Just finished! A set of candles in vintage spice containers.
Just finished! A set of candles in vintage spice containers.
Everyone that works with children knows how hard it is to to make great use of the outdoors with very young children all year round. Therefore we have been
wondering what we can do to bring the outdoors inside the classroom as well. I have previously worked in a Montessori setting which is great for the use of natural objects, wood, glass and metal – and a lack of plastic.
Over time we found that with pre-school children it is fairly easy to introduce natural topics into the classroom and set up a nature table to allow for scientific exploration. There are a lot of resources available – from magnifying glasses to bug catchers.
With children under the age of 2 however all of this tends to be a little more subtle – a nature display table will turn into a jumble on the floor within about 2 mins, without any learning having taken place. Therefore we have to spread our resources out and make natural materials the standard in the classroom for all children to use. Also during focussed activities we need to offer a lot of support for younger children.
So here are a number of steps for you to implement when adding nature into your classroom. Please also see my pinterest board on Natural Environments, which I will be adding things to.
Eliminating the bright plastic singing toys – you know the ones I’m talking about
Start looking around the classroom and find those brightly coloured plastic things! You know, the ones the children tend to bang on the floor, step on and throw. I look at every toy over time and ask myself: ”How can it be used?”; “What will it teach the infant under 1?”; “What will it teach the toddler under 2?” Start throwing them out, one at a time – don’t be surprised if the next morning, the toy you put in the bin is back on the shelf. Some adults seem to feel a strange attraction to those toys, but that would be a different article in itself.
Introduce Natural Materials
There are many sources for natural material. Let’s start with nature. If you can take your children on a nature walk, print pictures of items to collect and hand baskets to children. If your children are too young – ask your pre-schoolers to go or collect items yourself. A catalogue. Many catalogues offer various natural resources, such as pine cones, stones, large shells, sticks, wooden blocks, branches, leaves, dried fruits etc. – of course always check these items do not present a hazard to young children. Also think about things you can collect around the house such as cork from wine bottles and metal jar lids. Toddlers love a selection of “real” things around them.
When you have gathered a variety of materials you will need to arrange them somehow. My favourite way is using small labelled baskets, so that every item has a clear “home” it will be returned to when it is time to tidy up. For younger babies I suggest creating Treasure Baskets with a variety of textures in each basket such as fabrics, metal and wood. It also helps keeping children’s interest to swap out the materials regularly. Again it is important to keep encouraging children and adults to return items to where they belong otherwise children’s play can get very disrupted as everything is mixed up.
Now it’s time for the hard part. Teaching your children – and also your staff how to use those new things. Stones are for building. Stones are for touching. Shall we build a house with the blocks etc. Show children all the opportunities they have to use these new things! If you don’t show them – they won’t learn. Over time watch how children start communicating and interacting with each other.
A good way of explaining these changes to staff is this: Remember – a plastic pizza will always be a plastic pizza. A wooden block in a bowl requires one child to communicate to another child that there is a pizza. Therefore you are encouraging language development, social interaction and pretend play by simply removing those plastic pizzas.
Added Items to Reflect Nature
You can also add some simple non fiction books to the shelf or even make your own books together with children to incorporate nature in their environment into the classroom.
There are various ways of adding life into your classroom – and you will instantly notice how much of a difference that makes. The first simple steps is to buy some plants and add them to shelfs and window sills in your classroom. Slowly you can have children grow their own plants as well.
Have you got a nursery pet? We already have a fish tank and the children love watching goldfish Peter. I find a fish an ideal pet for the babies and toddlers. They enjoy the water as well as the fish’s movements and it’s very little maintenance. However you will need to know how to look after the fish – in particular if you have long holiday periods as the fish can’t just be taken home. Other animals you could consider is an ant farm, a hamster, or even ordering some chicks and watching them hatch.
You could then take pictures of the animal and the different steps of looking after it and turn it into another books for the children to explore. They absolutely love looking at themselves in books.
There are various simple topics to introduce nature to the classroom, you could be talking about the seasons, different animals or even the farm. These topics will give younger children the chance to explore and create things. You can then display the children’s art work on display boards or on a washing line hanging from the ceiling.
If you have a large Messy Tray that you normally use for sand or water. Fill it with leaves instead – or even better fill it with sand, leaves, sticks and water and let the children decide what they want to do with it.
As I said it is very easy to have children join in with planting activities all you need is pots, soil, seeds and then be able to water them. Older toddlers feel very responsible when being asked to help with watering the plants. You could also purchase some spray bottles and let children spray and wipe the leaves of grown plants to remove dust.
