teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Posts tagged ‘recycling’

A spot of Luck

Just yesterday, I considered getting stressed out as the children continued to climb up on tables, balancing and climbing down again. They happily spouted out “Look, I’ m on the stairs!” Which is when I *knew* I had to create a more challenging and varied climbing structure outside. I figure if I can give them the more semi-permanent areas they need, whilst making them safe and meeting all the National Quality Standards, then the children will know it’s there and hopefully stop using furniture to meet this need. The only trouble was, how could I incorporate this in our yard, without having to worry too much about the elements – as we’ve had some crazy hot days, big rains and now cool breezes, all in the space of a fortnight!

Then this morning, as I was taking my own children to school, I came across a house that had recently cut down one of their trees, into an assortment of logs! Oh Yay 🙂 Fitting as many into my bus as I felt safe carrying, I drove on to work with a smile on my face. There were many options for where these could go, how I could change them up in future to be more of a ‘table and chairs’ sort of play area, or use them for surrounding our planter boxes, but to start with, they needed to be ‘stairs’. Finding a space that I hate looking at (all cement and corrugated iron fencing) I moved the planter pots around and laid out stumps in alternating heights, with the larger ones supporting the smaller-thinner ones.

Getting my colleagues up to try out the balance and feel of it was easy. In fact Rae was up and walking along before I even asked 🙂 I took this as a good sign, if she couldn’t resist it, then the kids wouldn’t either! The first thing I realised was that this was a great opportunity to explain a little more about looking after our plants. Encouraging them to hold the trunks of our ‘trees’ and not the leaves.


On our first few runs, I knew the kids would All want to be on it, and took measures to ensure they had a path to follow, minimising the risk of pushing and falling through exuberant entries. Turned out to be a good thing too, as some of our balancers were speed demons, practically leaping from one log to the next, quickly finding their feet and trying out the various smaller, higher  steps. Whilst others took their time, supporting their steps with hand holds and careful motor planning.

Some children opted to take their shoes off, gaining a greater feedback from their footfalls and increasing balance. Others extended their leaps off the end (on to a mat) and over to the low platform. Effectively turning it into a stage where they could call out “TaDa” and take pride in their achievements, before starting all over again!

 As play time wore on, the numbers of kids dwindled. I am really excited to see where this leads us. Will we build Ob courses from the end of our stumps? Will the children use them for sitting and talking? What about spontaneous counting and size recognition? Kally has already suggested that we paint them…which is a definite possibility too 🙂 Let’s just hope that whatever they choose to do with it, the prescence of this roving stairwell means we’ll see less climbing on furniture! A girl can has to have hope you know 😛


Linking in Literacy

Reading is great. Stories open a whole new world to us, texts introduce us to concepts and information and even advertising offers us something new.

I work with Kindy kids. over the last 10 years I’ve only come across two kids who were reading books. Yet somehow, parents of 3-4 year olds are expecting their child to be able to read every letter of the alphabet and write more and more complex things. I get that the world is changing, but if your kid is not showing those skills, I’ll scaffold their learning so that they can read when they are ready to. By all means, I’ll push for name recognition and writing, for the kids to start to link up the patterns of letters to the names of their friends, but I’ll also let them discover a love of letters for themselves.

FOr your viewing pleasure, a snap shot of my room and the literacy it supports.

Books, you can’t go by them! We’ve set up a book nook near a sunny window with cushions and a table near by, this lovely boy decided to make the most of a sunny day and sit on stacked chairs to enjoy his story. When I saw him, I wanted to be him! I’m thinking that makes my book area a success 🙂

Letters are the base of all words, with the focus usually being on the letters in our names first. Magnet letters can be found in every second-hand shop frequently, formula tins go to the bins after use. So by combining these two complimentary resources, we now get to explore letters as we assemble them into words or patterns on our own workspace.

Puzzles are great, many children have learnt the ABC song by the time they hit kindy, so doing an alphabet puzzle is just like singing with your fingers 🙂

We have a few random name puzzles that were donated to us and the kids love these too, especially as some of  the letters can be swapped between them, which of course helps with letter recognition!

I printed out the kids names (using the ‘outline’ option of my favourite font) then laminated them as individual cards. We use them with whiteboard markers for writing skills and as group-time flashcards 🙂 I added the small whiteboards to the area so that the kids could extend their ideas.

This is just what happened to be happening one day. When I decided to assess  the literacy in my room after a parent discussion. If these links are being made during regular play, then I’m sure that the children are going to be immersed in it over the next couple of weeks 🙂

Fathers Day Sneak Peek :)

We started our Fathers Day gifts today and I have to say, for the first time in a long time, I’m excited about them 🙂

Most Dad’s Day gifts revolve around ties and business shirts, tool boxes, fishing or cars. I know that I hate to be generalised about, so why should it be any different for the Men in our lives? This year, we happen to be in a ‘science’ theme in the lead up to Dad’s Day, which has seen us explore popcorn and pendulums, ramps and magnifying glasses, electricity and imagination. So the first stage of our gifts fit right in with our current learning. We are making bowls. For Dad to put his keys in, his coins in or eat popcorn out of 🙂

Want to know what we are making them out of? We’re recycling materials – yes again! 🙂 – and using heat….

