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How to do Forest Childcare when you live in urban, built-up areas

Members of the Forest Childcare Association make a commitment to take children on weekly outdoor outings all year round. This is a big commitment, and no small undertaking, no matter where you live. But let’s face it: if you live in a beautiful part of the countryside, with footpaths and scenery on your doorstep, it is easier and more natural for you to make this commitment than for childcare providers living and working in urban and built-up areas. Offering Forest Childcare to any child is fantastic. But if you are in a position to offer Forest Childcare experiences to children in urban areas, especially those who may not otherwise have access to the outdoors, then this puts you in a place to make an enormous and very positive influence on their lives.

 

The children who most need Forest Childcare experiences, are the least likely to get them

Forest Childcare birds in the city parkChildren who live in the countryside with countryside parents are already likely to spend lots of time outdoors, so Forest Childcare days provided for them may simply be a nice extension of how they already spend their weekends and time with their parents. But for children who live in urban or built-up-concreted-parts of the country, access to wild places and even parks is much more limited. Forest Childcare Days for many urban kids, may be all the ‘wild time’ they get.

 

Urban Forest Childcare is about doing the best you can with what you have

Forest Childcare in cities and towns is about actively seeking out the wild spaces that you can find near you and doing the best you can with what you have. Regular weekly visits are important because they allow children to build familiarity with the places you visit. You may need to seek out the parks in your city and it may take some planning in order to work out how you will be able to visit them on a regular basis.

urban forest childcare leaves by the fountainUrban Forest Childcare provider Tes Carlow writes, “We have explored parts of the local park we don’t normally see, ie away from the play area. We have a prom by the Thames and use that for ‘seaside’ school! Lots of opportunities if you look for them. Children can easily see things from a different perspective, take them on a different route or through a different gate and they learn all over again.  It’s fun and living in a town has enhanced my learning with respect to being completely flexible with Forest Childcare ideas and crafts.”

 

Anything you can do outdoors is better than doing nothing

Forest Childcare is about making the most of outdoor ‘wild’ spaces with small children where you live. Not everyone has forests, beaches and sheep on their doorstep. Forest Childcare is about trying to explore the wild spaces that exist at the edges of the playgrounds. It’s about stopping to see the trees and finding patches and parts of nature where you live. It’s about actively seeking out nature and giving the children access to it. I don’t want people to feel that in order to offer ‘Forest Childcare’ to children that you have to live in or near to countryside. Anything you can do, and especially the harder it is to find, the more important the experience for the child who would otherwise miss out.

 

Ignore anybody who tells you ‘it isn’t proper Forest School’

The aim of the Forest Childcare Association is to encourage childminders and other small childcare providers to take children on weekly outdoor outings to ‘wild’ spaces. It is not to offer ‘a watered down version of the ‘Forest School’ experience’ as is sometimes said. It is totally different. If all children had access to those nurseries where you spend all day outdoors, cook snacks on a bonfire and sleep in a tent, then that would be amazing, but that is not the world we live in. And I don’t want people to think: I can’t offer that, or even close to that, so I won’t try at all.

In my opinion, the chief goal of the Forest Childcare Association (which is to get all children outdoors weekly year round) is actually a much better experience for them than the intense and fun, but often short (only 8 week) experiences often offered in schools and nurseries as ‘Forest School Experiences’. I am trying to encourage childminders to get outside and go for it, without the need for specialised training that is frankly more than is required to simply take the children on an outing to the woods.

Forest childcare found a leafWith that in mind, and in reference again to my point above but is SO important, I’m going to shout it out here again: ANYTHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING when it comes to wild time with children. Whether you live in the Yorkshire Dales, or inner city London, you can, and should feel free to join the Forest Childcare Association and offer Forest Childcare to children at the level that you are able to provide in YOUR circumstances and in the place where YOU live. Don’t let anybody tell you that what you are able to provide in terms of time outdoors isn’t “good enough outdoors to count”. It does. So there. Rant done.  Be creative. And let’s get the kids outside!

