Although the EYFS is a prescriptive programme to help cover a wide variety of development topics, almost everything we do covers aspects of EYFS without even having to try, and that's because EYFS is really gearing us up to learning about the real world.
Take a trip to the supermarket for example, your little ones are learning where their food comes from, they can help find products on the shelves, they help you with the money when you come to pay. These activities touch elements of health and bodily awareness (PD), place (KUW), and shapes, space and measures and calculating (PSRN).
Picking up siblings or other children from school and chatting with mum's at the school gate aids language (CLL) and sense of community (PSED) as well as helping grow confidence (PSED), the walk alone contributing to Physical Development.
Familiarity with the goals of EYFS will let you turn every routine task or chore into a learning game. Accentuate the lessons across the different areas of the EYFS and at every step you will be nurturing your children in understanding the world, their place within, and in how everything works. Don't forget to log the lessons learned in your Daily Diary at ToucanLearn!
Sometimes, you just want to break free - do something different, try something new, break the rules! It's the same if you're a child. So often we insist that the children follow a routine, do things in a certain order, and follow various rules. However, just occasionally, its fun and exciting to do things in a different way. Here are just a few ideas to suggest to the children to shake things up a bit. You could ask their ideas and see what they come up with. Make sure they understand though, that this is a special, unusual kind of day and not the norm...just in case they get any ideas!
- Have a picnic breakfast: pack breakfast and go to the park or countryside and have a lovely picnic.
- Paint the leaves: take a paintbrush and some poster paints and get the children to paint some leaves on low branches in the garden. It's great fun!
- Spread a rug in the living room for a picnic lunch if it's raining. Wrap the food as if you were going on a real picnic!
- Get the children to choose dinner. Show them what you have in your fridge and get their suggestions for what to make with it. You may need to pop out to get more ingredients.
- Blend a breakfast cereal. Take handfuls of different cereals you have in the cupboard and make a new special brand.
- Have frothy hot chocolate (warmed very slightly in the microwave) rather than milk, just for a change.
- Make a robot out of cardboard boxes and cartons... any recyclable rubbish you find at home. Be as creative or zany as you like and decorate the robot in a crazy way then invite him for tea! Set a place at the table and serve up dinner!
- Get paintbrushes and paint the outside of the house with water.
- Eat something you have never eaten before. Go to the supermarket together and choose your menu.
Getting children up for nursery or school always seems harder in the winter - it’s still dark outside, it’s chilly and it seems so much better to stay in bed. However, get up we must! One way to get the children into a good morning routine is to create a morning picture chart This helps them know what they are doing, it sets a president so they know it’s always going to be the same and it helps us too as parents guide the children through the morning.
Make a list of the tasks you usually do in the mornings:
- Wake up
- Get dressed
- Brush hair
- Wash teeth
- Collect bag/shoes for nursery
- Head off to nursery
Find pictures to illustrate each task. Do this together.
- Draw a clock and colour it in for the wake up picture.
- Stick on a label from the cereal packet or toothpaste tube for the breakfast or wash teeth image.
- Take a photo of your child all dressed and ready to go by the door for the leave for nursery picture.
Different charts may work for different children:
- Pre-schoolers: Choose a strip of card and stick the pictures in order along the card. Had it up on the wall
- Toddlers: Have larger cards and show them each on when you want them to get on with that activity.
According to research, about 70% of children under five have sleep problems; sleep is a vital part of our daily lives, both for children and their parents, so any problems in this are can have dreadful consequences. The issues behind sleep problems are complicated and stressful because too little sleep at night can make the days even harder for both parents and children.
So, what can be done to improve sleeping? Here are a few tips:
1. A day and night timetable
It is important to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day so you begin to "train" your child's biological clock. This will mean that around 7 am each morning your child will begin to wake and at around 7 pm they will be ready for bed.
Children that follow a routine are more likely to have a more peaceful and calm bedtime. They know that the same thing will happen each night: bath, wash teeth, pyjamas on, book in bed, cuddle then bed. They will come to know what happens next and will expect it to be the same each night.
3. Daytime naps
Surprisingly, sleeps or naps during the day can effect how well a child sleeps at night. You'd think not, but naps are important. Children find it hard to go all day long without a break and it can make them more relaxed and focused. The better the daytime sleep, the better the night sleep.
4. Help get them in the mood
Dim the lights, talk more quietly, turn off the TV or music and be calm during the last half hour of the day. Put black out curtain in your child's bedroom so any sunlight is not making the room bright. Similarly, the sunlight will encourage them to wake up so keep the binds down if you want them to increase the chances of them sleeping in later in the morning.
Try and make the bedroom a calm place in the evening. Make it warm and comfortable. Warm the pyjamas if its cold outside, make the bed look welcoming and just try to make it a nice place to be.
6. Hungry or hyper?
Try not to feed sugary foods in the evening that can make children too alert and awake. Carbohydrates are more calming on the body so try and eat these in the evening. And, make sure they have eaten well during the day. A hungry tummy can make sleep very hard!
