Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Wearing coats outside in winter...

My son is 13 now and has coped with chronic eczema all his life. He has never willingly worn a coat, even in the depths of winter – coats make him hot and heat makes him uncomfortable and itchy. We do not heat his bedroom and he uses a summer weight quilt in the winter, which he takes out of the cover as soon as the weather gets a little warmer.

My son is not alone... lots of children, for medical or choice reasons, refuse to wear coats or take them off as soon as they think we are not looking in their direction.

Yet we are all aware that we have a duty of care to ensure children’s well being... not just because we follow the EYFS, but also because we are adults in charge of other people’s children.

Strategies to support children

· Maybe we should look at what children are being asked to wear... is that why they are refusing? Big thick coats might look nice in the shop, but if they restrict the child’s movements it may make him uncomfortable when playing. Similarly, coats with tricky fastenings might make children reluctant to keep putting them on and taking them off, especially if they restrict the flow of their play.

The solution here might be to have a stock of spare thick fleeces and raincoats. You could build them up over the years. Teach children how to be independent with their zips and don’t worry if coats get put on inside out, so long as they are being worn.

· Parents sometimes tell me that their child doesn’t get cold... well I ought to understand that one, having a hot bod in the family. Sometimes however it’s not that they don’t get cold ... more that they do not notice when they are cold because they are busy playing. Remember that hypothermia is a creeping condition which takes time to affect the body.

I think we have to talk to parents and remind them that young children are vulnerable and must be protected by adults. Also we take care of children who are different ages and come from different homes who parent in different ways. It would not be right for us to allow one child to remove his coat and insist with the rest (unless of course it’s for medical reasons)... that would lead to upset and resentment.

· We are told that we must teach children to be independent and to carry out their own risk assessments. The EYFS also suggests that we are supposed to let children come and go, between inside and out, which would leave them in charge of putting on coats, hats, wellingtons etc. What do we do with the 2 boys who are constantly running in and out, totally engaged in their game, not thinking about being cold?

This one depends on your own feelings on the subject. As a friend of mine said the other day ... surely sometimes we have to assert our authority and tell children that we know best. Children are not always able to make the best decisions for their health and wellbeing. After all, we wouldn’t let them outside in the hot sun if they threw a tantrum and refused to apply sun cream or wear a hat, would we?

So if you have a coat policy for outside, then you need to apply it, firmly and calmly, every time they go out. It will hopefully only take a few days until they get used to the idea.

· I live in hope of all children arriving in clothing they can comfortably wear through the day in all play situations – inside, outside, when out on walks, in the car etc. However, even working closely with parents and asking for their support, it does not always happen. Children arrive by car in just a jumper, mum telling them it’s not cold enough to wear coats today... they do not take kindly to me insisting they put on one of my spares later. Another child might arrive wearing a dress and sandals in the depths of winter... because dad says that’s what she wanted to put on that morning etc.

A compromise here might be to use an outdoor thermometer – when the temperature goes below a certain agreed level, warm clothing including coats must be worn, no argument. This does not, of course, take into account the wind chill factor but it is a start.

· Certain medical conditions such as asthma require children to be warmly wrapped up outside. In these situations children might feel resentful. I have known children with medical conditions who are told to wear coats refuse to the point where we have tantrums every time we go out – which is tricky when we have 3 school runs a day.

Here, we need to have clear behaviour expectations and go with medically caring for the child. No compromise.

Just don’t get me on the subject of hats!!

Talk soon

Sarah xx


Monday, 27 October 2008

Eyfs and Creativity

Whenever new Government initiatives launch on the unsuspecting childcare professional, there is always a backlash. It’s new, it’s a little scary, it needs working on, there are parts that don’t seem easy to implement, there are parts that seem plain daft.

Sometimes, in the middle of all this, we can forget the good bits. One of the underlying themes of the EYFS is about encouraging children to be creative in all areas of their lives, not just when they are sitting at a table making and doing.

So, for example, children might enjoy playing with cars to make tyre tracks in the paint; they might like to cut up a magazine they have chosen in the shop to make a collage; they might want to put eyes on the teddy’s bottom when creating a picture; they might not want to do the sticking activity, but instead explore the glue.

