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Bonfire night

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By Jenni Tavenerearly years teacher and writer

‘Remember, remember the fifth of November… ’ with these explosive activities


Counting Catherine wheels

Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy

Help the children make an interactive counting book with one to five colourful, spinning Catherine wheels. Provide several card discs and encourage the children to decorate them in bright colours. Secure one disc on to the first page of the book using a paper fastener. Check that the disc spins freely to represent a Catherine wheel. Attach two discs on page two and so on. Invite the children to label the pages 1 to 5. Use the book as an interactive counting book or ask the children questions such as ‘How many Catherine wheels are on this page?’, ‘Can you find a page with three Catherine wheels?’ and ‘How many Catherine wheels are there altogether? Extend the activity by creating a book showing one to ten Catherine wheels.

Cheese straw bonfire

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

Before carrying out this activity, ask for parental permission for the children to taste and handle foods. Check for any food allergies and dietary requirements.

To make cheese straws, help the children sift 100g plain flour into a plastic bowl and rub in 60g of butter or margarine with their fingertips. Add 60g grated cheese and mix to a stiff paste with one egg yolk and two teaspoons of water. Roll the mixture on to a floured board and cut into narrow strips. Place on a greased baking tray and cook until golden brown. Leave to cool.

Provide some salad vegetables in fiery colours, for example, red and yellow peppers, carrots and tomatoes. Invite the children to place a small mound of vegetables in the middle of a bowl and stack the cheese straws around the vegetables to create a glowing bonfire. Use the activity to help reinforce health and safety issues such as washing hands, wearing aprons and cleaning up.

Bursts of colour

Knowledge and Understanding of the World

Encourage the children to talk about their experiences of firework displays. Use pictures, posters and photographs to help them recall details, such as the colours, shapes and patterns made by the fireworks. Provide colourful chalks for the children to make bold streaks, swirls, dots and patterns on to a wide strip of black card to represent a firework display at night. When the pictures are complete, staple them into a cylindrical shape to create a 3D ‘roundabout’ scene. Attach a thread to each cylinder so they can twist and twirl freely when hung from the ceiling or display board. Use the pictures to help prompt discussion about firework safety.

Rocket runners

Physical Development

Provide the children with a wide variety of cardboard tubes, tubs and boxes to make simple models of firework rockets.

When the models are complete, use them to play a game. Divide the children into two or more teams. Place the rockets at one end of a room, or outdoor area, and position a mat several metres away to represent a safe landing place. Encourage the children to take turns to guide one rocket at a time across a pretend sky to the landing place. The first team to land all their rockets safely is the winner, or just play for fun.

Name in lights

Communication, Language and Literacy

Tell the children to write their name in big bold letters, on to a 2D card firework template. Provide glue and a variety of shiny objects such as sequins, beads, shiny paper and tinsel for the children to decorate the letters. Hang the decorated fireworks at varying heights to create a mobile display or mount them on to dark backing paper. Invite the children to use a torch to make each name or initial shimmer.

Penny for the guy

Creative Development

Talk to the children about the tradition of wheeling a guy in a barrow with a sign saying ‘penny for the guy’. Explain that in the past, children would make a guy by stuffing old clothes with newspapers, make a head out of material and draw a face on it. They would then push it around in a pram, saying ‘A penny for the guy’ and adults would give them money, depending on how good the guy was. Invite the children to make a guy by dressing a teddy in old clothes and using a toy pram to represent a barrow.

Five hot potatoes

Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy

Sing the following to the tune of ‘Ten Fat Sausages’: ‘Five hot potatoes in crispy crunchy jackets, five hot potatoes in crispy crunchy jackets, but if one hot potato is eaten up by (child’s name), there’ll be four hot potatoes in crispy crunchy jackets’. Continue until the final verse: ‘One hot potato in a crispy crunchy jacket, one hot potato in a crispy crunchy jacket, but if this hot potato is eaten up by (child’s name), there’ll be no hot potatoes in crispy crunchy jackets’. Extend the song by starting with the words, ‘Ten hot potatoes’. Provide props to assist the children as they count, for example, jackets, real potatoes, or clay models.

Jumping Jacks

Physical Development

Tell the children about the ‘Jumping Jack’ fireworks that were popular many years ago, and how they jumped, in random directions, around the ground. Invite a small group of children to join in a jumping game using hoops on the floor. Ask half of the group to stand by a starting line at one end of the hoops and the rest of the children to stand by a starting line at the opposite end. On command, all the children should start jumping from one hoop to the next to get to the other side. Only one child at a time is allowed inside each hoop, so they must work out a system of cooperation, for example, jumping back to a previous hoop or jumping to one side to let the other child pass. The aim of the game is for every player to jump from one starting line to the next.


  1. sarah barr
    on 4 November 2012

    bonfire info for early years

    very helpful