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8 Things Ofsted wants childminders to STOP doing – by Jennifer Fishpool

Change is upon childminders again! The new EYFS Framework becomes statutory on the 1st of September 2021 and with inspections up and running again and now potentially only once every 6 years, there is more pressure than ever on getting it right on the day. But what about the long stretch of time that falls between inspections? With a six year gap it would now be entirely possible to look after a child from when he was a baby until when he starts school without any paperwork you create for him ever being seen by an inspector. So should childminders stop doing all paperwork?

There is a growing rumour that Ofsted have banned paperwork and some practitioners say that they are going to stop doing ANY except the statutory requirements. This represents a gross misunderstanding of the expectations on childminders. Before you throw the baby out with the bathwater let’s make sure we really understand what Ofsted is asking.

1. Stop ticking boxes on ‘trackers’ and highlighting copies of Development Matters

Trackers are the biggie which lots of people have been talking about. Ofsted have NEVER asked you to highlight copies of Development Matters or to spend hours colouring in boxes on individual trackers. Childminders should be focusing on providing a broad and balanced curriculum for children and one of the reasons Ofsted do NOT want you to use trackers in this way is because some settings were so focused on getting the children to achieve and exceed each one of the ‘statements’ that the children were getting a very narrow learning experience.

However, all that being said, don’t throw away all those trackers just yet! Many practitioners find them very useful and if that applies to you there is no need to stop using them as long as you consider their limitations. If you find yourself using them as a curriculum, a list of goals or next steps for children, or worrying if children miss steps or do not develop in the exact order written on the paperwork then STOP! This is not how trackers should be used. If you use a simple tracker which is quick and easy to use and helps you spot any gaps in learning or key points that may raise concerns, then great, this is a useful way to use this type of assessment.

2. Stop writing pages of meaningless observations

childminding paperwork

It is our job as childminders to constantly observe children to assess their development and needs. However, STOP making pointless observations that simply generate paperwork and don’t really add value for either the childminder or the child. If you know and the parents know that the child can use a spoon you don’t need a photo and accompanying write up to prove it. Think about what you really need to observe and whether writing it down will add value to what you already do. Let me be clear that you should not stop doing written observations altogether, as done properly and with clear purpose, they are extremely useful.

(If you are new to observing children and how to get the most benefit from it without it taking too much time look out for our ‘Don’t Panic! Beginners Guide to Observations,’ coming soon.)

3. Stop generating ‘data’ and ‘evidence’ in general

The new EYFS and Development Matters are intended to give you an opportunity to refresh your setting’s curriculum to ensure that it focusses on your children’s needs. You should stop spending time unnecessarily gathering evidence and you should certainly spend less time generating ‘data’. Data includes photographs that serve no proper purpose and next steps that are not followed up. Instead spend time creating a broad and balanced curriculum.

4. Stop assessing children unnecessarily

Stop doing any assessments that are not beneficial to the children you are looking after. Pages and pages of ‘next steps’ in learning journeys are not helpful. Especially if they are not acted upon. If you instead ‘know’ inside of you from your knowledge of Development Matters what comes next, you don’t need to write this out anymore. You are allowed to use your ‘professional knowledge’ of child development and the child.

5. Stop making learning journeys without asking yourself why you are making them?

Please notice that I did not say to stop making learning journeys. This is another hot topic of debate on forum discussions and many childminders are overreacting and throwing away their learning journeys. Ofsted does not want you to do this as long as you are making them for the right reasons.

So why make learning journeys?  Do not make learning journeys with photographs of observations and little circled areas of learning and development FOR the Ofsted inspector. They are not interested and may not even ask to see your learning journeys. These documents should only be generated for you and for the parents and only if you find that making them is helpful. Many families enjoy receiving them and you may secretly enjoy making them. However, many parents are perfectly happy with WhatsApp messages and you are allowed to use your ‘professional knowledge’ as long as you really do know where each child is at in his or her stage or development. Personally I think a balance is a good solution. I will still send my parents lots of photos as I love taking them and they love receiving them, but I will not be printing many out and will only include the occasional observation in a much shorter ‘learning story,’ to help me remember where each child is and to provide a lovely memento for the parents when the child eventually leaves my setting.

6. Stop doing unnecessarily detailed written planning you then don’t stick to

STOP doing any paperwork at all that has no use aside from the fact that you think Ofsted might want to look at it. For example horrifically detailed weekly plans that you don’t stick to. The new Development Matters makes it clear that it is up to childminders to use their professional judgment and knowledge to observe children and to plan for their next steps. Julian Grenier led on the revision of Development Matters for the Department for Education. He is clear that you should use Development Matters to help you use your knowledge of each child to facilitate holistic learning that helps children to make progress “without generating unnecessary paperwork.”

This video is a nice overview of the new EYFS and how it links to Development Matters with its goal to “improve outcomes for all children, especially disadvantaged children, and to reduce teacher and practitioner workload.”

7. Stop hitting the target and missing the point with the Early Learning Goals

The Department for Education does not want you to feel restrained by the Early Learning Goals and actually they are primarily there for reception teachers to assess their children against at the end of their time in the Foundation Stage.

The most important point is that a childminder should not write a curriculum plan around a learning goal because the ELGs are really narrow. For example, one of the ELGs under physical development is that children should be able to ‘move energetically, such as running, jumping, dancing, hopping, skipping and climbing’. A childminder could read that and decide that since jumping is obviously important that they would buy a trampoline, but not waste their time with ball skills since those are not specifically mentioned. That is pretty much what the Department of Education does not want you to do with the ELGs. Your physical development gross motor skills curriculum should not exclude spending time doing ball and other PE skills

8. Stop doing anything ‘for Ofsted’

They always say this, but nobody really believes them. With inspections now every 6 years, of course you are going to want to get the best grade you possibly can at your inspection because you will be stuck with whatever you get for a long time!  So, of course you should prepare carefully for your inspection as you always would by being mostly ready for inspection all the time, by being the best childminder you can be all the time, but by perhaps reading through a copy of our Ultimate Childminding Checklist before the big day to make sure you aren’t forgetting anything obvious.

