Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Wrapping up the Head Start year!!

Where has this year gone?! I seem to have blinked and missed a huge chunk of it and somehow here we are in the last week of Head Start for 2011. This first year of Head Start has been such an adventure for us and we are so grateful for all of you that have helped it to be such a success. When we started out in January we could never have imagined how much the programme would develop over time and how much we would learn from all our little Head Starters! It has been a huge honour and privilege to get to know all our Head Start children and f
amilies. But enough of that for the moment, what havewe been up to during the last couple of weeks of term 4?!...

Our last foundation skill for the year was actually our first dedicated to Gross Motor movement, namely, running and jumping (or crawling and bouncing for our littlest HS crew). One new addition to our HS curriculum for 2012 will be the inclusion of a Gross Motor skill each term - such as catching, throwing, hopping, etc...more fun to look forward to! So anyways, during this week our HS kids played raucous games of tag to get them running - we gave them felt belts with velcro tags attached to pull off and t
his got them moving!! They also played jumping games on the trampoline, under the pa
rachute and practiced jumping into hopscotch hoops. Our littlies had fun crawling through the tunnels, under the parachute and bouncing on the swiss balls. So it seemed like our first gross motor week was a firm favourite!

And then all of a sudden it was the last week....eek! The final week of term is always a 'Just For Fun' week so we pulled out all the favourite activities from the term and just let the kids go loose! Of course the Copy Me song was requested so the kids all had one last chance to show off their VERY impressive clave skills! We also put the new tongs to good use, had fun exploring the zips and velcro on the fine motor skill blanket and got stuck into the dried pasta again.
Of course it all went far too quickly and before you know it here I am signing off of my last blog of the year...and in fact for some time, as I will have to hand over the blogging duties for 2012 to one of my capable HS colleagues. I am taking a wee break from my HS life to welcome the latest member of our family to the world who is due at the end of January...the same week as term 1 of 2012 as it happens!! I will no doubt be popping in to see all my friends at Head Start (if I can make it out of the house in those first few weeks/months, my recollection of those is that they are pretty interesting?!) but in the meantime let me say THANK YOU for letting me share so many special moments with your precious little people. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year and remember to keep moving cos an Active Body equals an Active Brain!!!
Best wishes to you all, Lizz

+ Merry Christmas from the Head Start Team!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Exploring Fine Motor Control and Vision

Well another couple of weeks have whipped by and so here we are again covering two HUGE topics in just this teeny tiny blog - I will try to do them justice anyways! Also a big thank you to our latest Head Start instructor Jo who dived right in the deep end and covered all the classes last week!

The first skill to review is that of Fine Motor Control. This is the ability to use smaller muscle groups to perform tasks that are precise in nature. Our children develop their gross motor skills primarily by exercising their larger muscle groups to move around. These gross motor skills help to develop core strength and this in turn provides a stable base from which to initiate movement from the smaller muscle groups responsible for fine motor control. Gross motor movement is a key concept at Head Start and is being developed every week through the running, jumping and climbing opportunities presented to our littlies. So this week we built on all this strengthening and presented our Head Starters with some fun fine motor skills to practice!

Little fingers love to explore zips, buttons, clasps and velcro so we gave them plenty of chance to do so on our new dressing up and down blanket. Puzzle pieces were hidden in pockets and there were fun pictures to discover, this is an easy one to keep practicing at home too! Other fun gadgets included tongs for picking up teeny tiny animals and nuts and bolts to keep little fingers busy.

Our next topic was Vision, this is of course one of our most primary senses and goes through many stages of development. For our kids we provided many opportunities to work on eye tracking, the younger bunch enjoyed dropping balls into new ball track and watching them closely (often moving their whole body, not just their eyes!) and the bigger kids took this a step further by trying to whack the balls as they emerged from the bottom of the track...which was harder than it looked!! There was also a marble maze for the kids that were big enough to not want to put the marbles in their mouths ;-). We had some swinging bean bags to catch and throw and try to hit with a bat and to make this a bit harder we popped some of the kids up on swiss balls. We also had some number and letter games so the older Head Starters could use their eagle eyes to spot them when called out. This is a great week to play some games of eye-spy with your littlies - remember that even our little bubs can get into this, just substitute colours or sounds for the letters (e.g., eye spy with my little eye something that sounds like moo).

This week's new topic is the first of our new Gross Motor skills - the week will be filled with Running and Jumping...look out!!

Now is the time for you all to get out your diaries and put a big red circle around this coming Sunday (11 Dec) as we are hosting our first Party in the Park. This is a great chance to come and celebrate the end of a wonderful first year of Head Start with all our new friends. Bring a picnic and a bike and we will bring some songs and Head Start fun! There will be lots of info available about plans for next year and special deals for anyone who wants to sign up early. This will be held at Marlow Park (the Dinosaur Park at St Kilda) between 11am and 1pm - keep an eye out for our banner. If the weather is uncooperative check out our Facebook page in the morning for any news of cancellation. (surely not!).

Righto - off to bed before the start of another busy week...where does the time go?! Before you know it Santa will be here!
x Lizz & the Head Start Team

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Visual Sequential Memory & Touch - Double Doozy

Umm somehow I seem to have missed last week's post...apologies all (I am officially blaming baby-brain for all these oversights now by the way!). So consider this a double doozy catch up session.

Week 3 of Term 4 at Head Start was focused on Visual Sequential Memory and I can confidently say that the most popular resource this week was our shiny new posting box!
Visual Sequential Memory is an important skill
to work on as it enables us to look at sequences of pictures, letters or numbers, memorise them and then recall them when necessary. This is an important prerequisite for learning to spell and recognising sequences of numbers. For our littlies this week we practiced this skill through posting games, such as laying out a sequence of coloured letters and seeing whether they could post them in the correct order. For the older bunch this task was extended by posting in particular number sequences. Another fun exercise had the kids threading coloured buttons in sequential order to match those that Mum/Dad/Nana modelled for them. Similarly, coloured balls were rolled through pipes inparticular sequences to see if the order could be replicated. This week was also a perfect week for our Go kids to really get stuck into their alphabet and counting activities and they had a great time with our new magnetic letters and numbers!

