Archive for the ‘Daily blog from my childminding setting’ Category

A return visit to Witley Court – Friday 8th August 2014   Leave a comment

Actually this was a return visit for some of the children, but a first visit with Penny for others (although had been with their parents) and for one child a first ever visit

Witley Court is now in the care of English Heritage and details can be found  HERE , however when Penny and Mr. Penny’s Place were children it was a neglected ruin where local children would crawl under the fence and play. Of course Penny did not know Mr.Penny’s Place then as lived in different villages and went to different primary schools – but we did both go there to play on occasion.

Attached to Witley Court is Great Witley Parish Church with a hidden surprise awaiting those who venture inside as can be seen by clicking



Great Witley Parish Church also has a link to Penny’s past – as when a Girl Guide,Penny took part in Remembrance Services and on a couple of occassions was responsible for carrying the flag

Penny and Mr. Penny’s Place have visited Witley Court and Great Witley Parish Church on many occasions over the years and never fail to be impressed or to notice the changes as the court gardens and the fountain have been restored.

So getting back to the return visit 3 x 4 yr old childminded children and 1 x 12 yr old foster child and myself planned this trip a couple of days in advance and then noted  with dismay that the weather forecast was not good. On Friday morning it was drizzling and the skies were grey and very overcast – still undeterred the children made their own sandwiches, we packed suncream and waterproofs and set off.

As we drove the skies started to clear and by the time we arrived at Witley Court it looked like we would be needing the suncream more than the waterproofs.

The good thing about going to Witley Court is because I and Mr. Penny’s Place are members of English Heritage we do not have to pay   when we visit any of their attractions – and our membership  covers any children we take with us. So although I had the 3 minded children and 1 foster child with me – there was still nothing to pay.

After a quick trip to the toilets we set of  down the path towards Witley Court – spying it through the trees and across the lake for what turned out to be a very enjoyable walk . We stop at the great big chunk of  fallen tree which the children climbed – and were surprised to find a puddle on the top of it!

I have lots of photo’s but most have the children’s faces showing – so here a just a few without faces.
















We showed the man at the gate our ticket – and went into the gardens of Witley Court with the imposing building right in front of us.

We turned left – not a lot of choice really as English Heritage are currently doing some work on the building and so you can’t go up the steps and in through the main entrance.

However by turning left  we cold take a good look at he formal gardens and the smaller of the two fountains



We then went into the court itself -and into what was the ballroom, and because I know the story so well I was able to tell them about the fire that had destroyed parts of the court – and show them the charred wood and where things used to be. The children were fascinated about the story of the fire and asked lots of questions about the fire engine – and then were puzzled when I explained they dd not have a fire engine like Fireman Sam . So lots more questions about when the building was ‘fired’.

Next stop was where the grand hall used to be and the grand staircase – the children worked out where the stairs used to be – and while they were looking at this feature – I heard a noise that I recognised – the sound of the fountain starting up – and so I hurried the children back towards the gardens – but not the side garden – rather the front garden – and this is what they saw – the Perseus and Andromeda fountain!












We walked down to the fountain for a better look – and to experience the feel of the water mist and the sound of the water cascading back down. We stopped for snack, and watched the fountain for about 30 mins, before moving on to look at the rest of Witley Court. The children were still asking questions about when it was ‘fired’ – but they were also interested in the bits of pillar and wall in some of the rooms, and in the bits of glass still visable in the walls of the orangery – and it has to be said  – lots of questions about when we were going to go to the play area.


Next stop was the church – the children thought the outer door was a door for a giant (it was huge) . Inside the church they looked into the mirror so they could see the superb paintings , they asked questions about the font – and the lady guide explained to them about how the font had been recently cleaned and the ceiling quite few years ago.

By now it was 12 noon – and it was getting quite hot – so we detoured to the tea rooms just down the lane – had some strawberry ice  cream- and I applied the afore mentioned sun cream to all the children.

Then to the delight of the children we started our journey towards the play area – back past the main entrance to the court, back past the fallen tree and the lake – and then we took a right turn and followed the path through the wood – going over the bridge (where of course they had to look to see if the troll was at home)


Then just when they were thinking that we were not going to find the park – round the corner and there it was!

We found a picnic bench – and another surprise for me – the bench commemorated the life of Clifford T Ward – who had lived in the same village as me and whose children  I had babysat for a couple of times.  (For those interested this is one of my favourite of his songs – Home Thoughts from Abroad – and it mentions Worcestershire – where I lived then – and still do although in a different bit of it  I wondered as I was sat on his bench – if he had enjoyed visits to Witley Court.






Lunch eaten and the children went off to play on the rather grand Woodland Adventure play equipment, of which only part of it is shown in this photo.


And then it was time to head back to Penny’s Place – a lovely day, enjoyed by all.




Posted August 11, 2014 by psw260259 in Daily blog from my childminding setting

It is a good thing that there were no childminded children attending this weekend, because ……   5 comments

……… they would have a lot of questions to ask Penny !


Following on from my decision to reorganise the play space here at Penny’s Place (and if you have not read about it yet – you can do so by clicking on the link Why is the Sofa in the garden Penny?  , this weekend (2nd &3rd August) I decided to reorganised the storage in the garage.


Over the months since the last reorganisation things had become rather untidy –  actually being truthful it had become a mess – and dangerous. This was due to two facts

1) I simply have too much ‘stuff’

2) I simply do not have time to put things away properly and tidily – I am always in a rush, always multi tasking or rushing off to meetings and so on. Not really that good as excuses – but it is the truth. (I can hear Mr.Penny’s Place saying ‘Yep its true – stuff all over the place’, always rushing around multitasking).