We have made some changes to how we display children’s art. We covered most boards with burlap which is a great natural material and makes the room look very warm. We also purchased a lot of natural materials for art projects or collect things ourselves from the garden. When it comes to the actual art work it is important to let children explore topics in their own way and we make sure we give them a lot of language during creative activities – however we are not making children produce art work to our standard. It doesn’t matter how the finished art work looks – it’s all about the process. When displaying we often hang up pictures of what the children were looking at with their art work.
I hope that gave some of you a great idea and something to work on over the next few weeks. I’m hoping to be able to share pictures from our setting soon.
Have you recently made some interesting changes to your classroom? I’d love to hear about them, please leave a comment below.
For some more ideas please also see my pinterest board – which I am still updating.
Oh Dear. I finished the whole post and then went to add a picture on the app and it seems wordpress has deleted everything.. so let’s start all over again.
I already told you about what you will need to make a candle. So now let’s move on to actually doing it.
Step 1: Find an old pot and fill it with about 2 cms of water. Heat the water but don’t bring it to the boil. That’ll make it easier to keep the second pot steady.
Step 2: Get out your containers for melting the wax. Make sure they are clean and dry! Please remember if you are using Paraffin Wax you will never get these pots quite clean again!
Step 3: Get out all the other bits you will need such as wax, wicks, wick tabs, blu tack, and your tools.
Step 4: Place the amount of wax you will need inside the metal pot and then put this into your pan that has the water inside. Congratulations! You have just made a double boiler. You can use a thermometer but you will make sure that it is poking deep enough into the wax to actually get an accurate temperature. I only use it to stop my pot from falling over in this case
Step 5: While you wait for the wax to melt you can prepare your container. Again make sure the container is clean and dry. Then measure the length of your wick and cut it. Leave some extra on top to ensure you can peg it (or use a wick centering tool). Thread the wick through the wick tab and fasten the wick tab using pliers.
Step 6: When the wax is mostly melted take your wick and pull it through the wax. This will ensure your wick burns well when you light the candle. Then use blu tack to stick the bottom of the wick tab to the container. I use a peg to keep the wick centred and straight.
Step 7: When the wax is melted you can stir in the colour and essential oil. Make sure any items you used is explicitly stated as suitable for candle making. Then you are ready to pour the wax into your container. I am just making a test burn for a new set coming up.
Step 8: And now Wait! And no matter how tempted you are – don’t move the candle.. Leave the candle to set for at least 24 hours before lighting it.
EDIT: And here is the finished candle.
If you don’t want to do all of this yourself you can still buy hand made and personalised candles in my etsy shop. If you are planning a big party or a wedding please contact me for candle wedding favours.
Who doesn’t love their neighbours? They receive your parcels when you’re not in, they ask you if you need something from the shop and they are always ready to help… OR
They scream like baboons all day, they are able to stomp so much that lampshades vibrate and they really don’t give a damn that you exist.
New Origami Envelopes. Envelopes are 7×5.5cms in size and all hand folded. The envelopes close without using tape but tucking the top into the special corner that you can see on the photographs. Ideal for Wedding and Party Thank You’s and also for Scrapbooking or Decorating Gifts.
Check out my shop.
Whats your favourite Origami?
Now available: Washi Tape Bunting
Ideal for Baby Showers, Weddings and Birthday Parties or as personalised hand made gifts. Various colours and different lengths available. Custom Made,
Waiting for 2 deliveries: Lots of Bakers Twine with nice colours as well as some interesting craft punches.
I now have Origami Bows of various colours available in my Etsy Shop. Stop by if you are looking for some added interest to your gift wraps!
After a road closure, being stuck in a roundabout and traffic, a huge diversion and more traffic we finally made it to the cinema. Wizard of oz 2D Version – 3 out of 5. Interesting look, story not wholly convincing.
Recently the demand for short term bookings in our Nursery and Pre-School seems to have gone up a lot. Therefore I wanted to write a quick guide on looking for nursery places.
When should I look for a nursery?
This might sound ridiculous but a good time to look for a Nursery Place is before your baby is born.
I know, I know, so much going on – preparing baby’s bedroom; seeing aunties, uncles and parents; lots of shopping… but in particular in areas like London the waiting lists in good day care settings are very long. That means the only way to guarantee a place is to get in early.
What do I need to know before I call the setting?
Before calling nurseries you should be aware of the following:
How do I go about seeing a nursery?
Step 1: Contact the setting and ask them for information on the nursery. (You might want to ask about Opening Hours, Closure Periods – term-time only means the setting is closed in school holidays, Fees and Charges, age groups that are being accomodated etc.) – Doing so will allow you to ensure you are only seeing settings that are relevant to you!
Step 2: Book a time and date to see the setting, ask if you should be bringing ID – This appointment is often referred to as a “show around”.
How do I find nurseries in my area?
Use the internet, ask Google, use local directories or contact your local borough or council. Also you can refer back to sites such as netmums for information and opinions, as well as the National Day Nurseries Association.
