Playgroup Diary 2016 – 17

27th to 30th June 2017

Parents’ Week

We were very excited to launch our first Parents’ Week this week. We invited Parents to join us for several sessions during the week so that they could see first hand what their children do at pre-school and get some ideas about how to support their learning at home.

Parents were invited to join us for a Forest School session on Tuesday. The children took clipboards and pencils to the woods with a list of creatures and natural objects to spot and tick off. This exercise gave the children great opportunities for mark making, concentrating and observation and interpreting a chart with pictures and written words. Once the hunt was over we met back at base camp where everyone takes a turn with the talking stick to share their favourite part of the morning with the group and to listen to each other.

Wednesday is our Messy morning and this week we invited parents and younger siblings to drop in and join the fun.


Thursday was numeracy day. We started with a trip to the school gym with number themed parachute games.



Later in the morning parents were invited to join us for coffee and Fiona talked about how we assess numeracy in Early Years, we were joined by a specialist maths teacher who answered parents’ questions and gave them (and us as practitioners) some fantastic ideas and activities for supporting numeracy at home.


The boys made chains and compared them to see whose chains were longer, they then linked the chains to make circles and put the smaller circle inside the larger.

On Friday we focused on literacy. Our book of the moment is Handa’s Surprise and the children had a lovely messy morning cutting up and tasting the fruits that Handa puts in her basket in the story


Later in the morning, Fiona spoke to parents about activities that support early literacy – covering everything from mark-making to narrative in fantasy play and developing muscles that children need for writing through bead-threading. She also showed them a lovely video of one of our children telling the story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar to the other children which demonstrated beautifully how reading with children encourages them to develop a love of stories and story telling before they can actually read for themselves.





22nd May 2017

Prehistoric Preschool

Our book of the moment for the last couple of weeks has been Julia Donaldson’s delightful book “Cave Baby”. It is a story that chimes with our child-led approach to learning: it is a celebration of children having their own ideas and enjoying messy, expressive creativity and a great jumping off point for mark-making activities. It has also sparked an interest in all things prehistoric and the children were surprised to find a large nest in the garden, full of some funny looking eggs – but what was inside…?


After finding some tools to open the eggs and some bashing and banging…..



Once the dinosaurs had “hatched”, some of the children carried out their own experiments, washing the dinosaurs to get them clean then, seeing what would happen if they washed the egg shells and then trying to dissolve them in water.


Next day, the dinosaurs made a return visit, this time trapped in icy eggs…

10th May 2017

A windy day in the garden making movement sticks with masking tape and strips of cellophane. Fantastic for fine motor skills and patient concentration sticking down the cellophane strips, then great fun running round in the breeze watching the colours and making patterns in the air.



5th May 2017

We have been working closely with local Primary schools to ensure that our older children have a smooth transition to their Foundation year in September. Waterbeach Primary school have given us some areas to work on with the children and for families to work on at home too that will help the children to settle into school. One of the areas they highlighted was using cutlery at meal times. The children routinely use safety knives to cut up their fruit and vegetables at snack time with support and guidance from our staff. However, they bring packed lunches so do not have much opportunity to practice with cutlery whilst at Playgroup. Today, we offered a tray full of vegetables and fruit along with safety knives and knives and forks so that everyone could develop and practice their cutting skills, supported by staff.

It was also offered a fun opportunity to some of the children who are reluctant to eat vegetables to actually get up close with some vegetables: smelling, handling and cutting vegetables can be a first step towards having an experimental nibble!


2nd May 2017

The sun came out today and we headed off to Forest School for some den building. Ruby noticed that there are now “flowers all over everything” in the woods.

The children worked together in two groups to choose a site for their dens, then worked out where to peg the sheets to make a good den. One group decided to use a flowery sheet to make a carpet to sit on so their den would be comfortable and the other group found a great spot where there were lots of low branches to peg the sheets to.


