Two Can Learn Better than One!

Tags: learning

How Children Learn

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Child Development, Preschool Children, Childminders and Childminding , Tags: information, learning, memory

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All children learn differently and with a little imagination and careful planning, you can get them to absorb all sorts of information.  Parents are important teachers and the home (where childminders also operate) can be an ideal learning environment if the lessons are pitched correctly.

Knowing how your child learns best is an important factor when teaching them because there are different ways that information is absorbed by different people - children and adults alike.   For example when you get a new gadget do you read each word first and then start the machine?  Or do you press all the buttons and see what happens?  Do you remember people's faces better or their names?  Do you write notes and lists or store all the information in your head?  None of the methods are more right or wrong, but for different people learning is easier when approached in a certain way.

Different learning styles

1.  Visual Learner:

  • Needs to visualise things
  • Learns through images
  • Enjoys drawing and artistic, creative activities
  • Interested in making models and "inventions"
  • Likes construction toys such as puzzles, Lego and Meccano

To encourage learning

  • Play board games and memory games
  • Offer lots of books and focus on the pictures
  • Encourage visualisation
  • Use different pens and papers when learning to write

2.  Kinaesthetic Learner

  • Absorbs knowledge through physical sensations
  • Very active and has trouble sitting still for a long time
  • Uses physical body language and gestures to communicate
  • Shows rather than tells
  • Wants to touch and feel things around them
  • Is good at copying, mimicking others
  • Enjoys movement and physical games

To encourage this type of learning:

  • Get them to learn while being active
  • Use experiments and practical activities to help learning.
  • Keep the learning and activities simple and focused.

3.  Auditory Learner

  • Thinks in words and verbalises concepts
  • Has good phonetics and spelling comes easily
  • Excellent memory for names and dates
  • Good at numbers

How to encourage this type of learning:

  • Make up stories
  • Read aloud and get hold of stories on tape or cd
  • Use words and numbers all the time in a creative way

4.  Logical Learner:

  • Explores patterns and shapes
  • Likes puzzles and visual games
  • Asks lots of questions
  • Likes routine and familiarity
  • Logical thinking comes at an early age
  • Can do mental arithmetic easily
  • Creates with blocks and Lego
  • Not that good at being creative

How to encourage this type of learning:

  • Do experiments together.  Look at results and number together
  • Use computers to do word and picture games
  • Use rhymes and poems for children


How to introduce learning at home:

  1. Make sure your children are in the right mood to learn
  2. Make sure they are not tired.
  3. Ask them what they would like to learn about - it may be something you were not thinking about
  4. Make lessons relevant to them (ie start by counting in grapes and teddies not just isolated numbers)
  5. Keep instructive lessons short and fun
  6. Repeat things - it helps them learn
  7. Use methods that are effective for the child and not just for you

And, remember learning is tiring, so don't push them too hard and be gentle!

Number Games

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play , Tags: cleaning, helping, learning, numbers, playing

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Exposing chiuldren to numbers early through counting and number games males them familiar with numbers from a young age.  Numbers are very important to a child's education and so many children 'struggle', but it needn't be like this.  Numbers are all around us and simply becoming familiar with numbers when they are little, is the best way to get a head start and give your children confidence for later life.  Most importantly, you don't need to be a maths genius yourself!  If you make it fun, they won't even know they are learning.

Here are a few number and counting games to introduce numbers in your everyday life:

Count things: How many pototoes on to a plate?  How many stairs as you walk up, grapes as you eat them?

Spot numbers: When you are out, look at door numbers, telephone numbers, car number plates, prices in shops and other numbers that can be observed all around.

Number games: Count the flowers in the garden, throw socks into a basket and count as you go, count how long it takes to run from one end of the garden to the other.

Number songs: Sing number songs like Once I Caught A Fish Alive, Five Fat Sausages and Ten Green Bottles.

Count your shopping:  How many pieces of fruit in the basket?  How many boxes in the trolley? Play shops at home too and count, make price tags and add up the food  you buy together.