In the blink of an eye it was week 4 (and 1/2 way through Term 4 by the way - eek). This week the focus was Touch....and

yes it was a messy one. The sensation of touch is essential for our lit
tlies development and is one of the primary ways that they learn about their environment. This week we had lots of new things for them to explore using their sense of touch. The firm favourites for the week was the touch and feel tank of dried pasta and our tub of dried rice filled with hidden treasure - under close supervision this was a hit with both our littler and older Head Starters. We managed to pry a few kids away from the touchy tanks to show them our Total Touch station which consisted of shredded paper to be emerged in, pillows and mattresses to be squashed between and lycra to be rolled up - the photo shows that this was also a popular choice too!
We also introduced a new massage box filled with textured goodies and a corresponding bag to try to match objects too just by using the sense of touch...this was harder than it looks! Our Go kids were extended further through tasks that got them identifying shapes and objects using the sensation of touch just through their feet - definitely a challenge!!

As for our littlest Head Start bunch the Puku Playdate babies have been grooving to their favourite tunes and their Mums have been looking at how to use different baby equipment and how to make some lovely developmental toys at home. Next week we will be attempting some baby massage so hopefully all the bubs are relaxed and enjoy that!

In other news we have our FREE seminar "From First Foods to Lunchbox Snacks" coming up on November 24 at 7.30pm - so if you are keen join us and dietician Hollie Buchanan to learn about pre-school nutrition, treats to tempt even the fussiest eater and to try out some delicious samples! Call us on 487 9698 to RSVP.

Maybe you will all be inspired to get the rice out in the backyard after this week?! Get imaginative and see what other touch sensations you can think of that will be new and informative for your little one.
Have a great week! x Lizz & the Head Start team

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Well Term 4 is well underway now with week 2 starting off nicely with some hot sunny weather! This week was our first foundation skill week of the term after letting the littlies acclimatise to the environment during week 1. This week we are getting stuck into Auditory Association. This is the ability to listen to a sound or word and be able to associate an object or letter/word with that noise. To start with our wee ones will learn to associate familiar noises and objects, such as barking = dog, meowing = cat, footsteps in the hallway = mum (not so good...hence the tiptoeing!). But eventually this skill will lead to the recognition of letters and words in response to the appropriate noises so this is another important precurser to literacy skills, so we might as well get cracking on it now!

This week we have some (very) noisy buttons and books to play with - these will give the kids the opportunity to listen to noises and then go on to identify what makes the noise. Of course you can do this at home with your best animal impersonations too! We also have our matching pairs to associate, first verbally then actively. For the older kids we will be scrambling letters and numbers to help them work on identifying the correct ones with just verbal cues. And of course there are new challenges to conquer in the obstacle course and new songs for Term 4...so much to do and so little time!

Tune back in next week to see what fun we get up to practicing our Visual Sequential Memory!

Long may the hot weather continue - a great excuse to get outside and see what you can identify just by using your ears!!!

x Lizz & the Head Start Team.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Term Four Taster...

Hi All,

Well the last couple of weeks have been filled up with the wind up of Term 3 and the mad rush to create a huge stock of new resources for Term 4!

During our last week of term we pulled out all the favourite activities and just let loose! The ball pit was resurrected for the littlies (for one last time I think as it is looking very well loved now), the fishing set had a work out and the trolley was put to good use. There were some awesome 'Fancy Dance' moves pulled out and the drums were given one last bash. We celebrated the kids' achievements with our end of term Head Start rewards and there were plenty of happy little faces taking their special badges home to put them on the fridge and show them off to Dad!

Since then the Head Start team has gone into overdrive to get sorted for Term 4 - there will be loads of awesome new resources and fun new activities and games to discover! A few of the skills to be covered next term are as follows:
Auditory Association - there are some exciting noisy books and amazing new sound buttons to help us learn about associated noises!
Touch - this is a FUN one, we will be exploring all sorts of different textures and learning through hands-on experience.
Vision - we will incorporate our new posting tubes this week and practice tracking objects both big and smal with our eyes.
Gross Motor - a new addition to the Head Start skills, each term will now include a gross motor skill. This term we get busy with running and jumping!

Our Puku Playdate classes also have some exciting new topics coming up, including, free activities to do in town, baby massage, choosing toys and development of milestones. Plus of course there will be new songs and activities for our littlest Head Starters!

So there is a little taster of what is yet to come...be sure to tune in each week to see how it all goes and to see some pictures of our Head Start kids showing off their amazing skills they have gained!

Term 4 starts the week following Labour Weekend and runs for 8 weeks - there are limited spaces still available so be sure to call us at 487 9698 if you are keen to enroll!

Enjoy the holidays!! x Lizz & the Head Start Team.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Visual Figure Ground Greatness

Well Term 3 is whipping by and this week was all about Visual Figure Ground, sounds tricky right? In fact its one of those skills that we actually are practicing all the time without really knowing it, but of course we are here to shed some more light and show you how it can be fine tuned!

In a nut shell Visual Figure Ground is the ability to discriminate between visual foreground and backgrounds. For example, being able to pick out patterns amongst a busy backdrop or finding a specific can on a shelf full of cans at the supermarket! This is an important skill to improve visual perception and helps your child to focus on something specific amongst other visual stimuli, for example, finding their spot on a page or on the blackboard when reading.

We used a special 'eye-spy' blanket for all our kids this week (should have taken a picture sorry...put that on the list of things to do!). This beautiful quilt is compiled of little squares each with a different picture on them. Our littlies spent loads of time just checking out the blanket and pointing out all the treasures on it. For the older bunch we popped some ocean creature figurines on top to see if they could pick them out...and the Go kids used their special grippers to pick them up. Just shows how a simple skill can be easily stretched over a wide range of ages.

We also had a number of 'Can You Find' pictures to work on identifying objects within busy backgrounds and various mazes to work thru - it was a busy week!!

We had a wonderful turn out for our Puku Playdate open day this week - some of our youngest Head Start babies yet! This week our focus was on Visual Development, what happens and how to best stimulate this natural process. We provided some great pictures to take home to keep the little eyes and minds working!

