Sunday, 28 February 2010

Improving The Learning Environment

Last month at the childminding group we audited Inclusive Practice, but it was a bit dry and heavy so this month I put together a more interactive session.  The yellow strips had aspects of the Indoor environment printed on them, orange covered the Emotional environment and green was for the outdoor environment.  the three columns were headed 'Things I do well' 'Things I can improve' and 'Things I might need help with'.  It focussed everyones minds on the task in hand and there was some discussion about what a few slips as minders debated which column they wanted to put it in!

We then took it in turns to read out something from the 'Things I can Improve' column, and shared ideas about how we each achieved it or how we would like to improve it.

After that we wrote a plan:

  • One thing to change today.

  • One thing to change by next week.

  • One thing that needs more planning.

  • One thing we can all do together.
It was really great because it made it seem achievable rather than just another huge to-do list!  The things we decided to do together covered slips that appeared on everyone's charts - supporting children to recognise and label their own and other's emotions, so the next meeting we will look at some best practice ideas and make some resources together to help us do that. 

The thing I chose to change that day was to make outdoor access more child-friendly and to voice it as an option, instead of waiting for the children to suggest it, which in this grey and cold weather, they hadn't really been doing!

One thing to change by nest week was to have my groundrules up on the wall..... we all know what they are, I remind them umpteen times a day but they have never made their way onto paper!

One thing that we all agreed needed more planning was using ICT with the children.... it was something that we didn't know much about and needed to look into more, we will probably do that together too, and might try to access some funding to build a set of resources that can be rotated around the group members.

I was thrilled to have some really positive feedback about the session, such as:
"It helped me to put a label onto what I was already doing"
"It will help me to show parents and Ofsted what I am doing to improve my practice"
I will be writing blogposts about the things we and I are improving upon so watch this space!!!

Saturday, 27 February 2010

St. David's Day Planning!

I will be joining forces with another childminder on Monday to enjoy some St. David's Day treats, and then we will do some more activities at home in the afternoon.  I have a CD of children's songs in Welsh that we will play (CLL, KUW). There will be welsh lamb casserole bubbling in the slow cooker ready for lunch, I always talk about where meat comes from as I think it's important for children to understand their place in the food chain, obviously in a amnner sensitive to their age and temperament!! (KUW, PSED) We will make daffodil paper chains (PD, CD). I have bought some wooden spoons and we are going to get creative and decorate them as welsh love spoons, talking about who we love and why, and who we would give them to! (CD, PSED) For the children that enjoy the challenge of colouring in templates, I have printed some welsh flags and welsh children to colour.  My husband is Welsh so I will be getting him to talk to the children in Welsh and we will make a book in welsh with numbers and colours, animals and food for the book basket (CLL, KUW), if you want to the same, there are great language resources here! And I think that will happily take us through the day.... there are many more ideas out there, please come back on and comment to tell me what you did, or e-mail me!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The Learning Environment

The childminding group that I co-ordinate is reflecting on 'the Learning Environment' this week.  I found a couple of great documents available on line when I was making up the materials.... really easy to use and read and with some lovely ideas both for those starting out and the more experienced ones amongst you!
Let me know how you find them!!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Friday's Favourites!

This week's favourites come along with a sigh of relief after passing (I think!) my practical exam on the Montessori curriculum today!  I have discovered three new blogs this week and the rainbow theme omes from them..... gorgeous and inspirational and turning my thoughts towards march planning!

First up is upcycled crayons from 'i make stuff' (see the sidebar for the new blog links)

Then there is rainbow rice from 'pink and green mama'

And finally the thought of 500 coloured pencils from 'The violet hours'.

I'm loving the colours!

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Scissor Happy!

(Picture from yellow moon - carousel of craft scissors)

This post is inspired by a recent thread on the childmindinghelp forum about a cutting activity.  Whilst searching for printable sheets I came across lots of different styles and thought that I'd pull them all together into one place!  This isn't all of them, but my favourties and a good selection!

