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Did you know that in order to protect everyone from ‘religious radicals’ it is now one of your many responsibilities as a childminder to teach ‘fundamental British values’ to the children you care for? According to the government, in the early years this will mean ensuring that small children are “learning right from wrong, learning to take turns and share and challenging negative attitudes and stereotypes.”
When I first read that I can’t pretend I wasn’t somewhat disappointed. I mean, is that the best that the government could come up with in terms of what it means to have British values? Therefore I have decided that it’s time someone improved on the government’s list. If we want our children to grow into good British citizens then here are the top ten things we really need to be teaching our pre-schoolers:
1. Learn to talk about the weather
All British people need to be able to hold at least a two minute conversation about the weather. This is essential for managing school runs, shopping and passing strangers on the street. Ideally you should be able to talk for considerably longer on the subject and share short weather-related anecdotes. Childminders can help small children by teaching them the appropriate vocabulary they will need to join in weather conversations and by keeping a weather chart up in your setting to inspire interest in the subject from an early age.
2. Learn to love drinking tea
All Brits must enjoy drinking ridiculous quantities of tea. You can help by ensuring that the children watch you drink at least three cups of tea each day, more when socialising with others. An important coming of age ritual in British society is to learn to make tea in a proper tea pot and, when entertaining, to pour it into the cup in the correct order (ie. milk first). Children love pouring things and it’s great for their hand eye coordination, so a plastic tea pot is an excellent addition to any water play area, setting them on the right route to tea loving for life!
3. Learn to apologise properly
British people are always apologising, even if it isn’t your fault. For example if another childminder bumps into you, or rams you with their push chair, it is considered perfectly normal for you to mutter ‘sorry’ to them. Hold practice sessions during soft play where you encourage the children to bump into each other and everyone saying ‘sorry’ so that they will learn how to master this skill.
4. Learn about the royal family
All British adults must have an opinion about the royal family. Whether we think they’re great – great for tourism, charity work, national identity and the occasional extra holiday, or whether we think they have no place in modern Britain, we can’t have an opinion about something we know nothing about. Therefore it is essential to help small children to learn about the royal family, even if it’s just to learn the name and job title of the old lady whose head is on all the stamps and coins in your post office set.
5. Learn to appreciate stately country homes and gardens
British people love the Downton Abbeys of our countryside. Dotted amid our green and pleasant land they remind us to be proud of our history and heritage. Go for splendid picnics in the countryside, throw pennies in fountains, walk among the daffodils while teaching the children to sing Jerusalem, and don’t forget an umbrella (so you can practice complaining about British picnic weather)!
6. Learn to enjoy fish and chips
Don’t take them to McDonalds. When you’re having a day off of healthy eating, show childminded children how British people do junk food by buying fish and chips for lunch. It is an essential part of the experience to eat them in the park straight from the paper, ideally while stabbing them with a little wooden chip fork.
7. Learn how to be ridiculously polite, especially at the table
We all know that it’s essential to teach children to say please and thank you but why stop there? All British people are ridiculously polite, so make sure to teach small children how to hold doors, how to smile and say ‘good morning’ to people you pass on the school run and how to sound sincere when offering the last biscuit to another child. Good table manners are vital. Smearing your face in yogurt and throwing food you don’t like onto the floor is generally considered unacceptable in Britain after the age of one. As childminders we can help by teaching children how to use a spoon, fork, knife and how to pass plates of vegetables (and port decanters) in the right direction around the dinner table and without dropping them in our neighbours laps.
8. Learn to enjoy reality TV shows
All British adults need to make time each week to watch reality TV shows so that they can continue to make conversation with others after the weather topic is exhausted. It is essential to stay as up to date as possible on Big Brother, the X-Factor, the Apprentice and of course Strictly although some British men substitute the week’s football scores for one of these programmes. As a childminder you can help by getting the children hooked on TV from an early age and encouraging them to discuss their opinions about the day’s Octonaut’s adventures, the Pinky Ponk’s latest crash, and Mr. Tumble’s choice of handbag.
9. Learn to sing a Beatles song
There are few things more British than the Beatles and all adult Brits know the words and can sing along to at least five Beatles songs. Once they’ve mastered ‘twinkle twinkle’ and ‘wheels on the bus’ your children are ready to learn their first Beatles songs. Beatles music is best played in the car, where small children are strapped in and can’t run away when you sing. Legislation is currently being planned by the government to add Beatles lyrics to the driving theory test.
10. Teach the children to queue
In Britain there are few things as important to our national identity as knowing how to queue. Despite what it seems to foreigners, British people are not born with this ability but must learn it. So from a very early age, childminders should teach queueing skills to youngsters. Have you ever watched what happens when somebody pushes in a queue? There have been moments where I have found myself concerned if the reckless rebel is going to make it out of the shop alive! Don’t let any of the children you look after grow up so uncivilised! Remember, that when we encourage small children to learn to form orderly queues, they are learning to uphold the very fabric that binds our nation together.
So there you have it – ten real British Values you can teach to the children you look after. Next time know that when you are teaching the children to form a queue, to fill in that weather chart, to eat nicely, to hold doors and apologise that you are actually doing your bit to fight extremism on the home front, by upholding those values that we British hold dear.
What do you think of the government asking childminders to promote British Values?
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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.
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