 

If you don’t have a car, take a bus or go by train

If you don’t have a car, then you will need to plan carefully around public transport how you can make your visits happen. But I would challenge you to be brave and try it, because especially if it is hard to find the wild spaces where you live, then this makes it all the more worthwhile to the children to take them there.

Could you consider taking the train?  Taking the train is great fun for children and the journey is part of the adventure.  Taking a bus ride is complicated with a push chair, I do understand, but if you can do it, to get children to those wild spaces once a week, you are making a fabulous commitment to them and their future.

 

Urban Forest Childminder Silvia Bouakkaz takes the children treasure hunting on the Thames foreshore

urban forest childcare - Thames Bank

I love Silvia’s positive attitude to Forest Childcare. She writes, “We live in central London but we just love the outdoors and try to make the most of what we have. We do not have the seaside but we have the river Thames so……..off we went. It was a fantastic day out, as you can see on the pictures we went on a treasure hunting on the Thames foreshore just behind Tate Modern. We managed to find a few items on our list, it just felt like we were in the seaside. FANTASTIC !!!!”

 

Urban green spaces are vanishing, and Forest Childcare can help to teach the next generation to appreciate them

Less and less children have access to wild spaces to play in so more children than ever grow up with limited chance to spend time in nature. Even if children have places near to their house like parks and small green spaces, they cannot visit them today without an adult accompanying them. So children rely on adults to provide Forest Childcare experiences. And when you do, you are helping to raise a generation of children who will value and appreciate these wild spaces so that they will turn into adults who want to preserve these places for the future.

You are teaching children to love these places.

You are teaching them to respect these places.

If children learn to love and respect these places, they will strive to preserve them for the next generation.

 

This photograph is a “lie”

Forest Childcare misty sept morningThis is one of my favourite ‘Forest Childcare’ photos. I use it a lot because it is one of my best childminding memories, the little boy I looked after, chasing after my own daughter through the misty September morning park. It looks like we live out in the countryside somewhere, and created for the parents who saw this photograph up on the wall in my playroom an ideal dream of what childcare with me must be all about.

I don’t think anybody realised that the tree in this photo is only a few meters away from a busy main road which doesn’t show in the picture from the angle I took the photograph. The children are running because they can see the swings and are excited to get there! Behind me was an ugly fence blocking the park from the local failing secondary school. But it was right after the school run and at that moment, the park in the morning mist had fallen silent and was utterly beautiful. As the children ran for the swings they suddenly stopped and discovered conkers beneath the tree at the age when conkers are still magical. I felt enormously privileged to be there in that moment outdoors with the children.

So the photo isn’t a lie at all really. It was looking for the beauty that was near me, sharing it with the children and making the most in that moment of what we had.

 

Childminders are ideally placed to offer “Forest Childcare Days” to children who would not normally get access to outdoor ‘wild’ places

Urban children, especially less well-off children whose parents don’t or can’t take the children to outdoor places themselves – these are the children who can most benefit from having a childminder who takes them on a weekly basis to wild, natural places. If you are a childminder, living and working in a built up environment, then you may be the ONLY person in a child’s life to give them these outdoor experiences.  It is something to offer that child that nobody else can.

 

Join the Forest Childcare Association for only £15 for a lifetime membership

Forest Childcare Association Logo

When you join the Forest Childcare Association for only £15 I will send you a pack of information including risk assessments and safety considerations associated with outdoor ‘wild’ outings, all the permission forms you need, business materials to help you to promote yourself as a Forest Childcare Provider to parents (including the right to use the logo) and a book of 50 crafts and activities with outdoor themes including treasure hunts for the very young.

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

www.kidstogo.co.uk

17 childminders share their real accident stories – don’t let these happen to you!

Nearly every childminder has a horror story to tell, an accident or a near miss story. One of those things you tell every other childminder you know so that it won’t happen to them and they won’t make the same mistake. Many accidents are unavoidable (children slipping over, banging their heads etc.), and are things that happen to children everywhere. But some things are more unique to childminders looking after groups of children in their own homes and out and about. I am going to share their stories with you here and what they learned so that hopefully none of these things will happen to you!

childminding-accident-preventionThe vast majority of these stories appear to be pushchair related, so I do hope that when I publish this post, Ofsted won’t read it and decide to ban all pushchairs!

