Thursday, 30 October 2014

Pressed leaves craft: Make placemats!

I'm very excited to share this space with Anne from Itty Bitty Love today!
Hello Grow Grow Grow readers!  I'm Anne, Montessori mama and writer of the blog Itty Bitty Love.  I live in the mountains of Montana with my husband, our two-year-old daughter, and our slightly crazy cattle dog.  Please stop by for a visit some time!
Autumn has certainly settled in around here.  The days are growing shorter and cooler, there is a dusting of snow on the mountains, and the trees have burst into golden hues - yellow, orange, red and brown.  My daughter Elise and I have been collecting handfuls of leaves on our walk each morning. Some have ended up on our nature table, but most we've pressed between the pages of a heavy book. 
A few days ago, I noticed that our heavy book was beginning to overflow with leaves, so I decided it was time to start putting those leaves to use!  Our dining room table was in need of some seasonal cheer, so Elise and I decided to make a few place mats with our pressed leaves and contact paper.   
If you've ever done a craft with a 2-year-old before, you'll know that they are far more interested in the process than the product.  I, on the other hand, am more of a product kind of person, so crafting with Elise causes me a fair amount of stress.  While I experienced moments of panic here and there, overall, this craft project ended up being developmentally appropriate for both of us!  ;)  
Elise thoroughly enjoyed the stickiness of the contact paper - which ended up being forgiving enough that I was able to move things around a bit as needed.  Of course, leaves were crushed and dog hair blew in from every direction, but once I stuck another piece of contact paper over the, the result was really lovely.  The best part?  Elise thinks her new, homemade place mat is really great.  She's been eating all her meals and snacks on it, and it's durable enough that we can wipe it clean.  I'm actually bravely thinking about carrying on and making a few more for each of our spots at the table!
Interested in making your own pressed leaf place mats? 
You'll need:
  • a selection of dry, pressed leaves
  • one piece of contact paper that is cut to the size of a place mat (ours is a 40 x 30 cm rectangle)
  • one piece of contact paper that is slightly larger than your desired shape (this will make it easier for sticking it to the first piece of contact paper)
  • scissors
          1. Peel the backing off of a place mat-sized piece of contact paper. Once the backing is off, the contact paper should lay flat and your child will be able to work on a table or the floor.
          2. Stick leaves to the contact paper, making sure that none overlap the edges.
          3. OK, this next part is kind of crucial. Start peeling the backing off the second piece of contact paper, but don't remove it entirely. Carefully line it up with the first piece of contact paper, and peel off the backing as you unroll it over the leaves.  
          4. Use scissors to even up the edges.  I cut the corners to make it look a little more professional.
          5. Enjoy your new place mat! 
Thank you Anne for this great idea! Elise looks very pleased indeed!
Please leave a comment to share your best pressed leaves crafts!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Montessori zoology puzzles review and GIVEAWAY from Tower High Learning!

Do you know what this is? (Montessori teachers, shhh)

Yes, it's a puzzle, but a very special one!

Why is that, I hear you ask. Well, it's a Montessori zoology puzzle!

Faithful to the Montessori ideals of beauty, realism and simplicity, this horse puzzle is not just a horse puzzle. It represents all mammals. Traditionally in Montessori zoology, one animal is taken to represent all from that class. A horse for mammals, a goldfish for fish, a robin for birds, a turtle for reptiles and a frog for amphibians. It's up to the child to classify other animals by comparing their features.

And have you seen what's underneath the pieces? Not only do those puzzles teach animal body parts but they also connect the parts to the skeleton! Finn was surprised to notice that the horse's tail bones were not as long as the tail hair and that there were no bones underneath the mane!

Another very attractive puzzle is the goldfish one. This was the first one we bought when Finn was just 2 years old and he loved it from the start. He was very interested in learning the particular names of the different fins and curious about the fish's gills. These puzzles are such a great introduction to zoology for a toddler.

