Babies love to feel textures and interacting with different materials exposes a developing baby to different feels, all part of exploring the world around them. Create a 'Sensory Basket' (or a plain old box!) at home or in their play setting by finding interesting objects that you can bring out whenever you wish. For safety, look out for large objects that don't shed parts and be aware that there will be a tendency to explore items by mouth, so ensure that they are clean. Here are some ideas of objects that you might include:-
Look around the house for other objects that your little ones can explore with touch. Sifting through draws you will quickly come across items that are safe for babies to handle and that offer a fw moments of fun to explore and sense!
Child practitioners know how to interact with young children, they ask them direct questions and wait for a response. It's very easy for parents, standing with their child, to hear a question, whether it be asked by a childminder or teacher, or a friend or relative, and to answer the question on behalf of the child. It's so easy to do this that it can be pretty difficult not to. Try to avoid doing this though, it really is important that children learn to engage in conversation and that they learn to listen, interpret and respond to questions in their own right.
As a parent, you don't want to show up your child, or have them stuck in an awkward situation where they don't understand a question. This is such an important part of language development though that you really aren't doing them any favours when you respond on their behalf.
When granny asks 'What have you been doing today?', or the childminder asks 'Is it sunny outside?', there's a really high probability that they already know the answer. Adults are sympathetic to the knowledge of young children and don't ask searching questions requiring a comprehensive, in-depth, analytical response. They are asking in order to engage with the child, to help build a bond and in order to allow the child to practice language. The enquirer isn't usually looking for a definitive answer, they probably aren't even interested in the correct answer; instead they simply want to hear the answer in the child's own words. If parents wade in with the answer then they are denying the child the opportunity to speak for themselves.
If you recognise this behaviour in yourself then try to spot it in your interactions with those around your children. If you are aware that you are doing it, then you will be able to pause, think about it, and then stop before giving an answer. If it's a deep rooted habit that you have developed then it may take a little time to coax yourself away from it, but you will get there eventually.
When your children start school, and quite possibly in earlier educational settings, they will begin to learn how to read. Learning to read is a complex and challenging task but is such a vital skill that the more practice and the more little ones can be encouraged to read, the better. As a parent, you will play an important role in the journey to becoming a reader, but the overall burden falls on the teachers working with your children.
There are various approaches to learning to read, and you will probably hear different terms. Most methods are based on on of two fundamental approaches:-
Phonics: requires words to be broken down into sounds in order to help sound out whole words.
Lexical: reading teaches recognition of whole words.
Since 2005, the UK government has stipulated a phonic approach to learning to read, employing a particular model known as synthetic phonics. This encourages words to be broken into phonic sounds which are then blended together in order to sound out complete words. Other phonic and lexical approaches play their part - for example, teachers will encourage the learning of 'high frequency words' so that young children can recognise some of the most common words in the language.
The emphasis on synthetic phonics does not mean that other approaches to reading are invalid, and as a parent you do not need to worry about the intricacies of different learning models. The best contribution that you can offer as a parent is to ensure that you read regularly to your little ones, and that you support them in their reading when the time comes.
It is no coincidence that you often hear that key learning stages are referred to as the 'building blocks' of life. Building blocks have the most marvellous property that while a single block is uninspiring, small and unnoteworthy, put together with many others it can create the most fantastic palaces or castles, the greatest zoos or fun parks or the most wonderful houses. A building block is a unit of a much larger creation, and the possibilities of what a pile of blocks can become are limitless.
The same is true when it comes to learning fundamental principles. Learning letters is the first step on the way to learning to read and write; learning numbers is the first step to learning complex mathematics. Craft play includes many fundamental principles that help to develop fine and gross motor skills, as do sports and games. Each small step is repaid with much more value by way of long term reward.
Active children who participate in a healthy mix of games, craft and learning will be collecting 'building blocks' through life. These building blocks will make well rounded individuals, and in the same way that traditional building blocks can make almost anything, so fundamental learning blocks will create a child capable of almost anything they put their mind to.