 

Phil and Teds tipping over

don't let children play in the phil and teds“The scariest preventable accident that happened to me was with my Phil and Teds (up and down) pushchair. I was heading out on the morning school run and as I turned to lock my front door, the two year old tried to climb into the underneath section when there was nobody sitting on the top. Her weight tipped it over and the metal frame landed on her finger nail which popped off completely. I was careful never to let this happen again and very cautious about the children playing with the Phil and Teds from then on.”

 

Throwing cloths over lamps

“I used to have a clip on desk light in the playroom. Some of the after school children had built a den by throwing a sheet over the light. They turned the light on and left it and went outside. All of a sudden the smoke alarms were going off and the whole house was filling up with toxic fumes. Luckily I got back in and opened all the windows and saw what had happened. The sheet over the light had caused it to overheat and melt the plastic clip entirely. The lamp had fallen onto the carpet face down and kept on burning. It melted a hole straight through the carpet. I have never forgotten the fumes that came off of such a small patch of carpet!”

 

Lift doors closing

“I was taking a lift with a group of children. The first child walked into lift, but the second child slipped and fell down. As I reached down to help the second child, the lift doors closed and took the first child up two floors alone. All was fine, but I was absolutely terrified.”

Another childminder shared a similar story with me about taking a bus with doors at the front and separate doors at the back. Terrifying!

 

Strap on booster seats tipping over

“This was my own son but I was working at the time. My child was in a booster seat at the kitchen table – one of those soft ones that fold up for storage. I was changing a nappy in the living room (but could see him). He must have leant over too far and the whole chair went over. He was strapped in fine, but the chair was just an ordinary dining table chair, not as heavy as a high chair. He was ok but I felt dreadful. I won’t use the soft strap on baby seats anymore.”

 

Row Row Row your Boat

row row“We were at music time doing row, row, row your boat. The brother (aged 3) and sister (aged 18months) were holding hands. Both pulled back at same time and the little one’s elbow dislocated! Really horrible!”

Two childminders told me the same story. Both said they weren’t being especially rough, but like yanking a child by the arm to cross a road (nursemaid’s elbow), this is just something that can happen.

 

Self-closing park gates

“We were leaving our park play area. One child ran toward the gate with another following and the self-close gate shut in the second child’s finger and turned the nail black. I now make all the children walk with me to the gate and open it together – they all know what happened so they are also super vigilant themselves now!”

 

Taking buggies down the steps

“This didn’t happen to me, but a lady at the school, about ten years ago, but I’ll never forget it. She was bumping her buggy, with a very tiny baby in it, down a flight of steps in the playground. The path was closed so instead of walking round the long way, she thought this was a good idea. It was one of those travel systems where you clip the car seat to the buggy frame. On the last step she slipped and let go of the buggy. It landed upside down with baby firmly strapped inside. Baby was absolutely fine but mum was a mess, she nearly passed out. I don’t think she ever took the short cut again.”

 

Children standing on a pushchair parcel tray (under-basket)

“When my daughter was about two, she used to love pushing around her own buggy/stroller. One day she decided to stand on the parcel tray (you know the bit at the bottom). She was holding on to the handle bars and the whole thing tipped backwards and she cracked her head on the floor. She ended up in A&E and was keep in overnight – so scary, especially when they had trouble waking her during the night.”

 

Leaving children unattended while eating

“My own son was 6 at the time he choked on a nugget. I was upstairs cleaning and could hear the kids laughing whilst eating. It went eerily quiet. Then the eldest screamed at the top of her voice, “Mum he’s choking.” I never got down the stairs so fast. I grabbed him and spun him round and wacked his back. It didn’t work. The girls were now crying and he was going blue. I paused for a second and then really palm wacked his back. The nugget flew out he threw up and I burst into tears. I have never forgotten this and my eldest is 18 and she is doing first aid with me in October when mine expires.”

first aid for childminders chokingOut of all of the serious first aid incidents that childminders deal with, choking is one of the most common. Never leave childminded children unattended while they are eating. Would you know how to save a choking child? Take my pop quiz here.

