activities that appropriately stretch children’s abilities (such as learning to play a new musical instrument) can help them to learn how to deal with small amounts of ‘healthy stress’. Through this, they learn a fantastic growth mindset understanding that if they put some effort in, they can gain brand new skills, solve problems and make progress over time. It can also be a great lesson in how to deal with frustrations.

Another fantastic benefit of music is the opportunity it creates for children to express themselves. By learning how to express themselves and their complex feelings through music, they are able to find a way to show or play what they are feeling.

Here’s to music and all the good things that it brings…

🎶 🎶

Empathy

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empathy, social and emotional intelligence, children's mental health, children's well-being

Empathy Day was just a couple of days ago on 11th June. This day was founded in 2017 and was inspired by research which showed that humans are not born with a fixed amount of empathy and it is a skill that we can nurture and learn. Empathy means being able to imagine how others might feel in a given situation, and responding in a way that takes others’ feelings into account. It is a complex skill for children to learn and takes time to develop over a number of years. As outlined in the Little Wise Box of Emotions, there are many things that we can do to support the development of empathy in children. To name just a few in brief…

We can help children to learn to name and understand their own different emotions and feelings.

We can model empathy as little ones learn so much by how their parents respond to them when they are frightened or upset, and by watching our interactions with others.

We can regularly talk with our children about how they and other people might feel in different day-to-day situations.

We can read stories together which expose children to a wealth of new experiences, and give them the opportunity to practise seeing the world from the perspective of other people.

We can provide opportunities for children to engage in pretend play where they take on the role of different characters so that they can put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

Small steps in lots of different ways can help to make such a big difference in nurturing the development of social and emotional intelligence in young children 🤸🏾‍♀️🌈

P.S. I was at my mum’s the other day for my birthday BBQ. I picked the crisp in the image out of the bowl. Just before I was about to pop it into my mouth it made me smile to discover that it was the shape of a heart. I thought it seemed like an appropriate image for a post about empathy 😊❤️

Managing Emotions

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Managing emotions

This blog looks at an example of how the Little Wise Box of Emotions can help little ones learn how to manage their emotions and feelings.

One of the benefits of the Little Wise Box of Emotions is the opportunity it provides for little ones to get really hands on and interactive in their exploration of social and emotional development.  Not only does this make the whole process more engaging and fun, it can also empower kids (and parents) to be able to explore situations in more depth than they might otherwise do through talking alone.

As well as exploring social and emotional development more generally, the kit also provides a great opportunity to explore more specific situations. For example, it might be that you’ve noticed a particular event that regularly triggers big emotions in your child, such as worry, anger or frustration.  Whatever the trigger might be, the Little Wise Box of Emotions provides a fantastic opportunity to explore things together.

If you have chosen a particular incident to focus on that makes your little one frustrated, for example, alongside other possible feelings, you could  start off by looking through the different facial expressions/feelings in the kit and ask/help them to identify which ones are relevant to that particular situation.  You could talk about how each of these emotions make your little one feel (not forgetting how they present themselves physically too).   For younger children, this could also involve extending their vocabulary and introducing them to new names of different feelings (such an important part of developing children’s social and emotional intelligence).  You could then validate their feelings, offer empathy and understanding, and reassure them that no emotions are bad, it is how we react to them that is important.  You could then brainstorm together and identity different ways to handle the situation next time.  And then of course praise them when you see them implement some of their new techniques.

Sometimes these conversations might need to happen several times before you start to see a difference.  But, like sponges, bit by bit children are soaking everything up and are learning so much that they will benefit from for years to come.

Supporting Children’s Mental Health

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This is a pretty powerful quote and so relevant to children’s mental health and emotional well-being.  The wonderful thing is that there are so many things we can do to help give our children the foundations to help them to grow up into strong, confident, resilient and happy adults.

We can help our children to learn the names of different emotions so that they can learn to express themselves through words. We can talk openly with our children about emotions so that they know they can talk about theirs too, and know that emotions aren’t bad things that need to be suppressed. Instead they can learn that it is how we respond to them that is important. We can let children know that their feelings are important, even when it seems as though they are getting upset about something that might seem small, as it probably isn’t a small thing to them.  We can teach our children about growth mindset so that they know that traits such as their abilities and intelligence are not fixed, but can grow and develop when we put the effort in and work hard at things.  We can model behaviour by saying ‘sorry’ when we get it wrong, and we can talk with them openly about how we might try and manage our own feelings sometimes (‘I’m sorry I yelled at you. Next time I’m going to stop, take some deep breaths, and calm down before I speak’). We can help children to understand that how they think about something can affect how they feel, and subsequently how they react to a situation, and how ‘helpful’ thoughts can lead to more positive feelings and responses. Communicating positive messages to our children regularly (e.g. ‘I’m so glad you came into the world’) can do so much to help little ones feel loved and secure. We can lean down to our children, or pick them up, so that they can hug out hearts, and not our knees.