So only two weeks left in Term 3 - this week has been open to all our current Head Starters to enroll for next term, hopefully you have all got in early to ensure the spot you want. Next week will be open to all new entrants for Term 4 so make sure to check out the timetable at www.headstart.net.nz and give us a call at 487 9698 to secure your class!

Have a wonderful weekend...don't overdose on the rugby too much!
x Lizz & the Head Start team.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Figuring Out Auditory Figure Ground

Dare I say it, spring has arrived!! (?) This week has been glorious and perhaps it is due to the lovely weather allowing our wee ones to get out and about to burn off some energy, but my classes this week all seemed very attentive and keen to get into the skill based activities - how nice!

During week 6 of Term 3 we have been exercising our Auditory Figure Ground skills. This is the ability to discriminate between background and foreground noises. Or in other words, it is how we are able to attend to certain sounds while ignoring sounds that are unimportant. This is an important auditory processing skill and is crucial in the formal learning environment as it allows our child to focus and listen to instructions in a busy, noisy classroom environment.

So essentially this is a skill that we practice EVERY time we come to the Head Start environment as there is always lots of chatter, laughter and music in the background while we are explaining activities and interacting with our little people one-on-one. This week we took it one step further tho and added some different noises for our Head Start kids to listen out for throughout the class. It was exciting to see that as the classes progressed they all started tuning in to these noises faster and with less prompting...by next week we will have them baa-ing, moo-ing, meowing etc along with the sounds!!

Our world is a BUSY place nowadays so this skill to be able to tune out background noise to hear and ATTEND to relevant and important information is even more important than ever, this skill will truly give your little one a Head Start in the classroom so keep it in mind and practice it whenever possible. Take the opportunity when in a busy environment to talk one-on-one with your little one, for example in the supermarket or shopping mall point out interesting things, play a game of eye spy or discuss what is going on around you. Head to the park and see how many birds you can hear over the general noise of the playground or to the pool and listen for the whirr of the spa pool or siren before the wavepool starts - you get the idea!!

This week in our Puku Playdate we looked at some fun, educational toys to make at home...honestly some of the best toys ever are free!! One fail-safe idea is a posting box made out of an ice-cream container (great excuse for dessert too!) with round holes and rectangles cut in the top to post milk bottle lids thru (so bubba has to turn the lid on its side to get thru the rectangles), this is always a winner!!

I hope you are all out enjoying the sunshine...or enjoying it in a quick moment of nap-time solitude as I am! Keep well till next week and don't forget to tune back in to see what we are up to in week 7.
x Lizz & the Head Start team

Friday, 2 September 2011

Very Visual Association

Half way through Term 3 already....WHAT?!?! I can't believe how fast it has gone and how much all our little ones have accomplished.

This week we tackled the foundation skill of Visual Association. This is the ability to draw associations between two or more different but related items. To start with this is most easily done with familiar items, such as sock & shoe, knife & fork etc, but importantly this skill builds up to include associations between visual shapes of letters and formation of words, eg, C + A + T = CAT.

For our littlest Head Starters we made an effort to point out all the things that could be associated together in the class - visual associations are everywhere once you start looking for them!! We talked about socks & shoes, eggs in cartons, fish in the 'pond', pegs in bottles...the associations were endless. Sometimes all it takes is the intention to find associations and before you know it they are all around us!

Our Ready/Steady kids spent time looking through our visual association items to work out what should be matched up and in no time had figured them all out...we had to make sure that the toothbrush and toothpaste wasn't put to actual use though! One of our Steady kids suggested that Sausages are associated to forks...can't really argue with that, and then when questioned further he thought that Sauce was another associated item...however, in the end we got around to matching the knife with the fork!

The Go kids whipped through the visual association items and then started working on pictures that could be associated in different ways on the whiteboard. The speed that our older children are picking up the new tasks is always astounding!

This week in our Puku Playdate the focus was on sensory and tactile toys and how to make a Heuristic toy box. This was also a great opportunity to start building on body awareness for these tiny tots as we used items from our sensory box to brush over their cheeks, fingers, toes, tummys etc. Already we are getting some smiles when the familiar songs are coming on and lots more confidence and strength being shown during the tummy time activities...great fun to see.

Next week brings a new auditory skill - should be fun...lots of crazy noises to look out for. Keep happy and healthy and tune back in soon.
x Lizz & the Head Start team

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Dishing out Directionality

Week 4 heralded our first Motor Skill week of Term 3... exciting stuff because of course the physio in me always loves an excuse to get the kids MOVING in different ways. The skill this week was Directionality which is what helps children understand the space around them. Earlier in the year we learnt about laterality, which is the understanding that our bodies have two sides, left and right, now it is time to take this internal awareness and apply it the world around us. Applying internal spatial awareness to external surroundings will help our children identify where things are and and where they are in relation to these things.

In order for our smaller Head Starters to start practicing directionality our parents/grandparents had to exercise their oral language skills by providing verbal explanations throughout the class, for example "well done, you are crawling through the tunnel", "good job, you are hiding behind the slide". By providing this feedback we were able to draw the little ones' attention to their position in space in relation to objects around them. Try this at home by taking every opportunity to use 'direction' oriented language such as, in/out/up/down/through/under/over/behind/between/beside etc. Using props such as toys, trucks, food etc can be a good way to help initiate these conversations too.

For the older bunch we took the directionality a bit further and added sign-posted directions to our obstacle course to get them thinking about moving left/right/up/down/through/around etc. To make it a bit more challenging we threw some motor movement signs into the mix too so the kids were doing things like skipping up the ramp, walking in baby steps along the beam and jumping backwards onto the beanbag...I told you that I love the see this bunch MOVING!!

On a slightly different note, we had a great session with our ADORABLE Puku Playdate babies this week. The focus for these wee ones was Tummy Time activities and how to make this fun and easy at home...there were even a few smiles when they were on the swiss balls and checking themselves out in the mirror!! I will pop a picture up later in the week of the babies doing their best 'Speckled Frog' impression over our bolster/log - cute!