 

 

Double side by side buggies vs. doorways and gates

“I had a little boy who had just started and I put him and another child in my double buggy. As I pushed the buggy though my door, he moved his leg to the side and it got it trapped between the buggy and door. He couldn’t walk for nearly a week. We now go out backwards with the double to prevent this happening again.”

Another childminder shared a similar story with me about her garden gate.

 

Accidentally turning on your stove

“I only have a tiny kitchen and store little ones’ bags/lunch boxes on the cooker top. I had a parcel delivered and just stuck it on there too thinking I would sort it out later. We went into the conservatory and carried on with our activities. The next thing I could smell smoke. Before the smoke alarm went off I had the kids outside in the garden safely away and went in to check. I must have knocked a switch on the cooker and it was on and burning. It had melted a little one’s bag, her blankie, lunch, nappies etc. I put it out straight away and no one was at any risk etc., but boy was I shaken up……never mind the embarrassment of having to tell mum what had happened.

We learned that fire drills do work!! And the cooker is now switched off at the wall.”

 

Standing up in pushchairs

standing in the pushchair“When my own daughter was small we had a big heavy travel system. She would stand up in it and ride around, and because it was very heavy it wasn’t a problem. When she turned one we bought a smaller, lighter pushchair. Unfortunately, when she tried to stand up in this one, the whole thing tipped over and she cut her head on a stone. She still has a scar.”

 

 

Parents not shutting the front door properly behind them

“Because of the way my house is set up, my front door opens directly onto my living room. I keep the front door locked, so there is no risk of children getting out in the day. But at drop off and collection time, it all gets a bit crazy and I can’t always get behind the parents to shut the door properly. Often parents don’t close it properly behind them either. I live on a busy road and I worry about this a lot. I have to be super vigilant about checking on the door every time somebody opens it.”

 

Escalators

“When I was a nanny I was taking a little boy (age 2) down an escalator. I took him out of the buggy and held his hand to go down the escalator and as we got to the bottom where the steps go level, he turned his foot and it got trapped between the step and the side.  I pulled him by his coat as no one would push the stop button. I ripped his coat and the shop took us to A&E as he had a fracture on the top of his foot.”

 

Children running with hands in their pockets

“When my little girl was about four, she was walking across the playground with her hands in her pockets and tripped. Obviously, she couldn’t put her hands out to break her fall and went straight down on her chin. She still has a scar.”

A similar thing happened to my friend who tripped and knocked herself out at a swimming pool. Her mum had wrapped her arms inside the towel. Never do that!

 

Duck ponds

feeding the ducks from behind a rail“A couple of weeks ago, I was sat at the edge of a pond feeding the ducks with two children aged two and three. As I handed the three-year-old a piece of bread, the two-year-old fell in head first. This wasn’t childminded children, but it was horribly embarrassing. From now on, if I’ve got more than one child with me, we only feed ducks from behind a safety rail.”

 

Changes to water temperature

“The water at our church hall never got hotter than lukewarm. It had been like that for years and was perfect temp for little hands. Unbeknown to me, over one weekend they had installed a new boiler. I was assisting children with hand washing and left the tap running between washes. The first child was fine but when the second child went to put her hand under and it was scorching hot. I am always so careful with handwashing now in public places like restaurants and libraries and shopping centres because you just never know.”

 

What about accidents that happen to us?

One childminder says: “What about accidents that happen to us?! That always scares me about working on my own. The worst time was when I was getting a new knife out of its cellophane and the safety blade cover came off with the cellophane and I sliced my hand open. I very nearly blacked out when I realised how bad it was… and had to go and get stitches.”

izzy-and-ollyI always used to worry about this happening too, and then when my little ones were about three I read a true story called Izzy and Olly, about a 2 ½ year old girl who had saved her mother’s life because she knew how to dial 999 in an emergency. I was totally inspired by this and we would practice finding me finding me lying unconscious at the bottom of the stairs and the kids would practice calling 999. Kids thought it was a riot of course, but I had this idea that one day, just in case the worst happened, that if they knew what to do, one of them might actually be able to save my life!