  1. Cut, fold and colour to make this look like grass!
  2. Snipping a spiral!
  3. Cutting out farm animals.
  4. Snip and sort cutting book.
  5. Colour and cut alphabet
  6. Numbers to nine, colour and cut.
  7. Snip and stick pictorial labels to parts of the face - fabulous activity this one, you MUST look at it!
  8. Cut out and match the symmetrical animal faces - really nice!
  9. Some unusual lines to cut here.
  10. Dot-to-dot cutting.
  11. At the farm cut out and make has two skill levels of 2-4 and 4-6 years old..... this is a really cute activity to do!
  12. A Cat's World cut out and make.
  13. Picnic basket cut and make - I could eat this one it's so lovely!
  14. Make a sandwich cut-outs.
  15. Hawaiian girl  - this includes fringing her skirt!!
  16. Cutting pages of school essentials - a good transitional activity maybe!
Numbers four to eight are on the TES site, and you will need to register and confirm before you can access the pages.  It takes a few minutes to wait for the e-mail and then confirm.

My youngest daughter started cutting when she was 16 months old.  We have a pair of scissors like these easy grip loop scissors and she was off!  She started by fringing the edges of pieces of paper, before progressing to cutting ragged lines across pieces of paper at about 20 months.  She enjoyed cutting pieces of sellotape to stick down at 2 years old (we had lots of different types - sparkly for gift wrapping, coloured electrical tape etc). At 2 3/4 she is cutting shapes out of paper herself and her accuracy astounds me.  Traditionally scissors aren't offered to children so young but she enjoyed mastering them and it has given her more independence.  She now uses normal scissors competently and has done for some time!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Rolling Around!

One of my little ones seemed to be fascinated with balls and things that rolled around.  I did a bit of reading and wondered if she was maybe showing a rotational schema so planned experiences for her that extended her interest.  It lasted for several months but here are a few of the things we tried:
  • A collection of different balls to explore.
  • A collection of vehicles to roll and push.
  • Wooden planks to roll vehicles down.
  • Guttering to roll balls down.
  • Differently sized tubes with differently sized balls to explore which balls fitted down which diameter tubes.
  • Painting with balls in a tray.
  • Painting by rolling toy vehicles through paint and then across paper.
  • Enveloping balls with playdough.
  • making marks with balls in playdough.
  • Putting a soft abll of playdough out with a hard ball and exploring the differences.
  • Rolling balls to knock over skittles.
  • Throwing/ kicking/ rolling/ bouncing/ catching balls.
  • trying to bounce different types of balls.
  • Playing with balls in water, dropping them to make splashes, and patting them.
  • Looking for balls in the world around us (fruit, the tops of gates, door handles, top of the spinnaret on the mosque).
  • A collection of unusual balls such as ball of string, pom-poms, stuffed socks, taped-up paper balls - you could hide them in a box full of shredded paper for little ones to find.
My collection of balls at the moment includes tennis balls, golf balls, a wooden decorative ball from Dunelm, very large glass marbles, and foam balls from a skittle set.  I really like these and these from lakeshore learning.  It's an American company but I can't find anything like it available in the UK, and with exchange rates they might be quite reasonable!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Making Felt Food

I was tidying the play kitchen today, and as I collected the eggs together and put them back into the box, it set me thinking about what else I could make from felt for the children to enjoy 'cooking' with.  I had a little look around and found some fabulous inspiration here.  I especially like the apple quarters!
I found a tutorial for and made a pitta pocket and crisps, I know the pattern is for a sandwich but I thought that a pitta half woud be easier for the little ones to manage so I adapted it!
I made natural coloured eggs from a fabric egg pattern and they were a real hit!
Here's a list of all the fab felt foods you can make!!!
That should keep you going.... I couldn't find a pattern for apple slices that was free so I'll have a go myself this week and if I can work it out then I will post the pattern and instructions on here!!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Emotionally and Socially Capable Children