So everyone, get your best direction-words going and see what you can come up with this week. Remember to tune back in next week to see how our next visual skill goes down in week 5.
Till then, keep smiling! Lizz & the Head Start Team

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Auditory Sequential Memory workout

What a crazy week 3! It started with a snowy blizzard that managed to close pretty much the whole city down, including Head Start classes on Monday unfortunately. Those that could escape from their houses on Tuesday came down for a much needed run around, and I can tell you that there was some SERIOUS cabin fever going on.

This week was all about practicing Auditory Sequential Memory which is the ability to remember things heard in sequence. This helps with other tasks such as learning to spell, repeating number sequences and recalling events. Obviously this is an important skill for us adults, its always good to be able to remember that list of things your better half asked you to do (even if it was during the sports news.....). So it is never to early to start practicing this auditory skill.

Our littlest Head Starters listened carefully to our Gibber Gabber game and some even started to mimic the crazy noises back proving that they were retaining that weird auditory sequential information! Try it at home and see how you get on, all you need to do is make up some weird noises and encourage your little one to say them back to you, trust me, the weirder the better, eg. meep meep meep. screech screech boop... how long a sequence can you come up with?!

We also read thru some classic fairytales and used picture cards to see if the kids could remember what they had heard and re-create the story - Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Bears were definite hits! Our older kids listened carefully to number sequences and tried to remember what they had heard to make the same sequence on the whiteboard.

This auditory skill is something that we are actually encouraging often by asking our little people to follow basic instructions during their day. Try to remember to keep the instructions short and concise to start with and as your child develops you can make the instructions longer and more complex. To start with just 2 stage instructions are a good idea to keep it achievable - your child will love the praise you offer when they succeed! For the older kids you can practice by asking them to recall what they did over the day or play games like calling out a number sequence or a letter sequence to see what they can remember, this is also a great way to start with basic maths and spelling - fridge magnets are a great resource for this and might help to keep little minds busy while you are sorting out the tea!

Next week we have our first motor skill of Term 3 - Directionality...its a great excuse to get even more creative with our equipment course so tune back in next week for an update and some photos.
Keep smiling till then, x Lizz & the Head Start team.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Memories of Visual Memory Week

Welcome back Head Start followers! We have finished week 2 of Term 3 and it was jam packed full of new resources for our little ones to explore. This week we covered the skill of Visual Memory...a good one for us oldies to polish up on too actually.

Visual memory is the ability to make a vivid visual image in your mind of a visual stimulus, such as a word, a picture or a series of objects, and once that stimulus is removed, be able to visualize or recall this image without help. Think about how often you utlisise this skill in your everyday life - remembering a phone number you wrote down earlier or trying to remember what those new shoes looked like that you wanted to buy in town! For the littlies this skill will help them to remember which letters are which, especially important for those that look very similar such as b's and d's! This is a practical skill that is needed for many facets of everyday life and it's never to early to start practicing it!

Our littlies had a great time trying to find the hidden elephant from under tins...they became very adept at watching carefully to make sure they didn't get tricked when the tins moved around. There were also some pretty cute squeals of joy when the successfully uncovered the elephant - CUTE!

Things got a bit more challenging for our Ready kids (although the elephant hunt was a hit with these guys too) as they got busy in the ball pit playing our Search and Rescue game, looking at a visual cue and then searching for the corresponding picture in the pool...Dora and Car's characters were a crowd pleaser!

Our Steady kids worked on their visual memory playing Hide and Seek with figurines under a scarf - they carefully paid attention to see which figure would 'magically' disappear each time.

Things ramped up even more for the Go crowd. They got busy viewing picture series cards and repeating what they had seen back and also spent time re-creating patterns with blocks and sticks to copy what they had seen before.

These are all great ideas to re-create at home and I am sure that you can all come up with some more challenging tasks of your own, we are always interested to hear your ideas so feel free to post any of your favourites on our Facebook wall!!

Next week we have loads more fun in store as well as heaps of new resources so check back in for an update and ideas of how you can continue the fun at home.
Till then, have a great weekend and look after each other.
x Lizz & the Head Start team

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


Just an update on our upcoming free seminar.

We are pleased to host Wendy Perera, an educational consultant for Teeny Tiny Consultants (www.teenytiny.co.nz) as she guides us though the stages of development and how you can support your child. She will present a variety of hand picked quality resources to support your child's life long love of learning.

This evening will provide information about child development and selection of appropriate toys, books and games for children from birth to 8 years of age.

Thursday 18 August, 7.30pm. Head Start = 350 South Road Caversham.

Not to be missed!! Please RSVP to 487 9698. All Welcome, spread the word and bring your friends!

x Lizz and the Head Start team.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Term 3 kicks off!

Welcome back Head Start blog-readers! This week kicked off Term 3 here at Head Start and so far it has been fun-packed.

The first week of term is an introductory session to give our newest Head Starters a chance to get acquainted with the environment and to let our returning Head Start kids get back into the groove of classes. With so many seasoned pro-s in the classes now it was all go from the start!

This week also marked the launch of our Puku Playdate sessions....Oh My how we forget how little babies are to start with!! Once the general clucking was over with we had a wonderful time introducing our littlest Head Start members to the joy of music and movement. We also ran through some baby massage techniques and put the Mum's to work doing some post-natal exercises. I didn't take it personally that some of the babies couldn't keep their eyes open for the entire class (in fact maybe that is a complement!). We have loads in store for this class in the upcoming weeks including tummy time activities, ideas for toys, tips for storytime, pictures for visual development and much much more. It is going to be great fun, so if you know of anyone keen to join us on Monday mornings at 10.15am we would LOVE to hear from them!
My other new adventure for the week was delving into the world of the Head Start GO class...we have a new session on Mondays so I am now lucky enough to have a class with these great kids. This class has a real literacy and numeracy focus and it was great to see the GO kids sink their teeth into some really tricky activities, whilst still having a ball on the obstacle course!

