Monday, 29 December 2014


Apologies for taking so long to say thanks for the support & votes for the 2014 Edublog Teacher's Blog of the year award but it's been a busy few weeks.
I was absolutely delighted to have been nominated for this award by an incredibly supportive & inspiring fellow blogger: Juliet from Creative Star Learning Company. (
Then I was so flattered to have actually made the shortlist of 47, especially as I was the lone early years teacher in the category. 
In the end, after an amazing campaign to raise awareness of the award by a current parent, I made it into 4th place!
As I pointed out in an earlier post, I don't blog for awards but it is always great to be recognised by others for the contribution you are making within your field. When I started blogging in January 2011, it was mainly because I felt that my outdoor play approach was a good one & that perhaps I could help other nursery teachers to begin to see that they can go outdoors every day & to help people see the potential of their outdoor space.
Now almost 4 years on, the blog has proved to be a great tool for self-evaluation; it has helped me to look at my practice with a more critical eye & to always question what I am doing & to, hopefully, explain why I am doing things a certain way. 
Thanks again to Juliet & Julie for helping me reach 4th place!

Farewell to 2014.

Some years are more memorable than others e.g. the year I met my husband, graduated college, got married etc.
I am a natural optimist but some years really test even the most positive types. 2014 was certainly such a year for me; my father-in-law & sister-in-law both died of cancer within 4 months of each other. The latter death hit the whole family hard, as my sister-in-law was so young (43) and had so much to live for. 
In the days after her death I was so glad to be at work, surrounded by young children who were a constant reminder of all that is good with the world. I have said it before, I am so lucky to be a nursery teacher, I get to laugh & hear laughter daily. 
If I learned one thing in the past 12 months it's that life is precious, 2014 had started with my niece awakening from a medically induced coma 18 days after a car accident. This certainly brought us much closer as a family and it helped us face challenging times over the year as her mum bravely battled her cancer. 

Life is to be lived, grabbing every chance & opportunity but most importantly for me, I have learned not to waste time trying to figure out why some people act they way they do. I generally give everyone a fair chance. & until they do something directly to me, I give them the benefit of the doubt.
I am looking forward to seeing the end of 2014 & can only hope 2015 is an easier year for those around me. 

So my resolution for 2015 is to believe in myself, be kind to others, give people a break; everyone can have an 'off' day & to stop stressing about the little things I can't change.
Mostly I am going to celebrate reaching another birthday, enjoy working with the young children in my class & seeing life through their eyes.
Here's to a better year for all those struggling with whatever life has thrown at them & go easy on people, you just never know what battles they are going through.
This post is dedicated to Alphy & Nuala Corr who passed away on July 13th and November 23rd 2014.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The excitement of a new Cosy catalogue!

There are few things that feel as special as they did when I was a child, now I admit that I am lucky to work with preschoolers as I do get to witness many events through their eyes but it still doesn't feel as magical as my own childhood experiences!
Every year when my mum's Autumn/Winter Grattan catalogue used to drop through the door my brother & I would almost burst with the anticipation of what toys might lie within! We would spend weeks leafing through the toy section dreaming of what delights Santa might bring us that Christmas. 
Since then, nothing has ever made me feel that way until I discovered Cosy a couple of years ago!
In our school every teacher gets a set amount of money each Spring to spend on requisition, some approach this with as much enthusiasm as a trip to the dentist (in fairness for those teaching older pupils, it can't be that much fun) whereas I love this time, I pour over the various catalogues whittling down my wish list until it fits within budget. However in the past few years all the educational supply catalogues have started to look the same apart from the variety of prices & don't get me started on the fact schools in N.Ireland are charged more for the same products by a particular company!
BUT when I found a Cosy catalogue, on the recommendation of Juliet Robertson of Creative Star Learning Company, I knew I had found a new firm favourite. 3 years on, it is still the best catalogue out there, it is brimming full of quirky & affordable ideas. Almost every page has something I have been searching for & you can tell most new products have been inspired by other teachers, they are practical & you know the children will love them. 
Cosy are a young company & full of enthusiasm, their products are fun & practical. My all time favourite (for now) is the bread crate dolley, I got one last year & my class had so much fun with it, to hear them laughing as they ride around on this whilst bouncing off tyres was brilliant. It is always hard to judge products from a photo & sometimes you need to see them in action to actual see how 'worth' it they are. I know of a colleague who bought a bread crate dolley after seeing it in action in my playground as she had passed by it many times in the catalogue.  
In the latest catalogue I have many new favourites & a long list of 'I have to have that' items but I'll have to wait to see what budget I have this year before making my final decision. However, here are a few of my favourites:

New improved Tuff spot den covers, I love my tuff spots & always encourage the children to see how they can play under it as well as on the top. Turning them into a little quiet hideaway within a busy classroom will help many teachers as we struggle to accommodate more & more children with sensory issues. But it will also create another play area for everyone, we all know children love to feel out of sight of adults.

Various outdoor nature buntings, there are trees/leaves, wild flowers & birds to choose from. I can see these becoming a big feature of many playground fences.

I just have to get some marshmallow forks, much more environmentally friendly than always using throw away skewers.
A quirky favourite are the impressionist lollipops, I can just imagine these dotted around the playground or Bear Woods in my setting. And best of all they can be decorated by the children too to make them more personal to your own space.

I love the wavy log sets & think they are fantastic value but more importantly,the hollows will create ready made spaces so more pushing & shoving to get settled on a log!
My N.Ireland humour is drawn to the metal bin lids!
Having seen the natural number line planks used as seating in a friend's setting I now know they have so many uses.
The rustic number line planks used as seating at the incredible Highway Farm Activity Centre.
In this latest catalogue there are loads of resources for older children to take the learning outdoors e.g. A natural fraction set - genius!
So, if you are the kind of person who can get lost in an educational supply catalogue for a few hours, make sure you ring 01332 370152 & order your own copy today. I promise you won't be disappointed & how could a company based in a building called The Chocolate Factory not appeal!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas Art in Bear Woods.

I wrote about the children enjoying creating transient art up in Bear Woods in a previous post over here:
So for our last visit to Bear Woods for 2014 I took some tinsel & bows up as to see if the children would like to try & make some Christmas art with the mouse mats.
Although tinsel may not be still in favour for the majority of people anymore, I think it will always hold a special place in the hearts of preschool teachers & young children!
The children fell on the bag of Christmas 'stuff' with such enthusiasm & soon were creating lots of pieces with a lovely sparkly, festive feel. One child had a big fat piece of tinsel & declared it was a 'baby dragon' & with it's bright red eyes it did look very effective. Some others then tried to create other creatures too whilst some just wanted to see how many pieces they could fit on the mouse mat.
'A baby dragon'
Then one child discovered the little bows could be fitted onto the bare tree branches & so they began to decorate one of the Alder trees. 
By the time we were leaving Bear Woods was looking very festive indeed.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Outdoor Play Party - Managing Risk.

I am so delighted to have Unnur Henrys writing this post. Unnur is a preschool teacher in our partner school Leikskólinn Stekkjarás in Iceland. Here she talks about managing risk with young children & proves that if we trust the children they will rarely put themselves in danger & are more than capable of assessing what is an appropriate risk.
Playing in the snow and Managing Risk. 

I have been reading a few articles about managing risk with children and outdoor learning. I am lucky in the sense that we don't have to fill out any forms or do a Risk Assessment before we set out on our adventures in the woods. We don't even know where we are going most of the time. That decision is made by the children when we come to the cross roads as we call it and vote whether we go to the Wolf forest, container forest, stone bridge, big stone or the kids-grove. The children have come up with all these names over time on our travels through the areas we use. There was a lot of snow outside today, we normally go with a big trolly with a lot of different stuff in it but this day there was nothing brought with us so  we needed to play with the snow and what we found in the woods. This was a day that I as a teacher had to close my mouth and let the children experience and manage the risk on our trip. It was a group of 27 children but this time the group decided to go to two different places and I had the privilege to be with a small group in container forest which is also very close to the stone bridge and a little stream that is always popular. 
Instead of saying 'no we can't go to the stream' I decided to let the children decide for themselves if, what or how we could play there. They were quick to find out that they didn't want to fall in and get wet because it was cold. When we got to the stream they started off throwing some snow in to the stream to watch it melt . Then there was a bit of a competition who could get the biggest ice brick to throw in, I asked them if we could all get a ice brick and see what would happen and someone said that we had made a little glacier. We found some sticks and started to poke them into the snow and ice around the stream, it was very tempting to warn them to be careful but I decided that it was for them to manage the risk there, what was the worst that could happen? Someone would get wet and as I am a teacher prepared for everything I have a full set of dry clothes in my bag Smiling face with open mouth and smiling eyes so I said nothing.

