Two Can Learn Better than One!

Category: Preschool Children

EYFS 2 Year Progress Check

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Preschool Children, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: eyfs 2012, eyfs progress check, parents, prime areas of learning, progress check

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One of the new requirements introduced in EYFS 2012 was the need to conduct a progress check at some point during each child's second year. The exact timing of the check is left open - the government recommends that it is undertaken at a suitable point that the child moves setting, or at another point by agreement with the parents. The check may even be undertaken after their third birthday but ideally it will be done between 24 and 36 months.

There is no prescribed format for progress checks, indeed they should very much be unique for each child. The purpose is to clock the developmental progress of the child and ensure that any issues are identified and flagged. This will help child carers concentrate on areas that may be lacking, or even to build further on strong areas. The assessment helps to inform parents of porgress and allows both parents and carers to plan for future activities with the child.

The child carer should assess each of the prime areas of learning: Personal, Social and Emotional Development; Physical Development; and Communication and Language. Only one assessment is required so if a child attends more than obe setting, the check should be done by the setting that the child spends most time in. The check should be undertaken by the key person who has most exposure to the child and who knows them best.

The report should be drafted in a manner that is easy for parents to understand and that informs them clearly of any action the carer would like the parents to undertake. It would be a good idea to encourage parents to write their own brief response to file with the report to demonstrate that they have read and understood the report. The better you document future actions, the easier it will be to refer back to them and ensure that progress is maintained as planned.

While the check forms a mandatory part of the EYFS, it is only relevant for children who spend time with a child minder or carer. Children who are raised by 'stay at home mums' will not be affected.

Comparatively Speaking

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Preschool Children , Tags: abstract concepts, chicken, egg, ostrich, size

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As adults, we can quickly pick out the longest, tallest, shortest, heaviest and smallest items but as with so many abstract concepts, these have to be learned by our little ones. Learning about comparative size is made all the more complicated because objects seem to change. For example, take an egg and a chicken - the egg is small, the chicken is large. Now add an osterich, suddenly the chick is small and the osterich is big.  How did that happen? The chicken didn't suddenly shrink!

We are exposed to different sized objects every day. Talking about different sized objects will instil these abstract concepts. Many picture books also explore concepts of size. Look out in your stories and in the real world for examples and talk about them with your toddlers. Play games - take different toys and sort them by size, sort pieces of string or balls. Talk about the size order of food items on your plate - sliced carrots are bigger than peas, but smaller than boiled potaties. All of this will help them to cement their understanding.

Familiarity with Letters and Numbers

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Preschool Children , Tags: alphabet, counting, letters, numbers, phonetics

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Preschool children may not be able to read and write, but they can be taught to recite the alphabet and to count.  Young children learn through repeating sounds, so while they can learn to say the alphabet, they may not, at that stage, realise what they are saying, the alphabet will probably seem to be a stream of different sounds.  They may not even be able to distinguish the sounds for each individual letter.  For example there may be no rational way to deduce that 'double-yoo' (W) is one letter where as 'el-em-en' (LMN) is three letters.  However, teaching young children to recite the alphabet, and to count to 10 is still a very valuable exercise because it will start to reinforce a familiarity with letters and numbers that they will take with them when they start school.

Practice counting and to recite the alphabet when you are out and about, sing numbers and letters as songs.  Teach them the phonetic alphabet too which is probably how they will first be taught to say the alphabet when they reach school.

When you are at home or in a play setting, you can continue to say the alphabet and count using letter and number charts.  Point to the letters and numbers as you pass them and this will help with visual learning, tying together letters and numbers with their sounds.

Acting Stories

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Learning Play, Preschool Children , Tags: acting, fix it duck, gruffalo, props, stories

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Listening to and recounting stories is a terrific exercise for toddlers as it helps them think of a series of events and to develop their language skills.  Sit down with a story that you enjoy and read it to them.  At the end, ask them to act out the story themselves, with the help of a few props such as teddy bears, dolls and other relevant toys.  See whether they are able to recall the story and act it through.  Help them through if they struggle to remember it, you could even read the story again and again in order to help them.

