Introduction to GDPR

Dear parents

There is a new EU data protection law coming into force from May 25th 2018 – it is called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The Government is currently updating the Data Protection Act (1998) to a new Data Protection Bill (2018).

We are already registered with the Information Commissioners Office and we have been working hard behind the scenes to make sure we are compliant with the GDPR. As part of the information sharing required by GDPR, we will need to give you a copy of our new Privacy Notice – we will email it to you next week.

The Privacy Notice tells you:

  • What information we hold about you and your child/ren
  • Why we hold this information – the legal basis for processing the information
  • What we do with your personal information
  • How long we will hold onto your information to help us comply with various statutory requirements.

We will also ask you to read our new Retention Policy and to complete a new Permission Form which will help to ensure we share information with you effectively.

If you have any questions about how we are complying with GDPR, please ask us.

Thank you, Sarah and Nige | Knutsford Childminding


Teaching children to write

Teaching children to write letters and numbers

A quick reminder about the best way to teach children to read and write letters…

Names start with a capital – so you say N for Nigel and S for Sarah.

Other letters should be taught phonetically as lower case – a, b, c not A B C.

Top tips for teaching children to write

  • Children need to scribble and draw lines and curves first.
  • Children need lots of fine motor activities such as threading and messy play to strengthen their hands, wrists and arms before they are asked to hold a pencil.
  • Children also need lots of gross motor practice and we always make big letter shapes in the sky.
  • Teachers do not normally recommend using dots which children follow to write letters – however, we often have fun with following dots to make lines, zigzags and curves.
  • We will teach children to start writing letters at the top and either go round or down – ‘d’ and ‘e’ are exceptions to the rule because they start in the middle.

We start by teaching those letters that are important to the children – normally letters from their names.

We have made every child their own name label with their photo – this will help them to recognise their names and, as they get older, to write their names using the correct letter formation.

Lower case letter formation…

All schools have their own writing styles – we are happy to use them if you ask for a writing frame. Otherwise we will teach standard lower case letter formation as above.

We take it very slowly with teaching phonics, using books, songs and rhymes and games. We want to encourage a life-long love of reading and writing.

Experts advise that the best way to put children off writing is to stand over them and insist they form letters ‘properly’. We let children experiment with drawing shapes, curves and lines and we start to show them how to write letters and numbers when they are interested and ready to progress – and if that doesn’t happen while they are here, they will learn at school!

If you have any questions, please ask us! Thank you, Sarah & Nige.

Developing gross motor skills


A recent report from Foundation Years states that many early years children are not being physically active for 3 hours a day (linked to the childhood obesity epidemic). 3 hours is the recommended daily activity level to ensure children develop appropriately: physical activity links to healthy growth and building strong bodies.

The requirement for early years providers to support children’s gross motor skills is found in the ‘moving’ aspect of Physical Development (Early Years Outcomes) which is a prime area of learning. Further guidance is provided by NHS Choices here.

Physical development is a huge area of learning: for example, babies sit and crawl, toddlers walk and roll and children run, climb, jump, skip, hop and learn to ride a bike.

There are a lot of advantages to getting children up and moving – both in the house and outside in the garden. We notice that children are more alert with increased mental awareness after a period of physical activity; when moving around outside there is more space so they can be freer with their movements; when they are moving around we can observe children learning the gross motor skills they will need to balance and coordinate movements etc.

We have been putting together an outside play gross motor skills activity booklet over the last few months for the children to use in the hopes that it will inspire and excite them to try some different activities linked to physical development – movement. We want to encourage them to choose from a range of activity ideas to extend their play.

Some of the ideas we have included, with pictures to support our younger children to make choices, are –