Get cooking: Measure and weigh the ingredients, count the paper cake cases, time the cooking, give 20 stirs with a wooden spoon.

Measure things: How tall is the chair?  How tall is you child, or a teddy or the book shelf?

Get cleaning: Get your children to wipe the tables 20 times, dust the book shelf 15 times, splash the outside chairs with bubbly water 10 times.

Washing up: Count and clean the plastic cups and plates and do the washing up at the same time.  How many are in the bowl, how many are drying, how many are clean?

Have fun!

Should Babies and Toddlers Watch TV?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Child Development, Family , Tags: down time, learning, relax, research, watching tv

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There is so much TV aimed at children that it's easy to think its okay for little babies and toddlers to watch it all the time.  Much of it is billed as 'educational' so why shouldn't they tune in and watch it as much as they like.

A lot of research has been done on this topic.  It shows that for babies under two, what they see when they watch television is a mass of colours moving about the place.  They do not understand what's actually going on.

Research also shows that cartoons are often full of realistic violence and aggression even when they are animated and that this can make a child more aggressive themselves, making them familiar and unaffected by the idea of violence.

Watching TV can be addictive, the more they watch the more they want to see.  It becomes the easy option to pull up a chair rather than do something more creative or interesting.

Time spent watching TV is not spent being active and doing healthy activities so it's not good for mental or physical well being.

Children that watch lots of TV may become antisocial, may have trouble adjusting to new environments and be less enthusiastic or imaginative when it comes to school.

However it's not all bad.  There are some benefits that television can bring, if watched in moderation.

  • It can teach basic skills, numbers, letters, sounds and good behaviour.
  • They can see things that are not immediately around them, extending their experience: wild animals, foreign lands, history.
  • TV can support other learning and reinforce what they learn at nursery or preschool.
  • It does provide a little down time from physcial activity if they are tired, or after a long day at school.


  1. Unless billed specifically for preschoolers, watch programmes or DVD's before you show them to your child as there might be scary or sad bits you wish to keep from your child.
  2. Choose age appropriate programmes.
  3. Watch with your child so you can talk about the pictures or content together.  Talk about the programmes after.
  4. Make rules about the duration and timing of TV watching and keep to it.

If in doubt, just go and do something more interesting outside!

Play Away!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Learning Play, Child Development, Make Believe, Kids Activities , Tags: constructive play, games, learning, observation, organised games, peer group, physical play, playing, pretend play, sensory play

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Play is important for every child and for the first few years of their lives, babies and toddlers learn a huge amount during what they consider to be 'play'.  This is why teaching through play is such a great way to guide and educate our children because the message gets through, they learn and yet it all happens while they are having fun, playing!

During play, children expand their understand of the world, their understanding of themselves, and indeed their understanding of other people.  Once children play together, it is also a way to start communicating with other children and sharing ideas and games.

By six months, children have learned, through trial and error, various sequences that they practice.  If they push a ball, it rolls!  They see that something happens and they like the feeling of it happening.   They are learning to grip and drop and use their hands.

By nine months they might push a ball, crawl to get it and push it again.  They master new skills and make the play more interesting and complex for themselves. They use props more and gravitate towards toys they like.

By a year, they are able to be even more accurate with their props/toys.  They know a rattle will rattle and can kick or throw or roll a ball.