Young children have the most remarkable memories and will quickly learn whole stories, such as The Gruffalo or Fix It Duck, after hearing it just a small number of times.  If they can learn a book then have them recite the whole book and act along with their props.  Books that rhyme are easier to learn because of their rhythm but even fairly long passages of prose can be committed to eager young memories with little practice.

Have your little ones take on the different characters in a story, and use different voices for the different roles.  You can play along too, take on one of the roles, or perhaps act as narrator to tell the overall story while they act out the details.

What's the Difference between a Nanny, Childminder and an Au Pair?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Babies, Preschool Children, Childminders and Childminding , Tags: au pair, childcare, childminder, chores, housework, nanny, ofsted

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While Nannies, Childminders and Au Pairs are all there to help look after your children, the terms of engagement are very different, and that is what distinguishes the different roles.

A Nanny is paid to come into your house and help look after the children.  A nany has set hours and will generally work to a routine, but usually only looks after your children, possibly alongside her own.  You effectively employ a nanny and they have certain employment rights, including the ability to take paid maternity leave.

A childminder is someone who you pay to look after your children in their own setting.  They may pick children up from your home or from school, you usually have set hours and may be responsible for paying additional for any overtime incurred.  They will usually be OFSTED registered and inspected, and will look after a children from various families, often of varying age groups.

An au pair is someone who looks after your children, usually in return for board and lodging and a small amount of 'pocket money' (typically less than £100 per week).  Au Pair's are usually foreign nationals and often young women and men taking a 'gap year' before or after higher education and are generally looking to spend some time in this country and improve their language skills.  In addition to working an agreed number of hours looking after children, they may do light housework and other chores such as cooking meals.  Usually an au pair is a 'live in' position so you must have a spare room for them to live in, and you must share bathroom and kitchen facilities as required.

You will generally have a contract in place for each of these types of role, and you should look at insurance cover to make sure that they are covered for the work they do for you.  All may look after children of all ages, including babies, although they are restricted by law as to how many children of different age group they may look after at once.  Therefore, for practical reasons, not all child carers have the necessary space to take on your children, and they may focus on offering services to children of a specific age or attending certain settings or schools.

Pre-School Early Bird Visitors

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Preschool Children, Days out , Tags: attractions, preschool, theme parks, visiting

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The summer holidays are the classic time to visit the great theme parks, stately homes and other tourist attractions around the country, but if you have pre-school children, you can enjoy much more rewarding visits just outside of school holidays.  Many attractions give special entry offers, such as 'Mum's Go Free', or they entice you with offers on food in restaurants etc.  School holidays represent peak periods for most attractions who are desperate to attract custom at other times when they are quiet.  As most other children are stuck in classrooms, venues are so much less busy meaning that you can enjoy better views, play on more rides and just enjoy a less crowded day out.

The best times to take advantage are midweek days close to the start or end of school holidays as other visitors often overlook these days.  Do check that attractions are open first as some may close during quiet times, or offer limited opening times or limited access.

This is a great opportunity to visit any attractions on your doorstep that you might have overlooked in the past.  Often we ignore the attractions close to home, go along and visit them as you might find a local treasure that you come back to time and time again.


Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Preschool Children, Kids Activities , Tags: doctor, fireman, people who help us, super heroes

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There seems to be so much emphasis on superheroes with super, out of the ordinary powers, that sometimes regular human beings who aren't able to fly or catch villains with their laser beam eyes seem boring!  How about doing a session on real people who are in their own way, super heroes!

What are the qualities of a super hero?

  • Put others first
  • Help people less fortunate than themselves
  • Always willing to listen and be useful in all sorts of situations

Talk about real people who have these qualities.  See what the children come up with.  (Doctor, paramedic, fireman).


Visit a surgery.  Have a chat about what tools a doctor uses.  Are there any at your setting you can do some role play with?  Or perhaps set up a home corner like a doctor's waiting room and surgery.  Can you take a role each and be the receptionist, nurse and doctor.


