Saturday, 30 March 2013

Dyed eggs and Easter goodies

I really liked the look of vegetable dyed eggs, having read this guide so we made our own this week. We used red cabbage for the blue colour, beetroot for red and turmeric for yellow. These were mixed with vinegar, salt and water and boiled.

The boys enjoyed adding all the ingredients to the pan. We did it slightly differently to the guide as we hard-boiled the eggs (I don't trust Peter's ability to distinguish suck from blow yet so we didn't blow the shells empty). We added the dye ingredients then boiled the eggs in the same pan, before straining the coloured liquid off and leaving the eggs in it for 24 hours.

The red didn't take very well and ended up more like brown but we love the blue and yellow! These have gone into our Easter boxes (at the bottom of this page).

I also had some foam eggs which we decorated using marbling ink. We held the egg on a cocktail stick and dipped it in the liquid so it could be fully covered.

Peter really enjoyed having the chocolate krispie nest making activity to himself (Harry was busy). He crushed 85g shredded wheat in a bag with a rolling pin and helped to mix the melted chocolate into it (we used 200g). I spooned it into the cases for him and he added mini eggs to the top.

I thought it would be really nice to bring together all the activities we have been doing for Easter in one place so the boys painted some of the containers we receive from our vegbox order and filled them with shredded paper. They added eggs, krispie cakes, chicks and our felt daffodils to make a pretty display. We will be seeing my mum tomorrow so they are taking one as an Easter gift for her.

National Trust Easter trail

We had a lovely trip today to Wallington. We followed the Easter trail - this is the third year we have done it! We worked out the clues relating to the habitats of four animals - badger, duck, squirrel and rabbit to earn a chocolate egg reward, which was very well received at the end of a cold and tiring afternoon. 

One great part of the trip was when Harry started shouting excitedly as we crossed the car park, 'I can read it, I can read it!'. He was referring to the sign to the car park and was really pleased with himself. He proceeded to read out all the 'way out' signs to us as we left too.

It was great being outdoors and we had a long play on the train and a walk down (and in!) the stream. We saw some really interesting ice in the shaded woodland where the sun hadn't reached to melt it. We also noted that the snowdrops are starting to die off.

Daffodil crafts and activities

It feels like a long time since we have done any themed activities and I have been putting this one off for a couple of weeks in the hope that some spring sunshine would emerge. It hasn't, but the daffodils are blooming nonetheless in the garden so I thought we had better get on with our related activities!

We used this sheet to draw our own daffodils. I don't have much artistic skill and I was really pleased with mine. Harry was very proud of his too and he did try hard to follow each step and didn't want any help.

We made some clothes peg daffodils with felt. We painted the clothes pegs to act as stems and I cut out felt which we glued into place to create a bright indoor bunch of blooms.

We have been following a Nature Detectives activity this week to create rainbow daffodils. We mixed food colouring with water and placed the daffodils in. We recorded how they looked after 24 and 48 hours. The green colour gave a really nice effect, but the black didn't seem to be well accepted by the daffodils as they went really droopy and didn't take up any of the colour at all.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Kapla planks

A friend kindly offered to lend us their tub of kapla planks today as Harry had been playing with them for our whole visit. He has spent the rest of the afternoon playing with them too. They are smooth, perfectly straight-edged, perfectly same-sized blocks that can be stacked to form some great structures. There is an interesting section on the website about the play value of the planks and they are really well suited to Harry's freestyle creativity and engineering brain.

He built a pretty tall tower

Almost completed a boat following the inspiration guide

Peter was, unfortunately, a bit too interested and drove a car over the boat causing a collapse before making his own little ramp with the blocks

Enjoyed some balancing

And built a train track

I have just been in to tidy the playroom and have found the blocks neatly stacked and this truck packed ready for tomorrow. I think there may be some more creations! There are videos on YouTube too so I will show him some of those.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Lego Sunday

It was a bit of a strange Sunday today as Stuart was playing golf with an old friend so we were home alone. Sunday is usually our family day together, having done necessary jobs and music classes on a Saturday. The weather hasn't really lent itself to outdoor trips recently, however, which is what we like doing most! 

So, we had a day of building Lego. Harry had played with and broken up the models he received for his birthday and he now has the bug to build it all again. We built the Lego Mine and related trucks then played a very involved game while Peter was napping. We mined gold, transported it around, blasted open boulders with dynamite (remembering to stand well clear of the blast zone) and talked on walkie-talkies. Harry then wondered what he would do with the gold once mined so he built a furnace from his general Lego bricks with a fire in the middle to melt it down into gold bars.

I even said that Harry could play an iPad game after he had done some reading practice and he forgot and went back to playing with the Lego instead. A lovely afternoon!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Duplo Read and Build

We used Peter's Lego Duplo Read and Build set for play school time yesterday. This contains a book and the bricks to make two Lego models that are part of the story. He asked for the book ten times in a row (no joke!). I really like this set as it is a first introduction to the world of making models using Lego instructions and anything that encourages a love of Lego is a winner in my opinion. It's great for motor skills, colour recognition, problem solving, creative play and we have (so far) used it to learn about height and as manipulative for adding and subtracting!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Working together and reading update

I am trying to incorporate some specific time for Peter into our lives now with purposeful play sessions but obviously Harry is still working away too so I have included an update on his reading. 

