Monday, 31 March 2014

Activity ideas for all areas of learning


I initially wrote this information for members of the Independent Childminders Facebook group who told me that it was a useful planning prompt. It is not a definitive list of everything you can do with children – it is just a few ideas to support children in each of the areas of learning.

During your Ofsted inspection, your inspector will be looking to see how well you teach each of the children in your care. Part of teaching is showing evidence that the planning you have in place ensures you have appropriate resources available – because children cannot learn well if they are not challenged and stimulated in their play.
We all know that the most important and effective type of planning is individual, linked to each child’s interests, learning styles, schemas, previous observations, learning characteristics etc.

You can use this activity ideas list as an enhancement to your individual planning, to help you prepare ‘invitations to play’ which children can access through the day in addition to the individual learning you have planned for them.

For example…
Jane enjoys playing with the dolls and would happily wrap her doll up and take it for a walk round the garden all morning. You offer this activity and add some water play so she can bathe her doll.
As additional ‘invitations to play’ you also have some of the following outside experiences available –
C & L – role play flower shops as part of your spring themed activity planning;
PD – flower sewing cards to promote fine motor skills;
PSED – games where Jane is encouraged to play cooperatively with other children eg playing flower shops with friends etc…

John enjoys playing with cars and garages. Dad is a mechanic and has taken John to work with him recently. You have observed John using a lot more garage role play in his learning. you set up a garage for him and add a notepad and pen along with a phone so he can take bookings for his garage from other children.
As additional ‘invitations to play’ you also have some of the following outside experiences available –
C & L – spring themed activities linked to your spring words display to support John’s extending vocabulary and cooperative games to support John’s developing listening skills;
PD – flower sewing cards to promote fine motor skills;
PSED – discussion with John about his favourite spring changes which will lead to arts and crafts as part of his individual / next steps planning etc...


Activity ideas for the PRIME areas of learning…

Communication & Language
1. Listening & attention
2. Understanding
3. Speaking / communicating

Activity ideas include -
• Books, comics & stories*
• CDs* – music, stories
• Chatting to friends – communication friendly spaces
• Helping with jobs
• Jokes
• Library visits
• Listening games* – listening lotto, listening walks, recording sounds (ICT)
• Question & answer games*
• Role play
• Sign language
• Singing and rhymes*
• Story sets / bags* extend learning
• Story telling*
*Letters and Sounds phase 1

Physical Development
1. Moving (gross motor skills)
2. Handling (fine motor skills)
3. Health & self care

Activity ideas include -
• Art & crafts – rubbing, stencils
• Climbing – up & down steps & stairs
• Cooking – learning about healthy food and healthy eating
• Construction toys
• Dancing
• Fine motor practice – cutting, stickers, glue, pencil control, tracing
• Hand washing - germs
• Mark making – chalk, crayons & pencils
• Outside gross motor skills – bike, scooter, rocker, slide, swing etc
• Park visits & soft play – climbing, jumping, running, kicking a ball
• Sewing
• Threading reels & treading cards
• Throwing & catching - balls, bean bags & balloons

Personal, Social and Emotional Development
1. Self-confidence & awareness
2. Managing feelings & behaviour
3. Making relationships

Activity ideas include -
• Body parts – songs, pointing & naming games
• Books & games to promote sympathy, understanding of others, empathy
• Cuddles – tickling games
• Dressing up
• Games
• Group activities – working together to make something, talking in a group
• Helping with little jobs
• Meeting / visiting friends
• Sharing / taking turns – games, with resources
• Time – to speak & make themselves heard, to be with adults & children, to be alone & daydream, to be bored

Activity ideas for the SPECIFIC areas of learning…

Literacy
1. Reading
2. Writing

Activity ideas include -
• Alliteration games*
• Books* – different sizes, types & shapes
• Initial sounds games – phonics*
• Letter shapes – in the air, on paper, outside with chalk, at the easel, with playdough, in salt or sand
• Poems / poetry*
• Print in the environment – shops, labels, computer
• Rhyming games*
• Signs - words in displays, labels on toy boxes
• Songs & rhymes*
• Story telling* – with or without puppets & other resources
• Writing (not mark making – that’s PD) – pencils, crayons, paper, labels, captions, name writing
*Letters and Sounds phase 1