However as well as needing to have a major reorganisation to ensure the storage was safe, and to enable easy access to things and to save time looking for things that were not in their ‘proper place’ or were at the bottom of one of my famous piles – I actually had another three reasons for spending just about all weekend sorting and reorganising.

1) I needed to make room in the garage for our foster child’s bike, and fishing stuff, and wellies and walking boots and so on.

2) I needed to find a home for the triple pushchair that I had brought in a sale – and that ever since has been propped up in front of the freezer in the garage – and so needed moving every time anyone  wanted to get something out of the freezer (and it is heavy and bulky so difficulty to move)

3) I wanted to put more of my resources into the drawer units like the ones in the reorganised play space. so that rotation of resources / responding to children’s requests / meeting development needs – would simply be a case of swapping the drawers from the middle room bases, with drawers from the garage bases, Simply really – and easy.


I can almost hear readers asking – but what about those questions the children  would have been asking – had they attended Penny’s Place this weekend

I have not forgotten – coming to them now

The first question they would ask would be ……..

……. ‘Penny, WHO made that MESS?

Take a look at the photo’s and you will see what I mean – because to start the process – EVERYTHING had to come out of garage – well no, that is not true, as some stuff had to stay on the shelves as there simply was not room to get it all out at the same time!











Yes you are right – you can hardly see the lovely environment created in the first part of this reorganisation as stuff is piled everywhere – and worse it overflowed into the kitchen!


And through the open garage door you can see how much stuff is still on the shelves.

I am sure some of you are now thinking Mr.Penny’s Place is a saint (or maybe knows  after almost 38 years of marriage, that is no point in saying anything) to put up with me and all the stuff I have.


The children’s second question would have been ‘Where shall we play?’ Luckily I did not have to answer that one – but if I had it would have been ‘outside’ as ‘inside’ was completely unsafe

And of course the children would have wanted to / prefer to explore all the things piled everywhere – some of which have not been available for some time.

The next question would have been ‘Penny, who is going to tidy up ?’


Well following my own guidance ……. of course, I did as I had made the mess


And by 5 o’clock on Sunday 3rd August the garage looked like this
























So a good job done? All organised here at Penny’s Place?



The spare room looks like this – somewhere in there is a set of bunk beds!












And Penny’s bedroom looks this – boxes and boxes of paperwork, activities, and so on



Oh well – as the children would say ‘Who made that mess?’

It seems yet more reorganisation is needed – this time of boxes and paperwork – but that will have to wait for another day.

In the meantime downstairs is organised and working really well.  The new layout with the option to easily change the drawers in the base units – is,  if I say so myself – one of my better ideas – and so after years of reflecting and making changes – I am now very happy with the play environment and the accessibility to resources.


That is until further reflection, changes to children and their needs brings about another change – and that is how it should be – constant reflection and appropriate changes as needed  (but between you and me – I hope it will be a while before another change is needed, because to be honest – it is shattering doing such a major reorganisation!)



A surprise arrives via the parcel man from Early Years Resources   Leave a comment

One of the more pleasing aspects of becoming a bit more well known within the wider early years sector, is that I get asked to take part in things, to sign things, and to comment on things.

And a couple of months ago I was asked if I would like to comment on the new Childminder Selection catalougue from Early Years Resources – as I had ordered things from this company in the past (mainly sale items it has to be said) I thought ‘why not’ – and so asked for a catalogue to be sent.

When it arrived I was quite taken with it  – the A5 size of the catalogue , the selection of items including the size of packs making them suitable for childminders, but also the multi pack option, so could share with colleagues and benefit from large pack discounts – and the links to other items in the main catalogue.

There were a few things that I thought could be further developed and a few things I thought could be added – and so I sent these suggestions in with my feedback about the catalogue.

To my surprise, I received an email back to say the MD liked my suggestions and would like to work with me – and more to the point would I like to review some items for them.

Well I did not need asking twice! My reputation and thirst for new resources is well known by my family, friends, parents of children using my childminding service – and readers of this blog.

So I sent a list of things from the childminder catalogue that I did not already have – and that were appropriate to the stages of development and interests of the children in my care – and said ‘choose and surprise me’

And in due course we had a delivery from our favourite delivery man Mr.Singh – the children love him because he is always bringing parcels and he smiles at the children and answers their questions (brave man – they have lots of questions!)

On this particular day – although Penny had had an email telling her what was in the parcel that Mr.Singh was delivering – Penny had not told the children about the parcel ‘What is in the parcel?’ they asked Mr.Singh ‘ I don’t know’ he said ‘You will have to open it to find out’ I find it interesting that the children assume the delivery driver knows what is in the parcels that he brings us.

Anyway, we say goodbye to Mr. Singh and get the parcels inside – first surprise for the children – they had to wait for Penny to get the camera and to take pictures of the sealed boxes! (Well if I am going to review an item – I am going to do it properly)



The boxes were opened and we all peered inside – to be honest the children were still a bit puzzled, although they could identify a star – so spontaneous singing of ‘Twinkle Twinkle’

















We then took the contents out of boxes and opened the packets      – this is what we discovered














Can we use them? asked the children – Of course they could – but first a few more pictures which the children kindly and happily helped me to do.    Once the pictures had been taken we looked for places to hang up the weaving frames – my intention is that they will go in the outside environment  but for now the doors in the lounge and a cupboard would have to do – the children selected ribbons and pipecleaners from the vast range of weaving materials that we had been sent – and ‘got stuck in’











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Then when they had finished their weaving – about an hour later – they decided to use the weaving materials in another way – like this



This is the only photo without happy faces in it – but the children made lots of lines with the weaving materials all over the lounge – playing for at least another 30 mins.

