Observations from the North-West Ofsted Big Conversation January 2023.
This blog was originally going to cover the whole Ofsted Big Conversation event. However, after trying to fit in all the information and re-writing it several times I have decided, to provide you with concise and useful information, this particular blog will just cover Ofsted’s main focus at the event – Communication and Language.
On the 28th January 2023, along with around 700 other attendees I took part the Northwest Ofsted Big Conversation. The main theme from the Ofsted section centred around communication and language.
Amanda Spielman, Head of Ofsted, was the first Ofsted member to speak, followed by Ofsted colleagues from the Northwest Region, Kirsty Godfry, Head of the Curriculum Unit who spoke about communication and language curriculum requirements, and Rachel Flesher, a Senior Ofsted Inspector who spoke about how Ofsted look at communication and Language during inspections.
Amanda spoke about the importance of rebalancing the curriculum to give greater weight to communication and language. She emphasised, that as far as Ofsted are concerned, spoken language and communication is the most vital area in Early Years. I can see where Ofsted are coming from given the impact of the pandemic lockdowns seen on children’s speech and language abilities, however I think it is very important to judge your children’s skills and needs yourself as not every child has been affected in the same way. I also think it is a mistake to forget about the holistic needs of the child. I have worked with children with communication difficulties, but this does not mean that the other two prime areas of learning, personal, social and emotional development and physical development, were not equally as important to their development. I am glad that the Early Years Alliance have been challenging this with Ofsted and the Department of Education.
The Curriculum for Communication and Language
After Amanda’s speech, Kirsty Godfry, spoke about the curriculum for communication and language. These are the main points:
- The curriculum for communication and language underpins all areas of learning. This is now re-iterated in the EYFS: ‘The development of children’s spoken language underpins all seven areas of learning and development.’ Statutory Framework for Early Years Foundation Stage, Page 8.
(While this is true, I would personally also argue that all three prime areas perform this function and if you neglect one area you will find children struggling in the others.)
- Your communication and language curriculum MUST be based on the education programme laid out in the EYFS. (The section under the Communication and Language title on page 8 of the EYFS in case you are wondering. You can find links to the EYFS and other important documents on my Official Documents Links page here:
- Leave the teaching of formal reading and writing until reception. There is no need to be teaching phonics to the children. I would agree with this. The way phonics is taught can be complicated and can differ from school to school so unless you have specific training that matches the school your children will move onto and work closely with the support and blessing of the school I would leave formal reading and writing alone.
- It is important to give children words so that they can express their thoughts and feelings.
- Activities are not enough. This is the second time I have heard this new Ofsted mantra. Kirsty explained it by giving an example of a group of children playing at a beautifully resourced mud kitchen. She argued that a child without appropriate speech and language skills will be less keen to get involved and will therefore not learn as much as the other children. I do not necessarily agree with this. I had a little one with severe communication difficulties who would happily get stuck into any activity with their peers because their personal skills were strong, this in turn meant that I could support them with their language development as they were engaged and happy. Again, I personally feel, it comes back to a combination of all the prime areas. However this is the position that Ofsted are currently taking so be aware of it.
- The difference between curriculum and pedagogy. (For anyone who has not heard this term before, pedagogy refers to how you teach something.) Curriculum is what you teach. Pedagogy is how you teach it. Your curriculum must come first. Put simply, decide what you want to teach and then how you are going to do it.
How Ofsted look at communication and language in inspections
- Ofsted have laid out how they inspect in the Early Years Inspection Handbook. (You can find a copy here:)
- Ofsted will look at what it is like to be a child in your setting.
- They will talk about how you decide what your children need to learn, what you do to help them learn it and how you know it has worked. (In other words, intent, implementation and impact!) This will probably form part of your learning walk. (Or learning ‘sit’ for childminders as Rachel referred to it.)
- Your inspector will be observing how you use things like storytelling, role play, conversation and sensitive questioning to support the children’s language development.
Your Inspector will also be interested in finding out:
- How all the children benefit from your curriculum.
- What topics or themes do you use, what vocabulary you want the children to learn, is it age appropriate and how will you share this with their parents?
- How do you encourage children to use new vocabulary and how do stories, rhymes and songs link into what you want the children to learn?
- What are you doing to help any children who have fallen behind catch up?
- Are you giving the children enough time to speak and practice new vocabulary and language structures?
- Are you giving children enough exposure to new language as well as repeating new vocabulary so they can learn it.
- Are children demonstrating that they have remembered vocabulary by using it in their free play?
You may find the Kids To Go Guided Self-Evaluation Pack helpful to help you think about these sorts of questions. You can buy it on its own or save yourself £6.50 by buying it with the Ultimate Childminding Checklist as part of the special Inspection Pack:
I hope you find this information useful. What do you think? Did you attend too? Do you agree with my points, or have you got another point of view? Let me know in the comments below.
Although I have included a lot of information here this is a very condensed version of what was discussed. As I mentioned in the introduction, far more information was shared during the event than is sensible for me to include in one blog. Therefore, please look out for further blogs about the event from me coming really soon.
The Big Conversation event has evolved since the Covid Pandemic and it is now possible to attend either in person or buy an on-line ticket. I opted to join in via the computer as living in West Cumbria means getting anywhere takes hours, not to mention factoring in things like childcare, transportation and accommodation costs, etc. I hope the organisers continue to provide this option as it really does make the event more accessible to different people. If you have always fancied taking part but find the travel part of the procedure too daunting then joining in on-line may be the way forward for you too.
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This time of year when the excitement of Christmas is over, but the weather is still cold and grey is a fantastic time to create a bit of cosiness by curling up with a traditional tale or two. Reading stories to children is an essential activity to help children learn speech and communication skills and helping children learn new stories also enhances their cultural capital. Sharing traditional stories can help us feel connected to our own childhoods and are part of our wider cultural heritage. There is also a fantastic wealth of life lessons that can be learned by thinking about the messages contained in these stories.
When choosing a traditional tale to share with your children it can help to think about the following:
- What stories do the children already know? Do you want to focus more on one you have already read so that all the children can get to know it really well, or do you want to introduce a completely new story?
- Consider the cultural background of the children you care for. Do you share stories that reflect their culture and history? Perhaps the children’s parents can suggest some stories that they shared when they were little.
- Have you got any learning intentions you want to be able to tie into the story, for example learning about sizes or stranger danger with ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears,’ the importance of helping out with ‘The Little Red Hen,’ or simple counting skills with ‘The Three Billy Goats Gruff.’
- Are you going to read the story from a book? If so think about the language in the version you have chosen. Do they have any repeating phrases that can help children learn language? Is the language challenging enough with different words to learn but not too hard to understand that the children loose interest? There tends to be lots of different versions of traditional tales so you can find one suitable for the age and developmental stage of the children in your care.
