Thursday, 31 March 2011

3 days left!

Only 1 person has entered my raffle so far, so if you enter, you have a 50% chance of winning the three educational materials. And all for a good cause!

Go on, enter, there's only three days left!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Japan Earthquake Appeal

In aid of the Japanese earthquake disaster and in cooperation with Jo at A bit of this and a bit of that, I am organising a raffle on this blog.

The prize is a pack of three handmade Early Reading and Writing materials:

1. A sandpaper name flip book. This material is used to teach children to recognise and write their name. The flip pages mean that you can isolate each letter to teach it. I used Montessori colour coding, except that I got it wrong for the one pictured. Your one will have red consonnants and blue vowels, unless you use different colours and you let me know. I will use the name that you communicate to me.

2. Second in the pack is a homemade spinny speller. Again, the Montessori colour scheme is used (right this time!). The spheres are fixed and used as handles while the cubes spin to make a total of 64 real and nonsense CVC words.

3. The third item in the pack is a red felt letterbox, a green felt enveloppe (not the one pictured) and a stack of coloured cards to write on. Your children will love posting notes to you and will practice their handwriting at the same time!

All items are handmade.

For a chance to win this Early Reading and Writing Pack, you need to make a donation of £5 to GlobalGiving, come back to this post and leave a comment with your receipt number and a valid email address. For more chances to win, you need to make another £5 donation and leave another comment. If you want to donate £10, you will need to do two £5 donations so as to get two receipt numbers and be entered twice. You can enter as many times as you like.

If you make a mistake or forget to add your email address, please delete the first post and re-write it.

Anybody can enter, I will ship worldwide.

The winner will be drawn using a random number generator.

This raffle will close on Sunday 3rd April, 18:00 GMT.

The raffle being held on this blog is in cooperation with A Bit of This and A Bit of That. We are in no way affiliated with Global Giving, that's just our chosen method of getting funds safely to the affected area.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

A homemade Montessori-style puzzle

Inspired by Montessori materials but dejected by their price, I decided to try and make something myself. I made a knob puzzle with six circles of graded diameters. I used the saw blades I had and consequently I wasn't able to use diameters with an equal difference, which means that this material isn't as mathematical as I would have liked it to be, but it still appeals to toddlers.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A voucher book

Alex picked "Make a voucher book" from the art jar a couple of times and asked me what it was. By the time I had finished explaining he had already wandered off saying that it was too boring. I really like the idea of him making voucher books for his friends and family as they are simple and much appreciated presents that he can make himself (and practice handwriting, but don't tell him that). To show him what it was, I made him one this afternoon.

He really liked it and immediately redeemed his "snack" one. He asked if I could make him another snack voucher afterwards because he was still hungry.

The voucher book has a nickname here: "the thing that mummies like", after one of my attempts to convince him it was a good idea to make one for his mum. He never remembers the word "voucher" but he does remember that his mum would like one!


A tip found on The Artful Parent to encourage creativity is to draw frames for the children to paint/draw in. Irresistible! My frames only remained empty for 5 minutes before being used and abused by two excited boys!

Art jar

I stole the idea for the art jar on Chasing Cheerios, and montessorised it a bit with the tongs. It has been such a hit with Alex! I am convinced that at least half of the success of the art station has been down to the art jar. When I ask him what he wants to do after school, his answer is invariably: "I want to do the ideas box" (he has a bit of trouble remembering the name, so we might just rebaptise it!)

Our "art jar" is not only about art. It also disguises some writing activities since it is a perpetual challenge to convince Alex to practice handwriting. Some of the writing activities were found in The Write Start by Jennifer Hallissy, which is an amazing book with tons of ideas to encourage writing:

- writing your favourite menu

- making a voucher book for someone

- writing clues for a treasure hunt

- writing a card to someone

- making a doorknob sign

I can't remember most of them now but do check this book if you know a reluctant writer in need of help.

Art Station

Alex (5) and his brother Leo (2.5) have got a new art station! I have rearranged their space in the kitchen to optimise it for creativity. All the art materials are organised in a tidy way in the drawers on the left and I always make sure there is ample space on the desk to carry out any project. Each of them has their own drawer in which I put printables that are adapted to their skills. They also have a blank sketch book each with detachable pages so that their art is kept in one place. On the right of the picture you can see a blue bin; In there I put things from the recycling: egg cartons, cereal boxes, kitchen towel rolls and any interesting packaging. They use them for junk modelling. So far this setup has worked really well and both boys go to the drawers to find new exciting things to do.

We also got a new easel, the Melissa and Doug Deluxe Art easel, which is great. It has three positions to accomodate the children's size, a chalkboard on one side, a dry erase marker board on the other and a roll of paper down the middle that can be pulled over the top for painting. I made them the Petit Artiste Art Smock from Sew Liberated which they like pulling over their heads independently.

More photos of their art to come!

Book diary

How many books of your childhood can you remember? I only remember a handful of them although I must have read hundreds! The Reading Environment by Aidan Chambers suggests the great idea of making a reading journal starting in the early childhood. Before the child can write, parents and carers can write entries for them, simply stating the title and author of the book. You can also add one of the child's interesting comments about it, a short summary or even grade it out of 10. Not only does a book diary help keep track of reading, but it also shows a bit of who you are to others. Aidan Chambers suggests that all school children should have a book diary that new teachers could read at the start of a new year to get a snapshot of that child's personality. The books you choose to read reveal who you are.

I followed his suggestion and gave Alex a book diary. He was over the moon with the excitement of having a book just for him, one with an elastic band to keep it closed and a ribbon as a bookmark! We went through the library books we had already read and started adding entries. He was very proud to show it to everyone at school. He is eager to be able to write it it himself but for now he would still like me to do it because he doesn't want the pages to get messy.

Recording authors is a good way to raise children's awareness that a book is written by a person and doesn't just come out of nowhere. As I was reading all the entries to Alex a few weeks ago, we both noticed that several of the books were written by the same person. We wouldn't even have noticed without the book diary.

Posting notes

Avec presque deux mois d'absence, on peut dire que je me laisse aller! La motivation s'en était allée mais elle revient de plus belle en meme temps que les beaux jours.

Pour inciter Alex a écrire (des lettres, des dessins, des gribouillages, n'importe quoi) je lui ai montré comment écrire un mot, le mettre dans une envellope et le poster. On s'est écrit des mots secrets tour a tour et le moins qu'on puisse dire c'est qu'il a aimé ce jeu, il ne voulait plus s'arreter! Il écrivait des lettres au hasard, les postait et me demandait ensuite de les lui lire a voix haute. Cest toujours drole quand c'est imprononcable ou que ca ne veut rien dire!

To encourage Alex to practise writing, I showed him how to write a simple note, put it in an enveloppe and post it in a felt letterbox. We took turns writing secret messages to each other, and he loved it so much he didn't want to stop! He wrote random letters, posted the notes and asked me to read them aloud when I "opened my mail". It is always funny when you can't even pronounce a word or it is a very silly and nonsense word!