Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Right Support For Every Child

I went to the West Midlands Regional NCMA forum yesterday and the seminar in the afternoon was on the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged children and how they can be met.  We started by talking about what ALL children need, based on Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs.  How it works is that if the child's basic needs for nutrition and warmth and then security, which includes protection from harm, limits and boundaries and consistency, if these are not met, then the child will struggle to move further up the pyramid, and will be hampered in trying to form meaningful relationships with other children for example.

There are many reasons why a child may not have these most basic needs met, but as childminders it is part of our job to help every child reach their full potential so working toward identifying and eliminating negative factors is very important.  I asked whether despite the home environment, if during the child's time in my home, that they had good meals, security, love and affection, would they be able to reach the higher levels and it was considered that yes, that could happen.... this heartened me  amd made me realise that we can all make a difference!

We then went on to discuss impairment and disability.  Impairment describes a loss or limitation of function on a temporary or permanent basis.  Disability is the limitations experienced due to impairment.  Impairments need not disable the child if the environment and available equipment is adjusted to their needs.  Such children do not have 'special' needs, their needs are the same as every other child's such as to have opportunities to learn, to move about in the environment, to have choices, to be accepted and valued by other people, and to learn to make decisions.  Having an impairment might mean that you meet their needs in different ways,  and that you treat them differently in order to treat them equally.  We must also be aware that our own attitudes and assumptions are not limiting our expectations of the child regarding their development!

If you are working with children with impairments, there is a document called Early Support that can be used to ease information transfer between professionals and build up a record of the child as an individual. There is more information about Early Support Here and materials can be downloaded or ordered from this page.  The Developmental Journal is worth a look for every child you care for, as it may help you to document a child's progress.  You can order a hard copy if you telephone 0845 6022 260 and quote the code ES54.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Handwashing for toddlers!

I have had a plan for a long time to improve the way that I help the toddlers to wash their hands.  I plan my setting using the principles of Montessori theory, so designing things to allow children to be indepedent is important.  Todddlers using the kitchen sink poses several safety issues such as washing up that may be stacked there, balancing on a chair or step, turning the hot tap on and it getting too hot, and others.  To solve these issues and allow for as much independence as possible, here is my handwashing station now!

The little table is an ikea side table that I cut a hole in to fit the bowl.  The bowl is also from ikea and comes as a two-pack with one larger than this.  Both bowls have a handle on one side and a pouring lip on the other.  I or one of the older children will put a jug of warm water into the bowl and the little one will then wash their hands using the squeezy soap that is placed so that drips go into the bowl.  After drying their hands, they will take the big bowl out from under the table, lift and tip their handwashing water into it, replace the little bowl for the next child and put the big bowl back under the table.  this is et up in my kitchen and the table is actually at right angles to the towels but to photograph it, I had to put it in front of them!!  Each child has an individual towel, I will be putting their photograph and name above the hook before Monday to help them identify their towel! 

I looked around for some nice handwashing posters to put up and found these from the Scottish Health Executive, i like them because they have songs on them and will help the children to remember to wash thier hands!

This supports children within the EYFS under Personal, Social and Emotional Development: Self-care as it will help the children to "gain a sense of concern about for their own personal hygiene and care and develop independence". It is also part of Physical Development: Health and Bodily Awareness.  It also comes generally under A Unique Child: 1.4 Health and Well-being.  If you include other aspects such as singing a handwashing song, working with another child to pour the water, talking about the water in the bowl, and identifying their own towel by their name and/or picture, then all areas of learning and development are covered.  Writing them up as a planning web shows evidence of supporting learning and development when you come to write your SEF!!!!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


I have been really lazy recently and ended up using the car more and more and more until two weeks ago when I decided to reverse the trend!!!  I have invested in a third hand but oh so rock solid off-road triple buggy called a Pedigree Easylife Sport.  I think I'm in love..... I never thought I could feel this way about a buggy!!!! I feel like I have made it in the childminding world!

We have walked to school for the last two weeks and i have notcied the following benefits:
  • My back is better.... I had hurt it by lifting and twisting to strap heavy toddlers in and out of the car seats.
  • I have lost weight!
  • The children are more settled, it is a nice start to the day with a community feel as we wave to the lollipop people and call into the local shop for dessicated cocnut, milk, bread, lentils, sandpaper, whatever we need for the days activities or lunch. 
This has made me think again about manula handling training... as childminders we lift heavy things many times in a day, whether it is a child, a pushchair, a high chair, or a box of toys from a high shelf.... they are often awkward shapes and wriggle around putting our backs at risk.  This is the best information that I can find on the web to have a read through, but it is hardly adequate really.... I would recommend having a look at what you do and how you organise your heavy lifting or bending over to do nappy changes for instance and try to make changes that will protect you a little more!

