Books can be a great escape, transporting us to limitless realms where anything is possible. They can stretch our imaginations, challenge our beliefs, rattle our fears, unlock our ambitions and open our eyes.
They can also teach us, not just facts and theories, but offer us new perspectives and challenge our beliefs.
We also know that regular reading with our children helps develop and broaden their vocabulary. It also encourages children to be creative in using their imagination to visualise a stories setting, understand the characters, and anticipate how the story might unfold.
A story can be a great way to help a child explore, express and understand their emotions, or to cope with challenges and big changes in their lives like starting school, a new sibling or even a tragic loss in the family.
Stories can also be useful in helping children understand anti social or dangerous behaviours like biting or hitting and offer them strategies to managed their frustrations or help get to the cause behind the behaviour.
Here are some of our favourite stories to help little people understand and manage big change or challenges:
UNDERSTANDING & MANAGING EMOTIONS
The Colour Monster: A Story about Emotions by Anna Llenas
This is really lovely story about a poor little colour monster is a little bit mixed up. He is red, green, yellow, blue and black, all at the same time. It's making him very confused and he doesn't know why.
With the help of his friend the little monster is able to see that the colours are his feelings, and he can sort them out by identifying each one separately and understanding how it makes him feel.
This simple tale about friendship also helps children to identify and explore feelings of happiness, anger, sadness, calm and fear.
In my Heart - a Book of Feelings by Jo Witek
This lovely die-cut heart book explains what an emotion feels like, physically, inside. For example: "When I get really angry, my heart feels like it's going to explode! Don't come near me! My heart is yelling, hot and loud. This is when my heart is mad." Toddlers will be able to practice identifying and verbalising their own emotions.
UNDERSTANDING DIFFERENCES, EMPATHY & SELF ACCEPTANCE
Goliath: The Boy Who Was Different by Ximo Abadia
Goliath worries about how different he is to everyone else, he’s convinced he doesn’t fit in and he searches far and wide for answers. On his journey he discovers that it is our uniqueness that makes us special. This is a story about strength, courage and self-belief.
Neon Leon by Jane Clarke
This a tale about a little chameleon who is worried about fitting and goes on a journey through loneliness, learning about himself & finding his place in the world.
The story teaches children empathy by involving them in helping Leon on his journey - by counting his steps, encouraging him to get some rest, and giving him lots of reassurance when he's feeling down.
Max and Bird by Ed Vere
Max is a kitten & kittens chase birds – don’t they? This lovely little tale challenges ingrained beliefs and how a friendship can’t be built no matter who (or what) you are. It teaches children that what is really important is who a person is on the inside.
Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers
This is a beautifully written, simple tale about a boy and a penguin and their growing friendship. Oliver Jeffers has a brilliant way of getting into a child’s mind and thinks out each scenario as a child would, cleverly engaging children who instantly relate to the little boy.
The Journey Trilogy by Aaron Becker
These three beautifully illustrated wordless books provides children with an amazing canvas to create their own story as they follow a lonely girl & her magic crayon which unlocks a magical work of adventure. Themes of loneliness, self-discovery, courage, trust and friendship can all be explored through these beautiful books.
Reading wordless picture books is also the first step in your child learning to read, building key skills in critical thinking, understanding, prediction and storytelling. Find out more about reading wordless books with your children here: http://bit.ly/2TqNGMf
STARTING SCHOOL - MANAGING TRANSITION
Starting School by Janet Ahlberg
One of the first books to be recommend to parents when they have a child getting ready to transition to school. This enchanting picture book gently reassures children by taking them through what they can expect when they first start school through simple text and lovely colourful illustrations.
Harry & the Dinosaurs go to School by Ian Whybrow
The Harry & the Dinosaur series is much loved by boy & girls alike, and for children, seeing one of their much loved characters move onto school helps to give them the confidence that they can do it too.
The story beautifully addresses the topic of being nervous about this big change, and that they’re not alone in this feeling, while showing children what they can expect and how much fun school can really be!
