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3 Ideas For Early Years – Messy Play, Tactile Learning And Early Writing Skills

Laura England gets creative with clay, unleashes the educational potential of the humble nut and bolt, and tries new ways to encourage early writers

  • 3 Ideas For Early Years – Messy Play, Tactile Learning And Early Writing Skills

Three ideas to try in your nursery setting that are quick and easy to set up.

A Nest Is Noisy

We have been reading the book A Nest Is Noisy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long. This is a beautifully illustrated, factual book all about nests – from turtle nests to orangutan nests, there’s a nest for everyone!

We created our own nests using clay and natural loose parts, Clay is a great medium to explore, as its form changes with the addition of water. This provides lots of opportunities to build up the muscles in hands and fingers ready for writing, as well as opportunities to talk through lots of ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions. We collected natural materials to line our nests and, once they were dry, added painted eggs. Whilst we painted the eggs we explored patterns and talked about what eggs look like, widening the children’s language by introducing them to new words, including speckled, spotted, mottled and blotchy.

We are now looking forward to hatching the eggs and adding lots of animals for the children to further explore!

Nuts and bolts

Sometimes the simplest of resources are the best! Nuts and bolts can be picked up really cheaply, in Wilkos; you can fill a pick and mix bag for £2.99 and they will provide hours of fun. Here are my favourite things to do with them:

  • Match different-sized nuts and bolts – great for developing problem-solving skills for mathematical development, as well as developing fine motor skills.
  • Provide children with black pieces of paper and create some space-style transient art.
  • Make a robot – all you need is a ball of pale blue playdough to stick the nuts and bolts together, and a bit of imagination.
  • Draw a number onto large bolts and quantity-match the nuts – this has been a great way for me to get boys interested in numbers.

When you are done with those ideas, fill up a tinker tray and see what the children come up with!

Making writing relevant

Upon completing our tracking we noticed that although our cohort love mark making, we were struggling to encourage them to actually start to form letters and write. We decided that we needed to make writing more relevant for the children and came up with a few different ways to encourage them to have a go within the general day-to-day structure of the setting.

We started by adding large laminated name cards to the art area, the idea being that the children will be encouraged to find their name and copy it onto the back of their work. We then decided to create laminated ‘work in progress’ signs; if the children want a break from what they are doing they can add their name to the ‘work in progress’ sign to avoid having their creations destroyed by others. Finally, we have added blank cards to our self-registration so that children have the option to write their name and register.

Laura England is preschool leader at Blythe Bridge Day Nursery. Follow @littlemiss_ey on Twitter.

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