I have been looking into aspects of social and emotional development and how best to support it as part of my February planning, and I read an article that talked about helping children who were experiencing domestic violence at home, and how to help them develop resilience to cope with it.  It occurred to me that being resilient was important for all children as they all face challenges at different times.  The main points from the article were:
  • Maintain a strong one-to-one relationship with each child.
  • Provide safe ways to communicate worries other than by talking about them.  This could be through mark-making, puppetry or making up stories.
  • Model a rich 'feelings' vocabulary; anxious, afraid, confused, embarrassed. Putting them with facial expressions helps children to learn that everyone has feelings.
  • Encourage toddlers to empathise by 'translating' the body language and feelings of other children.
  • Ensure that children see both men and women engaging in caring and helping roles and getting along well.
  • Be a good role model and always show the behaviour that you expect.
  • Identify unique and special traits in each child and tell them about it. (see the 'I love you the purplest' activity in Febraury planning.)
  • Display delight and wonder at the little things in life, like a sunny day.
  • Provide sensory actvities indoors and out to aid stress relief.
  • Connect children to nature whenever possible - resarch has shown that experiencing the natural rythms build a sense of attachment and security in children.
  • Have a pet - they provide unconditional love for children!
  • Make plenty of time for free play - children use play to make sense of he world around them.
  • Give children choices to provide them with a sense of control.
  • Let children help with preparing food, serving drinks, watering plants etc - this makes them realise that they do make a positive difference.
  • Maintain a predictable routine - this doesn't mean always having lunch bang on twelve o clock, but does mean always setting the same table and serving in the same way; recognisbale routines help children to feel safe and secure.
  • Provide an uncluttered learning space to help children concentrate.
  • Provide fewer resoures at any one time by rotating them, to avoid over-stimulating children.
  • Create small cosy spaces indoors and out.
  • Use postitive discipline; work on resolving conflicts with the children.
Adapted from Nursery World Article, Feb 11 2010

There are many elements that I do already, but some that I would like to introduce and some I am tussling a little with to think of ways that I could incorporate the ideas into a home-setting. 

One thing that I do well already is: delight and wonder at little things.
One thing to start tomorrow is: provide fewer resources out at one time.
One thing to think and plan for is: making cosy spaces indoors and out.

Chinese New Year

I am planning to spend two weeks enjoying all things Chinese for the second half of February! Here is my planning linked to the EYFS although many of the activities cover more than one area!

  • Trip to a Chinese Supermarket in Birmingham to buy snacks, cooking utensils and decorations with the children. In the Chinese Quarter so should be nicely decorated for New Year - Risk Assess.
  • Fly bio-degradeable Chinese sky lanterns in the early evening as it gets dark - available from poundshops - Risk Assess due to use of fire!
  • Look at and talk about pictures of Chinese children in our Children of the world book - no link for this as it's a library cast-off (cost 20p and it's a huge hardback book with the most beautiful images in!)
  • make Chinese rice-pudding
  • Dragon dancing.
  • Make New Year Dumplings - this recipe will call for rolling the dough into a big sausage, cutting it into rounds, rolling the rounds out into circles, spooning the filling then pinching the dumplings closed.  These are all skills that one or more of the childrena re interested in recently, and they are steamed so healthy too!  The recipe linked above tells sbout the symbolism of the dumpling!
  • Playing with dried rice, spooning pouring etc.
  • Chinese bank notes (see above) for role play purchases!
  • Mandarin numbers printed out, make matching games, link to English numbers, play snap etc.
  • Tangram puzzles.
  • Ordinal numbers using the order that the zodiac animals come in.
As usual, I will be using these as resources to do with the children as and when they fit in with their interests and how the day is going.  I'm really looking forwards to the supermarket trip!!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Pom Poms!

Look what we have made this week!! I had the idea from a blog I follow, where there is a step by step tutorial They started as a pile of old clothes that were too battered to be handed on:
And after a long time of wrapping and snipping they became this:
My recommendations for doing this with young children would be:
  • Make small hoops of cardboard and small pom poms - they are much more achievable than the huge one we attempted!
  • Use small scisors to snip the fabric open.... they cut easier than large ones once it is wound!
My two and four year old children did this with me.... the 2 year old with support and the four year old independently.  The little one especially loves it!!

Making a Wildlife Friendly Garden

This is so much simpler than you may think, does not require lots of expensive equipment and is a geat way to get the children involved in outdoors activities and planning their environment; enabling children to have a say is an important part of the EYFS. 

Little Blossoms has been awarded a Gold award for having a wildlife friendly garden by the Cheshire Wildlife Trust.  Anyone can take part, wherever in the country you are and they are keen for the word to get around. To apply, use this form; they no longer require photographic evidence though so don't rush round taking pictures of everything!!
Try making bird feeders, building some mini bug hotels; taking some ideas from this site, drill into the ends of a small bracnch of wood and hang up or tuck into a corner, roll up corrugated cardboard and push into an empty plastic drinks bottle with the end cut off, and saw bamboo canes into small lengths, tie with string and hang up around the garden. 
There is more information on this page from the wildlife trust.  Try searching the web for free/part-funded local and national initiatives to help you get started.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Friday's Favourites!

