The Value of Free Time to ‘Just’ Play

Yesterday we went to a birthday party somewhere new. Squiggle loves to act out new experiences, I think it helps her to process it fully so is really important she can do this. By the time we got home it was too late to spend much time doing this so we only had a chat about it before she went to bed. However, today we had a whole day free for us to just play at home, entirely self-directed by her. She spent literally all day acting out the event in great detail, for 7 hours solid (except eating!) It really reminded me how beneficial it is to keep a slow pace; it is essential to factor in plenty of respite between activities and keep entire days free regularly just for sustained free play. It holds so much value, this time is just too precious to give up.

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Here are the guests at the party. She made several cards, written independently for the birthday children and also wrapped up gifts herself for them.
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All guests need a wristband before entering the party!
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She spent a couple of hours making wristbands for guests, including cutting to size, colouring and writing on each one then carefully putting them on each guest.
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Using her fine motor skills to put wristbands on her guests- it was quite fiddly!
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Wristband says 'Partyman World' (sounded out and written independently)
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Rope swing/ zip wire in soft play at the party.
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Squiggle having a go of the pinata at the party.
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Acting out the pinata at the party.

Latest Highlights: Our Fortnight in Pictures

These are the highlights of our week fortnight in pictures…

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Playing in the woods with friends
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Whipsnade zoo.
Squiggle particularly enjoyed comparing her hand to an adult foot and elephant foot, driving along the ‘Passage through Asia’ and seeing baby Mara, as well as playing in the outdoor adventure play area ‘Hullabazoo’. She also loved the penguins and of course the sealions. One of the sealions spent much of the time sunbathing, which she found especially fascinating and hilarious. She was also able to view them underwater (for sealion cuddles!) and watched a member of staff carry out their health checks and enrichment activities, which she found both intriguing and entertaining. Later two of the sealions enjoyed playing under the spray of a water hose, which she was also lucky enough to observe.
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Playing at home.
A few of her self- chosen activities recently include making outfits for her toys, drawing and writing, practising her letter formation, reading books to her toy baby, making mosaic pictures and hosting an imaginary bring and share lunch with toys. Lifting and carrying shopping is a fantastic sensory activity!
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Making magnets using plaster in moulds
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Princess Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington has lots of sensory activities.
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Art group/ Meet up and play
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Local park (with friends, just not pictured!)
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Woodside Farm.
Squiggle loved spending time with family members, playing inside and outside, feeding the rabbits and guinea pigs, and seeing other various animals including goats (including a baby kid less than a fortnight old). llamas, lemurs, ducks and geese.
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This begun has Squiggle wanting to make a zip wire for her toys but turned into an excellent learning opportunity when the ribbon she used broke repeatedly because it rubbed against the other ribbon as it moved. This led to a discussion about friction, investigating how much friction different materials produce and then also a discussion about making fire by rubbing sticks together as well. She decided to use the smooth side of a belt to make the zip wire as it would create least friction out of the items she had available.
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Playing in the garden
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Longacres park

Our Week in Pictures

We started this week back in Weymouth to revisit the Sealife Centre as we found it so relaxing and therapeutic last month. We often find it helpful to return to places of interest quite soon after the previous visit, especially when something specific has captured her attention, because subsequent visits often add a new dimension to the place visited. We find the familiarity of the environment provides her with security and confidence (but yet at this stage the place is still ‘new’ enough that her expectations aren’t too rigid) so she is able to build on the previous experience and add even more value to it, by allowing her to extend her interests further and encouraging new interests at the same time.

Highlights of this visit were playing in the water (yes, even at this time of year!), going on the seal ride, watching and discussing the various fish, different types of turtles, studying the corals and anenomes, observing the seals again and alot of laughter!

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Sealife Centre at Weymouth

Later in the week we visited a local park on Thursday, attended a home education group visit to KIDS playground on Friday, went to a home education information session on Saturday (which mainly turned into an excuse to play in another local park with her friend most of time!) and then finished the week by going to a family- friendly disco with another friend on Sunday. She also enjoyed time at home drawing, playing and caring for her pet bunnies.

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Playing at a local park
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KIDS playground home ed group
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Home ed info session/ playing in a local park
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Bopping Babes disco
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Drawing
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Feeding her pet bunnies

The Beauty of Interest-Led Discussions

Today so far we have discussed the following, all entirely led by Squiggle (and it’s only lunchtime!)…

Odd and even numbers

Times tables (she specifically asked about counting in twos, threes, six, tens, elevens, hundreds and ten thousands). This also led to a discussion about how larger numbers are written.

Why people can’t fly and how gravity works. This led her to demonstrate and explain it to me herself in her own words while jumping around flapping her arms.

