Archive for November 2012

Pre-School Learning Alliance in Worcestershire   Leave a comment

Many years ago I used to be involved in the then Pre School Playgroup Association and held positions on both local and county groups.

I also am indebted to PPA (as was) for my tutor training and so much more!

It was through PPA that I grew in confidence, that I found that I actually knew what I was on about and started on my journey of self discovery – a journey that I am still on!

It was through PPA that I attended my first national conference – and through my involvement that I was there in Scarborough was PPA transformed into PLA (Pre-School Learning Alliance).

The local group was  the Kidderminster and District group and  the county one the Worcestershire Branch.

The only reason that I stopped my involvement was because I secured a post with the LA – and it was seen as conflict of interest – and so reluctantly I resigned from my volunteer roles in 2003.

In the years that followed The Worcestershire Branch lost their funding and as a result were not able to continue to offer all the services and support that they had provided for many years – and eventually in 2007 (I think – maybe slightly out ) the Worcestershire Branch closed.

Fast forward to 2012

Efforts are being made to re launch the Worcestershire Branch, So far there has been;

A meeting in Drotwich hosted by the Alliance and attended by representatives of the LA, the Alliance and local providers – including me

A ‘local forum’ attending by the same representative bodies – but more people from each. We had a talk from the Alliance about the (then) new EYFS.  And some lovely refreshments curtsy of Alice  from Madresfield  Early Years Center who hosted the event.

A meeting last night (26th November) at my setting to discuss the way forward of the Worcestershire Branch. It was a very positive meeting with lots of ideas and information sharing. It is hoped that we will be able to link the official re launch of the Worcestershire Branch with the Alliance’s launch of the childminder specific membership package, and to hold an open meeting with guest speaker and of course information about the Alliance and the Worcestershire Branch.

Exciting times ahead – and for me – in a way – coming full circle.

More details will be provided as they become available.

Posted November 27, 2012 by psw260259 in Pre School Learning Alliance

Review of Sue Gascoyne’s book ‘ Treasure Baskets and Beyond’   2 comments

It was a bit of a surprise when a few weeks ago an email arrived saying that the author of a book would like me to review it – I have never been asked to do anything like this before and so as I say, it was a bit surprise.
Anyway of course I accepted the invitation – well wouldn’t you – a free book just for reading it and passing comment?
Well to be truthful, I might have said no – if the book had been about World War Two or the history of the car – as neither subject has more that a passing interest from me .
However the book in question – as you will know from the title of this blog post – was about treasure baskets – so of course much more than a passing interest in this subject.
I received the book this week and could not put it down!
As some of you know I have problems with reading as well as writing – I used to be an avid reader – never without a book – but since I was ill a few years ago, I have had trouble with tracking with my eyes – which of course makes reading hard – but I manage – short bursts and move head more than I used to to save strain on eyes. However despite these problem solving tactics – I very rarely read anything from cover to cover anymore and tend to skim read factual stuff and avoid novels completely.
BUT – this book I have read – cover to cover! I will admit that I skim read the bits that I was familiar with – but there was so much useful and interesting information I found myself reading a lot more than I thought I would.
This week I have been seen reading standing up while eating on the go, while the children nap, early in the morning, late at night – including falling asleep on the sofa doing so and waking as the book falls to the floor when reading in bed – every time that I have had 10  mins (which is about as much as I can read at once) I have picked up the book and continued on my journey of discovery.
This is my review which I have put on Amazon (where they sell the book if you want your own copy)
In this book the author Sue Gascoyne uses the word wow in several contexts – about the content of treasure basket needing a wow factor and of course about the moments during play when the infant playing with the objects in the treasure basket has a ‘wow moment’.I now need to add another wow- that being my reaction when I first opened the book and saw the contents page and read the forward – this was a book that I was going to not only enjoy reading but learn a lot from as well.As a parent, grandparent and an early years practitioner I have used treasure baskets over many years both shop brought ones and ones that I have made myself, and have been fascinated by the play and discovery that develops through use of treasure baskets. I have also read lots of articles and attended workshops on treasure baskets. However it was not until I read Treasure Baskets and Beyond, that I fully appreciated the benefits of this type of play.