The quality of these puzzles is fantastic. They are so nice to handle that even adults are drawn to them.
When Finley is a bit older, he will be able to trace around the pieces to make his own drawings of a horse and goldfish, labeling them if he wants to.

I love these two puzzles so much that I contacted Marie-Louise at Tower High Learning, where I bought the puzzles, and asked if she would be happy to give away one skeleton puzzle to a lucky reader... and she was! Not only will she give a puzzle away, but she will send it anywhere in Europe!

For your chance to win, visit Tower High Learning, and write a comment on this post stating which of the skeleton puzzles you would like to win (choose between horse, goldfish, turtle, frog and bird). Please include your email address in your comment so I can contact you. Only one entry per person please. The competition is open to readers from Europe.
The giveaway will run until 1st November at midnight (British time). The winner will be chosen at random and will receive an email from me.
Good luck to all!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

3 simple art cards activities

Have you got a collection of art cards yet? Whether they are postcards you have been collecting from various museums, the Usborne Famous Paintings card set like we have, the Usborne Impressionist Paintings set or even the Phaidon Art Box... there is so much you can do with them!

I already mentioned how Finley likes to use the cards as story prompts. We use the cards to play many varied games, including matching the paintings (I photocopied and printed a copy of each painting - you could also purchase two sets), bingo, guessing which card is missing from a small selection after observing them... and many more.
Below are three extra activities you can do with art cards.
1. The detective game. From a few clues, Finn has to guess which painting I'm thinking of from a small selection. There are many, many ways of choosing your clues depending on the child's age and what they know. When Finn was younger and new to this game, I may have said: "the painting I'm thinking of shows some fruit." Now that he has played with the cards many times and in many ways, I can say "the painting I'm thinking of was painted by C├ęzanne." Don't be afraid to mention artists names, paintings titles, styles, orientation, materials used... at almost any age! A little bit of extra information each time will fascinate your child and keep their interest fresh.

2. Sorting games. Either you choose the categories, or your child does! Colours? Orientation? Subject? Encourage your child to look for similaries in the paintings and sort them accordingly. A variation is for you to sort the cards into two "mystery" categories while your child watches and ask them if they can figure out what your criteria are.

3. Recognising painting styles. For this activity we used the Mini Masters series of board books about art. Each book is about a different artist and shows several reproductions of their work. They are ideal to give a young child an understanding of artistic style. Finn and I looked at the books together, taking time to notice some details, or commonalities between the artwork of the artists. Then I gave him one of the art cards of the corresponding artists and asked him if he could find out who the artist was by comparing it with the paintings in the books. You can do a similar activity by using art cards instead of books.

Is your child into art? What games do they like to play with art cards? 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Looking for guest posts!

Finley and I are off to France next week and while we are taking a break from everyday life, I am also taking a break from this blog for just over a week.

Isn't this a perfect opportunity to get your voice heard through a guest post at Grow Grow Grow?

You don't need a polished writing style. There are as many ways of writing as there are people on this planet, all I want is for you to be you!

As for the topic, we'll try and stay within the general topic of childhood/ education/ lifestyle but I'll leave it up to you. Just write about something that you feel strongly about.

Guest posts from bloggers and non-bloggers are very welcome and all will be published, there will be no selection.

Please email your guest post to before Monday 20th October to see it published a few days after that date.

Happy writing!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Should you expose your child to an additional language?

Most of us know that the best time for a child to learn an additional language is as soon as possible after birth, simply by being exposed to it. So many children in the world speak two, three or four languages fluently. Did you know the majority of children in the world are multilingual?

So why would you wait until secondary school to begin learning a new language? Why would you wait for the most awkward time in children's lives to teach them correct pronounciation of foreign words in front of the whole class? Why would you give them word lists to learn by heart when they could have learnt them effortlessly in the first years of their lives?

Before I had a child ( and hadn't yet met Finley's dad and lived in France), I thought that if I ever had children, I would like them to learn English by natural exposure as early as possible. I didn't want them to go through the difficulties of having to learn it from scratch at 11 years old, whether they wanted to or not (home education wasn't on my mind at the time).