As a childminder, we need to consider our attitudes to their creativity – are we happy to get the cars covered in paint and possibly ruined? Do we say it’s ok to cut up magazines we have bought? Can we allow children to put eyes in what we might consider is the ‘wrong’ place? Is it ok to give parents a photo of little Lucy exploring glue when mum was expecting a Mothers Day card?

Of course, a big part of how we feel is asking ourselves how the parents will feel about receiving works of art that they might not understand... so a certain amount of our role must be to work with and educate parents so they understand the thinking behind our creative practices.

Ways to enhance creativity
· Leave a model out overnight... and see if children come back to it and make changes the next day;

· Show children posters, pictures on the internet or postcards featuring work by other artists and let them experiment with new ideas, shapes, colours, emotions etc;

· Let children play... it doesn’t matter if lunch is a bit late or snack delayed if they are happy. Obviously, you have things you must fit in like school collections, so plan to fit in longer play sessions accordingly;

· Include art from different cultures in children’s lives eg Mandala patterns, Australian Aborigine designs or put ‘hand painting’ into Google images and prepare to be amazed;

· Involve children in different types of creativity eg using their fingers, feet, brushes in their hands, painting with a silky scarf over their eyes... so they can explore disability at the same time. Share pictures of mouth and foot artists with the children;

· Encourage the children to talk about their work to others;
· Praise children’s works of art, take photographs of creations that go home, display artwork on your notice board, show parents how proud you are of their child’s ‘work’;

· Do not stifle creativity by using the adult view of, ‘It won’t work so there’s no point bothering’. Instead, see how the child can be supported to make it work.
Enjoy being creative with the children... :))

Friday, 4 July 2008

EYFS ~ dressing up thoughts

I have two friends who are childminders.

Sue has a big bag of dressing up clothes, bags, hats and jewellery from all over the world, always on the floor in her playroom and she loves nothing more than watching children delightedly rummaging through the items to find something they want to wear.

Jane has carefully laid out clothes sets, with a dress, shoes, jewellery, bag etc for that particular culture or style of dress. She sits with the children when they are choosing and gets the items out, one by one, so they can appreciate the cut and beauty of the fabric, learn about the country from which the clothes originate and talk about how the clothes might be worn. She will then read them a book which complements the clothes set they have chosen or model a role play scenario they might want to follow, giving them ideas for their play.

I have been thinking about both approaches in relation to the EYFS. Is one right and the other wrong? Both are encouraging play, which is key to the ethos of the EYFS. Both are allowing children’s free choice. Both are providing a range of clothes from different religions and cultures, to extend children’s knowledge of the world in which they live.

Perhaps the biggest difference is that Sue’s clothes are out all the time for children to choose from, while Jane’s are on a high shelf, immediately accessible when she has the time to sit with the children and support their learning. Some might also say that Jane is promoting respect for the clothes, while Sue’s free-for-all is encouraging imagination and free-flowing play.

I think, having read the EYFS, that both approaches have their merits. That is the beauty of the EYFS – it is not prescriptive and it does not set barriers to learning. It encourages each practitioner to work in their own way... so long as each can show they are supporting children in working towards meeting the learning and development goals for each child’s age and stage of development.

See my website ~ www.knutsfordchildminding.co.uk


Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Outside art and the EYFS

Andy Goldsworthy is a British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist who lives in Scotland and produces sculptures using nature and natural elements.

We have been exploring his work on the internet and looking at some of the pictures he makes. Inspired by this, we set off on a nature hunt to find some resources to make an outside collage, which we could leave outside to be reclaimed by the elements later.

The children found leaves, twigs, interesting stones, a small branch, some pieces of slate and a couple of chunks of coal. We also carefully picked a very few flowers - we are always aware of our impact on the environment when picking flowers and we take scissors so we do not pull up the roots by accident.

When we came back, we made our sculptures in the garden on one of the tree trunks, tucked away in the corner of the garden, so it wouldn’t be knocked when playing later. All the children worked together on the sculpture and took great pride in showing it to their parents when it was finished.