In conclusion, childminders need to think about what is really beneficial to support our practice (and this will be different for each practitioner depending on their needs.) It is about finding a sensible balance, not stopping all paperwork.  If you only have one child you may be able to retain all the information you need on their development without writing anything down but how will you share that information with the parents? You may have more children but have a fantastic memory and still not have to write down much in order to be able to confidently tell an Ofsted Inspector the ‘story’ of each child, but will you be able to spot gaps in learning quickly I think that most of us will still find keeping some sort of records beneficial so don’t burn those learning journeys and trackers just yet!

References

Burchall, J. (2021, May). Ofsted early education update . Retrieved from http://www.theofstedbigconversation.co.uk: https://theofstedbigconversation.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Ofsted-presentation-Ofsted-early-education-update-early-years-providers-Summer-2021.pdf

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Kids To Go was established by Kay Woods in 2008 and is now run by Jennifer. We provide childminding and Early Years resources such as the ‘Ultimate Childminding Checklist’, the ‘Childminding Best Practice Club’ and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). We also have a Facebook page at ‘Kids To Go’ and a free weekly newsletter which you can subscribe to by sending an email with the subject ‘subscribe’ to jennifer@kidstogo.co.uk

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What is new for childminders in the Sept 2021 EYFS Framework?

Lots of childminders have been asking for a guide to the new September 2021 EYFS Statutory Framework. I have done my best in this article to pull out what I think are the most important points for childminders.

The information in the Educational Programmes Section of the EYFS has been expanded

The biggest change to the new EYFS is the expanded descriptions of what is included in the educational programmes descriptions (ie the Learning and Development areas). I don’t really think this information is in any way ‘new’ or a surprise. But the expanded areas are written explicitly into the EYFS so you should use it as your guide when planning your curriculum. As a childminder it is up to you how you design the curriculum for your setting but you MUST make sure that you are addressing each key point of each learning area. Development Matters and Birth to 5 Matters are designed to help you to do this so make sure you read them when you design your curriculum.

Communication, Language and especially vocabulary have been identified as the most important learning areas

Communication and language are vital and the EYFS states that ‘the development of children’s spoken language underpins all seven areas of learning and development’. The other thing that is really stressed is ‘extending vocabulary’ across each of the seven areas of learning.

 

The Early Learning Goals have been rewritten – but MOST of their content remains the same

The level of development that children are expected to have reached by the end of their reception year in school is defined by the early learning goals. As most childminders are not responsible for assessing the learning and development of reception aged children, the goals have always remained mainly in the realm of school reception teachers. Despite the EYFS making it clear that ‘the ELGs should not be used as a curriculum’, it is still useful for childminders to have in mind what the ultimate aim of some of the activities we do with children is heading towards.

Some of the key changes are:

  • Communication and Language: provides more focus on extending vocabulary
  • PSED: self-regulation is included
  • Literacy: comprehension is included
  • Mathematics: a new focus on understanding patterns

 

The role of self-regulation is recognised by making it an early learning goal

Children at the end of reception year should be able to ‘show an understanding of their own feelings and those of others, and begin to regulate their behaviour accordingly.’ They should also be able to ‘control their immediate impulses when appropriate’ and ‘give focussed attention to what a teacher is saying’. These are all important parts of the characteristics of effective learning that you should have been teaching the children all along, but the fact that they have now been recognised in the ELGs shows the increased importance that is now being placed on the notion of self-regulation. It is truly vital that as childminders you are encouraging children to sit still and concentrate on tasks sometimes, especially on tasks that are not always of the child’s own choosing, so that they can practise a skill that is vital to their success in school.

Balance is the key. Your curriculum and how you teach it is up to you but as children grow older the focus should change from the prime to specific areas of learning and development

It is up to each childminder to plan their curriculum which is in a broad sense what you want the children to learn while they are with you from when they are babies until they start school. The new EYFS says ‘Practitioners need to decide what they want children to learn and the most effective way to teach it’. There are several key points here. Firstly, it is up to you to decide the right balance between adult led activities and free play time given to children. Secondly, as children grow older you should spend more time ‘teaching’ them and less time just letting them have free play. Lastly, the focus of your teaching should gradually move away from the ‘prime’ areas (language, PSE, physical development) and include more focus on the ‘specific’ areas (mathematics, literacy etc.)

 

Assessment remains important but physical evidence of this assessment is not

Before you throw away your learning journeys and the pages of next steps: STOP. The EYFS is still very clear that ‘ongoing assessment (also known as formative assessment) is an integral part of children’s learning and development. What has changed in the new EYFS is the emphasis on the ‘professional knowledge’ of the childminder. When doing the ‘assessment’ part of the planning – implementation – assessment process, ‘Practitioners should draw on their own knowledge of the child and their own expert professional judgment and should not be required to prove this through a collection of physical evidence’.

Ofsted is making it clear that they do not want to see data. They are not going to look at your learning journeys with random snapshot photos and hundreds of ‘next steps’ written out because that sort of data is often meaningless. You still need to assess children and be very aware of exactly where each child is in their learning and development. But you no longer need to feel you have to ‘prove’ the observation.

When you do assessments you should:

  • Focus on what is useful
  • Establish starting points
  • Use the checkpoints in Development Matters as checkpoints, not checklists
  • Involve the parents
  • Take the attitude of inclusion: every child can thrive

 

You must promote oral health

The new EYFS makes it clear that you ‘must promote the good health including oral health of the children you look after. This is an addition to what was previously there and is in response to the growing problem of tooth decay in young children, particularly children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The basic message you are hoping to teach to children is that too many sugary foods are bad for you, and that you should brush your teeth.

Planning activities to promote oral health into your curriculum does not have to be complicated. Suppose you look after a child from a home where you know the parents very rarely brush his teeth?  You can make an enormous difference to that child’s oral health if YOU brush his teeth after he eats lunch with you. You are teaching him a skill he needs that will hopefully become a good habit. Furthermore, you are ensuring that his teeth are, at the very least, being brushed once a day while you look after him. And if you really want to do your bit towards helping him even more you can gently encourage the parents to help him at home, perhaps with a take home reward chart he can use each time he brushes his teeth at home?

Specific activities and resources for promoting oral health are available in my Be Safe Be Healthy pack.

