5 MORE iPad activities to plan for in Early Years!

As Early Childhood Educators, we all have our own definitions of play in our classrooms but so do children! Research suggests that children do not differentiate between physical and digital play in the same way that adults might. In fact, children can readily move between physical and digital play (and back again) when they have access to open-ended, creative digital tools.

Here are 5 MORE activities that you should plan for in your early years settings!

  1. Story Drawing

Take your iPads to the outdoor classroom and photograph real story settings from a book that you are reading in class. Use the built in Markup tools to draw characters onto the photographs, right there in the moment! Take those story pictures back to the classroom and use them for story writing.

Check out this post to learn more.

2. Teach Online Safety

A fundamental of using technology in the classroom is teaching online and device safety too. And this can be done in an age-appropriate way through story. Stuart Spendlow is a Deputy Head Teacher in England but also a best-selling children’s author. He has two books suitable for the early years which introduce online safety carefully and purposefully. PENGUINPIG and MONKEYCOW are two tales about not believing what you see online and keeping passwords a secret!

With Stuart’s kind permission I have designed two free lesson resources to extend the ideas of his stories. The PENGUINPIG activity lets children design their own pretend animal, write an advert for it and see how quickly their fake news spreads by showing it friends in the class and collecting selfies.

In the MONKEYCOW activity, children look at story character profiles and guess their easy passwords. Then they help write new passwords that are made from random animal names.

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Free Download: Magnetic Letters!


If you’re a regular visitor to my website and download many of my free lesson plans or books then you’ll know that I often collaborate with Kristi Meeuwse from iTeachWithiPads.com. As Kristi is returning to the Kindergarten classroom this year, we’ve been busy chatting about the apps we both love to use in our early years classrooms.

One thing that is either a paid for resource, or comes bundled with so many other art features it distracts from literacy, is a lowercase alphabet app for spelling. We are not suggesting to replace all of your physical magnetic letters with digital manipulatives, but we’ve all been there when we want to work with a group or young children in phonics and takes way too long setting up each board with the right amount of letters (and that’s before you realise you haven’t got enough or some are missing!)

So for those moments when you want to work in a larger group in a quick spelling activity, we have this free download for you!

To start using this resource:

  1. Make sure Keynote is installed on each iPad,
  2. Then download this file onto your teacher iPad,
  3. Airdrop it to the class devices,
  4. Open the file in Keynote on each device,
  5. Tap ‘Edit’ in the top right corner,
  6. Let the children spell words with you!

Alternatively, you can download the file onto each device in the class by going to tiny.cc/letterboard in Safari.

Download the free letter board file here.

Tech activities for “This is a Book With No Pictures”.

If you haven’t seen this wonderful children’s book, which is a brilliantly creative bridge between teaching reading and writing, then take a quick look at this video reading from the author here:

As silly as it is, early childhood educators will see the value of reading this story in the classroom! Here are 5 activities that you can plan for using the microphone built into the iPad. These activities teach children about sound, voice recording and cause/effect of incoming sound. Children will use their own voice, record other voices and create with sound and image.

  1. Bla Bla Bla

This free app uses the microphone to visualise sound as simple, black and white animated faces. It’s great for pre-verbal learners who need encouraging to experiment with vocal sounds. Your learners will have lots of fun reading some of the words and phrases in The Book With No Pictures and make the faces move on screen!

2. Sensory Mica and Sensory Speak Up!

These are two free apps which visualise sound in different ways. Again, they use the microphone and respond to incoming sound without children need to press record. Sensory Mica will make visual sound ‘explosions’ on screen. These visualisations give illustrations to the way the words sound in the book. As children read the nonsense words of the book, they could screenshot (press and hold the sleep/wake button and home button) then paint their sound explosion from the saved image.

Sensory Speak Up is a sound timeline. As the seconds pass in real time, each line visualises the sound recorded that second. You can read the book and capture when children laugh. You’ll also see when it is quiet as the bars are skipped out because there is no incoming sound to the microphone!

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5 activities to try with iPad in early years!

As you look forward to a new year of school, here are my favourite five activities for you to plan in next year. Whilst looking through these five activities, take a moment to reflect on The Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning. How might these activities provide opportunities for children to be playful, explorative, active in learning and critical or creative with their thinking?

