If you are a childminder reading this and are under the age of 30, please just cough politely and delete this post, because this article is probably not for you. It is written by an old person. I am 41. And showing my age by writing an article in which I dare to propose that in SOME aspects of childminding, it might be ‘nice’ to move away from technology and app-based-login-to-view-my-child digitised childcare. I want to use this article to encourage you to reconsider the simple pleasure of paper – writing daily dairies out by hand and making printed learning journey albums – and why this might even be good for your business.
The most efficient way of doing things is not always the BEST way of doing things
If you are a childminder who views learning journeys as meaningless Ofsted paperwork, then you are bound to look for the fastest, easiest way of completing the task. If this is you, then go for the app! However, if, you treat your learning journeys as a valuable piece of communication with parents, as a type of marketing tool to show your business in good light, then while an app may be convenient and easy for you, it is not necessarily best for your business. Some parents love running their whole lives on their phones, but others may prefer a more ‘old-fashioned’ approach. Keep YOUR parents in mind when you make your decision to go electronic or paper, because they are at the heart of your business.
Paper is “nice” and it’s personal – like childminders
Some things are better handwritten. Some things are better handmade like homemade baking is always better than store bought. Sometimes, a book with glued in pictures, while less tidy than an online app, is simply “nicer”. Many parents like to imagine choosing a childminder for their child in a dreamy, slowing down, biscuit crumbs and soft edges, sunny days pushing children on swings sort of way. Paper-based learning journeys smell of warmth and friendliness and fit better with this image. It is a good image because nurseries cannot recreate it, however many ‘key people’ they attempt to assign to a child or home corners they install!
Paper forces you to look and think a little more carefully
When you zap off a photo and click a button on your phone, you have succeeded in finishing the task you believe Ofsted is expecting of you. But when you put a paper-based learning journey together, you have to select which photos you are going to use and why. You have to think carefully about the text you are going to write, the ‘story’ of the observation you are sharing and it’s meaning to the child, to the child’s parents and you. Paper can force you to engage with the process of observing and linking to planning more.
Paper forces you to understand the observation – assessment- planning cycle
Make sure that if you are using an online learning journey planning system that you still understand the PROCESS you are doing. If your Ofsted inspector asks you what stage of development a child is at, you need to know. You need to make sure that your automated system hasn’t removed your understanding of the system yourself.
I want to compare this to teaching school children basic maths. It would be perfectly easy to give a young child a calculator and teach them to do simple sums on it. They could be taught to multiply, divide, add and subtract using the calculator simply by pressing the right buttons. They could learn to press the right buttons without a shred of understanding what it actually means to add, subtract, multiply and divide. Calculators are only a great tool once you know what they are for! All I am saying is that you need to be careful that you understand the ‘process’ you are doing before automating it.
Books can make it easier for parents to engage
Do parents really want to spend their time logging on to some horrible, cumbersome online system to find out how their child is developing? Can they really be bothered? For those of you who do online learning journeys, how many parents ever really look at what you put in them? Do they bother to log on and check on their child’s development? Some parents will, but others might be much more likely to engage with the work you are doing and take more of an interest in their child’s development if you were to hand them a nice album with a few photos of their child in it and some simple observations you have written (or typed out) next to it.
Printed learning journeys are friendly and relaxing
Call me old-fashioned. Call me a technophobe if you like. But whenever I’m told I need to log on and do something, a small stress response begins as my palms sweat a little. I scowl at my device. There is yet another password to remember (can I remember it) and something will probably crash just as I get to the ‘critical’ part and waste loads of my time! In an age where absolutely everything from banking and grocery shopping, to ordering school uniforms is done online, how nice for parents NOT to have to go online. How nice to be handed a friendly, cheerful-looking relaxing book by their childminder!
Paper may be appreciated by the sorts of people who choose small childminding settings over large, impersonal nurseries
In the large overcrowded nursery down the road from your small, friendly house, that the parents DIDN’T choose to send their child to, electronic learning journeys are vital for the large number of observations and complex planning they need to do. However, you don’t look after as many children as they do, and from the parents’ point of view, they may prefer the home based paper approach. Some parents will love online systems, don’t get me wrong. But others may secretly hate them, seeing them as rather impersonal. Make sure YOUR system responds to YOUR parents.