We all realise that young children benefit from being outside, but what you might not appreciate is that they value being given free access to play outside whenever they want. Some children are naturally inclined to remain indoors, and they may need encouragement to play outside, but other children would rather be outdoors than indoors.
Try to allow your little ones to play outside whenever they wish. Obviously outdoor play may not fit in with your routine if you don't have a secure garden or they are so young that they need constant supervision, but if you have a safe outside area then encourage your little ones to take themselves outside whenever they wish to.
Besides the fresh air, there are so many reasons why outdoor play is so important. Children playing outside will interact in different ways to when they are inside. They have space to run or move more quickly, they can jump about without fear of being told off for causing danger! They are able to make more noise than when they are indoors, and they will find objects in the garden to play with that help them explore different materials, such as sticks, stones, plants and so on.
Try to offer a freeflow environment where children can choose to go outside whenever they want. Obviously they may not always be able to go out, but giving them an outdoor option will benefit their development in so many different ways.
I-Spy is a terrific game to help while away boring chores, such as long car journeys or trips to the supermarket. Although young children probably can't spell yet, if they can talk then they can say what sound something begins with.
I-Spy with my little eye, something that begins with 'gr'
...or play a colours variation:
I-Spy, with my little eye, something that is blue
Add a new dimension to the game by letting your little one photograph what they are looking at with your mobile phone or a kiddy-camera if they have one.
I-Spy is such a great game for helping time pass, but also for helping develop letter sounds, colours or other knowledge. As it needs no equipment, just a minimum of two people, you can strike up a game at any moment!
Each year the Wimbledon Championships raise the profile of tennis in the country, and encourage social players back out onto courts all over the land. Most tennis champions were introduced to the sport at a really early age, and if you want a tennis star in your family, then you will need to start training them young!
In all seriousness, tennis presents a wonderful way to promote coordination in your little ones and there are lots of games you can play with them to help in their physical development.
Help babies to focus and track objects by bouncing a ball against a wall and catching it over and over. If they can sit upright, practice rolling a ball backwards and forwards and to you and back
Buy 'short tennis' rackets for toddlers to play with. Encourage them to hit a ball by throwing it to them gently. Have them run after and retrieve balls that you hit for them. Play simple throwing and catching games, have them throw items into hula hoops and then at smaller targets.
Encourage older children to practice bouncing balls on a racket over and over again, see how many times they can bounce the ball in a row. Keep a note of their 'high score' and watch their improvement.
Many tennis clubs run tennis camps during school holiday times, and especially in the summer. Some of these may be aimed at preschool children and some clubs run mother and toddler sessions throughout the year. Look at attending these, not really with the aim of producing a world class tennis champion, but simply to develop physical skills and hand-eye coordination. You probably will foster an early interest in sport, which is no bad thing, but regardless, you will be helping your little ones improve their capabilities.
If you are serious about pursuing junior tennis then the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) help with training and coaching for talented children from as young as five. Being involved in a local tennis club or tennis centres will help put your little ones on their radar.
If your little ones don't have the best concentration, or seem to tire quickly from monotonous work, then spice up their involvement by choosing fun locations where they can do their colouring, shapes, letter practice and so on. Some children are naturally challenged with arduous tasks such as practicing their letters or colouring in pictures, others get bored rather too quickly. If you have difficulty encouraging your little ones to settle down to do their work then try doing it outside at a garden table, or in the park at a picnic table. Maybe create a camp from a few old sheets draped around bushes, or if the weather forces you inside, drape a sheet or towels over a clothes airer. No space is too small for your little ones to cram in. They will enjoy it all the more if they are hidden from you.
Tasks such as colouring, writing, constructing jigsaws and the like take time and concentration. Many children don't persevere at these tasks for the time required but they are really important activities in order to encourage fine motor skills and problem solving, indeed, to help with concentration.