  • Joining in with our ‘wake up shake up’ morning dance session
  • Balls, balloons and bean bags for throwing, catching, rolling and kicking
  • Balancing games
  • Hopscotch – we have a painted hopscotch and some big number mats
  • Dance mat to make music with our feet
  • Fishing with nets and jam jars to the local duck pond
  • Skipping ropes – great for balancing games
  • Parachute games
  • Games with a practitioner or older child taking the lead such as ‘follow the leader’ and ‘Simon says’
  • Digging – we have a digging trough in the garden for the children
  • Dancing – waving scarves to music and joining in with movement songs
  • Obstacle courses – the children set them up and help each other
  • Painting projects with spray bottles or water and brushes
  • Games to music – musical bumps or statues
  • Bubbles – we chase and catch them
  • Daily music and movement session
  • Painting the walls with big brushes
  • Silly races – sideways, rolling, hopping, jumping etc
  • Stop – go / red light – green light road safety game
  • Sweeping and tidying the garden
  • Gardening is great fun and we try to plan something plant related every month
  • Bear hunts in the local woods
  • Collecting leaves, conkers or fir cones for craft activities
  • Standing up when doing playdough or painting
  • Paper aeroplanes to make and throw
  • Tidying up to music or silly songs – putting things away and keeping the space safe
  • Mopping up spilled water or using the dustpan and brush to sweep up
  • Nature walks to collect natural finds we can use for craft and sorting
  • Bikes and scooters in the garden – small ride on toys in the house
  • Messy play – we plan something sensory for the children to explore every day
  • Water play – we have a small water wall and water in trays for the children to use – we make boats and experiment with floating and sinking
  • Outings to the park – we try to visit the playground every week with as many children as we can… they love the space which allows them to move around freely and the challenges on different types of equipment.

Risk assessments – we carefully risk assess all the activities we plan for the children. We check equipment and resources to ensure safety and we consider the ages and developmental stages of the children involved and the level of supervision we might need to offer.

Parents – you can monitor children’s ‘typical behaviour’ in your copy of ‘What to expect when? A parents guide’ … and plan more activities to support their learning when you have observed what they can do.

Practitioners – e-book 6 ‘Outside play’ from Knutsford Childminding contains many more activity ideas including advice about how to set up your garden for childminding.

Foundation Years have provided us with this poster to share with parents – we have displayed it on our parents notice board.

3 hours physical activity a day

Further reading – if you want to find out more about how to support children’s developing physical activities, I recommend you read this blog from Janet Lansbury which advises allowing children to learn new skills in their own time.

More inspiration – I have included lots of outside play activity ideas on my ‘Welly Wednesdays’ Pinterest board.

Chat soon, Sarah | Knutsford Childminding



Story telling


The children in our childminding provision love reading books, independently to themselves or the dolls and teddies – and cuddled up with one of us. They also love storytelling – often without a book in sight! Story telling is a wonderful way we engage all the children in our provision from the very youngest who sits enraptured as we use our voices and props to catch their attention to the older children who use their wonderful imaginations to tell everyone their own stories.

So… are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

The best books for prompting early years storytelling are ones which capture the children’s imaginations with big, bold pictures which complement the words and rhymes or short sentences which bounce the story along. If the words in a child’s storybook are clumsy they will lose interest – we often change them, adapting the story line for the age and stage of development of the audience through the week.

It might seem obvious, but before we tell stories, we make sure all the children are sitting comfortably and can see what is happening. This means tidying up so they are not distracted, checking there isn’t a draft where they are setting, ensuring lots of natural light and, where necessary providing cushions or soft blankets on cold days for outdoor storytelling.

If we are reading quickly because we are short of time, we simply sit and read from a book – if we have plenty of time or we are planning a scheduled daily reading session, then we often make or buy puppets and other props to bring the story alive.

When reading from a book we always (quickly) –

  • Point out the author’s name and picture from the front cover
  • Hold our finger under the words so children learn print goes from left to right

Then we get on with the job of telling the story. We always try to use funny voices for the characters and, if we have a little longer, we do all of the above and –

  • Encourage children to recognise simple words by pointing out letters they know
  • Talk about the various pictures the children can see on the pages
  • Use songs or music as part of the storytelling
  • Change words to challenge children’s memories and understanding
  • Use the children’s names instead of the characters – they love it when they are part of the stories
  • Add puppets and small word toys to engage visual learners

We always read a book through from start to finish first – it allows the children to understand the flow of the story and helps to develop their understanding. If they maintained concentration, we might then focus on one of the stories they have chosen and develop it further by, for example –

  • Asking questions about the characters
  • Talking about what the characters are wearing or eating
  • Ask how the children think the characters are feeling
  • Ask why the children think a character responded in the way they did
  • Ask the children what they would do in different situations etc…

We are careful to ask open ended questions (see this blog) and give the children plenty of time to answer but we don’t want a storytelling session to turn into 20 questions because that will put the children off, so any questions we ask are sensitive and relevant.

Puppets can add different dimensions to a story if they are relevant and recognisable. Our children enjoy making puppets for various stories – they can be drawn and coloured and glued onto craft sticks. If we want them to last a little longer we laminate them. We also use small world toys – for example, when reading ‘Spot goes to the farm’ we collect the various animals Spot sees and set them out … we leave them for the children to use later and observe how they interact with the resources.

