Thursday, 7 August 2014

Little Nest Busy Bags for busy little beavers

Little Best Busy Bags Review

Travelling with a toddler on a long car trip or a flight is most parent’s worst nightmare. And if you’re a parent like me, you don’t want your child to play an i-device the entire trip. I came across the idea of ‘Busy Bags’ on Pinterest, and after a little more searching I found “Little Nest Busy Bags”. Sarah has created a range of fantastic activities that are not only great for engaging your children at home or whilst travelling, but are fantastic classroom resources!
The Little Nest Busy Bags are ideal for pre-school and infants (K-2) aged children, and are fantastic for children with special needs. My first purchase was the Mega Busy Box (now discontinued but similar products are available), which contained activities including lacing, shape and colour sorting, alphabet and number identification, and I have since gone on to purchase many other bags including the Spin & Spell, Pizza Factory, Australian Animals, Pom-Pom Pick Up, Clothes Line, Colour and Pattern Matching Pegs and Fruit Patterns. As well as using these with both my boys, I have taken many of the activities bags to school (most are packed in a sturdy plastic A4 zipped case) and used them with my little treasures.

And the kids LOVED them! Kids always love something new, and they just saw them as new toys to play with. They were ordering numbers and the alphabet, sorting shapes, using tweezers to sort the pom-poms and create fruit salads and having fun whilst learning!!!! That’s the beauty of these bags – the bright colours and different textures of the materials engages children’s senses and imagination.

So jump on over to Little Nest Busy Bags and check out the fantastic variety of activities Sarah has created, and use this code TEACH2014 for a 10% discount on all purchases.

Why is the development of Fine Motor Skills so important?

Fine motor skills are the collective skills and activities that involve the use of fingers and hands, and along with gross motor skill development are a vital foundation for other important future skills such as drawing, writing and self-help. Adopting an individualised approach based upon your child’s interest (or an individual child in your class) while ensure that learning is enjoyable and meaningful and are great for those children who have difficulty with fine motor skills and are not intrinsically motivated in fine motor skill building activities.

(Fine Motor Skills Program – School Readiness Program.

Owens, A. (2008). Supporting children’s development – Fine Motor skills. National Childcare Accreditation Council. [Online]. Available URL:'s_development_fine_motor_skills.pdf

Fine Motor Development and Early School Performance. [Online]. Available URL:

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Getting crafty

I went to catch-up with a good friend as we’d organised a play-date for our two munchkins (who are the best of friends). When we arrived, her little girl was going some craft and drawing with which she was enthralled. Upon seeing this, so was my son. My friend was sitting at the table and had a large, tool-box style box sitting in front of her, where she kept pulling all manner of craft devices from. I loved this idea, and asked her where she got it from…

I know what you’re thinking… surely as a Primary and Special Education teacher my house is full of craft supplies? Yes, yes it is! I have a LARGE storage box FULL of craft. The beauty of this box was it was compact enough to hold the essentials – pencils, crayons, scissors, glue as well as stickers, paper, stencils etc. and easy for my son to get out and put away.

So where is this box from? Kmart – and it’s only $12!!!! You can get licensed ones (such as Disney Cars or Disney Princess) if you’re willing to pay more, but just check out what you are actually getting. For $12 you get a sturdy box with three compartments on the top (in which were some textas and stickers, but I have sinced moved things around and added some glitter glue pens, scissors and glue and stamp textas). Inside this box was some more stickers, colouring in sheets, a small box which they can colour and a mobile.

From my own collection I have added some more textas, funky scissors, wind-up crayons, plenty of paper and the ever timeless Tupperware Stencils – these are from my own childhood and have not dated (you can pick these up on eBay if you’d like a set).

So if you want an inexpensive way to encourage your child/ren to get creative, or you want to have something in your classroom that your students can access and use as a crafting station then I highly suggest searching around for a box like this!

(Images of my son and his creation, and his little brother getting involved too!)

Sunday, 29 June 2014

GoNoodle for brain breaks!

