Enabling Environments: Let's explore ... Eggs


Life begins with an egg - and their potential for learning opportunities and fun activities is endless, as Helen Bromley demonstrates.

Spring is a time for optimism - for looking forward and for escaping the cold of the winter. It is also a time for new life, a time to celebrate and enjoy young animals of all kinds, including those hatched from eggs.

At this time of year, children may be interested in eggs for all kinds of reasons, including the appearance of the chocolate variety in the shops! Whatever the initial stimulus, eggs make a fascinating focus for all kinds of explorations in your setting.

Adult-focused activities may well include cooking eggs in a variety of ways, involving the children as much as possible in the preparation of a range for dishes (taking care to be aware of any allergies, of course).

It is inevitable that the children's talk will turn to Easter and sweet treats. Such discussions can be the beginnings of talk about environmental print, especially after Easter, when children can bring their empty Easter egg boxes into the setting to talk about the designs and the printing on the boxes.

Ultimately, the most fascinating thing about eggs (other than the chocolate ones!) is that new life miraculously appears from them. This article has been written with such a focus.

OUTDOOR AREA

  • - Create an egg hunt for the children. Use a variety of eggs. Some may be made of cardboard or polystyrene (see resources). You may wish to obtain some onyx or marble eggs too.
  • - Why not spend some time beforehand creating a 'fantastic' egg by gluing layers of tissue paper to an inflated balloon. Finish the last layer by sprinkling glitter on it, for that extra special magical touch. Allow it to dry thoroughly, then pierce the balloon and you will have an extraordinary looking egg.
  • - Help the children hunt for the eggs. Some will enjoy having a basket or a box to collect them in.
  • - Be aware that you may need to hold more than one egg hunt, as this is the kind of activity that children will thoroughly enjoy.
  • - Talk to the children about the kinds of creatures that may have left the eggs behind.
  • - You could use the children's experiences to create a special book. In order for this activity to be most effective, children will need to have heard the story 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt':

Instead, you are going to create 'We're Going on an Egg Hunt'. Work with the children, using their own ideas and experiences, to write a few verses in a similar pattern to that used in the original.

So, it may begin like this:

'We're going on an egg hunt,

We're off to find a magical one...

What a beautiful day...

We're not scared...

Uh oh...'

Write one verse at a time; don't be afraid to take a while to build up to the grand finale. Who knows what the children will find in that glittery egg? Make sure that you publish the book, illustrated with photographs or drawings.

Learning opportunities

Responding to significant experiences, showing a range of feelings where appropriate

Working as part of a group or class, taking turns and sharing fairly

Enjoying listening to the language of story and readily turning to it in their play and their learning

Extending their vocabulary, exploring the meanings of new words

Using everyday language to describe position

Moving with confidence, and in safety

Using imagination in role play

CONSTRUCTION AREA

  • - Enhance the construction area so that children can create nests.
  • - Offer a range of natural materials such as twigs alongside other items such as wool and shredded paper, with some artificial eggs for the nests (see Resources, left).
  • - Children may want to represent the bird that their nest belongs to. Offer a range of ways of doing this - junk modelling materials could be ideal for large three-dimensional birds, while some children may prefer to represent through painting, collage or drawing.
  • - Display the imaginary birds that they have created.

Learning opportunities

Building and constructing with a wide range of materials

Using a range of tools appropriately

Using the language of mathematics to solve problems

Enjoying the language of story and readily turning to it in their play

Adult role

The nest-building and bird inventing could lead to a whole array of opportunities for Communication, Language and Literacy Development.

Offer labels and a range of card and paper, so that children can make signs, labels and notices, both for the nest and the birds.

Use a camera to take photographs of both the birds and the nests and create a special 'Bird Spotters Guide' so that children can look through it to see their bird and/or nest.

(NB: Be aware that some children may wish to continue 'nest building' outdoors. Ensure that this is made possible for them, and that they understand which natural materials can be used. Feed this interest with a range of images of birds' nests.)

WATER AREA

Why not make the water area the focus of a really unusual egg investigation? Obtain some toy dinosaur eggs (see Resources) that 'hatch' in water. The best kind are those that 'hatch' over a period of time (between 12 and 48 hours), but any will do. Keep a photographic record of the hatching process so that children can revisit the experience through a book created from the photographs and their comments.

Learning opportunities

Making stories

Extending vocabulary

Responding in a variety of ways to what they see, think hear and feel.