Types of play

  • Sensory play: As they gain confidence and control their games become even more complex.  They enjoy the sensation of movement such as swings and slides. They will do things over again to relive the experience.
  • Pretend Play: Children begin by being adult led and take the initiative from parents when starting out with pretend play.  Once they see what they can do, they may take the lead.  They may take familiar roles of doctor, or Dad when playing.  They may need, props and costumes and will probably be happy making a dressing gown into a super hero cape or tying a scarf round their head to make a princess veil.
  • By 4 or 5, pretend play becomes peer focused and they children will happy to share a pretend game together, working out what to do and who is going to be who in the game.  They will discuss the rules of the game, how it will unfold.  They may well guide behaviour by suggesting an action.  "You'll need to drink your tea before you go to work, Dad."  Pre-schoolers will also have to overcome conflict and negotiate.
  • Constructive play: Blocks and boxes are used to create a pretend miniature world.  This type of play, allows the child complete freedom to create a world of their own.
  • Physical Play: Rough and tumble, running games, chasing games are all popular with pre-schoolers.  They have more control at this age and can jump, run, climb and chase.  Overly aggressive behaviour should be checked, but it's all about learning how to control their body and what they are capable of.
  • Organised games: A more logical and formal game arrangement becomes popular between 4 and 5 years old.  They can cope with and understand the idea of having rules and  are able to follow those rules in order to have a fun game.  The idea of competition is introduced and that of winner or loser!  Teams are also introduced and the idea of working together for a common goal.

What's our role?

Observe and comment in a positive way to encourage them.

Play with them especially when they are young,  It affirms the idea of playing and makes them feel worthwhile if you are willing to play too.

Create a playful atmosphere and allow them to play - give them permission to make some noise or a mess!

Make suggestions if they are stuck.

Ensure everyone plays safely ie. the equipment is safe and that the children behave properly too!



As Easy As Riding A Bike!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Preschool Children, Kids Activities , Tags: learning, riding a bike

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With a little bit of help, lots of determination and masses of praise you can get your little ones riding a bike even if you can't ride one yourself!  It is astonishing how quickly children learn about balance, speed, peddling and brakes when they are inspired and excited about riding a bike for themselves.

The most important thing to arrange when teaching to ride a bike is to make sure a helmet is properly fitted and that it is worn at all times.  Elbow and knee pads are a good idea too to mimimise scrapes.  You may even get them to wear gloves in case they fall off and graze their hands...

A correctly sized bike is essential too.  Riding a bike that is too big can be treacherous for little ones and will prevent successful learning.  It may also damage their confidence if the bike is too big to handle.  Make sure the saddle is at the right height too to ensure their feet can touch the ground.  Obviously, check that everything is working correctly, especially the brakes!

Start by pushing the bike and encouraging your child to simply sit on the saddle and have a ride.  Explain about balancing and show them how it feels when the bike is balanced and when it's not.  Then, talk about steering and explain how to make the bike go in different directions.

The next step is to gently push the bike and get your child to propel it forward using the pedals.  Try not to hold the handlebars as this will interfere with their grasp of balance.  They need to master the bike and whether it stays upright or not.

To start, the best place is a slightly sloping area, that is covered with short grass.  It's not difficult to ride on short grass.  The incline will mean they are propelled forward slightly.  And, the grass will mean a softer landing than stone paths.

Keep an eye on how they are sitting on the bike.  It is common for children to sit too far forward and bend their body;  encourage them to sit upright.  Make sure they are not gripping the handlebars too much either.  They need to just gently hold them.

Decide which is to be the leading foot (the one they push off on) and try to keep to the same one each time.

Learning to ride can be incredibly rewarding, but also frustrating.  Be patient and keep practicing to get it right.  Try for a couple of pedal pushes to start with.  Give plenty of praise when they start to get the hang of riding. Keep a watchful eye and direct them rather than tell them off about things they may do wrong.

Once they get the hang of it, they will never look back and it will be the start of lots more fun!






Diary Projects

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Learning Play, Preschool Children, Days out, Kids Activities, Childminders and Childminding , Tags: attention, diary projects, learning, observation

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Children love the responsibility of ongoing projects, diary projects make for wonderful activities that you can dip into a little bit each day.  Diary projects are great for identifying slow change over long periods.  Buy a little notebook or staple some sheets of paper into a booklet.  Select your project and each day, once a week or every couple of weeks, make an observation on your project and have your child draw what they see or capture elements of what you are observing.  Take photographs and stick them into your diary.

