Minibeast Madness!

As you know, I am a nursery teacher and I love my job. My nursery has had a real ‘buzz’ (excuse the pun!) about it this last two weeks as we have been learning about mini-beasts and growing, watching our very own caterpillars grow from tiny babies into giants (and hopefully very soon into butterflies!) just like in The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is an absolutely brilliant book and it lends its self to all sorts of different learning activities. Pinterest is absolutely crammed with fantastic resources and ideas – this board is one of my favourites. The children in my nursery are interested in learning about all sorts of different bugs and creepy crawlies and it is with this in mind that I decided put a new slant on construction activities in nursery this week.

Generally the boys are the ones who visit the construction area. As much as we try to encourage the girls they are just not that interested. We have a lot of different construction kits, and we rotate them fairly frequently so that the children are able to explore each of them. We also allow the children to self-select when they want to, so often the children’s favourites such as Duplo or the Geoblocks are the main choice. A lot of the time we leave the children to follow their own ideas and use their own creativity to stimulate play, however at times I believe it is important to also structure their play and stimulate interest in particular areas. This is exactly what I have tried to do (quite successfully I might add!) with what I am about to share with you today…

Minibeasts Collage

We have an absolutely brilliant construction set called Kid K’Nex – it’s just like the traditional K’Nex material but is larger and is brightly coloured. It is perfect for the manipulative skills of the age range I work with (3-5) and is very versatile. The kits come with a number of different themes – we have a mix of vehicle-type kits and creature-type kits so as well as wheels, scoops and buckets, we also have a ready supply of eyes, tails and legs!

I set out the material in a Tough Spot, but just tipped it in – no special arranging required. Next I used some of our carpet tiles (these are an amazing free resource you can pick up from any carpet shop. Ours are courtesy of my very own hubby, Mr B, however any carpet shop is likely to have old, discontinued samples lying around that they will be able to give you if you ask.) and laid them around the area. I put a selection of mini-beast books on one and some simple instruction cards I made myself on the other. Finally I whipped up a few of my own creations to generate a bit of interest and to give an example of what could be achieved (my talents and time are both limited so please excuse the poor effort on my part! The ones the children created later were much better!!). And voila! A context-based construction area which, guess what, appealed to girls as well as boys! Groups of girls crowded round to make flowers and butterflies whilst the boys enjoyed making spiders and worms which chased me round the room!

Developing this area of the nursery only required a small amount of preparation and it led to a different atmosphere and focus in the playroom. The children were inspired to draw mini-beasts and to read the books in the construction area as well as in the story corner. Several of my more able children were also interested in copying the cards I made, writing the names of the mini-beasts shown and asking how to spell others. This one activity has created so may opportunities to develop play around insects and bugs – I think it has definitely been a success! Now I am keeping my fingers crossed that our caterpillars haven’t all gone into their cocoons at the weekend so that the children are going to be able to watch them as they do it!

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