Build your little ones an 'office' space and tell them that they are 'going to work', something that they see parents doing. Young children love to mimic grown-ups and this will give them a sense that they are doing what you do. Relocate to a cafe, the local library or the park. Make an adventure of basic tasks and you will find that your children quickly lap up the excitement of doing otherwise very ordinary activities in a different setting.
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.
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.
The Department for Education is partway through a consultation exercise on changes planned for Sure Start Children's Centre's, if you wish to respond to the proposals then you must do so by the 1st June 2012. The consultation period is shorter than for most similar exercises and is looking for feedback on draft statutory guidance relating to Sure Start centres.
Sure Start Children's Centres are places managed by or on behalf of local authorities to ensure children's services are offered in an integrated way. Children's services might be made available onsite but if not, advice and assistance should be given to obtain children's services. Early years provision covers early education and childcare. Children's services include social services, health services, training and employment advice and information for young children, parents and prospective parents.
The aims of Sure Start Centres are to open equal access to opportunities and education to all from an early age so that children reach a level playing field by the time that they reach school. The centres particularly target more deprived communities who may not have access to such good facilities to help educate and nurture young children prior to reaching school.
Anyone is entitled to respond to the proposed changes, even if you aren't engaged in offering professional services to the young or parents. If you would like your voice to be heard then put forward your view on the Department for Education's consultation website.
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!
The first five years of a child's life are hugely important in terms of development and sets them up for the rest of their lives. Understandably the first five years of life sees enormous growth as a baby grows into an infant.
You can easily monitor a baby's growth in weight and size, but what is more difficult to monitor is the development of their brain. Over this critical period the brain is forming and the neurons are evolving into a network that will power your childs thinking for the rest of their lives. Scientific research has shown that the more a baby is stimulated, the earlier their brain develops and the more attentive and clever they will grow to be in time.
Stimulating a baby from birth will pay dividends in the long run. This is why you should constantly talk with your little ones, even if they are nowehere near being able to communicate back. This is why you should expose them to lots of different environments - take them on days out, take them on long walks (even if you are simply pushing them in a buggy) and show them as many different experiences as you can. All of this will help their brain develop early on and you will be rewarded with bright children in the future.
Encouraging your baby to be a social baby is important - even after just 4 weeks of life babies are learning their first skills in communication. They are hearing conversations, watching people move about, listening to noises and music, feeling vibrations as you talk.
Babies watch adults eyes and faces for cues and can hear different tones of voice when they speak. If you babble with a baby, they will often pause for a reply even though they are not speaking actual words or having a conversation, they have picked up the idea of pauses in conversation and that we take turns to speak.
Smiling is a vital form of communication. If you smile at a baby more often than not they will smile back. If you frown at a baby they are likely to frown back or cry. So, before they even utter their first word they are learning the vital skills of communication through observing and listening to the parents or siblings behaviour.
Personal, Social and Emotional Development
As babies get older, tactile and textured toys are a great form of entertainment. Once they can hold and touch things they can learn cause and effect. If they shake a rattle it makes a noise etc. They also get to learn about textures of things and beginning to understand that items feel different. Similarly we can feel different: sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes frightened etc.
When they get older and can use words, they can then begin to notice and describe how items feel. A wooden spoon is hard, a cotton wool ball is soft etc. Once they have mastered this, they are more able to explain how they feel inside. They might feel scared or joyful etc and with this confidence they can go on to share that information and communicate how they feel.
It is very important to try and give children the chance to develop their emotional well-being and to have the confidence to share their feelings with others. So, get all sorts of toys and items that feel and look different. Talk about the texture: are they rough, smooth, fluffy, shiny. Then talk about how we all look different and can feel different when we are afraid, excited, happy, sad, worried etc.
During the first six months of a baby's life there are lots of games and activities you can do to help them make sense of their new world. Even when they are just born their senses are working and developing.
Here are some ideas for encouraging babies to use their senses.
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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!
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