This activity can be linked to the EYFS in many ways - children are...
- using their bodies to reach, stretch, bend, lift etc which links with physical development;
- looking up images on the computer, linking to knowledge and understanding of the world;
- finding out about a famous artist;
- creating something using crafts, which links with creative development.

Depending on the individual child's learning and development, you might observe them...
- counting their leaves (problem solving, reasoning and numeracy);
- cooperating and sharing with others (personal, social and emotional development;
- attempting to find initial letters for the natural resources (communication, language and literacy);
- wanting to find out more about trees or other natural resources (knowledge and understanding of the world).

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Our listening walk

We were thinking about loud and quiet noises today, so we went out for a listening walk.

We took the tape recorder with us so we could listen to the sounds when we came back and the children suggested what to record.

We heard so many noises - obvious ones like cars, a motorbike, a dog barking, birds singing and ones we don't listen to or notice very often like a long goods train going over the bridge (lucky that one!), a van beeping as it reversed, ducks quacking, children laughing, our footsteps through some puddles of water etc...

When we came back, we listened to the noises on the recorder again, tried to remember what they were and thought about whether they were loud or quiet. We read 'Quiet, Loud' by Leslie Patricelli and got the instruments out to experiment with different sounds.

It was a great activity and one which all the children enjoyed ... hopefully they did a lot of learning while having fun and experimenting with technology!

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Our nature walk

We have been thinking about spring this week... unfortunately the weather has been against us and the snow made us feel a bit chilly and not at all spring-like, but we have managed some forays into the garden.

We have seen the buds growing on trees and little plants pushing though the soil... we drew some of the plants and talked about the different shades of green in the garden. This was followed by a very messy paint mixing session!

To try and include all areas of learning and development in our activities, I planned for us to go on a nature walk.

- We thought carefully about what clothes we needed to wear to be dressed for the weather (PSED);

- We talked about what we might see on our walk and spent time looking together at some flower and nature books so we could make a list of things to try and spot (CLL);

- We counted all the items on our list and planned to make a counting line when we came back (PSR&N);

- We talked about which way we would go on our walk and the children made suggestions, using their knowledge of the local area (KUW);

- Of course, the walk itself would ensure we got plenty of good exercise in the fresh air (PD);

- We decided that we would make some daffodil pictures on our return (CD).

A great time was had by all!

See my website ~ www.knutsfordchildminding.co.uk

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Childminding forum ~ my favourite forum!

Working from home as an Ofsted registered Childminder can be a lonely life.

I love children, but I also enjoy the company of like-minded (sometimes totally bonkers) adults!

If you are a Childminder, can I suggest you have a look at the Childminding Forum here –


It's full of friendly, chatty, helpful childminders who are always happy to pass the time of day, have a gossip and help others...

Belonging to a special group like this makes my life just that little bit easier! :)

Knutsford Childminding ~ my e-books

Outstanding Ofsted Registered Childminder

Knutsford, Cheshire

Est. 1994

Here's a list of all my books!

001 - Multicultural Activities for pre-school Children – at least 2 fully planned activities for each month, following the EYFS areas of learning and development; plus lots of general multicultural and global activity ideas - this really is a massive resource!
Price - £8.99 plus £1 p&p – this e-book will be posted out on a CD as it is too big to email.

002 - Childminders Daily Diary - daily, weekly and monthly forms to complete, to make sure you meet all statutory and good practice requirements for the EYFS. Includes planning and observation sheets, self-evaluations and lots and lots of other forms - I love making forms!
ONLY - £4.99

003 - Religions of the World - perhaps for slightly older children, all your religion questions answered, with stories from each major religion and pictures to print for colouring.
ONLY - £4.99

004 - Children's Behaviour - hints and tips on how to manage various behaviours, positive behaviour management techniques, ideas for how to word your behaviour management policy and ideas on how to tackle bullying.
ONLY - £4.99

005 - Risk Assessments - the EYFS will make risk assessments obligatory - get ready early! This e-book contains a full risk assessment for every area of your home, with sample forms and ideas for good practice. There is also a section on risk assessing outings.
ONLY - £6.99