On that note - make sure to pop Thursday 18 August into your diaries. We are hosting a FREE seminar on Developing Literacy and Numeracy in the Early Years. It will be presented by childhood specialist Wendy Perera who is a consultant for Teeny Tiny consultants. You can check out their great work at www.teenytiny.co.nz. RSVP to 487 9698 if you can join us on the 18th, 7.30pm at Head Start (350 South Road, Caversham).

Till next week's excitement of Auditory Association...keep smiling!
x Lizz & the Head Start team

Friday, 22 July 2011

So long Term 2...Bring on Term 3!!

Well with all the madness of our last week of Term 2 I managed to miss the blog last week...hopefully you have all been too distracted in the school holidays to notice?! Our final week of Term 2 was devoted to FUN. We pulled out all the old favourites and had a blast. The main request from our littlies was the re-emergence of the ball pit and our Ready kids had pulled out the claves for the Copy Me song before I even got a chance to put the music on! The ever popular parachute got a workout and the bubble machine now needs a much deserved holiday too. It was great fun and went too fast as always.

Of course there is no rest for the Head Start team during the school holidays (in and out of the office for that matter!) we have all been madly busy preparing for another fun-filled-educational-motivational Term 3. We have 8 new foundation skills to introduce to you all and will of course be outlining those here each week throughout the term. Let me just say that there have been LOTS of new resources being put together so lots of new things to look forward to! I have also been flat out sourcing lots of new music for all our classes and there are some goodies in store, a couple of personal favourites are The Fancy Dance and Helicopter songs - they will get everyone grooving. I am SUPER excited that we have ordered a huge Stretchy Cord which will be another fantastic option for our final activity song...trust me the little ones will love it.

The Puku Playdate classes are being fine-tuned and are looking to be heaps of fun for both baby and Mum. I have been brushing up on my baby-massage skills and have been revising the all important core and floor exercises that are SO crucial in the post-natal period.

So now all there is left to do is SIGN UP if you haven't done so already - there are still a few spaces throughout the week and in our new Saturday classes so be sure to give us a call on 487 9698 or check out www.headstart.net.nz to enroll before the first week of August.

In the meantime have a wonderful rest of the school holidays, the weather gods have definitely been on our side eh?! We have been having a wonderful time with our little ones' grandparents staying with us, she will be very disappointed to lose her entourage next week but thankfully we will have the Cadbury's Chocolate Festival to keep us entertained by then. We are heading out to the Teddy Bear's Picnic at Larnach Castle on Thursday and then may brave the crowds at the Jaffa Race on Friday - perhaps we will see you all on our travels!
Till Term 3...stay safe and happy!
x Lizz & the Head Start Team

Friday, 8 July 2011

Awesome Auditory Completion!

Week 10 already...is it just me or are the days slipping by faster and faster (isn't that what happens as you get older - uh oh?!) Anyhoo - this week was our last week with a skills focus for Term 2 and it was all about Auditory Completion.

Auditory Completion is along the same lines as Visual Completion, except instead of mentally filling in the blank parts of pictures and objects it is the ability to fill in or complete words or sounds. This is one of those skills that you are probably doing without meaning to anyways, like when you are reading My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes and your little one is shouting out 'Boxes' before you even get the end of the page. They have just worked their developing Auditory Completion skills by using their existing knowledge to fill in the last word. This skill is important as not only does it help in the early stages of reading as it helps your child to recognise and read familiar words but it also helps with language acquisition and cognition.

So this week our little ones practiced some classic nursery rhymes to see whether they could fill in the blanks by using their Auditory Completion skills. We started off by using visual cues too and progressed till the cues were no longer needed and the missing words were popping out spontaneously...didn't take long!! For our bigger kids this was a great chance to play Eye Spy to see what things they could come up with starting with particular letters or sounds from around the room, eg. Eye Spy something beginning with W... wall, window etc. This was also a great chance to pull out one of my favourite resources, the ever useful Flash Cards. For the little ones these were great for completing words starting with easy letters, A for apple, B for ball, C for cat etc...again either with or without the visual cues. And for the older bunch these were a great starting point to see how many words they could complete starting with each letter. This is an easy place to start this skill at home, flash cards are a great investment and can even be downloaded for free from many sites online (Google 'Flash Cards'), and if you have an iPhone, iTouch or iPad there are some cool apps that have interactive flash cards for free!

Of course there was also plenty of time for random fun, so I have included a couple of pics of our On Your Marks bunch exploring different activities!

So what is the best advice for practicing this skill at home. OPPORTUNITY (have we heard that before?!)...give your child the chance to complete familiar rhymes and favourite books, sometimes all that is needed is a nice long expectant pause!! Repetition is again the key to success here. For the older child, get creative, how about cutting out letters from magazines and see how many words your child can complete that start with that letter (eg. S, Sh, etc). To progress this, assign a category to the words and see how many you can come up with (eg. All the animals starting with B, bear, baboon, bull etc).
Next week is our last week of Term 2 and the focus for the week will be FUN!! All our favourite activities, games and songs will be pulled out and a great time had by all. Then it is a short break before heading into a whole bunch of new activities, skills and fun in Term 3!
Till next week - keep warm and have fun together. x Lizz & the Head Start Team

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Continuing Fun...Crossing Midline

Week 9 and winter has well and truly set in...luckily the heat pump has been working overtime so Head Start has been the place to be!

Crossing Midline was this week's skill focus. Imagine you have drawn a line right down the middle of your body, Crossing Midline is the ability to reach across this line with arms or legs to cross them over to the other side. This is an important skill as it helps to strengthen dominance on one side, is needed for reading and writing and for many other daily activities. Children who have not developed this ability may tend to switch hands as they cross their midline or move themselves into a position so that they can do all their work on one side of the body - picture a child slouched at their desk with their paper turned sideways so that they can write up and down the page instead of from left to right! They may also have difficulty scanning across a page to read or have problems sitting cross-legged on the floor. Developing the ability to cross the midline not only helps with these skills but also helps to strengthen the core muscles as the trunk twists to reach across, this in turn helps with core stability which is crucial for control over fine motor tasks.