There is a bigger pond not too far away and the children asked if we could go there when there was enough ice on it to skate so I asked how do we know if it is safe? And they were quick to answer; first we find a big stone and throw on the ice then you (me the teacher) test the ice so we don't fall into the water. I promised to let them know when I thought it would be a good idea to go and check the pond, they certainly hadn't forgotten about the fun we had last winter on the ice (see my blog post about this from last winter)
My favourite post from the link up last time was from The Way he Plays all about celebrating a first birthday party in the lovely sunshine and given that it has been so cold here, I loved looking at the beautiful blue skies in this post.

"Now it’s time for this week’s Outdoor Play Party. We would appreciate it if you included a link back to this post (either in your post or sidebar) to help us spread the word about the importance (and fun!) of outdoor play! In return, we’ll gladly further share your post on Pinterest. Please feel free to grab the Outdoor Play Party button from the sidebar and/or include a text link back. Please note that by contributing you are giving permission for an image and link to your post to be republished if featured.(If you have been featured, please feel free to grab the ‘featured at’ button from the sidebar.) Share your ideas for outdoor play activities with us every other week!"

An InLinkz Link-up

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Embracing outdoor play in Winter.

It is of course very easy to advocate for outdoor play in nice weather, when it is dry & mild - warm enough to be outdoors without coats etc. but let's be honest, it is harder on the colder, wetter days.
This week Winter really arrived for us, light snow, thick ice, sleet, driving rain, gale force winds etc. and yet we managed to be outside every day & the children enjoyed themselves & had fun in all those different types of weather. Now of course some children do feel the cold more than others, about 2-3 children tend to get very cold & need lots of extra clothing to help them stay happy outside for the hour. But honesty, the majority are so well dressed for the cold that they are more than happy to play outdoors & could probably stay out longer than the hour if necessary. And then there are about 4-5 children who are the hardiest I have ever seen, they are the ones playing with water even on the coldest days & if their gloves get wet, they just hand them over to get dried & put on another pair!
This week started off with really thick ice, our school is opposite a lough (that's a lake to most people) & so when the moisture of the lough comes across to the car park it turns into a skating rink. It was weird to hear the ice cracking as the cars drove onto it at drop off time & although our playground is more sheltered than the car park it was still covered in a layer of ice. I believe that it is important that the children learn how to walk on ice - it is a skill many adults never learned & that's why you see people creeping along on the footpaths etc. So, whilst we did treat the safety surface which ironically given it's name is treacherous in icy weather we left the tarmac for the children to negotiate for themselves. It was incredible to watch some children gingerly moving about whilst others were able to run about on it. The children enjoyed cracking the ice to expose the green safety surface below. 
On Wednesday we had arranged to walk up to the local nursing home to sing some Christmas songs for the residents & post Santa letters, this has become a real Christmas tradition for our class & the home has an amazing winter wonderland display in the foyer for the children to enjoy before posting their letters in a post box. It was horrendous weather that morning, driving rain & strong winds & we had been through a set of rain gear before 10.00. This is when I am grateful to have 2 sets as by 11.15 when we were getting ready to walk up the hill to the home we needed to get all the children into the second set to help keep them warm & dry on the walk. They had fun marching up the hill, stamping their feet to keep warm. They sang for 2 lots of residents before getting some buns, crisps & juice & posting their letters to Santa, then we braved the wintery weather again for the walk back down the hill for lunch. We did learn that the clumps of bushes dotted along the roadside offered lots of protection from the wind & we certainly missed them on some parts of the road.
We had a light dusting of snow on the Friday & it was sweet to hear some children planning to make a snowman - it was like icing sugar - and I suppose to a 3 year old that is what you do with snow, no matter how thin it is. It was lovely sitting in the snow with the fire lit waiting for the milk to heat up for hot chocolate and the children were fascinated by the way the 'snow' melted under any of the object set down on it.
A perfect circle left by the milk pan!
If this week proved anything to me it's that this class can truly enjoy any weather & make the most of it without too much complaint.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