Here’s a hint. We need a pair of tongs, an upside down drink bottle and large surface area of simmering water – so we’re using the electric fry pan.

It’s records! Let me just say, that before we even went near hot water – or the safety talk that preempted it – I showed the kids a CD, then a cassette tape, then a record. For interest sake, I’ll let you know that the kids recognised a CD as a ‘movie’, a cassette tape as a ‘video’ and had no idea what a record was. This led to a discussion on how music is stored, as best I could anyhow.

The children were asked to slide their record in like they were going down a slippery dip, no splashes 🙂

Once fully submerged, it only took about 30 seconds for it to become bendy:)

Some of the albums were thicker than others, which affected the length of time they required to get truly flexible.

(sorry for the blurry shot – hot water and kids meant my camera skills dropped a few levels!)

the final step needs to be done quickly – but if you’re not happy with your result, you can just dip it back in and start again!

I forgot to take pics of our first step ‘end results, so I’m linking you up to one-off the net.

We are hoping to paint them up – but I need to look into appropriate paint and lacquer techniques before we travel down that road!

Now, stop looking at this page, google record bowls and set the oven or fry pan up, ready for all your old LPs!

Who wants an Ice Cream?

Anyone who has worked with me for any length of time, would have heard the holler of “Who wants an Ice Cream?” echoing around the yard 🙂 I love getting involved with the kids role play, so when a castle is turned into a restaurant or someone sets up shop in a corner, I’ve found myself balancing most successful with personal comfort by engaging in ice-cream shop role play. Personally, I can’t follow-up on McDonald’s franchises opening up in our healthy eating  and learning environments, but will attend them until I can ask for a fancy dessert to redirect play 🙂

When visiting ‘That’s not Garbage’ I came across these old thread cones and couldn’t resist them becoming part of our play!

Painting them with glue and filling the insides with fluffy white cotton balls was a great way to explore full and empty –

but was certainly the precursor to the real fun the kids wanted to have!

We drizzled more glue over the top, then sprinkled an array of glitter on for topping!

If only we’d thought of adding the paper covers to all the glue tables, it would have been a quicker clean up!
*as you can see, not everyone likes their cones to hold ice cream – and I’m cool with that :)*


Once all our glitter was spread, we moved on to the ‘lolly table’.

Realistically threading colourful foam beads on to small skewers, we called them lolly sticks,

fostering our imaginations.

With most children completing at least 2 ice creams and all the cones gone,

we used our beads to make necklaces and bracelets.

The photos look so calm and happy, but in all honesty it was a flurry of activity and the threading of bracelets was a fantastic way to calm the group.

Yay for intrinsic follow-up activities!


Our  ‘shop’  was visited by all, with everyone excited to take them home. Some were used in our outdoor Role Play area to continue the shop idea,

and I couldn’t have been more proud 🙂

Pendulums and the art of community Recycling


One of the things I like about being me, is that I like the feeling I get from making a great activity from recycled goods and other peoples trash. I thing this works well in childcare because the kids will get hands on and learn from things that might stick with them as they get older. Not everything has to be recycled in a bin, you can change it to something new and fantastic – and if you are super creative, you can even move into upcycling!

This next photo involves the most expensive part of our activity. Plastic cups and paint. Once we figured out the best consistency for the paint to be, we used the bottles the paint can in,  picking colours that had ‘run out’ and were destined for the bin. I always add a drop of dish washing liquid to my paints, because it helps the colour wash off of surfaces and clothes. So this mix is paint, water and a good dollop of dish washing liquid – in anticipation of the mess we could possibly make!

A4 card (donated by parents who work in IT) was slipped into old protective sleeves from ring bound folders, then curler into a cone with a very small opening at the end. We’d cut a strip off the card and attached it to the sides with tape to create a handle.

Pegs tied to string hung from large frames that I’d bought at my daughters school fro $1 each. Their previous use was for storing hanging bags with stories and games in them as part of their library displays. The base was covered in large packing cardboard that one of the Dad’s donates to us. He installs solar panels and this it the ‘trash’ from a days work, but is an invaluable tool for me! The large sheets of paper come from a local architects office, where they throw our reams of this stuff every week! I know many centres are still buying ‘clean’ copier paper or butcher paper for their kids to use. But when real estates and architects offer both these resources with printing on one side only, I’ll always grab it!

The gentle motion of the pendulum creates groovy patterns, but too thick a paint doesn’t run and too thin a paint creates puddles. This is definitely and activity that requires paper on hand for replacing along the way before everything turns to mush!