Having returned to work this year in a Special Education setting, I have learnt just how important it is to ‘timetable’ movement or sensory breaks into our day. Research has shown a link between thinking and movement and also demonstrates how short bursts of energy can improve learning and engagement. With the children I am currently working with, you cannot expect them to sit in a chair or on the floor for more than 10minutes (and those are the higher functioning children). For some of those that I teach, we timetable in trampoline time, exercise-ball time, swing time or sensory based activities such as play-dough, sand and/or water-play or shaving cream. These allow them the opportunity to move around, have the sensory stimulation they require to focus better, or sometimes we use these as a calming tool, where they are either over-excited, stressed or anxious about something that has occurred.

But it can get tricky to provide these breaks when inclement weather occurs – and I am not just talking wet weather (because some of our kids don’t mind getting wet!). If it’s excessively windy or really hot (and we can get a run of hot days here in Wollongong, Australia) you can’t go outside between 10am-2pm! So what to do for children that require these breaks every 15minutes of so? This is where a program such as GoNoodle is fantastic!
GoNoodle is a free brain break teacher resource that will help your students be more engaged, energised and productive – and I’m not just talking about students with special needs. This program would work really well in a Primary and even lower level high school classroom. The hard work of trawling the internet to find brain-break style activities is done for you, and all activities are in one convenient program that’s FREE to join!!

There is a variety of activities to meet the needs of your students at different times of day or for a change in situation. Activities range from dancing, running and jumping, to yoga-style stretch with Maximo and deep breathing bubble blowing.

Some of the brain break activities on the GoNoodle site.

Where else are you going to find these hit songs in the one place? I’m sure one, if not all will motivate your children and have each and everyone of them out of their seats, bopping around!

Along with the compliation of songs, including ‘Happy’ and ‘Don’t Give Up’ (a personal favourite) which can be used as part of your morning circle routine, or as a session break, a favourite for a calming tool is ‘Air Time’. Now while it is an American based activity where students use deep breathing to blow the bubble across the states of America, it is still a good activity to use with children in Australia, as it will encourage them to broaden their knowledge of America whilst encouraging them to develop good self-calming  and breathing techniques, which can be used in stressful situations before or during exams and tests.
So do yourself a favour, get on over to GoNoodle, sign-up and start using their brain breaks as part of your daily activities. You'll notice a difference in your kids, and the positive effects this simple act can have.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

It's not just a bag.... it's the ultimate Teacher's Bag!

A Teacher's bag is invariably a treasure trove of day-to-day essentials, especially if you are a casual teacher. It needs to be sturdy, have plenty of room and be large enough to hold plenty of books, games and other odds and ends we teachers carry.
Upon finding out I would be returning to the classroom two days a week, and having to go between 4 different classes I thought it was time I really find myself the ULTIMATE teacher's bag. So after some searching of google images, and perusing countless blogs, I came across the brand "Thirty One Gifts" and their wonderful array of  trendy and affordable totes, purses etc. I was initially so excited about their range (there are plenty of colours and patterns to suit all), but then was deflated when I realised it's only sold in the states (for those of us in Australia it's like a Tupperware kind-of-thing where you can only buy the items by attending or hosting a party).
But, like most things these days, one quick search of eBay revealed that I could purchase the item I wanted probably direct from the manufacturer. I picked what pattern I wanted, went searching and purchased it! And I couldn't be happier with the product!! The bag has two mesh side pockets (which I use to carry my wallet and water in), then the front has three pockets (here I carry two CDs, my phone and then my name badge, whistle etc) and on the back are two more pockets in which I place my pencil case in one, and tissues & hand cream in the other. The zipper on the main section is AWESOME, as it stops things falling out when it's in the car or you're on the move.
 (Front)                                                 (Back)
(Inside - complete with zipper to keep it all in when it's in the car)
Here it is with some book inside, including reading books, text books and activity books. I've also got some CDs in the front.
I've been using this bag for a few months now, and it's by far the best I've used. It's sturdy and well-made. I also use it as a nappy/toddler bag during the holidays! So if you're in need of a good teacher's bag, definitely check these out!

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Happy Easter!...

After a very busy term, I've managed to find some quiet time to sit down and write about my experiences in the previous school term! An 11 week term sure does take its toll, but I've learned a lot, seen some absolutely wonderful ideas and had fun working with some truly remarkable children.

Seeing as Easter has already come and gone (and dare I say it, Christmas will be upon us before we can blink!!!) I thought I would share the art activities I did with two of my classes.