Parents will treasure the album long after they have left you
I love looking back through my old photo albums and scrap books. While I also spend my fair share of time looking at photos on my phone and social media sites, ultimately and long term I take far less pleasure in electronic photos than I do looking through the actual physical albums I have made. The pleasure of turning the pages, lingering and relaxing is an experience that cannot be recreated by any mobile phone app. It is simply not the same.
If you make printed learning journeys, after the child leaves, his parents will have a keepsake photo album of their time with you. During their lives they will take lots of photos of big events in that child’s life. But parents forget to photograph the ordinary, everyday stuff, learning to paint, or playing with play dough, or putting on their shoes. Parents forget this stuff. You see it and can record it for them.
It’s nice to make something – an actual physical record of your own days and the child’s days – a finished product you can hold in in your hands
On days when you are feeling unmotivated, it can be nice to look back through children’s learning journeys and see all the things you’ve done with them. To watch them going from crawling to walking to running, and all those nice trips you took them on and wow moments that matter. It is motivating to see what you have done.
Even your Ofsted inspector will be more likely to flip through your photo album than to take time to look online
While perched on your couch with her laptop on her lap, observing you with the children, it is nice to distract her for a few minutes with an album she can look through. She’ll be far more likely to take a look at your work, wow moments and outings if she has an album to look through than if you expect her to look online.
You could photograph a child’s hand, but it isn’t the same as a painted handprint
Taking a photograph of a child’s hand preserves the moment forever. But it’s the handprint in paint and glitter that parents keep and treasure. Not because it is the most efficient way to record the moment but because it is the “nicest”. Parents love and treasure what is sentimental, personal and real.
Think again about switching back to paper learning journeys. It doesn’t mean you’re a technophobe. Or old. It just means you are thinking about your business, about your readers and about your parents. Who knows, some of you may even agree with me?
Learning Journey Plus – Word document based
If my article has swayed you at all to reconsider the benefits of paper-based learning journeys, then please check out my Learning Journey Plus. It is a printable system based in Word so you can customise the pages for your setting before you print them.
The Learning Journey Plus is a complete observation – planning – assessment system and comes with 200 sample observations with next steps so you can learn how to write observations and next steps in whatever learning journey system you are using.
About Kay Woods and Kids To Go
Kay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.
Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.
24 thoughts on “Rediscovering the pure pleasure of paper – for over-digitised childminders”
Just wanted to say how much I agree with you! I'm 50 by the way
I search out cheap photo print offers online and use REAL photos in my folders….loads of them.
The photos are not always bang up to date, maybe half are from previous term and the other half from fist part of current term.
But the parents love it. They keep it all the time (except when Im updating) and the children look through it with them and other friends and family. I had a lovely text message recently: "…learning journey folder really is something you should be proud of. My dad came round today and N went straight to the bookcase, got his folder and sat with my dad and showed him it, telling him ehat he had done. It has allowed N to take ownership and it is something he is very proud of. So thank you again."
Loved your article. Very refreshing.
Sent: Thursday, April 27, 2017 at 9:28 AM
Thank you for sharing your nice story about the child going over to the bookcase and showing his learning journey to his dad. That really made me smile. I’m very glad you enjoyed the article. I had fun writing it. =)
Enjoy the rest of the long weekend,
The best article I’ve read in a long time. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you say.
I am in my 30th year of childminding and since LJ’s began both Parents and children love them with scraps of their work in them and the photos and comments to read and cherish. I have been Outstanding since 2005 so I must be doing something right. Mindees in their twenties still visit.
Childminding is in danger of losing it’s way so well done Kay for reminding us all what really matters.
Thank you so much Pauline for such a nice message. I’m so glad you enjoyed the article and understood the ‘point’ =) Have a great, relaxing long weekend, Kay x
Totally agree with everything you say ,Kay, you can’t beat paper
Hi Kay I agree with you in paper journals are nicer. I’m leaving childminding and have just given the parents their child’s journals and see the pictures of them 5 years ago just brought back so many lovely memories.