Well it's the end of a busy week and time for me to relax and enjoy looking through all my favourite blogs.  I'll add a few to the sidebar as time goes by for you to link to and have a look at, but for now, here are my favourite picks of great activities:

  • I love these 'heart pocket pillows' as a project for older children to sew, or for you to make for younger children as a gift.  it would be fun to collect colourful outgrown clothes or thrifted ones from bootsales and charity shops to make hearts with.
  • This idea for re-telling the story of the Gingerbread Man would work really well as a story sack... it is fab inspiration to make up some more ideas for books and stories that are popular with your little ones at the moment!
  • Dolls are the be-all and end-all for one little one in my setting and I loved this idea for extending her play (scroll down to see the bath of water with dolls in it!)
I have added the blogs featured onto my sidebar favourites..... do you have any favourite blogs to share?? Please leave me a comment with the address!

Monday, 8 February 2010

Crazy About Parsnip Soup!

My mindees love this recipe, today one little one, who is 18 months old, ate three bowls of the stuff, along with two slices of bread..... possible growth spurt coming I think!!  It is such a simple recipe and a lovely 'winter warmer' after a frosty walk home from a morning's activities!  I am making ours with the 'Christmas' parsnips that we planted last summer, but the ground was too frozen to get them out for Christmass so we are enjoying them now!!  Homegrown the taste is something else!!

  • Two carrots
  • One stick of celery
  • One small leek
  • One onion
  • Four big parsnips!
  • 100g red lentils (optional)
Roughly chop the carrots, celery, leek and onion and put in a pan over a medium heat with some olive oil.  When it starts to sizzle, turn the heat down and sweat the veg with a lid on the pan for 15 mins, stirring every so often.  Whilst this is happening, peel and chop the parsnips, then add to the sweaty veg along with the lentils and stir thorooughly round.  ( I usually add some black pepper here too).  Pour in enough water to cover the veg and have an extra inch.  bring to the boil, reduce to simmer and cook for half an hour with the lid on.  When parsnips are soft, remove from the heat and blend.

I prepare this in advance then reheat thoroughly before serving..... be careful reheating in the pan though as once blended the soup will puff splots of hot soup out of the top as it begins to simmer again!

Serve with yummy brown or granary bread and you have a hot meal with all the essential amino acids in, perfect for growing minds and bodies!!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Winter Olympics 2010

There is lots of information on the Official Website and various other sites if you have a look around.  There are some nice things here for older children, I will be using the skating boot dot-to-dot with my oldest as she LOVES skating at the minute!  These are nice too, to dot around and get the children used to the different sports that they will see!  It will be novel to have the TV on to watch things as it rarely gets turned on in our house during the week, I think the children will enjoy the sounds of the crowds jangling cow bells and cheering as well as the sports themselves. Here are a few of the ideas that I might use this week:

Knowledge and Understanding of the World
  • Collect Newspaper clippings and pictures of both able-bodied and paralympic athletes, display them.
  • Put a red dot on the world map over the location of the Olympics.
  • The logo is based on an ancient symbol - build an Inukshuk from cardboard boxes or blocks – explain the meaning (pointed the way for the Inuit peoples of Canada).
  • Watch coverage of the sports so that the children understand what they are.
Creative Development
  • Make an Olympic Torch.
  • Make dough/clay medals.
  • Make an ice-skating rink for the small world figures to ice skate on, to promote imaginative play.
  • Similarly build a bob-sleigh run with cut open toilet roll tubes!

Physical Development
  • Mini Olympics – run with a balloon held between the knees.
  • Two children together hold a balloon between their tummies and try to get across the room without it dropping.
  • Sledging in a flat cardboard box with rope handle at the front to pull.
  • Throwing Olympic rings over posts.
  • Jumping from mat to mat (Olympic colours, saxan bath mats from Ikea!).
Communication, Language and Literacy
  • O is for Olympics – what other things begin with O, could make a display or mini book.
  • Talk about what you are seeing on the television.
Problem Solving Reasoning and Numeracy
Personal, Social and Emotional Development
  • Make Olympic rings and explain what they stand for, they represent the five major land areas of the world; Africa, Asia, America, Europe and Australasia.  The rings are interlocked to show friendship.
  • Make paper printables of the mascots; Miga, Quatchi and Sumi. Older children could design their own mascots, younger ones could colour some in.
  • “With Glowing Hearts” is the motto, can the children think of their own motto?