Maths
1. Numbers
2. Shape, space & measures

Activity ideas include -
• Cooking – weights, measures, time, capacity
• Counting & numbers
• Jigsaws – shapes, sizes
• Matching & sorting
• Money – shopping, cafĂ©
• Number activities, games, books, jigsaws etc
• Number rhymes – counting forwards & backwards
• Positional language – up, down, over, under, through, behind, in front
• Quantity language – heavy, light, more, less
• Sequencing – colours, shapes, sizes, numbers
• Shapes – stencils, pictures, freehand, playdough
• Size – big, small, bigger, smaller, emptying, filling
• Sorting – size, shape, colour, weight
• Time – visual timetables
• Weight – heavy, light – sand & water play

Understanding the world
1. People & communities
2. The world
3. Technology (ICT)

Activity ideas include -
• Environmental awareness – recycling, walks in the woods, map making
• Equality & disability awareness – small world people, dolls house
• Experimenting – cooking, finding out how things work
• Festivals from around the world – themes for over 3s
• ICT – computer, dance mat, toys that do something, finding out how things work
• Listening to music on CDs, YouTube etc
• Matching games
• Messy play – sand, water, gloop, playdough, foam
• Model making
• Nature & the natural world – plants, animals
• Relationships & friendships
• Role play – home & community influences in pretend play
• Seasons – time & changes
• Weather
• World around us themes

Expressive arts & design
1. Media & materials
2. Imagination

Activity ideas include -
• Collages
• Colour mixing & experiments
• Colouring sheets
• Construction & tools
• Dancing
• Glue & tape – joining things together, taking them apart
• Imaginative / pretend – role play, dressing up clothes
• Malleable & messy play – sand, water, playdough etc
• Music – CDs, radio, creating with instruments
• Outings to gain experiences that can be used to develop imagination
• Painting
• Rhythm & rhyme
• Sensory learning
• Singing songs & rhymes
• Small world resources – dolls house, little people, farm, under the sea, zoo, cars, trains, insects
• Textures

I hope you find the ideas useful. Chat soon, Sarah x

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Maths outside for childminders

A little while ago, Independent Childminders Facebook group members contributed to an ‘Outside Maths' thread. I added some of my own ideas and have turned it into a useful download to support CPD.

We are seeing a few Ofsted inspection reports which comment that childminders do not plan enough maths activities outside. While Ofsted refuse to clarify what ‘enough’ means we will always be fighting an uphill battle, but I thought it might be worthwhile pulling together a few ideas.

Maths includes – number, shape, space, measure, time, capacity, speed, counting, money, weight, pattern, reasoning, symmetry, length, estimating, perspective, angles, pairs, fractions, direction, opposites, problem solving, making comparisons, direction…

Let’s think about some of our planned activities and think about some of the ways they support children to develop an awareness of maths through play…
• Active play – counting footsteps, distance language, sharing space;
• Art and artists – Kandinsky paintings = shape; distance and perspective;
• Balls / bean bags – counting and number, distance, speed, direction;
• Bikes – speed, direction, angles, problem solving;
• Blocks – shape, weight, measure, estimating, space, counting;
• Butterfly painting – symmetry;
• Calendar – time;
• Cars – make big numbers and draw roads on them – shape, distance, speed, direction;
• Chalk to draw round things – shape, size, measure, pattern, symmetry;
• Clock on the wall – time;
• Collections of natural materials eg twigs, leaves, fir cones, coconut shells, stones, acorns and conkers – shape, size, counting, lining up by size, opposites;
• Dinosaurs in the messy tray – sorting, size, shape, lining up;
• Den building – shape, size, angle, length, problem solving;
• Fishing game with magnets and water – counting, sorting, shape, size, weight;
• Floating experiments in the water tray – weight, capacity, shape, size; good book ‘who sank the boat?’ by Pamela Allen;
• Flowers / herbs – shape, size, time;
• Foot / wellie / shoe / leaf prints – size, shape, counting, symmetry;
• Growing flowers – measure, time;
• Guessing games – estimating, problem solving;
• Hopscotch – counting;
• Numbers on the fence eg house or bin numbers – numbers, counting, shape;
• Leaves – symmetry, shape, size, pairs, opposites, capacity; threading leaves – shape, size, counting;
• Making puddles – size, shape, capacity, shapes;
• Maps – distance, speed, measure, perspective;
• Mazes (cars, children) – direction, speed, time;
• Minibeasts – size, shape, number, counting;
• Musical instruments – counting beats;
• Notebook and pencil / clipboard – counting, writing numbers;
• Number line – counting, sorting;
• Pebbles with numbers / shapes – varnish for longer life – number, sorting;
• Oats and water – predicting, capacity, size;
• Obstacle course – distance, direction, number, counting;
• Photographs – distance, angle, problem solving;
• Potion making – capacity, measure, counting;
• Pots, spoons and measuring jugs in water and sand play – weight, capacity, size, fractions, estimating, pairs;
• Questions – keep your questions open so children are encouraged to think, try, guess, estimate, suggest, solving problems etc. Ask ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions and take an interest in what children are doing rather than turning fun activities into an inquisition. Children are more likely to share what they know if they are relaxed and playing;
• Rain water – capacity, weight, measure;
• Ride on toys and numbered parking bays – number, direction, speed;
• Shopping role play – money, size, estimating, capacity (putting shopping in bags);
• Rubbings – pattern, shape, size, symmetry;
• Sand – writing numbers, shape moulds, pattern;
• Scales – weigh natural materials – weight, measure, making comparisons;
• Shells – grading, sorting, shape, size;
• Skipping – counting, speed, use of space;
• Skittles – direction, speed, counting, weight;
• Songs and rhymes – shape, counting, number;
• Stepping stones – counting, distance;
• Sticks – shape, size, length, angles, number shapes, measure;
• Stones – weight, size, shape, counting; numbered stones can be used for sorting;
• Sunshine and shadows – shape, symmetry, time;
• Tea parties – fractions, shape, number, counting;
• Treasure hunt – counting, distance, opposites, problem solving;
• Tubes for rolling cars down – distance, speed, angle, distance;
• Water play – capacity, weight, problem solving, opposites, estimating;
• Wet and dry sand – weight, problem solving, making comparisons, pattern;
• Windmills / kites – direction, speed.

