Stimulating the senses every day

sensory play picture

Our self-evaluation question this week – how well do we stimulate children’s senses?

Childminders don’t need to have special sensory rooms to provide children with a wide range of sensory experiences… we can use our normal inside and outside environment, outings and continuous provision resources to support children’s learning.

Babies and children like to explore things with their eyes, hands and mouths. You will often spot them holding toys up to look at them before giving them a lick or chew to test them out. This is how they start to develop the ability to confidently explore a variety of different environments and, in later years, describe what they can see and feel. This type of sensory exploration must be encouraged as part of early years play. Of course, we recognise that sensory exploration of this type is a health and safety nightmare and we must consider how we clean and disinfect chewed toys, checking they are safe after each use before putting them back in their box or bag (see risk assessment to follow)…

There are a lot of catalogues and online selling sites that sell ready-made sensory exploration baskets for little ones and heuristic resources for the older children… but many of these can be put together very cheaply using items from your local pound shop or supermarket and your normal resources. Simply think about how to offer a range of different textures, colours, shapes and types which will provide a lot of sensory stimulation for all the children.

You might also find it useful to think about why you want children to experience sensory play – do you want to wake them up, excite them, encourage conversation or calm them down? You can then provide a variety of resources through the day to support different parts of your routine –

  • Morning – sensory scarves and musical instruments during ‘wake up’ dance activities
  • Before snack – exploring and smelling food while preparing snack together
  • Before lunch – sensory fiddly fingers activities to promote calm before everyone sits down to eat
  • After lunch – calming lavender added to playdough to soothe and promote rest or sleep for the little ones.
  • Afternoon play – baskets of natural resources used during planned learning sessions to teach children to explore and describe what they can see and feel.

Children will be drawn to anything that encourages them to explore it so resources need to be chosen carefully and displayed attractively. It is important that baskets (if used) are shallow and filled with lots of different items so children can empty and fill them (to support their transporting schemas) as well as being able to get to all the contents – all sorts of horrors lurk at the bottoms of deep baskets or boxes.

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Resources to stimulate the senses

How many sensory toys, games, activities and other experiences do you offer children during a normal day? I came up with quite a long list when I wrote my blog about supporting children’s fine motor skills here.

As we know, there are 5 senses – hearing, sight, touch, smell and taste. When thinking about providing resources, consider how you support children to learn about them all. You might plan to support learning by providing –

  • Playdough – make your own every week with the children and add glitter or something smelly
  • Paint – add sand or do some finger painting
  • Balls or bean bags made from sensory material – some of the bumpy sensory balls can be very hard so be careful if your children like to throw. Look for a variety of balls – elastic band balls, bouncy ones, scrunched paper, pompoms, big ones to roll etc will keep children interested for longer and add something for the balls to be rolled or thrown into such as a clean waste paper basket.
  • Treasure baskets – metal, musical instruments, ribbons and bows
  • Light resources to stimulate vision – torches, flashing balls, bubble tubes etc played with in a den under the table
  • Treasure basket – filled with sensory items from the kitchen or bathroom.
  • Cooking activities – inside and in the garden making potions – to explore taste and smell.
  • Outside basket – filled with fir cones, interesting leaves, twigs, string balls etc.
  • Material – small swatches of sensory material eg ribbons, scarves, wool, nylon, tartan, fleece etc (make sure it doesn’t shed). Add coloured material to encourage children to play matching and sorting games as they get older.
  • Water play – add glue, raw pasta (or cooked if you have any left over from tea), oats so children can watch them as they absorb the water etc. Real sponges are great in water play and add a new dimension to children’s sensory games.
  • Paper and cardboard sensory bag – choose different types of card eg shiny, ridged, coloured etc and cellophane and bubble wrap to stimulate and maintain children’s interest.
  • Sensory panel / board – bubble wrap, ridged cardboard material etc. For lots of inspiration look at sensory walls on Pinterest
  • Bubble play
  • Mirrors – child safe surrounded by photos of emotions so children can explore how they are feeling and expand their emotional vocabulary
  • Cook some extra pasta, rice or other food to explore in a sensory tray
  • Put water or sand play outside every day
  • Mud kitchens are popular at the moment
  • Soap flakes and a whisk
  • Spray silly soap, gloop (flour and water), sensitive shaving foam etc…
  • Musical instruments – as well as stimulating children’s auditory senses, instruments can (if chosen carefully) encourage children to touch and feel because they can be made from wood, shells, plants and other natural materials.
  • Smooth stones in the garden – different sizes and shapes which the children can move around, stack etc and which help them learn about size, shape, weight, balancing etc.
  • Real tea set – so children learn about taking care of things so they do not break as well as the feel, sound and weight of real pottery as opposed to plastic.
  • Metal basket – small metal eating utensils, plates, bowls, cups, milk jugs etc can be bought cheaply from second hand shops and provide children with a different sensory experience as they listen to the items and feel that they are cold to the touch.
  • Shell basket
  • A sensory word display – make a display with the older children featuring sensory words to support learning and to remind you of some different sensory words you can use when playing with the children. Think about opposites – cold and hot, smooth and bumpy, hard and soft etc as well as words to describe the feel of eg playdough when a new smell or some glitter has been added.
  • Wooden blocks or large wooden dice.
  • Sensory mats – these are good for babies but we often see older children lying on them and touching the various sensory panels.
  • Glass sticks – these can be bought from sensory shops and are often on special offer. When children shake them the colours of the liquid inside change.
  • Plastic little people or animals… yes I know I have used the word ‘plastic’ but a lot of practitioners have plastic toys and their value must not be underestimated when they are used alongside other resources.