Friday, 5 February 2010

A little Bit of Spring!

I found the inspiration for this from two sources, the first was a box of spring bulbs that somehow never did get planted out in the Autumn, and the second was from Maya*Made. The children had a great time potting up hyacinths and crocus and tulips.  The littlest one was particularly taken with transferring the compost from the bucket to her pot!  it gave me the idea to put compost out for messy play next week, along with pots, bulbs and mini garden tools!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Being Self-reflective

Like risk assessment, this is something that we all do during the day as we work, it is as simple as wondering why the children aren't interested in the playdough this time when usually they really enjoy it - is it old and hard? Are they fed-up of the same old tools to use with it? Are they uncomfortable using it at an adult sized table? Then we try something new - make a new batch, put out a tub of pebbles to use with it, or set it out on a tray on the floor for a change.  Then we observe to see the effect, and we have learned something! Self reflective practice is just this, but writing it down can be important.  it can help to focus our mind on exactly what needs to be done, and is also paper evidence that we are striving to provide the best standard of care that we can.  It will help to complete the SEF (Self Evaluation Form) when you come to do it.

This link from the NCMA is a really useful booklet to work through to start you off with reflective practice. 

Another way to go about it is by auditing each area of your provision systematically.  Our childminding group (called Little Foxes!) has begun this process and we have decided to work through each of the 16 sections of the EYFS.  We are beginning with section 1.2 of 'A Unique Child', looking at Inclsuive Practice.  After looking at all areas carefully, write an action plan detailing what changes you want to make, how you will make them, by when and then sign and date them when completed.

Whichever option you use, or a combination of both, I would recommend attaching copies of evidence to the sheets you write on; evidence could be a list of policies you have, a photocopy of an observation made, a copy of a planning sheet, photographs of an event, e-mails between you and other organisations, copies of training certificates, articles/information you have read that have informed your practice, questionnaires from parents.... there are many many examples!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Child Safety Week June 20-27 2010

The Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT) runs Child Safety Week every year with a different theme.  This years is titled 'Make Time for Safety' and will be supported with a free toolkit if you sign up as wanting to take part.  I have found their resources fantastic and really targeted at young children, building skills they will be able to use to keep themselves safe as they grow older.

You can sign up to receive a monthly CAPT bulletin which has up-to-date information about safety issues affecting children, usually with helpful links.  One that caught my eye in January's bulletin was information and links about carbon monoxide poisening.  I use it to update my risk assessments and review my health and safety policies as necessary.

"One Step Ahead is a new wall chart for parents of babies and young children. It consists of a matrix which matches the child’s age and development to the hazards in the home it is likely to encounter at any particular stage from birth to two. It is easy to understand with colourful illustrations. if you would like a free sample, email for a copy!" (CAPT, January 2010 newsletter)

February Planning.....

I am doing things a little differently in February, for three reasons:
  1. I found planning a single day fun and inspiring when I did it for Australia day and I want to try that a few times for the start of the Winter Olympics and Pancake Day for example.
  2. I have planned a lot to explore the two weeks of Chinese New Year and I don't want to overload either me or the children!!
  3. I recently went to a training day that recommended planning observations to cover all areas of learning and development, and taking a systematic approach so I'm trying to bring that into my monthly planning in a meaningful way.
Therefore I will be exploring Social and Emotional Development over the next couple of weeks.  I will be looking reflectively at my setting to evaluate how I currently support children's social and emotional development and what I could introduce to improve this area of provision.  I will post about it as I go through the process!  I have downloaded Social and Emotional Aspects of Development from the National Strategies site and and will use it to help me evaluate and plan!

I will do a focussed narrative observation for around 15 minutes if possible on each of the little ones and evaluate it to see what I could do to support them in their development.

As usual I have some new books to introduce!! I Love You the Purplest is a beautiful book based on a mother and her sons, but this can easily be adapted to suit a childminder and her little ones!!  I will follow this book with an activity where we will write special things about each child on coloured hearts, such as things they are good at, things we love about them etc, we will put them up on the wall afterwards and read them every day!  The other book I have is called The Crayon Box That Talked and I will follow that up with an activity where the children draw pictures of different people on crayon shapes and then make them up into one big packet, for the little ones I will cut out pictures of children from magazines for them to glue on to the crayons..

I'm looking forwards to exploring Social and Emotional Development!