 

Thank you to everybody who contributed their stories to this article and to the admin group who run the “Childminding For You” Facebook group for allowing me to survey their members.

If you want to share your own stories to warn others about things that have happened to you, then please leave a comment.

 

Be safe be healthy pack for childmindersBe Safe, Be Healthy Pack for Childminders

Want to explore topics and themes in safety and health with childminded children? Check out my Be Safe, Be Healthy Pack of printable colouring pages, activities, craft ideas for topics including fire safety, tooth care, making friends, stranger danger, sun safety, healthy eating, bereavement, and accident prevention.

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

Do you know what you are allowed to do when you take childminded children to the woods?

 

How much do you know about what you’re allowed to do and what you’re not allowed to do when you are taking childminded children on an outing to the woods? Answer true or false to the following 10 statements:

 

  1. You have to have a Level 3 Forest School qualification to take the children to the woods.

FALSE: Forest School training courses are popping up all over the country and lots of childminders are signing up for them. They are essential if you want to run a Forest Kindergarten (outdoor nursery) and a great idea if you want to teach groups of nursery children how to do whittling and build a forest fire. However, it is a myth that you must have Forest School training or any kind of special qualification in order to take childminded children on normal outings to the woods.

Forest Childcare for childminders

  1. You need to do a risk assessment before every trip to the woods.

TRUE: You should carry out a risk assessment to identify any potential hazards each time you go on an outing, even if it is for a place you have been before. Changes in weather and the personalities of the different children you are bringing all introduce new ‘risks’ and new ‘variables’ into a trip and you should consider these when you plan your trip. You don’t necessarily have to write your risk assessment down, but you really should think through your risks before each and every trip.

 

  1. You must get parents to sign a permission form for every outing you take.

FALSE:  When children start at your setting it’s a good idea to get them to sign to say that they are happy for you to take the children on ‘regular outings’ and also to take the children out in the car. If they sign this once, then you don’t need to ask for permission every time you go out. In fact, permission for outings is no longer strictly necessary at all. In Sept 2014 the requirement for ‘written parental permission for outings’ was removed from the EYFS Statutory Framework. Many childminders still get permission from parents anyway, especially to go on ‘special outings’ or ‘day trips’ because it is nice to feel that the parents are on board and it’s also just a great way to advertise your service.

 

  1. It is bad for children’s health to take them out when it’s raining and very cold.

FALSE: Rain is not bad for children’s health. Nor is cold. Have the attitude that there is no inappropriate weather for outings to the woods, only inappropriate clothing. Taking children out in all kinds of weather, all year round, is great for their health and wellbeing. Put the children in water proofs, wellie boots, hats, gloves and bring spare clothing. Remember to think about your own clothes as well as the children, because if you get cold or wet you won’t enjoy yourself and you won’t want to do it again!

 

  1. Your childminding insurance won’t insure you if you’re out in the woods.

FALSE: I don’t know about ALL insurers but if you are insured through Pacey or Morton Michel, then your public liability insurance covers you for any normal outings you take including playgrounds, woodlands and parks as long as those outings are within the UK. Don’t forget that you will also need to make sure your car has business car insurance on it if you intend to drive the children on your outings.

 

  1. You should not allow the children to climb trees.

TRUE: While your public liability insurance should cover you for any NORMAL outing and activity you would do with the children in the woods including hiking, bug-hunting, treasure-hunting and den-building, certain activities including tree climbing, whittling, using tools such as saws, fire-making and cooking on fires may be restricted by your insurance provider. If you plan to do any of those types of activities with the children you care for, you are advised to first contact your insurance provider and to check their small print.

 

  1. You must get parental permission for every activity you might do with the children while you are in the woods.  

FALSE: Many childminders fear that if they took the children to the woods they would need to have parental permission forms for every little thing: ‘I give my child permission to carry twigs, to pick up leaves, to splash in puddles and risk slipping over on mud etc.’ This attitude can severely limit what you feel is ok to do with the children you look after, and simply isn’t necessary. Being outdoors and in the woods comes with risks. While it is important to try to minimise risks, you can’t wrap children in cotton wool and part of the learning of being outdoors is learning to manage some of its risks and dangers.