Why our cat is called a half Norwegian Forest cat, what we mean by ‘half’ and where the rest of the name in general comes from.

The weather forecast for today and how people predict the weather. This led to discussion over recent weather, climate and seasons.

How paper is made.

Our Week in Pictures

Here is a small snippet of some of last week’s activities…

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Splashing in puddles
Drawing, spelling, reading and writing in a wipe clean book
Drawing, spelling, reading and writing in a wipe clean book
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Woodland walk
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Various activities (see below for more detail)

Activities at home this week included water play (sensory activity), studying a particularly friendly ladybug, discussion about the weather (with myself as well as our cat obviously!), drawing lots of different pictures including a cat character and Igglepiggle (as well as many others), making a decorated model house for her seal, sorting beads and inventing her own target games using a set of foil containers she found in the cupboard. In additon, our egg experiment can be found here. We also met up with friends at a local soft play centre.

Our Week in Pictures

Here is a snippet of some of this week’s activities…

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Writing
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Art group
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Being creative at home.
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Playdough
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We even found some unexpected educational fun in Asda looking at life cycles. She also got to meet a character, which she loves doing!
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Other activities at home.

Cooking Eggs

Squiggle has never been keen on eating eggs before, but in conversation today, the topic came up about different ways to cook eggs and she seemed really enthusiastic to try this at home. She was very interested in helping to cook the eggs in various different ways. This occasion included scrambled egg, hard boiled, soft boiled and fried egg. Even better, she happily tasted them all too. She also had fun making an egg and red pepper sandwich, which she also ate.

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Exploring different ways of cooking and eating eggs.
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Making egg sandwiches.

Following Interests: Seals

A couple of months ago Squiggle developed a keen interest in seals. Therefore some of her recent learning experiences have been related to seals in some way. Below are some examples of how we have followed this interest in various ways and covered several subjects doing so.

Drama (and imaginative play): Squiggle acted out Christmas day with her seals. (19th November 2013)

Seals acting out Christmas 19.11.13
Seals acting out Christmas 19.11.13

Geography: Her lost seal ‘returned’ from Germany, which sparked a discussion about countries and travelling. We also looked it up on the globe. (26th November 2013)

Seal returns from Germany 26.11.13
Seal returns from Germany 26.11.13

ICT (and research skills): She wanted to know the difference between seal lions and seals, so we researched on the internet (2nd December 2013)

Literacy: She made herself a seal book (2nd December 2013)

'That's Not My Seal' book she made herself 02.12.13
‘That’s Not My Seal’ book she made herself 02.12.13

Maths: She realised Maths Seeds has a walrus in, which is a similar enough to a seal for her liking, so she played this for several hours over the course of a couple of days. (3rd and 4th December 2013)

Using a number line to add and subtract 04.12.13
Using a number line to add and subtract 04.12.13

Design and Technology: She did some baking with her daddy and tried to make the mixture into seal shapes. (15th December 2013)

She tried to make her baking into seal shapes (with daddy) 15.12.13
She tried to make her baking into seal shapes (with daddy) 15.12.13

Maths: She used scales to compare weights of seals, using mathematical language. (25th December 2013)

Comparing weight 25.12.13
Comparing weight 25.12.13

More maths: She also used her toy seals for counting and calculating within her games several times.

Counting and calculating within her game of seals on the bus 27.12.13
Counting and calculating within her game of seals on the bus 27.12.13

We then visited the Sea life Centre in Weymouth to see real seals close up and observe their behaviour. She really loved this, especially as she was able to watch them peacefully for long periods so we spent several hours watching them, over the space of a few days. (13th- 15th January 2014)

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Samples of Learning- Science 2013

Here is a small selection of some of the learning opportunities for Science last year:

 

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Butterfly World (St Albans, Hertfordshire)

Last week we visited Butterfly World again. We have been here a number of times both on our own and with friends, as well as this we have attended a lovely toddler birthday party here a few years ago and organised two home education trips also. It has a very chilled out vibe and there is more to see and do than people might assume. Points of interest in addition to the butterfly house includes natural playgrounds, designer gardens, an ant colony and other insects. There are also handling sessions and talks during school holidays and at weekends. Butterfly World is now closed for the season but re-opens next March. For more information visit the website http://www.butterflyworldproject.com/

 

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Butterflies feeding in the tropical butterfly house
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Studying stick insects
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Leaf cutter ants
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There is lots of space to walk and play. At the top of the hill is a giant ant sculpture
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Natural playgrounds
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Natural surroundings to explore
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The magnifying glasses proved to be a good purchase from the gift shop!
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Designer gardens
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The gardens are fascinating, very unique
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This garden is designed ‘Honey I shrunk the Kids’ style, allowing visitors to imagine they are a tiny creature in the garden.