Archives for posts with tag: Christmas

Lots of children, my own son included, can become disenfranchised by subjects that feel too much like hard work, with maths and literacy typically falling into this camp. For some maybe they sense failure and therefore feel safer not trying, for others the learning approach, mechanics of writing or lack of perceived relevance to their lives may be the root cause.

Walking back from school last week it was a welcome surprise to hear the words ‘That was the best literacy lesson ever!’ Now that’s a lesson ripe for Ofsted inspection! With descriptive content never the issue for my son, but the mechanics of punctuation, handwriting and staying on task the culprits, the challenge of writing a story using certain punctuation and with a word count of precisely 201 words, achieved the desired effect. With a verdict of ‘That was the best literacy lesson ever!’,  I expect you’re wondering how this was achieved? Working in pairs, story writing was elevated to a challenge and the focus on a precise word count, not 198, 200 or 202, but 201 words, apparently freed him up to write with excitement and drive.

This week his verdict was ‘Literacy is awesome!’ High praise indeed from an 8 year old sceptic! Walking through the school gate home from school he eagerly shared what they had done and later over dinner excitedly told the whole family about his robotic invention for tackling the tiresome chores of Christmas preparation. Like any good robot his naturally came complete with ipad (for online shopping of course), large box (for hiding presents in), extendable arms (for multiple present wrapping) and hover board for beating the Christmas rush! A great teacher is able to tap into the interests and strengths of children and in so doing help support and extend learning. Clearly this activity did just that. An avid inventor already, working in pairs his time and energy saving ideas flowed and literacy came to the fore as he labelled the gadgets and features of their invention.

With two such positive evaluations I was keen to share this great feedback and apparent change in attitude with his teacher. ‘How interesting’ his teacher reflected with evident satisfaction ‘as we scrapped literacy lessons last week and have been focussing on challenges, with a literacy focus instead!’ As the irony of this revelation sank in I couldn’t help smiling at the message written large by an 8 year old. With an ever greater Government focus on school readiness and meeting literacy and numeracy targets I hope Nicky Morgan will be persuaded by this convincing argument.  As for the robot invention, I’ll guess I’ll have to wait until next year!


Christmas Treasures

It was our staff Christmas party this weekend, the culmination of a good year’s work and lots of home baking! The tree was up and looking majestic, nibbles arranged and glasses ready to be charged with mulled wine. With adults happily ensconced on sofas and children playing nicely, a knock on the door bought the arrival of our youngest guest, a gorgeous 1 year old who I have been observing playing for the last 6 months. Raring to go and making an instant beeline for the peanuts, chocolates and glasses on the coffee table, adults sprang into action removing everything to a safer level. This little girl was clearly in exploratory mode and so an empty table was simply not going to do. Grabbing a treasure basket for her to play with kept her happily occupied for the next three hours picking up objects, taking them to the other guests and doing a circuit of the ground floor, always with object in hand. Even hardened skeptics would have been converted to the joys of treasure baskets seeing this toddler happily occupied and clearly on a mission to toddle and explore. Now you might be forgiven for thinking that she only played with the treasures because there was nothing else to do, but this was not the case. With a splendid real tree bedecked in sparkling lights and decorations, a growing mound of brightly wrapped presents under the tree and stairs to climb, there were lots more obvious distractions to be had.

Clearing up later, a warm glowing feeling pervaded. Not just because of the lovely company and tasty food but because this little 1 year old had poignantly reminded me of the importance of what we do, providing children with the opportunity to do what they do best, playing.

In a room packed with brightly coloured plastic toys it was difficult to know what visitors to Christmas in July would make of our natural, ethical and educational resources. Nestled in the corner, the dark and dingy space was filled with gorgeous images of children at play and our signature mix of purple, multi-coloured ribbons and a natural palette. Sadly we did not make it onto the UK Mums Christmas choice list, losing out to the giants in the toy world and their branded plastic or technological offerings. But visitors to our stand seemed to love what we were doing, particularly the ethical and environmental story behind each and every product from our British-made fabric resources to the hand knitted teddies, purses and batik made in centres in the UK.

It is always great to be recognised for what we are doing within the resource side of the company, especially when we are being compared to the mass-market industry leaders. Almost instantaneously upon the close of the show, Bloggers were tweeting us to say how refreshing the resources were, ‘@PlaytoZ they were one of my favourite things. The Stacking Hoops were absolutely gorgeous. LOVED them‘.  Another Mummy Blogger emailed us directly, ‘I have to say your stall was a refreshing change after all the plastic, fake colours and electrical gadgets that were on show.

As with all shows, our senses were bombarded with the noise and heat of the room, the sheer numbers of people wanting to speak to us and the frustration of driving and unloading in London. However, it was a great opportunity for us to showcase the wonderful talents of the adults with learning and physical disabilities that make our handmade items and a chance for us to say thank you to them for providing much of the awe and wonder that makes the products so appealing and ensures they stand out in a crowded room.