 

  1. If the parents say it’s ok, then the childminded children can play in the woods at the bottom of your street on their own.

FALSE: It would be lovely to allow children to ‘play out’ as you may have done as a child, and trusting your own children with the freedom to explore the small woods at the bottom of your street is part of growing up and your choice. But when you are childminding, children must be within your sight or hearing at all times, so you must not allow childminded children to ‘play out’ even if the parents have given you permission.

 

  1. You must carry a first aid kit with you when you are on outings.

TRUE: Yes, you must carry a first aid kit with you at all times. Plus epi pens or other first aid essentials for children who need them. But you don’t generally need to lug the same massive first aid box around with you that you have in your house. Just carry some essentials.

 

  1. You must not feed children in the woods because they will not have washed their hands properly.

FALSE: This is simply not true. Obviously you should not feed the children if they have been handling anything potentially dangerous or if their hands are especially filthy, but eating snacks while sitting on a log is really one of the nicest aspects of being outdoors. Whenever possible wash everyone’s hands before you eat in the normal way, but if you carry some wet wipes and a pot of antibacterial hand wash with you, try not to worry too much. ‘Normal germs’ really are less dangerous than many people imagine.

 

Join the Forest Childcare Association and make a commitment to taking children on weekly outdoor outings

Forest Childcare Association Logo

When you join the Forest Childcare Association for just £15 I will send you a pack of information including risk assessments, links to the EYFS, all the forms and paperwork you need to make outings happen, plus 50 crafts and activities you can do with childminded children. You will also receive marketing tools to help you to use the idea of weekly outdoor outings to promote your childminding business.

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

www.kidstogo.co.uk

Do you have a poison childminding garden?

Do you know which of the six plants pictured here are poisonous?

6 pictures of poisonous plants for quiz

Britain doesn’t have a lot of really nasty poisonous plants, but as childminders there are a few you should be able to recognise. Some plants can make you very ill if you eat them or give you a nasty skin rash if you touch them. Do you know which ones they are?

 

Six Poisonous Plants

The quiz is a trick. In fact, ALL of the plants pictured here can harm you, causing symptoms that range from nausea and vomiting to nasty skin blisters that last for months. Some of these plants can actually kill you. But don’t overreact and go cutting down trees and pulling up flowers! Read on so you understand what the risk and real dangers are to yourself and to the children you care for.

 

A: Foxglove Leaves

foxgloveThe leaves of foxglove plants are poisonous. They contain a drug that is used in medicine to regulate the heart, but eating more than about two of the leaves can cause a heart attack. The leaves apparently taste very bitter so you are unlikely to eat them by accident! Many people who try to kill themselves by overdosing on foxglove leaves often find that they throw up before the poison starts to work.

One fatal accident involved a child who drank the water from a vase containing foxglove plants. So don’t pick foxgloves and put them in a vase in your playroom!

 

B: Laburnum Seeds

laburnum tree close up on flowersThe seed pods of laburnum trees look a lot like bean pods. It is easy to imagine why children think the early seed pods are beans especially if you ever let them open and eat sugar snap pea pods. As they ripen, they change colour from green to black and they also harden so they are less likely to be eaten later in the season.

You certainly don’t need to cut down your beautiful laburnum tree if you are a childminder. But you should prune off the lower branches which will keep the seeds out of reach of young children or put a fence around the bottom. Most importantly is to tell the children not to eat them and explain why. Apparently it takes quite a large quantity of the seed pods to cause any real harm to a child, but I wouldn’t chance it. If a child eats any laburnum seeds seek medical advice.

 

C: Mistletoe

MistletoePeople bring mistletoe into their houses at Christmas and put little sprigs over doorways to kiss under. But mistletoe is actually poisonous and poisoning can occur when you eat any part of the plant, especially the leaves. You can also be poisoned from drinking a tea created from the leaves or berries. So watch out! If someone ‘lovingly’ tries to feed you mistletoe berries while kissing you underneath a sprig, they are probably actually trying to murder you!