You can also add small containers that children can put the items into as this helps them to learn about capacity, size and shape and extends their play further. The more variety you can offer the better – so keep an eye out at local charity shops and car boot sales for interesting natural resources which you can use to stimulate interest and exploration.

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Links to the prime areas of learning

  • Communication and language – children need to be stimulated and excited in their learning if they are to learn new words and describe their actions. We can provide them with the vocabulary they need to talk about what they are doing and feeling. We often notice that children babble when they are engaged in sensory play – they are talking to themselves even from a young age and telling us that they are relaxed and enjoying their learning. We add illustrated labels to our play areas to support children’s learning and we play alongside them to enhance communication and build their vocabulary.
  • Physical – children use fine and gross motor skills to manipulate the resources. They learn about health and hygiene as they wash their hands. We talk about how resources feel which helps them to develop a vocabulary with which they can describe their physical actions.
  • PSED – when a child is involved in their play, they are learning at their deepest level. When they are engaged in sensory play children become excited by their learning and they are interested and want to explore and find out more. Sensory play links closely to children’s learning characteristics and schemas (repeated patterns of learning).

Learning characteristics blog here.

More information about schemas in children’s play here.

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Risk assessment

It is not a requirement of the EYFS 2014 to have written risk assessments – however, they are very good practice and will help you show evidence (should something go wrong) of how you keep children safe and healthy.

  • Check small parts with a choking tube
  • Only provide resources suitable for the ages of children on the day
  • Examine resources carefully before, during and after play for signs of damage
  • Make sure wooden resources are not painted with lead based paints and check for splinters
  • Make sure shells and other natural resources are sturdy so if very young children put them in their mouths they will not shatter
  • Some sensory resources can be inhaled – remind children to keep it away from faces
  • Supervise play – don’t be distracted by the doorbell or phone
  • Glass sticks might shatter if hit on the floor or wall very hard – watch for signs of damage
  • Children can drown in a few inches of standing water
  • Remind children about using resources safely during play eg scarves are for waving, not choking

It is important that we trust children to use resources safely and with increasing control as they get older and we teach them how to be safe. However, if there is a serious accident the first thing Ofsted and our insurance company will ask is – ‘what was in your risk assessment?’ so we make sure we regularly assess risk and can confidently explain how we keep children safe if the activity was spontaneous and our risk assessments were not in writing.

© Illustration Hands on as we grow – a toddler activities blog

Outside play every day

playground

As you know, we are committed to ensuring your child/ren are offered daily outside play opportunities as required by the EYFS. We provide waterproof coats, keep spare clothes here in case children get messy and ask parents to send their child with suitable footwear and wellies in winter. We have covered areas at the back and side of the house and we have had AstroTurf laid in the back garden to provide an all-weather surface. We have toys and games we know the children enjoy using outside and we regularly add resources, asking the children to choose what they would like to play with in the garden.