Personal Evaluation of the weaving frames and weaving materials

I am personally very impressed with the quality of the weaving frames – they should last for years and years and stand up to whatever small children do to them / with them, and with the plastic coating will be easy to clean. The selection of weaving materials sent is comprehensive and encourages imaginative use.

The children in my care were keen to play and explore, were fully engaged and creative in their use of this item. They have experienced weaving before with my home made resources but they remained engaged for a longer period of time with this resource. I plan to offer this experience again, and to observe their interest and use. Personally I think they will extend their own learning and come up with even more ways to weave and be creative – time will tell.


For those who are interested in this resource here are the official details from Early Years Resources

Product image

View weaving-frames.jpg in slide show




Link to weaving frame special offer

The weaving materials were selected by Early Years Resources and included pipe cleaners, different types of ribbons, and different widths of ribbons.


I would like to express my thanks to Early Years Resources for giving myself and the children at Penny’s Place the opportunity to review this product.






A visit to the Farm Park   Leave a comment


Our fostering agency is based at Top Barn and on the same site is a Farm Park.  Information  can be found here LINK TO TOP BARN FARM WEBSITE, and so when it was suggested that I might like to spend every Wednesday at the fostering agency site Site  during term time I said a very definite ‘Yes Please’  – even though at that time, I thought I would be paying to use the site

Base consists of three old but very usable static caravans – one has a lounge area, a kitchen area and a large area that is used for crafts and where we have lunch on very wet days.

Another caravan has a lounge area, a kitchen area, a toy room and a indoor sandpit room (the third caravan is not for children to use). there is also a training room, storage containers, male and female toilets  ……. and several large poly tunnels  ……. and lots of space to run, explore and generally have fun outside.


And so myself and my friend Carol and my daughter Michelle (both registered childminders) now go to the fostering agency site most Wednesday’s during term time – and so far they have refused to take any payment at all for the use of their site.

Although our visits vary there are things we do most weeks – for example we walk to the farm shop to buy our snack items – going past the lake (on the other side of the road)  and the farm animals that are in the outside fields of the Farm Park – so the sheep, the goats and the donkeys

We water and care for the things that we are growing in the poly tunnels – and use the child sized watering cans, and gardening tools that we have provided but leave on site for everyone to use.














The children always play outside – they love having the space and the freedom, as once the gate is closed the area is secure. They nearly always want some sort of water play (current favourite being painting the storage container with water and real paint brushes), and enjoy running, hiding and chasing games.















There is always a creative activity available either via the basic resources that we keep in the caravan – such as paints, paper, stickers, glue sticks, crayons and scissors; or via a prepared activity that we bring with us to support interests and background themes – for example when we did a minibeast hunt we took some minibeast related activities – not that the children use them, as to be honest, we usually take prepared activities back to our settings to do at another time, because the children are too busy leading their own play to want to do a creative activity.

Recently the children have been engaging in a game of mums, dads and babies – and this has extended over several weeks in the outside environment.

Other activities that the children have enjoyed in the outside environment, have included making dens, and an Easter Egg Hunt, a mini beast hunt  – but again being honest the children prefer not to have adult led activities  – and that is fine.

Farm Park at Top Barn Farm

However, one adult led experience  that has been really enjoyed by the children is the visit to the Farm Park – which we have now done twice – mainly it has to be said because during May – and within school hours – it has been FREE admission to the Farm Park.

During our first visit we walked round the animals and the children played on the toy tractors and had a go at throwing and kicking the balls through the target holes – but it was a short visit as we had not taken lunch with us and so needed to get back to the base at lunch time.

Our second visit on Wednesday 21st May was a much longer visit, as on this occasion we took a picnic lunch with us.

Being inside the Farm Park is a totally different experience to that of seeing the animals in the outer fields on our walk to the Farm Shop; we can see the animals close up; we can of course see the animals in the far and middle fields and pens – so  the pigs, the ducks, the chickens  and the rabbits .

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We can also see and read the information signs about the animals – so we found out the animals names, when they were born and a little bit of information about them. The older children were surprised to find out that the Donkeys were 4 like them. They also learnt that they should not put their fingers near the animals mouths because they might bite. I should explain that the children are used to information signs when we are out and about – as we see information signs on our forest walks, when we go to the museums, and of course signs in shops, and road signs(both when walking and when in the car travelling somewhere) – and so the children all have a very good understanding about signs and why we have signs, and they actively look for information signs and ‘read’ them either with help of picture clues, or their own ‘story’ based on what they can see around them – and in the case of the older children some recognition of letters and numbers which they point to and shout out – ‘I can see m for Mummy’ or ‘I can see a number  4 –  like me’

Lots of discussion about lots of subjects as we went round – just a few example;

Is that animal  hot with that woolly coat on?’ (referring to the Alpaca’s – so discussion about how they might have the wool cut short later on, but how  it is still cold because although the sun was shining,  the wind was blowing)

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‘ Why do the chicks under the light smell?’ (They did, so a discussion about the poo and the heat from the light)

‘Why are the chickens making holes in the mud?’ (discussion about might want to lay eggs in the hole or to just find a comfy place for a rest – and child asking the question, said but they have their special boxes to lay eggs  – she is right of course as can seen in picture below)

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‘Is that a mummy pig cause it has nipples?’ (discussion about boys and girls having nipples but not ‘boobies’ – as the child asking the question calls breasts) and then child peering under pig to look for other body parts to see if had a willy or not – and declaring that no willy so it is a mummy pig.