MANAGING BIG FAMILY CHANGE
Always Forever by Alan Durant
Bereavement is a very difficult topic for young children to understand and as it generally only arise at a time of grief, this makes it even harder to help explain what is happening. This lovely story of Mole, Hare, and Otter who are overcome with grief after their friend Fox dies, helps to explain the sadness of the people around them and helps children realise that their loved ones can live on in their hearts and their memories.
There’s a House Inside my Mummy by Giles Andreae & Vanessa Cabban
This is a truly delightful read to help little ones get ready for the arrival of a new sibling. The story is told through the eyes of the soon to be big brother.
It's wonderfully illustrated and simple to read but yet answers all those unanswered questions that your little one might be anxious about "sometimes me and mummy like to cuddle on our own, and I tell him that I love him through her tummy telephone.
I bought this for my son who was 17 months old when his new sister arrived and he loved it.
Happy reading 😀
FROM STOP SIGNS TO DOOR SHAPES & TRIANGLE ROOFS, SHAPES ARE ALL AROUND US.
Learning about shapes helps children identify and organise the world around them visually, as well as being precursors for future learning.
Colour recognition is a key cognitive developmental step for toddlers, as it plays an important role in object recognition and is a vital part in helping children to develop their descriptive language skills, which in turn encourages clear communication and understanding.
Colour and shape form the foundation of so many areas of later learning – such as reading, maths and science – but also in the way in which we navigate through the world around us. For example, understanding road signs and traffic lights or the spatial awareness required to figure out how things can fit together and differentiating between colours on maps or wiring – almost every accept of life calls on these foundation skills.
Without even realising it our minds are identifying and noticing the green trees, square windows, red buses, blue skies…all of these wonderful colours and shapes around us.
A fun way to encourage your children to learn their shapes is to go on a Shape Hunt around your home. Cut a shape out of paper or card and have fun searching for objects that match that shape.
Or equally, get outside, and seek out everyday shapes & colours on your local streets and green spaces.
Happy shape hunting!
If you’d like to know more about the role colour and shapes play in your child’s development here are a few helpful resources:
SORTING & MATCHING MILESTONES FOR TODDLERS:
WHY GEOMETRY IS IMPORTANT IN YOUR LIFE:
WHY COLOURS AND SHAPES MATTER:
Half term already, can you believe it?!?! But that means one thing, small people wanting constant entertainment for a whole week! Fear not, we have a few ideas for you to help keep your little ones busy.
RHS WISLEY GARDENS
For a nice little day trip out of nappy valley, why not head down to beautiful RHS Wisley gardens where you can take part in their brilliant half term programme of activities including craft workshops, storytelling and planting workshops! Don’t forget they also have their ‘Back to Nature Garden’, which was inspired by the Chelsea Flower Show Garden co-designed by The Duchess of Cambridge in last year. This is an amazing area for little one to explore and burn off some energy. If it’s too wet (or windy) to be outdoors the Glasshouse is another great area to explore.
All activities are included in a normal Wisley admission fee but some activities will need be booked in advance.
WWT LONDON WETLAND CENTRE
Alternatively, why not unleash your inner Peppa Pig & head to London Wetlands annual Puddle Jumping Championships, which runs daily from Saturday 15th - Sunday 23rd February.
Come rain or shine, get your Wellies on & get out into nature. If you don’t fancy the puddle jumping, there are plenty of other ways to keep the family entertained, why not try out the mud kitchens or explore the wild walk?
BATTERSEA POWER STATION
A bit closer to home, Battersea power station also has some wonderful and exciting things on for the whole family - the best bit is it's all free!
Design Your Own Kaleidoscope
15th - 16th February, 11am - 4pm
Bug mask colouring
20th - 23rd February, 11am - 4pm
Soft play and giant games
15th, 16th, 20th - 23rd February, 11am - 4pm
Be sure to check it out
But if all that just sounds too exhausting and you need a day, or an afternoon, indoors check out these simple but great activities to do with the little ones...brilliant for building concentration, encouraging language development and imagination...