 D: Daffodil Bulbs

daffodils

The bulbs of daffodils are poisonous if you eat them. Apparently what happens is that people find them in the shed and think they are onion bulbs and then cook stews with them by accident thinking they are cooking onions. The resulting meal will taste very strange and make you sick. It could even kill you. When you see this box of bulbs you can see why it’s not as crazy as it initially sounds!

daffodil bulbs look a lot like onionsDoes this mean that you shouldn’t plant daffodil bulbs on your windowsill with small children anymore? Of course not! But if there is any chance that a small child could have eaten one of the bulbs (and we all know small children who just might) then I would definitely seek medical advice, just in case.

 

E: Yew Tree Leaves

yew tree

Yew trees are evergreen trees that are often grown in cemeteries and can be really, really old. They often have signs on them asking you not to climb them and this is actually to protect you as well as the tree as the leaves of yew trees can cause nasty skin blisters if you rub up against them. These blisters can be quite severe and last for many months. If you eat the leaves they are also poisonous and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions and can even kill you.

Our infant school has a lovely yew tree right in the front ground. The children used to sit under it to eat. Then one day they fenced the whole thing off, which we all thought was quite mean, but now I understand why.

 

 

F: Giant Hogsweed Sap

Giant hogweed is a wild plant that grows along footpaths and riverbanks that makes stinging nettles seem positively friendly! Giant hogsweed can grow up to five metres tall. If the sap of the plant comes into contact with your skin, it can cause severe, painful burns.

giant-hogweed

If you touch a giant hogweed wash the affected area with soap and water. The blisters often heal very slowly and can develop into phytophotodermatitis, a type of skin rash which flares up in sunlight.

 

Don’t panic!

I do hope this article hasn’t made gardening with childminded children or taking them on a walk in the countryside sound as dangerous as taking them to feed the lions. These are just dangers that, like all the poisons found inside your house, you should be aware of when you look after young children.

Always teach children not to eat anything from the garden or while you are out walking unless you have told them it’s ok. Be very careful about giving mixed messages to young children. For example, everyone tells children not to eat red berries because we all know that red means poison. However, blackberry picking is great fun, isn’t it? But blackberries can appear quite red before they are fully ripe. And they’re not poisonous. How are children supposed to know? This certainly doesn’t mean you should never go blackberry picking. Just that it is important to teach children to be sensible and to watch them carefully.

 

For More Information

Read this NHS article for more information on plant dangers in the garden and countryside.

This full, exhaustive list of plants that could cause poisoning from the Royal Agricultural Society  will make you afraid to grow anything other than grass in your garden.

And if you’re really interested, there’s a whole book on the subject: ‘Poisonous Plants: a guide for parents and childcare providers’, by Elizabeth A. Dauncey

 

The plant photos in this article are all reproduced under The Creative Commons License

 

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About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

www.kidstogo.co.uk

What to teach childminded children about stranger danger

It is a statutory requirement that the childminded children are ‘within our sight or hearing at all times’. Never-the-less I don’t know a single childminder who hasn’t at some point found themselves in the frightening situation of losing a child. It is at these rare moments when childminded children find themselves alone that they may need to know what to do about the problem of strangers.

All children need a basic message about strangers that you can build on as they grow older. For the youngest children the message needs to be simple and direct without being too scary. Ultimately, by the time they are walking home alone from school, you hope that every child will know what to do in the unlikely event of a ‘stranger’ winding down the car window and offering them a lift!

 a stranger in a car talking to school children

What is a Stranger?

The first thing that small children need to be able to do is to understand what a stranger is. Many children of pre-school age will have no idea what it means to be a ‘stranger’ even if those same children may already sound like they know catch phrases like ‘say no to strangers’ or ‘don’t talk to strangers’. So don’t let children fool you!

Talk about what a stranger is with children while you are out and about. This is not as straightforward as it initially sounds. At a most basic level, a stranger can be described as someone that we don’t know or someone that we don’t know well. Children need to know that while most strangers are kind, there are some who might not be.