Throughout the book Sue Gascoyne refers to chapters already read and chapters still to come – I found this incredibly useful as it reminded me where I had read that bit of linked information and also signposted to where further information could be found – great for those who like to dip in and out of books and for those who maybe skim read and then think ‘now where did I read about that aspect?’

Almost every chapter had a wow piece of information, something that as an experienced practitioner I had not known or not fully understood before; and yet the book is wrote in a style that those who had no previous knowledge or experience about treasure baskets would fine easy to understand due to the explanations about terms used in layman’s language.

This book has a very apt title ‘Treasure Baskets and Beyond’ because it is not just about treasure baskets and it is not just about babies use of treasure baskets – it covers so much more – and to sum up I think the the final word in the title says it all ‘Beyond’ – it certainly took my understanding and knowledge to a new level – beyond what I knew before I read the book. I would recommend all early years practitioners, parents of young children and indeed primary school staff read this book, because the benefits of sensory rich play reach far beyond infancy and well into childhood – and beyond.

 Which says a lot about the book – but I thought as a bit of an extra I would give a bit more information to those that read my blog.

Just a few snippets you understand – not the whole content of the book – as I think Sue Gascoyne might have something to say about that.

By the way – did I tell you – I have actually met Sue – at the Early Years 2012 conference – I attended her workshop and chatted to her a couple of times (oh but I have told you this haven’t I? In my blog about the new resources from Play to Z which is Sue’s company that sells the most wonderful treasure baskets – and more)

So back to the book

Throughout the book there are links to theorists, to other authors – and to research – and a  long list of references at the back for those who want to read more from those authors and theorists mentioned.

I particularly liked the explanations about brain development – and although as Sue says herself,  it is a simplistic overview – I found it gave me a greater insight in to babies brain development and what was going on brain wise  during sensory play (which of course includes treasure basket play)

Also throughout the book are activity ideas for the reader to try for themselves to support the ideas and information in the book. There are also a lots of graphs and charts – and again I found these useful, particularly the ones that detailed the learning points from the real life observations used. There is also (at the back of the book) a template to use for treasure basket observations.

So there you are a few ‘extra’ snippets of information – and I have not mentioned a lot of aspects – you will need to read the book to find out more!

Posted November 23, 2012 by psw260259 in Random Things!

Membership Organisations – Is one better than the others?   Leave a comment

Without a doubt – yes one is better than the others!

BUT that is because each organisation will have its unique points that will appeal to different people, and for different reasons.

I have my own preference – and each person reading this blog post will have their own preferred membership organisation – and their reasons for that personal choice, OR indeed consider that they have no need for a membership organisation.

AND to be honest that is how it should be each of us able to choose and join the organisation that we think is best for us – or indeed join more than one organisation if we want to.

Until very recently there were very clear divides between organisations  with each organisation specialising mainly within one area of the early years sector. Now things are changing with both The National Childminding Association and The Pre-School Learning Alliance widening their membership beyond their ‘historic and traditional market’  Other organisations are joining forces within their sector, new organisations such as UKCMA are being formed, and smaller organisations such as Early Childhood Action are gaining support from those who believe in the same ethos and values.

So many things are changing  but in  my opinion it is always beneficial to have competition within any sector or market, as it can lead to keener prices and / or better services. Therefore I see the new organisations and the extending of established organisations as a positive thing.

I also personally think that it is time that individuals and organisations worked together a lot more – for the overall good and benefit of the whole early years sector. We are facing times of change – possible unprecedented change that will turn our working lives ‘upside down’ and create challenges that we have yet to image . This is not the time for attitudes of ‘this organisation is better than the rest’ or trying to ‘score points’ by keeping information within an organisation and not sharing with all that need to know.

Progress has been made in recent years – childminders are now seen much more positively as colleagues by other early years practitioners, organisations do ‘sit round’ the same table when meeting with government and other bodies. But there is still a very low professional status for all early years practitioners – and in particular childminders. Low pay for front line workers, small or no profits for owners of early years settings, all combine to put early years settings and early years practitioners at a disadvantage to those who work with primary and secondary aged children. It seems that those outside the early years sector have little understanding of the day to day job of  not only caring for very young children – but educating them as well.