28th April 2017

We have really enjoyed taking a look at the children’s fantastic finds for the Easter Shape challenge : we have had circular balls and bracelets, rectangular puzzle pieces, books and toy cars, square coasters and boxes, a triangular musical triangle and even a triangular triceratops! Very well done to everyone :0)

Talking of dinosaurs, ours have been getting themselves very messy in a green slimy swamp this week….

Dino swamp 17


1st April 2017

Well, actually 30th March, but we had some April Fool’s Day mischief in French today as we celebrated Poisson d’Avril (April Fish) a couple of days early. In France on April 1st, children stick paper fish onto the backs of their friends and adults, then run away shouting “Poisson d’Avril”. We decorated paper fish, then the children stuck them on as many  other people as possible. There were fish everywhere, with the staff being particularly popular targets!

Un poisson raye (stripey fish)

Un poisson raye (stripey fish)

un chapeau poisson... (a fishy hat)

un chapeau poisson… (a fishy hat)

Poisson d'Avril!

Poisson d’Avril!

31st March 2017

We finally said goodbye to this year’s batch of chicks today as they went off to their new home at Heron Farm in Waterbeach. We  received a batch of 10 eggs from Living Eggs two weeks ago and this year seven of those eggs hatched. The children were able to listen to the chicks cheeping in their eggs before they hatched, and as five hatched during our sessions this year nearly everyone got to see a live hatch!

Watching the chicks in their incubator

Watching the chicks in their incubator

At circle time, the children took turns to hold chicks. This is a great opportunity to learn about being gentle, the importance of washing our hands after touching animals and taking turns. It was a new and slightly surprising experience for many of the children as the chicks feel fluffy but they are also warm and wriggly and they move around and even peck a little and of course from time to time they poo too.

Chicks 3



9th March 2017

Spring is here at last! The sun is shining and the garden feels lovely and warm – as well as listening to the birds, we saw two butterflies this morning too. The children have been outside a lot today, enjoying painting on paper and bubble wrap mounted on the fence. Painting on the fence uses a different group of muscles to painting on a flat surface which help to develop the fine motor skills that children need to manipulate the tools they use in mark-making (pens, pencils, paintbrushes), cutlery and other tools. We also had a self-service paint table with paint in soap dispensers to encourage different kinds of manipulation. Painting outdoors is also a great way to encourage children who don’t normally choose painting or drawing activities to have a go at mark-making – and most important of all, it is great fun!





2nd March 2017 – World Book day

The children and staff were invited to dress up as their favourite characters today, so we had lots of new faces at Playgroup from Rainbow Fish (Fiona), to Minnie Mouse and various beautiful Princesses to the Gruffalo a couple of Tigers who came to tea a Dinosaur, pussy cats, witches  and superheroes. We had some book-themed activities: a messy pouring and measuring activity with porridge oats and milk from Goldilocks and the Three Bears and a look at insect life-cycles and fruit with the Hungry Caterpillar.

IMG_3747[1] IMG_3790[1]





We even took our little book characters for some musical activities in the school gym:








2nd February 2017

The weather may be cold and a bit gloomy, but it is perfect for making dinosaur soup….

Dinosaur soup


I wonder if there are any dinosaurs in the garden who might be feeling hungry….

Outside dino


31st January 2017

As Spring is hopefully just around the corner, we have been thinking about birds with the children. At Forest School this morning, the children became explorers looking for bird food. We talked with the children about what birds eat and they came up with a list of things: worms, caterpillars, nuts, seeds and berries. They then set off to see which ones they could find.

The children took pens and clipboards with pictures of the things that birds eat to see what they could find.

The children took pens and clipboards with pictures of the things that birds eat to see what they could find.

We found some berries and seeds, but that was all. We then thought about how hungry the birds might be if there wasn’t much to eat.

Back at Playgroup, we have been making bird feeders with birdseed and lard to help the birds in our gardens to find something to eat.

...birdseed and lard to help the birds in our gardens find food in the cold weather...

…birdseed and lard to help the birds in our gardens find food in the cold weather…

The mixture of lard and seeds is squished into paper cups to hang upside down from a tree.