7. Wear them out!
Make sure that you do lots of physical exercise with children during the day so they are worn out by bedtime! It's good for them to enjoy the outdoors and healthy too, so take them out whenever you can so they are tired and drop off to sleep quickly.
8. Read a book
A great way to end the day is to share a book. Snuggle up somewhere warm and chat about your day together. Relax and make it a special time of day.
9. Take a teddy
Allow your child to take a favourite teddy to bed with them. Its comforting and helps them sleep. Just make sure it's safe with no loose buttons or ribbons they could swallow.
10. Separation anxiety
If they worry about being away from you and use it as as excuse not to sleep, comfort them, show you where you sleep and be firm about not letting them out of bed.
Once you have children, Christmas takes on a different focus - it's more magical, more emotive, almost certainly more expensive, but slightly unwelcome is the fact that is can be stressful because of the danger of even more children's tantrums. The excitement, the joy, the sheer exhaustion of the whole event can render the best behaved child into little monsters! So, what can we do to avoid these embarrassing meltdowns in front of the in-laws or the jealous rage just after Santa has delivered the presents? Here are a few tips!
- Tire them out! There is nothing worse than your toddler waking at 4am on Christmas morning, shouting from his bed, "Daddy, has Santa been yet?" So, make sure that on Christmas Eve you tire the kids out. Dress up warmly and go for a long walk; play some games in the park. What ever you do, just don't have a lazy day at home or they'll be up really, really early!
- Sleep time. Don't forget to try and keep to your children's normal routine, including naps and mealtimes, in order to keep their Christmas running smoothly. Don't give in to relative's pleas of keeping them up late or foregoing a nap. Stand firm and say no! Otherwise, they'll be over run with excitement and will collapse with the lack of routine and it could spoil Christmas for everyone. Keep things as "normal" as possible!
- Sweets on Christmas morning. If your children get a pile of chocolate and sweets make it clear that they can eat them, but that there are rules! Chocolate and sweets should be rationed over time and eaten later in the day. They'll last longer and you won't suffer a crazy sugar surge before breakfast that could put you all in a bad mood!
- Present mountain. It's great to have a pile of lovely gifts for your kids to open on Christmas morning. It's so nice to see their excited faces as they rip open wrapping paper. But, remember that your little ones don't necessarily need masses of expensive gifts from parents - especially if you have friends or family who'll be giving presents too. You can get some reasonably priced presents at cheaper shops which will be as exciting to open... but cost less!
- More pudding? Don't expect too much from your little ones during dinner. Sitting through a long chatty dinner is not going to be easy for them, so give them a normal portion of food and let them leave the table when they are done! No one will expect them to remain to make polite conversation while the adults finish-off their second helpings.
Research has found that the majority of parents read bedtime stories to children under the age of 5; bedtime reading is an important activity offering a number of benefits. We've talked about the importance of establishing a routine before, and stories just before bedtime signal that it's soon time to go to sleep. Stories also offer the oppportunity to wind down and relax, if the children have been jumping around whilst getting ready for bed, they can now calm down again as you sit in a cuddle and they listen to stories.
Stories offer the opportunity for youngsters to hear language and to begin to understand writing and reading. They are exposed to words and this forms an early foundation in the learning of language. Very recent research, however, found that for older children who can speak, conversing with them instead of just reading to them is six times more beneficial for them to learn language. As your children grow older, make sure you talk with them as well as to them, at the end of the day. Recap what you have done during the day, and if they are at nursery or spending other time away from you, ask them about what they did in that time.
Story time also gives you the opportunity to spend dedicated time with your babies. You probably spend most of your time with your children, but how much of it do you spend interacting with them directly rather than just pushing them in a buggy or being with them? The end of the day provides an opportunity to dedicate one on one time with each of your children as they snuggle down, hopefully for a good night's sleep!
Coming home with your first baby can be pretty bewildering, and the first few weeks can be difficult; aim to establish a routine as soon as you can. Daily routine helps you as much as your baby, it lets you focus on where you are in the day, and prepare for what comes next. Once you establish a routine, you'll find that your are more prepared and things are less manic!
You'll need to adapt your routine around your baby. You'll soon see feeding and sleeping patterns - go with your baby's natural cycle (unless feed and playtime seem to fall in the middle of the night because then you'll want to wean them onto a daytime routine!). Your routine might include sleep, feeds, trips outside (maybe around the park or to the shops), baby and toddler groups, activity time and interactive play. Baby gyms are a good way to occupy your baby while you can be doing other chores that need doing in the home. Make sure that you find time to spend with your baby playing peekaboo, doing massage or other touchy feely games.
When your baby is a few months old, you may find it helpful to get into a routine of eating, sleeping, bathing and doing other activities throughout the day. There's little evidence that routine is important for your baby, but it could well make it easier for you to plan your day and remember to do all that needs doing. Why not make ToucanLearn activities a part of your routine? You can easily fit in an activity at one or two points in the day, and maybe another at bedtime? Then in the evening you could blog your day, feedback on the activities, upload any photos that you took, and select activities for the following day.