‘Has that pig got babies in its big tummy?’ (discussion that yes we think so – leading to discussion about my youngest daughter Rosie’s big tummy – who is indeed pregnant)

‘ Look at that baby horse’ (referring to the Shetland ponies – and so discussion about sizes and the fact that being small does not always mean being a baby).

‘Why are we sitting under here for lunch?’ (discussion about the shade provided)

…. and more, much more.

And to the delight of the children, after lunch they could use the wooden adventure playground and play in the huge undercover sand pit and those who needed a nap, had one in their lie back buggies in the shade.

We then went back to base – and did we follow up our visit to the Farm Park with colouring sheets, and maths sheets for adding little pictures of animals up and the like?

Of course not…………….

…… the children wanted to get out the paint brushes to water paint everything in sight

and to run around without us adults saying ‘stay close’ , ‘wait for the others to catch up’, (which of course adults have to do when in a public space with children)

and to get the dolls and doll pushchairs out and continue their mums. dads and baby game

…… and after a while to water their their plants.

The discussions about the visit to the Farm Park came later – in my case back at Penny’s Place when we printed the photo’s and recalled our day,  and when Mum’s and Dad’s came to collect and we told them all about our day.

Of course visits to Farms and Farm Parks are popular things to do with children, and many early years settings go on such outings — and from discussion with   June O’Sullivan, I know that some of the children from the LONDON EARLY YEARS FOUNDATION   were visiting PADDINGTON FARM TRUST.  I understand June is writing a blog about their farm experience which you will be able to read HERE once it is published.

In fact I recommend that if you have not taken a look at June’s blogs already, that you do so – as in my opinion – well worth a read


However, I think the opportunities that are available to the children attending Penny’s Place (and those of my colleagues who join me) at the fostering agency site are fairly unique and something that we are  very grateful for.

Oh and as if we are not already very lucky ……. there is more!




We return to Arley Arboretum   Leave a comment

Arley Arboretum is one of our favourite places – and because we have season tickets is actually part of our outside environment – much in the same way as an off site Forest School is to other settings.

Last year though we did not make full use of our season tickets, due to the weather, children not being well, and other planned outings on the days that the weather was kind. So together with the winter months when the arboretum is closed it seems like a very long time since we were able to visit.


Indeed for the last few weeks since the arboretum opened, my colleague and friend Carol and I, have been saying we must arrange to go back to the arboretum – and on the  15th May – we did return.

On our arrival, we had to pay for our season ticket – a very reasonable £20 for an adult and £8 for those children over 3, free for the younger children. We were greeted warmly by the lady in the ticket office and we chatted about this and that while filling in the season ticket forms – I felt more like a friend than a visitor.

What neither of us had really considered was the fact that the children in our care yesterday were not familiar with the arboretum – and out of the 6 children with us – only one had been before. This meant we had to consider the visit through new eyes – those of the children who had not been before – and be aware that all of it was a new experience – with a surprise round every corner and through every door or gate along the path.

We started with the fountain area – Carol and I noted that a lot of work had been done in this area over winter – with the paving slabs levelled, new turf in places and more benches for sitting and watching the fountains. One of children with me, was not too sure about this new experience so we did not linger for to long before moving on through the gate into what we call the chicken area.

Indeed the chickens were still there, we looked at them, chatted about them and some of the children choose to count them. But then we noticed that there were some new grass mazes in this area for the children to explore and try to get to the centre of  – so they did – and although I have some lovely photo’s of the children doing this – you – the reader – will just have to make do with this section of a photo – without the children.


Cropped grass maze

We also spotted that the willow arches had grown and there was a new house / tent shaped one – which of course the children want to explore – and the adults were unable to;because as the children correctly said – we are too big.

Continuing our walk and exploring we  spotted some huge poppies and stopped to admire them, before going through the green door.

We used directions – left, right, straight ahead – and stop; to help ensure the children in front not only knew where we were heading but also were kept safe.

As we walked the children were busy ‘finding’ things, daisies, pine cones, big trees and information signs. There was a very big tree and we discussed which was the biggest – the children, the tree or the adults – lots of mathematical language used.

We then ‘found’ a bench – of course Carol and I knew it was there and had sat there before – but the children did not know this. Carol produced from her bag some ‘nature spotter’ sheets, and some coloured pencils. The children chose if they wanted to take part or not – they all did apart from the two babies. The children spotted the items and then made marks on their spotter sheets to show they had found that item , two of them also added their mark to the place for their name – saying ‘I am writing my name’ The 4 year old with me, said what letters she was writing and did a really good job of forming the letters of her name. The 3 yr old with Carol – was very engaged with this activity and continued it even when we said it was time to find the picnic place – when she spotted things, she stopped to mark her spotter sheet.

Between us we found lots of things; spiders webs, ants, blossom on bushes (and we smelt it to see if it was a nice smell or not – mixed opinion about this) ants crawling on the floor, a buzzy bee, blossom on the floor (which some of the children – and Carol – threw in the air) big trees, hairy trees, rough trees, bumpy trees (talking about the bark of course) the laburnum arch covered with flowers (and extended from last year) plus carpets of bluebells and big thistle type flowers, we found feathers, more daisies, bits of bark, big pine cones and sticks.

And then we ‘found’ the perfect picnic place – not the one where we had picnicked often last year and the year before – but another place where we had rolled down the hill before – but where a picnic bench had been added – making it the perfect picnic place.