There is no expectation for childminders to keep our doors open throughout the day – we have risk assessed and decided that free flow play (when an adult is not always outside with the children) is not safe. It can also be very difficult to ensure we are providing high quality educational outcomes for children if they are dashing about outside without adult supervision – so like most childminders we have a ‘one out, adult out’ policy.

This can make things difficult because some children might not want to go outside at the same time as others – we feel that it is important to find a balance that works for all the children. We talk to the older children about what they want to do through the day and where they want to play – we discuss the weather and the activities we have set out for them to use in the garden – we ask them what other toys and games they might want to use and we plan their day to offer both inside and outside play and to accommodate outings and other adventures. If the children are reluctant to go outside we generally find that a ‘we will all go outside after nap time’ or ‘let’s all play outside after morning snack’ offer will motivate the children to venture outside and see what is happening in the garden, especially if there are toys and games set out for them that they enjoy using.

We always plan a quiet area, away from the hubbub of play, for children who might not want to join in the activities we have offered. We add books, cushions, blankets etc depending on the children’s needs and the weather on the day. An adult is available to make sure the children who choose to sit quietly and watch know they can get involved at any time – and we balance their day to ensure they are getting exercise elsewhere during their time here. However, we are keen to make sure that our outside play planning complements what we offer children inside the house – we don’t need to duplicate everything!

Before any outside planning is considered, we complete a full risk assessment of the outside areas we are going to set up and use to take account of, for example –

  • The play areas – garden, AstroTurf, covered area at the side of the house
  • The flooring surfaces – to check they are clean and safe / non-slippy
  • Standing water
  • Trees, bushes and plants
  • Toys and games – to check they are safe for the ages of children in the provision on the day
  • The shed and other storage – to make sure children can safely access extra resources
  • Weather conditions
  • Children’s wellbeing – have they recently been ill? Are they asking to stay inside?
  • Clothing available
  • Drink provision – we have a water dispenser and cups for the garden
  • Fence and gate security
  • Age and stage of development of each child – what does each child in the provision need in place to enable them to play safely outside?

Once we have the basics in place – a commitment to go outside, a risk assessment for the outside area and appropriate clothing – our next step is to think about what each child enjoys doing at the moment.

Planning outside play – the best and most important planning we do in our provision is individual, based on each child’s likes and current interests. This individual planning, which we call ‘next steps’, is normally put together a day or so before the child attends because we want to respond to children’s interests at the moment. We don’t always write it down – we know our children well enough to plan their outside play without reams of written information…

  • A child likes birds – so we put some binoculars and a bird spotting sheet outside for them to use;
  • A child enjoys digging – you we set up the digging tools;
  • A child loves doing rubbings – we provide him with paper and rubbing crayons outside and show him how to rub the trees, leaves, floor, walls etc.

Alongside individual planning, we have some group planning / activity ideas for all the children. These are based around our continuous provision resources – the toys and games we always have available for all the children to use through the day. Of course, the children do not need every toy and game out at once so we offer different experiences for them through the week, for example –

Creative experiences – May week 1

  • Monday – music and rhymes outside
  • Tuesday – decorating CDs for a display
  • Wednesday – drawing caterpillars
  • Thursday – dancing with scarves
  • Friday – painting at the easel

Physical experiences – June week 2

  • Monday – bikes
  • Tuesday – bats and balls
  • Wednesday – obstacle course
  • Thursday – hopscotch
  • Friday – balancing

At other times our outside play planning might be linked to our group themed activities, for example –

  • We are covering a theme about Easter – so we plan an egg hunt;
  • We are teaching the children about speed – so we set up a race track for the cars;
  • We are learning about the weather – so we plan some age-appropriate weather experiments.

