Archive for September 2018

A couple of parcels for the children at Granny’s Daycare   Leave a comment

Setting the Scene

I used to be a registered childminder until April 2016, and occasionally would review products for the early years. In particular those from Early Years Resources (if interested use the search box to locate those blogs). Then on my retirement I was asked if I could still review products but at a colleagues setting – this worked well and I had 2 colleagues who were willing to help – and for their help they could  keep the products to use in their setting. THEN – one resigned and one retired!

So as Early years Resources would still like me to occasionally review products for them, I have come up with another idea – Granny DayCare!

I have always looked after my grandchildren, both as a Granny who was a childminder, then just as a Granny. To be honest apart from the lack of an Ofsted certificate and any payment, there are not many differences because once a childminder – always a childminder with the same focus on the individual child, the same setting up of an enabling environment, the same attention to safety and so on.

So one the day in question when I reviewed these latest resources, I had 3 of my grandchildren in my care Annabelle who had just had her 4th birthday, Anya who is 3, and because it was the school holidays, Selena who is 6. The girls are all used to spending time at Granny’s and used to each other.

The Products Being Reviewed                                                                                                      The first product is the Dinosaur Weaving Frames

Chosen because both of the younger girls have had a long term interest in dinosaurs – although to be honest in recent months they have shown more interest in unicorns, ponies and fairies.

The second product is the Rustic Play Blocks

Chosen because I love wooden blocks and I wanted to see what this set was like, and if a fairly small set could engage the children as much as the rather large set that I used to own as a childminder.

The Review                                                                                                                                             Before the children arrived I had set up the lounge and dining room much as I used to when a childminder. In the lounge the coffee table was pushed to the wall to create a large open play space, Some duplo was put on the coffee table, and a basket of heuristic play things on the floor. The new resources were sill in their packaging so the children and I could open together – just as I did when childminding. There was also a basket of assorted ribbons, and  laces ready to use. In the dinning room there was some painting resources on the table and a pop up tent complete with cushions, books and some soft toys.

The 3 girls were very excited to see the new resources and wanted to open them before playing with the other older resources.

First the weaving frames, despite not being their most current interest, the girls were delighted with the frames and were able to recognised and name each of the 3 dinosaur shapes. Descriptions of size, shape, if flew or walked, if had 2 or 4 legs – and which was their favourite littered the conversations. They had to wait while Granny selected some laces to tie the weaving frames to door handles, so the girls could stand to do their weaving – and so there was plenty space between the frames. Selena got stuck right in, knowing how to weave and having a plan in her head of creating straight lines. She used appropriate wording describing her ribbons and laces in terms of colours, width, and length. She also wanted Granny to constantly look at her weaving and to comment, which of course Granny did. Selena continued with her weaving until just about every hole in the frame had been used. She was very pleased with her work, and when her mummy collected her later, she wanted to tell mummy all about her weaving – and of course show her, which was possible because Granny had left the weaving frame on the door for everyone to admire.

Weaving 2[1]     weaving-eyr-71.jpg

Weaving EYR 15[1].jpg  WEaving EYR 17[1].jpg

6 year old Selena’s weaving

Annabelle, had not done any weaving for a while and had forgotten how to weave. Her first attempts just fell out and she needed some support from Granny to get started. She was very interested in the colour of the ribbons and the length. She liked the longs ones but could not quite manage to perfect her weaving and although did succeed with some in and out weaving, she also  had lots of loose bits that she started to weave  but then left ‘hanging’. However she was very pleased with her efforts, and like Selena sought lots of praise from Granny.

Weaving EYR 18[1].jpg   Weaving EYR 18[2].jpg

4 year old Annabelle’s  weaving

Anya quietly concentrated on her task, like Annabelle she struggled with her technique but kept trying. Anya commented out loud to herself ‘in and out of the holes’ and ‘up and down’. Even so, Anya still had lots of ribbon hanging loose. This did not bother Anya as she thought it was ‘beautiful’ and particularly liked the stripy shoe laces to weave with. Like her sister and cousin,  Anya wanted Granny to admire her work.

Weaving EYR 16[1].jpg

3 year old Anya’s weaving

All 3 girls really enjoyed the weaving and remained on task for about 40 minutes. All were very pleased with their finished dinosaur  frames – as was Granny.

Granny had supplied a range of ribbons and threading laces but this could have been extended with pipe cleaners, string and wool. Children could be challenged to try only using certain colours, or to weave other materials into their weaving. In addition patterns could be made both with colours and with ‘holes’ used.