Non-prescription medication does not need a doctor’s note

GPs have been finding that providers were requiring parents to get prescriptions for non-prescription medications. The new EYFS makes it clear that providers only need to have a prescription for prescription medication. So a child does not have to have a prescription for the Calpol for you to give it to him. Nothing else has really changed. You still need to get permission in writing for every medication (including Calpol) and you can only give prescription medicines that have been prescribed by a doctor, dentist, nurse or pharmacist.

In practice all childminders should have both a long term medication permission form (for Calpol etc) and a short term medication form (for antibiotics), a written record each time a medicine is administered to a child, and a way to ensure that the parent is informed ‘on the same day or as soon as reasonably practicable’. While the EYFS does not specifically state that a parent must sign your ‘medicines administered book’, I think this is a good, tidy, more traceable method than relying on a Whatsapp message.

Are you putting infants down to sleep properly and safely according to the EYFS guidelines? 

The new EYFS includes a link to the NHS guidance on reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. What this means for childminders is that how you put a baby down to sleep while they are in your care is no longer at the discretion of parents – so please make sure you are familiar with the details in this link – there’s more than just putting babies on their backs.

Cyber Security for Early Years – are you doing everything you should be?

This page is full of practical information that childminders can use to check that you are doing everything you can to keep you, your setting and your data safe from cyber attacks. The site reminds you that “For Early Years practitioners, cyber security also plays a role in safeguarding the children in your care.” The link to this page was included as a footnote in the new EYFS.

Are you supervising children while they are eating?

To me, this has always been absolutely obvious: of course you must supervise children while they are eating – what if they start choking?  However, maybe not everyone was getting this, so this requirement has now been spelled out in the new EYFS. You MUST supervise children while they are eating so that rapid action can be taken if needed to save them! So does this mean that you have to literally keep them in your gaze at all times – what if you have to pop back into the kitchen to grab some ketchup. Please rest assured that ‘supervised’ is clearly defined by the EYFS. “Children must usually be within sight and hearing of staff but always within sight or hearing”.

Recommended menus and food preparation advice for early years

This series of example menus and associated guidance has been developed to support early years settings (such as nurseries and childminders) to offer food and drink in line with current government dietary recommendations for infants and children aged 6 months to 4 years. It also includes food safety, managing food allergies and reading food labels. This guide was included as a footnote in the new EYFS.

You should not vape or use e-cigarettes around children (or smoke)

The new EYFS makes it clear that as well as providers not allowing smoking in or on the premises when children are present that staff should not ‘vape or use e-cigarettes when children are around’ either. This addition is in line with Public Health England’s advice on use of e-cigarettes in the workplace.

Those are the key new points of new release of the Sept 2021 EYFS. You need to read the cited documents and make sure that you are following the new guidelines before they become statutory in September. 

Good luck!

Do you want to improve your understanding of the Characteristics of Effective Learning?

Promoting the Characteristics of Effective Learning PosterFor help putting the Characteristics of Effective Learning into practice including tools, activity ideas, certificates you can give to children, poster and display ideas, CPD worksheets for your setting, examples for your SEF and a setting checklist for the COEL, check out my new Characteristics of Effective Learning Pack for childminders.

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.

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What does a pedagogy mean to childminders?

Updated 12/08/2022

By Guest Blogger Samantha Boyd

Ofsted term that appears in the revised EYFS guidance and the new Development Matters

From September 2021, a revised EYFS Framework and version of Development Matters came into force. One of the seven new “Key Features of Good Practice” right in the introduction to the new Development Matters is the idea of “PEDAGOGY” which may be a new concept for many childminders.

Pedagogy (pronounced ped-a-go-gee) is simply your method of teaching. BUT DON’T PANIC! You are already doing this……Let’s look at pedagogies and how we implement them in our settings day to day.

Many of you will have heard of Montessori, Steiner, Te Whariki, Reggio, The Curiosity Approach – all of these are different styles of pedagogy, and the most effective way of teaching is a mixture of all of these. Children learn best through play and observing others – we have all seen children copying what they have seen, heard or experienced in their play as this is their way of working out the world they live in and making sense of it all.

As well as these formal pedagogies, the word can also be applied to the types of planning that childminders do such as deciding the amount of free play you give children vs the amount of guided learning you offer, and how your balance between free play and structure might change as the children grow older. The focus of the Development Matters is on balance – children learn best when you offer a mixture of structured learning and free play; you need to show that you are aware of this balance in the plans you are making.

An enabling environment is definitely the Third Teacher – having uncluttered and inspiring space for children to play in, loose parts such as bricks and natural resources for children to use their imaginations, authentic materials such as items to use in their play like baskets, purses, gloves, hats etc. is all you need – and you already have this. Your role in teaching is to observe, understand the child, and facilitate their next steps in their learning by setting up an environment that allows them to explore and investigate, be curious and to answer their questions, ask them and talk to them, read books with them and sing with them. Playing with children is an inspiring thing. Seeing their eyes light up when they learn, through experience, something new. So you see you are already supporting children and extending their learning through your own knowledge of the children you care for.

So please don’t panic when seeing this word – you are already using your own methods of teaching (your pedagogies) and may be using a mixture of influences to give the children in your care the very, very best. Be proud of this, keep it simple and be confident.

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Established in 2008, Kids To Go specialise in high-quality activities, easy to use paperwork, information and advice for childminders, nannies and nurseries. products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare).

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Have childminded children forgotten how to play with others post lock-down? – by guest blogger Samantha Boyd

Have you noticed on social media sites how many childminders are talking about the behaviour of the children – varying in ages – when playing since the return from lockdown? A childminder contacted Kay saying “The children are all very happy but have forgotten how to share and play so we are concentrating on turn taking, sharing and emotions as well as talking lots about family – generally the same as most first terms but the lack of interaction between kids does seem to be a bit more obvious this term. I guess six months without play groups and play dates has taken its toll.” Many other childminders that I have spoken to have been dealing with the same behaviours being displayed by children since returning back to work after lockdown.

For most children, play is where they learn about social interaction. They learn what is acceptable and what is not, and play is a safe place to act out things they have experienced. With lockdown this was denied to them for what is a long period of time (in their short lives) and deprived them of this important aspect of their learning.

During difficult and stressful times, play allows children to make sense of the world around them and helps to support their emotional wellbeing and build resilience. Returning to settings after a long period of being within their family unit, has heightened childrens anxieties, on top of what is already a stressful time with added pressures at home, such as worry about unemployment, finances, strained relationships, grief.