Ofsted are making a lot of comments in inspections about using natural resources. Go for a walk with the children and collect natural resources to use for experiments – use magnifying glasses to explore them carefully. Think about how you can use the resources for maths activities.

I hope you find the ideas useful. Sarah x

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Individual planning for childminders

To follow on from my blogs about weekly planning and group planning, this final blog in the planning series looks at individual planning - and gives you some ideas for recording your planning.

I hope you find it useful.

Individual planning

This is the most important type of planning and the one you should focus on the most. If you don’t write anything else, please have some written individual planning (next steps / PLODS - whatever you call it) for each EYFS aged child. You should keep the rest of your planning (if you choose to use it) simple and easy to do because this is the planning that should take up most of your time.

Ofsted want to see evidence that children are making good progress - that the activities and experiences you plan for them are helping them to learn new things - that you know your key children** really well and are building on the ways they learn (their learning characteristics) and the things they already know (observations) to develop their future learning experiences.

**Childminders are each child’s key person. If you work in group provision you must nominate a key person for every EYFS aged child - inform parents about the key person role - write the name of the child’s key person somewhere on the child’s Learning Journey information - this is a requirement of the EYFS 2012.

Individual planning = next steps... for example -
• John loves farm animals so you make a Lego farmyard with him, sing ‘Old MacDonald’ and read a book about Spot the dog visiting a farm - yes it really is that obvious! Don’t over-complicate it!
• Janet has been to the zoo with her family and brings a toy giraffe to show you - read ‘Handa’s Surprise’ with her and see what she wants to do next with her new interest... you could sing the elephant song or go outside to hunt for the zoo animals which you have hidden in the garden.
• Katie is exploring an enveloping schema at the moment - she is wrapping everything up including herself! Plan some den play with her... and give parents some ideas for activities they can do with her at home.
• Jack points out a spiders web in the garden - get him some string and have fun making one together. Concentrate on his scissor skills (you noted that you wanted to do some more fine motor skills with him in his previous next steps).

Photos are great for showing how you have followed children’s learning styles but don’t take too many or it will cost you a fortune to print them all... or take lots to show parents but only print a few.

It is important that every child has a range of experiences that link to all areas of learning and development through the week. However, you don’t need to sit down and fill in a big planning sheet every week because a lot of what the children do in their daily routines will allow you to show evidence of your compliance with the EYFS before you even start planning!
For example every day you already know that -
• Jane sits with her friends at the table and has snack - PSED - making friendships
• Jane sings songs about numbers - maths - counting
• Jane looks at worms when you are out on the school run - understanding the world - the world
• Jane washes her hands and chooses a healthy snack - Physical - health and self care
Then, you can write your individual planning...

