child development

Heartfelt Crafts: Fabric Flower Prints

pansy  IMAG1976

There was an open house at a “natural” craft store for kids this week and it was GREAT!

The first project we did was to create flower prints on muslin (available at any fabric store).

Here are the instructions to make your flower/fabric print.

1. Place a piece of scrap paper on a piece of wood.

2. Put the flower on top of the paper.


3. Cover the flower with a piece of muslin and start hammering gently.


As you hammer, the color from the flower bleeds through.



To set the color in the fabric, iron it between two pieces of fabric.

Get creative and use different sizes of fabrics and different color flowers. The sky is the limit.

Frame and hang. It’s as simple as that and is really beautiful!

Skills: Appreciation of nature, manual dexterity, fine and gross motor coordination, recognition of colors, physical properties of flowers, art.

A message to all those promoting outdoor learning

Wyre forest school fire steel

A message to all those promoting outdoor learning.


Written by Tim Gill

This weekend saw the launch of a new national body for those working in UK Forest School settings. I have agreed to be the patron of this new body. Sadly I was not able to be at the event in person. At the Association’s invitation, I passed on a message of support, which I thought may be of wider interest:

I am very honoured to be asked to be the patron of the first national association for those working to take forward the Forest School movement. I first heard about Forest School back in the early 2000s, and have been a big fan ever since.

Not that I needed much persuading. As someone who in the 1970s, I roamed freely throughout the large village and countryside where I grew up. So I have vivid memories of the times I spent with my friends in the woods and fields. We scoured rotting tree stumps searching for devil’s coach horse beetles and toads. We gathered horse chestnuts for playground conker tournaments. We picked rosehips and squirted out the insides to rub into each others’ backs as itching powder (though it never seemed very itchy to me).

I am sure many of you have similar memories. I do not doubt that – like me – many of you do what you do because you believe that children today deserve experiences that share some of the magical qualities of everyday adventures like these.

But just what are those magical qualities, and why are such experiences so universal, and so resonant? In my view, there are two reasons. First, they speak of the richness and boundless fascination of the natural world. No matter how humdrum or familiar it may seem to adult eyes, almost any green outdoor space holds mystery and wonder, and invites exploration and investigation, when experienced through children’s fresher, less stultified senses.

The second reason is our lifelong appetite for experience and autonomy. From the earliest age, we human beings have a deep hunger to get to grips with the world around us; to feel a sense of our own agency, of our competences, and of our ability to control our fate.

Thanks to Richard Louv and others, there is growing awareness of the fact that nature is disappearing from children’s lives, and indeed it is the focus for a thriving global movement. The fact that autonomy, freedom and a sense of responsibility are also disappearing from children’s lives is far less well recognized. To see this, just look at the tortuous health and safety tangles that many schools get into in the playground and on school trips.

For me, the potential of Forest School is built on two vital foundation stones: the intrinsic qualities of natural places, and the intrinsic motivations and learning impulses of children. If Forest School is to leave a lasting impression on the lives of the children and young people who experience it, these two need equal emphasis.

This is why I would like to make one plea to everyone here. When your new association gets locked into the minutiae of debates about definitions, and principles, and accreditation, and awards – as it inevitably will – do not forget to revisit those childhood memories. Remember the places you played when you were young, and the things you did there. Remind yourself that at its heart, what Forest School is about is allowing children the space and time to experience the everyday wonders of nature, and to feel what it means to be human.

I look forward to following and cheering on the work of the Association, and I am happy to do whatever I can to help take the organisation forward.

Note: the Association is yet to decide its name. I will amend this post once the decision is made.

Tim Gill is one of the UK’s leading thinkers on childhood, and an effective advocate for positive change in children’s everyday lives. For over 15 years his writing, research, consultancy projects and other work has focused on the changing nature of childhood, children’s play and free time, and their evolving relationships with the people and places around them.

To the Parent Wanting an App to Teach Their Child to Talk

I was just looking through my blog statistics (it’s the researcher in me) and I saw that someone did an “engine search” (meaning they looked it up on Yahoo or Google) using the key words “best app for teaching a child to talk.”


As someone who has worked professionally with children and is trained in this area, I can confidently give you (the person who did the search) my professional opinion on your query (in case you decide to do the search again).

My opinion is the app called “You.”

You are the person your child will learn to speak from, not an app.

Here’s a primer on language development:

  • Talk to your child ALL THE TIME.
  • Narrate what you are doing as you are doing it: “Now I’m cracking the eggs. Look the eggs are yellow.”
  • Narrate what your child is doing as they do it: “Oh, you’re looking at the dolly. The dolly is pretty.”
  • Read to your child every day.
  • Spend as much one-on-one time with your child as you can: that means no t.v., no computers, no apps.
  • Pick one word and repeat it over and over and over again; pick a work that is meaningful to your child (milk, more, momma, dadda, help, no, eat, drink) and concentrate on working with your child on that word and that word alone.
  • If your child wants an object, prompt your child to say the name of the object before giving your child the object. “You want the milk? Can you say MIIILLLKK??” (If your child is unable to say the name of the object, give it to them before they become too frustrated and try again the next time.)
  • Praise your child for approximating the word. If they say “bu” for “ball” praise them a lot; lavish praise on them. “Yeah!!! Yes!!! You said “Bu!! BALL!!”