So what, as childcare professionals, can we do to support the children during these transitions. The following 6 suggestions came from http://www.youngminds.org.uk:

  1. Talk to the children about their feelings
  2. Talk to the children about the routines you have; or the rhythm of the day and provide a visual prompt, if this would help (Great for non-verbal or SEN children).
  3. Reassure the children – they are receiving a lot of messages regarding social distancing, washing hands, germs, illness and death – and this is all scary stuff when you are young.
  4. Keep things simple – allow children to play – explain that children do not have to give up a toy if they are still playing with it – snatching – patience and taking turns – facilitate play and have strategies in place to deal with any issues (see below).
  5. Go easy on yourself and ensure that you are looking after your own mental health.

Taking turns is a social skill and http://www.andnextcomesl.com  has some great ideas to teach this –

  1. Use a visual cue ie a talking stick
  2. Use turn taking language – “my turn, your turn”
  3. Model turn taking – show them what to do
  4. Play games that involve turn taking such as board games and card games
  5. Use a social story – see free link to a free printable and video about sharing
  6. Use a timer to indicate how long each turn will be – use oven timer/egg timer. This reinforces fairness and acts as a visual or auditory cue.
  7. Communicating and describing turns – first its x’s turn, then its yours – 5 minutes each.
  8. Use a fidget between turns such as a spinner, putty or ball.

If a child persists in snatching or aggressive behaviour – remove from the activity, explaining “You were having a hard time (taking turns with your friends) and you were not being kind. You need a break” NB THIS IS NOT TIME OUT!. Sit with the child and calmly talk to them about their feelings, the whys and what ifs. Once the child is calm, say they may rejoin the play but only if they can take turns and act kindly.

Remember sharing and turn taking are hard skills to master! So… work with parents to come up with some strategies; be mindful around the children regarding language and show by example; look after yourself.

Some great resources and further information can be found here:

www.outdoorplaycanada.ca/2020/05/13/play-first-supporting-childrens-social-and-emotional-wellbeing-during-and-after-lockdown/

www.youngminds.org.uk/blog/supporting-a-child-returning-to-school-after-lockdown/

www.kids-harbor.com/teach-child-take-turns/

 

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About Samantha Boyd

I am a mum of 3, a qualified Forest School Leader and childminder, graded outstanding in 2015 and 2020 and am currently studying a childhood studies degree with the open university. I have a love for loose parts and the outdoors and am currently working through the Curiosity Approach accreditation. I have a passion to allow children the space and time to explore and love setting up ‘invitations to play’ and seeing where the children will take it.

 

 

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

How to get outstanding under the New Inspection Framework

Getting outstanding is always a mixture of luck on the day, plus hours and hours of preparation beforehand to improve your chances that luck goes your way. Before you can get outstanding you must first make sure everything is ‘good’. So read the Inspection Handbook to make sure you are meeting the requirements for getting good. Here are some new things mentioned specifically in the 2019 Inspection Framework that you should consider if you want to get outstanding.

 

Story Time

Ofsted wants to see you reading to the children you look after. Reading is specifically stressed in several places. Hold a story time while the inspector is there and think of other ways to show how you encourage literacy including encouraging the parents to share books with their children at home.

Teach the children some new words

Improving vocabulary is also mentioned in several places in the Education Inspection Framework (EIF) and Inspection Handbook. Try to find an activity to demonstrate to the inspector that involves teaching the children some new vocabulary words.

 

Share information with parents

You must be sharing information with parents about their child’s progress in relation to the EYFS. You should support parents to extend their child’s learning at home, including encouraging a love of reading. So don’t throw away your learning journey folders as ‘excessive paperwork’. They are still of great value as a way to show you are communicating with parents.

 

Cultural capital

Make sure to use this term in front of the inspector! Make sure you are doing starting points observations on the children so you can establish any gaps in their learning and plan for them. This article has more on cultural capital. Do not make light of this! Make sure you are familiar with the term and are planning accordingly for the children you care for.

 

Sing songs

Songs, rhymes and musical games are specifically mentioned as ways to improve children’s speech and language. Make sure to demonstrate a song or rhyme or two!

 

The language of feelings

Ofsted has stressed the importance of teaching children the ‘language of feelings’. Find ways to show that you do this at your setting or pick an activity to do with the children that gets them talking about feelings. ‘Emotional literacy’ is a biggie.

 

Teach diversity

Eid diversity awareness for childmindersMake sure you can demonstrate that you are teaching children about different cultures and religions and try and make these activities relevant to the children you look after in Britain. My Diversity Awareness Pack can help you to choose relevant activities.

 

Promote British values

Show that you are ACTIVELY promoting British values. Make sure you know what these are and can state examples of what you do to promote them. You won’t even get ‘good’ if you are not doing this.

 

Promote independence in matters of self care

Make a big deal out of asking the children to put their own shoes on and coats, help tidy up, set the table and pour their own drinks etc. Show how you encourage children to learn to be independent ready for starting school.

 

Know what your potty training procedure is

Potty training is specifically mentioned in the new Inspection Framework, probably in response to the increasing number of children who start school not potty trained. Even if you don’t have any children being potty trained at the time of your inspection, make sure you can describe your procedure (including how you communicate with parents about this subject).

 

Promote resilience

Resilience is one of the most important aspects of the Characteristics of Effective Learning (COEL). Children do better in school if they can pick themselves up after a set back and try again. This is a skill that can be nurtured, practiced and taught to children and one that can make a huge difference to their life chances. My COEL pack gives you lots of great ways you can promote this important life skill.

 

Promote physical activity and risk taking

Forest Childcare pile of childrenBe clear about not only how you give children opportunities to run around and get exercise, but also how this activity promotes children’s risk taking skills. How do you encourage children to take appropriate risks so they can build character by ‘failing and falling’ sometimes.

The internet, digital technology and social media

If the children have access to the internet, how do you check they are using it safely? Furthermore, how to you encourage parents to promote internet safety at home?

 

Be able to explain what you need to do to improve

This is not new but it is more important than ever to have an accurate self evaluation of your setting’s strengths and weaknesses and to demonstrate that you have a plan in place to address areas you would like to improve. You don’t need to write this down, but you should have a clear idea of what you do well and what you might need to improve. I think it is easier to put at least some of the points in writing so that you can refer to them during your inspection and make sure you actually do them.