- Do the children actually like the story? A story can fulfil all of the above requirements but if the children do not engage with it then it is pretty pointless!
Tips for getting the most out of the story when reading it with the children:
- Read the story several times until the children get to know it. (This can be done over a few days – you do not need to sit there reading it on loop!) Make sure all the children know the story well. By doing this you are helping increase each child’s cultural capital.
- When the children know the story well enough to anticipate which part of the story comes next encourage them to join in with repeated phrases and new words.
- Get the children to act out the story while you read it to them. Can they make up different actions to go with different parts or characters of the story?
- Can the children think of simple changes they would like to introduce to the story. For example if you are reading ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears,’ maybe the bears have pancakes for breakfast instead of porridge? This helps children take ownership of the story and also begin to understand the structures of storytelling.
Tips for telling the story to children instead of reading it from a book:
Although reading books to children is important there may be times that you simply want to tell the children a story instead. Telling a story without having a book to hold means you can have your hands free to use puppets or gestures to emphasise the words. It also means that, if you have a larger group of children that have to sit in front of you while you read, that there is no physical barrier between you and the children, meaning that you can relate more directly to them and their responses to the story. (In childminding settings with just one or two children this isn’t such an issue as they will normally be sitting on your knee as you read to them.)
- Use your body language and gestures to help tell the story. If a character is feeling cold, wrap your arms around yourself and shiver dramatically, if a giant appears, shade your eyes and peer upwards as if looking at them. Using gestures like this to emphasise your words will help children understand the story even if they cannot see any pictures. Encourage the children to copy your actions. In this way even non-verbal children can join in and show their understanding of the story.
- Think about how you can use your voice as you tell the story. Use a quiet voice when a character is creeping up to someone or a loud voice if you are pretending to be a giant! Children love it if you use different voices for different characters but don’t make voices too silly as this will distract the children from the story itself.
- Don’t think that you can’t move about. Why not tell a story outside and when the characters move – so do you! As long as the story remains the main focus you can act out running from a dragon, trip trapping over a bridge or climbing up a beanstalk.
Things to do so that children and parents can extend their learning:
- Provide puppets and props (don’t forget dressing up props if they are suitable for the story and you have them!) for the children to tell the story themselves during free play.
- Leave the story book somewhere accessible to the children so that they can request it when they want you to read it to them even when you have moved onto other books or stories.
- Share versions of the story with the children’s parents so that they can help continue the learning at home. (Worried about lending out your precious books to forgetful parents? Check out the solution below!)
Products that can help you explore traditional stories with your children:
Members of the Childminding Best Practice Club receive monthly toolkits bursting with information, ideas and support. These include special Traditional Tale focused Toolkits.
These toolkits have a wealth of resources to help you share traditional tales with your children. Including things like:
Specially rewritten and illustrated childminder friendly versions of different traditional tales. Print out as many copies as you need to share with parents.
Resources to compliment the story such as posters or games.
Ideas for crafts and activities you can do to go with the story theme.
Full set of planning covering every area of learning.
Hand drawn colouring sheet
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Note: This blog originally appeared in 2019 and depressingly not a lot has changed since then. However, being aware of the ‘threats’ to your business is the first step to finding ways to deal with those them. I have added lots of tips for you to try and if you have any others that you have found effective please leave them in the comments to help other childminders. Jennifer x
Here real childminders to share what they see as the biggest threats to their childminding business.
1. Mums and dads doing childcare favours/ granny care – resulting in lots of children using part time spaces
While many childminders do lose business to mums doing each other favours, one childminder writes that “I have a number of my parents who have a similar agreement with friends but over time the friends don’t want to tie themselves to the commitment of caring for someone else’s little one on a regular basis. The casual basis of the relationship means that it can break down easily. I often warn parents that, although favours are a nice idea, in practise these arrangements often break down and this can leave parents in a sticky situation. Grandparents are more of a threat than friends because they are more reliable.”
Another childminder finds that she gets less full time children these days, because people try to mix granny care with a childminder. “I find it rare these days to get full timers as in a lot of families grandma does one or two days a week for them.”
This childminder of 22 years writes: “Me and my co-minder have a lot of kids on our books 22 in all. Not one of them do more than 3 days a week, some only come for 1 day a week. This is very different from how it was even 10 years ago.”
Tip 1: Lots of childminders now work part-time and this can be a great way to help balance work/life responsibilities. If you decide to go part time do some research about your local area first. For example, is there a large local employer that gives everyone Friday off meaning that if you open that day no-one will need you?
Tip 2: If all of your families are part time but you want to fill 5 days a week why not advertise one day a week as a special outings day? For example, you could offer Forest Childcare Association sessions on a day that is normally quiet and actually charge slightly more for the specialised service you provide. This way you can attract people that do not necessarily need a childminder but love the idea of the children having a special day once a week.
2. Negative press on childminders
Childminders are frequently haunted by people referring to them as “babysitters” in the press and there have been many high profile media moments where childminders are portrayed as unqualified and not as good as nurseries. One childminder writes, “there is just not enough positive press promoting our profession and highlighting differences from nurseries in a positive way.” Another childminder read an article in which childminders were described as “allowing children to eat junk food all day. Utter rubbish. I am complemented by my clients on the meals I prepare. I don’t give them sweets at all!”
2023 Addition: There are definitely lots of supporters of childminders out there and I have been heartened by things like normal run of the mill mums sticking up for childminders on places like Mumsnet. You just have to find them!
Tip 3: Be part of the solution. Visit our Facebook page at Kids To Go and share, share, share the special images we put on there, busting myths and promoting just how fabulous childminders are!
3. 30 hours “free” childcare
For many childminders the 30 hours ‘free’ funding continues to be the biggest threat to their business with many childminders feeling obliged to offer the funded hours so as not to lose business to nurseries, but then operating at a loss. One childminder writes: “If we don’t offer it then parents look elsewhere. If we do offer it then we are over £1 per hour out of pocket (£30 a week per child).” Many childminders find that children have now reduced their hours to take advantage of the funding. Other childminders find the funding paperwork overwhelming alongside cash flow problems with delays in getting paid.
Tip 4: Read your council funding agreement carefully and see if there are ways you can make funding work for you. For example if you are allowed to specify days on which funding is available you may wish to just offer days that you normally find difficult to fill.
4. Cheap after school clubs at schools
One of the worst things that can happen to many childminders is learning that their local school is going to open an after school club or a holiday club. One childminder writes: “we have a holiday club here that is £15 per half day but if you use a code to book then it’s half price. So 8-1 for £7.50 Everyone round here knows about the code now and I just can’t compete.”