It turned out that my child lives in England, has an English daddy and a French mummy, so nothing is easiest for him than to learn both languages simultaneously. He speaks both fluently.

The question of additional languages came back to my mind after Finn's first birthday. We already knew he wouldn't go to school and I didn't know whether he would be interested in learning a third language or not in the future. It was important that it would be his choice. At the same time, if there's something a parent can help their child learn, it's languages, by ensuring they are exposed to them early on.

I researched online to find out if children who already had two languages naturally could learn a third language by having a babysitter fluent in that language. I didn't find a single testimony of this situation, but plenty of monolingual families who had successfully created an environment in which their child could learn a second language effortlessly.

I hesitated for months over this as I was worried that Finn would be confused by hearing three different languages. I wasn't sure it would be in his best interest in the end, especially if we could only afford a few hours of German childcare weekly. (The third language was chosen easily as we have connections to Germany through friends and family)

When we finally made a decision, Finn was 16 months old. We found a German speaking babysitter who only ever spoke German to him. At first, I would ask her to do the same activities as I had done with Finn so that the context would be the same, only the language would change. Finn didn't even seem to notice she was speaking differently!

When I did my Montessori teaching practice, we decided to look for a German-speaking au pair to live with us for 6 months as we saw that time as a rare opportunity for Finn to boost his third language. And did it work! Finn now gets two hours a week of German play, which could be better but seems enough to keep him going.

My worry has been that Finn would not necessarily enjoy learning a new language and we always decided that if it wasn't working out, we would stop. But he loves it! He asks me everyday how to say particular words in German. The whole experience has given him an awareness of different languages that I definitely did not have at his age. I love how, when he can't find a word, he says it in a different language. No, he is not mixing up all the languages because he is confused, he does it consciously and intentionally, making full use of his knowledge of the three languages. He is able to navigate from one to another in a flash.
I should add that he is far from fluent in German but he is able to understand most things said to him and spontaneously says many words and short phrases.
We are so happy with our decision to introduce a third language early on, and have no doubts that it works. If you are thinking of taking the plunge, or are in the thick of it, I would strongly encourage you to do it or keep going. It is an extremely rewarding experience for all involved.
I would love to hear about your experiences with additional languages. Is your child monolingual? Bilingual? Trilingual? Please tell us about your family!


Thursday, 9 October 2014

How important is creative play for children?

Shortly after we returned from our road trip to Austria, Finn started recreating parts of the journey that were particularly important to him. Blocks, magnets, drawings and many everyday objects were used in this play.

He explained this Geomag construction to me. The large enclosed area is France. The triangle inside it is England. The remaining piece is the Eurotunnel with the cars inside.

The idea of a tunnel under the sea fascinated him for weeks. We even made a model of it for him using kitchen towel rolls, loo paper rolls and toy cars. His recreations were endless and all different!

Being able to catch a glimpse of his understanding through his creations is priceless. England inside France? Somehow he wanted to connect the two countries and came up with that.

Creative play has such immense benefits to children:

- It helps them develop critical thinking skills and problem solving abilities.
- It gives them a deeper understanding of the world around them.
- It supports their emotional development as creativity becomes a way to express their feelings in a positive way.

How can you support your child's creative play?

Free, uninterrupted time is the secret to productive creative play. As you would schedule a playdate or a field trip, plan large chunks of unstructured time for your child. Finding a balance between planned activities and free time allows your child to experience a diversity of experiences as well as opportunities for an emotional outlet.

Give them materials to create with. Junk materials from the recycling bin are ideal. Lego, simple blocks, figurines of animals/people, art materials, natural items...
Provide your child with time and materials and let them do the rest!

This post is an entry to the #ToyellaChristmasBloggerCompetition which all bloggers are invited to enter!

ToyellaBadgeComp zps7631f58f Calling all Bloggers: Have a #ToyellaChristmas and win £150 in Toys (CD: 25/10/2014)

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Now on Facebook!