If we are telling a story – rather than reading a book – the puppets can be introduced to hold the attention of visual learners in our group (see this information about children’s learning characteristics). We often include children’s favourite characters in our made up stories, add children’s names to make it relevant to them… or give each child the opportunity to add to the story to develop their imaginations.

We plan a storytelling session every day, sometimes with and sometimes without books. The children love it as much as us and often ask to make puppets – especially the older ones who have been here for a few years. They don’t tend to go home though – they are used and used through the day and torn but that’s fine, they have served their purpose, we can make more next time!

We have recently asked all our parents for the titles of their children’s favourite stories at home and we are going to include some of those in our story telling sessions.

We look forward to hearing your feedback… Sarah and Nige

What has your child been learning this month?



Every month we share our planned activity ideas with you in our newsletter and on our noticeboard – sometimes your child wants to join in and sometimes they choose to do something else! We like to keep our planning flexible and, where possible, ‘in the moment’ linking closely to what your child wants to learn – we recognise that they are more likely to learn when they are interested and involved.

Alongside our planned activity ideas which are usually linked to the time of year and world festivals and celebrations we also support your child’s learning through:

  • Individual planning – the suggestions we make – with you – for your child’s next steps. Individual planning is detailed in your child’s summary reports and we include activity ideas linked to individual planning on your child’s Play Plan, coming back to them regularly through the month and for as long as they are relevant.
  • Our continuous provision – the toys and games your child can freely access inside the house and in the garden. These are often themed to a child’s interests or current learning styles – I will send you activity ideas if we notice particular schemas being used in your child’s play.
  • Resources linked to current interests – if you tell us your child likes, for example, dinosaurs at home then we will set up a play scene or similar play invitation for them.
  • Planted practitioner activities – where one of us sits with a game, toy or activity and plays, waiting for the children to take an interest in what we are doing. We spend as long with the activity as the children want and we extend it with language, maths, books, mark making and other provision areas to support their learning.
    I have written about our planted practitioner approach for colleagues here – planted practitioner.
  • Skills focus – each week we think about the skills your child needs to learn and we focus on them. For example, during last month our 3 year olds practiced scissor skills in lots of different areas of provision and our 2 year olds practiced pouring water – it was very messy and great fun!
  • Our daily routine – the flow of our day: you should all have received an email about your child’s routine (this is a requirement of the EYFS). Daily routines include meal times, a short literacy (Letters and Sounds) and numeracy session, singing and dancing and lots of time for free, uninterrupted play.

We find lots of opportunities during the day to seize what is known as ‘the teachable moment’ – the time when your child is engaged and active and we can pop in some more learning.

During the last month we have observed children taking an interest in the following:

  • Learning positional language in the garden – we have planned lots of treasure hunts with clues to teach words like over, under, through, in, out, above, to the side etc (Maths – shape, space and measure).
  • Throwing and catching balls – we got out the bean bags, played hopscotch and skittles and made some hoops for the children to throw balls through and into (Physical development – gross motor skills).
  • Expressing their feelings – we have feelings fans, posters and books and we have been talking about them with the children to help them learn how to express themselves using words rather than physical actions. We also have dolls who get themselves into a terrible feelings muddle sometimes and we chat together about how they can manage things better, telling stories and making up scenarios to teach the children in ways they understand (PSED – managing feelings and behaviour).
  • Playing with the dolls – we have a pram, dolls clothes, bottles and food and the children have been role playing a lot in the garden and playhouse. To extend their learning we have replaced items from our dolls care bag (a small cloth bag with bits and bobs children can use during role play) – this has been well received by all the children and helped to extend their play (PSED – self-care).
  • Talking about what they do at home – there aren’t any secrets when you have 2 and 3 year olds in the house!! Your children have told us about family Christmas plans, outings to see Santa, present wish lists and much more. We use what they tell us in our planning: for example, we set up a parcel wrapping station after a child told us that he was helping mum to wrap presents – and we took a group of children to the post office to see how the weighing scales work (Understanding the World – home and family lives).

Thank you – we have enjoyed receiving your home photos which we have used to prompt more conversations and then we have used children’s comments in our planning. You can send us photos through text, Whatsapp or email – we will always make good use of them!

  • Making and doing jigsaws – we have been making our own jigsaws with the children cutting up cards and pictures and then attempting to put them back together again. This has meant us using a lot of glue… it’s on the shopping list in the New Year! The children have been doing some of our wooden jigsaws as well and we talk about sides, edges, curves, shapes, colour etc as we play together (Maths – shape, space and measures / Physical development – fine motor skills).