So, how did we practice Crossing Midline this week? Our little On Your Mark babies were given posting boxes in strategic positions to e
ncourage them to cross over midline and Mums were given rhymes with crossing over actions to do after nappy changes! Our Ready kids got busy fishing from a pond on one side and depositing them into the bucket on their other side.
They also had fun with scarves to encourage large arm movements in all directions.
For the Steady and Go kids there was bean bag tossing from the beam, reaching from one side and throwing to a box on the opposite side. They also practiced drawing long horizontal lines and Figure 8's and scanning story boards from left to right. All this amongst the organised chaos and laughter of the equipment circuit and boogie moves of the music segments!

Only two more fun-filled weeks left of Term 2, don't forget to check out our website for the Term 3 timetable and get in quick as spaces are filling FAST!! www.headstart.net.nz. Till next week - stay happy and healthy and keep moving (it will help warm you up!!).
x Lizz & the Head Start Team

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Visual Sequencing and Our Latest News

WOW what a week we have had! Firstly the Ultimate Playdate was an ULTIMATE success - thanks to everyone who came along and made it such a wonderful day out. It was fantastic to seeeveryone having such a great family outing. The Edgar Centre turned into a hive of activity as all the kids bounced, climbed, crawled, ran, biked and generally just had a GREAT time. We will be sure to let you all know when our next playdate is on the horizon.

Secondly, our Term 3 timetable has officially been released to the masses and is now available on our website (www.headsta
rt.net.nz). Be sure to get in quick as the spaces are filling fast already (Term 3 starts the first week of August).
An exciting development is the addition of our new classes called the Puku Playdate. These classes are for our littlest Head Starters from birth to when the time they start cruising/crawling. Puku Playdate will provide great opportunities for Mums and babies to
bond and socialise, learn tummy time exercises, strengthen Mummy's core and floor
after birth and participate in active movement right from the word go! This will also include a coffee date afterwards and guest speakers on baby-related topics...HOW EXCITING!
Also, due to popular demand we are adding a bunch of Saturday Head Start classes - check out the timetable to see which one will suit you best.

Right, now onto our Foundation Skill of the week. Week 8 at Head Start has been all about Visual Sequencing! This is the ability to see objects in a particular sequential order. Of course this covers the basic A,
B, C and 1, 2, 3 concepts but also can include sequential orders of events. It is important to practice this skill as it is crucial for learning to count and read and organising letters when learning to write! Personally, what I have learnt by looking in depth into this skill is that it is never to early to introduce visually sequential stimuli. This week has motivated me to get practicing with our littlie (18 months) and already she is counting 1, 2, 3...just shows that they are always capable of surprising us eh?! Her Daddy is super onto it too as he has been reading her name on her door to her every morning since day dot. I a
m sure this is why she recognises her name in print already!

Anyhoo, in class this week we set up story boards to set out in sequential order - this is a great one to do at home too. You could take pictures of your child throughout the day and then see whether they can organise the pictures into the correct order of their normal routine (eg. get up, have breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed, go to kindy...etc). As our littlies grow this is also a great chance to discuss their daily activities, see if they can tell you what they did over the day in the right order. We also had a grab box full of
numbers, letter blocks and ducks to sequence into size order which proved a big hit...who knew shredded paper could provide so much entertainment!?! Remember that repetition is the key to success here and that there are ENDLESS opportunities to point out examples of visual sequencing. Magnetic letters and numbers are a great place to start and good for keeping little hands busy while dinner is being prepped!

So next week we have 'Crossing Midline' in store - another fun motor skill, so be sure to check in again! In the meantime stay happy and healthy and keep moving!!!
x Lizz & the Head Start Team

Ps. we have had some very cute bunnies in our class lately dancing to Mrs Bunny...so I have included a couple of pics to share the bunny-love!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Auditory Analysis and Synthesis

Week 7 has whizzed past here at Head Start (hence it is Thursday already and I have only just got around to writing this blog!!) - we had an eventful week getting ready for our inaugural ULTIMATE PLAYDATE this weekend and also finalising and releasing our Term 3 timetable...more about all that later.

So what did we get up to in class this week? The focus was on another auditory set of skills, namely Auditory Analysis and Synthesis, sounds tricky right?! However, these skills are something that you will most likely be practicing in everyday life without actually realising it. Auditory Analysis is the ability to process noises and sounds to determine what they are or what they mean and Synthesis involves putting these sounds into context in order to understand what they are or blending noises together to make sense of them as a whole. SOoo all that time you spend saying "can you hear that noise? what is it" you are actually providing a valuable opportunity to practice these auditory skills. The more opportunity you provide you child to listen for sounds (especially unusual and new sounds) the better! When you littlie hears the lock turn in the front door and shouts out DADDY they have used their auditory skills to listen to a noise, process what it means and to put it into context to come to the realisation that Daddy must be home...cute, and educational.
So like I mentioned earlier this skills is largely about creating opportunity for your child to process sounds. In class this week we broke out all the musical instruments to practice our listening skills and discussed ways in which you can practice this at home. Such as going on 'auditory walks' where you see how many different sounds you can hear - how about getting your little one to close their eyes in their buggy and see what sounds they can recognise. This is also a great time to pull out all those noisy books to listen to farmyard sounds, different tractors/trucks etc. For the older ones how about breaking down larger words into their individual sounds and see if they can blend/synthesise the sounds together to work out what the whole word is! Remember, opportunity to learn from auditory cues is all around us all the time, it is just making the most of it!!

So I hope that you are all geared up to come to our Ultimate Playdate this weekend - 10.30-12noon at the Edgar Centre. We are bringing all our HS equipment and setting up an obstacle course, an under 2's area, a bike circuit and a bouncy castle. There will also be music and activities for everyone! We have released our Term 3 timetable to our current Head Start families this week and will be launching it to everyone else at our playdate on Sunday - another great reason to come check us out. The new timetable will also soon be available to view on our website www.headstart.net.nz

Hopefully we will see you all on SUNDAY!!! In the meantime have a wonderful week and tune back in next week to see what fun we have been having!
x Lizz & the Head Start team.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Double Trouble - Eye-Foot Coordination & Visual Completion

Whoops its week 6...did you all miss the blog last week?! Winter bugs well and truly attacked our household so I sadly missed out on week 5 at Head Start (BOO! Although Anna assures me her classes went brilliantly). Thankfully we are all happy and healthy again and I have had a fantastic day with my HS classes today. We made up for lost time and explored two new activity stations covering Eye-Foot Coordination and Visual Completion.

