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Two Can Learn Better than One!

Category: ToucanLearn

Data Protection Registration for Childminders

Permalink 04/07/13 07:22, by Tikal, Categories: ToucanLearn , Tags: cctv, data protection act, data protection registration, ico, information commissioners office, photo

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We've been asked on a number of occasions whether you must register with the Data Protection Registrar if you use an online system such as ToucanLearn in your childminding setting. The simple answer is almost certainly 'Yes'. The Data Protection Act requires that any personal data (defined as data that can be traced to an identifiable human being) stored in an automated system must be registered with the Information Commissioner's Office.

Unfortunately the ICO doesn't make the law and even their advice is ambiguous in certain instances. If you complete their 'self assessment' as to whether you need to register under the Data Protection Act, if you state that the personal information you hold is not on an electronic system then they state that you do not need to register. However, in other explanations, the state that if personal information is stored in a filing system aimed at easing information retrieval, then you do have to register. The one exception could be that the information is held in strict chronological order with no other ordering aimed at easy access.

The ICO is clear that keeping personal data on digital cameras, CCTV or mobile phones does fall into the area where registration is required.

Registration currently costs £35 per year and registration can be done online. Renewal payments are usually taken automatically each year.

Here at ToucanLearn we register our own business and declare what we may use the data for. Our registration does not cover our individual users.

It's unlikely that many childminders would fall outside of the requirement to register. Registration is not required because you use a system such as ToucanLearn specifically, it's required because it's almost inevitable that you will hold some information, somewhere, that does fall under the requirements.

Adapting EYFS Activities to Different Topics

Permalink 01/05/13 07:01, by Tikal, Categories: ToucanLearn, Kids Activities, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: activities, days of the week, development, dinosaurs, eyfs, minibeasts, romans, topics

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The EYFS covers broad aspects of child development (such as Communication and Language, Literacy, Mathematics) rather than specific topics such as 'Dinosaurs', 'The Romans' or 'Days of the Week'.  At ToucanLearn we have a range of activities suited to the capabilities of each individual child. The selection of activities you see for a 3 month child is different for those of a 9 month child or 2 year old toddler. Our activity programme takes each child up to school age.

If you want to cover specific topics in your setting then look at adapting our activities to cover the topics you want to cover. Some of our activities will map very easily whilst some may not. For example, if you are studying 'Minibeasts' then look at adapting the range of activities being offered to change the focus to creepy crawlies instead.

Of course, there are plenty of other activity sites on the Internet and a quick search will bring up all sorts of activities relating to specific topics. Where ToucanLearn differs is that we offers activities aimed at the specific capabilities of each child, each one focusing on different aspects of the EYFS at that stage of development. By adapting our activities to a different topic, you can ensure that the activities are pitched at the right level in terms of capability.

EYFS Activities

Permalink 29/10/12 07:44, by Tikal, Categories: ToucanLearn, Kids Activities, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: activities, areas of learning, eyfs, eyfs activities, toucanlearn

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The EYFS is all about facilitating early learning, it's not a curriculum that should be followed prescriptively.  Indeed, prescriptive learning lies far from the aims of the EYFS.  Children have developed through learning since the dawn of humankind, and the EYFS doesn't bring us anything radically different in our approaches to learning for preschoolers, it simply encourages particular types of learning to stimulate the important parts of early development.

For this reason, it's not possible to pigeonhole an activity and say 'this is an EYFS activity'.  You would be hard pushed to undertake any activity that didn't cover at least one of the bases of the EYFS areas of learning. However, certain activities cover certain areas of learning better than others.

At ToucanLearn, we offer hundreds of actvities that, for our premium members, are all categorised by EYFS areas of learning. Most of our activities predate the EYFS, but they were designed with the same aims of the EYFS, to promote health early years development. As a young carer, you should observe the way that your wards are developing and should aim to promote those areas where you perceive work is needed.  Babies develop at different rates but generally conform to a linear pattern, hitting goals in a very similar order.  If you observe that your little ones might be struggling with gross or fine motor skills, or in the development of language, then actively seek out activities that will help to promote these areas.  At ToucanLearn you can achieve this simply by searching for an activity covering a particular area of learning.

Do continue pursuing activities in all the other areas of learning too - babies are developing rapidly so even if progress is good, or even better, continue visiting activities that you know they will cope well with as practice, repetition and the sheer fact that they are engaged in activities will all help their early development.

If you have stumbled across this entry inadvertently, then please do visit our main site, ToucanLearn. Sign up for free and access hundreds of preschool activities. If you're a professional childminder then you will find that we offer lots of services to help you fulfil the EYFS, and hopefully we can play a small part in helping your little ones achieve their potential in life.