Resources request – if you want to recycle your Christmas cards please send the pictures to us – we will make good use of them for collages and more jigsaws.

  • Cooking – as well as the normal routine cooking (preparing snack and making pudding) the children have been in the kitchen making mince pies, Christmas cake, Christmas themed playdough, reindeer biscuits (they didn’t make it home!) and much more (maths).

Recipe request – please let us have your favourite home recipes so we can try them out here.

As I am sure you can see we are always busy here at Knutsford Childminding. We would love to hear more from you about what your child enjoys doing at home so we can continue to ensure our activities link to their interests and are developmentally appropriate.

Thank you. Sarah and Nige.



Mark making in the early years – EYFS

Early writing is known as ‘mark making’. It is the process children go through to strengthen their hands and arms and develop the hand-eye coordination they will need to start writing recognisable letters and numbers. The mark making process should not be rushed … children need time and lots of different opportunities to practice their newly developing pre-writing skills.

You should have received an email with information about the steps your child’s mark making will follow from holding a crayon in their fist to pointing a pencil and writing letters. We hope you have found it useful.

Here at Knutsford Childminding we use observations to note how children prefer to make marks so we can support their learning. In our provision over the years we have cared for –

  • A child who mostly makes marks outside
  • A child who likes to sit on the sofa and use a lap tray when drawing
  • A child who prefers to lie on the floor (inside or out) when making marks
  • A child who doesn’t really seem to like mark making at all – he is far too busy doing other things
  • A child who sits at the table and looks keen but can’t make marks independently – they have to have an adult sitting with them.

We want to encourage all our children to make marks through all our areas of provision so we provide as many open-needed invitations to play as we can to support them, for example –

  • During role play children make shopping lists, price labels, take phone messages etc
  • In the garden children use chalk and paint or make marks with sticks in the sand
  • At the table we provide interesting invitations to make marks every day – different shaped or coloured paper, pens or felt tips, stencils or rubbing boards
  • Magazines and comics are purchased and read by adults – they are used to inspire mark making and craft
  • Our messy tray contains a range of resources that encourage mark making such as sand, silly soap, cornflour and water and playdough – and we include things with which they can make marks such as brushes, mark making pencils, sticks, leaves etc
  • Props are set out in different areas of provision – posters, home-made and bought books etc all provide a literacy rich environment which will encourage children to make marks.

This is an excellent article ‘Writing is not just for the writing area’ from Early Years Learning here.

We provide a wide range of easily accessible resources which are well organised and replenished regularly. We try to keep the area uncluttered to promote children’s concentration. The mark making table is in an easily accessible position in the playroom with good natural lighting and children can find lap trays if they prefer to sit elsewhere.  We have taken our inspiration from a number of different places that provide ideas of how to inspire and engage children to make marks – some of our favourites are Reggio inspired blogs. We are also good role models, writing with the children to teach them that marks have meaning.

Resources include –

  • Picture cards and envelopes
  • Paper – different sizes, shapes and colours
  • Pots of sharpened pencils (coloured and triangular writing pencils) and chunky crayons
  • Stickers linked to children’s current interests
  • Alphabet, number and shape posters
  • Colouring books and sheets linked to children’s current interests
  • Books to inspire – featuring paintings, drawings and other artwork
  • Notebooks and sticky notes
  • Clipboard with lined paper attached
  • Old address book and diary
  • Home-made shape book to inspire children to copy and trace marks
  • Laminated name cards for each child – upper case initial letter and lower case rest of name – with a picture chosen by the child
  • An envelope of black and white pictures which can be glued, cut up or coloured – toys, faces, buildings, animals, fish etc.

Any of the resources can be taken to the table and chairs outside by the children – we will help if asked but we do promote independence and store resources so children can carry them easily.

We look after little ones as well as older children so some of our mark making resources are put out of the way to keep little ones safe – the older children know they can be provided on request. These resources include –

  • Scissors – left and right handed
  • Small parts for craft activities
  • Glue and sticky tape
  • Stapler and hole punch
  • Mark making on the computer
  • Felt tips, glitter pens and stampers
  • Tracing paper
  • Storytelling cubes which prompt conversation and story writing
  • Painting pens and finger paints – we have paints and an easel outside
  • Pencil sharpeners and erasers
  • Pipe cleaners to bend and make letter and number shapes

Mark making does not need an ‘end product’ – you do not need to make something or draw something recognisable to have fun making marks. Part of the joy of mark making is that children can create without getting it wrong … they can simply make their marks and receive praise for a job well done.

