So much achieved, so much fun!

In Early Years we never know which way an activity is going to steer. I was flattered when people retweeted my photo of a challenge we had picking up pulses rice and pasta with tweezers. A great game, and great excersise for little fingers. Ability ranged from the two handed approach to pick up pasta, to the one handed approach to picking up rice. All children succeeded, the most important component to build self esteem and confidence.


This however was only a snapshot of the activity. It mutated into cake making. And we  decided to choose whether they would be delicious, or disgusting. Much amusement as we had loud “blyuek” sounds.  Children did well to get there mouths round two big words, and what were those disgusting cakes made of, snakes?


Maths also covered as one child asked me “most or less?” as she scooped up the dried goods. Lots of predicting how much, and she did use “more or less” as we went on.  Good to remember whatever you put out can cover so many areas of learning. A lot of ideas developed from the children’s direction.


Great learning, developing and most of all, fun!

New year, new post.

Happy New Year!

It’s a good start at Millies and Sparkles. Children have settled back quickly and we are back on a fun learning journey. One of my lovely ladies painted an old table with chalkboard paint (thank you) and the children are loving it for Mark making as you can see. People think this may develop into a graffiti problem, but children are wiser than that, they instinctively know when they can draw on the table and when they can’t.




Im loving this book nook too. Very popular with torches and books inside.



We we haven’t banished the festive glitter either. Here’s some glitter with the shaving foam. Well…we are called Sparkles for a reason!




Jast a a little bit of New Year inspiration.

Confident Talkers Conversation Cards

Before I start my story about how I used my Conversation Cards today, let me explain these little gems. There versatile and multi purpose cards are by Laura Henry titled “Confident Talkers” They contain cards with open ended questions to use with children to encourage conversations. Of course as good practitioners, we use open ended questions on a daily basis, but we could  all do with some help to enhance and build on what we do. It’s good to have a different question, which not only help the children to be confident talkers, but confident thinkers too.


Back to my story. I love talking to parents about all things children. I often have coffee chats with the parents of my settings about the many facets of childcare. Recently I have been developing a collaboration with a  Children’s Centre near to one of my new settings. The new manager and I share visions of child and family care. I was honoured that she asked me to talk to the parents in her centre about the importance of play.

Now I’ve done this before, but somehow this time, I couldn’t get my preparation quite together. I wrote a few notes, changed them round, and I was feeling restless about the presentation. Then I had a light bulb moment, and decided the way to show and talk about the importance of play…was to play! What do I consider one of the most important points? Has to be communication and language development through play. I raised my cupboards for ingredients for cloud dough (7cups of flour/ one cup of oil) borrowed some toys from the setting. Ooh a bit of transient art, some nature resources plus some maths games. You’re never too old to play!

And then in the corner of my eye I spotted my new Conversation Cards. Hmmm, brilliant! This will weave it all together beautifully with the importance of  language and communication at the heart of my chat, developing children as confident talkers is central to our practice, and should be promoted in family life.

My Conversation Cards were a huge success. Parents were interested in using the questions with play ideas. Some parents struggled to ask their children questions, other than those which the answer was “nothing”, usually to “what did you do at school?” (Not my pre-school of course!!!)  That brought the discussion to what questions would be interesting to children, maybe they don’t want that regular questions when they get home from school. All the parents had a good rummage, choosing their favourites. I was so happy that the parents showed such genuine interest in encouraging their children to be confident talkers..thanks to my little gems, Confident Talkers, by Laura Henry.







P.S I have lots more ideas for my new cards!😉

Home Play Bags

Any of my regular readers know I love training, it drives improvement making our all round provision more effective for children to progress. Earlier this year we went to “Chatter Matters” conference ( see previous blog with the title) with amazing key speakers. The workshops were equally inspiring, which is where our Home Play Bags originated. At the conference they were introduced as Home Learning Bags. This sounds a little bit like home work for me, and the essence of the bags, was to provide play opportunities at home which enhanced the learning we do in the setting. The bags vary from cornflour, bug investigation, books, play dough and craft, and much more! We hope to introduce some new play ideas into the home as well as some familiar activities. The bags come with a list of contents, some play ideas, and some suggestions of how it can affect development.



We have been using our Home Play Bags for just a week. We enclosed parent feedback forms in each back and so far, returned bags have all had a filled in feedback form, 26 so far! We asked whether the play activity was too easy, just right or too hard. Most have said just right, one said it was a mix of too easy and just right. Parents and children are loving them! Most bags have varying skills attached. While we want to challenge children we want the bags to be fun and stimulating most of all. We don’t want any pressure attached to them, but we will hopefully provide some different activities to peruse at home as well as making suggestions to enhance activities at home. We might for instance add props to our books in the bag with questions about the characters.