EYFS 2012 is Here!

Permalink 04/09/12 06:32, by Tikal, Categories: ToucanLearn, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: eyfs, eyfs 2012, prime areas or learning, specific areas of learning

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It seems that we've waited forever since EYFS 2012 was published back in March, but it has finally come into force and we have updated ToucanLearn to reflect the revised areas of learning.

One of the changes introduced in EYFS 2012 is a split between 'prime' areas of learning and 'specific' areas. The prime areas (Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Communication and Language and Physical Development) are the essential building blocks designed to promote healthy development. The specific areas (Literacy, Mathematics, Understanding the World and Expressive Art and Design) are more attuned to future school learning in specific subjects.

You will find that activities for younger children focus more on the prime areas but as they grow older, more and more focus will switch to the specific areas. This follows natural learning and progression and is reflected in the activity programme offered to all preschoolers in ToucanLearn.

Emailing Photos to your Daily Diary

Permalink 21/06/12 07:11, by Tikal, Categories: ToucanLearn, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: daily diary, eyfs, eyfs diary, mobile, photo, toucanlearn

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Sharing your pictures has never been easier with ToucanLearn's facility to email photos directly from your mobile phone into the correct Daily Diary!  There isn't an easier way to maintain EYFS diaries throughout the day and what's more, you can share your diaries straight with the relevant parents too, so that they can stay informed throughout the day.

Those members who tested this for us are unanimous in their praise!

"This great new feature of being able to send photos straight to the learning journey is great! It really makes my work very much enjoyable and its simple to use", Fay, Childminder, Bedfordshire.

Here’s what to do!  Give it a try and let us know how you get on...

  1. Take a photo on your mobile phone
  2. Add a subject line and message - this will appear in the diary
  3. Include the child's name (or children's names) in the subject or message
  4. Email it to diary@toucanlearn.com directly from your phone

The photo will automatically appear in the account/s of the child/children's written in the subject line.

Example:-

To: diary@toucanlearn.com
Subject: Musical statues
Message: Ben and Polly played musical statues, Polly won because Ben got the giggles and couldn't stay still!
[PHOTO]

 

This email will be turned into a Daily Diary entry for both Ben and Polly with the subject line as the entry title, and the message becomes the caption for the photograph.

Photo entries should appear in your diary within two minutes.  If we fail to match the photo to the correct diary then you will receive an email back explaining the problem.

This feature is for Premium Members only as we don't offer photo uploads on free accounts.

Medium Term Planning

Permalink 30/05/12 06:37, by Tikal, Categories: ToucanLearn, Child Development, Childminders and Childminding , Tags: daily diary, eyfs, medium term planning, planning, toucanlearn

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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.

Observing Children

Permalink 20/05/12 07:41, by Tikal, Categories: Babies, ToucanLearn, Child Development, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: daily diary, eyfs, observation, progress

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One of the requirements of the EYFS has always been to observe children and gage their progress against the areas of Learning.  Observation should tell you what stage your children have reached in terms of development and will help you plan activities to challenge their current capabilities.  Parents naturally observe their children but in an informal way, and it doesn't necessarily lead them to challenge their children.

There are two key modes of observing children.  The first, formal mode, is to watch them for a period of time as they play in their setting.  Watch what they do, what they say, how they solve problems, and make a record.  Doing this on a frequent basis will let you notice patterns emerging and help you plan progress.  The other mode of observation is simply noticing particular moments that strike you as funny, special, amazing.  Young children are constantly amazing us, perhaps they do something in the way that you do, or say something that you would nomally do; maybe they achieve something that you really didn't think they could do, a baby rolling over, pulling a cushion off a sofa, pulling themselves up to a standing position.  Note these moments too and again you will see patterns emerging over time.

Using ToucanLearn's Daily Diary, you can keep a permanent record of progress and come back to it over time.  If you are a childminder, share the Diary back with parents and that way they can log in at any moment and see how their child is progressing, and what they are doing.

EYFS In Everything We Do

Permalink 27/04/12 06:22, by Tikal, Categories: ToucanLearn, Parenting, Child Development, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), Childminders and Childminding , Tags: chores, daily diary, eyfs, learning, routine

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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!