Therefore I think it is vital that all those organisations involved in the early years sector, get together, sit round the same table – and decide on the points that they all agree on. Of course the organisations are not going to agree on everything – but I think there are several areas that they will be able to agree on.

Once those areas of agreement have been reached – all the early years organisations should lobby government ‘as one’ and ensure through their combined membership numbers  to ensure not only the government listen but the population of the country listens to the reasons why we should not, must not, gamble with our children’s future, why international research about child development and evidence from other countries must be used to inform any changes to regulation, curriculum and funding.

The children we look after do not have a voice as individuals within government circles – but it is those children who will be on the receiving end of any ill thought out plans, any cuts to services – and could ultimately be the ones that we as a society fail to safeguard  and fail to provide an appropriate childhood for.

We must all stand up together and work together to ensure the children in our care receive the best and most appropriate care and play based curriculum in their early years ………. and by early years I mean all those under 6 years of age

Posted November 21, 2012 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Monday 19th November – Introducing the Surprise Bag   4 comments

On Friday 16th another parcel had been delivered to Penny’s Place – but we were so busy we did not get to open it on Friday.

Penny opened it over the weekend – and was delighted – it was the ‘Surprise Bag’ she had ordered from Reflections on Learning

Mr. Penny’s Place said on seeing the contents ‘ Only you could pay good money for off cuts of wood’

Grandson Dominic aged 8 said ‘Have you been to your Junk Shop again’ (He means the Scrap Store)

Daughter Rosie (Early Years ‘person’) said ‘ That’s good – open ended play stuff’

Penny ‘got stuck in’ and played – even though it was a weekend.

So of course Penny was very keen to show the children the Surprise bag – but first to find ‘something’ to hold the items and allow access for play –  on the Reflections on learning website it shows the contents on a Builders Tray – but surprisingly Penny does not have one of those!

Not to be deterred Penny brought in the Sand Tray that she had got for £5 in the B&Q sale, put aside the mesh that keeps the sand in the tray – and with the use of some parcel tape – attached the waterproof cover and then turned the tray upside down – perfect.


So tray ready – as it would suggest in good planning documents – Penny invited the children into the lounge to explore the contents of the ‘Surprise Bag’

Hang on – pause – of course Penny did not ‘invite the children …’ they were already in the lounge – watching and asking questions!

‘What you doing Penny?’

‘Your scissors are sharp Penny – not for children?’

‘Can I get in?’

‘Is it a boat?’ ‘Is it a den?’  ‘Is it a box for toys?’

‘Can I help?’ ‘ No, me help’ x 4

And so tray ready – Penny tipped the Surprise Bag contents into the tray and watched (sorry observed and made notes in her head) and took photo’s – as can be seen below























Oh and as Penny can’t help playing – when the children moved on to other things – Penny made this model


And of course seeing Penny playing the children returned to look – Shona accidently knocked Penny’s model – ‘Sorry Penny ‘ she said and put the piece back on.

Erin then ‘accidently’ knock Penny’s model over and beyond repair – but that did not matter as we all made more models.

Posted November 21, 2012 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Tuesday 20th November – What’s This Penny? – PLANNING!!   4 comments

This morning my good friend Carol text to ask if I wanted to go to soft play with her – and I replied No thanks – going to dance to Busy Feet, do sticking activity of Polar Bears and maybe make cakes.

As I pressed send on the phone I realised that I actually had some pre planning in my head – even though I had not activity thought about it – it just sort of  all came together as I wrote the text to Carol.

So why did it ‘all come together’ – well the Polar Ber activity was already prepared – as a result of interest shown in polar bears when we have visited garden centers last week – and of course links to our topic book ‘Going on a Bear hunt’  – Yes I know it is not a polar bear in the story – and neither is Pudsey Bear- but both are bears and both therefore part of our activities.

Dancing to Busy Feet? Well they love it – and Chinzia is really enjoying her ballet (and now tap as well) ‘classes – and gives ‘instructions’ to the other children – I have never met her dance teacher but think I might know her if I heard her speak – as Chinzia says (clapping her hands) ‘Come on children on tippy toes, be a horse, come on everybody – copy me’ Oh and Mia also loves be a ‘ballerina’.