2014 Edublog Award.

Thanks to the incredibly supportive Juliet Robertson from Creative Star Learning Company, my blog has been shortlisted for Best Teacher Blog in the 2014 Edublog Awards. 
Now, honestly no one sets out to win awards for blogs & I am under no illusion that I will win this award as I am up against 46 other great bloggers, some of whom are what I consider 'big hitters' in the blogosphere. However, I am delighted that my blog about early years education & advocating getting outdoors as much as possible has been recognised by Edublog.
Voting closes on the 15 December & to vote you need to go to the following link & click on the thumb symbol below the thumbnail of my blog.
Since I starting blogging & using social media I have connected with so many dedicated & inspiring people around the globe & I have found those working in the early years so willing to share ideas, resources, help with any queries etc. & very supportive of each other.  So it is time all those great early years folks were recognised for their hard work & dedication in raising the profile of this important part of the education sector & so it is fantastic that 2 other early years groups are also recognised under the Best Twitter Hashtag or Twitterchat, #EYTalking & #kinderchat are also up for awards & it would be great to get others sitting up & taking notice of the early years sector. So please take time to vote for both these ones too over here:

As I said earlier, it's not about awards or recognition but it is about raising the profile of early years & outdoor education, so all support is gratefully received, thanks, Kierna.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Outdoor Play Party - Winter fun!

Welcome to another Outdoor Play Party, it is so hard to believe it's December & there are only a few weeks left of 2014, time really does seem to go faster & faster every year!
I have just under 2 weeks left of first term & it is incredible how the class has become one big group & enjoys exploring our outdoor spaces & enjoying having a fire in the playground.
So far this year we had just made hot chocolate on the fire but last week we got round to toasting marshmallows & plan to make some toast this week. The children were all brilliant about not touching the fire but loved getting the chance to toast their own marshmallows. I then found some giant ones in a local supermarket so we will have to try toasting them in the New Year!
We had been on trips off site to our partner school for 2 weeks so hadn't been up to visit Bear Woods until this Wednesday & the children were so excited to be getting back to explore this little space. It really never ceases to amaze me how much they love this space & I was able to give a presentation recently to other teachers about making the most of unused spaces within school grounds & it really brought home to me how much the nursery class has gained from this little slope of land being developed just for us. A few weeks ago Mrs Carson & I had taken part in a willow den building morning at An Creagán, after all the support that Peter their biodiversity officer has given to the school we felt like giving something back to An Creagán & gaining some new skills. It was lots of fun & we managed to bring some smaller willow sticks & Mrs Carson built a little mini den up in Bear Woods. The children enjoyed sitting in here reading books this week.
Every year I like to let the children decorate the small bush in the middle of the playground with coloured baubles - it always looks so effective when decorated & cheers the playground up on gloomy, winter mornings.

My favourite post from the last Outdoor Play Party was from Cuddles & Muddles & Muddy Puddles, this post showed how children can be entertained for a long time with a few simple natural resources - sticks, puddles & mud.
"Now it’s time for this week’s Outdoor Play Party. We would appreciate it if you included a link back to this post (either in your post or sidebar) to help us spread the word about the importance (and fun!) of outdoor play! In return, we’ll gladly further share your post on Pinterest. Please feel free to grab the Outdoor Play Party button from the sidebar and/or include a text link back. Please note that by contributing you are giving permission for an image and link to your post to be republished if featured.(If you have been featured, please feel free to grab the ‘featured at’ button from the sidebar.) Share your ideas for outdoor play activities with us every other week!"