Home » Childminding best practice
Category Archives: Childminding best practice
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
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.
By Jennifer Fishpool and Amanda Goode
What is the one thing that you can do as a childminder (or anyone caring for young children,) that is enormously beneficial for both yourself and the children in your care?
The answer is to regularly spend time in outdoor natural environments.
Physical health benefits:
Most people know that getting exercise is good for our health, but did you know it has been shown that exercising outside is especially beneficial?
1. Better energy levels: We can all feel a bit ‘meh’ at times, especially in the colder and darker winter months. However studies show that doing exercise outside can make us feel more energised and positive in ourselves.
2. Improved eyesight: Being short-sighted is becoming an increasingly common problem. Playing outdoors more can help reduce a child’s risk of becoming short sighted. It is thought that exposure to natural light helps eyes develop in a healthy way and being able to exercise our eyes by looking to things in the distance is also extremely beneficial.
3. Healthy sleep: Sleep is absolutely essential for both our physical and mental health. Spending time outside helps you sleep better. Children are much more likely to engage in vigorous exercise outside and a study by Liverpool John Moores University discovered that babies who are exposed to plenty of natural light in the afternoon sleep better and longer.
4. Better immune system: When our skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces vitamin D. This is important for many body processes, including our immune system.
5. Avoiding germs and viruses: We now should all know that a good way to avoid inhaling other people’s germs and viruses is to be outside and let them blow away!
Think of all the things children are asked to keep contained when they are inside. They are told not to run, jump or shout but outside they can go big! This helps with:
6. Better cardiovascular health: Children should be given plenty of opportunities to run until they are out of breath. This is tricky if you only have a small, confined space. Make sure you take children places where they can really stretch their legs and run! This will have great benefits for their cardiovascular health.
7. Stronger bones: Being able to jump helps strengthen bones.
8. Better physical endurance: Going on nature walks means that children get used to walking for longer distances. However if they are having fun they will probably not notice and may surprise you how far they can walk if you give them time to build up their endurance.
9. Better sense of balance: When you go for a walk in nature you are much more likely to encounter different surfaces to walk and balance on. Inside or around town, surfaces tend to be flat and free of obstacles but in natural environments surfaces can be bumpy, sticky, muddy, unstable etc. Walking on these sorts of surfaces helps children build up their strength and sense of balance.
10. Stronger lungs: Shouting helps exercise our lungs. We have to take in bigger breaths to be able to shout!
Benefits for Mental Health
11. Reduced anxiety, stress and depression: Research has shown that spending time in a green environment like a forest can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and anger. It has also been shown that exposure to natural light helps boost self-esteem and promote a better mood.
12. Increased resilience: If you teach children to look out for and love the little everyday occurrences in nature, for example the dandelion growing in a crack in the pavement or the friendly neighbourhood robin that sings from a tree, you are providing them with a wealth of ‘little joys’ to fall back on and that are always there when things are tough.
13. Less technological ‘overload’: Spending time outside in nature helps us ‘switch off’ from the modern bombardment of information.
14. Aids cognitive development: Young children love being outside where there is so much to see and discover and when we spend time in nature ALL of our senses are being stimulated.
15. Greater attention span: Researchers at the University of Michigan found that spending just one hour interacting with nature helps increase attention spans by up to 20%.
16. Learning to love nature: David Attenborough is known (amongst other things!) for saying ‘No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.’ In going outside and experiencing and making an effort to notice the natural world where we live – whether that be by visiting a woodland or a park, watching the birds, noticing the native plants growing in cracks in the pavement or simply by observing the weather – we can hopefully learn and encourage children to learn to love and help protect our natural world.
If you would like to start making more of the benefits that exploring nature with your children bring why not join the Forest Childcare Association?
23/11/2021 by Amanda Goode
The short answer is, we don’t know. Here’s the long answer…
The government advice is confusing. Under the government guidance, sausages are listed under Foods to avoid up to 5 years, but under the How to reduce the risk of choking heading, it gives instructions of how to cut them up… And let’s be honest, if you can find a 4-year-old that hasn’t already been eating sausages, that’s a rare child indeed! Even vegetarians and vegans can eat sausages these days. We assume from this that they know that people are probably going to give children sausages anyway and would prefer for the children not to choke on them.