LARGE BOX ACTIVITY
Save those delivery boxes, whatever the size. Grab some felt tips (or paints & scissors if you're feeling adventurous) and let the kids get creative.... it's a great activity for a rainy day and something that can be played with over and over again.... simple but so much fun!
LOO ROLL CREATURES
All you need is some loo or kitchen towel rolls and a few craft supplies – like coloured card, googly eyes, pom poms, coloured pens & glue. Then let their imaginations go wild. This is a great activity to encourage colour recognition, fine motor skills & even scissor skills when supervised. This will keep them busy & they can create a game with their creatures when they’re finished.
PRACTICAL LIFE ACTIVITIES
Montessori educates children to develop using practical life activities rather than formal teaching. Here, we develop motor control and coordination, as well as independence, concentration, and a sense of responsibility using every day objects found in the home. From threading pasta tubes to transferring from one bowl to another using a spoon or child friendly tweezers. These are activities that will keep children busy whilst encouraging patience, concentration and hone their fine motor skills.
Happy contented children mean a happy mummy & a few minutes of peace!
Enjoy the holidays and see you in a week.
So often I hear parents saying “I’d love to do more painting & messy play at home, but I just don’t want the mess” This is part of the magic of Little Starlings, you can leave the mess with us! But it doesn’t mean that you can’t create fun activities to support your children’s on going development & skill consolidation at home – MESS FREE!
Here are our top 5 mess-free activities to do at home that carry on our theme this term of colour & shape recognition…
1. Pom Pom Sorting
This can be as quick & simple to setup, as you like. One of our favourites ways to play this game, is to cut circles of coloured card, place them in a muffin tray. Then set up a bowl of mixed pom poms & some easy grip tweezers (which are also great for improving hand strength ready for learning to write, as well as honing fine motor skills) and off they go!
This can be a great self directed activity, which can help children build their independence & confidence in their own problem solving skills.
If you wanted to take this activity to the next level, paint some old cardboard tubes in your chosen colours. Once dry, tape the tubes to a wall or side of a box. Then give your child a bowl of mixed pom poms & some easy grip tweezers. All they need to do is post the Pom Poms down the correct coloured tube into a tray or bowl below.
(Image credit: www.learning4kids.net)
Easy grip tweezers: https://amzn.to/2UvweY0
Mixed Pompoms: https://amzn.to/375zT10
Eco Pompoms: https://amzn.to/36WEPW8
2. Coloured Beans
(Image credit: www.theimaginationtree.com)
Admittedly creating your coloured beans does take a while initially but once they are done they last for several months (usually about 3mths) if stored in an airtight container & out of direct sunlight.
To make your beans, add one cup of dry, light coloured beans to a zip lock plastic bag with 15 drops of food colouring. Seal the bag and shake them like crazy for about 10-20 seconds - until you see that they are completely coated.
Empty them out onto a tray lined with paper towels and spread them out evenly so they don’t stick together. Allow a few hours for them to air dry.
Once your beans are ready, the options are endless. We like to sort beans into matching coloured pots (Ikea mugs are great for this!) or count them out onto matching colour circles of card.
3. Painting in a bag.
We had great fun doing this at Little Starlings this week but you can take it to the next level at home.
Cut a piece of card to fit your bag. Load the card up with blobs of paint, perhaps add a sprinkle of glitter (here’s a link for some biodegradable glitter: https://amzn.to/2S1lrTI). Seal the bag & tape it down to a flat surface and let them go wild! When they are done you’ll have a lovely original master piece to pop on the fridge or in a frame. Children really love to see their work on display!
4. Water mats
These mats are brilliant & VERY portable! You can either draw alongside your child – modelling good pen grip techniques for your child to copy – or let them work self directed, letting their imagination run wild & exploring different ways to reveal the hidden colour.
(Our mat is from Tomy https://amzn.to/2UAfb6W but you can get cheaper ones)
5. Colour & shape matching with Duplo
Gather up some plain Duplo blocks. Arrange them into some basic shapes made up of the same colour blocks. Then trace around the shape. Do this with several shapes so you have at least once shape per colour.