Tip 5: Don’t compete, stand out from the crowd. Think about all the things you can offer that a holiday club cannot. For example, advertise the fact that you offer outings and a homely environment meaning, for example, that children can have a wonderful day at the beach and then relax on the sofa when they are tired at the end of the day. Many parents do not want their child stuck in a school hall for 6 weeks so try and reach out to parents who want a more premium service – they are out there!
5. Health visitors and other professionals like nursery workers not working with childminders
While some childminders have told me that health visitors have found their Progress Check reports very helpful, there are still many health visitors who treat childminders as unqualified and don’t even read them. One childminder writes: “I would like to recognised as a professional. I would like health visitors to promote childminders to parents, not to brain wash them to think that nurseries are the only and best option.”
Another childminder finds the lack of information sharing between nurseries and herself very hard to deal with which she describes as “professional snobbery, partly due to our title (I feel). There is the attitude that you’re just a childminder and can’t possibly be as qualified as them. So why should they work with you?”
Tip 6: This is a tough one and can be incredibly frustrating. However please stick with it. Sometimes the only thing you can do is to keep trying and advocate for yourself (and childminders in general!) Be olite and professional but do not take no for an answer and hopefully you will change people’s minds.
6. The demands of Ofsted!
Many childminders hark back to a time before Ofsted did inspections and feel that it is unfair to be graded on the same criteria as a nursery. One childminder writes: “I would love to be assessed as a home from home, not in line with nurseries.” Another childminder hates the “growing amount of red tape, paperwork, Ofsted telling me I need a policy for example but won’t tell me what I need in it.”
2023 Addition: The paperwork demands from Ofsted are a lot less now which is a great relief. You are required to complete a written Progress Check at Age two and may like to have other paperwork that you find helpful but you are not required to produce the reams of assessments, etc that you were before.
7. The word ‘childminder’ is not professional
Even though the scope of the job of a childminder has come to mean so much more than it did 20 years ago, the word ‘childminder’ remains and many people see the word as part of the problem of being treated unprofessionally. One childminder writes: “I think we should change our name as childminder does us no real justice. Early years practitioner sounds better. The amount of people that say I’m just a childminder or a babysitter, even though we do everything that a nursery would. We offer support to parents that other services can’t.”
8. Lack of support and large training costs
Having a support worker at your council can be very helpful, especially when you are new to childminding or when you want to be kept informed of changes introduced by Ofsted. In many parts of the country, childminders get literally no support at all from their councils. Childminders without local support find the weekly Childminding Best Practice newsletters especially helpful , so please sign up (it’s free).
Training costs of safeguarding and first aid courses are also very expensive especially for new childminders or those who are out of work.
2023 Addition: From April 2023 the D of E’s Childminder Mentor programme goes live. ‘The childminder mentor programme will offer bespoke support by trained early years professionals in the role of area lead and mentor, to childminders across the country.’
To find out more follow this link to the Government Webpage:
9. Strict ratios make it hard to compete with nurseries – unfairness that it is different
Strict ratios on the number of EYFS children that childminders can look after make it very important to really do the maths in terms of taking on part time children. It also seems enormously unfair that nurseries have such different ratios – many experienced and qualified childminders could easily look after more children. One childminder writes: “I think that it’s ridiculous to think that a childminder is unable to care for more than 3 children under 5! you should be able to take on a new family and have 4 children + (not just continuity of care.) An individual childminder knows what workload they can cope with.”
Tip 7: You are allowed to vary your ratios in for a certain number of reasons as detailed in the September 2021 EYFS:
3.43. If a childminder can demonstrate to parents and/or carers and Ofsted inspectors or their childminder agency that the individual needs of all the children are being met, exceptions to the usual ratios can be made for example:
- when childminders are caring for sibling babies, or
- when caring for their own baby, or
- to maintain continuity of care, or
- if children aged three to five only attend the childminding setting
before and/or after a normal school day51, and/or during school
holidays, they may be cared for at the same time as three other young
In all circumstances, the total number of children under the age of eight being
cared for must not exceed six per adult.’
Reference: Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, Published 1 September 2021
However be careful as you must have good reason for doing so and need to be able to prove that having more children does not affect the care or education you provide them.
10. Nurseries and play groups
Nurseries, play groups and other childcare providers will always represent a threat to childminders as parents have lots of choice. Schools often hand out flyers for the local nursery, but won’t hand out flyers for childminders. One childminder writes, “My biggest threat is the number of cheap nurseries opening near me!!”. Another childminder with a new nursery opening near to her writes, “I live within walking distance to the nursery and I’ve had parents round but have chosen the nursery because they offer more learning experiences. Can’t compete with them really can I?”
Tip 8: Try and get to know your nurseries, schools and playgroups as much as possible. For example, I found that the playgroup I attended actually valued my experience and would sometimes ask me to speak to parents who were struggling with a particular issue with their child. Be friendly and professional at all times – this will help build you reputation with local parents and other settings.
Being aware of threats is important in any business – including childminding
You can’t keep running along with your eyes closed hoping that if you don’t look at a problem that it will go away. Your business is important and I am sorry if you have been or are being affected by any of the issues listed here. Being aware of the competition, knowledge of what issues affect you is generally the first step to finding a solution.
Turn ‘threats’ into ‘opportunities’
In business one strategy is to turn ‘threats’ into ‘opportunities’. In other words, if a nursery opens in your neighbourhood, you need to be aware. Then you need to make a plan for how you are going to make sure you don’t lose business to the new nursery. Why is the service you offer BETTER than that nursery for example? How do you communicate this message to parents in your area?
Take control of the issues you can:
Promote yourself. What makes your business unique? Why should parents continue to choose you over nursery or cheaper option?
Be smart about what childminding paperwork you do. Don’t do too much. Don’t do the paperwork FOR Ofsted; do it because it is useful.
If you want to be seen as a professional by parents, nursery workers and health visitors, your Progress Checks, and other information that you share need to be of professional quality.
Remember that this is your BUSINESS, so do the maths. Check your hourly rate is sustainable. If you can’t afford to take on part time children then don’t let them fill up your spaces. Don’t offer funded hours if you can’t afford to. Write it down properly and work out what you can afford. Don’t be afraid to say no!
Good luck for 2023! And please don’t make a rash new year’s decision to quit childminding until you’ve asked yourself these 13 questions….
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Books are a must have in every childminding and early years setting. I love children’s books and have a vast collection that I picked up over the years, from classic early years books that everyone will recognise through to rare books that are out of publication and on to brand new books which have just hit the shelves in bookshops. I am still discovering beautiful new books all the time and could probably end up filling my whole house. I think it is very important to introduce books to children as soon as possible so my collection also includes lots of books aimed at the very youngest children. However, if I could only have eight books for babies these would be my absolute essentials:
1) An early years classic to carry on traditions:
One of the very special things about reading books to small children is that it creates lovely memories for both the adult and the child. I read about a question an Ofsted Inspector recently asked a childminder: ‘which books have you read to the children so often that they know all the words?’ This possibly does not apply to our youngest children who are not yet speaking so I would ask, ‘which book have you read so often that the children will remember it when they read it to their children?’