006 - Outside Play - the EYFS will make every day an outside play day! This e-book contains ideas for how to plan, develop, resource and make the most your outside area (large or small), including ideas for games to play and lots of fun things to do. It includes safety and risk assessment advice.
ONLY - £4.99

007 - Music and Rhymes - Songs, rhymes and words, making instruments, lots of planned song activities and much more musical ideas. This is one of my favourite e-books as I use ideas from it every week to plan new activities and give me fresh ideas for making songs fun!
ONLY - £3.99

008 - December Celebrations Planning - there are 13 multicultural festivals in December and I have included planning for each, linked to the EYFS.
Note - if you want this and you already have ‘Multicultural Activities for pre-school Children’, 2 of the celebrations are duplicated, although I have tried to put a bit more in for each.
ONLY - £4.99

009 - Seasons Planning - covers spring, summer, autumn and winter and linked to the EYFS, this e-book includes my multicultural planning calendar. There are lots of ideas for activities to support many of the global festivals and celebrations through the year - except December as that’s covered in ‘December Celebrations Planning’.
ONLY - £5.99

010 – People Who Help Us Planning - a popular theme for young children. This e-book contains planning, games and activities for lots of different occupations. It is multicultural and has been written with an awareness of anti-discriminatory practice. There is an attachment of flash cards I made for a mindee who is a visual learner.
Note - the pictures used in this e-book are freely available for public use from various websites on the internet. I have referenced each back to source where possible or left the © intact as relevant. I am not selling the illustrations – they are provided for colour only. There is plenty of written material in this e-book to more than warrant the selling price.
ONLY - £3.99

011 – Meeting the Standards – this e-book is designed to prepare the reader for an Ofsted inspection by taking a close look at each of the 14 National Standards and showing how you can best meet and exceed them… with activities for the children and links to more information.
Note - this is not relevant to the EYFS, it has been written for the National Standards.
ONLY - £3.99

012 – Children’s Favourite Books – planning – to help celebrate the National Year of Reading, 12 favourite books, from popular contemporary authors, planned and ready for your next reading session with the children. The e-book includes sample planning sheets and suggestions for activities to cover all aspects of the EYFS curriculum.
ONLY - £3.99

014 – EYFS Observations - all the information you need to begin observing and assessing children in line with the new Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) requirements. Sample observations, ideas for how to set out your observations so parents and children can benefit from the information... there is also a big section on how to celebrate each child’s learning journey with them and their parents… and lots more!
ONLY - £4.99

015 – EYFS Planning – there is a lot written about how to plan for EYFS – this is my interpretation! I have used the EYFS as a base for showing how we can best plan for each child’s learning journey. This includes looking closely at each of the Foundation Stage Principles and seeing how these are linked to good practice – which we do every day.
ONLY - £4.99

NOTE – I am going to do one about the EYFS next... I’m just waiting until they tell us what changes are being made to the Welfare Standards… I believe a revision is due out soon.

The other stuff –

- All pages can be printed again and again – just save them to your hard drive;

- Childminders Daily Diary comes in Microsoft Word format so you can personalise the forms, the rest are supplied in Adobe Reader format due to repeated plagiarising by other buyers;

- I haven’t used much colour because I know people don’t always have a colour cartridge in their printer;

- All links on my website to Sparklebox are included with the site owner's permission;

- All my material contains references / ideas for good practice from relevant books, magazines and websites. Every time I use an outside reference, I inform the reader, both within the text and in a references chapter at the end;

- Free P&P - apart from ‘Multicultural Activities’, all the e-books will be emailed to you once I have received your payment – I aim for this to be same or next day, but I work with children so please bear with me!

- Please make immediate payment by PAYPAL – you can use your credit card;
Please note – PayPal e-cheques take 7-10 days to clear!

- Please be certain about what you are ordering as it is impractical to offer returns or refunds on an e-book;

- If you have any questions or have problems, please contact me and I will do my best to help;

- I offer customers ongoing support – please email me if there are any issues you need to discuss.

Please do not consider re-selling my books. I am selling them to you for your own use only.

They have taken me many years to produce and I will pursue anyone who copies any of the material from them to sell as their own.

Thank you!