The cakes? Well for me really – because having discovered Groupon – I have invested £8 in a cup cake course! So of course I wanted to try out some of the ideas. However the mindees love cooking – so would fit in with their interests as well as mine.

The biggest surprise is – we did do all those things – and before lunch!

A few photo’s from this  mornings cooking – the cakes with stars on the top are Penny’s effort – mini Christmas cakes complete with marzipan and incing

Posted November 21, 2012 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Tuesday 13th November – Chinzia and Circles – Supporting her play   2 comments

I have noticed over the last couple of weeks that Chinzia has a growing interest in circle – in fact I am sure regular readers have also noticed this – because I have mentioned it a few times on my blog.

So this week I have added extra things to the storage units that house our heuristic type items – to see if Chinzia chooses to play with them – and if her interest in circles is continuing or not.

As an aside I have noted in a few recent inspection reports, that Ofsted are saying that next steps are not supported or documented, and furthermore that photographic evidence is not showing starting points or progress.

I find this interesting because I feel the inspectors are not valuing the evidence provided  – although of course the practitioners may not have explained why their system of photographs does show next steps planning and progress – or the photographs could just have been of happy smiling faces and therefore not really the evidence needed.

Time will tell if my photographic evidence is judged to be sufficient evidence of starting points and progress.

Back to Chinzia and her circles

The additional items added included – metal circle dishes in various sizes (all from Poundland) some baby links with circle and oval shapes (again from Poundand) and some metal spoons also oval and circle in shape.

There are already a lot of circle resources within the heuristic items  that Chinzia has selected to use again and again in recent weeks – so time to see wht she does today

I was not disappointed or surprised – circles continue to be an interest. I will let the photo’s speak for themselves.

Posted November 14, 2012 by psw260259 in Daily blog from my childminding setting

Thursday 1st November – New Activities   Leave a comment

I realise that I had forgotten to write this blog – and although now a couple of weeks ago – I have decided to write it now because it documents some activities that although not unique, are new to the children currently in my care .

The first new ‘activity’ was provided because my daughter Michelle (also a registered childminder) returned my set of ‘Big Builder’ toys which she had had on long term loan – due to the fact that were not developmentally appropriate for the children in my care at that point in time.

However of course the children in my care are all now a bit older -and as Michelle had recently moved house, she was keen to return the rather large box  – the two things came together – and the Big Builder set was returned.

At first the children just got the pieces out of the box, put the small pieces into the ‘box like’ pieces and used the long pieces as sticks!

But then they noticed the screwdrivers and spanners – and they know what these things are called and are used for because they currently have the plastic pretend tools within the continuous provision. So they started to use the screwdriver and spanner – but were not actually joining the pieces together.

As regular readers will know, Penny does not often join in with play but instead supports with hands on help – IF ASKED, or with verbal suggestions, but in this case Penny decided that the children needed extra support and in fact some demonstrations.

So Penny joined in and showed the children the nuts and the bolts – named them and then joined two pieces together, and added a third. Shona identified what Penny had made straight away – ‘You made triangle’.  Of course the children all then wanted triangles but rather than make them one each, Penny supported them to make their own. Some of them did ‘produce’ triangle but some produced ‘scissors’ (two pieces joined together at top) some produced ‘ a long one’ .

Penny then stopped playing and the children continued to build things from their imagination until lunchtime.

After nap time play continued – but the children needed support again because Alex wanted to make a ‘nee naw’, Shona a ‘robot’ and Archie a ‘lorry’.

For Alex – Penny joined two cubes together – Alex then added lots of blue lights (the blue bolts) and that was his nee naw.

For Archie – Penny also joined two cubes together – Archie then loaded up the back cube and pushed it around – that was his lorry

For Shona – Penny got carried away!!!  Shona found the required pieces and Penny joined them together.

The other ‘new’ activity was a large scale group art activity. Sounds grand – but was in fact just a roll of old wallpaper that Penny rolled out on the kitchen floor, and a box of crayons. However what was interesting was that the children worked at the same time on the paper – each doing their own artwork – they found their own space – and just got on with it. They actually spent almost an hour engaged in this activity.

Posted November 14, 2012 by psw260259 in Daily blog from my childminding setting