No speech therapist is going to use an app to teach your child to talk; they are going to work with your child and are going to label things for your child. They are going to point to objects and get your child excited about an object and say the name of the object slowly and carefully, over and over again. They are going to help your child develop speech by imitating other humans.

Computers are not the answers to our child’s speech, development or social problems. More likely than not, they contribute to these problems instead.

As I have said before, any time spent interacting with a cell phone or a computer or an i-pod is time your child could be interacting with a human. And human-to-human is much more powerful and meaningful than any human-to-machine interaction.

And I Don’t Believe in Boredom

I grew up in a family where uttering the words “I’m bored” were akin to taking the Lord’s name in vain. No child with as many toys as my siblings and I had any reason to be bored. We had games, blocks, dolls, toys and, better yet, books. We had a split level house with a family room, a backyard with a swing and a court full of playmates. I had an older brother and a sister two years younger than me—the perfect playmates. Most importantly I had my imagination. What possible reason could I have to be bored?

My mother grew up in the 50s in rural Kansas. Her family did not have much money and likely had many fewer toys to play with than we did. In addition, my mother was afflicted with polio at the age of eleven and was sent away for treatment over a day’s drive away from her family. She stayed in a hospital for 6 months with her family only visiting on weekends. If anyone knew what boredom felt like, it was my mother.

In the 50s there were no televisions in hospitals rooms. There were no ipods, ipads, smart phones, laptops, game boys or any of the other handheld electronic devices that the children of this era often sport. The greatest forms of entertainment were books, other children and their imagination. My mother learned the valuable lesson of how to entertain herself at a very early age.

From time to time I read about toddlers “getting bored easily” or I hear parents saying “Well, we went to that play area but he got bored really quickly.” When I read or hear those words, I cringe. Now don’t get me wrong, I have a toddler– a very active, easily distracted, slightly hyperactive two and a half year old. I understand that toddlers do not have long attention spans; however, I still do not mark up impatience or lack of interest to boredom. I mark it up to a lack of creativity on the parent’s part.

This evening I gave my toddler a bath. The twenty-five plus toys that I have bought and assembled for her over the past two years no longer seem to be of interest to her. If she is bathing by herself she will usually last for about one minute before announcing “I want ouuutttt…out momma…..out….!!!” Usually this means, I want to be with you mom. If she is bathing with her same age cousin, the bath can last for hours as she plays, dumps water on his head repeatedly, and “washes” his hair. If she is by herself and the bath has no longer become of interest to her it’s because I have failed to make it a place that challenges or intrigues her developmentally or I have failed to offer something even more important, my attention.

My daughter is not bored with the bathtub. She just needs the company of her mother or a fresh perspective.

Tonight when I put my toddler in the bathtub I took two of the toys that she’s had available to her for months and I sat down with her to show her how to make them work and to play with her for a few minutes. One was a cup and the other a cup with a wheel that spins when water runs through. Pouring the water back and forth between these two cups kept her occupied for the next ten minutes. Taking two minutes out of my evening bedtime activities opened up a world of entertainment and excitement for her. She was not bored with the bathtub – she just needed some direction as to how to entertain herself – and that is because she is two. These are the skills that we teach our children.

Adults in this era are accustomed to instant gratification. Hit a button and the computer comes on. Instant entertainment. Drive by a building with a window and viola! Instant dinner. Give your child an iphone and show them a video. Instant babysitter!

Before I had my daughter I was in a relationship with a man who was a single parent to a five year old and an eight year old. If the wait at the restaurant was longer than two minutes he insisted we leave because his children would not be able to handle it. A five minute wait for food was accompanied by a bag of toys to keep them occupied. As soon as the meal was over, he would hunt down the waiter or waitress because the kids were bored. To put it in context, this man was addicted to his Blackberry.

Regardless of whether those children were bored or not, by being constantly entertained or removed from environments in which they might have to invent ways to entertain themselves, they were being deprived of two valuable lessons: 1. We go to restaurants to socialize with the people we love, not to be entertained constantly. 2. If you want to engage in an activity while you are waiting for something, you can use your imagination to find something to keep you interested and stimulated.

In addition to being deprived of valuable lessons they were unfortunately learning a lesson that is all too common in this day and age: If there is a moment of silence or a moment of inactivity that there must be something to fill up that time.

For many parents, electronic toys have become a parent’s extension of their own need for instant entertainment gratification onto their children. Children are not being taught how to entertain themselves and how to socialize with other people, they are being taught that if they are lacking in something that is of interest they should either leave the environment or hit a button and turn on an electronic device.

Last week I was in an ice cream café and my young two year old went up to a three or four year old boy who was busying himself with his parents’ phone. My daughter was exploring her environment, socializing and finding ways to occupy herself that were pleasing to her. The boy was lost in his parents cell phone…well, lost in a non-human interaction and missing the challenge of learning to entertain himself. Refreshingly, the parents took the phone from the boy and encouraged him to socialize with my daughter. In my opinion, he should never have had the phone in the first place. Is ice cream and your parents company not entertainment enough?!

Using electronic devices to silence our children is crippling our children’s natural curiosity of the world and of their ability to socialize with others. As parents we need to be aware of this before we end up with a generation of children who are constantly reliant on some external source for entertainment. We are raising a generation of children who need it and need it now. We may be raising a generation of children who do not socialize well and who will one day be raising the next generation.

The change must begin now.

(Please leave comments in the comments section to let me know what YOU think!)