 

What plans for Continual Professional Development (CPD) do you have for yourself and any assistants you employ?

You should have a plan for your own CPD. I think it is a good idea to keep a written record of this so that you can produce this for your inspector and show you are trying to continuously learn. Remember that CPD does not have to be formal courses put on by your local authority. My Childminding Best Practice Club pack has eight CPD activities you can try each month – it’s just about trying new things or looking at something you have been doing for years in a new way, and asking yourself what you learned from the skill, what the children learned and how you would do things differently next time.

 

 

Safeguarding, safeguarding, safeguarding

You will not get good if you are not meeting the safeguarding requirements, so make sure you read the Inspecting Safeguarding handbook, recognise the signs of abuse, could identify a child at risk and could explain to your inspector without looking it up what you would do if you thought a child you were looking after was being abused.

 

Lots of this is not necessarily new, but it stressed more than before in the new Inspection Handbook. Aim high! Outstanding is an achievable goal that any childminder can get with hard work and the determination to be the best at what you do.

 

Childminding Best Practice Club

Childminding best practice club logoJoin the Childminding Best Practice Club for just £2.50 each month to receive monthly themed packs emailed to your inbox.

 

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

Loose parts

By Guest Blogger Samantha Boyd

Updated 12/08/2022

Loose parts is a term that is becoming more and more popular within education but particularly in Early Years settings and if you are looking to be more environmentally friendly, is a great way to recycle and reuse. So, what are loose parts and what benefit do they have to children’s play and development?

Loose parts are not toys, in fact they are the exact opposite. A toy has one purpose, to be what it was built for. It cannot be anything else. A loose part however, with a little imagination can be absolutely anything.

Simon Nicholson created the theory of loose parts in 1971. He was an architect who believed that all children were creative, and that this creativity should be nurtured and encouraged, rather than suppressed by what adults believed children should be like. So, he tried giving open ended materials that could be used with imagination and become anything the child wanted it to become – they can become parts of construction, pattern forming, used in role play and social play, anything; and he was amazed by the imagination and creativity the children showed. Actively engaged children are resilient learners who can solve problems and think outside the box.

Some examples of loose parts:

Natural: shells, stones, wood chips, pine cones, leaves, feathers, seeds, flowers

Manufactured: buttons, boxes, fabric, ribbons, nuts and bolts, pegs, pipes, guttering, straws.

When using loose parts, children can follow their own agenda, their own learning. Set up invitations to play and see what the children can do. Trust the children to know. You may need to model how to use them. Many children are not sure what to do because they have not needed to use their imaginations in this way as toys and adults have told them what to do with things. So, allow the children to explore these objects.

Ask parents to support you by asking for donations. You will be surprised at how supportive parents are.

Here is an example of some artwork achieved with loose parts.


Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

Sign up for the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter and we 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.

About Kids To Go

Established in 2008, Kids To Go specialise in high-quality activities, easy to use paperwork, information and advice for childminders, nannies and nurseries. products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare).

Find us on social media!

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What does ‘Cultural Capital’ mean childminders should DO?

Updated 06/08/2022

The first and most important thing to say about “Cultural Capital” –  is DON’T PANIC.

  • You do not need to attend a training course on cultural capital.
  • Ofsted does not want to see a poster up in your setting labelled cultural capital.
  • You do not have to start taking childminded children to the opera.

Cultural capital is defined in the framework as ‘the essential knowledge that children need to be educated citizens’ and what is necessary to ‘prepare them for future success’.

Some children arrive at your setting with different experiences than others. The experiences they arrive with are their ‘cultural capital’. All children have SOME cultural capital when they arrive with you at your setting. But for some, this cultural capital is not enough to narrow the gap and get them ready for school. The curriculum you plan for that unique child can make all the difference to his or her future.

Your job as a childminder is to find ways to establish what a child’s ‘weaknesses’ are, and then plan your curriculum to help the child in the area that he is missing or behind.

A key example is talking. Some children arrive at your setting speaking really well with great vocabularies because they are exposed to lots of words and their parents read loads of books to them at home. Research has shown time and again that this gives them a massive advantage in school and in life. Other children come from much less fortunate backgrounds where they are not read to so much at home and know far fewer words. If you identify talking and vocabulary for example, as a child’s weakness, then your job as their childminder is to find ways to enhance it. In other words, you should make sure to plan a curriculum where you read a lot more and talk a lot more to children whose parents do not read to them at home.

The same rule applies right across the areas of learning and development and would also apply to the characteristics of effective learning.

Another example is a child who knows everything about dinosaurs, but nothing about plants. In this case, you could enhance his learning by teaching him about plants.

A characteristic of effective learning example might be a child who is never given any choices at home and who appears to passively take everything he is given. You can enhance his learning and prepare him for school by encouraging him to make choices while he is with you.

None of this is anything you are probably not already doing!  It just has a special name and is in the Inspection Handbook to draw your attention to the sheer importance of doing the utterly obvious!

Here is what you need to do to ‘do’ cultural capital:

  • Do starting points observations on all new children across all the learning and development areas and the COEL. This will show you the child’s strengths and areas of weaknesses.
  • Ask yourself what you would do to improve the child’s area of weakness.
  • Make a plan for each individual child. What can you develop? What can you encourage?
  • Follow through on your plans.
  • After you’ve been doing your plans for a while, check that your plans are having an effect. (What has been their ‘impact’?) Has the child started to catch up? Have you broadened their cultural capital from when they started with you?

All children arrive in your setting with a different background and different skills.

Ofsted’s buzz word is just another way of asking childminders to help to reduce disadvantage when you see it.

Remember that what you do for that child can potentially make all the difference.


One way of making sure children are exposed to plenty of new ideas and concepts is by planning around themes. Childminding Best Practice Club members receive a monthly ‘toolkit’ containing loads of planning, crafts, activities and colouring sheets all around a different theme each month. To find out more the information page here:

 Childminding Best Practice Newsletter

Sign up for the free Kids To Go Newsletter and we 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.

10 Mistakes Childminders make on Parent Questionnaires

Sending out parent questionnaires is something that many childminders do. They are a great way to prove in writing that you are ‘communicating with parents’ and seeking their views about ways to improve your service.