Harry has been joining in with the purposeful play too as he is only just 5 so he still enjoys the activities we will be doing and it is important to me that they can get along well together. I don't want him to feel that his work means he is sat in the kitchen on his own while we play, as I think play is still a really important part of Harry's education too. It is great to see the different ways they use things. Harry often thinks of more creative ways to play with the same things as Peter.

Harry is making really good reading progress without any of the previous complaining about reading practice (probably because he is finding it easier). He is comfortably reading the level 4 Oxford Reading Tree books now so we will be starting level 5 next week. He is also trying to read non-book sources too, such as the information scrolling across the radio and signs in streets, as well as instructions in his activity books/magazines. We have borrowed some Dr Seuss books from the library which he has found fun to read too. I am really pleased that he seems to be enjoying it. 

We have also worked on 'th' words. There were many occasions where Harry would see 'th' at the start of a word and guess what it might be (usually incorrectly) instead of reading it. We used the stepping stone game again which we had used for learning number words and I was surprised that he knew them all immediately (I had assumed he had been struggling to differentiate them), so we had a chat about not being lazy and guessing instead of reading!

Play school - lacing cards

Peter received these lacing cards for Christmas and we used them today for play school time. Peter was disappointingly underwhelmed but Harry loved them and completed them all!

Harry did his first one then realised that there is a pattern to follow so his later ones looked better.

Peter did complete the smallest one and enjoyed pulling the cord through. We will return to these at a later date for him.

We also read The Very Hungry Caterpillar and I asked Peter to match the pictures on the lacing cards to the other Eric Carle books shown in the back.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Purposeful play school

I spent some time last night reading the tot school section of this great siteThe tot school ethos is exactly the same as my natural approach to early learning - 'exposing early learning skills through play'. 

This is how we exclusively spent almost the first four years of Harry's life in terms of education and he has great levels of understanding and ability in everything we now do, so I have faith from our experience that it works!

I have been thinking about Peter recently and how to include him in some of the things we are doing. Reading this has given me the boost I was looking for to set aside some specific time for him.  I realised, however, that I have forgotten many of the things I used to do with Harry so I will have to re-aquaint myself as we go along! Peter has obviously been exposed to many of our learning experiences but also has often been kept on the sidelines 'out of the way' and hasn't had the freedom that Harry had at the same age. 

We started this morning by having play school time. I explained to Harry what we were trying to do and he was very enthusiastic (probably because it delayed the start of his to-do list!). So this was our play with purpose:

We used puppets to tell the story of The Three Little Pigs, building houses for them as we went. I asked Peter to find yellow Duplo bricks for the straw house, which he did fine. We built a house from Duplo for the pigs, talking about colours of bricks as we went. I showed Peter the pigs going in and out of the door and he copied, saying the words as he did so. He also opened and closed the window, saying the words as he did so.

We walked to the post box and the boys rode bikes/scooters. Peter loves his bike so this was especially for him too and we went at his pace, which meant Harry waiting for us or coming back when he reached the end of a road or a junction. 

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Ugly Duckling ballet

We had a lovely day today, my sister very kindly came from Harrogate to look after Peter while Harry and I went to a ballet performance of The Ugly Duckling at Dance City with other home ed families.

It was performed by Northern Ballet and lasted around 45 minutes. This seemed about right in terms of length as most were starting to fidget by the end. We loved it! We know the story well as we like fairy tales in our house and that helps when we go to theatre performances as Harry doesn't like surprises. Harry asked lots of questions about the more practical aspects of the performance such as - 'how is that tree moving?', 'what is the snow made of?' and why are they moving the scenery in the dark?'.

I was pleased to see that a ballet performance of The Three Little Pigs for younger children is planned for October this year. I am sure we will be attending.

Monday, 18 March 2013

An iPad education

I was lucky enough to receive an iPad for my birthday and, after using it for just two days, I can honestly say I think it will revolutionise our learning. I doubt I have even begun to explore a fraction of what it offers yet.

This is what we have been using so far. Any suggestions of great apps welcome!

Me Books

This app has a number of different books to purchase. Within each book there are 'hotspots', which are areas you tap and it plays audio (such as an animal noise on an animal picture). You can record your own audio for the hotspots, so today Harry has been recording speech for animals in this Ladybird Classic 'The Zoo'.

Barefoot Atlas

I love Barefoot Books so I was very happy to find this atlas, which is based on their book. It allows you to navigate the world and tap on regions, countries or points of interest (such as native wildlife and iconic buildings (including The Angel of The North!)). There is written information about each thing, which can also be played as audio.


I downloaded a couple of DK reading books for Harry as I thought he would like doing reading practice on the iPad and they are factual books for a change, which he usually enjoys. I started with level 1 as confidence plays a big part in Harry's reading and he is always more happy to continue with something when he has been able to do it at first. He read this book easily today and I think we will continue using some of these.

Lego Game - Firehose Frenzy

Harry loves the iPad and games have quickly become the reward of choice when he has completed his to-do list. He has been playing this Lego fireman game which requires a lot of problem solving skills (I found it hard!) to guide water to fires in difficult places and around obstructions.