This is the primary concern when feeding very young children sausages. Choking is really bad for you. It stops air from entering the lungs and can kill you very quickly. Young children who are still learning to chew and swallow or children with special needs are especially at risk from choking. This is one of the reasons why, as a childminder, you must properly supervise children whilst they are eating (some of the other reasons are so that you can stop them from throwing tomato soup up the wall or tipping all their food into the dog). To prevent choking make sure you cut up food appropriately by following the recently issued government guidance, for example, ‘cut sausages into thin strips rather than chunks and remove the skins’
So we can give the children sausages?
Saying to avoid them but telling us how to serve them safely is a bit like saying ‘Don’t eat a bucketful of ice-cream, but if you do, use a small spoon.’ And it’s one thing for the parents to be feeding their children sausages, but the EYFS states that as a childminder it is a must for food and drink to be ‘healthy, balanced and nutritious’ if you are providing it. It does not say anything about sausages though.
Why are sausages so bad anyway?
As well as containing a lot of fat, sausages (and also a lot of processed food – anything that you haven’t made yourself from ingredients that have had minimal things done to them) contain a lot of salt…
Salt is bad for you. Although you actually need a bit of salt in your diet most people have too much. Too much salt in your body means that your kidneys have to work extra hard to get rid of it. If the kidneys can’t keep up, then the body holds onto extra water to dilute the salt. This means there is more fluid being pumped around by the heart, making it have to work extra hard too. Over time, this can cause damage to the blood vessels and lead to serious complications such as heart attacks. In addition to this, young babies’ kidneys are not developed properly and are even less able to process large amounts of salt.
But my childminded children won’t eat healthy foods – sausages are one of the only things that they WILL eat!
We get it – children are fussy. As childminders, serving up healthy food is a must, and if the child’s diet at home is poor, then we should try to get at least some healthy food into them. However, the most important thing is that they don’t go hungry. If they really won’t anything else, something is better than nothing.
If the children really do love sausages, why not try getting them involved in making some homemade ones (not as difficult as you think), or look for reduced salt versions (they do exist, but check the packaging as they can still have a high salt content for young children).
I have so much to do, this is just another thing I have to worry about. I think I’ll just stick to what I was doing.
Please don’t feel this way! We know you are doing an amazing job, as Chef, Entertainer, Educator, Cleaner and everything else! We think that if you can show that the food and drink you provide is healthy overall, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue if you very occasionally serve something a bit less healthy, as long as you are keeping the children safe from the really harmful stuff like choking.
It’s about being sensible and keeping children healthy and safe..
We can think of this topic the same way that we think of other aspects of what we do with our childminded children – as something to work on and improve. You might have the fussiest child ever who will only eat sweets and sausages, but if you are aware of it and are trying to make improvements, however small, that can only be a good thing.
If you are looking for inspiration for activities to do with your children around the themes of being safe and healthy please look at our Be Safe, be Healthy pack which covers 15 different topics, including healthy eating, being active, looking after your teeth and more.
For more up to date news, activity ideas and no-nonsense tips and advice please sign up to our free newsletter.
On Saturday the 2nd of October Ofsted held one of their ‘Big Conversation’ events for childminders and other early years providers. This was the first of such events in the North-West since the introduction of the new EYFS in September and Ofsted had some key messages for childminders:
Assessment is still vital
Ofsted emphasised that assessment is still vital as it can highlight if a child needs extra help and support and so reduces the likelihood of them falling behind. How you assess is up to you and Ofsted do not want to see reams of assessment that take you away from the children for long periods or become a task to do for its own sake. However they DO still want childminders to assess their children, the new EYFS has NOT removed this requirement. You MUST still assess what children can do and what they cannot do in order to effectively plan your curriculum.
Importance of working in partnership with parents
Although Ofsted did not go into this in as much depth as other issues it was mentioned several times, showing that it is still one of Ofsted’s main areas of concern. It was emphasised that it is important that you have a good working relationship with your parents so that they become an integral part of how you assess their child. As the people that know their child best, they must be made to feel comfortable in approaching you for support if they have concerns.
