Impressions of sunflowers

Kim Benham, senior manager at outstanding nursery Sparkles, in Croydon, begins her new monthly column recommending resources and creative themes.


Recommended resources

Here Comes the sun!

Children’s artistic ability never ceases to amaze me. Add a bit of nature and watch to see where children take it. The provocation here is a beautiful miniature sunflower perfectly blooming in a pot. Paint is provided to match the colours. Tea leaves are provided to give the option of imitating the seeds in the flower’s centre. Once the materials are on the table, children can use them as they wish. There is no right or wrong way to use the provocation or the materials. There are two aspects to this activity; the nature and the nurture.


The sunflower is a glorious bold nature statement. The contrasting colours of the different parts of the plant create a talking point to explore petals, the stalk and the seeds that ensure the next crop. We talked about the life cycle of the plant, how to look after flowers and what they need in order to grow healthily. We may have a future botanist or horticulturalist sitting at our table! We need to start feeding them interesting information and what better way to make this accessible than linking it with craft.


Most of the children made a connection between the provocation and the craft materials. Our photographs show their interpretation of the sun flower. However, it’s really important not to presume that’s what the children want to do. The adult’s role is to take the child’s lead rather than to instruct them. We also had pictures of glued tea leaves with no paint and vice versa.

Observation points

Don’t rush the activity. The children liked to talk about the plant and their own gardens.

I find it fascinating to watch what children do with resources, they rarely need much support. Lots of observations for their learning journals!

Children love planting their own seeds and flowers meaning plenty of leverage to expand the knowledge and extend the activity.

Make your mark

In pre-school many of us have children who are just two and others who may be close to five years old so we have a vast range of abilities sometimes in just one room. Nowhere is this range more evident than in writing and mark making. We need to cater for this with a wide range of materials and opportunities to encourage children to make marks and when ready form letters for future writing.

One of my “must haves” is a roll of drawing paper ( which gives a large drawing/writing platform anywhere! You can tape large pieces so that it covers the table with small world castles or on the floor with trains so they can draw their own scenery. Taped against the wall so we can encourage those large shoulder and elbow pivot movements for our younger ones.

Large chalks inside or outside offer easy grip mark making which can be cleaned away! There are outdoor chalk boards from in various shapes to draw the children in (pardon the pun!) If you put a little bowl of water by the side of them to dip the chalk in it creates a vibrant paint effect. Great for colouring walls or fences which can be easily washed off, and drawing arond themselves outdoors.

Soil, sand, crazy soap and slime can be an exciting way to make marks and patterns using tools. My favourite non-marking mark makers are the rubber ended assorted brushes ( or natural products such as sticks or pebbles (great for using in the mud outside too.) The children who like more of a tactile experience can get engrossed in the kinaesthetic experience of mark making.

Clip boards add a little purpose and importance to mark making ( The mobility of clipboards makes them a useful resource inside and out in all learning areas. For example using them as hospital charts in the home corner or train timetables in small world. Real examples of these will add the finishing touch! To bring ourselves up to date, LCD boards offer a modern twist to the clip board ( Children simply make their marks, drawing, writing, list making, and then press a button to make it disappear and start again. The magic of writing!

Magic moment

‘What have you drawn?’

‘I’ve drawn an amonite’

‘What’s that?’ I ask.

She proceeds to tell me that they lived in the sea when there were Dinosaurs and they have tentacles. She learned this when her parents took her to a local (free) museum. Fabulous!

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