Visual Completion is the ability to see or touch a portion of an object and be able to visualise what the object is as a whole. For example, imagine a square with a triangle lying over top of it so that you can only see the four corners of the square, you would still understand that there was a square behind the triangle...that makes sense right?! For our littlies we can practice this skill by playing games like slow peekaboo, cover up an object that your child usually names easily and slowly pull back the cover to reveal portions of the object - see how much (or little) you can show before they tell you what it is. We extended this idea in class by using peekaboo windows over pictures of familiar things, for example a picture of Thomas the Tank Engine hidden with only a small window to see a portion of the picture - a fun concept to try at home with some of your favourite picture books! For the bigger kids we took these ideas of completion even further and started finishing partially drawn shapes on the white board...who knew join the dots could be so educational?!

Our next new concept was Eye-Foot Coordination - FUN. What a great excuse to practice kicking balls into our new soccer goal! This foundation skill is all about learning to control the movement of our feet in relation to what we see with our eyes. The possibilities are endless but a few of the ideas that we had today were kicking balloons on strings for the littlies, kicking balls down the ramp and into a goal for our runners, balancing on the beam and stomping on our jumping leap-frog. In our final balloon song we kept the theme going by seeing how many bubbles we could either catch on our feet or stomp out to pop them! Keep up the good work at home by setting up a goal to kick into (balloons are a good indoor option), make your own balance beam out of rugby socks and place some obstacles to step over along the path (make it wiggly if you want to get really tricky). Or how about getting creative with scarves, balancing them on a foot while standing on one leg or trying to pick one up just using toes (think like a monkey!) - you get the idea, remember to post any great ideas you have on our Facebook wall so all our Head Starters can benefit from your creativity!!!

Righto, that's it for this week. Have fun, stay well and tune back in next week for a run down on Auditory Synthesis and Analysis.
x Lizz & the Head Start Team

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Awesome Auditory Pattern Practice

Its week 4 of Term 2 here at Head Start and we have been having a ball practicing our auditory pattern listening and creating skills! Auditory Patterns are all around us and learning to listen and attend to them is another important skill that will help our children prepare for the rigors of formal learning. Auditory patterns are sounds or words that repeat to form a predictable pattern.

Pure listening skills can sometimes be overlooked in our world that is now so jam packed with multi-media. We are surrounded by so many, often overwhelming, sights that just listening to auditory information is a skill that many children are not exposed to often enough. Being able to listen and attend to auditory information at ease frees up your child's attention so that they can concentrate on other tasks, such as problem solving, obviously a huge advantage for school age children. Also, being able to attend to particular sounds means that children can filter the auditory information that is all around them and allows them to process the sound that they need to attend to, imagine how important this skill is in a busy, noisy classroom! Just like any skill, listening is something that must be practiced regularly to see improvement. Introducing auditory patterns is a fun way to help your child learn to attend to sound and to recognise repetitive and repeating patterns.

This week at Head Start we went crazy with the musical instruments! The littlies got busy creating their own patterns for Mum/Dad/Nana to copy - resulting in some loud and wonderfully creative patterns. Handsome Josh is pictured getting busy with the instruments. It didn't take long for our littlest Head Starters to realise that if they clanged on a drum three times that this pattern was immediately repeated back to them...this created a few smiles! Our Steady kids got busy listening to and then repeating patterns back; there was some awesome foot stomping, hand clapping, rattle shaking and drum crashing going on. The patterns got progressively more complex and imaginative with auditory cue cards to guide the way for our Go kids.
So how can you continue with the good work at home? Get busy creating patterns, who needs instruments when you have pots and pans?! See if you can keep the beat to your favourite songs or play some patty-cake with your wee one. How about making some rhythm sticks out of wooden spoons and see how long you can keep the pattern going for. Practice your listening skills when you are out and about, head to the park or playground and take some time to see how many different sounds you can hear, different birds, cars or buses passing by, kids on their bikes, footsteps in the gravel - you get the idea. Take note of all the times you have loads of auditory stimulation going on at home and try to spend some time every day with just one quiet noise on to attend to (not the tv!)...you will be amazed at how relaxing this can be after all the hustle and bustle of the day!

Next week we are back onto a visual skill, so remember to swing back to check out how our week of Visual Completion pans out. Have a great week everyone!
x Lizz & the Head Start Team

ps. Aiofe is our other star of the week showing off some pretty impressive multitasking on the beam...don't worry, there is always plenty of time for our obstacle course amongst all the foundation skills!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Becoming Aware of Body Awareness

Week three already?! Where do the hours/days/months go? As all of you with littlies know there are never enough hours in every day!

So this week in our seemingly lightening-quick Head Start sessions we were focusing on Body Awareness. As a physiotherapist, this topic is dear to my heart as being aware of our bodies is just so important for so many facets of life! In a nutshell Body Awareness is the internal awareness (in technical jargon: proprioception) of where your body parts are without having to look at them. In other words the understanding of where your arms, legs, head etc are in relation to each other. This understanding is the first step towards greater spatial awareness, which is all about knowing where your body is in space and in relation to your environment. This is how we are able to duck thru small doorways and squeeze between pieces of furniture - as an interesting aside, your spatial awareness sometimes gets a bit confused as you grow a big preggie belly as your brain doesn't register the change in your shape as fast as your belly grows...which is why suddenly you can find yourself wedged between objects and accidently rubbing your belly on that stranger in the supermarket! Anyhoo, back to the point...as kids learn about where their body parts are and develop a greater understanding of where their body is in space they are better equipped to move in a coordinated way, such as running, turning, leaping and generally just being active.
When they get to school this can help them to navigate their way in a busy classroom environment and also helps to stabilise their trunk while moving their arm in an isolated and coordinated way while handwriting. Who knew that all those songs and games like Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and the Simon Says could be the gateway to so many other skills?!