The parent guides…an example

Home Play Bags
Sparkles and Millies

Number 8 Cornflour
Bag of cornflour
Beware….this gets messy!
Let’s Play!
You will need a tray or flat plate, and some water.
Add water little by little and mix with your fingers and hands.
The cornflour keeps sinking so it needs to be mixed constantly. Eventually you will be able to leave trails and make marks that will disappear.
If you get it to a certain consistency you can quickly roll it into a ball, and then as if by magic, when you stop it just dribbles out of your hand!
Moving cornflour takes some finger strength for young fingers. Great for pre-writing
Communication and Language
Increase vocabulary. How does it feel? Slimey, squidgy, drippy, powdery. Any other words?

Cornflour does wash out of clothes! Let it dry and you can brush it off.
You may not want to be wearing black!

Transient Art

You probably do some of this without even realising, but we’ve taken transient art to a new level at Sparkles and Millies, and we love it!

We were inspired by the work of Rachel, an early years teacher who regularly tweets her ideas and shares her pictures which are on her website Here are some of her fantastic pictures.

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Transient, as the word suggests is moving and fluid art using “loose part” resources. It’s not stuck down, so pictures are movable and creativity and learning is child led meeting individual needs and learning. After joining an early years professional chat on Twitter about transient art, hosted by Rachel I became hooked! First I used resources we already had. These worked fine.

From the one table you can see the different ways children used the resources we found after a rummage in the cupboards! This child loved using natural resources with craft on a mirror tile. She organises the gems in a row and creates her she’ll and craft at the side.


This child creates a face. Huge concentration!


Another decides she need to “stick” gems down and transports some dough to the table.


I hope the pictures are demonstrating the learning value of transient art. The three pictures show how differently the children use and interpret their own learning. There is no right or wrong, there are no language barriers, no ability or gender restrictions. It will engage children who may struggle to stay with an activity. We have seen high levels of concentration, lots of fun, and children feeling good about what they have created. Lots of learning areas are covered; maths through creativity, counting, sorting, using shapes, physical fine motor skills, creative styles and differences, and above all a sense of achievement and a great boost to self-esteem.

I didn’t stop there…a quick visit to the Pound Shop for a few resources added light and colour to the transient art.

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You can theme it, indoors it, outdoors it, number it, write with it, naturalise it, light it up, dull it down. I promise you, whatever you do with it, the children will be learning and engaged, and ready to talk to you about what they are doing.

Here are a few more pictures from Rachel. You can find her on FB Stimulating Learning by Rachel and on Twitter @HilaryWhite3. Thanks to Rachel for inspiration and permission to use her pictures.

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Give it a go. It’s fabulous in so many ways!



Pictures to inspire…


Happy playing!!



Our ur first attempts at transient art. Children so absorbed. Nothing is stuck down, so children can get creative. There is no right do wrong, just exploration and creativity.



The  colour purple. Our table of Persian shoes, camels and Arabian characters and purple sand play ideal for the imagination, reading.  The children love the shoes and characters and instinctively know to handle them with more care.



Tactile play play inside and out. The coconuts were left behind from other hall users. The children loved exploring the texture, playing bowls…and of course we cracked one or two open to have a taste!



Finger gyms come in many forms. Here we see seeds with tweezers and play doh with superheroes. Writing is fab on the floor.

Let it go❄️❄️🎵🎹

I’m sure every Early Years setting has had children talking and singing the Frozen story and songs. At Millies the children love superhero characters and film themes. I loved this Frozen Activity that the children initiated by their interest, and the staff used it for a great learning activity.

I have to admit, I wasn’t there at the beginning of this activity, but a box arrived at Millies. Lots of curiosity as to what was in it and what the label said.


Help! One thing the children are good at! They opened the box, and what have they found..


Oh no! The characters from frozen…and they’re FROZEN. They need help to be unfrozen and get to the castle.


One of of my fab staff had painted a plastic castle white. The frozen book, blue paper, and those polystyrene “bits” you get in parcels set the castle scene.

The children discussed how to free them, and came up with warm water.


And  slowly the children, this time the heroes, set the characters free! Hooray!

The children then played with the story. The activity was engaging s well as enchanting. Sustained shared thinking at its best. Well done team, well done children.

Evolution of an art activity

MY team will verify that craft is not my favourite place to be, however I do quite enjoy it when I’m there. I think my “control freak” personality panics as I forget to roll sleeves up, children wipe their face with paint or glue their friend with tissue paper!

This activity was inspired by a website, apologies, can’t remember which one. Foam shaped stickers are stuck to old Hot Chocolate tins or similar, paint applied and polled onto paper.


Can you spot the problem yet? Two things. One, you need a bigger paint container so that you can roll the paint on. Secondly, once the container/tube started rolling on the paper it was difficult to stop! Sorry no more photos, but I was to busy problem solving with the children how we could sort it out. Bit of sustained shared thinking. We have a lovely roll of lining paper just right for this job.

Note for the future, look out decorating paint trays, and maybe try this to put the rollers in initially. This could be great in the builders tray lined with paper. Maybe get the children to work as a team tipping the builders tray with the rollers going freestyle around the tray with the help of my lovely team.