Mirrors are a great resource to use in any childcare setting and can be used in all sorts of different ways. When little ones can see themselves and what they are doing, its a great way of encouraging play and exploration and help develop a sense of identity. Choose round-edged mirrors that are large, scratch and shatter-proof. Encourage the children to be gentle before play begins.
Some ideas for mirror-based activities:
- Set up a mirror near the front door, and get each child to take a look in there each morning. Is it an excited face, a sleepy face or a shy face this morning?
- Children love to see themselves in mirrors. Get them to make funny faces and see how scary or strange they look.
- Get the children to look at each other in the mirrors. Try out some expressions in the mirror and get the children to guess how each of them feel. Suggest a sad face, and a laughing face, a moody face and see if everyone can guess.
- Encourage them to touch the mirrors: are they real people or just a reflection? See if they will have a chat with the mirror image? Make it into a funny one sided conversation... show them how to do it if they aren't sure.
- Build up a tower or a construction and watch it fall down in the mirror.
- Try placing some mirrors at angles to each other so you create a whole little reflection world!
- Get some little characters to play with in front of the mirror. How many are there?
- Set up some blocks and try to move them about in from of a mirror. Is it hard to see which is real and which is a reflection?
- Act out some animal faces in front of the mirror and guess what they are!!
- Wash face, brush teeth and comb hair whilst looking in the mirror. Does it make it harder or easier?
Babies don't recognise that a mirror is reflecting their own image until they are between 12 and 18 months. The classic test to see if a baby recognises the reflection as themselves is to use lipstick to place a bold mark on their face. If they know that that are looking at themselves, they will reach up to touch the mark. Mirrors are still fun for babies, however, because they help babies to focus on objects and track moving objects with their eyes. They will also think they are looking at another baby and will try to interact with him or her.
We're only just past the summer solstice, marking the middle of the year, but there's no better time to starting your Christmas shopping than right now! Retailers in the high street and online are suffering poor sales - we don't have money to spend and we're not buying. Shops are currently launching into their summer sales, many starting earlier than usual. Now is the perfect time to bag yourself some bargains rather than waiting for Christmas.
Particularly good value at the moment are children's audio and video offerings. Family DVD's and CD's are cheaper at the moment than they will be at Christmas. Amazon and Play are selling many Disney DVD's for between £5 and £8 at the moment. Come Christmas time, they will probably run the same Buy One Get One that they have for the past couple of years, but suddenly all their titles will be retailing at a much higher price - you'll feel like you're getting a bargain but in truth you'll probably end up paying more than you will for the same titles right now.
Many toy retailers are also offering discounted goods at the moment. Grab yourself some bargains, pick up stocking fillers and stock pile gifts for friends' birthday parties now! Every parent takes advantage of discounted toys to give at parties, shop efficiently and you can save yourself a small fortune!
There are many facets to learning as infants grow up, one area which you should encourage play is 'small world play'. This involves children playing with miniature items representing our world, for example, farm and safari animals, toy cars, boats and helicopters, and little people.
There is no shortage of 'small world' figures and props available from toy retailers, and it doesn't matter that the figures might not really go together or are different scales. For example, it's OK for a dinosaur to live on a farm, or for a lorry to be smaller than a person. What is important is that children can immerse themselves in their own world, that they can act out situations that they may have experienced or are simply imagined, and that they can arrange their world as they see fit.
Small world play provides a great opportunity for children to express their thoughts, ideas and feelings. Small world play gives children the opportunity to create situations and resolve problems. As a parent or childcare provider, such immersive play offers a rewarding experience simply to stand back and observe how the child is playing.
Personal, Social and Emotional Development lies at the very heart of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and in essence every single activity a child does, whether climbing a tree, writing their first letter or counting all the way to 11, influences their own sense of worth and self confidence.
As each hurdle is mastered; each skill practiced and learned, so their emotional well being and self esteem are built up and strengthened thus creating a more confident and happy child.
The best way to encourage personal, social and emotional development is through play.
- It is essential for learning. It brings children's world alive and inspires their imagination.
- Little ones have fun when playing, and enjoy themselves.
- They are active and it promotes healthy living.
- Young children learn a little about themselves and how to communicate ideas and games to others both fellow children and the carers too.
- They experiment in a free environment and try things out without fear of getting it "wrong".
- They are free to explore in their own way whether this be ideas and games or materials and equipment.
- They learn about interaction, negotiation with other children and rules of games etc.
The EYFS has just gone through review by Dame Care Tickell. Amongst her recommendations is that the EYFS is slimmed down and it is likely that the areas of learning will be reduced from six core areas to three. So important is Personal, Social and Emotional Development that it is one of the areas that will be preserved. Dame Clare Tickell's report suggests:-
A new focus on three prime areas which are the foundations for children’s ability to learn and develop healthily: personal, social and emotional development; communication and language; and physical development.
There's nothing more heartwarming than watching your children perform Christmas songs to the rest of your family at Christmas! If they are old enough to talk and in a playgroup then it's likely that they've already learned at least one or two festive songs that youcan encourage them to perform to grandparents over Christmas. If they aren't yet singing, then put on some festive music and encourage them to wiggle in time with the music!
Ask older children to act out the nativity story, playing the different parts. Acting forms a fundamental part of pretend play that is so important in developmental terms.
You will be proud, the grandparents will be moved and your little ones will be delighted! Practice a few songs or stories now so that they're ready for the big day, and have them bring the house down for their Christmas debut!
Teaching your child to enjoy reading, to love stories and grow their imagination is really a very easy thing to do and you will both reap the rewards. Reading is not only essential at school but it is great fun too!
- Get your child to choose the book or at least the topic to read about.
- Treat them occasionally to magazines to get them interested in different sorts of books and words and the way words and stories are presented.