So what did we do this week at Head Start? For our OYM kids we played with tactile objects out of our heuristic treasure box (google that if you find some more hours in your day ;-) ) to introduce different sensations to different parts of the body (feathers on the toes was a big favourite). Our Ready kids had a ball copying Mum/Dad/Nana by popping a beanie baby on different parts of their body (as our lovely Stasa is demonstrating beautifully in the photo!) whilst the Steady bunch took this one step further by seeing how far they could walk while balancing the beanie (elbow beanies were super tricky!). The Go team got super inventive with their Body Twister moves managing to get elbows, knees, hands and feet into positions that are not recommended for the older members of the class ;-) (remember when you used to be able to do the splits...oh the days!). Our gorgeous Darcia is pictured doing her very best Twister moves!

So all in all, another great week for the Head Starters of Term 2. Try to get creative this week and use your newly practiced Body Awareness skills at home too - What a great excuse to get out your newborn clothes out of storage and dress up all the teddies...see how many parts of the body you can throw into the conversation! Try looking thru your books and see how many noses/ears/toes etc you can find on each page. For the older ones get creative with your Simon Says instructions. Lastly, see if you can make up actions to all your favourite songs, Hokey Tokey, Knees Up Mother Brown and If You're Happy and You Know It are great places to start but I am sure you can think of loads more!

Have fun and keep warm - I am looking forward to exploring Auditory Patterning with you all next week!
Lizz & the Head Start Team

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Conquering Visual Consistency

Week Two and it already seems like our newest Head Starters have settled in beautifully. This week we tackled the Foundation Skill of Visual Consistency. In a nutshell this is the understanding that despite differences such as size, colour and orientation an object remains the same. For example, a duck is still a duck even though it may be brown, white or speckled, may be big or small, and may have its head underwater. It is the ability to mentally turn and rotate objects in the mind and to picture what they would look like which in turn helps to distinguish differences between objects. In terms of formal learning this is an important skills to have mastered when learning handwriting and reading as it helps kids understand that letters stay the same despite changes in size or shape (font size, font type, upper and lower cases).

As Lucy and I were reading our Cats book at home this week for the six-millionth time it dawned on me that this series of books is quite handy for practicing visual consistency. I can highly recommend the books; Cats, Dogs, Head & Tails by Matthew van Fleet as being total favourites for toddlers as well as having the added bonus of illustrating great examples of visual consistency! Our personal favourite is the Tails page containing the scratch and sniff Skunk ('Tails Stinky!').

Till next week have fun finding examples of visual consistency at your place too!
Lizz & the Head Start Team

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Term 2 kicks off!

We have had a great start to Term 2 here at Head Start. It has been fantastic catching up with lots of our friends from Term 1, isn't it crazy how our littlies can change SO much over just a few short weeks, it is such a privilege to watch these little people grow up! Also, it has been exciting to meet many of our new Head Start kids with their Mums & Dads & Grandparents - you all will be seasoned experts before you know it.

This week at Head Start was focused on FUN - we pulled out lots of our favourite activities from Term 1 and spent the time introducing and getting reacquainted with the Head Start environment. Firm favourites for this week in my classes were the treasure box, parachute song and of course the new bubble machine (great to get little feet jumping and little hands reaching!).

We have all new foundational skills lined up for Term 2, as always focusing on visual, motor and auditory skills known to be important pre-cursers for formal learning. We are going to have a great time working thru all of these together over the next 10 weeks... stay tuned for information on Week 2's foundation skill!

Have a great week! - The Head Start Team

Monday, 25 April 2011

Reflecting on a term of Head Start

Some busy kids who have had a Head Start
We thought this would be a great time to say thanks to all the wee ones, (and their parents) who attended Head Start this year. We have had so much fun watching the kids develop over such a short space of time (10 weeks!).
We had the pleasure of watching two wee ones take there first steps independently (thanks for sharing such a special moment with us!), and have been amazed at how kids learn to climb.
Reflecting on the first sessions, it was awesome to see how quickly the kids learnt songs, and started to concentrate on some of the more attentionally demanding tasks. We got some great feedback from parents like:

“has gone from crawling to walking/running since starting Head Start. Now enjoys sitting at one thing for longer and is more comfy at trying new things. We really enjoy coming and I have seen her grow heaps”
“much more confident and much better at throwing and attempts catching”
“more willing to explore his environment now”

“climbing skills in particular have come ahead in leaps and bounds. She also had a strong fear a balloons which has now disappeared since being at headstart. I also think she is more physically confident and willing to take more risks!”

So thanks for coming along and we look forward to watching your kids develop more with the new programme we have ready for Term 2!!

Saturday, 23 April 2011


Bike seat from R & R sport
Taking the oppourtunity of some nice weather we put the bike seat on the back of the bike and went exploring the Central Otago rail trail.
Bike seats are a great way to help your little ones explore the outside environment. Kids need to have excellent trunk control before sitting on these and they work just like a carseat....except they can see so much more!

Our bike seat is a Topeak and we got it from R & R sport. It's got adjustable foot rests, harness and a built in suspension.

Thats probably enough of our wee holiday. Must get back to work as only one more week until the next term of Head Start begins, we still have a few spaces left and if you are keen you can enroll online at www.headstart.net.nz.
More to come about the foundational movement skills....

Friday, 22 April 2011


 Why do we encourage climbing at Head Start?
Kids love to climb!

Do you remember the days when kids used to play on the bars at school, or climb trees? Climbing is so great for strengthening the muscles in little peoples arms. Climbing is called a gross motor activity, because it requires big muscles to move in general movement patterns (as opposed to small fine movements that would be fine motor skills). These type of exercises are great for improving the control of all of the muscles around the shoulder.
This is important when it comes to doing things like writing, catching and throwing. Without a strong base to start from,  kids will struggle to do fine motor tasks like writing.
So next time you are at the playground, help your little ones up onto the bars or climbing wall....keep them safe but let them explore!
The Head Start Team

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Head Start Blog

Hi, we thought this would be a great way to get some more information out to people about the benefits of early movement. Hope you enjoy,
Head Start