But have you asked yourself WHY you are sending them? What is their purpose? What are you trying to achieve from the paperwork you are sending home and parents are spending their evenings diligently filling in?

Many childminders are making these mistakes on their parent questionnaires. Are you?

 

1. Asking “yes” or “no” questions

Questions on parent questionnaires need to be open-ended, otherwise you are unlikely to gather any useful information from the parent. If you send home a list of statements asking the parent to circle yes/no or true/false then a yes or no answer is all the information you will find out. How are yes/no answers meaningful?

For example, suppose you ask a parent:

  • Are you happy with the quality of food I provide? Yes/No
  • Do you feel that I am helping your child to be ready for school? Yes/No

Then you force them to circle either a yes or a no. What have you learned from those answers? Nothing helpful at all.

Here are open-ended versions of the same questions:

  • How satisfied are you with the quality of the food and snacks I provide? Is there any way I could improve this?
  • Is there anything more you wish I would do here to help to prepare your child for school

You will learn a lot more from asking open ended questions than you would ever learn from closed ones.

 

childminding paperwork2. Doing parent questionnaires for the Ofsted inspector

Only use parent questionnaires if you really plan to use them to improve your business. While they are a great way to prove in writing that you are communicating with parents, please keep in mind that they take up not only a lot of parents’ time, but your time too. If you are just doing them to stick them in a file to show Ofsted then you are completely wasting everybody’s time. The Ofsted inspector doesn’t care that you have stacks of paperwork – they care about how you are gathering the views of others and acting on suggestions for improvement.

 

3. Not reading what the parents have written

I heard of a childminder who was marked down at an inspection because she couldn’t read the questionnaire a parent had completed in front of the inspector. The childminder couldn’t make out the parent’s handwriting and thought it was unfair. But seriously?  What is the point of asking the parent to fill it out if you can’t read what they say and don’t care enough about their answer to bother asking them to clarify? 

 

4. Asking questions you don’t care about the answers to

For every question you write on your parent questionnaire, ask yourself: what am I going to DO with the answer I receive? If the answer is ‘NOTHING’ then don’t ask the question. Only ask questions that you care about the answers to. Only ask questions that matter and those with potential solutions.

 

5. Making questionnaires too long

Parents are busy. Really busy. Just like you. They do not have time to fill in pages and pages of pointless forms for their childminder. Parents will feel that they are doing you a favour by filling in your questionnaire. They are doing something to help you. So you should treat their time and effort with respect by not taking up too much of it, by taking a genuine interest in their answers, by responding positively to any criticism you receive and by not expecting them to write too much or too often.

 

6. Sending questionnaires home too frequently

For exactly the same reasons as above, as well as making them too long, don’t send them home too frequently. If you want parents to fill in your forms properly, then about once a year is really the maximum frequency you can expect meaningful responses from busy parents.

 

7. Taking suggestions for improvements poorly

In business one of the BEST things that people can do is to complain to you about something. If one person complains directly to you, it is an opportunity for you to fix a problem that is probably affecting other people too. Sometimes it can be hard getting negative feedback. Try to remember that honest, negative feedback given directly to you is better than parents spreading rumours and complaining behind your back.

 

8. Filing them away without acting on anything

If parents take the time to fill in your questionnaire, it is important not just to read them but to have in place a procedure to act on the changes they suggest. Perhaps you have a self-evaluation document you can use? How will you hold yourself accountable for making the change?

 

9. Not feeding back to parents about changes you have made as a result of their suggestions

Make sure you have a method in place to show that you are acting on any problems, changes or things that need improvement that your questionnaires raise – one idea is to have a ‘You asked, We did’ board for example. If parents take the time to comment and suggest improvements they will be flattered that you listened and changed something as a result of something they suggested. This will make the parents feel happy and is a very professional way to treat people!

 

10. Not asking for the children’s opinions as well

The last thing that many childminders do with parent questionnaires is to have a small section on them to gather the children’s opinions as well. I think the best way to do this is to ask the parents to speak to their children and to write what they say. Think very carefully about the types of questions you want answers to from the children. Like the parents there is no point in asking the question if you have no intention of using the answers they have provided to make useful changes.

 

Used properly, parent questionnaires can be a great way to show that you are communicating with parents and acting on suggestions for improvements given by others. Remember to treat everyone’s time and effort with respect by not taking up too much of it, by taking a genuine interest in parents’ answers, by responding positively to any criticism you receive and by not overusing questionnaires.

 

Communication with Parents Pack

My NEW Communication with Parents Pack includes tools to help you to improve how you communicate with parents including sample open ended parent and child questionnaires you can use for your setting. Pack also includes how to extend learning at home, working in partnership in difficult situations, your transition programme, marketing your services and sample late payment and contract termination letters. 

 

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, 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

The Forest Childcare Association celebrates its fifth anniversary of promoting ‘good practice in outdoor outings’

The idea that there could be a such a thing as ‘good practice’ for taking children on outdoor outings began the day I witnessed an example of what I felt to be particularly bad practice. I was meeting a childminder friend at the park on a damp Spring day. She had her normal mix of three children including the two youngest (aged 18 months and two years) wrapped up in coats and strapped into her double buggy.

I took one look at her, pointed at the children’s feet, and laughed.

‘Oh no! You’ve rushed out and forgotten something. You’ve come out without their shoes!’ I said.

‘I left their shoes at home on purpose,’ she replied. ‘They won’t need them anyway. I really have no intention of taking them out of the buggy. They’ll be fine just watching the world go by.’

It was an awful situation and upset me greatly. This childminder had just had her first Ofsted inspection and had been awarded ‘good’. She seemed to feel that what she was doing was perfectly acceptable and perfectly normal. And anyway what she was saying was entirely right. The children would be ‘just fine’ in the buggy.

In fact, surely Ofsted would be pleased? She was keeping the children safe outdoors. Very safe. Nothing whatsoever (either good or bad) was going to happen to them while they were strapped securely into that double buggy.

So why did the situation upset me so much?

 

Forest Childcare pile of childrenWhat does the EYFS say about outdoor outings?

The EYFS actively encourages childcare providers to take children outdoors and to give them daily opportunities to spend time outside but it certainly doesn’t say anything about the quality of that outdoor time. The EYFS Statutory Framework states that “providers must provide access to an outdoor play area or, if that is not possible, ensure that outdoor activities are planned and taken on a daily basis.”