Look at a hospital on line or some images of hospitals and ambulances in books at the library.  Set up an accident: Teddy has fallen off a bench!  He needs to get to the  Teddy and Dolly hospital.  Carry him in a special pram or box to the hospital and act out what might happen.


Chat about what the firemen wear - their protective clothing etc.  Talk about what they do (rescue people, save houses from burning and help with road accidents). Also take a look at what they might use (water hoses, ladders etc).  See if your local fire station will permit a visit.  Take the children down to see the fire engines and meet a real fireman.


It's Free!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Preschool Children, Childminders and Childminding , Tags: free education for children

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All three and four year old children are entitled to free nursery education: 15 hours a week of free education is applicable for 38 weeks of the year. This is the case until they reach compulsory school age.

Where can you get Free early education places?

  • Childminders
  • Nursery schools
  • Nursery classes
  • Children's centres
  • Day nurseries
  • Play groups
  • Pre-schools

For more information about free nursery education contact your Family Information Service (FIS) or local council.

When your child qualifies for a free place

If your child is born between: 1 April and 31 August they are eligible for a free place from: 1 September following their third birthday or the beginning of the autumn school term

If your child is born between: 1 September and 31 December they are eligible for a free place from 1 January following their third birthday or the beginning of the spring* school term

If your child is born between: 1 January and 31 March they are eligible for a free place from: 1 April following their third birthday or the beginning of the summer* school term

These details are based on a three-term school year.

Celebrity Authors

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Preschool Children , Tags: authors, books, celebrity, writing

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Over the last decade, more and more celebrity books are appearing on children's bookshelves in bookshops. Amazingly, the likes of Madonna (The English Roses), Dolly Parton (I Am A Rainbow) and Jennifer Anniston (The Prettiest Actress) considered themselves worthy additions to the creations of AA Milne (Winnie The Pooh), Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo) and Dr Seuss (The Cat In The Hat).

I wonder in a "Blind Submission" whether a celebrity's book would still make the grade.  Would Jamie Lee Curtis (Is There Really a Human Race?) make it to publication or Sarah The Duchess of York (Tea for Ruby), for that matter, without her name on the cover or the press attention it creates?  Would a child or a parent choose a celebrity title when placed along side a new Eric Carle (Very Hungry Caterpillar) or Ludwig Bemelmans (Madeline)?

The publishers choose to accept the book because they know, sadly, that the general public will buy a book by a celebrity rather than a non-celebrity, but nonetheless excellent other author, despite the fact it may not be as good! The publishers, naturally want to make money!

It must be frustrating for genuine, hardworking, long suffering children's authors.  The celebrities' books probably get the best spots on the shelves and zoom up the publisher's lists, demand greater advances and win more publicity.  The celebrities probably get the best interview requests and go on the better tv shows to talk about their books.  And, as they are probably not trained, they don't understand the "rules" of children's publishing so the end result is not that good! 

For example, when writing for children it is vital that the author doesn't scare the children; they should create suspense without terrifying them.  The words must be understandable but not patronising.  The story must be structured but not so much that it is confusing.  The writing shouldn't be too moralistic or try to teach too many lessons.  Overall, and most importantly, it needs to be a good story!  It's as simple as that.

Of course, some would argue that children don't know who Whoopi Goldberg (Sugar Plum Ballerina) is and she actually made it to the New York Times Best Sellers List! is.  But the parents, the ones paying for the  books, do!  Julie Andrews has written children's books, but under her unmarried name.  This is more like it!

Our House!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Kids Art and Craft, Preschool Children, Kids Activities

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Here's our great collage idea to get the creative ideas flowing and inspire the children to look around them!

Go outside and look at the building you are in, then:-

  • Name all the elements of the building: the roof, the walls, the windows, the door etc.
  • Count the windows or chimneys and have a good look around.
  • Discuss the shapes you can see on the building.

