children playing in the mud

Put the pencil down
and go outside

All children need nature. Pedagogical pioneers have proven it time and again. Observe a young baby in his pram under a tree; he loves to watch the leaves waving in the wind. Watch any toddler collect pebbles, sticks or pinecones. Children with special needs are no exception.
In her article, Kathryn Solly explains how much children benefit from being outdoors. "The emotional nurturing ‘aah’ and ‘ugh’ experiences may not all be pleasant but link better to indoor learning being based upon concrete experience, which later become the children’s own narrative stories."
Read the article and consider signing up for Kathryn Solly's two-day training course for EY leaders/managers in November.

Wood chips: an under-appreciated resource

Wood chips are a great versatile resource. You can spread them over a corner of your garden for children to experience a different tactile surface for walking and jumping. You can make an outdoor sensory area of wood chips bordered by logs, with heaps of seashells and pieces of old brick or rocks, where children can pursue their imagination in peace.

If your chip pile is deep, you will see total large-motor involvement and role play. Some children will be digging and transporting, others will be cooking and stirring... They will happily return to this activity day after day, and it will only deepen and intensify over time. Meanwhile, there's that tangy scent and connection with nature. 

Best of all you shouldn't have to buy them. If you don't have a tree-surgeon friend, you can always contact the road-works people. What a fabulous resource for free!

Unhurried time

Unhurried time

If I could re-live my years with children, I would slow way down. I’d allow more unstructured time in the garden to experience the breeze, feel the rough bark of a tree or the smooth roundness of a pebble, to ponder little insects in the grass, to notice the birds or to tread in squelchy mud.

I’d allow ample time when coming indoors to practice those crucial skills of taking off Wellington boots, pulling a zip up and down or learning to wash hands. Such learning takes repetition and when unrushed, it is fun and deeply satisfying.

The essence of working with children is experiencing life through their eyes. So much to feel, see, hear, try to understand – and so many life lessons to grasp! And perhaps we learn more from them than they learn from us.
Barefoot girl

Why children should go barefoot

I still remember a little song I learned in nursery. Someone had put a tune to Polly Chase Boyden’s poem, and I liked to sing it because it reflected my own feelings about taking off my socks and shoes:

Mud is very nice to feel
   All squishy-squash between the toes!
I’d rather wade in wiggly mud
   Than smell a yellow rose.
Nobody else but the rosebush knows
How nice mud feels
   Between the toes.

Now that June is here, make sure your children have chances to enjoy this sensory experience!

P.S. Do you let your children take their shoes off? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Child with candle

A candle in the dark

Children are instinctively drawn to the light of a candle in a dark room. Watching their total absorption and seeing the flame reflected in their eyes is one of the wonderful parts of the Christmas season for me. As adults privileged to work with children, we also need time for quiet reflection. Despite the rush of these days, take time to light a candle. Then consider how to shield and nurture the flame that is in every child you care for. 

Merry Christmas from all at Community Playthings!

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