Most nurseries, childminders and nannies do fulfil the basic requirement for outdoor time, in many cases simply by taking the children on the school run or by allowing children to play in their back gardens.

But to me, the back garden and the school run have always felt like the bare minimum of care. As home-based childcare providers we are in a unique position to offer the children so much more than this.  And in my opinion we should be doing so.

 

Weekly outdoor outings to ‘wild’ spaces have benefits for everyone

Forest childcare muddy toddlersThe ‘shoe incident’ was the catalyst I needed to find a way to promote what I believe is ‘best practice’ in terms of outdoor outings. At my setting I always took the children on outdoor outings once a week whether these were simple trips to the park, duck pond, and urban green spaces, or planned trips to our local ‘wild’ areas like woods and nature reserves.

Outdoor outings contribute to learning and health, and most importantly help children grow to appreciate the natural environment.

Furthermore, as a childminder running a business I had always promoted my weekly outdoor outings to parents to help me to fill my vacancies. These outings were a ‘service’ that I offered that made my setting stand out. Outdoor outings are great for the children. They are also great for business!

 

Intentional trips where the children can move around and explore

I started the Forest Childcare Association because I believe that children deserve more than just back gardens to provide them with their daily dose of EYFS-required ‘outdoor time’.  Most people’s back gardens are tiny places, and in the cases of childminders, they are tiny, very-very-safe outdoor environments, with all the same safety checks in place as indoor environments.

Children need to be exposed to real outdoor spaces where there are places to hide and explore, where they may encounter ‘dangers’ and where the environment changes daily and from season to season.

 

Outdoor learning, says the EYFS, has equal value to indoor learning

Forest childcare is good for adults tooOutdoor play can help to counter obesity. It can also improve strength and coordination skills and counter vitamin D deficiency. Outdoor play has also been shown to help prevent mental health issues, behavioural and emotional problems.

The outdoors gives benefits to children regardless of their age. For babies, they will be intrigued by the sights, smells and sounds of the environment and reach out towards things that interest them and catch their attention. Toddlers want to explore the natural world around them by crawling and walking. Preschool children will explore more purposely, play games of imagination and enjoy challenging themselves.

You don’t have to plan anything complex to do with the children while you are out. Sometimes it’s fun to go on a scavenger hunt, or collect things, but other times the point of the trip is simply to be outside and experience the outdoors. As a childcare provider you can instruct them about important safety issues like not eating red berries, touching fungus, or stroking strange dogs, but most of what they need to ‘learn’ is for the children to discover for themselves.

They are learning about textures when they pick up a sharp rock. They are learning about the weather and self-care issues when they take their coat off because they are hot. They are counting conkers and acorns, learning about space and shape when they squeeze themselves under a branch, and learning that if they work together it is easier to shift a log than trying to do it alone

It is equally important for children to grow up with an appreciation for the environment, teaching children the importance of not littering, respecting wildlife, trees and other people’s right to enjoy the outdoor space as well.

 

The Freedom to ‘GO’

Forest childcare autumnChildminders, nannies and small nursery owners sometimes forget how much freedom you have.  While you are constrained by the limits of nursery and school runs, naps and lunches, in between those fixed points your time is essentially your own. You are your own boss and I think people forget that sometimes.

If you want to take the children to the park or the duck pond or spend the morning exploring the woods, you can!  Being outdoors and having flexibility and freedom are some of the perks of this job and you should take more advantage of them.

Spending time outdoors is good for business, it’s great for the children, and it’s good for you too!

 

The Forest Childcare Association celebrates its 5th Anniversary this month

The Forest Childcare Association is a best practice initiative that has been going for 5 years this month that encourages childcare providers to take children on weekly outdoor outings to ‘wild’ spaces. The organisation now has over a thousand members in 10 different countries – mainly childminders and small nurseries. Its principle aim is to encourage small childcare providers to take the children they look after on weekly outdoor outings to parks, woodlands or other outdoor natural spaces, and encouraging children to explore these natural environments.

Members can self-train by considering the practical concerns associated with taking groups of children of mixed ages and abilities on outdoor outings. The £15 training pack covers risk assessments, outdoor dangers (from children getting lost to poison berries) plus activities and crafts and the relevant EYFS paperwork and permissions.

The Forest Childcare Association is part of the larger ‘Forest’ movement that many EYFS practitioners are exploring and many parents are seeking for their children. Forest School training is popping up across the country and one of the downsides of this is that many childminders now worry that they have to get a Forest School qualification (and pay for training) if they want to take children to the woods. Becoming a Forest School Practitioner is a fantastic thing to do and essential if you want to teach large groups of small children how to whittle, forage and cook on campfires, but it is NOT a requirement if all you want to do is to take a group of children on a nature hike. One of the aims of the Forest Childcare Association is to provide the support, advice and a little encouragement to support as many childminders as possible to provide weekly outdoor outings and simply get outside, but without getting qualifications and excessive training that are superfluous to many childminders’ needs.

The other key aim of the organisation is to encourage childminders to explore the parts of nature near to them – the wild patches at the edges of playgrounds, finding patches of beauty wherever you live. We don’t all live in beauty spots, and the children who most need access to nature are those least likely to have access to Forest School sessions offered at their schools and nurseries. Childminders are in a unique position to help children wherever they live to find, explore and learn to love the patches of nature on their doorsteps. There is a growing impression that if you can’t provide snack time on a campfire, naps in a tent and buffalo for the children to hunt for their lunch, that your idea of ‘wilderness’ isn’t good enough! My philosophy is that any access you can give children to nature is better than no access to nature at all.

 

forest-childcare-packFor more information on the Forest Childcare Association and to join for just £15 for a lifetime membership visit http://www.kidstogo.co.uk/childminders/forestchildcare.html  or email kay.woods@kidstogo.co.uk. You can find us on Facebook at @ForestChildcareAssociation.

 

About Kay Woods and Kids To Go

Kay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity 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

Getting Childminded Children Back To Nature – without Forest School Training

Updated 29/09/2022

Many parents won’t believe this, but it’s a fact that children would like to spend more time outdoors than they do. Then why don’t they?  It’s not TV and video games to blame. It’s because they aren’t allowed to! Parents, childcare providers and society as a whole worry so much about safety issues that many adults would simply rather their children played inside or in their own tiny back gardens and were ‘safe’, than ‘risk’ letting them play outside alone as they might have done when they were children themselves.