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Recording planning

Here is how I do it -

• I put my annual plan at the front of my medium term planning folder. I use it as a prompt through the months - but I do not follow it if something better (something the children would rather do) comes up instead.

• I add medium term planning through the months to build up a really good resource file. Sometimes I have some good activity ideas that don’t link to the months of the year - I file them alphabetically at the back of my folder for reference next time they pop up.

• I add group planning notes to my monthly folder as well - I don’t include the children’s names, just activity ideas and comments.

• Each child has a personalised Learning Journey file and I put notes about their individual learning experiences in a play plan which I write every week for them. I include information about what I have planned for the child - and notes about what the child has chosen to do from my continuous provision resources (the toys and games I always have available).

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More information and advice

You can find a copy of my play plan here


Advice about weekly planning here.


There is a quick overview of different types of planning here .

You can find more FREE information and links to help and advice here .

This blog looks at daily outside play planning.


If you are a Childcare.co.uk member I have written lots of information about planning for gold members of the site.


Remember, your ways of doing things are NOT wrong!!

We all work differently and it is important we share good practice. If you have a way of doing your planning that works better for you then you do NOT need to change it... but if any of my ideas help or you think they will save you time, then you might like to reflect on how to include them in your day-to-day record keeping.

Don’t forget to keep a note of what you have done to include in your SEF.

If you have any questions about planning that are not answered above, please ask! It is really important that we all support each other.

For more information about planning please see e-book 15 'Eyfs Planning' from Knutsford Childminding resources.

Thank you.

Group planning for childminders

Following on from my weekly planning blog here ... a number of childminders have asked me to share information about group planning - long and short term.

I hope you find this blog useful.

Annual / long term group planning

You do not need to have written annual / long term planning.

A lot of childminders find it useful to put their future planning ideas in writing for sharing with parents but it is not a requirement.

Annual / long term planning is ideas for things you MIGHT do with the children over the coming year. Things you might plan include -
• Festivals and celebrations - national, UK and further afield
• Local events like the fire station open day, the fair or circus coming to town or May Day celebrations
• The seasons - spring (April - June), summer (July - Sept), autumn (Oct - Dec), winter (Jan - March)
• Children’s birthdays, family weddings etc...

To record annual / long term planning you can make yourself a simple table -
January -
o New Year
o Australia Day
o Jack’s birthday

February -
o Valentines Day
o John’s parents getting married
Etc.... some childminders use diaries or calendars to record their annual planning.

Remember, if the events are of no interest to the children for whom you care then you are not really going to achieve very much.

For example -
• If you live near Chinatown and the children visit there regularly then by all means do some Chinese New year themed activities with them in February / March...
• If your children are from another culture then ask their parents what they are celebrating at home and plan some activities to complement their home learning...
• If you are an African childminder and your children know very little about Christmas because they mostly celebrate Kwanzaa at home and in your provision, you might plan to introduce Christmas to them so they learn more about what they can see happening in the world around them (lights on houses, displays in shops etc) but you would probably want to enhance their home learning as well.

Remember! Don’t knock yourself out trying to plan for 2 x 2 year olds to celebrate Eid if it means nothing to them or you! Focus on other things that are more relevant instead.

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Medium term planning

You do not need to have written medium term planning. A lot of childminders find it useful to have a file of ideas and activities to fall back on through the year but Ofsted cannot insist you have it all in writing if you work a different way.

If you want to put together some medium term planning you will need to buy a folder - divide it into months - and as you plan for this year add -

• Your planning notes from last year / this year
• Ideas for activities that went well / failed miserably last time you tried them
• Downloads from the internet / links to useful websites
• Ideas for activities the children might follow up at home
• Follow up activities for things children are doing at nursery or pre-school
• Activity ideas provided by parents
• Activity ideas taken from magazines etc...

By next year you will have a brilliant medium term planning resource!

Remember, every folder you build up starts with one piece of paper - it takes time to put together a workable way of doing things and you will make lots of changes through the year... that is what continuous professional development is all about.

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Short term planning - group

It is not a requirement to have written short term group planning. Most childminders like to have something in writing to share with parents and to keep them focussed through the weeks. It is important that you share your group planning with parents so they know what their child is doing while they are with you and can (hopefully) follow up some of the activities at home.