However, based on my knowledge of child development and how children learn through hands on experimentation, I would much rather just provide children with opportunities to use the frames regularly and observe what they do. I see my role as one of support offering encouragement, praise and vocabulary. Of course if the children suggest ideas, I would be very happy to discuss their ideas.

One of the features I like about these frames is they can be used inside and outside, and are very easy to tie to objects or just put on a flat surface. However, I don’t think the frames could be left outside for long periods of time in inclement weather.

Using the Rustic Blocks

As a childminder I always had blocks of some sort as I believe they are a very versatile resource with many uses. At first I just had some cube blocks as used to be in push a long walker; then I had small blocks in various shapes and colours; and finally a huge collection of natural blocks in many shapes and sizes.

Since retiring, I have just kept a small collection of smaller size wooden blocks for grandchildren’s use, and to be honest these blocks had not been played with for a while due to having kitchen make over, which meant I could not access the blocks easily.

Once the girls had finished their weaving they were keen to play with the blocks, and started to sort the blocks, and build with them straight from the box. They named the shapes they recognised, Selena had clearly been learning about 3 D shapes, while both Anya and Annabelle were more confident with the 2 D shape names. On a couple of occasions Granny was asked to name unrecognisable shapes.

Annabelle was really into careful design and building, while Anya preferred lines and towers.

20180820_1445011-e1537270663367.jpg               20180820_1445391.jpg20180820_1446491.jpg20180820_1532561.jpg20180820_1458101.jpg

Some of the structures made with the blocks

After a while, Selena decided that the blocks were books in a library and invented a whole game around library books; borrowing, taking home to the play tent – there was even mention of fines for being late in returning the block books.

Both Anya and Annabelle enjoy the library books game and pretended to borrow books, and then to read them to the toy dogs and teddies. Granny recognised several of their current favourite stories. When Selena said the library was closed the girls all read bedtime stories from their block library books before pretending to go to sleep.

As you can see from the photos although a fairly small set of blocks, there were plenty of different shapes and more than enough for the girls to play both alongside each other and together. As an adult I appreciated the rounded edges and smooth surfaces.

On this occasion the children did not add things to their block play, other than their imagination. However, I know from past block play adding natural resources such as pebbles and pine cones; or small world people; or heuristic objects or loose parts can transform and extend block play.

If I was setting up as a childminder again, would I buy these items?

Yes I would because they would be used over and over again in a huge variety of different ways, and by children across the early years age range – and so well worth the investment.

Passing on the resources in this review

As I am not setting up again as a childminder, and as I don’t personally want myself or a family member to benefit from keeping the resources, I asked Early Years Resources if it would be acceptable to pass them on to a local children’s charity. This was agreed to and so I have passed them on to Wyre Forest Home Start for their volunteers to use with local families and in their drop in groups.






Posted September 18, 2018 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

A bit of an explanation …   Leave a comment

Pre Amble                                                                                                                                              I think it is fair to say that the only noticeable thing about my blogs since late 2016 is the reduced quantity and quality!

In April / May 2016, I was on a bit of a high,  personally and professionally. I had held a very successful celebration event to mark my retirement from registered childminding; had been on an inspirational trip to Germany on a trip to Keilhau to re-discover Froebel (or in my case to discover for the first time); was involved with my volunteering for early years membership organisations at national level, and working in partnership with some of the key people in the early years field; and although unable to publically say so had just been informed that The Queen was awarding me a British Empire Medal in her 90th Birthday Honours in June 16, for my volunteering and contribution to Early Years.

Life was pretty good – especially as at the time I was not taking any medications for my diabetes and had lost a lot of weight.

Then things started to go downhill and life was far from good.

My Story                                                                                                                                                  There are two parts to my story, one part is about something that happened which had a huge impact on me, and the other about my health and the impact this has had on my career, on my volunteering and on my future.

The first part of my story is fact and anyone who understands the impact of stress will understand the  huge impact this had on me.

I was reported to the Disclosure and Barring Service and it was stated I should be barred. I am sure everyone can relate to the stress this caused me, as it suggested I was not fit or safe to work with children, despite a 30+ year unblemished  track record of looking after children and being a volunteer within Children’s Services.