Outside play allows children to experience the weather and the changing seasons, so we always think about how we can include seasonal and weather related activities for the children to enjoy –

  • Wind – flying kites, running like the wind, making windmills; reading ‘The Windy Day’ by Anna Milbourne and learning the poem ‘The north wind doth blow’;
  • Rain – catching raindrops, counting rain, making rain pictures in puddles; reading ‘Splosh’ by Mick Inkpen and acting out songs such as ‘Rain, rain go away’ and ‘Doctor Foster’;
  • Sun – making sunshines with yellow paint, drying dolls clothes, watching water disappear; singing ‘The sun has got his hat on’ and other sunny day songs;
  • Fog – making foggy day pictures, watching your breath, playing hide and seek;
  • Cold – playing with ice in warm water, exercises and dance to keep warm;
  • Snow – catching snowflakes and bubbles, cutting snowflakes out of circles of paper, reading ‘The Snowy Day’ by Anna Milbourne.

Daily outside play is great fun and the children love going outside to see what we have set up for them to use in the garden. They enjoy having input into our planning as well – we are always keen to involve them and ask them what they want to do and where they want to play – because we know that when they are motivated to join in they will be learning at a much deeper level.

Parents – if you have any questions about the daily outside play opportunities we offer your child/ren, please ask us.

Early years providers – for more information about how you might plan for and offer opportunities for daily outside experiences, please see e-book 6 ‘Outside Play Planning’ from Knutsford Childminding.

Asking open-ended questions

What have you learnedOpen ended questions help your child/ren…

  • Notice details
  • Think more about what they are doing / saying / thinking
  • Use their developing language rather than just giving one word answers
  • Experiment with language
  • Extend their critical thinking (learning characteristic)
  • Feel challenged to solve their own problems.

Open-ended questions are a great way to involve children in their own learning because they support children to do things and find things out for themselves.

While closed questions can be useful to find out what a child knows eg ‘what colour?’ or ‘what shape?’, open-ended questions encourage them to give a lot more information and think more carefully about what they are doing or what they can see (links to UW and C & L). We are also giving the child’s voice more importance when we ask them to tell us what they are thinking and how they are feeling as well as raising their self-esteem and confidence (links to PSED).

Some children need practice to manage open-ended questions. During an inspection, our Ofsted inspector will want to see them answering open questions so now is the time to start asking more of them! Ask the question and then be prepared to wait for the child to put their answer together. We need to give them plenty of time to think – don’t rush in with an answer.

Here’s an example of how we use open-ended questions during a reading session…

  • Look at the picture on the cover – ask the child/ren what they think the story will be about…
  • Read all the way through the book the first time in one go, pointing to the pictures and telling the story. This promotes children’s listening skills and helps them to grasp what is happening without the distraction of talking or pointing things out.
  • Now we go back to the start and open the first page – ask the child/ren some open-ended questions about the story and the characters eg
    • What is the character doing in the picture?
    • Why do you think that happened?
    • What would you have done in the same situation?
    • How can they make that better / different?

Open-ended questions start with questioning words like… Who..? What..? Where..? How..? Why..? Can you..? Here are some ideas for open-ended questions you can use with young children…

Open-ended questions – FREE question prompt download.

Have fun asking open-ended questions! Please let us know how it goes 🙂

 

Preparing children for school

schoolIs it really March already – where it the time going? In a few short months your little one will be starting school and  facing all the challenges of a big noisy classroom. We are working really hard to prepare them – we are focussing on their social and emotional readiness and doing lots of activities to teach them how to, for example, put up their hands to ask a question and wait for friends to finish speaking before shouting out.

There are lots and lots of ways you can help your child to be ready for starting school. Here are just a few ideas from teachers to help you prepare them…

– Give them lots of time to do things by themselves – putting on their coats, doing up their shoes, getting themselves dressed etc. If they take ages then let them start earlier so they have time to do it independently.

– Give them lots of praise for trying hard as well as succeeding.

– Give them the words to describe how they are feeling – when they are happy or frustrated or upset or clingy describe their emotions to them and let them know that it is ok to feel like that.

– Give them choices – what do they want to wear? Where do they want to go? What do they want to do?  They will be given lots of choices when they are at school and they need to know how to answer and that their opinion matters.

– Let them choose what game to play with you – follow their lead and let them decide. It can be really hard to let them take the lead but it is important that they are prepared for independent play at school.

– Listen to your child’s worries about school – even if they don’t seem important to you they might be very big and scary to your child.