You may have a book that you remember reading to your own children or one that you were read as a small child. Ask the child’s parents if they have a special book that they would like to share too. For example:
Part of a childminder’s role is to build relationship with the child and their family and sharing a special story in this way is a lovely way to start. When the child leaves your setting a lovely parting gift can be a copy of your ‘special’ book.
2) An interactive book:
Books with sturdy flaps to lift, textures to feel or holes to peep and poke fingers through are always on my must have list for babies and very young children. For example:
Any of the ‘That’s Not My’ books. I have a small collection of these as the favourite depends on what each child is interested in. Currently ‘That’s not My Car’ is a firm favourite and I have expanded my own car related vocabulary reading this book too!
3) A book about people:
Children are born with an instinctive fascination with other people and humans are programmed to recognise faces from birth. Chose books with a variety of different people so that children can see people that look like them and people that are different. For the very youngest children chose books that mainly feature pictures of faces as this is what babies are most interested in. For example:
Babies love looking at other babies so if you have very young children a book like this is a must. If possible, look for books featuring photographs of babies as this will appeal to very young children more than illustrated versions. One good example is ‘Baby Faces’ by the published DK, which shows babies from different backgrounds, pulling a variety of expressions. This has proved very popular in my setting.
4) A book about the wider world:
Keep this simple. For very young children almost everything is ‘the wider world.’ A good place to start is a book about animals. Young children love animals and some of the first words they speak may very well be animals sounds. Try and choose books with a good range of vocabulary. For example, I recently discovered some lift the flap animal books by Jane Ormes that feature farm animal families including Jack and Jenny donkeys!
5) A book that feature the children’s interests:
From a very early age children will start to develop interests. Even before they can say many words a child may be able to spot a ‘trador’ (tractor) from so far away that you are amazed that they can even see it or will point out every car that goes past. Tuning into these interests and providing books that feature them will help children learn that books are fun. If you are clever with your choices, it can also help children learn other things, not necessarily related to their main passion.
For example, I have recently discovered a book which is an absolute favourite in my setting. It is called’ Rosa Loves Cars,’ by Jessica Spanyol. It features a little girl and a wider cast of diverse friends who love cars and has lots of simple car related vocabulary that the little ones love to try and copy. I love the book because it challenges gender stereotypes and promotes diversity; the little ones love the book because it features cars. Everyone is happy!
6) A nursery rhyme book:
Reading anything to children will help with their language development but some books are more specifically aimed at helping young children with this essential skill. Nursery rhyme books fall into this category.
Traditional Tales are too long and complicated for very young children (although they are FABULOUS a little later,) but nursery rhymes are excellent for helping children acquire language skills. Their rhyming and rhythmic structure helps children remember and learn words and tune into the rise and fall patterns of speech.
There are lots and lots of sturdy board books featuring nursery rhymes, but my favourites are the ‘Child’s Play’ series. These books keep the rhyme nice and short and do not extend the rhyme with additional verses like some other nursery rhyme books. This makes them more suitable for younger children with shorter concentration spans. They also have lovely illustrations showing actions the children can do to accompany the rhyme. You can often pick these books up in charity shops so keep your eyes peeled.
7) A good quality first words book:
There are lots of these about from short board books concentrating on different topics like colours or numbers (you can borrow these sorts of books by the bucket load from your local library) to longer versions with almost every word you could ever want, accompanied by a picture. However, the most popular ones in my setting have always been those with pictures of scenes with lots of things to look at, spot and talk about. For example, in my setting the favourite is, ‘Thomas’s Word Book,’ featuring the famous tank engine. In fact, this book has proved so popular that my original copy wore out and I had to buy a new one!
8) A homemade book:
Children love stories that feature themselves or people that they know. You can buy books that will add a child’s name into the story but making you own books is easier, cheaper and more effective. Making your own books for or with children really gives them ownership over their special book. Your homemade books do not need to be fancy. For very young children a short book with some photos of themselves and their family members to look at is lovely. Cover some of the photos with flaps over the top to lift to make the book interactive. Make sure you have a few pages to turn so that children can learn about how a book works and your efforts are sure to be rewarded.
Disclaimer: I have not included number books on this list for a particular reason. I am certainly not saying to share number books with young children, but this is an essentials list. Very young children who do not even have a concept of what a number is are not ready to count so books featuring things to count in sequence are not necessarily the best way to introduce very young children to number. Instead make sure to have books which have number words in them such as nursery rhymes with numbers in them. When children are a little older or more developed and understand that you can count things then your numbers books will be much more useful.
Over to you:
I would love to know what your favourite books are to share with your very youngest children. Share your thoughts in the comments.
Do you want more support and ideas for working with your very youngest children?
I noticed that there isn’t as much support or training available for childminders about very young children under the age of two. This is why I introduced a special section in the Childminding Best Practice Club monthly toolkits which is dedicated specifically to this age group. In it you will find loads of ideas to try out with your very littlest ones.
The toolkits also contain a wealth of other ideas and resources including CPD ideas, inspection support and a themed section every month containing things like crafts, invitations to play ideas, resources and colouring sheets. Best Practice Club members also receive a useful. ‘New Members Welcome Pack,’ containing lots of other resources and a 25% discount off other Kids To Go products.
If you would like more childminding inspiration, free craft ideas, CPD, news and more sign up for the free Childminding Best Practice Newsletters here:
When planning your curriculum it is important to think about how you are going to introduce children to new ideas and experiences.
‘It is important that children have access to a highly ambitious, broad and rich curriculum.’ (Paragraph 171 Early Years Inspection Handbook 2022)
Ofsted want to see that you are providing a broad and rich curriculum and if you only ever follow children’s interests, you are a risk of not doing this. After all children can only be interested in things they know about. (They cannot be expected to be interested in pangolin’s if they don’t even know they exist!)
Using themes can help expose children to different ideas and vocabulary, to different ways of life and important subjects such as oral hygiene. So, what is the best way to use themes?
Some childminders love planning around a theme, others like to plan in the moment and extend children’s learning based on interests the children show. It is fine to use either method but if you are struggling a balanced approach is the best way forward.
Good ways to make use of themes:
- Using themes to introduce children to new ideas, vocabulary and concepts. This increases their ‘cultural capital.’
- Using specific themes to cover important topics which are a concern in your local area, for example oral health if there is a large rate of tooth decay in your area.