So picnic rugs on the floor and we all had lunch – and we all watched the trains from Severn Valley Railway go past.




After our picnic, and nappy changes for the little ones, we headed back towards the car, and before we left we had a chat to the Head Gardener who also greeted us as ‘old friends’ – and asked us if we had spotted the new adventure playground – we hadn’t, as we had not got that far round – well said the Head Gardener – ‘It is lovely, all wooden and just right for your bigger children (meaning the 3 and 4 year olds) and it opens at Spring Bank Holiday’


We were of course thinking of going back – hence the season tickets — but now we have even more reason to do so

Tuesday 25th February 2014 – Inspection Day!   2 comments

I have decided to write a blog about my inspection day – while it is fresh in my mind because I think it may be a while before I get my draft report, and therefore a while before I can put in a complaint about whatever it says in the report.

And I will be be complaining  – no matter what the QA system says my grade should be, because as some of you may already be aware, I am not very happy about how the inspector gathered the evidence to make her judgement. I have already written a blog about why I think the inspector did not follow the inspection guidelines.  If you have not already read it – you can do so by clicking HERE

Pre Inspection                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Actually the first bit of the inspection had taken place the day before, but had only lasted 30 mins because I had a doctors appointment – however the inspector was introduced to the children and saw the station that they had made out of duplo – she also witnessed the children getting ready to go out. She  took details of the children present, and was shown where evidence could be found Setting diary / children’s diaries/  staff communication book / photographic record from Sept 13 (and told all other years photographic evidence folders were in the cupboard under the laptop) – as a ‘heads up’ for the next day when she planned to return.

Inspection Day

I was up and working at 05:10 (as recorded in setting evidence diary) and as usual I set up the environment for the day. I did not do anything differently to normal as it is my belief that you should be judged on your everyday practice not some set up ‘show of perfectness’.

So in the lounge I;

Moved the large two sided mirror into place by the book box, and put the soft mat and cushions that I had made myself into place, together with the large plastic bucket of teddies . Not the best photo – as was taken later on inspection day – after the inspector had left – to show Mummy of the child, how she had taken herself off to ‘story corner’ for a nap, but hopefully you can see what a nice, inviting quite place it is, for looking at books and relaxing.


I also moved the coffee table so that by the mirror – this creates more space but also stops the mirror from being moved / pushed over. On the coffee table I put out some number based train puzzles, a large floor train puzzle and some 4 piece interlocking transport based puzzles (so puzzles covering a range of developmental stages) a basket with the topic story book (Going on a train ride) a word mat from that story and individual word / picture cards from the story / as on the word mat.

I put out the duplo Thomas trainset (they had been out the day before but in the conservatory) and had put them out again because of interest shown the day before, a long term interest in trains by one child, the link to numbers on the trains and the number mats (and the ideas / next steps for all children in number recognition / counting) plus of course the link to the topic (Transport) and the topic book

Photos taken on inspection day – just the normal evidence type ones that I take every day – although it should be noted the best photos are the ones with children in them (which I can’t use) – but still it gives an idea


Also in the lounge – put by the CD player was a sound game of environmental sounds – this was out on Monday but not used and was out again on inspection day, because one child has some difficulties with some speech sounds and wanted to try to establish if the child has any hearing difficulties, Initial thoughts were no – as child appears to hear ok on a day to day basis – but just wanted to confirm.

In the conservatory there is the continuous provision – blackboard and chalks / dressing up / dolls and doll care things / home area and associated resources/ baskets with resources to support visual effects and investigation – same for sound / plus a variety of other things that currently support development and interests. I also added that morning a basket of Fisher Price amazing animals as part of our equality work on similarities and differences.

In the middle room are the storage units with Maths and Literacy resources, puzzles and games,  shelves full of books, storage unit with various duplo sets and the self selection baskets with a wide range of heuristic and other things – such as wooden letters, magnetic polydron, brush collection, bracelet collection, finger puppets – and more.

In the kitchen I set up a painting activity – so a everyday mark marking experience – but it is noted that in the children’s diaries that they all enjoy painting – especially with the sponge dabbers – and that one child in particular had engaged with this activity last time available for an extended period of time.

Once set up, I went to collect a child from home (a service that have been providing for this child for 3 years) The child took off her own shoes, coat etc, self registered with her name card

My co minder (and eldest daughter) arrived at 7:50, with her own daughter and a minded child that she collects on her way to Penny’s Place. The children were supported to take off coats (as almost 2, and just 2 respectively) and they self registered

The children wanted to paint straight away – so they did

The last child arrived at 8:35 and joined in with the painting activity



As you can see some lovely paintings showing a wide range of mark marking skills – all as I would expect of the children taking part. The one in the middle is of particular interest as the child doing this picture has written the letters from another child’s name  – copied from the self registration cards. This child also wrote her own name on the back of her picture – independently and from memory.

At 8:50 we had a brief visitor – one of my friends who popped in to give me my birthday present (birthday the next day) discussion about birthday’s and how old Penny  will be from children – one asked if I had a 5 in my number – I explained that today I have a 5 and 4 in my number but tomorrow I would have two number 5’s in my number. Other discussion about birthday cake and party – and if the children would be coming to my party (they would)

However the inspector did not see any of this – only the evidence that painting had taken place – as was drying on the table when she arrived

As the inspector did not arrive until 9:50 . we were already 2 hours and 20 minutes into the day  or almost  25 % of the day completed. Opportunities to meet parents had been lost, as had settling the children in for the day and those first activities – which turned out to be significant as it was the only planned activity that took place that day – and the inspector did not see it.