I could go on… And indeed I did go on in the way of writing the activity that comes in the Little Wise Box of Emotions. With this educational toy and travel toy, I wanted to put something together that is packed with tools, ideas and insight into different things we can do to help lay the foundations and support our little ones social and emotional intelligence. I hope that some of the ideas mentioned above offer some food for thought. A small thing every day can make such a big difference to a child for the rest of their life…

Wishing you all a happy Mental Health Awareness Week ❤️

Colour recognition

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Colour recognition is an essential building block in a young child’s development and will provide a range of life-long learning skills. Here’s a fun early years activity I’ve created to help little ones learn about their colours…

Firstly, you can develop a colour chart together. For this, you’ll need a range of different coloured pens or pencils and a piece of paper. The piece of paper needs two columns. The column on the left-hand side should be titled – ‘Colour’. On the left hand-side column you can then draw rows of different shapes in different colours, and colour them in together. Next to this, you can write the name of the colour. The right-hand column should be titled ‘Number’.

When you next go out and about, bring this piece of paper and a pen out with you. Keep your eyes peeled and see how many things you can spot together of each colour, and mark numbers on the colour chart in the ‘Number’ column. When choosing your colours for the colour chart, you could also use the same colour in different shades (e.g. a dark blue and a light blue) to further enhance children’s understanding of colour. The reason I wanted to draw the colours with shapes is so that we can also throw a bit of learning about shapes into the activity as well.

Little Wise Junior is seven now, and so has a great understanding of colours. Nevertheless, when I asked her to draw an example of the colour chart I describe above for this post, she became completely engaged in the exercise and really wanted us to bring it out with us on our trip out in the afternoon so that she can have a go as well. It just goes to show that one is never to old to have fun exploring colours..  Here’s to lots of fun learning through play 

Maths Activities

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Everyday activities for learning about maths

When creating the Little Wise Toys’ range for 3-6 year olds, part of the concept was to create a fun and interactive learning bridge between home and early years/early school settings.  As part of this, and as a complimentary range of activities to the Little Wise Box of Maths, I would love to share some other fun maths activities that you can weave into your day using everyday objects.  This blog post suggests some ideas.

When at home…

– Cooking together and letting children help with weighing and counting out spoonfuls and measurements.
– Sorting washing together by size and colour; and pairing up socks.
– Creating shapes out of different objects, such as coins or forks.
– Sorting and organising coins and notes into different piles.
– Cutting toast into squares and triangles.
– Model building with recycled breakfast cereal boxes etc and exploring different shapes and sizes.
– Marking everybody’s height on the wall and seeing who is the tallest, the shortest, and who comes in the middle.
– Writing a selection of numbers on a chalk board. When you call out a number they have to identify it and squirt it with water.
– Exploring position by moving an item into different locations and asking if it is on top of, underneath, in front of, behind, to the left of/or the right etc.
– Hunting for different things in your garden and counting how many you can spot (bugs, birds, stones, colours, trees and so on).

When out and about…

– Exploring the numbers on the number plates (e.g. see who can spot the number 2 on the parked cars while walking down the street; and have a go adding the numbers in the number plate up).
– Reading the numbers on the doors while walking down the street (and talking about different number patterns – e.g. odd numbers and even numbers).
– Getting the little one involved when out shopping – reading price tags, counting apples and other items, sorting coins and comparing weights (the heaviest and the lightest etc).
– Counting how many streetlamps, letter boxes, cats and so on you can spot on your walks; and how many steps you take getting from A to B.

I hope you find these suggestions useful and here’s to lots of fun exploring maths and learning through play.

Learning about shapes

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shapes, early years, early learning, maths

The travel friendly Little Wise Box of Maths explores shapes, distances and sizes, amongst many other areas.  It includes a range of tabs and images that children can use to help them learn.  Here are some other ideas for exploring these areas using day-to-day items you’ll find at home or when you are out and about.

– Go on a treasure hunt to find as many objects of one shape you can around the house, and then sort the objects into different shape piles.
–  Create different shapes using coins and other items you have lying around. Make large versions, smaller versions, and look at how close or far away the shapes are from each other.
– Cut out different shapes from a piece of paper and decorate each one in different ways with glue and paper, pens, pencils and paints.
– Find objects that you can paint one side of and stamp shapes lines onto paper (such as the end of a toilet roll or a pot lid).
– Play ‘eye spy the shape square (etc)’ when walking down the street and the other person has to spot as many things as they can of the chosen shape.
– Hide lots of different shaped items in a container with shredded paper and play lucky dip by pulling out the different objects and naming the shape that is picked.
– Cut out different sizes of the same shape and stack them on top of each other, starting with the biggest first and then getting smaller as you go on.

Happy shape learning 🔶🔺🔹🔸🔴🔸