Stronger focus on curriculum: intent, implementation, and impact
The curriculum was one of the main discussion points of the meeting. Ofsted do not expect you to have your curriculum written down so if you are spending excess time writing up complicated curriculum maps then STOP! Instead Ofsted want you to be clear on:
- INTENT: What is your curriculum? What do you want your children to learn? What knowledge/skills do you want them to gain? Is your curriculum ambitious for ALL children? (You can plan this by using your assessment of what they know and can do and what they need to know and be able to do.)
- IMPLEMENTATION: How do you use your curriculum? How do you teach it? What methods do you use? What activities and opportunities do you provide children?
- IMPACT: How is your curriculum making an impact for your children? Has it been planned and delivered in such a way that ALL children make progress, regardless of their starting points? You need to be able to show how you know children have progressed and learned. Over time Ofsted want to see that your children are LEARNING, REMEMBERING and DOING more.
The importance of proper sequencing in your curriculum
An issue that is starting to come up in recent Ofsted inspections is a lack of proper sequencing in activities or tasks provided to children. The Inspector in charge of the meeting gave the example of expecting a child to ride a bike before they can balance or pedal. You MUST think carefully about what it is a child NEEDS to know or do before they can successfully start on their next step so that you do not miss out essential building blocks of learning.
Some childminders are focussing too much on the impact they want to make with their curriculum and are forgetting the implementation part of the process, providing activities that are too advanced for children.This means that children are missing out on vital pieces of knowledge. It is essential that you can explain what knowledge or skills the child needs to have before working on the activity or skill and where they might go next when they have mastered it.
Stronger focus on early communication
There has been a lot of information about this, and Ofsted seem happy that the message is getting through. They reported that they have noticed that settings that are graded Outstanding are exceptional at helping children learn communication and language so if you are aiming at being outstanding make sure that you evaluate how you support children to learn these skills. It was also emphasised that it is vital to consider children’s vocabulary when planning and teaching your curriculum. What vocabulary do you plan to teach the children, and how?
Stronger focus on children’s health
With the attention given to the new inclusion of Oral Health in the EYFS the increased focus on children’s health has been overlooked. It is important to consider whether you are doing enough to promote and protect children’s health as Ofsted will be looking for this. For example, do you make sure that children under five years old get the recommended three hours of physical activity a day? Do you promote and teach healthy eating, and do you follow safer sleep guidelines? You must also make sure that you are working in partnership with parents by providing or signposting them to information and guidance about how to look after their child’s health.
An excellent product to help you ensure that you are you fulfilling the requirement to focus on children’s health is our ‘Be Safe, Be Healthy’ pack.
Ofsted are no longer referring to ‘Inspection Cycles’. Instead they will inspect a childminder once in a six year ‘window’. If a childminder is graded ‘Requires Improvement’ or ‘Inadequate’ they will be inspected more often.
The percentages of providers rated good or outstanding since 2019 has stayed stable at around 94.9% (These are North-West figures although it was reported that these are reflected nationally.) and Ofsted report no signs that this is changing.Outstanding childminders work closely with other settings. For example working with the local school to learn about the phonics program they teach and ways in which the childminder can prepare their children for this program.
The biggest issue of the night certainly seemed to be how childminders plan, implement and assess their curriculum and how they can show they have a solid understanding of all the steps involved in a child learning a new skill or piece of knowledge. There were also other issues that have not been touched on much yet but I feel will become prominent as childminders settle into working with the new EYFS, such as the new renewed focus on promoting children’s health. However the most interesting subject of the night for me was Ofsted’s reminder that assessment is still vital to the work that childminders do so if you have thrown away all your assessment tools it is maybe time to reconsider.
Source of all information: The Ofsted Big Conversation North West meeting held on 02/10/2021
If you found this information useful you might like our free Childminding Best Practice Newsletter. You can sign up for it here: Free Childminding Best Practice Newsletter
Find us on Facebook: Kids To Go