Here’s a class you should definitely know about: Dinky Discoverers.
Dinky Discoverers are unique, exciting, hands on STEM classes in Sheffield for 2-4 year olds.
Dinky Discoverers runs three weekly sessions; a family session on a Wednesday and pre-schoolers classes on Thursday and Friday.
All sessions are for 2 to 4 year olds to explore Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), while making their own discoveries.
STEM Dinky Discoverers toddler classes in Sheffield
What happens in Dinky Discoverers classes?
Sessions are themed on engaging topics such as pirates, colours and lava! The experiment, where each child has their own equipment, gives them the opportunity to make their own discoveries and have lots of hands-on fun! The toys, activities and experiments offered all provide learning opportunities around STEM. But most importantly all are fun and appealing to two to four year olds, who attend with a parent/carer.
There are two sessions: family session and pre-schoolers class.
The current term is running until Friday 20th December with a break for half term 25th October – 1st November.
Classes are at…
St Columba’s Church, Manchester Road, Crosspool, S10 5PL
Wednesdays 10:00 – 11:30am
Jungle Monkeys Wharncliffe Industrial Complex, Station Rd, Stocksbridge, S36 2UZ
Thursdays 10:00 – 10.45am
Bradway Community Hall, Bradway Road, Bradway, S17 4QR
Fridays 10:15 – 11.00am
I’ve been talking to Alice who is behind all the fun at Dinky Discoverers to find out more about what she does… let’s find out more!
How Dinky Discoverers started
“My ambition is to provide kids with something interesting, engaging and fun. The idea for Dinky Discoverers came to me when my son was 3 and my daughter was newborn. I was struggling with a typically difficult 3 year old and having a newborn.
I needed to get out of the house with them only my son’s interests in how the world works was not catered for by any toddler / preschoolers groups I could find.
At home one day my husband very patiently spent over an hour with him, letting him build my daughters cot. It was the most engaged and happy I’d seen him in a long time. I said flippently “I need a playgroup or something where he can go and do this sort of thing!” It wasn’t until over 12 months later when I was made redundant that it occurd to me to set up this group that I had longed for. Several months later, Dinky Discoverers was born!
I used a lot of my experiences as a mum attending groups and classes to shape Dinky’s values and motivation.
Relaxed – I know at this young age children have a short attention span. I try to keep experiments short and I always offer free-play alongside them. I don’t want parents to feel stressed or embarassed if their child doesn’t want to join in for some of the experiment. Equally a child might want to investigate the materials I provide in a different way, and that’s fine too.
Accessible – I don’t insist on full or even half-term pre-payment because I know how frustrating it can be to pay good money and then not be able to attend.
Quality – A different theme each week means new experiences, experiments and play from week to week. A typical session will include a ‘sensory’ play element. For example this week we have fruit soup sensory play for our fruit theme.
Dinky Discoverers construction activity
Most sessions will include a construction activity. This could be a construction toy such as Smartmax (a brilliant magnetic building kit that’s safe for 18months+) or it could be foam blocks and shaving foam, sugar cube igloos or many other possibilities!
Dinky Discoverers Nature Table
Depending on the theme there will be either a nature or a technology table. On the nature table we’ve looked at a real birds nests and attempted to build our own, we’ve had 6 different herby playdoughs to match with the herbs (and play with of course), we’ve had a sensory tray with flower parts and even an indoor mud kitchen!
Dinky Discoverers Technology Table
The technology table is more challenging for this age group, we’ve got a phone and a hairdryer which are safe for little hands to take apart and look inside. We’ve also had a yoghurt pot and string telephone, demonstrated static electricity, created a duplo recycling centre and even looked at what GPS is!
Dinky Discoverers Playboards
Something you’ll only find at Dinky is our playboards. These have been designed by me and made specifically for Dinky.
There are 5 at present with more in the pipeline; locks and catches, maths, ball run, magnetism, and Duplo. These are designed to keep little hands and minds busy and promote problem solving.
Kids that love to ‘tinker’ are in their element with these! All of this and I haven’t talked about the experiments yet… which for most of the kids attending is the main attraction.
The experiments are all about giving the kids chance to take charge of their learning. It’s hands-on, I give each child their own equipment in their own space. I really want them to feel it’s their own experiment. I want each child to have the same opportunity, regardless of whether they are shy or confident. No one can get left at the back or without the fun stuff at Dinky.
The experiments are designed to be achievable for our youngest children (2 years old) with minimal adult support. As 2-5 year olds typically concentrate in short bursts I aim to keep experiments under 15 minutes. I have a range of experiments from classic kitchen science such as volcanic eruptions through to testing our senses and lots, lots more. All of them are fun and safe – typically only using stuff you might find around the house. Oh and quite often they are messy!
I lead the children through the experiment and ask them questions along the way. More importantly I encourage the children to ask their own questions, either to me or to their grown-up. I love it when the children ask me questions and I will endeavour to answer in a child-friendly and understandable way. I have been known to get side tracked with impromptu experiments as a result of a good question from the kids!
One of this week’s experiments is called fizzy fruit. We investigate how ‘fizzy’ three different fruits are. Throughout the experiment I will be asking lots of questions, some straight forward such as “what fruit is this?” some to challenge the children “which fruit was more fizzy?” and also some that I don’t expect the children to answer such as “why is the lemon the fizziest?”. I believe that asking these questions helps gets the children into their naturally curious mindset.
After we’ve done the experiment and talked about what we learned I often invite the children to help with the tidy up. They really enjoy this part, even simple tasks like pouring waste liquid into a container.
I wrap up each session with a story appropriate to the theme. This gives us chance to recap on what we’ve been doing and I really value the feedback from the children at this point.
I should point out that I run 2 types of session. The “family session” is 90 minutes and contains lots of free-play activities. It’s also the best option for younger siblings (under 2) as there is a large baby area and story corner. The pre-schoolers classes are more structured, shorter and typically have fewer free-play activities. There is always provision for younger siblings, albeit on a smaller scale to the family session.
I’m also not tied to any curriculum so I can and have devised experiments at the request of my customers. I feel so privileged to be part of these children’s learning. I love seeing them engaged, amazed and curious. Just yesterday we were investigating fruit, but I spotted a spider spinning a web through the window. We diverted our attention for a while on the spider, it was inspiring for me to watch and the kids loved it!”