Here are some project ideas:-

  • Plant a sunflower in a pot and observe it growing.  After initial planting, it will be a few days before anything appears but when it does you'll observe daily change for several days.  After the stem has unfolded from the seed, measure it each week and draw it in your project book.
  • Plant cress seeds or mung beans in a little pot and grow them on a windowsill.  These little plants grow very quickly and you can observe them each day.  Draw what the plants look like and note how tall they are.  You can even eat them at the end of the project!
  • Watch the transition from winter to spring and into summer.  Every two weeks draw a picture of the trees.  At first they will be bare, then buds will appear, they will flower and at the same time, new leaves will start to grow.
  • Monitor the weather, each day draw symbols to show what weather you are experiencing; is it rainy, sunny, cloudy, snowy?  Is there a lot of wind?  Is it hot or cold?
  • Keep a note of birds frequenting your garden or park.  Go out every few days and note down what birds you see.  Talk about their colours and explain that this is how you can identify them.  See how many different types of bird you can spot over the course of a few weeks.
  • Make an activity diary, have your children draw pictures of the activities that they undertake.  Draw any models that you make, draw a picture for days out, stick in pictures from brochures and so on.
  • Learn a new letter, number or word each day.  Write it in your diary and draw pictures to help remember the meaning.

Diaries offer a great way to sustain attention on slow changing things surrounding your children and give a sense of purpose that your children will simply love!  You might run projects just for a week, or you might keep one going for months.  There's no reason why you can't have lots of projects on the go at any one time - why not have a different project for each day of the week?!

Left-Handed Children

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Child Development, Preschool Children , Tags: learning, left-handed children, writing

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It's common for toddlers not to be sure which hand is their dominant hand - they may scribble with their right hand one day and their left hand the next!  All babies and toddlers develop at different rates and most use both hands to begin with.  At about 18 months, their dominant hand will become evident to you: they'll draw with it, use it for eating and for brushing their teeth.  By 4 or 5 years, most children will have one favourite hand that is used for writing etc but as the brain is still developing and their co-ordination is still being established, it may not be always consistent.

What to look out for:

  • Which hand do they use to reach for a toy or pencil that's put in their reach in front of them?
  • Which hand do they use when eating?
  • How do they stir if playing with water and sand?  Left handed children tend to stir in an anti-clockwise direction.
  • When learning to write a left-handed child may prefer to start writing on the right of the page rather than the left.  This is more natural for them.
  • When playing physical games, the left-handed child will prefer to stand on their left rather than right leg.

Should left handed children be encouraged to use their right hand?  Not at all!  A few generations ago this was the case: left handed children were made to use their right hands.  However, they must be allowed to use which ever hand is easiest in order for the task to be completed.  Being left handed is not a conscious decision.  It is dictated by the brain and therefore should not be contradicted.

There are various problems that may arise if a child is left-handed, but all the obstacles can be overcome with a little patience and some left-handed equipment if necessary.  Schools and teachers are sympathetic to the extra care needed by left-handed children and can help with learning to write and using scissors.

Just remember to be as patient as possible!


What's the Time Mr Wolf?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Preschool Children, Kids Activities , Tags: clock, learning, time

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Learning to tell the time is something that takes a lot of practice and some children take years to understand the concept of hands going round a clock to measure the passing hours.  However, even though so many children can't grasp the notion of an hour or a minute or indeed the idea of time passing away for ever, its a good idea to get them familiar with a clock face so when the time comes, they are more comfortable with the idea of a clock.

Singing clock rhymes, such as Hickory Dickory Dock, is something that can be done with toddlers.  Why not make a clock to learn numbers?  Take a paper plate, mark on the twelve numbers in the correct places.  Make two hands from some card or a cereal packet and clip them to the plate with a split clip or a paper clip that you've opened up.  Then, use the clock to learn and talk about numbers.  Set the hands to the right hour for breakfast and lunch etc.  Allow your child to colour the clock or stick on some stickers.