As children get older, we teach them that their marks – and the marks they see in books and environmental print – have meaning. It is important that this is a slow process if discovery for the children as we talk about letters and numbers and their shapes and take children on a journey of discovery that leads to them writing recognisable shapes. We have made a shape book – zigzags, curves, dots, circles, straight lines, repeating patterns etc to inspire them to make the shapes they will need for writing.

Sharing further information with parents and early years practitioners

You might find this mark making guidance interesting.

I have a mark making Pinterest page here.

There is an inspiring article from Juliet Mickelburgh on the EYFS Forum here.

There are lots of useful links in this document from Early Arts.

If you have any questions about early mark making please ask me!

Chat soon, Sarah.

Messy play

messy play picture

As you know, we like to keep ourselves on our toes and ensure we are offering the very best learning opportunities for all our children so… our self-evaluation question this week is – how well do we provide opportunities for messy play?

We recognise that messy play is essential for teaching children so many different skills. Messy activities are fun and exciting and promote concentration as well as supporting children to develop the hand eye coordination and the fine motor / handling skills they will need for writing in the future. The children are encouraged to develop independence during messy play as well – they find and put on their aprons, wash their hands afterwards etc.

We often focus our observations on maths when children are engaged in messy play because we can play alongside them and note how they are learning about number (finding numbers in the sand and naming them), shape (noticing how wet sand changes shape), capacity (filling and emptying), weight (is the bucket of water heavy or light?), counting etc.

We have a couple of messy trays outside every day and we try to go beyond the ‘normal’ sand and water to provide children with some new and different messy play experiences. Here are some of the activities we regularly offer and ideas we have thought of for ways we think we can enhance children’s learning…

  • Mark making in silly soap and sand mousse (sand and bath foam) builds muscle strength. We recently tried making puffy paint and added salt (sand would work well too) to the paint to create a sensory experience;
  • Mark making with sticks and finger painting develops hand eye coordination. We have put the easel next to the messy tray and put blobs of paint in the tray so children can use it easily. This worked so well we are going to put blobs of paint and drive cars through them to look at the patterns the wheels make next;
  • Children paint using ‘finds’ from nature – teasels, long grasses, feathers, leaves, fir cones etc. We have been reading how to make PVA paint and we will try that with natural ‘finds’ to see if it feels any different – we can stick our ‘finds’ to the pictures as well;
  • A puddle is great for riding bikes through – we often add some powder paints or crushed chalk to make patterns and play with the puddle poking it with a stick;
  • We prefer not to use fruit and vegetables for craft because we are aware of the lack of food in many parts of the world the world. However, we do make an exception by buying cheap rice and pasta for the children to use with paints and glue. We made some coloured rice and pasta using a recipe from Imagination Tree – a favourite place to visit for messy play recipes.
  • After reading ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ and watching it on YouTube read by Michael Rosen we tried to recreate the story in the garden – with mixed results to be honest but that was part of the fun and we are going to try it again once the grass recovers!
  • We bought some GilliBaff and added water … blimey it was slippy but the children really enjoyed it on the grass and were very careful to keep the mixture in the tray. We have some Magic Snow to try next but it will need 100% supervision because it is not suitable for under 3s and we know our little ones will want to play too. We will add snowy world animals to the tray and read some books about animals in winter to help children make connections in their learning;
  • Our winter theme for January is ice and snow so we will be making lots of ice with the children to go into our messy tray for simple science experiments. We will be putting small world animals inside ice and making coloured ice for painting which we hope will be fun;
  • We are working on improving our maths provision (more to follow on that one) and we have tried some shape painting. The only problem was the some of the wooden blocks are now a bit stained but the children don’t seem to mind;
  • We make playdough most weeks here at Knutsford Childminding – we make it lots of different colours and often add a scent. In summer we add some of the lavender heads from the garden and made the playdough purple – it is always very popular. For the winter, we made white snowy playdough and we have plans to make some warming gingerbread playdough (recipe on my Pinterest board);
  • We have bought some ivory soap as well!

Risk assessment – please see our ‘sensory play’ blog for a sample risk assessment.

More information – I have started a new messy play Pinterest page with lots of ideas and recipes and I am always looking for new ones to include. If you have any good links please let me know.

Childmindersthis article from Teach Nursery magazine is excellent for noting further links between children’s messy play exploration and the areas of learning of the EYFS.

Illustration © my cute graphics