- Explain you are going to make a very special collage of your home. Have a think about what you could use: paper, card, grass, sand, little pebbles etc.

- Look at the shapes of materials you will need: square window, rectangle front door, triangle roof.

- Have a think about what you could use for each of these elements. Then, go about collecting things to use: twigs for chimney, silver foil for windows, leaves for the grass or trees etc.

Stick down all the elements and create a unique image of your home.

Go for a walk and look at other types of buildings: flats, houses, churches, schools, fire stations etc.

Childhood Skills

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Child Development, Preschool Children, Kids Activities , Tags: children, computers, skills, technology

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Children today are better at using a computer than tying their shoelaces - according to a recent poll nearly all of the children questioned could play a computer game but only a third could tie their shoe laces! Of the 1057 five to seven-year-olds questions, 97% of them could operate a computer which is staggering.

But is this surprising or shocking? Not surprising as it is a technological world in which we live. Computers are everywhere and are a vital part of our lives, whether we like it or not. Also, not all computer games are dangerous and harmful! Many are educational, entertaining and charming for children to enjoy. And, just because a child knows how to use a computer, it does not mean that same child doesn't attend football classes, climb trees and get enough fresh air and exercise.

Nearly half the children questioned have access to the internet at home, according to Kelkoo who carried out the study. Of the parents questioned, 26% suggested they were worried about the negative impact of technology on their children but and their ability to form relationships. But 87% said that being familiar with technology was vital to their child’s development.

Clearly, monitoring your child's use of the internet and computer based games is vital, but we have to understand that computers are also a vital part of our world and you don't want your child being left behind.

I suppose the question remains: how useful is using a computer (to research, to communicate and to have some fun too) compared with the life long use of tying a shoelace in an age of buckles and velcro.

What do you think? Please post your thoughts.

Protecting Children in the Sun

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Babies, Health, Preschool Children , Tags: clothing, hats, safety, spf, sun, sun cream

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There is a constant public health message that we must protect ourselves from the harmful damage that the sun can cause, but more importantly, we must look after our children in the sun!  We still have a limited understanding of long term damage that can be caused short term exposure to the sun, but increasingly it is believed that a single episode of sunburn during childhood could lead to skin cancer in later life.  It is essential, therefore, that you look after children when they play out in the sun, especially when on holiday to hotter parts of the world.  You must also ensure that anyone else looking after your children, at nursery, with a childminder, or at school, also looks after their health.

What precautions should you take to protect your children in the sun?

  • Apply sun screen with a sun protection factor of at least 50
  • Re-apply sun cream throughout the day at two hourly intervals
  • Re-apply sun cream after being in water, even if the cream states that it is water resistant
  • Make sure your child's body is clean before applying sun cream, rub off any sand particularly before applying lotion
  • Have the children wear sun hats, make sure that the backs of necks are covered too
  • Avoid being in the sun altogether during the hottest parts of the day
  • Create your own shade to sit in on the beach or in other exposed places
  • Wear clothes with a stated sun protection factor
  • In really hot places, keep t-shirts and hats on when swimming or playing in water

Be aware that sun cream is NOT recommended for babies under 6 months because their skin is delicate and very thin.  Chemicals in sun block may actually harm the skin of a baby.  Instead, make sure that they are protected by clothing and keep them in a shaded place, out of the sun.

Demand for Childcare Declines

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Parenting, Preschool Children, Childminders and Childminding , Tags: childcare, childminder, cost, money, mothers, nursery, work

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A recent survey by the Daycare Trust shows that over half of nurseries in London have seen a fall in demand over the past year.  This appears to be part of a wider picture of falling demand for childcare and will be of particular concern to nursery providers.  As the economy continues to face uncertain times, more and more mothers are choosing not to return to work after having babies, and that is one factor fueling the fall in demand for childcare places.

Rising childcare costs (more than twice the rate of inflation over the last year) are forcing many mothers to ditch work and look after young family themselves.  The average cost of childcare in England is £5,028 a year, rising to over £6,000 a year in London.  This is income that has already been taxed, and the cost of putting more than one child into childcare just becomes eye-watering!