You can see how we tried working in teams, but it didn’t work so well in our environment – the swings got more wind and more and more paint ended up on the cement and kids than on the paper! So my fantastic Kally redesigned the area to back up against the fence which was walled off with tarps, created small walls for the sides of the book racks and made it a cleaner, more successful, individual activity to enjoy 🙂

I’ve seen people use swing sets for enormous pendulum painting on a tarp, smaller versions hung form ceiling fans above covered tables and mid sized ones using mini soccer goals  with the net removed. I wonder what will work best for your environment? I can’t wait to see how this evolves over the coming weeks!


Loking at Lost things to create something new :)

I love my laminator. I know that not everything needs laminating, and I certainly don’t make a habit of having all shiny, smooth poster like art around my class room walls. In fact, I’m often found searching for different textures and mediums to adorn our environment!

Sometimes though, they just make a dead toy fun again.

Last term, I took every single puzzle in our centre and sorted them, completed them and found missing pieces. I was left over with some puzzle pieces whose boards are long gone. I photocopied the pieces, to create dark shadows – although you could colour copy them for true matching – and popped them in a bag with their newly laminated matching boards. By adding small magnets to the back of the puzzle pieces and taping this to the fridge or filing cabinets, you’ve created a new play area in a dead space 🙂

Not a difficult exercise for my kindy kids, possibly more suited to the younger age groups, but certainly a nice way to reuse otherwise ‘lost’ pieces. My other ideas for the remaining puzzle pieces include baby mobiles, as part of eye spy bags or adding magnets to their backs for use on filing cabinets 😉

I recently made a selection of eye spy bags, and tried to find an alternative to food based fillings like rice and beans, but each thing I tried just didn’t have the flexibility and movement these bags require. It makes me sad to put good food into a toy, especially when so many people with kids are doing it hard. I never do pasta threading or used food for non-edible art. I have been known to share out a mix of cheerio’s cereal and fruit loops, for the kids to make their own candy bracelets and necklaces, but they got to eat those right away or bag them up and take them home! I remember when I started my child care studies, over a decade ago now, my tutor telling me a story about her time in childcare, where one Mum looked at the pasta and rice on her collage table and said “That would feed my family for a week!” It’s an eye-opening statement for many people. Recognising that the things we throw away or consider ‘broken’ can be reused in so many ways. By Using old puzzle pieces and repairing things with the kids, I hope to subliminally embed the idea that most things can be fixed and we don’t need to throw away nearly as much stuff as we do. After all, today’s catch cry is Reduce, Recycle and Re-Use!

No Mess Tie Dye

I found this interesting activity on the Internet, but didn’t have all the ‘ingredients’ on hand.  The process calls for scraps of material, preferably white or light coloured and definitely cotton,not polyester 🙂 (old sheets or pillow cases from  your local op shop would be great!) A rubber band, small bucket or large bowl each, a medicine dropper or syringe, permanent  markers and rubbing alcohol.

I didn’t have coloured permanent markers or rubbing alcohol, so I initially tried it with water and washable markers.   

It kinda worked, but the  colours really did wash  out. Pretty, but not permanent 🙂

Seeing as the kids enjoyed the activity so much, I decided to was worth it to go buy the missing ingredients. After the activity was complete I had to wonder if I could have just used the antibacterial hand gel that is everywhere? It removes permanent markers from walls and most surfaces, so if watered down into a liquid form, it should work too. Actually, “Impulse” and other body sprays also remove permanent markers from laminated surfaces and whiteboards, so it might be interesting to try this too! Admittedly, that would be a bit much for a class of kids, but interesting to try with my spray obsessed little man!

I asked my kids to draw big swirls and circle patterns, which my girl took to a new level 🙂 I was meaning something simpler and drew one on my son’s work sheet so that he understood what to do.  Choosing complimentary colours and avoiding using black would be my only hints for this.

Once the kids were happy with their designs, we came to the syringes. My kids are fairly familiar with these as water toys and using as hydraulics (a small plastic tube between syringes and coloured water!) So the control they have is pretty awesome. Other children might like to practice with water first, before using the more expensive stuff! For our large cereal bowls, 10 ml was enough. If they squirt the liquid all in one spot, just tip the bucket/bowl upside down and roll it round 🙂

Almost immediately you will see the colours start to travel. To give more even spreading or for new effects, tilt the bowl to a side and watch the colours change direction!

As the material dries out, over the next hour or so, the colours continue to spread over the edge of the bowl, so if you were to hang them up, I can only assume this means the colours would run down! I’m looking forward to doing this one at school, using buckets from the sandpit as our bases and creating our own flags or banners 🙂 The thing I love about ‘slow release’ activities is that the kids can come back and see their art grow and change in short periods of time. Keeping them attached and their curiousity piqued opens doors to some amazing conversations!

As for the ‘no mess’ part, clean up involved putting lids on markers, rinsing syringes and washing bowls. Heaps easier than traditional tie dye and no stained hands in sight!