- To help fill in a ‘lull’. If you are feeling a ‘bit flat’ and the children are listlessly playing the same old games without much engagement, introducing a theme, even just for a while may just give you the boost you need and spark some new lines of play.
- To cover important areas of learning that the children may not explore naturally on their own. For example topics covering things like healthy eating.
- To help you feel part of a community or national event. Childminding can be lonely but sometimes having a theme based on a national event can help you and your children join in with a wider community of people. (Think of annual events like Mother’s Day, Pancake Day, etc.)
- Use themes sometimes but also provide times for children to explore their own interests without having to follow a theme. This will help provide balance to your curriculum.
- Not restricting yourself to the length of time you spend on a theme. A theme can last for a single day or, if the children are getting lots from it, last as long as you like.
Terrible ways to make use of themes:
- Using themes so strictly that EVERYTHING the children do has to be related to the theme. This is exhausting for both you and the children! Use the theme where it makes sense and where it doesn’t, do something else.
- Insisting on carrying on with a theme even if the children are showing zero interest. If the children are engaged, then great but if they are not getting anything from it don’t continue.
- Being too rigid with your theme. Instead when you introduce a theme wait see where it takes you. The children might surprise you with ideas that you hadn’t thought of.
- Using themes all the time and not giving children chance to explore their own ideas and interests.
- Using themes with very young children and babies. For the most part themes do not really work for children under two years old. The occasional very simple theme, like farm animals is okay but be careful not to overdo it.
Tips for planning themes:
A well thought out set of themes to explore with children over a period of time will help give you the structure you need and ensure that you are covering everything that you want to.
When planning using themes first think about what you want children to learn and achieve. (Your curriculum intent.) Then make sure you use a balance of different themes, for example including some to do with the seasons, some to do with nursery rhymes or stories, some to do with the world around us, etc.
Planning in the moment using themes requires even more organisation. A good way to follow children’s interests and enable them to get the most out of every learning opportunity is by having a collection of resources based around themes that you can literally pull out at a moment’s notice. This is where childminders truly have the edge on other larger settings that may have to plan when to get resources out or have set curriculums. If you have a ‘kit of themes’ you can quickly grab, then if a child shows interest in something you can quickly act to make the most of the moment. Make sure you take brief notes (even if they are just mental ones!) so that you can make sure you are offering a broad and rich range of experiences.
Useful basic themes to start your ‘kit’:
Themes based on the changing year are a good start. (Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter)
Themes based on ‘classic’ early years interests such as dinosaurs, nursery rhymes, traditional tales, etc.
Themes based on things you really want the children to know such as oral health and healthy eating.
There is a list of themes on our website to help you get started:
Nice things to include in your ‘theme’ kit:
Ideas and templates for crafts
Songs or nursery rhymes that fit with your theme
A sheet with ideas jotted on it that you can grab in a hurry
Games or jigsaws
More useful information and Kids To Go Products
Childminding Best Practice Club
Want a hand getting started? Our Childminding Best Practice Toolkits have a special theme section each month containing craft activities and printable templates, a themed colouring sheet, themed invitation to play ideas and a complete set of themed planning covering all areas of learning. We feature a wide variety of themes from seasonal ones, classic early years interests like dinosaurs, princesses and cars; current events like the Platinum Jubilee and themes you maybe wouldn’t think of (but the children might!)
There is also a special feature every month, for example training features and resources to help you evaluate and consider your curriculum intent – a helpful task to complete when planning your activities.
Here is a handy free downloadable ‘Lunar New Year’ diversity activity to add to your topic kit:
Diversity Mega Pack
Our Diversity Pack Mega Pack is a collection of 20 mini printable packs with resources to help childminders teach 20 different diversity and British Values topics.
Each mini pack is designed to offer clear messages on 20 important diversity and British values themes for 2-5 year old children giving you all the tools you need to explore many ‘difficult’ topics at a level that is right for very young children. Altogether the Mega Pack contains 50 original art projects with templates plus over 100 suggested activities including printable activity sheets and cooking projects.
Here is another free downloadable activity that you can add to a Nursery Rhymes kit:
Be Safe Be Healthy Mega Pack
As a childminder you have a choice about what activities you do with the children you look after so why not do some topics that could really make a difference to their lives? Taking the time to explore topics like healthy eating, making friends, sun safety, oral health, fire and road safety will not only really help the children, but it will make you feel that you are doing something truly valuable with the time you are spending with them.
This pack is a collection of 14 mini printable packs with resources to help childminders to teach 14 health and safety topics to 2-5 year old children.
Sign up for free Childminding Best Practice Newsletters containing more ideas, early years news, free activities, business advice and more.
One important role a childminder or other early years practitioner, performs is to support children through transition periods in their life. There are many transitions a child may go through. For example, starting at a new childminder’s, moving house, the birth of a sibling or starting school.
All transitions have an effect on children. It is useful to share information with parents about what the potential effects can be so that they are not too alarmed if any of the following happen:
The body’s immune system is affected by stress which might mean, that a child catches illnesses more easily in the first weeks of starting with their childminder. They may have more disturbed sleep or not want to go to bed and may become fussier with their eating habits. (I know that children starting at my setting often eat more when they are happily settled than they do at the start of their placement when everything is new and strange.)
Children may not be able to regulate their emotions as well as normal during periods of transition. They may be more tearful or angry than normal and will require extra support from an understanding adult. Some children may withdraw, becoming quieter and they may become upset more easily than normal. Children may regress as they work out changes in their life. Some may start having toileting accidents or show undesirable behaviour such as hitting other children. Their speech may seem to regress as they may talk in a more babyish style, or they may become more clingy and want to spend more time with the parent or the practitioner.
Long-term effects of not supporting children with transitions
It is important to support children as much as possible through transition points in their life as there can be long term effects if not getting it right. A child’s self-confidence and trust in adults can be badly knocked, meaning that they are less well able to cope with future challenges, underachieve in school, struggle making friends or form relationships later in life, develop anger, leading to unwanted behaviour, or, later in life depression, anxiety and self-harm.
How to support children starting in your setting
Starting at their new childminders is a major event in a child’s life. It will often be the first time they have been away from home for any considerable period of time and may be the first time they have had to properly interact with other children and adults other than their parents. This is especially true for children who have been isolating due to Covid related issues.
Starting at a new childminder’s should, wherever possible, not be a sudden event. This gives the childminder time to prepare both the child and the parents for this change. A child may have mixed emotions about starting at a childminders, excitement and anticipation combined with anxiety about the change. Younger children and babies may not understand what is going on but will react to the separation of their primary attachment figure. The child may be very quiet and withdrawn at first and may not eat well for the first few days. The transition to staring in a new setting is a long one and the process does not begin and end on the child’s first day at the setting.