Increasingly, at the moment, mothers are leaving work to raise their children at home.

On top of this, nursery providers have found that their costs are rising fast too, which is the main contributing factor to the rising cost of nursery places.  Rent rates have jumped hugely over the last few years, but so have many of their other costs including food, staff training and all the essential supplies needed by a nursery.  It seems that as the economy has suffered over the last few years, the global reaction has just been to raise prices for goods and services to make up for slump in demand. This isn't going to hold much longer - something is going to break.  The logical conclusion of this spiral of rising prices pushing down demand is that we will see nurseries closing and nursery chains going out of business.

This isn't all bad news for private childminders.  The additional costs of nursery provision will see a move towards more flexible childminders, with lower associated costs, so we predict a boom in private childcare provision over the next few years.  We are also seeing more babies being nurtured by their own families in their domestic setting, and that too has to be a good thing.  Whilst nurseries and childcare offer a wonderful service, allowing families to continue working, there is a lot to be said for not having to have two incomes simply to live from day to day.  Families that choose to stay home and raise children may have to cut back in some areas, but the marginal difference of a second salary after tax and childcare is making the 'stay at home' option look increasingly attractive!

Learning About Size!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Preschool Children, Kids Activities, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: books, dressing up, goldilocks, maths games, messy play, order, size, sorting, teddies, wellies

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Learning the concept of big and small may seem quite simple, but in fact, learning about size is a part of mathematical concepts.  Here are a few activities for the children to try out to help them learn sizes:-

Teddies and Wellies - Line up some wellie boots or shoes and grab a few different sizes bears and dolls. Try putting the dolls and teddies in each of the pairs of shoes. Predict whether the toys are too big or too small to fit in!

Dress-up time - Take a selection of hats, shoes and coats that belong to different members of the family. Try them on and decide if they are too big or too small!

Messy time - Make some hand prints with other children or do some yourself. Look at the prints together and say which are bigger and which are smaller. Measure them with a tape measure if you have older children or cut them out to compare them.

Story time - Read Goldilocks and the Three Bears and act out the story using chairs, different sized bowls etc.

Tubs and pots - Take a few tubs and pots of different sizes. Look at them and compare them. Fill some with water. Transfer the water between them to see which hold more and which are bigger than the others.

Books - Go to a bookshelf and look at all the books. Compare the sizes of the books and sort them in size order. You'll end up with a tidy books shelf too!

Don't be Blind to the Dangers of Blinds!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Health, Preschool Children , Tags: accidents, blinds, cords, home, safety

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A toddler in Plymouth has died after being caught in a window blind, his mother found him hanging from his bedroom blind one evening and tragically he was dead. The 21 month old child had been left just for a few minutes so his mother could prepare him some milk before bed, however, in that short time, he had managed to wind the cord round his neck. He managed to reach the blind by climbing on a chest of drawers.

The Royal Society For The Prevention of Accidents (RSPOA) has stated that since 1999 at least fifteen toddlers have been strangled by blind and curtain cords - which is a staggering and dreadful figure. They have said that the cords are a real hazard that people just don't think about. Toddlers of about 2 years are at most risk because their heads are big and get caught, they are adventurous and want to climb and explore, they don't understand the dangers and they are more susceptible to suffocation because their windpipes have not fully developed.

There are new British Standards which will help supplies sell blinds that are safe for consumers to use, however there are many thousands of homes which will contain blind and curtains that do not comply with the standards.

Here are a few simple measures to make your existing blinds as safe as possible:

  • Keep all looped cords out of reach (including if you stand on a chest or bed to reach them!)
  • Keep cots and beds away from blinds
  • Use a cleat or hook to wind up any loose cord
  • Secure the cord to the wall
  • Use a chain breaker which will break if pressure is applied.

When buying new blinds try and opt for blinds with hidden cords, cords that don't form a loop, or those operated by wand that you wind or with gears.

Be safe!

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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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