Grow Grow Grow is now on Facebook!
Please come and visit us!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Making an Autumn nature table

Autumn is such a beautiful season, and a perfect time to start a nature table for your child if you don't already have one. A nature table (or shelf, or corner, whatever is best for your home) is simply a place to display treasures from nature.
Ours is on the top shelf of Finley's Montessori shelves.

There are so many benefits to making a nature table. When out collecting with your child, make a point of commenting on the beauty of natural objects. In Autumn, the vibrant colour of apples, the glistening shine of new conkers, the diversity of leaves colours, the crunch of dry leaves underfoot... are such a feast for the senses. Your child will catch on your sense of awe and feel the beauty. They will start to notice details they never saw before.

This new season is the first time that Finn has consciously noticed a shift in weather, colours, rhythm... I slow down with him to take the time to enjoy the beauty of the natural world. Our nature table has helped our family focus on the natural rhythm of seasons. I see it as a starting point to learn more about the different items we bring back from our walks.

Here are just a few ideas:

Apples (life cycle of an apple, types of apples, apples in cooking...)
Nuts (types of nuts, cracking nuts, which animals feed on them...)
Conkers (life cycle of a horse chestnut tree, games to play with conkers, making conker people...),
Leaves (pressing and sorting by colour, using them in art, making leaf people, leaf mandalas...)

And that's just with this particular nature shelf of ours! We haven't added squashes, pumpkins or corn on the cob yet!

For children who can  read, try to think of words related to the season that they'll be able to read by themselves. Write them on unusual surfaces to grab their attention. A bit of reading practice here and there is always good to take!

I made the chalkboard you can see below to display short rhymes, poems and songs relating to each season, which I find online. Finn often asks me to read this one aloud to him and he loves for me to drop yellow and red leaves over his head, as if I was the elf. I plan on rotating the written pieces regularly and alternate between Finn's languages (English, French and German). The importance of displaying written words cannot be emphasised enough if the child is going to value writing and see it as an activity they would like to pursue themselves later on.

Colourful dancing scarves have found a new use as they are woven into the radiator (until we decide we need it on!) to create a bed for Finn's stick collection.

Our nature shelf has already evolved since we made it. Some items have been replaced by others and the general arrangement is modified almost every day as we all stop to play with the treasure. I love having a live, dynamic nature shelf as opposed to a static one.

We are looking forward to a culinary Autumn as we plan on making apple crumble, baked apples, pumpkin pie, roasted chestnuts and more.

Here is a beautiful example of an Autumn nature shelf. Please link to your Autumn nature tables or shelves!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

4 arrow games we played

Finn has been noticing arrows everywhere and asking me what they are for. So we made a set of four laminated arrows to play some games at home.
The first game we played is very simple and reinforces the meaning of arrows. I hid something under one of the cups while Finn looked away and moved the arrow to indicate its position. Very simple, but Finn loved it and we played it many, many times. 

The second game we played was slightly more elaborate. A treasure hunt! Finn followed arrows to a patch of land and a note saying "dig" which he had to read to find out where the treasure was. That's what I meant when I wrote about "planting" words around the house in this post.

Hmm, a chocolate!

And guess what, he wanted to play it again straight afterwards! Trying to avoid using up my chocolate stash, I thought of a different treasure hunt.

He followed arrows from the garden (where he had been waiting) to the house. The arrows led to another note! This one was more difficult to read, but he managed with some help.

And what was up there??

Two of his toys combined in a funny way (a dog riding a car). He didn't even think about asking for another chocolate!

For the last game we played, I tried to recreate those arrow signs you see in town to help you find the museum, town centre, public toilets... which he has asked me about many times.

I drew pictures of objects to find while following the direction of the arrows.

As you can see in the photo below, my pole is a litter pick stood in a bag of toys. It could also work with a broom stood in a basket of blocks, or Lego. It doesn't need to be very sturdy fortunately as the child does not need to touch it.

If you enjoyed reading about our arrow games, please pin this post by clicking on the picture below!

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