Ways to help children and parents with the process of starting with a new childminder
Meet the parents to gather information on the child, their likes, dislikes, routines at home, medical requirements (if any) religion, food likes, allergies, their stage of development at home, etc. Parents can be given ‘all about me’ forms to complete but do this together if possible as I find that at least initially parents feel more confident and supported if you go through this information in person.
- Acknowledge that both the child and the parents need to settle into this new routine and that it takes different amounts of time depending on each child/family. Some children may settle in very quickly, others may take more time. The younger the child the longer it may take them to settle.
- Give the parents pictures and basic information about the childminder and her family so the child is already familiar with some of the faces they may encounter.
- Ask for the parents to supply photos of the child’s family for the childminder to make a ‘family book’ with so they child always has pictures of their family that they can look at and talk to the childminder about. For younger children the childminder can make these into lift the flap ‘peekabo’ books to encourage an understanding of object permanence.
- Encourage parents to provide a comfort object if the child needs it for example a soft toy or a scarf belonging to Mummy which has a scent familiar to the child that the childminder can wear when holding the child.
- Encourage the parents to use settling in sessions, the first of which where the parent can stay and then in subsequent sessions gradually spends less time staying with the child.
- Where practical and safe to do so arrange a visit to the child’s home before they start. This way the child can first meet the new practitioner in an environment that is safe and familiar to them.
- Be available for the parent(s), especially in the first few days (as the parent may be feeling more anxious than the child which the child will then pick up on, resulting in the child feeling anxious too and less likely to settle.) The parent may be put at ease with lots of texts to let them know how the child is doing, or photos of what the child is up to.
- Make time to talk to the parent at drop off and pick up to facilitate the development of good and trusting relationships as well as to exchange any useful day to day information.
- Be mindful and respectful of the child’s feelings. At first they may want to just cuddle you rather than joining in with any activities. Take time with older, verbal children for them to be able to talk about their feelings.
How childminders can help with ALL transitions:
- Have a good understanding of child development and the importance and role of attachment.
- Give older child time to talk about the transition and their feelings around it. However let the children take the lead in this and do not force them to talk if they do not want to. Support children by helping them understand and label their emotions. Children will often want to spend more time with you at times of transition.
- Share information! Work with parents to agreed ways of supporting both the child and the parent. For children starting in your setting ‘All about me’ forms can be really useful and for children leaving to join a bigger setting or to start school sharing ‘transition forms’ is a helpful way of making the transition as smooth as possible.
- Use resources such as books, dolls, social stories and role play toys to help the child explore the situation and their feelings towards it. This can prompt children to ask questions and talk about the events they are experiencing/will experience.
- Children with additional needs may need more support with transitions. For example non-verbal children may benefit from visual prompt cards to facilitate communication or a child with a hearing impairment may need any new vocabulary they are introduced to supported with the correct Makaton or BSL signs, especially those concerning feelings. Children with SEND may take longer to adapt to periods of change but as each child is different it is important to know your child and their needs so that you can best support them.
What about you?
Finally I want to mention possibly the most important person in the process – you! Transitions do not just affect the child and their parents; they will have an effect on you too.
It can be nerve wracking getting to know a new child and family and heart-breaking to say goodbye to a child leaving to start school. Be kind to yourself. Do not plan any big events or complicated activities when a new child is starting. Make sure you get plenty of sleep and make sure you have a healthy sandwich prepared the night before so that you have something to eat at lunch if things get hectic. Acknowledging the fact that this is a time of change for you too will hopefully make for a happier and smoother transition time for everyone.
You may find the following products helpful:
Share information to help support smooth transitions
Super Summative Assessment and Gap Tracker Kit £15
This kit contains all the tools you need to sum up a child’s development and achievements, right from when a child starts with you, all the way until they leave to go to nursery or school. From ‘All about Me’ forms, starting points, transition and report templates as well as sample reports, tips and of course a gap tracker for when you need it.
Build professional relationships with parents
Partnership with Partnership with Parents Pack
An essential tool to help you build and develop your partnership with parents. From help advertising and attracting new families, through to daily communication and letter templates to send to help deal with tricky situations in a professional manner, this pack has everything you need.
It is a statutory (legal) requirement to write a progress check for every child in your setting between the ages of 2 and 3 years. If you are inspected Ofsted WILL want to see your progress checks for any children you have of this age.
The EYFS requirements were updated in September 2021 and so requirements for the progress check at age 2 have also been updated to follow suit. However, do not panic, you may find that you already do most, if not all, of what is now required.
Is the Progress Check the same thing as the Integrated Review?
You may also hear the term ‘integrated review’ when people talk about the progress check at age 2. This is when Early Years Professionals and Health Professionals complete their reports at the same time to give a more rounded ‘integrated’ view of the child. You should therefore consult with the child’s parents to try and do your progress check at the same time as the review that Health Visitors also do on children at this age.
Why should you write a progress check and what should you do?
1) ‘Partnership with Parents.’ This was also an aim of the progress checks before the updates but there is much more emphasis on this now. The new Guidance Document published by the Government in May 2022 states:
‘Knowledge of the importance of the early years is low in our society. For example, only three in ten parents recognise that the first five years are the most important for health and happiness in adulthood. The scientific evidence tells us that the period from birth to two years old is the fastest for brain development. However, one in three parents is unaware of this.’
Doing the progress check together with the parents is an essential opportunity to help parents understand how important this period of their child’s life is. However completing the progress check together should just be part of your continual communication with parents. Suddenly springing ‘Partnership work’ on parents just before the check needs completed is not a good idea. Working to build a constructive relationship with the parents throughout their child’s time with you is much more productive.
When you have completed the progress check together you should ask the parents to share the information with their child’s health visitor.
2) ‘Action for Every Child‘. The Covid Pandemic had a detrimental effect on many children. The Progress Check is meant to be used as a tool to help you support the child and their family and to help children catch up where necessary. DO NOT just write it then shove it in a folder and then forget about it. This would be missing the point entirely. Instead use the check to assess where the child has strengths and weaknesses and plan together how you are going to support the child with their next steps to catch up where necessary.
Don’t forget to include the child in the process. After all it is about them! They may be able to tell you what they like doing with words or pictures or if they are very young just by what you do when you observe them.
3) ‘Early Identification‘. The progress check should be used to identify gaps in learning or areas in which they child may need additional support.
(Remember that children may not necessarily have a developmental delay, they may just not have had the opportunity to ‘catch up’ after the effects of the Covid Pandemic.)
It is important that you gather as much information as you can if you have serious concerns about a child’s development in any area. However, it is NOT up to you to ‘diagnose’ a child and you should certainly NEVER tell a parent that you have diagnosed their child with something. That is up to the health professionals who should give you and the child’s parents useful strategies to use to help support the child.