As they get older, explain how the hours are marked and talk about the clock face together.  Start by looking at the second hand of a real clock and count the seconds together.  Chat about things that take 60 seconds to do: wash teeth, eat some grapes, brush their hair.  Time some activities together and see how many seconds they take!

Next look at the minute hand.  Explain that each time the second hand makes a full trip round the clock that the minute hand moves along one notch.  Think about things that take a couple of minutes: read a book, make a drink, get dressed.  Time some of these activities.

Go on to talk about the hour hand and show how the hour hand moves along one number every 60 minutes.  Think of things that take an hour or so to do: watch a film, go for a long walk etc.

Lots of talking about time, looking at clocks and numbers will certainly help children learn to tell the time, eventually building up to that special day when they are given their first real watch!

Why is Art Important for Toddlers?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Babies, Learning Play, ToucanLearn, Kids Art and Craft, Child Development, Kids Activities, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: art, communication, craft, imagination, key development, learning, physical world

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Here at ToucanLearn we offer a lot of art and craft based activities, besides keeping children occupied, there are very practical reasons why art and craft is important to learning children.

Before they can talk, art offers young children a way to express themselves and communicate ideas.  Just as their sounds may not make much sense, so their splodges and scribbles may not mean an awful lot to you, but they are communicating ideas and this gives children a sense of freedom that develops further with language.  They are also using their imagination and expressing what they see and experience in an abstract form.

Craft offers a way to explore the physical world.  Art is tactile, you are experiencing different materials and textures, and interacting with objects to understand how they 'work'.  There are malleable materials such as plasticine, sticky tack and dough; there are items that bend into shape and stay that way such as pipe cleaners, wire, even paper when folded and tucked into shapes.  There are runny substances like paints and glue, they can be poured and spread.  The variety of craft materials that a toddler experiences helps them explore the physical world and teaches the how different materials act.

Craft is about making decisions, not important ones, but decisions all the same.  The thought processes that go on whilst your little ones are being creative inform their approach to problem solving.  What are the options to make a googly eye stick to a piece of paper?  Which one is best in this situation?  How do I apply glue to the back of a small googly eye?  As adults these 'problems' are second nature, but to a young child, these have to be learned and the lessons learned at this stage of their lives will inform all sorts of practical needs throughout the rest of their lives.

Of course, craft is also about developing fine motor skills, the ability to colour in within the lines; to stick glitter to parts of the page; to roll a piece of card into a tube and stick it into place.  All of these and so much more rely on the ability to control hands and fingers in ways that are easy for adults but for children form an important part of learning.  How can they learn to write when they get to school if they still haven't mastered fine control of their hands?

In addition to being graded according to the Early Years Foundation Stage areas of learning and development, all the activities we offer at ToucanLearn are classified by one of four overriding key development areas: making, moving, learning and speaking (relating to communication more generally).  Most craft activities are classified as 'Making' activities with the focus on development of fine motor skills, but as you can see, art and craft activities help to promote development in all four of these key development areas!

Looking and Seeing

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Child Development , Tags: learning, looking, seeing

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There's an enormous difference between 'looking' and 'seeing' and if you can get this through to your growing babies, then you will set them up for a life of learning! 'Looking' is the process of light being reflected off objects into our eyes and forming shapes and patterns.  'Seeing' is the ability to process those patterns into meaningful interpretations.  Let's illustrate this...glance around the room you are in and look at any clutter on surfaces of tables, shelves or whatever.  You can 'see' clutter without any problem, but in order to see what the clutter comprises, you have to 'look' more carefully, there might be particular books, a music player and CD's, coffee mugs and so on.

When it comes to learning, babies and toddlers must learn not just to 'see' objects, but to 'look' at them.  They need to examine and understand objects and work out what they are and how they work.  Foster an inquisitive nature in your children and have them question the world around them, they will quickly learn to 'look', interpret and understand, and they will pick up the fundamental principles required in order to learn throughout their growing lives.