If you want to start doing or enhance your current short term group planning, here are some ideas...
Go back to your long term planning and medium term planning notes and think about your current children. Change things as necessary - for example, you might not have any children who are interested in something you had planned so why flog the proverbial dead horse? It will be far better to adapt your planning to their current interests.
Include notes about your planning on your newsletter and write a quick ‘ideas for home activities’.

Remember, just make brief notes - do not add too much detail - the children might not be interested and your hard work will be wasted. I focus on the following -
• Date - Week number - our main theme
• Why? -
• Book of the week -
• Activity ideas inside / outside -
• Home learning idea -
• Main EYFS links -
• Other group activity ideas -
• Comments -

Here is a completed example from the other week -

30.9 - Week 1 - autumn leaves
• Why? - The children saw leaves falling from the trees last week and wanted to find out more...
• Activity ideas - shapes, colours, sizes, rubbing, drawing round, copying / painting, crunching, finding minibeasts, leaves in the messy tray, tree books, floating leaves
• Book of the week - trees of the world / leaf finder (internet)
• Home learning idea - find leaves in the garden and talk to the children about them
• Main EYFS links* - maths, language / vocabulary, understanding the world
Other group activity ideas - Grandparents Day on 6th

Comments - the children loved finding leaves. We did lots of crafts with them. We looked at trees and developed vocabulary. Plenty of opportunities for colour recognition, counting, sorting, size, shape and similar vocabulary.

I received some lovely feedback from one child’s home exploration of leaves in the garden - crinkling them in her fingers and throwing them around /collecting them into piles.
Older children made cards for their grandparents, we all read a book about grandparents and talked about older relatives we have in our families.

* I write general links to the Development Matters guidance of the EYFS and look back over the month to make sure I have included something from every area of learning. If you are given complicated sheets of activity planning to fill in, remind the person who gives you them that children engage with a huge amount of other activities during the day which also link to the EYFS - with you, at home and in other settings - and you are not solely responsible for everything they learn. Your aim is to complement what they are learning elsewhere.

Remember, don’t write too much - you will feel resentful if things change - which they often do when children are involved! Don’t ignore a child’s interest because you have a written plan - just put your ideas to one side and follow what they want to do and make some notes about that instead.

I will add a blog about individual planning and recording planning to finish this series... you can find more planning information in e-book 15 'Eyfs planning' from Knutsford Childminding resources.

Chat soon, Sarah

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

School runs and childminders

A childminder was recently told by an Ofsted inspector that her school runs were taking up too much time and she should do them in the car… because children were not learning during the outings.

We all know that this is not true!

Children learn every time they go outside and we make sure we offer learning experiences on walks and outings to and from school. However, we need to be confident in how we provide evidence to Ofsted about children’s learning on school outings.

Other considerations are that school outings on foot provide an excellent opportunity to teach children about the world around them, road safety etc and…

‘Regular exercise such as walking to school contributes to a healthier life style and is seen as an effective way of tackling child hood obesity.’ http://www.schoolrunisfun.co.uk/

Some childminders use continuous provision (CP) plans to demonstrate they are aware of how much teaching and learning is involved during daily routines. CP plans are not a requirement of the EYFS and you do not have to do them – they take time to set up as well so you need to consider whether they will enhance your provision first.

However, they can be useful to show, for example…

Working to a schedule - CP plan
Mornings can be busy so it is important we keep to our routine. If parents ask us to give their child breakfast we ask that they arrive before 8am or it might not be possible to fit in their request. Children learn the routine and we use clocks and a visual timetable (when needed) to support them from a very young age. Children are supported to free play, visit the toilet (depending on age), get ready for school etc in plenty of time so we are not rushed.
• Time awareness / routines – Maths (time)
• Breakfast time – all areas of learning
• Working with parents
• Toileting – PD (health and self-care)
• Being aware of the needs of others – PSED (friendships)

Putting on coats and shoes – CP plan
Children are supported and encouraged from the earliest time to be independent. They are shown how to put their coats on by using the hood so their coats hang ready for hands to go straight into sleeves. If coats do not have a hood they can be held so the child can put their arms in. Children are encouraged to put on their own shoes and to fasten them up by themselves.
We support the children if they need help – it is more important to get out on time without upset or frustration and we believe that both coat and shoe putting on lessons can wait for a more appropriate and less rushed time if children are struggling.
Smaller children are placed in the buggy and we talk about the weather, fastening straps to keep them safe, putting a blanket over them in the cold, wearing sun cream and a hat in the hot weather etc.
• Coats – PD (moving)
• Buttons and zips – PD (handling)
• Shoes – getting them on the right feet – Maths (spatial awareness) / PD (hand eye coordination)
• Talking about the weather and choosing appropriate clothes / putting up hoods – UW (the world)
• High visibility clothing discussions – PD (health and self-care)