(You may also find our ‘Super Summative Assessment and Gap Tracker Kit‘ useful as the gap tracker contains lots of information about places where you can find more advice and support if a child needs it.)
Other things to think about:
The new guidance makes clear that you should not do more paperwork than necessary. However you should take into account the following,
4) There is not a statutory form that you have to complete, so unless your local authority has one which they ask you to use, you are free to use whichever format suits you and your parents.
5) You can use whatever guidance document you prefer to complete the check. The Birth – 5 Matters and Development Matters Documents are both useful. (If you use our Super Summative Assessment pack contains details from both.)
6) The progress check should focus of the prime areas of:
Personal, Social and Emotional Development,
Communication and Language
(In our ‘Progress Check at Age 2’ Pack we also include the Characteristics of Learning as we believe these to be equally important and think it is a missed opportunity if these are not included.)
7) You must include information about:
What the child is doing well
What they may need a little of support with
Where there is a concern that the child may have a developmental delay
Other Useful Information
You can find links to the ‘Birth – 5 Matters’, ‘Development Matters’ and ‘Department for Education Progress Check at Age Two’ documents on our Useful Links Page here:
You may also find the following Kids To Go products useful:
Progress Check Age 2 Pack
This pack guides you through the whole process of completing the Progress Check at Age 2. It has been fully updated to fit in with the new EYFS standards and to bring the format into line with new Summative Assessment Kit which it complements. It contains:
- Introduction for the Childminder. This section fully guides you through a simple five step process for completing the progress check.
- Guidance Notes about what you might observe the children doing, examples of what you might write on the report in relation to this and ideas to include as next steps.
- Progress Check report template. This has been reformatted to complement the Super Summative Assessment Pack which it complements.
- Letter to parents. A template for you give to parents with background information on the report and arranging a meeting
Super Summative Assessment and Gap Tracker Kit
This kit contain all the tools you need to sum up a child’s development and achievements, right from when a child starts with you, all the way until they leave to go to nursery or school. From ‘All about Me’ forms, starting points, transition and report templates as well as sample reports, tips and of course a gap tracker for when you need it.
Partnership with Parents Pack
An essential tool to help you build and develop your partnership with parents. From help advertising and attracting new families, through to daily communication and letter templates to send to help deal with tricky situations in a professional manner, this pack has everything you need.
By Guest Blogger Ruth Snowden 18/06/2022
Did you know – Forest Childcare can help to prevent Nature Deficit Disorder!
But what is Nature Deficit Disorder? It’s not an officially recognised medical condition – author Richard Louv came up with the idea in 2005, in his book ‘Last Child in the Woods’, in which he talks about the need for children to re-connect with the natural world. So what are the symptoms to look out for when children are suffering from a nature deficit?
Negative changes in behaviour
Most people who look after small children know that one brilliant way to calm overexcited or overwrought little ones is to release them out of doors. This allows them to shout and run about, generally letting off steam. It has recently been found that children with ADHD often benefit from out door play.
Outside there are many different sounds, smells, things to look at and feel, changes in light and temperature – and the eyes and ears get used to noticing things much further away. Indoors it’s a different story – for example too much screen time can damage children’s eyesight.
Loss of physical abilities and increased rate of physical illness
Outdoor play helps children to acquire strength, balance and coordination, not to mention keeping them slim! And contact with outdoor things, such as earth, plants and trees helps them to build up beneficial bacteria in their ‘gut flora’, which makes their immune system stronger. There are many other physical outdoor benefits too – for example our bodies need sunshine in order to make vitamin D.
Damage to mental and emotional health
There are probably lots of factors involved here – such as many of the ones mentioned above, plus social isolation and lack of interaction in the ‘real world’. It’s also possible that all the electrical gadgets and screens in our homes are affecting children negatively. We don’t yet know how much they may be affecting both physical and mental heath.
Inability to assess risks and figure stuff out for oneself.
In addition to all the outdoor benefits already mentioned, children need time for challenges, interests and physical activities that are not constantly structured and monitored by adults. This helps them to become independent and think for themselves. Unfortunately many children today spend far less free time outdoors than their parents would have done. TV and video games and social media are partly responsible for this trend. Yet, interestingly, many children say that they would like to spend more time outdoors if they were allowed.
Parents, childcare providers and society as a whole worry so much about safety issues such as traffic and strangers, that many children end up confined indoors, or in ‘safe’, restricted outdoor spaces, supervised by adults. Playing alone out of doors is often seen as dangerous. A generation ago, most children of junior school age walked to school, alone or with their friends. Nowadays many children get taken to school by car – ironically adding to the dangerous traffic on the roads.
The idea that people need contact with the natural world is not new – many parks and gardens were opened during Queen Victoria’s reign because she was concerned about conditions in the rapidly expanding towns and cities of the Industrial Revolution. This was a step in the right direction, but it was done in a way that reflected the ‘man controls nature’ attitude of the times. Lawns were mowed within an inch of their lives and ‘weeds’ had to be eliminated at all costs.
One of the positive effects of the Covid pandemic lockdowns is that people have begun to notice nature round about them more, and to realise how much being out of doors helps their mental and physical heath. This has contributed to the new trend towards rewilding, realising that ‘weeds’ are actually wild flowers and part of the ecosystem – and nature studies have recently become part of the National Curriculum.
Forest Childcare is about actively and purposely taking children to outdoor spaces. It is not possible to roll back the clock and send children out to play alone and unsupervised in wild spaces as they would have done in the past. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t have a real, positive effect on the children you look after by taking them on outdoor outings on a regular basis. You can give children the outings they need to counter nature deficit disorder and give them the opportunities to spend time appreciating the beauty, fun, danger and excitement of outdoor green places.
Children who are taken out of doors to play, and taught about the world of nature, are much more likely to grow up with an interest in the environment. We are not separate from the natural world – we are part of it – and we urgently need to remember this. So keep showing your children wild flowers and trees, birds and butterflies. Keep allowing them to run around, shout, climb, get wet and muddy, and generally figure stuff out for themselves. They need rewilding too – and you will be helping to save the planet as well as them!
Join the Forest Childcare Association
The Forest Childcare Association is a best practice initiative for childcare providers who want to demonstrate their commitment to taking small children outdoors on a regular basis. By making a commitment to regular outdoor outings you can make a discernible difference to your children AND your business. When you join you receive an introductory training booklet, as well as business tools, a certificate to display and a pack of 50 Crafts and Activities to get you started.