On arrival, we welcomed the inspector back and explain that 4 children present but that one child who had been here on Monday did not attend on Tuesdays.

The inspector explained that she wanted to spend some time talking to me – as my co minder was acting as my assistant that day – but that she would still be carrying out individual inspections on both of us. This discussion took place in the kitchen.

The inspector asked me lots of questions about the children and about the records I keep – but she did not look at any of them. After a while we moved into the middle room and the inspector sat on the sofa with her laptop.

My co minder prepared the snack (Hot cross bun and apple / water to drink), I supported the children with hand washing upstairs – the inspector did not go upstairs. One child did not want to wash her hands upstairs (the almost 2 year old) and just wanted to watch the other children – I did not insist that she washed her hands – but when we came back downstairs, I used a baby wipe to clean her hands (not ideal but better than nothing). As the inspector did not go upstairs, she did not see the picture / word poster about hand washing, or see the children wash their hands or use the individual face cloth sized hand towels – which they put in the washing basket after use. She also did not hear me remind one child who wanted to use the toilet to flush afterwards – or observe the fact that this child was given privacy to use the toilet – or that other child said about germs on hands and why wash hands.

The inspector did observe my co minder serve snack and then came back into the middle room where I was sorting some resources back into their box.

After snack time, I was still answering the inspectors questions – about if I belonged to any childminding groups and if I shared information with other childminders (clearly the inspector had not researched me at all – as my setting website has a link to my blog)

Meanwhile my co minder was supporting the children in the conservatory in their free play – one child dressed up in a vet’s outfit – she thought it was a doctors outfit, so my co minder showed her the picture and words on the outfit and explained that vets are animal doctors. She suggested the children found some toy animals from by story corner so they could be vets. Every child had a vets bag of some sort and dressing up things if they wanted them. To extend this child initiated play (and play that we have not seen before) I went into the garage and got out the box of out of date bandages and plasters. Because my co minder and the children were sat on the floor in the conservatory – there was not really room for me to be in the conservatory without limiting the space available (it is a small conservatory – and usually the children would be using all the rooms – but not today as they all wanted to be vets) So I stayed in the middle room with the inspector – and answered more questions. I could not hear what my co minder and the children were talking about – and I wonder if the inspector could. However I did ask my co minder later, and she said they had been talking about making the animals better and putting on plasters and bandages using appropriate words through out. Certainly I could see lots of evidence of bandaged teddies – and I had also observed two of the children – at different times put bandage packaging into the recycle bin – and I had praised them for doing so.

Then one of the children asked to go outside – this is always an option although the doors are shut in cold / wet weather, they are not locked. I asked the child what she needed to do – she replied – take off my dressing up things and put on my suit and wellies – so she did – as did the 3 year old – the younger children were supported to put their outdoor stuff on. Then I went outside with all 4 children – the inspector decided to use that time to talk to my co minder in the kitchen. I have checked with my co minder and the inspector sat at the table with her laptop and at no time did she looking into the garden through the kitchen window.

Even before I got outside though – the children came running to tell me that the piggy was squeaking – he wanted his food  – and so I took the Guinea pig some food out and we fed him (had the inspector of asked the children about piggie – they would have had a lot to tell her about how the other piggie had died and that he was in a big hole in the garden – they could have also told the inspector what piggie likes to eat)

Once piggie was fed – at the children’s request I got the musical saucepans out of the shed and hung them up – the children had a brief play with them – but then wanted to play in the sand. I carefully took the lid off  – part way to start with as was stopped from completing the task by mixed squeals of delight and shock! There was a huge spider web in the sand pit – and the spider was still there! So of course we all had to look, and talk about it and what it is was doing in the sand pit. One child was wary of the spider so we spent some time getting the spider (and his friends) out of the sand pit. Then I finished taking off the lid – lots more questions – Why was the sand wet when the lid had been on? Why were some of the things in the sand pit dry and some wet?  Could they get in the sand pit? Could they dig? Where was the other spades? Would I help fill buckets? Would I help tip buckets up to make castles? and so on












I do of course have a lot more photos of this activity – but the children’s faces are visible

The children then moved on to climbing on the climbing frame and running / hopping and jumping on the stepping stones – I was of course observing their physical development – as well as joining in with the hopping and jumping.

Then the 4 year old – completely randomly started to tell the story of the Big Bad Wolf (as in Red Riding Hood) so Grandma (me) what big ears you have got and I took on an active role – but my observation of the 2 younger children told me that they were not too happy with this story – so suddenly I turned into the ‘Tickle Troll’ – ‘Grandma Tickle Troll’ said the 4 year old – and off we went with the game, with me of course trying to catch the children when they came too close to me – to tickle them – much laughter from everyone.

Then a child fell over – no sign of injury but her hand was dirty – so I needed to wash it to ensure there was not an injury underneath – and due to the ages of the younger children – we all came in. I washed the child’s hand (all fine) and wrote about the incident in her diary (just in case some hidden injury)

While in the kitchen I noticed my co minder was quite red in the face and engaged in a discussion with the inspector about safeguarding. I listened – and the inspector asked me what I thought – I agreed with my co minder – and said the information given was correct following Worcestershire’s guidelines (as on our training and given out at a full day safeguarding conference in Nov 13, that I had attended). The inspector disagreed and said this was not what they were told on their training. I was horrified that the inspector might think that we were either not knowledgeable about safeguarding or that we do not take it seriously.