Asking questions about how things happen and why

Observing change over a period of time

Adult role

Talk with the children about what is happening, and make time to listen to their observations of and questions about the process. The practitioner could add:

- Clipboards, paper and pens for

Mark-making, drawing, recording

- A camera for

Recording, bookmaking

Invent some egg-related number songs to familiar tunes, such as 'Ten Green Bottles':

Five eggs nestling snugly in a nest,

Five eggs nestling snugly in a nest

If one egg hatches, just before the rest

There'll be four eggs nestling, snugly in a nest...

Provide props and let children act out the rhyme, in small groups with an adult or independently.

 

RESOURCE BOX

Collecting resource boxes around predictable early childhood interests ensures that practitioners are well-equipped to respond when children show a fascination for a particular topic.

To support children's curiosity in eggs as the beginning of new life:

  • - Collect a range of puppets and small-world figures that represent egg-laying creatures of all kinds - birds, dinosaurs, reptiles. These can be used in many ways, from story-making to playing pieces in maths games.
  • - Obtain some manufactured hollow eggs, so that children can experiment with opening and closing them.

To support children's interest in cooking with eggs:

  • - Make a collection of different whisks, so that these are readily available for children to explore. These might be made available in domestic role play, or in water play, with liquid detergent added.
  • - Collect some egg cups. If desired, these can be used to start a collection of egg cups that the children can add to.

To support children's curiosity in the world around them:

  • Make a collection of images of all kinds of eggs and nests, from the widest range of sources possible. Display these images, so that children can talk and ask questions about what they see.

 

RESOURCES

  • - http://www.crackingeggs.co.uk.This website is the children's section of the Egg Marketing Board. It includes recipes, information and links to resources for adults.
  • - Hatching dinosaurs, made by the company Puckator, available from www.amazon.co.uk
  • - Cardboard eggs are available in a variety of sizes from www.greatart.co.uk. Prices start from 30p for a 3cm egg
  • - Set of six egg shakers, £12, www.mindstretchers.co.uk
  • - Wicker rings, suitable for use as pretend birds' nests, www.mindstretchers.co.uk
  • - An array of egg products (including egg-shaped bouncy balls - ideal for popping into nests) available from www.yellowmoon.org.uk
  • - Beautiful wooden eggs in a range of colours and egg cups are available online and in store from www.earlyexcellence.com
  • - A set of beautiful wooden nesting eggs (five, one inside the other) is available from www.krasnaya.co.uk £9.99, plus p&p
  • - A range of puppet chickens and hens, along with hatching dragons and dinosaurs, can be obtained from www.puppetsbypost.com
  • - The Poultry Site gives invaluable information about incubating real hens' eggs. www.thepoultrysite.com

BOOK BOX

First The Egg by Laura V Seeger (Frances Lincoln) This is an intriguing book that will certainly fascinate young children and raise lots of opportunities for discussion. The illustrations are bold and lively.

The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett (Macmillan Children's Books) This is the story of Duck, who finds an egg of his own to look after. However, prepare to be surprised at its contents!

The Egg by MP Robertson (Puffin Books) A fabulous story for older children in the EYFS, worth obtaining second-hand. A young boy discovers an unusual egg under his mother's hen and finds out that he is the proud owner of a baby dragon. This book could inspire a wide range of activities.

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr.Seuss (HarperCollins Children's Books) This book is a classic! It is packed full of wacky humour, wonderful illustrations and a powerful rhythm that simply bowls the reader along.

Egg Drop by Mini Grey (Red Fox) This is the story of an ambitious egg, whose hopes and dreams lead it to the top of a very tall tower.

Hatch, Egg, Hatch! by Shen Roddie and Frances Cony (Tango Books) This is a fabulous lift-the-flap, touchy-feely book about a mother hen who is desperate for her egg to hatch. Young children will really enjoy exploring all the various strategies that she employs in order to bring this about.

Tweedle Dee Dee by Charlotte Voake (Walker Books) This is a cumulative story - a picture book version of the well known rhyme 'And the green grass grew all around, around, around.' It is perfect for springtime.

I Want A Pet by Lauren Child (Frances Lincoln) This book is from the author of the Charlie and Lola series and relates the trials and tribulations of a young girl desperately seeking the perfect pet. She is eventually persuaded to buy an enormous egg.

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