Forest Childcare can help to:
• Teach children to appreciate trees, fields, ponds and woods by spending time in the natural environment
• Improve emotional and physical wellbeing of children and the adults who look after them
• Improve children’s concentration, perseverance, cooperation and motivation skills
• Help children to stay fit and counter obesity because children move around naturally outdoors while they play
• Let off steam
• Provide opportunities for developing harmonious relationships with others, through negotiation, taking turns and cooperation
• Improve physical skills gained from opportunities to run and balance
• Build knowledge and understanding of the world
• Provide rich opportunities for imagination, inventiveness and resourcefulness
Last Updated 27/05/2022
A bit of humour to lighten your day when you are bogged down with the Inspection Handbook – here are nine guaranteed ways to fail your Ofsted inspection they forgot to include! (Download the photos – they will make you smile).
1. Remember that Ofsted likes to see well-labelled toy shelves. Especially the ones you use to store the children during the day.
2. When calculating ‘usable floor space’ at your setting, it is not acceptable to count the inside of your fridge.
3. Always serve diet fizzy drinks to any under 5s in your care to show Ofsted that you promote healthy eating.
4. Even if you regularly stack two babies directly on top of each other, they still count as two separate children for your childminding ratios.
5. Remember that according to the EYFS Statutory Framework you must have a teaching license from Hogwarts if you intend to encourage small children to speak Parseltongue so they can talk to snakes
6. While very practical and great for the environment, this is not an Ofsted-approved potty training method.
7. While it is important to encourage independence in matters of self-care, babies should not be expected to change their own nappies
8. If you decide to do a water play structured activity while the inspector is watching, it is considered good practice to buy a dedicated water table.
9. This is not considered to be an acceptable ‘late collection procedure’. Even if the parents are really, really late you must not dump their child on the street outside of your house.
Childminding Best Practice Newsletter
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An important part of a childminder’s role is to help ensure that children are ready for school. The skills that children need to learn to be ready for school are interwoven throughout the EYFS, but what are they, and what can childminders do to make sure the children they look after are ready for school?
What does the EYFS say about school readiness?
Ensuring a child is ready for school is not a process that only takes a few weeks. In fact as soon as a child starts attending your setting you should be helping provide them with the skills they need for school and for life.
The EYFS states:
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets the standards that all early years providers must meet to ensure that children learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe. It promotes teaching and learning to ensure children’s ‘school readiness’ and gives children the broad range of knowledge and skills that provide the right foundation for good future progress through school and life.’
By providing a broad and balanced curriculum for the children in your setting you will be cementing the foundations for their life in school (and beyond.) The EYFS details lots of different skills but there are some skills that are especially useful for a smooth start to school life:
Communication and Language skills
Communication and language skills are essential for children starting school. A child that can communicate will find it much easier to make friends, tell an adult their needs and ideas, and will be able to follow instructions. Think about if the child can:
- Listen quietly to a story
- Follow simple instructions
- Communicate their needs and wants to others
Childminders, with their quieter settings and smaller group sizes, are in an ideal position to help children develop strong communication skills ready for school. Make sure you make plenty of time for things like listening to and telling stories, music and rhyme time, and activities covering listening, understanding and speaking skills.
Personal, Social and Emotional Skills
These prepare a child socially and emotionally for starting school. They are skills that enable children to get on with their peers and follow the rules and requirements of a setting. Children need to be confident to be able to learn, to ask for help and to communicate their needs. Can the child:
- Separate happily from a grown up at drop off time
- Do their own shoes up
- Put on their coat
- Attend to their own toileting needs
- Wash their own hands effectively
- Eat their lunch by themselves, using a knife and fork
- Cooperate with others
Children need time and support to practice these skills, and this is where a childminder can stand out from busier settings with tighter schedules and less time. For example, give children plenty of time to practice core skills such as putting on their own shoes and coat. Time is something they will not have as much of at school, so a chance to try these things at a more relaxed pace is extremely valuable.
Encourage children to be self-sufficient at mealtimes by providing things like child-friendly cutlery and jugs for children to practice pouring from. Encourage children to open their own food packets, etc. They may not have as long for lunch at school and will have to share an adult helper with more children so the more they can do for themselves, the better.
The physical skills children need, to be able to settle well into school, are not all about fine motor activities like writing. In order for children to be able to interact with their peers they need to be able to keep up – literally! A child that gets out of breath after a couple of minutes while their friends run and play is often, sadly, a child that gets left out. Obviously if a child has specific health needs it can be hard to prevent this, but childminders can help all children by providing lots of opportunities for children to develop their strength, stamina and gross motor skills. For example by taking them on plenty of outings to natural areas where they can run and walk long distances that they may not get the chance to otherwise.
There are lots of fine motor skills children will need in order to start learning to write, for example drawing lines and circles with gross motor movements, holding a pencil near the point with first two fingers and thumb, and starting to copy some letters, as well as skills such as being able to use one handed tools like scissors.
The Characteristics of Effective Learning
Being ready to explore all that school can offer must come hand-in-hand with a desire, ability and willingness to learn, (for without these no child is ready for school!) Think about how you help children develop the characteristics of:
- Playing and Exploring
- Active Learning
- Creative and Critical Thinking
Working with Parents
It is important to work with a child’s parents to help them be school ready – firstly, by helping parents with activities that will help support all the skills mentioned above, and secondly by stopping well-meaning parents teaching their children to do the following:
- Learn to write their name solely using capital letters
- Use the names of the letters rather than the sounds
- Use the wrong sounds for letters
- Recite numbers to 100 without any real understanding of what they mean
These are all things children will have to unlearn. So, by signposting parents to resources such as videos on YouTube showing the correct way to phonetically pronounce the letter sounds, you are doing the child a great favour.
6 Tips to help with a smooth transition to school
- Include some school uniforms in your dressing-up kit.
- If you are close enough, plan some walks to the area around the school or maybe even along the route the child will take.
- Incorporate pictures of the school into homemade books for the children to look at and talk about. Depending on the school they may even have some pictures of inside that they can share with you.
- Read books about starting school.
- It may be appropriate to invite the child’s teacher to visit them in your setting, especially if you are the child’s main setting.
- Complete a transition report with the child’s parents.
Useful Resources to help you with school readiness tasks
Super Summative Assessment and Gap Tracker Kit
Our Super Summative Assessment and Gap Tracker Kit has everything you need to complete a transition report and contains information schools will ACTUALLY find useful! It includes a specially designed transition report template as well as written samples of the things you might like to write.
Like all the other tools in the kit, the transition form has been designed to be quick and easy to fill in. However, if you would like more guidance about what to include, there is also a completed sample with lots of ideas of the sorts of things you can write.
Characteristics of Effective Learning Pack
This pack contains information about the characteristics of effective learning (COEL), broken down in a way that is easy to absorb. There are plenty of ideas for you to try out to promote the COEL in your setting and to help you to improve understanding of them.
Using any of the ideas in this pack can help promote the COEL in your setting and give the children a boost into the start of their school life.