We like to take inspiration from our real life experiences. After a trip to Mollymook on the New South Wales coast over the weekend (and with another trip planned next week!), it was the perfect opportunity to create an ocean themed discovery table.
So what’s on the table this week?
A basket of sea creatures:
Baskets are a great way to present toys to little learners. You can choose a theme, like we’ve done here, or present an assortment of sensory items for little ones to explore. The idea of a ‘discovery basket’ is to let your child investigate and choose the direction of play themselves.
Purple, green and blue hues from our Grimm’s rainbow and a little house were perfect for making waves. What we love about Grimm’s is that the elements let the imagination go wild!
Have you tried a kid friendly magnifying glass? Both Zoey and Harrison love theirs. As well as exploring treasures at home, we also often taken them out and about when we go on nature walks.
Magic Beach by Alison Lester was a particular favourite with Zoey over the weekend. I think the fact we we’re visiting the beach everyday, then reading the story made it extra appealing!
The Usborne Mermaid sticker book is another go-to of ours, especially when visiting cafes. I’d recommend them for a screen-free way to entertain the kids when out and about.
Again, the important thing here is making use of resources that you already have or perhaps even go out and support your local library!
Welcome to week two of our brand new ‘Discovery Table’ series! This week, we’re all about the alphabet. We’ve had a fair few alphabet resources out for one of my students recently and Zoey has taken a real interest.
If you haven’t read week one yet, here’s the low-down on what the discovery tables are all about. The aim is two-fold: firstly it’s a way to follow Zoey’s current interests and secondly to rotate toys and resources on a regular basis.
The table is just a simple coffee table (previously used to dump toys on!) that is at an accessible height for Zoey. This is not about forced learning but allowing the opportunity for her to access resources more easily.
So what’s on the table?
The books and resources on the table are ones which we already had at home – please don’t go out especially and buy resources unless you are in the market for some new items!
Alphablocks by Hello Pear!
Hello Pear is one of our favourite Australian small businesses. The alpha blocks are versatile as a learning resource: we use them for letter recognition, spelling and even building! There’s something about the tactile nature of alpha blocks that helps learning stick much more readily than computerised learning tools.
Letter Match Alpha-Pops by Learning Resources
These are a great resources for matching capital and lower case letters. The colours match, making it easy for little learners, plus the alpha-pops can double as a role play resource too!
Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert
We received this gorgeous book in the latest Happy Explorers play kit. It’s a fantastic resources that promotes healthy eating through vibrant illustrations. As you can see from the photo above, Zoey loves it. The latest Happy Explorers kit is all about the alphabet, so click on the link to check it out!
ABC Lacing Sweets by Learning Resources
We love the smooth feel of these ‘sweets’ they come in a little jar that again doubles as a great role play resource. The product also came with laces which help develop fine motor skills – whilst the laces aren’t very long, I kept them off the table just in case!
Chunky puzzle from Kmart
‘Santa’ put this in Zoey’s stocking at Christmas time. To be honest, I thought it might be too old for her, but she’s totally rocked it so far! The beauty of the discovery table is that it allows Zoey to freely access resources of her choosing, allowing me to better understand her preferences and abilities.
Here at Thomas Towers we’re kinda obsessed with jigsaw puzzles. Not only are they a brilliant learning tool but allow for some quality family time too. We were recently gifted the Janod hospital themed observational puzzle from Little Sprout Toyshop in Canberra so we decided to try it out over the long weekend – here’s what we thought:
The puzzle comes in this really cute carry-case which would be perfect as a present for children aged 6+. The illustrations are super cute too which is always helpful when spending time putting a jigsaw together!
Inside the case, the pieces are all neatly packaged so you’re less likely to be scrabbling around for that essential missing part! There’s also a poster of the puzzle included which makes it so much easier to put it all together, especially for the first few tries.
The suggested age group for this observational puzzle is 6-9 which is pretty accurate; though we think the puzzle is best suited for upper end of this age range – this will also depend on the age/ ability of the child in question too! Harrison (aged 8) found it pretty challenging in the beginning but after encouragement to persevere, he was able to finish it with the help of dad. Of course, most puzzles are hard the first time around and that is partly why we love them!
What we loved:
With an ordinary puzzle, you might simply sit back and admire your work before tearing it all to pieces again. Not so with this observation puzzle because once you’ve finished making it, there are 50 items that need finding! The objects in the hospital version range from stethoscope to crutches, meaning you could also have plenty of discussions around the items that are typically found in hospitals. In turn this means your kiddo will have a wider understanding of the world – big win!
Other observation puzzles in the range include firefighter, kitchen and school.
There are so many reasons why you could add a jigsaw like this observation puzzle to the Christmas/birthday list:
Problem solving was the first thing that came to mind when putting this puzzle together. Whether to tackle it in sections or create the outside first was all part of the discussion, as well as working out which pieces fit in the right place – all of this helps logical thinking too.
Any puzzle will help to boost cognitive skills. As well as spatial awareness, the jigsaw helps develop a wider understanding of the world – this observational puzzle was particularly great for that skill!
By choosing a puzzle within the correct age range, there is also the correct level of challenge. If the puzzle had been easier there wouldn’t have been the huge sense of achievement Harrison gained from finishing – a great self-esteem boost.
The above also ties in with perseverance: Harrison often prefers life to be easy wherever possible, but with encouragement he was able to complete the jigsaw even though he found it difficult in the beginning.
By using a pincer grip, Harrison was able to continue developing his fine motor skills. This is also why more basic puzzles are really essential in the early years of a child’s development too.
Due to the size of the puzzle (208 pieces) and the level of challenge, it proved a great opportunity to spend some quality time together. This kind of teamwork activity teaches children to share, work together, overcome problems and compromise. Whilst we did the puzzle as a family, in another setting it would be a great social opportunity for children to work together.
By checking the poster and finding the pieces that fit, hand-eye coordination got a really great workout. The brain needed to decide where the puzzle piece went and manipulate it accordingly.
Puzzles are a brilliant way to enhance memory. Each time the image is recreated, it becomes easier because the brain remembers where certain pieces go.
Finally, jigsaws can be a great way to start goal setting. Perhaps first time around, the puzzle takes a few hours, then one and so on or perhaps the goal would be to finish independently. All of this links in with a huge sense of achievement any time the puzzle is completed.
These points would apply to any age group – hence why we love puzzles so much! Just look at all of the learning happening whilst having fun at the same time 🙂
The hospital observation puzzle was a brilliant way of working on all of the skills mentioned above, with the added bonus of further play when finished. We will definitely be seeking out other puzzles in the range as part of Harrison’s Christmas presents this year!
Whilst the puzzle was gifted for the purposes of this article, all opinions are genuine and we had a brilliant time putting it together.