I admit that at this point I did get on my soap box and explain in detail how seriously I take safeguarding and my personal experience with safeguarding referrals.(There is a follow up to this at the end of this blog)

By now it was lunch time, so my co minder made lunch,(sandwiches, fruit, crisps – followed by banana and custard) while I answered more questions. My co minder then needed to go up stairs – and told me she was doing so – so while answering questions from the inspector – I was also listening to the children in the kitchen chatting – which is why I responded immediately when there was some chair movement.

After lunch the inspector wanted to see a planned activity and suggested we did the listening game – as we had already explained our ethos several times we did not even ask the children to take part in the listening game because we prefer the children to want to do an activity and therefore to enjoy it and gain the most benefit from it – this is particularly important for the child whose hearing we planned to assess through this activity. (There is a follow up to this at the end of this blog)

By now the inspector is trying to bring the inspection to a close – we had had one verbal comment about the grade she was looking at during the inspection. We now were told we both had the same grade

Through out the inspection I had provided verbal evidence and at times brought written evidence to the inspector – and in the closing part of the inspection, I had printed off the safeguarding policy – as she wanted to see it (but she did not read it) , I brought her evidence of communication with another setting and said where other evidence was, I took the current newsletter off the wall and gave it to her, and the previous weeks newsletter out of the folder – both were glanced at.

I struggled at the time (and I am still struggling now) with what evidence was used to reach the judgement and therefore grade. The inspector did not make it clear how she reached her judgement – nor really what the areas for improvement were.

She did put forward suggested recommendations – which I strongly disagreed with – but would have accepted if the inspector had been able say why these recommendations would improve outcomes for the children. There was also an assumption that I would not implement some of the recommendations in due course – as were about future practice.

So the inspector left – I was in shock – as I really did not know why I was graded as I was – considering  the inspectors lack of looking at documentation or even focussed observations – and all the other things mentioned in my previous blog about my inspection.

I was so upset and frustrated that I did not sleep, and could not really celebrate my birthday the following day – although of course I put on a brave face for the lunch time party that my co minder had arranged, for the children’s benefit.

I consider  myself to be a very proactive and reflective practitioner, I am passionate about what I do, and spend just about every minute of every day (even when not childminding) doing childminding related activities, sharing good practice, updating documentation, attending training and so on. Therefore I am really upset  – not that my grade is lower than before the inspection, if the inspector can justify it – then I accept that grade and will do everything needed to improve my practice.  However  because I have no idea why that judgement was made, and therefore no idea just what it is that I am supposed to be doing to improve my practice and the outcomes for the children – I can not rest.

I feel that everything I stand for, my ethos and professionalism has been questioned and found lacking (and if it is lacking fair enough) but to not know and to not be able to implement the needed changes with immediate effect – is to me unacceptable and unprofessional.

I can only hope the my draft report is sent sooner rather than later – so that I can stop a) giving myself a hard time, and b) implement the changes that are deemed necessary – although I will not implement any chance that is recommended that is not justified with research and evidence, as to how will  improve outcomes for children.


a) On Wednesday, I started my own process of follow up from my inspection – with regard to the safeguarding situation / disagreement between myself and the inspector. I have emailed and spoken to my Local Authority – who have assured me that I gave the gave the correct information. However to ensure that they are giving the correct information, they are following it up with Worcestershire’s Early Help Hub and Worcestershire’s Access Centre / the Safeguarding Board. I have been promised that I will be informed of the outcome of this.

This is typical of me – the reflective practitioner in action – if something needs doing or checking – I do it straight away

b) Re the listening game – we did not play it on Wednesday because we spent the day at the farm – as we do every Wednesday – enjoying outside activities. We did not do it on Thursday, as we spent the day at the Bright Stars Childminding Group ‘Winter Messy Play day’ – as we take part in these messy play days about once a term.  However on Friday – which was spent in the setting – the children asked to play the listening game – and enjoyed it so much – they played it three times. I also provided another listening game (in response to their interest) – which they played twice.

And the child that I wanted to assess  – no hearing difficulties identified.

End of an Era – Mia is leaving Penny’s Place after 3 years ….. What is in store for the next 3 years?   1 comment

Today is the last day at Penny’s Place for Mia – Mia has been attending since she was just over 12 months old and is only leaving because she is going to ‘Big School’  and mummy and daddy do not require before and after school care for Mia.

So a bit of a sad day – but also day to celebrate – and we have celebrated  today. Mia’s parents  provided a caterpillar cake (very appropriate as ‘our’ caterpillars are currently the center of attention as we wait for the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly) and a party bag for each child.

The children all made party crowns, played their favorite games – and after rest time, they  all had their party bags. Penny inflated the giant balloons and added some rice,  she also inflated the princess magic wands and the giant hammer from the party bags.  The children and Penny sang  and danced with the balloons  (which happen to be two of Mia’s favourite activities) had a lot of fun and made a lot of noise.

As a treat the children watched a DVD – their choice – which happened to be ‘Number Songs’ -while the children watched and joined in with the number songs –  Penny was able to gather all of Mia’s things together – The farewell presents and cards – including the large group one –  ready for home time.

Yesterday Mia had taken  home her photographic record of her time at Penny’s Place – all 120 pages of it – full of photo’s of Mia and her friends – together with comments written from Mia’s point of view.

And so – now the children have gone home – Penny has been reflecting on the past 3 years –  which  has all been very positive


As Mia’s place is already booked up by a new little one – due to start in September and Penny has been thinking  what will be the situation be in relation registered childminding and Penny’s Place in 3 years time?