I am going to see a nursery and my baby isn’t even born. I don’t know about all the stuff related to children yet, so what am I looking for??
A visit to a nursery is very much about the way it makes you feel. Prepare a list of questions if you can think of any before arriving at the setting.
When you arrive one of the senior staff will show you around the different areas and explain you about the routines and resources available. At the moment this might not mean a lot to you but simply listen.
When you are walking around think about how the nursery makes you feel, observe how staff are interacting with children. Are the staff talking to children or to each other? Are there things to do or are the tables empty and the children look bored? If you are coming past older children and some of them approach you ask them: “Do you like coming to nursery?” They might give you a surprising response. Also check if people are smiling – you do not want your child surrounded by bored, lazy and grumpy adults and you as a parent do not want to be greeted by grumpy faces every day after work!
A warning: Some nurseries have a whole plan for days when the nursery is being shown to parents and they literally put on a theatre show. Therefore staff / child interactions will teach you more than simply the flashy activities on offer and the talk prepared by the manager. After all they are trying to sell you.
I like the place, but I’m not sure.. What do I do next?
Ask about the registration procedures. Is there a waiting list? When are places available? If you would like to be added to the waiting list ask about fees! Are you paying money if you go on the waiting list or can you put down your name for free? Will you pay a deposit? What is the notice period? If you are unsure feel free to say that you are seeing other nurseries and you will be in touch.
Ok, I have my child’s name on 2 waiting lists..
..time to wait! Have fun with your child until nearer the time of your return to work.. but not too near. Check back with nurseries every few months to see how its going. Is there a new setting opened in your area? Has one of your settings changed ownership? What do the other Mums on the playground think?
Yes Finally!! My favourite nursery has called me.. what next?
If the nursery rings you back to offer you a place I would suggest you ask just to pop in again and see the setting again. Things change over time and a change in management or an entirely different staff team can suddenly make the place seem very different. (Don’t be too put off by staff turnover. Children make new relationships quickly, so the odd person leaving shouldn’t make much of a difference – losing 2 staff every month however does! Feel free to ask the manager about turn over in staff.)
When you come back you should definitely have a list of questions in place. Now you are experienced with children and you will know exactly what your child is looking for, so get out pen and paper!
Things I usually talk about when showing parents the nursery are:
Routine – is there a set routine that everyone has to follow or are they flexible – this is particularly important with young children and babies, consider how your child would fit in.
Activities – Ask which activities children do during the day. Do they do Messy Play? What about younger babies? Do they just sit around or are staff doing things with them? How do they come up with activities?
Key Person – A key person is a member of staff responsible for a small group of children. This means that that will be the person who will start introducing your child to the nursery, plan activities, monitor their development etc. NB It does NOT mean that this is the only person looking after your child – that would be lovely but is practically impossible
Outdoor Play – Do children go outside, how often, how long, what does the garden look like, are there good activities outdoors or does it look boring and empty.
Food – What types of food does the chef cook? Is it fresh? Is it organic? Is there a menu? Can I have a copy? Make sure children don’t just eat beans on toast every day but that there is a variety of foods on offer, some nurseries offer organic foods, most nurseries do not serve pork and only serve Halal.
Sickness – What happens when baby is sick?
General Policies – Ask for a copy of the nursery’s policies and procedures. This will tell you about the nurseries safety procedures and measurements as well as fees such as late pick-up fees
These are general things I introduce to parents but think of anything that will be important to your toddler. Good Luck for finding a Nursery! If you have any other questions or suggestions of things to add then please put them in the comments and I’ll try to add them here
Keep checking back for a post on settling a child at nursery.
So I have all the stuff together and want to make my first candle. Why should I waste time “test burning” it??
Well, a test burn might save you a lot of money in the long run as you can be sure that you’re finished candle will burn properly and smell nice.
Ok, I’ll do it. But what do I need to do?
When I make a candle for test burn I take my container and prepare it the way I usually would. Pre wax the wick, place it inside the container, centre it, melt the wax and pour it in. BUT instead of making the whole candle I pour in about 1cm. Then I leave it to set completely. When the wax is all set I light the candle and observe. I am looking out for the wick, how far the wax is melting and how long it takes for the entire width of the container to be liquid.
Well, that’s good, but you forgot to add the scent.
Nope I didn’t. I go back to washing all the wax out of the container. Then I repeat the process ensuring that I use the appropriate sized wick – this time with scent. I do this because the scent can alter the performance of the wax and wick. It may even mean that I need to use a stronger wick, so I want to be aware of that.
After the second test burn everything should be adjusted. If the wick was too small you can do another one with the next bigger wick and then you’ll be ready to make your candle.
Doing this might mean that you used 70g of wax but have a candle that works, rather than wasting 300g and throwing the candle in the bin.