Thank you for all your help over the last 6years and keep up your good work.
Kind Regards Julie
Sent from my iPhone
Thank you Julie for your kind words about my work. Good luck with whatever it is you are planning to do next. I have unsubscribed you from my mailing list, but you will need to unsubscribe from the WordPress emails yourself. Good luck to you, Kay
I have just read your post about paper learning journeys and I couldn’t agree more! I don’t use the computer systems at all mainly for the same reasons as you but also because it is more satisfying in seeing the children’s previous accomplishments each time I add something new and thinking to myself ‘I helped them to do that’! I bought your paperwork when I started childminding and have used it ever since. Thank you!
Thank you Maria for the nice comments on my products as well as your thoughts on the article. I’m glad you enjoyed it. It was a fun article to write x
Could you please change my email address to Sandra.email@example.com
Thank you for your articles J
Hi Sandra, With WordPress you have to update your details yourself. You should be given an option somewhere to update your preferences or something like that at the bottom of my emails. Or you can just unsubscribe yourself. And resubscribe from the new address. I can’t do that for you on WordPress; on my newsletters I’ve got your correct address. Thanks,K ay
I have looked at various ways to record the children’s progress and activities and always end up going back to my written daily diaries. Parents seem to love them and Ofsted always approve of them. We spend time looking at them with the children and looking back at what we have done and how they have griwn
Yes, looking through them with the children is a benefit I forgot to mention in the article and totally agree. Children love looking at photos of themselves. And it’s nice for them to see how they are growing =) Thanks x
So pleased that there is someone else that thinks the same way I do.
I find paper so much easier than technology because as you say it really does make you think about what you are actually observing and what you can do regarding planning.
Plus I think I am starting to become a technophobe as everything is computerised now even paying for school trips and getting paid by the council for 15/30 hrs free childcare and when each borough is using different forms of login and what they need you to fill in its so confusing grrrr I even have to write down all the different logins passwords etc
So thank you for all that you do to make our lives easier in our childminding world xxxx
Thank you Ann. I get so sick of trying to remember what I used for my login details. I’m glad you like paper too =)
I completely agree woth your article. Part of the reason i complete day books for children is that it not only informs parents what their little ones have been up to but is a chronological record of their early years and milestones and a fab keepsake when they leave which i know they love and treasure. I embrace technology having worked in business and the internet in a previous career however i have observed childminders increasingly on their phones when out with their minded children. I know some of them are doing their paperwork using Kinderley and the like however those around them just see it as ignoring the children which reflects bad on us all. I have devised my own paper based system which delivers what Ofsted want, informs and involves the parents and most importantly doesnt take excessive hours to complete. It was refreshing reading your artlicle as I have been thinking exactly the same for some time. Regards
Sent from Samsung Mobile on O2
Thank you Shetha. I do think it’s awful people (not just childminders) that spend their lives hunched over their phones or watching life through a screen. Unplug sometimes! =)
What a lovely read. I totally agree. Also they can share the paper based with the extended family aunties uncle’s and grandparents etc
I get feedback still from parents that the children look through their scrapbooks years after they have left here.
Hope your having a good week
We have a bank holiday so along weekend yippee
Ann X Sent from my Fire
Thank you Ann. I still look through the albums my nursery made for my girls many years ago. Lots of strange little pictures of them doing ordinary things like sitting at a table and looking at something! But I LOVE it, because I’ve got loads of photos of them beaming brightly at the camera. And these are the odd, real little moments from nursery =)
Couldn’t agree more! Says she…faced with having to do 11 diaries before the end of April…
It’s worth it =)
Another well thought out article Kay and I 100% agree with you, but then I’m older than you at almost 52! We love our Learning Journals and so so the parents, they keep them forever. I have been minding for 26 years now and regularly get parents stop me in the street fro a chat and catch up and it’s amazing how often they say, ‘we still look through his Learning Journal together and it brings back such happy memories of his time at Grafton’.
Thank you Denise. Yes, it is so nice for parents to have these as a record of their time with you. I hardly ever look at the photos I have on my computer that I didn’t bother to print and put in an album. Printed is great =)