“In planning and guiding what children learn, practitioners must reflect on the different rates at which children are developing and adjust their practice appropriately. Three characteristics of effective teaching and learning are:

  • playing and exploring – children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’
  • active learning – children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements
  • creating and thinking critically – children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things”

  1. Seasonal Photography

Throughout the year take your iPads with you on seasonal walks, to forest school and woodland workshops or to your outdoor classroom. Teach children to step closer and closer to their subject to take close up photographs of signs of the seasons. Show them to take focused photographs and use the shutter button to snap when they are still and ready. Help them to delete the images they decide they don’t need to save.

Check out these posts about photography for more inspiration:

One Best Photo

A Frosty Photo Walk

A Springtime Photo Walk

2. Animate Artwork

Use your focus book to create collaborative art work of the characters. After painting and collaging, your learners can each use the free ChatterPix Kids app. In a few simple steps, children photograph their character artwork, cut a digital line across the mouth with their finger then press the red button to record their voice. You will teach them to use record, stop and play. The children will all get to save an animation of their group artwork.

Check out this post for more information about making your paintings sing.

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Tap into Early Maths

Physical resources are a necessity for early maths teaching. With practical activities to scaffold mathematical development, young learners gain better understanding of the number system. So how can we better support children with practical maths learning whilst moving them from guided instruction to independent learning?

Usually my classroom carpet is full of open ended maths resources and loud with excited maths talk. I model a number problem, the children recreate it with their resources and I gradually move my guidance to their independent problem solving.

However, as the learners become more independent I want to hold on to the practical models and scaffolds that I demonstrate for my young learners. As they transition away from my guided teaching how can they effectively use and apply the practical resources? Most of the time they are packed away, or need moving to another space. The modelling is gone!

After a practical session with physical manipulatives I move children to digital substitutes of these resources. MathsBot.com and MathLearningCenter.org are two free websites that provide digital manipulatives like the ones your young leaners can put their hands on in class.

Odd and Even

In this example you see how I am using MathsBot’s Number Frames which substitute Numicon pieces. The interactive tool is displayed on my large touchscreen in class and the children have their own access on their iPad devices.

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Once upon an iPad…

Storytelling with photography and drawing tools is one of my favourite imaginative play activities in my Reception class.

In our ‘Who lives in Castles?’ enquiry children used the outdoor area to build huge castle structures with large blocks on our climbing equipment. The small world characters they wanted to use to retell the story of Rapunzel didn’t cut it, they were too small for their castles. The castles were too fragile for real life role play and the bricks would fall to the floor.

After taking a photograph of their castle structure with the iPad camera, I taught the children how to tap ‘Edit’ and use the ‘…’ button to access the Markup tools. 3 simple steps to navigate from a photograph to a mark making activity.

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Technology Development Matters! How Computing can begin in the revised Early Years Foundation Stage.

Where are we now with regards to Technology and early learning?

Since Development Matters (2012) was introduced we have been used to assessing children’s technology development against this Early Learning Goal within Understanding the World:

This is how I interpreted this statement and made sense of what children should be learning:

When I think how children can use technology for particular purposes, my planning in Reception sees technology as a tool for enhancing learning in all areas of the EYFS. I use technology across the curriculum:

Technology is used to teach reading, writing, art, handwriting, science, music, maths and so on. I teach children specific computing skills like pressing record, stop, play, select pens, erase, delete, open, close, focus when they are creating videos, animations, story images, photographs of nature.

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early leARning

Augmented Reality is making a mark on classrooms and home learning as devices and developers introduce this powerful new technology to more users worldwide. But what is the purpose of technology and can it be used to enhance early learning?

Augmented Reality is a technology used in your immediate environment. The camera on your device displays visual elements within your physical environment that you can explore and move around in. Audio and interactive features on screen give the user more information about the 3D subject they are viewing.

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Stay Connected and Creative on Dot Day!

Even though early years settings and schools in England reopen to all in September, the face of education continues to change and adapt. For other early learners across the world, their education continues to be home based or blended with some school days.

No matter where you are teaching and learning though, creativity and connections have been challenged!

International Dot Day, themed around the story The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, falls on September 15th-ish each year. This global celebration of bravery, creativity and connections encourages young children to make their mark on the world.

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Challenge Young Children for Change.

“Education is a great equaliser. It is a powerful force for equity and opportunity, and it empowers the next generation to discover the world around them”. Lisa Jackson, Apple.

Young people have made their voices heard on important global issues such as climate change, equity and equality. Through protests, demonstrations and discussions young people are speaking out and standing up for change.

How can we prepare our youngest learners to be engaged and active in meaningful discussions about change in their future?

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