- Go to the library; ask friends about good books that have inspired them and try to get hold of some.
- Swap good books with your children's friends... like a kiddie book club!
- Make sure your child sees you read: whether it be books, magazines, papers etc. They will learn from seeing you.
- Do research on things together: look up on the internet or go to the library together is something has triggered a thought.
- Keep books around the place so they see them as part of every day life. And, keep the children's books at a height they can reach!
- Reward your child when they do start to read and show them how pleased you are for them.
- Make time each day to read together - even once your child is reading independently its still nice to read a book
- Make it fun and enjoy reading together!
Children typically need 12 - 14 hours sleep in every 24 hours and if your toddlers are getting their quota overnight, they may not need a daytime nap. Young children who aren't napping should be encouraged to take a 'quiet time' during the day as this rests them a little and let's them get through the day more easily. To introduce a 'quiet time', put your little one in their bedroom and let them play with puzzles or toys on their own for a while - 30 minutes is long enough for most children. If they require a nap then you may find that they fall asleep during this period on their own.
A 'quiet time' helps with the transition from taking daytime naps to doing away with them altogether. Some children will continue napping even once that have started school, but most children will give up naps anywhere between 2 and 4 years old. Sometimes children give up naps because they simply don't appear to need them, other times you will stop your children napping because it doesn't fit into your daily routine. If you have older children and have to do a school run, or if you have other daytime commitments, then it's quite possible that this will interfere with nap time.
Most nurseries and reception year classes have a 'Home Corner' where young children are encouraged to play 'house'; you can easily create your own Home Corner for your own children or ones you look after. The Home Corner promotes dramatic play, both for individual children and for children participating in cooperative play. Give your children things that they see in their home and they will mimic what they have seen adults doing.
You can buy children's equivalents of kitchen 'white goods' - cookers, washing machines and fridges, but all of these are easy to make out of simple cardboard boxes. Acquire some suitable boxes from your local supermarket, cover them with plain paper, then paint on the relevant features: hobs on the cooker and a window and buttons on the washing machine. Cut out doors in the boxes - a full panel for the fridge, a small square for the oven and a round porthole for the washing machine. Score the back of each door with a knife along its hinged edge to allow it to fold open easily. Use a plastic bowl for a sink, just place it on another box that can have a door in to act as a cupboard. In no time at all you'll have a simple Home Corner that will keep your little ones happy for years!
In addition to appliances, add props. Donate old kitchen equipment like wooden spoons, mixing bowls and other implements. Toy stores sell play implements, but you will probably find it as cheap to buy real plastic sets from a supermarket! Add sets of plastic or wooden food from a toy shop.
If you have some low shelves, make these a part of the Home Corner too. Encourage your children to put everything away neatly and keep their Home tidy!
For many months a new born baby will not be interested in playing with their toys - no matter how colourful the toys or encouraging you are, toys are not something they seem really interested in. Until the age of one, most babies will not be able or interested to play alone for very long.
In the early days, you will be far more interesting to your baby. They'll want to follow you round with their eyes, try to mimic what you do, be around you and it's a great time to spend quality time together. Even if baby does begin to enjoy playing with toys, make sure you are always near so you can share with the experience.
Toys present only one small way that children learn about the world and their place within it. The brain develops more in the first two years of life than at any time. Playing and interacting without people is the way babies learn.
How do Babies Learn?
As babies learn to reach and hold things, they become more interested in toys. "What happens if I bang this?" "What a soft feel this teddy has." "I like the sound of that."
Then, they realise they can make things happen themselves. "If I drop this, it makes a noise and someone will come and pick it up.", "If I shout, someone comes.".
Playing, chatting and singing of course is the way children babies learn about speaking and language. From birth they hear your voice, the sounds of music, the noise of cars and talking. All these influences go on to combine to make up their knowledge and understanding of words and language. They pretend to chat on the phone, they sing and babble.
What Toys Could You Buy for a 6 month old?
Toys that are tactile and feel nice are always good. Choose things with lots of bright colours and lots of fun shapes and sizes, things that make a noise and things that are easy to hold.
... and for a 12 month old?
Try things that move or pop open or have doors that shut, this begins to teach cause and effect: if I press this, then that happnes. Physical aparatus to encourage moving is also fun at this age: tunnels and tents.
... and for an 18 month old?
There are thousands of manufactured toys for toddlers, such as building blocks, role play toys (phone, kitchen), puzzles and games, outdoor equipment and so on. But remember you are the best thing for a baby to play with! There are so many things you can so easily do together:
- Play in the baby bath with water and bubbles
- Sit and read books together
- Listen to music
- Have some rough and tumble: swing your baby through the air, have a dance together
- Go to the park: have a go on the slide, swings and climbing frames
- Study leaves and flowers together, feel the texture and look at the shapes and colours
- Look at photographs of people you know
- Look through colourful chldren's catalogues and just chat about what you see
Lots of simple, easy, and non-expensive ways to spend time together. Who needs toys?!
Toddlers love stories, and they love make-believe; encourage them to combine the two by putting on a show for you! Ask them to choose their favorite story book and then talk with them about who the characters are. Make up some simple puppets to represent the characters and go through the story with your kids. You can make simple puppets really easily out of things you'll have in the house, here are some examples:
- Sock puppets: put your hand into a sock, stick on eyes and other features
- Spoon character: paint a face on a wooden spoon, add wool for hair and tie a ribbon round the 'neck'
- Paper bag puppet: create a face on a paper bag and put your hand inside
- Stick puppet: draw a face on a piece of paper or a paper plate, and attach it to a stick
Children have such great imagination that you don't need a theater or anything, but if you're feeling really creative, why not contruct them a theater too from some boxes, sheets, furniture or anything else you have in the house?!