EYFS 2012

Permalink 30/03/12 06:47, by Tikal, Categories: ToucanLearn, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: communication and language, expressive arts and design, eyfs, eyfs 2008, eyfs 2012, literacy, mathematics, physical, psed, uderstanding the world

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The revised EYFS framework was published this week, the existing framework, EYFS 2008, remains in place until the end of August, the new framework called EYFS 2012 will be mandated from the 1st September. The revised framework aims to reduce bureaucracy and simplify learning and development requirements, reducing the early learning goals from 69 to 17. The framework concentrates on the three areas of learning deemed the most important:-

  • Communication and language
  • Physical
  • Personal, social and emotional development

In addition to these 'Prime Areas' there are also four futher 'Specific Areas':-

  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Understanding the world
  • Expressive arts and design

At ToucanLearn we will revise our system to tie in with EYFS 2012, ready for launch on 1st September.  At the same time we will launch some new features to offer new tools to help childcarers implement the EYFS.  We're excited about these changes, while we always felt that the EYFS offered a great platform for early learning, we also think that these revisions help to focus on the important parts of learning and will help those who might have struggled with the breadth of coverage of EYFS 2008.  We will write more about the revised EYFS framework over the next few months, and keep you informaed of changes coming toToucanLearn.

You can download the new EYFS framework here.

Monitoring and Observing with a Diary

Permalink 16/06/11 07:02, by Tikal, Categories: ToucanLearn, Parenting, Health , Tags: allergies, childminder, daily diary, diary, monitor, observe

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As our children grow day by day, there are many small changes that we may not notice; using a diary can help you observe and identify change over a longer period. Observational diaries are a good instrument for observing and monitoring over a long period.  Simply keeping a diary of what you do each day will highlight long term changes in development because when you compare entries weeks or months apart, you will see that your little ones are undertaking activities that were previously beyond their capabilities.

Diaries are a useful tool to explore long term concerns that you have, for example, to help identify what triggers certain physical conditions or behavioural patterns in your child.  If your child is prone to allergies, you might want to log what they eat, where you have been during the day, what the weather was like and how their allergies were manifested.  Over time you might pick out certain triggers such as food types, weather patterns or locations.  By isolating the causes you can then learn to avoid them.

If your children are cared for by childminders during the day then you should ask them to undertake monitoring for you, and to keep a regular diary.  ToucanLearn offers a Daily Diary which can be used for such purposes, fill entries in regularly and then look through them every couple of weeks in order to try to ascertain what you are looking for.

Trooping The Colour!

Permalink 10/06/11 06:37, by Tikal, Categories: ToucanLearn, Kids Activities , Tags: colouring, soliders, trooping the colour

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The Queen's birthday is officially celebrated by the ceremony of the Trooping the Colour, where a Guard's regiment process their colours and march through London in a spectacular display.

This year the event falls on Saturday 11 June.

The tradition of marching through London in summer dates back to the early eighteenth century or earlier, when the flags of the battalion were carried (or as they officially call it,  'trooped').

The occasion marks the sovereign's birthday, although it is not the Queen's real birthday. The tradition celebrates the Sovereign's birthday publicly on a day in the summer, when good weather is more likely.

Trooping the Colour is carried out by operational troops from the Household Division (made up of Foot Guards and Household Cavalry).  They parade down Horse Guards Parade in Whitehall.  Members of the Royal Family will watch the parade, special guests and members of the public.

The Queen is normally greeted by a Royal salute and inspects the troops. The massed bands perform a musical 'troop', and then the escorted Regimental Colour is carried down the ranks. The soliders then march and the Queen rides in a carriage back to Buckingham Palace.

The Queen has been present at every Trooping the Colour since she ascended the throne, except in 1955 when a national rail strike cancelled the event.

Go to www.toucanlearn.com for a great soldier picture to colour.  Join ToucanLearn for free, select Fun Stuff, and choose the Father's Day activities to download the picture.

Toddler Colouring Skills

Permalink 31/05/11 06:31, by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, ToucanLearn, Kids Art and Craft, Kids Activities , Tags: colouring, colours, crayons, pictures, writing

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Colouring has to be the number one activity, entertaining children around the world on a daily basis, but what does it teach? As with so many baby and toddler activities, colouring assists learning across a broad spectrum of skills:-

  • Fine motor skills: this is all about coordination, young children will learn to hold crayons and to control their hand movements. Such control is essential before your children can start writing so colouring is a precursor to being able to write.
  • Knowledge and understanding of the world: exposure to different pictures to colour in will help to teach children about the world around them; talk about the scenes that they are colouring, and make sure that they know what each object in the scene is, this will broaden vocabulary as well as nurture a wider contextual understanding.
  • Colours: colouring helps your little ones learn their colours. Children will also begin to learn the effect of mixing different colours.
  • Concentration: colouring will help your children to concentrate on a project and to see it through to its conclusion.