Leaving the house - CP plan
Our routine is to make sure all children have their coats, bags, shoes etc and then to stand and wait sensibly and quietly for everyone to be ready before setting off. Children need to learn to stand still and not bump each other or throw bags around because that might hurt their friend. The children work together to talk about how to keep each other safe.
• Counting bags – Maths (numbers)
• Space awareness – PD (health and self-care)
• Getting the right things in the right hands ready to leave – Maths (sorting)
• Promoting awareness of the needs of others – PSED (friendship)
• Using reins, clips on buggies etc – C & L (talking) about keeping safe and PD (health and self-care)

Walking to school safely – CP plan
Children help with the daily risk assessment. We constantly talk about safety on the school run – crossing roads, holding hands, staying together, not running off etc. We often include role play scenarios in our outside play so that children are better prepared for going with us on our regular outings.
• Road / rail track safety – PD (being safe)
• Stranger danger – UW (people and communities)
• Talking about time – Maths (time)
• Risk assessing while on the walk to school and back – PD (self-care)

Behaviour management – CP plan
We make our behaviour expectations very clear from the start – we understand that a child might be angry, upset, not wanting to go to school, tired etc but we have to go and we have to get there at a certain time. We do not have a choice about this and we cannot let any of the children’s actions make us late or endanger others. We will give the child a quick hug / a place in the buggy etc if possible and they will always get attention at a more appropriate time but the school run is not the time to throw a wobbler!
• Behaviour expectations – PSED (behaviour and self-control)
• Recognising the needs of others – PSED (self-awareness)
• Being safe – PD (health and self-care)

Stop – look – point – CP plan
Every school run we have a different ‘something’ to look for or ‘something’ to talk about. The children help us to decide what we are going to look for and are always very excited when it is their turn to choose. We have a series of photos we have taken during previous outings in a basket and the children choose one… sometimes, we select photos or things to look for depending on the time of year, weather conditions, things we know are happening in the local area eg building work. Other times, we choose something based on a child’s interests or learning at the time, for example…
• It is a sunny day so we look for shadows
• John loves cars and trucks and Jane is learning her colours at home - so we involve the children in a game of spotting red cars
• The children want to look for cats after seeing one this morning

We use stop – look – point to keep everyone safe. The children know to stop if there is something they want to chat about or something they have seen… they look (rather than touch) to keep themselves safe… they point (again rather than touching) and then we use their developing listening skills to share ideas and extend their learning.
• Stop – PD (being safe)
• Look – PD (being safe) / PSED (alerting friends)
• Point – PD (being safe)
• Talk – C & L (all)
• Weather – UW (the world)
• Flowers / animals – UW (the world) etc…

School runs and children’s learning

You can cover all areas of learning and development during the school run… you just need to be confident to share how you know you are supporting children’s learning with your Ofsted inspector.

We always try and set off early enough to include a game on our school runs, even though we (luckily for us when it’s raining as it often does at 3pm) don’t have to go very far.

Here are some ideas for activities your children might enjoy…

• Spot letters and numbers they recognise on car number plates or road signs
• Watch ongoing building work on a house
• Count red or blue cars or trucks
• Talk about keeping safe by the road
• Talk about the weather and how to dress to stay warm / cool
• Spot, name and count birds
• Walk back via the duck pond – don’t forget to take some food for them
• Talk to friends – remind children they have to walk safety and sensibly and hold hands / hold the buggy etc, even when they are with their friends
• On the way back from school, ask each child to tell you one good / positive / affirming / exciting thing that happened during their day
• Road crossing drills – stop, look and listen / take it in turns to press the button on the crossing
• Take some home-made binoculars and spot aeroplanes in the sky
• Notice changing seasons – leaves falling, flowers dying, buds on trees etc. Remember what you see on the way to school and collect it on the way home for artwork or to make pictures in the garden
• Make up funny voices or sing songs with the children
• Come back via the park and find some conkers or fir cones
• Wear wellies and splash in puddles
• Spot road signs and talk about what they mean
• On the way to school, talk about what the children are looking forward to doing during the day

I am sure you can think of many more games you play with the children on the school run. Think about how you document them so Ofsted and parents appreciate the learning opportunities you provide for the children.