The first one I made was an Easter Bunny Basket:

I ended up making mine a little differently, but don't seem to have any pictures of the finished product! I used cotton wool all around the outside of the face and ears so as to hide the staples. I also just got the kids to colour in the pink inside of the ear (cut down on time and mess).
It's a pretty simple crafty activity, but looks fantastic!
1. You'll need 3 paper plates per student.
Cut one paper plate as shown. This is the back of the basket.
 2. Cut the second paper plate as shown below. These will be used for the ears.

 3. Keep the third plate as is. Draw a face on it. We added googly eyes which were fun!


 4. Finally, staple everything together, add some cotton wool around the edges to hide the staples, add some string for the handle, place some tissue paper in the back and then most importantly - drop in some EGGS!!!

 Now for the other Easter craft - an Easter Egg Hunt Basket.

This was a really cute activity to do with this particular class of kiddies. The school was having an Easter Hunt on the last day of school, so we thought we'd get these ready before hand and ensure they were dry and ready to go!
So from the visuals above, we helped the kiddies paint their box, then place the stickers onto the sides. Add a bit of cellophane and some paper strips and you're ready to go!!!

 I hope everyone had a great Easter break, and is looking forward to another term - especially as it's only 9 weeks with a long weekend squeezed into the middle!!! :-)

Friday, 28 March 2014

Friday FREEBIE!!!

Seeing as it's Friday and... no just because it's a Friday I've got a Freebie for my followers!

Disney's Planes is a big hit in our household at the moment, and with many of the students I have been working with. So to bring in some fun with some familiar characters I have created a set of Early Stage 1 (Kindergarten) sight words cards using the characters from Planes - including Dusty, Skipper, Chug, Dottie, Sparky, Leadbottom, Ripslinger, Ishani, Rochelle, Bulldog & El Chu!

So head on over to my stores and grab yourself a FREE copy of these sight words cards!!

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Sensory play activities... Heuristic Treasure Baskets

I came across this FANTASTIC blog called The Imagination Tree that is written by Anna. I have been following it for a few months now and have finally found some time to create some of her activities. 

In today's society many children are fortunate enough to have access to fantastic toys and technology learning tools - but sometimes it's the simple things that will keep a child entertained for hours. Just watch a young child at Christmas time - they are more entertained by the wrapping then the gift itself! Heuristic Play is the term that Elinor Goldschmeid used when describing how a toddler interacts with objects. It is about providing open-ended learning opportunities for young children and this can be achieved by creating Treasure Baskets that have items of 50-60 natural or found objects (that are small but not too small) from around the house or garden and simply sit back and let them freely explore using all of their senses!

Checking everything out - by pulling everything out! Things went in the mouth (of course) then we started banging things together, tapping them on the floor and throwing the basket around with things still in it. 

He LOVED looking into the bauble and seeing his distorted reflection (just be careful with some Christmas baubles as they can break easily - as this one did moments later!!!)

Big brother was curious as well... Nice to see some sharing happening. 

Collect up to 50-60 items and place them into a basket (ideally a shallow, round basket so that bubs can reach into it from all sides, but use what you have at home as I have) and give this to bubs to play with a few times a week to keep it interesting and exciting. Be sure to change the items regularly to engage your little one. Use things from around the home and garden, and refrain from using plastic as much as possible, and have NO technology in there as these items are closed and don't evoke as much imagination. 
Some Heuristic Treasure Basket ideas can include:

So far I have created a Reflective Basket (as seen in the picture) and a wooden basket. Below are the items I added to give you some ideas as to what you could put in yours...
Reflective Treasure Basket
Old CD
Round cookie cutter
Large metal rice serving spoon
Old keys
Christmas bauble
Mirror ball (small)
random tool left over from Ikea purchase

Wooden Treasure Basket
Wooden spoons (different sizes)
Sushi mat
Wooden massage rollers
Wooden Babushka dolls

I'll hopefully collect more items as I come across them, and start creating some other baskets. These would also be really fantastic in a classroom for children with Special Needs who need sensory stimulation. I might take them in to one of my classes this term. 

Check out Anna's blog over at The Imagination Tree for more images and ideas. 

If you want to read more about Heuristic Play, follow the links:


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