Put all of the blocks in a basket alongside a stack of the shape cards you’ve created. Ask your child to turn over a shape card & find the matching colour pieces to build the shape.
To expand on this game you can create more complicated shapes (duck, flowers, ice lolly, etc) made up of difference coloured blocks, Photograph & print out your new complex shape cards.
To play your child then needs to select a card, then match the individual colours and shapes in the picture to create the shape shown on the picture card.
These are just a few of our favourite mess free colour games, but a bucket full of different coloured toys or household objects will do the job just as well.
We hope you enjoy your colour fun at home!
WOW what a start to the new decade! We have some very excited little people here at Little Starlings who have arrived bursting to learn and discover new things.
This Spring term is all about gently encouraging independence, establishing new friendships with peers and getting creative.
We are focusing our sessions this term on encouraging shape and colour recognition. Encouraging the children to participate in group led activities, getting hands on exploring colour and texture through our arts and crafts, along with themed, cooking, songs and stories.
We love encouraging sensory play at Little Starlings through activities that stimulate senses through touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. Through sensory play children are free to investigate, create and discover new sensations, while processing & building understanding on their own terms.
Look out for updates on our Instagram and Facebook pages as the children have fun exploring.
Wintery weekends can often leave you feeling penned in with the kids bouncing off the walls!
The RSBP have created a fun reason to wrap up & get outside with the kids this weekend (25-27 Jan) by joining in on their Big Garden Bird Watch. Having an activity like this can help you can keep the kids focused on their task of checking off the birds on their spotters list (& hopefully minimise the moaning), while also getting some fresh air and a bit of a run around.
Why not add to the fun by getting the kids to make their very own pair of special Bird spotting binoculars!
All you'll need is:
2 toilet rolls
An off cut of wrapping paper
Some coloured card
Cut the wrapping paper into a strip that is same height as the toilet rolls & long enough to wrap around them both side by side.
Glue or staple together the toilet rolls then wrap in paper.
Next cut out two wings and a beak. Glue them onto the side & front of the wrapped rolls. Finally glue on a pair of eyes & you're ready to go!
And don't forget to down load a bird spotters pack from the RSBP:
Have a great weekend
So as we return for our second part of the Autumn term and the nights are slowly drawing in, we welcome the new colours that Autumn brings and the ever falling leaves.
Our children are all settled in and they continue to thrive and learn new things daily.
This week we look forward to Halloween and are celebrating this with lots of wonderful arts and crafts, so be sure to look out for their wonderful spooky creations in their blue boo-k bags.
As we return for the second half of our Spring term, it really feels like Spring has sprung in Wandsworth! Bringing with it an amazing sense of opportunity & optimism.
We're surrounded by signs of new starts, fresh growth, vibrant colour & energy, so tangible it's almost contagious. So we are working hard at Little Starlings to capture all this in our adventures with the children this half term & hope to bring you along with us with the start of our new Little Starlings blog!
The Spring term is often an exciting transition point for a lot of the children, some taking their first steps towards independence, possibly leaving their parents for the first time on a regular basis, forging those first friendships, all the while discovering new skills & talents.
For the children who are more established in their routine it's an opportunity to really push boundaries, test out new skills & explore the relationships they've begun to develop, which also provides great opportunities to work on their speech & language skills with rich storylines in their individual play, Whatever stage the children are at, we work with them to make sure they feel completely at ease tking these little steps towards major milestones.
This term we have an array of activities & themes for the children to really embrace the joys of messy play, exploring textures & colours we'll get the children planting out window boxes to nurture through the team. Crafts that incite creativity as well as focusing on fine motor skills. This term we're also introducing some movement exploration with kids' yoga sessions to help children improve their body awareness & gross motor skills, while also giving them an energy outlet. Let's not forget Easter, it wouldn't be Easter without a Bonnet for the occasion, this gives the children a great opportunity to explore their creativity as well as their individual personalities.
We're so excited to get started & to bring you along with us for the journey! Please follow this blog to catch the next update & if you're new to Little Starlings or would like to know more, please don't hesitate to Contact Us.