– Chat to them and do things together – they will enjoy cooking, helping you to clean up, helping with the dishes (and making a mess).  Even if they make things harder they will still be learning from you.

– Read with them – go through the book without chipping in first and then read the book again and let them ask questions, tell the story and read it to you – they won’t understand the words yet but they can tell you about the pictures and you can have fun making up new endings for books you enjoy reading together.

– Be a good role model – let your child see you reading books, finding things out, eating healthily, counting money out loud so they hear the numbers and see the shapes of the coins etc.

– Ask them questions and listen very carefully to their answers. Not questions like ‘what colour?’ or ‘what shape?’ but questions that show you are interested in what they are thinking and doing.

– Walk or drive past the new school a few times and talk about it with your child.  Remember your school days with your child – the happy times – and chat about them together.

– Have a daily routine so they understand that things happen in order – they get up, have food, play, have more food etc. This will help them when they start school because they will recognise the routine of their day and understand that certain things have to happen before you come to collect them.

– Read a starting school book with your child. This is one of our favourites which you are welcome to borrow…

starting school book

– Laugh, dance, sing, read, play, go outside, get dirty… children learn best when they are happy and playing

Most importantly spend as much time with them as you can over the coming months, playing and having fun. They will grow up and be independent so quickly once they start school!

Chat soon, Sarah.

Safeguarding procedures update – PREVENT strategy

thumbnail_prevent-strategy-review.pdf

We are aware of the Government PREVENT strategy which aims to protect children from terrorism and radicalisation and we want to share with parents how we will incorporate the strategy into our safeguarding procedures.

Definitions

Terrorism – the Terrorism Act 2000 defines terrorism as: “The use or threat of action designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public, or a section of the public; made for the purposes of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause; and it involves or causes: serious violence against a person; serious damage to a property; a threat to a person’s life; a serious risk to the health and safety of the public; or serious interference with or disruption to an electronic system.”

Radicalisation refers to the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and forms of extremism leading to terrorism.

We understand that the PREVENT strategy will require early years providers to identify any children who are considered to be at risk of being involved in terrorism or radicalised and refer them to the Local Authority.

We will share more information with you about the PREVENT strategy and reporting procedures when it is made available to us.

British values – alongside the PREVENT strategy, the Government has stated that all early years providers must teach children about and actively promote fundamental British values.  The Govt have stated that early education funding will be withdrawn from any providers who do not comply with this requirement and Ofsted will judge how effectively British values are taught during inspections.

Fundamental British values include democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs and must be taught in age-appropriate ways.

We have shared further information about how we teach British values in our provision in our blog here.

Please let us know if you have any questions. Thank you for your continued support.

Sarah & Nige

Our commitment to teach children British values

1280px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg

Here at Knutsford Childminding we are committed to providing the highest quality care and learning for all children between the ages of 3 months and 17 years.

We recognise the requirement from the Department for Education (inspected by Ofsted) to ensure children are protected from radicalisation by those wishing to unduly, or illegally, influence them.

We are committed to teaching the children in our care about British values which are embedded in everything we do.

Ofsted guidance states that the requirement to teach children British values aims to “promote tolerance of and respect for people of all faiths (or those of no faith), cultures and lifestyles; and support and help, through their words, actions and influence within the school and more widely in the community, to prepare children and young people positively for life in modern Britain.”

The government defines British values in the Prevent Strategy as:

  • Democracy
  • The rule of law
  • Individual liberty and personal responsibility
  • Mutual respect
  • Tolerance of those of different cultures, faiths and beliefs

To ensure we at Knutsford Childminding comply with these government requirements we have reflected on our teaching and curriculum and considered how we promote British Values in our provision –

Democracy

  • Children are treated with respect and dignity;
  • Their views are requested and always considered;
  • They are given choices about where they want to go and what they are doing;
  • When we buy new resources or make changes to the provision children are consulted;
  • We believe in free speech for all;
  • When a child says ‘no’ we stop and think more carefully about what we are asking them to do.

The rule of law

  • Children are taught about right and wrong and contribute to our behaviour goals;
  • Reminders about appropriate behaviour are displayed in the playrooms;
  • Children are encouraged to reflect on their behaviour during group activities using props and books appropriate for their ages and stages of learning;
  • Themes such as ‘people who help us’ support children to learn about the police and emergency services and their role in our society.