Independence Day!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Kids Art and Craft, Child Development , Tags: independence, learning

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It's amazing how quickly little ones grow. Every time you look at them they seem to be doing something new or managing more and more by themselves. Encourage this by letting them take control of some things and helping round the house. Allow little ones to pick their own cutlery and plates from a low cupboard. Encourage them to lay their own place at the table. Or, let them to serve their vegetables themselves with a spoon.

Allow toddlers to choose their own clothes and even get dressed themselves. Rather than having arguments before you're off out in the morning, offer a selection of (suitable!) clothes the night before and lay the clothes out so they're all ready in the morning for your little one to put on.

If you've got pre-schoolers why not let them pour their own drinks with dinner. Offer them a small, half-full jug of water and an empty plastic mug and allow them to pour their own drink. Practice pouring carefully outside or in the bath! But, serving themselves will give them a feeling of independence and pride when the manage it themselves! And, someone willing to do a little bit round the house is always a good thing!

Whatever the Weather

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Babies, Learning Play, Preschool Children, Kids Activities , Tags: cloud, learning, rain, sun, weather

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Weather has a profound affect on us - it helps us decide what to do for the day.  Create a weather board with your children, make templates to represent sun, cloud, rain, thunder and other weather phenomenon.  Each morning, look outside and talk about the weather with your children. Place the relevant weather image on your board to describe the weather.  You can even do this exercise with babies, repeat the weather word to them, 'sun', 'rain', 'cloud' or whichever is relevant. Show them the picture and point between the picture and the sky.  In time they will begin to repeat sounds back to you, and will be able to point to the right picture according to the weather.  This will be communicating before they can even utter full words!  Record more detailed meterological information with older children.  For example, note whether it rained during the day, and how much fell.  Make a rain guage from an old plastic drinks bottle - cut off the top, mark lines on the side and number from the bottom, then leave it outside. Your kids will love an ongoing project and will learn loads about the weather!

The Positive Side of TV for Toddlers

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Parenting, Child Development, Preschool Children, Family , Tags: language, learning, television

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It's easy to consider that watching television is an easy alternative to parenting, but television can provide a positive role in early learning and development. There are many exceptionally good shows aimed specifically at children, appealing to their young minds and introducing them to social influences that make up an important part of development. For example, programs supporting notions of social inclusion, the portrayal of minorities, eating and living healthily, introducing and practicing language and so much more. Don't use the TV as a babysitter, but use it as a starting point to talk about what you see and a way to explore new ideas and language together.

Everyone wants a Brainy Kid!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, ToucanLearn, Child Development , Tags: babies, brain, learning

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The brain of a newborn baby weighs 400 grams, but by the first birthday, it has grown enormously to 1000 grams!  An adult brain weighs 1400 grams, and by 2 years old, your baby's brain is 80% of that size.  So it's no wonder that children absorb information, facts, songs and everything else like sponges - they have so much memory and learning capacity to fill.  Learning activities in ToucanLearn are aimed specifically at improving mental capacity and reactions.  The first few years are important to the healthy development of your kids, so make sure you take every opportunity to nurture them.

Remember, Remember

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Learning Play, Parenting, Toys and Games , Tags: learning, memory games

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Memory is a tool that improves with practice.  The more we challenge ourselves, the more we can improve our memory.  Memory is also an important foundation for further learning.  This means that the more you expand your childrens' memory, the better they will learn as they enter school.  Memory games can be a great way to prevent boredom.  For example, as soon as your children are old enough, playing 'I went to market and bought...' is a great game to play during journeys where more active play is prohibited. Similarly, a good game to keep children occupied in restaurants is to line up a number of table items (salt, pepper, knife, spoon, ketchup, napkin, coin etc.) and then have one item remove whilst the other players look away. They then have to name which object is missing.  Playing memory games helps both to entertain in otherwise relatively confined spaces, and helps the long term goal of improving memory and building that foundation for later learning.

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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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