I have a few school-age themed mini e-books including -

Mini 9 'School aged children'
Mini 77 'Preparing children for school'
Mini 88 'Over 8s'

All my mini e-books cost £1.99 and are available from my Knutsford Childminding website.

Chat soon, Sarah x

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Making complaints about childminder inspections

There are a number of ways you can complain about your Ofsted inspection if you do not feel that the judgement is correct. The best time to complain is before the inspector leaves your house! You can save yourself a lot of time and worry if you sit down with the inspector and explain why you think s/he is making the wrong judgement.

Here are some ways to complain if you think your inspector is making an incorrect judgement...

• Get out your copy of the EYFS and point them to the relevant requirement
• Bring up a relevant Ofsted guidance document on your computer and find the statement
• Provide some evidence to prove that your procedures are correct
• Ask the inspector to clarify what they are saying with a colleague
• Ring the Ofsted helpline and ask for advice – 0300 123 1231

If you know you are right say so – be confident – don’t argue with your inspector – keep it professional but don’t be pushed into accepting a judgement that you know is wrong!

Immediately after your inspection...
There are 2 companies which carry out inspections on behalf of Ofsted – Prospects and Tribal. If you have not complained during your inspection, you can put in a complaint to the company direct – you should do this as quickly as possible after taking advice from colleagues and reviewing your understanding of the EYFS.

You can also ring the Ofsted helpline (ask for name of the person you speak to and record date and time) before you write your letter - ask them to clarify the points you want to make.

Include the facts – keep it as unemotional as possible. You will need to include information about...

• Your details so they can write back to you
• Date and time of inspection
• Inspector’s name
• What the inspector said – if your issue is that the inspector said something that isn’t within the EYFS / Childcare Register requirements
• How the inspector behaved – if your issue is that the inspector did not follow their code of practice
• The facts – quoting from the EYFS / Childcare Register requirements.
Or...
• The facts – quoting from the Ofsted ‘Conducting early years inspections’ document – but do remember ‘Conducting early years inspections’ is guidance, not statutory and if your inspection is as a result of a complaint the inspector might focus on one area of provision to the exclusion of all else
• What you want to happen next – do you want a re-inspection or change of wording or to speak to an inspector or something else?

Note that very few of these complaints are currently upheld ... Prospects and Tribal investigate their own complaints internally. Most providers (including childminders) should expect to receive a ‘no’ response to this letter.

What to do next...
Your next complaint letter goes directly to Ofsted. This is a very important letter because you are informing Ofsted that there is a problem with one of the people inspecting on their behalf or one of the companies they employ.
Repeat your concerns about your inspection clearly.

Ofsted will look into your complaint... even if they do not find in your favour, they will add the comments in your letter to others they receive. The information you share with Ofsted will tell them about –

• How well Prospects or Tribal are inspecting
• Whether there are certain Prospects or Tribal inspectors who are getting more complaints against them than others
• Areas of the EYFS on which they need to focus inspector

Ofsted (via the Ofsted Big Conversation) have told us that they are listening to early years providers and that they are aware we are losing faith in their complaints procedures. However, it is very important that we continue to complain – if we are right and we raise our points professionally and carefully we can make a difference to our own inspection outcomes and, by ensuring our concerns are logged, we can make a difference in the future as well.

And if that doesn’t work... there are other complaints you can make if you do not receive the response you were hoping for from Ofsted. However, these complaints will not change anything – they will not change your judgement or the wording in your report or result in a re-inspection. They will simply check that Prospects / Tribal / Ofsted have followed correct procedures.

You need to make your complaint letters count! You are not alone during this process. Ask for help – childminder colleagues will proof read your letters for you and might be able to signpost you to different requirements and guidance that can give you the evidence you need to make a successful complaint. Some childminders still have access to Local Authority advisors who should be able to support them as well.

There is a wealth of information and advice out there for childminders to access via the Childminding Forum and Independent Childminders Facebook group.

There are a number of e-books from Knutsford Childminding which will offer you CPD support to help you prepare for your inspection -

E-book 63 contains a pre-inspection checklist for childminders which will help you to prepare for inspection (1 chapter - £3.99) ... e-book 67 works through the latest evaluation schedule to support you during your inspection (2 chapters - £4.99).

If you have any questions, please ask! Sarah / Knutsford Childminding