One thing is certain there are going to be changes – lots of them – some we know about already, some we have yet to be given full details about – and some have not even been thought about because between now and when this new child that is starting at Penny’s Place is due to go to school we will have had a general election – and possibly a different political party at the helm.

There is little point in worrying about what we do not yet know or about the results of the future general election, however the proposals currently being pushed forward by this government are causing Penny to worry as they  may well change registered childminding  as we know it now – and therefore Penny’s Place as we know it now.

Childminding Agencies

The pilots are starting in August – yes in a couple of days – the pilots are to be evaluated in early 2014, with final evaluation in March 2014 and rolled out across the county from September 2014.

That might sound like a reasonable plan – but when you hear that the pilots are just ‘testing’ various aspects – and  some times ‘in theory only’ , that there won’t be time to compare how an agency ‘judges’ a childminders practice compared to Ofsted, that a lot of the things that an agency may be able to do in the future can’t be part of the pilots – then it does not seem like such a reasonable or sensible plan

Then there is the fact that some childminders are  ALREADY being approached by companies that are going to set up agencies – very worrying as not yet law and changes could still be made before it is law. Penny  hopes no one signs up yet – would be very foolish to do so before the facts are known.

It is not a secret that Penny WILL NOT be joining a childminding agency – however the impact on Penny and Penny’s Place could be considerable – and could mean that Penny’s Place does not remain sustainable or that childminding in the future evolves into practice that Penny does not consider to be in the best interests of the children.

It is all speculation at the moment – and worse fears may be unfounded – but Penny has been around long enough to know that if rumours start that are unfounded and make a proposal seem worse than it is – that counter rumours  (if not actual facts) are leaked to the media so that potential ‘damage’ is limited. In the case of Penny’s worries about childminding agencies – there have been no ‘counter rumours’ or ‘leaks’ to the media.

So why is Penny worried about the impact on sustainability of Penny’s Place and her career as a registered childminder?

First there is the cost of remaining an independent childminder – no facts as yet,  but it is possible that the fee payable to Ofsted may go up – considerably-  because the Government have made it clear that they can not go on subsidising the cost of childminder inspections – and being realistic those that join an agency will be paying more for their inspections as they will be paying  via the agency whatever fee they set – certainly the £35 per year that childminders currently pay Ofsted will not cover the cost of support, regular monitoring and training that have been mentioned in Government documents about childminding agencies.

Training may prove to be another area that becomes more expensive – at the moment Penny accesses  a range of training – local training – usually at a subsidised rate through the Local Authority – and national conferences which vary in price but with travel and sometimes overnight accommodation can work out quite expensive. However if the Local Authority have to charge a fee to cover costs this will have an impact on how many courses Penny can attend – and a knock on effect as to how many conferences she can attend as well

Therefore increased costs could mean Penny may have to increase fees to parents or cut down on training or spend less on resources or a combination of these things – let’s hope not as for Penny none of the choices would sit comfortably with her ethos.

Another area connected to childminding agencies that concerns Penny is her fear that the government may through the media, through children centers and so on ‘sell’ the idea of  agency childminders being ‘better’ than independent childminders to parents and parents to be – making it harder for Penny to convince potential clients that as an independent childminder she is able to provide appropriate care and education for their child.

In fact Penny thinks the government is already trying to under mind those who are not teachers or teacher led – by suggesting that those without GCSE Maths and English are not as capable as those with the qualifications- and that those children who are cared for by graduates / teachers will do better than those who are not. All very discreet but the message is already ‘out there’ and being spread.

Penny wonders if the childminding agencies will be ‘teacher led’ – ie they employ at least one teacher to support and advise the agency childminders –  and in doing so – by default – making all the agency childminders meet the governments stated preference as being teacher led? Penny wonders if the government will slowly move the goal posts so that to provide the Free Entitlement childminders have to either hold one of the proposed new Early Years qualifications – or be ‘teacher led’?

Penny has mentioned before  ‘back door’methods of getting childminders to join agencies – and the above are examples of ways that the government could do this.

Then there is the dwindling market due to government policies – and it has to be said funding for some projects – or removal of barriers to make it easier /more cost effective to ;

Enable schools to take in 2 year olds

Enable schools to provided extended hours childcare

Create ‘Hubs’ around school and children’s centers with childminders being seen as ideal for all the anti school hours and the collecting from one setting to take to another setting role – in other words all the ‘bitty hours’ that no one else wants and which are unlikely to create enough income to make a childminder sustainable.

All of the above are worrying Penny as they made lead to Penny’s Place becoming unsustainable


What is worrying Penny most is the governments complete lack of understanding about how children learn through play and the governments insistence that formal learning (and testing) are the way forward – because Penny completely disagrees and will do everything in her power to stop the government from implementing these ideas – which in Penny’s opinion will have long term consequences for the children of this country and society as a whole.

And if she can’t stop these proposals from being implemented – Penny feels so strongly about her principles and ethos – that although she will continue to childmind and will continue to implement her practice based on her ethos until whatever point in time Ofsted inspects her – should Ofsted consider her practice to be inadequate – Penny will close her setting rather than conform and introduce formal learning (or testing)

If you agree with Penny’s opinion – please support her efforts to get the government to listen by signing this petition Link to petition ( please don’t confuse with the previous petitions started by Penny – a click on the link to the petition will tell you if you have signed or not

Or write to the DfE to explain why childminding agencies are not a good idea – sample letters and address of DfE here

Please support Penny and her colleagues – as Penny would really like to be hosting another leaving party in 3 years time when child taking Mia’s place is ready to go to school.

Thank You