Don’t get me wrong ALL allegations should be investigated and in my case I am glad they were because no charges were made, I was not Barred and in fact I was reissued with clear DBS record  almost immeadiatly (although it took a year to receive the ‘nothing to answer to’ letter).  However, the thought that anyone would even think I could harm a child in anyway. still haunts me, as do the consequences of the allegations at the time.

One impact was on my volunteering, as being who I am and with my personal ethos, I contacted all the organisations and individuals that I worked in partnership with at that time, and told them to cancel my membership and to distance themselves from me because I had no idea what was being said about me, if the truth would be established or not, and therefore did not want to risk any ‘by association’ negative impact on those organisations. who had always valued me as a volunteer.

NB Now my name has been cleared, I have re joined all my membership organisations, and continue to work in partnership with them, even though my ill health prevents me from being as active in my volunteering as I would like to be.

The second part of my story is about my health as throughout the traumatic experience of the allegations,  I was becoming seriously ill.  In fact when trying to defend my position through various appeals,  I struggled to physically move, was in extreme pain and as a result on high doses of prescribed morphine. It is fair to say that I was unable to adequately put my case as I struggled to remember small detail, struggled to think enough to string a sentence together and as a result did not put my case forward robustly enough. Although I did manage to clear my name and prove I was not a threat to children. In fact children remained in my care during that time, which was evidence that even before DBS had finished their investigation, I was not considered a serious threat to children’s well being.

It is hard to explain how  terrible the situation was, being so ill and worrying what was wrong with me (as the doctors did not know) and trying to defend  my reputation and livelihood.

By late 2017, I still did not know what was wrong with me,  I could not work  as by this point I was unable to think or move or control my body functions. To make matters worse because no one knew what was wrong with me I could not claim benefits (not enough ticks in the right boxes).

Then in early 2018 I saw a new consultant who diagnosed that I had Diabetic Radiculopathy which is very rare and not much is known about it – only that have to manage the pain so don’t become permanently disabled  through lack of movement, and that eventually most people do recover from it.

This meant I was finally able to apply for benefits and was awarded max PIP and the extended EESA – although not enough to live on, it is enough to make a difference (with Garry’s wage) between surviving and not surviving.

I have to push myself everyday to do just about anything and everything, the pain is at times unbearable, but I was (and still am) determined to a) come off the morphine, b) improve my mobility. The good news is I am reducing the morphine – very slowly and  with help from my GP who has been very supportive, phoning regularly for updates and to advise me. I have gone from a high of 240mg of morphine a day,  to now just 50mg a day, although it is a struggle and I often need additional pain relief to get through the day – but at least now on a much more acceptable long term dose of morphine.

With mobility things are improved but I still struggle to walk and still use mobility aids most of time. Balance is not good, flexibility is not good, strength is still weak and I tire very easily. However, I am confident that ‘ baby steps’ forward will get me there in the end. The frustrating aspect is when I have set backs, which happen quite often and always happen whenever morphine has been reduced, at these times I can get a bit depressed and worry that having taken a step or two backwards, that I will keep going backwards not forwards. As I write this blog, I am in a lot of pain and really struggling as last week reduced morphine – but I must try to be positive as I really don’t need to take any tablets for depression (my doctor actually recommends ‘pick me ups’ of chocolate, cake and socialising) but of course this impacts on weight and glucose levels.

The reason I do not want to take any more pills is it has finally been agreed by doctors that I react negatively to most drugs ( I always have but it has been difficult to prove this). In fact the Diabetic Radiculopathy was caused in Feb 2017  by going back on insulin, and my body’s reaction to it – proof in itself  that insulin does not work for me.  A couple of weeks ago I took myself off insulin, because it was slowly making me ill. This is the third time I have done this in recent years. So I know the scenario now – Glucose goes up, doctors insist go back on insulin, it works for a month or two but then glucose goes up, insulin ineffective, I become ill with brain fog, general fatigue and more – and I put lots of weight on in a very short period of time.

My GP and consultant are fully aware that I have come off insulin and are supporting me but the bottom line is if I can’t control my glucose levels through diet (trying  a low carb diet) and increased exercise (difficult at the moment as can’t do much), then sooner or later damage will occur to my major organs and I will have to consider going back on insulin knowing full well what might happen.

My GP says I need to consider my quality of life, and at the moment being off insulin does give me better quality of life, but in the future I will need to make difficult decisions. Being stuck between a rock and a hard place comes to mind.