Test their understanding by pointing to people randomly on the street. Is he a stranger? Yes. Is she a stranger? Yes. When you do this you will find that there are many people who fall into the category of ‘sort-of’ – the man who walks the dog that we say ‘good morning’ to each day on the school run is not a complete stranger but we don’t know his name or even which house he lives in. When in doubt about ‘sort-of-strangers’ my policy is to teach the children to always treat sort-of-strangers as strangers.

 

Never GO Anywhere with a Stranger

The message ‘don’t talk to strangers’ that we may have learned as children ourselves doesn’t make sense to children because it is contradictory and is no longer taught routinely to children. Not only do adults talk to strangers all the time, they frequently encourage small children to introduce themselves to strangers or even to trust strangers.

One key message many people use today is: Never GO anywhere with a stranger. This way the child understands that while it is ok to talk to strangers, you must never go anywhere with one.

Depending on the age and maturity of the children you look after you could consider practicing this one too. When we were in the local supermarket I would ask the three and four year olds questions like this:

“Suppose a man comes up to you and says, ‘can you show me where the bread aisle is?’ What should you do?’”

The child must reply to the imaginary man: “No, I’m sorry but I’m not allowed to go anywhere with a stranger.”

The children would laugh when I did this exercise, which we tried in several places and several imaginary situations. Keeping it light-hearted while stressing the seriousness of the message is a great way to practice so that the children are aware of what to do.

As children get older you can extend this message to strangers in cars, strangers at the park, etc. This basic message works where ‘don’t talk to strangers’ fails because it naturally develops as the child gets older.

 

Never take gifts or sweets from a stranger

The message about never taking gifts from a stranger is another important message for the pre-school age group. Practice this one too until the children can chorus the ‘right’ answer back at you.

“What if you’re at the park, and a little old lady is offering all the children sweets. All your friends have taken one. They’re your favourites. Should you take one?”

The child must reply to the imaginary old lady: “No thank you, I’m not allowed to take sweets from strangers.”

Again, as the children get older, this message will grow with them and ‘sweets’ will come to represent many of the other things that children should not accept from strangers.

  

Who are “Safer Strangers”?

As children get older you may want to introduce the idea of ‘safer strangers’ and ‘safer buildings’. The Safer Strangers, Safer Buildings code promote the idea that not all strangers are bad and that children need to know that on certain occasions you may need to ask a stranger to help you. The campaign teaches children how to take responsibility for their own safety, should they get lost. It helps children learn about the kind of strangers who are safe for them to speak to, and the buildings they can go into if they need help.

Download the free information pack about the Safer-Strangers, Safer Buildings Code. This is a wonderful resource with clear messages for children and adults. Some of it is more applicable to older children who will be out alone, but the idea that some strangers are ‘safer strangers’ is useful even to pre-school children.

The three key points in the Safer Strangers, Safer Buildings safety code:

  • A safer stranger is a person who is working at a job which helps people. Safer strangers will often be wearing a uniform. Safer strangers could be police officers, traffic wardens, shopkeepers, check-out assistants, and others.
  • Safer buildings could be banks, post offices, libraries, medical centres, shops, supermarkets, leisure centres, and others.
  • If you get lost, or feel unsafe, and there is no adult around that you know and trust, look for a safer stranger who you can ask for help. If you can’t see a safer stranger outside, look for a safer building you can go into, to ask for help from the people who work there.

Watch the “Teigan gets lost film” www.childseyemedia.com/safety.html with your children and talk together about the safer strangers and safer buildings in your area. Identify some of the safer strangers in your area – the supermarket like the example in the film is a wonderful, practical starting point for the youngest children.  

 

Practice and review

Like all things you are teaching children, the best way to learn something is to review it. While you are out and about occasionally it’s a great idea to spring a ‘pop quiz’ on the children. Is that person a stranger? What would you do if….. and make them think.

 

Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

Sign up for the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter using the orange sign up box on my website and I will send you best practice ideas, childminding news, EYFS tips, outstanding ideas, stories from other childminders, arts and crafts project templates, new products, and links.

http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/childminding.html

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods Kids To GoKay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.

Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.

www.kidstogo.co.uk

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