Puddles are good!

If children want to play outside of their own back gardens today they have to wait for an adult to take them. The world is not the same place as it was when Christopher Robin was allowed to wander around his 100 acre wood all day long, playing Pooh Sticks and climbing trees (gasp!) completely unsupervised! As a society for many reasons (from justified fears about traffic, to out-of-proportion fears about strangers) we no longer let children visit their local woodlands, fields or even parks by themselves. Children must be continually supervised, and sadly this means that very few get casual access to their local patch of nature to play alone or in wild places any more.

And the consequence: many children today are growing up missing out on a connection with the natural world. They don’t spend enough time outdoors and they are suffering the results including obesity, mental health problems and a growing inability to assess risk for themselves.

What all this means is that one of the key positive influences that parents and child care providers can give to the children they look after is time playing in the great outdoors. Children need adults to take them to ‘wild’ places and then they need adults to stand back and give them time, space and encouragement to explore on their own while they are there. Parents are often busy, parents are often working. Therefore the responsibility for taking children on these outings frequently falls to childcare providers to give children the experiences they might otherwise miss out on.

Weekly outdoor outings to ‘wild’ spaces have benefits for everyone

The Forest Childcare Association philosophy is that it is important to take children on outdoor outings. Once a week, whatever the weather, go somewhere outdoors. Trips can range from simple visits to the park, duck pond, and urban green spaces, to more planned trips to your local ‘wild’ areas like woods and nature reserves.

Forest Childcare for childmindersOutdoor outings contribute to learning and health. These benefits applied to you as well! Being out in the woods with the children can be one of the best parts of being a childminder. It is wonderful watching how alive the children become when they are exploring outdoors and how recharged you can feel watching them play. It also feels great knowing that when they are out in the woods with you, you are giving them a really great experience, better than the most expensive toy in your playroom, and more special than anything they would be ‘learning’ in an overcrowded nursery room.

Lots of practitioners feel exactly the same about the outdoors and outings and understand how special the experiences that we can give to the children we look after are. Others may feel less confident about taking groups of children of mixed ages and abilities to the woods on their own. The Forest Childcare Association was started to support and encourage other childcare providers to offer this ‘best practice’ policy of weekly outdoor outings to the children they look after.

It might not be 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 caring adults can’t offer children the next best thing by taking them on outdoor outings on a regular basis.

Child-led Learning 

forest-childcare-group-photo

Outdoor outings have benefits to children regardless of their age. For babies, they will be intrigued by the sights, smells and sounds of the environment and reach out towards things that interest them and catch their attention. Toddlers want to explore the natural world around them by crawling and walking. Preschool children will explore more purposely, play games of imagination and enjoy challenging themselves outdoors.

You don’t have to plan anything complex to do with the children while you are out. Sometimes it’s fun to go on a scavenger hunt, or collect things, but other times the point of the trip is simply to be outside and experience the outdoors. As a childcare provider you can instruct them about important safety issues like not eating red berries, touching fungus, or stroking strange dogs, but most of what they need to ‘learn’ is for the children to discover for themselves.

They are learning about textures when they pick up a sharp rock. They are learning about the weather and self-care issues when they take their coat off because they are hot. They are counting conkers and acorns, learning about space and shape when they squeeze themselves under a branch, and learning that if they work together it is easier to shift a log than trying to do it alone.

Most importantly, they are learning the importance of not littering, respecting wildlife, trees and other people’s right to enjoy the outdoor space as well. They are learning an appreciation for the environment that they will take with them as they grow up.

Wherever children live, they need to spend time getting back to nature. Natural environments give children and the adults who look after them untold benefits in terms of health and wellbeing. Weekly outdoor outings is a “best-practice” goal that all childcare providers can aim for with some support, advice and a little encouragement.

About The Forest Childcare Association

The Forest Childcare Association is a best practice initiative that has been going since May 2013. It encourages childcare providers to take children on weekly outdoor outings to ‘wild’ spaces. The organisation now has over a thousand members in 10 different countries – mainly childminders and small nurseries. Its principal aim is to encourage small childcare providers to take the children they look after on weekly outdoor outings to parks, woodlands or other outdoor natural spaces, and encouraging children to explore these natural environments.

Members can self-train by considering the practical concerns associated with taking groups of children of mixed ages and abilities on outdoor outings. The £15 training pack covers risk assessments, outdoor dangers (from children getting lost to poison berries) plus activities and crafts and the relevant EYFS paperwork and permissions.

The Forest Childcare Association is part of the larger ‘Forest’ movement that many EYFS practitioners are exploring and many parents are seeking for their children. Forest School training is popping up across the country and one of the downsides of this is that many childminders now worry that they have to get a Forest School qualification (and pay for training) if they want to take children to the woods. Becoming a Forest School Practitioner is a fantastic thing to do and essential if you want to teach large groups of small children how to whittle, forage and cook on campfires, but it is NOT a requirement if all you want to do is to take a group of children on a nature hike. One of the aims of the Forest Childcare Association is to provide the support, advice and a little encouragement to support as many childminders as possible to provide weekly outdoor outings and simply get outside, but without getting qualifications and excessive training that are superfluous to many childminders’ needs.

The other key aim of the organisation is to encourage childminders to explore the parts of nature near to them – the wild patches at the edges of playgrounds, finding patches of beauty wherever you live. We don’t all live in beauty spots, and the children who most need access to nature are those least likely to have access to Forest School sessions offered at their schools and nurseries. Childminders are in a unique position to help children wherever they live to find, explore and learn to love the patches of nature on their doorsteps. There is a growing impression that if you can’t provide snack time on a campfire, naps in a tent and buffalo for the children to hunt for their lunch, that your idea of ‘wilderness’ isn’t good enough! The Forest Childcare Association philosophy is that any access you can give children to nature is better than no access to nature at all.

You can also find us on Facebook at @ForestChildcareAssociation.


About Kids To Go

Kids To Go was established in 2008. Products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, The Childminding Best Practice Club, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare).

Find us on social media!

Facebook: Kids To Go

Instagram: cmbestpractice

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