Recently I have started swimming (well more of a desperate doggy paddle, as can’t extend legs or arms to do front or back crawl), and even standing in the water knocks me off balance, so I have to stay in the lane by the wall! Not even had the induction for the Gym yet because although part of my membership, the trainer took one look at me and said ‘we will leave this for another day’! However, it is a start and does help me be more physically active on the days I am well enough.


All of this lack of physical mobility, pain and low income means I can’t attend many conferences or meetings either locally or nationally.  My volunteering and advocacy has almost completely stopped, and that depresses me because volunteering and more recently campaigning have been a huge and important part of my life.

On the positive, I am becoming involved with my local Home Start and I am applying to become a Trustee, so if successful, this will help replace my national volunteering, and my sense of well being.

Over the last 18 months I have been supported by many friends and colleagues with some going out of their way to stay in touch via emails / social media and phone calls, and some travelling various distances to pick me up from home and take me out for a few hours. I have loved being able to keep in touch and in a small way to feel still part of the early years world. Thank you to those friends and colleagues – you know who you are. If you are not in touch with me, and would like to renew connections, or make new ones, please do get in touch via email, phone or social media as a chatty email or phone call, or a few hours out of the house really does make a difference.

However, some have stopped engaging with me, stopped sharing with me. I no longer get hundreds of emails;  many no longer re tweet my tweets or share my Facebook posts. Although this greatly disappoints me – I do understand this – I am not up to speed; I no longer have new information to share;  and as I said at the beginning, my blogs are noticeable for their absences. All of this saddens me as I still think the same, I still have an opinion but due to circumstances beyond my control it is very difficult to remain involved, or to continue sharing because of the ‘morphine fog’ in my brain that I have to live with.  As a result I am no longer a leading voice for childminders or within the early years sector. I am not sure I will ever regain ground lost……

…….. BUT I am not giving up, I have a number of blogs on my list that I want to write, it doesn’t really matter if no one reads them, writing them will be enough.

This blog is the starting point of my attempt to rediscover myself;

I want to write about my last networking event (which was good but lacked various things because I was too ill really to do it justice) In particular I have lots of information about the early days of the membership organisations that people have shared with me and I want to make this public. Not sure how long it will take me to publish all the information I have, as much of it needs collating and actually typing into a blog, and many days are still really difficult.  It may take to the end of my days if the morphine fog does not lift, and my hope is that over time people will help me with my self appointed task – and if I don’t finish it, take it on when I am no longer able to. Not that I am planning on disappearing from this world anytime soon, but I have to be realistic about my health.

I want to blog about the Pre School Learning Alliance AGM and conference in June 18, – and in particular about the question I asked Amanda Spielman – and she avoided answering by saying was a comment not a question. It most certainly was a question.

I have a couple of blogs on reviewing products – one has recently been published  and hopefully the other will be written this week.

And of course I still feel very strongly that past and current Government policy is failing our children – in fact failing to safeguard them in the widest sense, and I want to comment via my blog.

So that is my explanation of the last 18 months;  what the future holds I don’t know but I really hope to find a way to  re engage fully with the early years sector, and to find a way to resume my volunteering and campaigning at national level as well as local level, so I can make a difference to children and families.







Posted September 4, 2018 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

Review of ‘How To Keep Children Safe’ by Jo FitzGerald   2 comments

Pre Amble

Back in June 2018 I attended the Pre- school Learning Alliance conference in London. It was the first time in a long time that I had travelled to London or attended a national conference due to a long period of ill health.

There has been a delay in gathering my thoughts within a blog due to that same ill health, but better late than never, I am now able to do so.

At the conference I was delighted that despite the fact I had been away for so long, and was clearly still not well and relying on my rollator to move around, people were very kind and made a point of coming up to speak to me, One of those people was Jo FitzGerald, who I do not know apart from interaction on Social Media.

Jo approached me and gave me a copy of her book ‘How to Keep Children Safe’ which is a parent’s guide to helping young children deal with potentially worrying and dangerous situations. Although I no longer run a childminding setting (having retired from registered childminding) I am Granny to 11 grandchildren ranging in age from 19 down to a few months. As  some of my grandchildren are on the autistic spectrum and some receiving support for mental health issues, I was immediately interested in the title because worrying and potential dangerous situations were part of the things I was dealing with, when supporting the grandchildren. Naturally anything that could support myself, the children’s parents and the children was of interest to me.

So when Jo handed me the book and said ‘I would be very interested in your opinion Penny’, I said ‘I will be delighted to read it and give my opinion’.

