A lovely way to get little ones involved and interested in reading and writing is to give them their very own letter box. This is a way to encourage them to send and receive notes between their friends and family.
Find a cardboard box and decorate it. Place it somewhere the little ones can reach (outside their bedroom door or by the front door) and post them some mail now and again. Normally it is best to do this overnight, so they wake up In the morning and find a note waiting for them.
It might be a note from the tooth fairy. Or you could write a note to say how good they have been at nursery. Its easy to print a certificate to say they have been good about going to bed or some other activity. Members can find personalised certificates in Fun Stuff at www.ToucanLearn.com.
The notes need not be long, complicated letters. Simply write a short message on a piece of paper, add a heart or a smiley face and leave it for them to find. They will be intrigued by what it says. You could leave a picture for them to colour in or a hand drawn dot to do for them to complete. A little special gift (a pencil, sticker or play ring) could be attached too as a special treat. If you are good at folding, you could leave a paper fan or a paper plane.
Always make time to read the notes to your child, even if you wrote them yourself, and encourage them to leave you notes, drawings, scribbles too. Then you will have an idea of how nice it is to receive them!
A childminder is required to record observations as part of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and yet, how do you actually 'make' and record observations in a setting while trying to do other things and look after the children?
The easiest was is to use ToucanLearn's unique Daily Diary. By logging what you see, what the children say, any milestones etc on the Daily Diary you get a great personal record for yourself to monitor and to share with parents too... and you don't impact on the care you are giving by having to scratch around for paper and note books. Sign up at our website and start using ToucanLearn for free!
Use a digital camera or mobile phone to record what happens. Take pictures of special crafts, achievements or just everyday shots of the little ones going about their playing.
Take video of the children mastering tasks and having fun. Try to encourage them not to act up in front of the camera but to just be as 'normal' as they can... may be hard!
Have a note book somewhere central at all times and jot down observations. You can then stick them on a poster or add them to the ToucanLearn.
Maintain a weekly observation chart and add an entry each week in order to monitor overall progress.
As your baby grows into a toddler and then into a little boy or girl, you'll collect a mass of scribbles, artwork, craft, models and all sorts of other creations. Many of these will carry evocative memories, perhaps their first colouring in, their first writing, their early scribbles, the first time they wrote their name. You probably won't want to keep all of your little one's art, but keep a scrapbook of some, and find a wall to hang some of their art too. One important thing is to add dates to their work so that when you are looking back on it in years to come, you can chart their progression.
In addition to dating work, you could also make a few notes to remind you of the context under which the artwork was created. Write simple notes like 'First day at nursery', 'Our day out at ...' and so on. This will give you a gallery of your little one's work that you can return to and keep your early memories alive!
According to many music teachers, starting formal music lessons too early is a sure way to put a child off learning to play, but how do you know when your child is ready to learn something? It seems the overriding answer is that it should be child-led. If they show an aptitude, an interest or ask for lessons, then it may be time to consider it.
However, before they start they need to be able to recognise numbers and understand the alphabet from A-G. They also need to be physically able to hold an instrument or press hard enough to close valves etc. In addition, they need to be mature enough to be able to concentrate during a lesson.
What to start with:
Recorder - a common and popular first instrument. Its a great springboard to other wind instruments and children can start as soon as they have long enough fingers to cover the holes. It's light, easy to carry around and can make some nice noises!
Piano - as soon as your little one can reach the keys, they can start playing the piano. Groups lessons can be great fun and rewarding to young children.
String instruments - these come in various sizes to suit children. A violin sized 1/8 is suitable for a child aged 4 - 6 years, the ideal age to start learning violin is six.
Wind and brass instruments - these need to be tackled by older children once their second set of teeth are through. The pressure put on the teeth can cause damage. They also need to be old enough to hold the instrument and blow. Puff is essential!
Before you sign up for any lessons, chat to the teacher about it at length and, just as important, chat to other parents. Make sure your child is serious but even so consider hiring an instrument rather than buying just in case! Music is a vital part of our lives and our culture and can be an inspirational source of delight for children. We need, however, to be careful how much we encourage (or 'push') our children when they are little. Having fun with music, singing together, saying rhymes and just enjoying music itself is more important than being the first child in school to be playing a violin. It could put off a potentially talented young musician.