There are so many lessons that colouring a simple picture can teach. Make sure you always have a small pack of crayons in your handbag, and a sheet or two to colour in (you can quickly find pictures to colour on the Internet, we have lots at ToucanLearn!).  The next time you find yourself having to wait somewhere with your little ones, or stuck in traffic, you'll be grateful that you can just whip out some colouring, and your little ones will be improving themselves along the way.

Observations - The Easy Way

Permalink 07/05/11 08:15, by Tikal, Categories: ToucanLearn, Child Development, Kids Activities, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), Childminders and Childminding , Tags: eyfs, notes, observations, photos, record, toucanlearn, video

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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.

Hello!

Permalink 25/03/11 07:37, by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, ToucanLearn, Child Development, Preschool Children, Kids Activities , Tags: communicating, hello campaign, speaking, toucanlearn

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2011 is the national year of communication; Hello is a campaign to promote the importance of children and young adults talking to each other and communicating effectively. Visit the campaign website at http://hello.org.uk/.

They maintain that communication is a skill to be learned and that it is a vital part of life.  The statistics state that over 1 million children in the UK have a language, speech or communication problem.  In poor areas, over half of the children begin school with language or communication problems.  This makes school much harder for them and can lead to all sorts of struggles in later life.

Hello aims to help those children by providing resources for parents, carers and teachers.  There will also be events throughout the country to support and promote the idea of good and effective communication.

ToucanLearn is very much in support of programmes such as Hello.  One of our key skill categories is 'Speaking' where all sorts of activities, games and ideas are provided in order to help parents and carers encourage, entertain and also inspire children to speak and communicate more.  For more information and great ideas, sign up at ToucanLearn where learning is fun for your and your little ones!

Baby Keepsakes

Permalink 09/12/10 08:12, by Tikal, Categories: Babies, ToucanLearn , Tags: baby, birth certificate, daily diary, hand prints, keepsake, lock, photographs, toucanlearn

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Your baby grows up so quickly; before you know it, you have young children running around your house! When your baby arrives, why not make some keepsakes that will help you remember those precious early days? There are all sorts of keepsakes that you can create either yourself, or buy through services from professional companies. Here are a few ideas:-

  • Photographs: The simplest and yet most powerful of all keepsakes - make sure you photograph your baby from the early days so that you have a visual record of their arrival into the world.  Why not create a record of their early development in ToucanLearn's Daily Diary?
  • Hand and Footprints: There are plenty of companies offering hand and footprints of your baby in their first few weeks, but you can create these yourself too!  You can create prints in various mediums, such as paint or ink prints on paper, prints modeled into clay, even hand prints on ceramic mugs or other items that you can arrange in a local ceramics workshop.
  • Lock of Hair: You may want to keep a lock of hair from your baby.  You may have to wait a while before there is enough to cut, but this could be a keepsake that your baby appreciates later in life too!
  • Baby Book: There are plenty of baby books that allow you to record different aspects of your baby's early life, and early milestones.  If you buy one, make sure you fill it in and return to it regularly so that you create a full record!
  • Hand and Foot Casts: Similar to prints, casts can be made by professional outfits and will remind you just how tiny your baby was once they have grown up and you have forgotten just how delicate they were when they arrived
  • Commemorative Jewellery: Treat yourself and congratulate yourself on the arrival of your children!  Why not have a nice bracelet engraved with the names and dates of birth of your children, or add a charm to a charm bracelet for each baby?
  • Birth Certificates: When you register your children's births, you can request copy registration certificates for your own use.  Why not frame them and hang them in your house?

You can find details of professional services in your area who can help you create keepsakes in most hospital maternity wards, health centres, baby magazines, and, of course, online.  If you opt to create your own keepsakes, be careful to use safe paints, inks etc.  Use only water based materials and watch out for any sign of allergic reactions, your young baby's skin is very delicate.

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Hi! I'm Tikal the Toucan, the mascot for ToucanLearn. Follow my blog to find out interesting things relating to babies, toddlers and preschool children!

Sign up FREE to ToucanLearn to follow our activity based learning programme for babies, toddlers and children. We offer hundreds of fun learning craft, games and activities - every activity is aimed at the capabilities of your specific children. Download custom activity sheets, and log their progress in each child's unique Daily Diary!

You'll also find sticker and reward charts, certificates, number and letter practice. Every activity links into the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) areas of learning and development.

Fill in our Daily Diary to log progress against the EYFS and add photo entries instantly simply by sending them straight from your phone. You can share diaries back with parents or childminders so that everyone can enjoy watching your children develop.

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