I had my Change-4-life newsletter today through e-mail and it has a link to the 'lets all walk to school'campaign pages by Living Streets.  They have posters that you can order through an e-mail address to put up to make your parents aware that you are encouraging walking to school!  there is plenty more information on the site too.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Happy Australia Day!

We had a really great day trying out some of the Australia Day ideas..... we made petroglyphs on sandpaper:

 chose Australian animals to make dot pictures of:

 and made damper dogs for lunch!!

After damper dogs we made and ate fruit kabobs together at the table, it was really fun and sociable and all the children helped each other out, not to mention eating a treat that was so healthy!!  they asked if we could have damper dogs and kabobs EVERY day for lunch!!!!  Weeeeell, maybe not every day but it's made me keen to plan fun recipes into every month!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Australia Day

I only heard about Australia day from the Childminding help forum a week or so ago and thought that it sounded fun and I found so many great ideas that I'm 'doing' Australia for the whole week!  here is what I have planned:
  • Aboriginal Dot Art, I have got packets of stickers from Wilko's and have cut squares of baking parchment to make them on.... this will be a new skill with the little ones, and an old favourite for the older ones!
  • Petroglyphs, but instead of spraying water then sprinkling powder paint, I'm putting liquid paint in a little spraybottle, I'm doing them onto sheets of fine sandpaper to look like cave walls!
  • Didgeridoos from loo rolls taped together instead of the long tubes.
  • Australian map collage with cut outs to glue on of things like koala, kangaroo, people etc.
  • As usual we will put together a memory book of the week's fun for the children to enjoy talking about, we will use some colouring pages to make a map and flag for the book.
  • Cook Damper Dogs and fruit kabobs to eat.
  • Australia - A True Book
  • An Australian abc of animals, this is such a lovely book with the animals painted in aboriginal style.
I'm really looking forwards to some fun next week.... I've planned it on a spider gram showing the links to all areas of the EYFS as these activities extend things that we have explored recently and introduce some new skills too. We keep our memory books in continent draws.... Ill post about hose another time!!!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Choosing Toys

I have had the opportunity this week to apply for some funding for resources that will benefit the children in my care. I was given just six days to put the proposal together and has been hard work but I hope will be worth it!!  It has really made me think hard about the values that I hold and HOW I choose toys.  It was interesting to write the propsal with the EYFS open in fron of me and to see how resources support all the areas of the EYFS, not JUST learning and development.  I made a list of the criteria that I use when selecting equipment, everything I have meets one or more points from this list:
  • Open-ended, meaning that it can be used in a variety of ways, for example, this pine dolls house is plain and simple and could be a house, fire-station, school, temple, shop, castle, whatever the child's imagination wants it to be.  Less can be more when it comes to children's play, as they become creative, rather than having it laid on a plate in front of them.
  • Attractive - it has to call to the child to come and play with it because it is beautiful or intriguing and it meets a need that they have, to explore or express ideas, or role-play.
  • Durable - it needs to be good quality and to last as I intend to be minding for a long time and i don't class toys as consumables!!  It is also important that young children learn to care for the toys they play with and things that look scruffy after just a few months don't encourage that.
  • Inclusive - the doll house mentioned above is inclusive because it can be anything to any child regardless of their background, interests or experiences.  Also under this criteria I look to see whether positive images are portrayed and diverse cultures reflected.
  • Simple, with clear cause and effect - this relates in a big way to the toddler toys that I source.  I want them to isolate one idea at a time, for example, if you press this button, the egg pops up.  This helps young children to make sense of the world and to build a knowledge base upon which they will eventually lay maths and science ideas!  Toys that are all-singing and all-dancing do not promote children's independence as they do not have a clear cut sequence of events that the child can achieve on their own.
I avoid toys that bleep and buzz and sing and have flashing lights for a couple of reasons, one is that I like to support the children's communication skills by talking with them and hearing them babble as they play and for that I need them to be able to listen and become absorbed in their play without distractions.  The second reason is the noise level that is reached when there are several children all playing with different electronic toys.  I find the noise distressing myself and don't personally think that it is very good for the children!

Through this process of thinking, I have come to realise that i do actually have a strong identity for my business and for vision for how it should develop.  It has made me really enthusiatic about pursuing those goals!  I used an auditing tool to look at the different areass of my resources and it was great as a way of assessing that area of my practice under the EYFS.

The photo below is part of my 'toddler shelves' showing some of the resources that I have out at present!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Risk Assessments

This is an area of childminding that we all have to get to grips with.  Although we risk assess continually on an informal basis, there does need to be some written evidence of the actions we take to promote the safety of the children we care for.  In the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, the specific legal requirements of risk assessment state that 'The provider must conduct a risk assessment and review it regularly - at least once a year or more frequently where the need arises'.  This involves a complete review of your setting, including all of the areas that you childmind such as lounge, hallway and stairs, bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchen, garden.  Many childminders review the risk assessment when a new child joins the setting, to ensure that the current safeguards will be enough to protect the new child. 
It also states that the risk assessment should identify checks that need to be made on a regular basis, and provide a record of having made these checks.  I keep a record of checks made weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly.  they serve as a handy reminder for me that they need doing and are easily available when Ofsted come to call. these include receipts for having had the boiler serviced and the chimney swept, the dog's vaccination card and worming receipts, and date, time and signature for things like checking the fire alarm weekly.
Risk assessments 'should cover anything with which a child may come into contact' (EYFS, 2008).  Recently I was reading about risk assessments and realised that there was a lot that I had not covered.  I have risk assessed visiting the park, travelling in the car, walking to the school, attending the 'stay and play' session, being near water, soft play areas that we use, National Trust Properties and I complete an assessment for visits to attractions. After reading information here  I made a new list of risks that I should assess.  These are: unregistered rooms (how do I prevent access?), handwashing facilities, technology used, cooking with children, mealtimes, loss of water or power and paperwork storage.  This section particularly made me think more about the outside areas of my home, I had never considered assessing the driveway before the recent snowy weather made it icy and treacherous!
I would recommend starting with a main assessment of your home.  On the first page write the date that you assessed, and when you need to review it, along with your name and signature.  Use the pages linked to above to give you ideas for what areas to assess and look critically at each room in turn.  You can list hazards that you have already tackled, such as plug sockets and putting covers in them, as well as hazards that need attention and what you need to do.  Remember to sign and date when you have addressed them! There are some ideas on this page for assessing your home, but remember that your setting is unique and there may be other things that you need to think about!
As for me, I have reflected on my risk assessments and written a list of actions that need to be addressed.  i will post about them as I complete them!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

January Planning

I plan loosely around a theme every month, with some ideas for each area of the EYFS.  I don't always do all of the activites and sometimes I add new ones as I find them!  They are there to enrich the children's time here, but they are not the be-all and end-all, i don't let them rule me or the children's days; I follow them and their interests!

Personal, Social and Emotional Development

Make Winter ‘makingfriends’ little people.

Communication, Language and Literacy

Ezra Keats, It’s a snowy day, make pictures with different white materials than stick Peter figure onto it, re-tell the story.
Shallow black tray with layer of salt to draw pictures, letters and numbers in with fingers/implements
Collection of books showing birds and stories about birds.
Jan Brett’s book ‘The Mitten’, I have printed out this copy from enchanted learning, and the older one will colour the pictures before we laminate all the pages and string them together into a book with a front cover made from gluing and old jumper onto card and then cutting out the mitten shape - I find that the children stay interested in a book or theme and the ideas that it may hold if there is a book that they have made thmesleves in the book basket!
Winter poems

Problem Solving Reasoning and Numeracy

Look at snowflakes, count the points, talk about the shapes.
Make 'snowflake rubbings' from doilies under paper and wax crayons over.
Counting and shape books from enchanted learning winter pages
Use winter animals to make paint footprints, talk about the numbers of legs, shape of the footprints, etc.
Ordinal numbers, using 'The Mitten' as a starting point. Some printable for ordinal numbers can be found here, I will make my own with the animals that go into the mitten.

Knowledge and Understanding of the World

The RSPB Little Schools Birdwatch, 18th Jan-1st Feb, laminated cards out for identification, make feeders from bird recipe book, bird crafts.
Freeze various shapes and sizes of ice blocks with objects in to defrost in the builders tray.

Physical Development

Moving to classical music
Using rollers and cookie cutters to make snowflakes to hang using Sarah’s recipe from book no.8, the Christmas Planning e-book.
Make a den to imitate the mitten in Jan Brett's book, the children can crawl inside, opretending to be the animals, add differently sized cardboard boxes to extend the activity.

Creative Development

Shaving foam snow pictures
Classical music that reflects winter themes –dance and movement
Make bird nests from various materials
Make ice sculptures to hang out on a frosty day
Make Wellington boots, hats and scarves to display
Make a large snowman to put up
Painting with ice cubes