The mixture of lard and seeds is squished into paper cups to hang upside down from a tree.

30th January 2017

There is lots going on at Playgroup this morning. We had a colour-mixing activity using paints and plastic droppers. As well as enabling children to explore colour and texture the droppers are an ideal way to develop finger muscles and encourage the fine motor control needed to manipulate a pencil when writing. Most importantly, it is great fun!

The children mixed colours in the paint trays, making delicate swirly patterns

The children mixed colours in the paint trays, making delicate swirly patterns……


….on paper…..on the table…


….and in shaving foam….

...or dropping paint onto paper...

…or dropping paint onto paper…

18th January 2017

Today was our first “Messy Wednesday” of 2017. Our construction toys found themselves in a building site of cornflakes and fiesta streamers – the children enjoyed loading the diggers with cornflakes and crunching them with the caterpillar tracks. They also decided that fiesta streamers make fantastic hair and everyone got very messy indeed.

Later in the morning the children made their own mini-pizzas. Everyone washed their hands and took turns to make their pizzas. The children used and developed their fine motor skills as they spread tomato sauce onto their muffins and then transferred chopped vegetables and grated cheese onto their plates with spoons.Pizza 5Pizza 2 Everyone could choose their own toppings: selecting their favourites and trying some new tastes too.

Pizza 6


There were plenty of smells, tastes and textures to explore as each child created their own pizza.Pizza 4


12th January 2017

We have welcomed lots of new families to Playgroup this term and two new members of staff. Jo Brasher has joined us as our Deputy Manager looking after the Ladybirds and Ros Cole as an Early Years Practitioner looking after our Snails. It has been a very chilly start to the New Year and everyone is excited to see whether it is going to snow. The children have braved the icy winds in our garden this week, but inside in the warmth, they have been exploring the sensations and colours of winter too,  with ice, shaving foam and thick-furred polar animals:

Polar bears, seals and walruses about to play in the shaving foam snow, some of them frozen in blocks of ice!

Polar bears, seals and walruses about to play in the shaving foam snow, some of them frozen in blocks of ice!


Ice 2


Our literacy and mark-making activity tray has also had a wintry feel today. There were lots of snowflakes and sparkly blue and silver glitter to feel with your hands and fingers, or to swirl around, make patterns or form letters.
glitter and snowGlitter mark making 2Glitter mark making


 8th November

It has been really quite frosty this week. Some of our children saw fireworks at the weekend and have enjoyed making fantastic, splashy firework pictures; splatting the paint with snipped cardboard rolls instead of brushes. Our book of the moment is “We’re going on a Bear Hunt”, which has lots of references to what the children are experiencing outside at this time of the year, crunching through leaves, squelching through mud and shivering in icy cold winds. Hopefully there are not too many bears in Waterbeach, though!

Forest School sessions began after half term and our older children have started to explore the woodland: wrapping up warm and enjoying the freedom of outdoor learning.

The log pile is always popular...

The log pile is always popular…

Into the woods....

Into the woods….


13th October 2016

The weather is staring to get colder this week, but the children have still been busy outside.

Stepping Stones

Stepping Stones

Insect tray. Christmas must be coming as I think there might be some glitter in those cornflakes.....

Insect tray. Christmas must be coming as I think there might be some glitter in those cornflakes…..


We are still thinking about the Owl Babies too, with lots of autumnal sticking gluing and painting. Look out for the children’s owl art work on our display boards soon.

Owls 2 Oct 16


6th October 2016

Our Book of the moment is Martin Waddell’s “Owl Babies” This is a delightful story about 3 little owls waiting for their Mother to come home. The little owls worry that Mother won’t come and are overjoyed and reassured when she flies home with their dinner. It is a story that the children who are settling in to Playgroup either for the first time or after the summer break can relate to as they get used to parents dropping them off and coming back at home time. There have been plenty of owly feathers to explore around the setting this week too and everyone has had a chance to explore their texture, watch them floating in the air and use them in sticking and play dough.

Feathers and play dough

Feathers and play dough

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