Early years providers should be constantly looking ahead to ensure that they can nurture the development of their wards over time. Short term planning ensures that you know what you are doing with your children day in, day out. Medium term planning gives an overall strategy and direction to your learning. Essentially, following a strategy to push development turns you from a babysitter to an educationalist.
Medium term planning should be done up to 4 or 6 months in advance. Best practice advocates not simply creating a 4 month plan, seeing it through and creating the next one, but revisiting the plan regularly, at least once a fortnight, to ensure that you are on track and to extend into the future. At any given moment, aim to have the next few months in development terms mapped out. In revisiting the plan, adjust it to any needs that may be emerging.
Constantly reviewing and revising your plan keeps it fresh in your mind so that you know what you are delivering at any given point. Buy some books on child development and use this to help work out what milestones you should be reaching, and undertake activities that help achieve those milestones.
Your medium term plan will inform your short term plan so that you can map out activities on a weekly basis. Activities on ToucanLearn are designed so that they are always at the edge of what children should be achieving. By keeping up with activities in ToucanLearn you will automatically be following a strategy for success.
When planning, make sure that you cover all the bases of EYFS. Projects offer a great opportunity to extend activities out over time. The spring and summer months are great for projects because you can study how plants and animals develop, base craft around the notions of insects and animals, and there are plenty of games and songs to take in along the way.
Allow for flexibility in your planning. Short term planning allows you to cater for the emerging interests of your children and to some extent you should always follow their interests above any rigid planning. Children learn through constant interaction with the world and if they show an interest in a particular topic then run with that, ignite that spark and your children will soak up knowledge and learn based on what they find stimulating at any given point in time.
If you have children of varying age groups within your setting then younger children will develop faster as they try to mimic the older children surrounding them. This create a positive impact but at the same time, do not neglect the needs of the younger children, especially babies. Even though they may appear to be less demanding than older children, they still need devoted time for stimulation and interaction.
Your Daily Diary in ToucanLearn will help you achieve your planning aims, you can then share your plans with parents and they can comment and get involved too. There's absolutely nothing wrong, however, in keeping your plans on paper. Planning in any medium is much more important than having no plans at all.
There's no doubt that the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) requirements place a huge burden on childminders and teachers, but linking your activities to the EYFS and planning topics in advance need not be as difficult as you might imagine. Every activity you choose to undertake with babies and toddlers will have some learning benefits, and it's usually pretty easy to stretch activities to cover almost any of the areas of learning and devlopment.
Let's look at three basic activities, and see how we can adjust them to cover all six of the areas of learning and development.
(1) Finger Painting
Sit your little one down with a large sheet of paper and some poster paints, and ask them to create a 'picture' dipping their fingers in the paint and drawing on their canvas. You can easily cover each of the areas of learning and development:-
- Personal, Social and Emotional Development: Have your little one include members of their family and friends that they see often in their picture
- Communication, Language and Literacy: Ask your little one to talk about the different parts of their picture and to describe what is going on
- Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy: Have your little artist add shapes to the picture, shapes, circles and triangles
- Knowledge and Understanding of the World: Include their house in the drawing along with one or two other landmarks that they know, such as where the shops, park or their nursery are
- Physical Development: Paint trees with big sweeping lines, and flowers with fine little lines; discuss how the paint feels on their fingers
- Creative Development: Dip each finger in a different colour and learn what happens as they drag their hand down the page, what happens if they wiggle their fingers at the same time?
(2) A Walk in the Park
Take a stroll out to your nearest park and observe what's happening around you, at the same time, covering all the areas of learning and development:-
- Personal, Social and Emotional Development: At the end of your trip, discuss what aspects of the walk your little one enjoyed; if you visited a play park, how did they feel on the swings, on the climbing frames and on other equipment they played on?
- Communication, Language and Literacy: Play eye-spy as you walk to the park, see if your little one can give accurate clues describing what it is that they can 'spy'
- Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy: Look out for and count things on your way: birds, letter boxes, trees etc.
- Knowledge and Understanding of the World: Talk about why you must hold hands when walking by the road, and why you look for cars before crossing the road; when you arrive at the park, ask your little one to recount your journey, the landmarks that you passed and the route you took
- Physical Development: Let them run around and play on swings, climbing frames and the other outdoor toys; if there aren't any, make up a simple chasing game
- Creative Development: Have them play make-believe in the park, perhaps they can be an ice-cream vendor doling out ice-creams to the children, or perhaps they can be a fire-fighter rescuing people from the climbing frame?!
(3) Make-Believe Restaurant
Set up a restaurant with your little one(s), pretend you have a nice restaurant, beautiful tables, and lots of customers. Pretend to make and serve food, and let's see how we can fit it to those areas of learninf and development once more:-
- Personal, Social and Emotional Development: Have your little one greet the restaurant customers and show them to their tables; show how they can act politely to their guests
- Communication, Language and Literacy: Have your little one recite the menu to each customer and ask what they would like to eat - see how many orders they can make up and remember!
- Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy: Count how many meals need to be prepared; ask how they might entertain the customers while their dinner is being cooked?!
- Knowledge and Understanding of the World: Describe how different foods originate from different countries; have your chef name their favourite foods and describe where those foods come from. You may be surprised at how many international influences they have been exposed to already!
- Physical Development: Give your little one a large hardback book to use as a tray. Have them hold it on top of their hand and balance some toy food or other small items on it. Have them walk around the room keeping the items balanced; add more and more items to the tray
- Creative Development: Have your little one go to their make-believe kitchen and make up the food orders. Tell them what they must do and have them act it out: wash the vegetables, cut the onions, peel the potatoes, place the ingredients in a big pan on the stove and stir; dish the food onto plates and serve the customers!
All of the activities we present in ToucanLearn are tagged with the key areas of learning and development they support, we flag the specific focus areas within each area that they compliment. However, with just a little bit of imagination, you can expand any activity to cover almost any of the areas of learning and development.
Why don't you decide on a theme to pursue each week? It might be counting, shapes, colours, animals, countries or anything else. Choose a theme, and adjust each activity you undertake to fit in with the theme. It's easier than you might think, and you'll have a lot of fun together at the same time!