Individual liberty and personal responsibility

  • Children understand the need for rules to keep them safe;
  • They support the younger children;
  • They recognise the need to respect resources and equipment;
  • Children’s successes are celebrated on the display board and in their Learning Journey files which are regularly shared with parents;
  • Children are given shared responsibility for ensuring the provision is safe for everyone;
  • Independence is promoted from the earliest age.

Mutual respect

  • We use role play and group sessions to teach children how to show empathy for and understanding of others;
  • Personal, social and emotional development is embedded in our day-to-day curriculum;
  • Children learn how they can share and take turns with others in respectful ways;
  • Adults and older children are positive role models;
  • Positive images and stories of disability promote equality of opportunity for all;
  • Children are always spoken to respectfully;
  • Close working partnerships with parents and other settings children attend help us to raise outcomes for all children;
  • As part of our balanced curriculum group activities support children to learn about British festivals such as St George’s Day, the London Olympics and special days celebrated by our British Royal family.

Tolerance of those of different cultures, faiths and beliefs

  • Children are taught about modern Britain through group activities which help them to learn in age appropriate ways about their local area, art, history, special days and the country in which they live;
  • They learn about Christianity as the major religion of the country in which they live;
  • We plan activities to help children mark special days from other religions, countries and cultures through our group planning to teach them to respect the views and beliefs of others;
  • The children learn about their place in the wider world through books, multicultural and diverse resources, displays and themed activities;
  • We have strong links with our local community and children are taken on outings to learn about the area of Britain in which they live.

To support other childminders and early years providers we will share our British values statement on our blog.

We have also written this article about how providers might promote British values in a child-friendly way. We hope you find it useful.

Sarah and Nige / Knutsford Childminding, 02.2015

Cooking with children

There are lots of ways we can support children to be independent… and we know from reports that Ofsted inspectors want to see children involved in cooking and preparing their own food.

kids-cooking-images-boystirring

We plan our days at Knutsford Childminding so the children are involved in all aspects of meal times. Children in our provision choose what they want to eat and they are involved in making their own meals and snacks. They set and clear the table, pour their own drinks from a jug and love helping with washing up

We believe that the earlier we can involve children, the more they will enjoy contributing and helping when they get older. We provide a lot of kitchen role play in the playroom – children can make food with a pretend cooker, microwave and toaster and they can make potions in the garden.

Some of the children’s favourite meals to make are –

  • Pizza – they help make the base and chop then assemble their favourite toppings; cutting a pizza teaches children fractions
  • Pasta – they measure pasta and, while it is cooking they chop cheese and ham (or whatever they have chosen)
  • Bread making – they are involved in all aspects of bread making from preparing the dough to cutting the bread fresh out of the oven … well, slightly cooled!
  • Snack – chopping vegetables to eat with home-made yoghurt and cucumber dip; chopping fruit to eat with home-made pancakes
  • Fruit cookies – we use fresh fruit (or tinned) because we know that dried fruit is not popular with dentists (too much sugar).

Cooking doesn’t simply develop children’s independence. It is a very holistic activity that links across and 7 areas of learning –

  • C & L – children talk about what they are eating and learn kitchen language; they learn to describe tastes and textures; they learn the names of ingredients
  • Physical – fine motor skills are developed as children cut, whisk, spread etc
  • PSED – children talk about their likes and dislikes
  • Literacy – children read recipes and are involved with writing shopping lists
  • Maths – there is a huge amount of maths learning when cooking – number, shape, capacity, measure, speed, time, money, fractions and much more…
  • UW – home interests are complemented and close working partnerships with parents are enhanced; they are supervised to operate machines to prepare food (technology); we grow some of our own food
  • Art and design – we make our meals attractive and encourage children to use their imaginations when putting food on plates for their friends.

More cooking with children activity ideas for cooking with children can be found on my ‘Try it Tuesdays’ Pinterest page.

E-book 21 ‘Healthy Eating’ from Knutsford Childminding is full of meal ideas and healthy eating advice for early years providers.

Chat soon. Sarah x