And I did read it, several times, just to make sure I had understood everything, because the trouble of being on high doses of morphine (as I was at the time) you do struggle to concentrate, to focus and to remember.

Now several months later, I am on less morphine and able to focus much better so I have read it again, and the guidance at the back of the book. Unfortunately the website address given was not working, so will need to check that later


My Review

Jo FitzGerald  from Tiny Sponges, is a mum, grandparent, teacher, blogger, and writes from her own scary experiences and experiences of supporting children.

The book states that it is suitable for children from as young as 4, and I think with the right support even younger children could benefit from a scaled down version, provided the adult explains very clearly in basic terms and without too much additional scary information.

The book itself is not scary and is very reassuring , and with child friendly rhyming text. It states clearly that scary situations don’t happen all the time, but if they do, the best thing is to have a plan – one that has been discussed with trusted adults such as parents / grandparents / teachers, and where possible practiced through role play or just talking the plan through regularly.

When my own youngest child was about 2, I lost her in a busy shopping centre – not for long but it was very scary for myself and for my child (and the ones not lost, but caught up in the situation). From then on I started to talk to my own children and the children I childminded about scary situations such as getting lost, not being able to see Mum or Dad, or me as their childminder. I felt it was important to recognise that not all children think they are lost as they might think they were safe doing whatever it was that they had wondered off to do – and it was the parent that was lost!

In Jo’s book she does cover the scenario about if you can’t see your adult which is good.

A few years after I had implemented teaching children what to do in these situations, one of the families I childminded for went on holiday to France. When they returned they told me I had potentially saved their child’s life and certainly had made a very scary situation far less stressful than it could have been. Their son who was under 3, had managed to get separated from the rest of the family in a busy city. He only knew a few French words such as Hello, goodbye, thank you, and so when he got lost the family were very worried. However, he was not lost for long because he had followed the plan I had practiced with him and the other children, and had found a person in uniform – in this case a French Policeman, who like most French people spoke fairly good English. The child was quickly reunited with his family.

Therefore I fully support the idea in’ How To Keep Safe …’ about making plans because I know it works.

The book does not only cover things like getting lost, or fires, it also covers things like people who might want to hurt you and terrorists. I know children do worry about these things because it is on the news, and they overhear family and other adults talking about these things. I also know some of them have active imaginations either on their own or with a group of friends, and will create imaginary situations where they do get hurt, or where there is no way out. So it is very important these days that adults do overcome their fear that they will scare their children by talking about these things and somehow make things worse – because they won’t. If the child knows the plan and knows what to do, the child will be reassured – and less likely to panic if they find themselves in such a situation, which could make things worse. So I would urge all adults with responsibility for young children to tackle these subjects.

My own comment for improvement in the book is about the images as they are a little stereotypical with a man in dark clothing in the shadows in one image of a ‘scary person’, and a smiley lady in another as a ‘safe person’. I think it is important to make children aware that ‘scary people’ can be male, female, old, or young – and so can safe people. I do like the suggestion that a ‘safe person’ could be wearing a name badge or be in uniform but there are ways to tell if safe. I used to tell the children, safe people are often with other people, so family groupings, often will have small children with them, or will be in a shop.

I like the idea in that insurance advert where it says ‘Could be them, or them, or them’ showing nuns, a dog, an old couple as possibly being responsible for damaging a parked car. Maybe adults reading the book could use pictures of likely safe or scary people within the role play with children to help them make good choices when selecting a ‘safe person’?

I also recommend that adults read the ‘Things to Talk About’ at the back of the book before sharing the book with a child because the suggestions are really helpful in extending the story so the most can be made of every page.

I shall be keeping the book on my bookshelf to share with grandchildren and their parents. I will also be sharing with my local Home Start group, as I am becoming a Trustee and think this book will be useful in their work with families and children.

Finally I have already shared the book with one of my daughters who works for a national children’s charity, and directly with the children age 5 – 12. She was impressed with the book (although shared my concerns about some of the images). She also thought some examples of plans would be useful – well actually I have read there are examples of plans on the website, so once the website is back online, I will be looking at these – as will my daughter. Thanks to Jo’s generosity a copy of the book has been sent to my daughter so she can show it to her work colleagues.


Many thanks to Jo FitzGerald for asking me to review her book, as I have enjoyed doing so, and think I will  return to many times over the years.


Posted September 2, 2018 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues