Two Can Learn Better than One!

Category: Preschool Children

Childminding Assistants - A Good Idea?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, Preschool Children, Childminders and Childminding , Tags: childminders, childminding assistants, crb, employing staff, male influence, observations, ofsted, preparation

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More and more childminders are taking on assistants to work with them or their settings are proving so popular with parents that they are actually taking on full time partners or co-workers to cope with the demand.

What can the assistant do?

  • Help with school runs. The assistant can collect children from school or nursery and drop off.
  • Play Games: The assistant can participate in games and watch the children while you cook or prepare the next activity.
  • Be watchful: They can observe activities to record children's progress and just be another pair of eyes when out and about with the children.
  • Male assistants: Male assistants can also be of great value as they can add a male influence on the setting which is particularly useful if there is no male influence at home. Many parents seek out childcare settings with male childminders or assistants purely for this reason.

Employing as assistant:

  • You must inform OFSTED if you employ another worker.
  • You must have a Criminal Records Bureau disclosure carried out if the person is over 16. This includes all family, friends and neighbours who might be in your setting during hours when the children are in residence.
  • You will also have to be registered with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) and it's against the law not to do so.
  • You should get references and check out their backgrounds thoroughly.
  • You will have to deal with the tax, National Insurance contributions and other rights (such as sick pay, holiday etc) that employees are entitled to.
  • You will need to inform your insurance company and ensure you have employer's liability insurance.
  • Wages will have to be negotiated. You must pay at least the minimum wage.

The End to EYFS?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Child Development, Preschool Children, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), Childminders and Childminding , Tags: changes, childminding, eyfs, nurseries

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A review has stated that nursery and childminding targets should be scaled back to allow teachers and carers more time actually teaching the children. Carers are spending so much time on paperwork that they are not spending enough time with the children, inspiring, guiding and helping them.

Dame Clare Tickell, co-author of the report, said that the Early Years Foundation Stage has helped boost standards, but it has also become too focused with meeting targets. The review calls for the EYFS to be radically changed thus reducing the number of goals for under fives from 69 to just 17.

It was said that the current scheme is "cumbersome, repetitive and unnecessarily bureaucratic." Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said the changes would be "a victory for common sense".

It points out that:

  • children develop at different rates
  • play is vital
  • literacy and numeracy can often be taught in too formal a way which may not be productive

Instead, general checks should take place including:

  • seeing if a child can negotiate space and objects around them
  • communicate their needs (food, drink)
  • learn new words and use them

These along with the health visitor checks at age 2 would indicate any educational needs. The report also states that everyone working with under fives should have, at least, A levels, thus ensuring a high quality workforce.

We'll have to wait and see the repercussions!

French children to learn English at age 3!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Child Development, Preschool Children , Tags: english, france, french, language, learning languages, school

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President Sarkozy of France has said that all French children should learn English at the age of three. He said he wants French children to learn 'the language of Shakespeare'.

In comparison, General Charles de Gaulle, never spoke anything but French in public. Opposition to the idea claims it will dilute the French language. Some say its just a trend, others say that children of three can barely talk their own language let alone cope with a second language.  The French have always been highly protective of their language, introducing bans on the import of foreign words (such as 'computer' and 'internet') into their own language, instead mandating the use of French terms.

France's Education Minister states that not learning English can be a real hindrance to French people. In England we learn a second language at age 11 although some schools introduce languages earlier.


Permalink 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

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!

Little Miss Princess

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Learning Play, Preschool Children , Tags: books, kate middleton, little miss princess, mr men, prince william, royal wedding

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A new Mr Man book - or rather a Little Miss book - will be published in time for the Royal Wedding featuring a lovely, kind princess who moves into a lovely shiny palace.  It has been suggested that this new addition to the Mr Men and Little Miss characters is based on Prince William's fiancee, Miss Kate Middleton.  To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the titles, Little Miss Princess And the Very Special Wedding will be published in April.

Adam Hargreaves the author, was inspired to create the character in honour of the royal wedding later this year and is probably hoping for an invitation!   Adam is son of Mr Men's original creator, Roger Hargreaves.

The Little Miss Princess is described as "not rude or spoilt, but kind and generous" and is said to be "privileged but caring" and apparently she can "be a bossy boots at times!"

Over the past 40 years, more than 100 million Mr Men and Little Miss books have been published by Egmont Publishing Group.  They have been sold worldwide and more than three million Mr Men and Little Miss books are sold every year.

'Growing Pains'

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Health, Preschool Children

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From the age of three upwards, your children may wake, screaming in agony, in the middle of the night, complaining of pain in their legs. When they describe the pain to you, it sounds like cramp, but it's quite likely to be something generally termed 'growing pain'.

'Growing pains' turns out to be a complete misnomer as the pain is not associated with growth at all, however the cause remains one of modern medicine's mysteries. The medical term for this condition is 'benign idiopathic nocturnal limb pains of childhood' which is rather a mouthful! Bouts are suffered by more than a third of children and the pain is strong enough to wake children during their sleep.  They are always suffered at night as well, never in the morning.  By morning there is no sign that they were ever present and your child won't display any subsequent effects.  'Growing pains' generally recur but on a sporadic basis occurring perhaps once every few months.

Diagnosis of growing pains is achieved by ruling out other possibilities making it difficult to confirm.  If your children do experience them regularly then take them to the doctor for an examination in order to ensure that it isn't anything more serious.  Growing pains tend also to run in families so ask your own parents and in-laws if they recollect you or your partner suffering from them as children as this is another clue that this is all it is.

From a practical point of view, when they occur, you want to be able to comfort your child.  Unfortunately there's not a lot that can be done and no miracle cure!  The best advice is to massage the legs or part of the body affected and just cuddle your child until the pain subsides.  If they occur regularly then keep a diary of daily activities to see if you can spot a 'trigger' that might be causing them.  Research suggests that they may be more prevalent after a day involving heavy exercise, but this may be difficult to confirm for children that lead a generally active life.

The only good thing about these pains is that they do no lasting damage and by morning there's no sign of them.  Indeed, your children may not even recollect the entire episode at all!

Learning about Coins

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, Preschool Children

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Knowing about money and coins is a useful lesson for children; there are lots of ways you can introduce money and coins to them.  Just make sure they are definitely past the 'putting everything in their mouth' stage as coins fit just snugly into a pre-schooler's mouth!

Gather a pile of different coins and show them to your child.

Coin Colours: Look at the colours: dull brown and bright bronze coins, silver and even gold ones!  Sort them into colour groups.  You could even try and clean them up.  If you leave some copper coins in vinegar overnight, when you arrive the next morning you will see they have returned to a glorious shiny copper colour!

How many? Count the different types of coins then add them all up to see how many you have.  Introduce the idea that coins are worth different values.  This may be too complicated for little ones to understand, but the ideas will one day be clearer.

Coin shapes: Look at the coin shapes.  Sort them into different shapes and pile them up in their sorted group.

Coin sizes: Look at the different sizes of the coins from tiny 5p to large £2.  Make a tower with the largest on the bottom and smallest on the top... see how high you build it.  They try the other way round and put the tiny ones at the bottom first.

Compare: Now do some comparison activities.  Which is biggest?  Which is darkest?  Which is shiniest?

Shove Penny: Go to a shiny floor like a kitchen and try to roll the different coins on their sides.  Which go further?  Then try to shove them forward when they are face down.  Which go fastest?

Always remember to wash hands after touching coins...

What Did You Do Today?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Parenting, Preschool Children , Tags: chat, pre-schoolers, school days, stories

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Sending off your beloved little toddler to nursery is not easy - you can't stop thinking about them all day and when you get them back and ask what they did, they can't remember, or did "nothing" or did "playing" can be very frustrating!

So what can you do to get a bit more information out of your pre-schooler, or school child? Here are a few tips about how to glean a bit more detail to find out what they did while away from you.

Keep it focused and not vague

  • Don't just ask, "What did you do today?" ask more specific questions:
  • What was the best thing about today?
  • What did you play in the garden?
  • Did you play with any new toys today?
  • What was the story?

Make it two-way!

  • Share what you did.  Tell of three activities you did and then ask for three things they did.

Don't force it:

  • Details may come out later during tea or on they way home.  Don't force details immediately as soon as you pick them up.

Talk about your school days:

  • I loved PE and when I was little I used to...

Keep it relaxed and easy:

  • It should be fun telling each other about the day not an arduous task.  So, keep it perky and easy.

The truth!

  • If you fear they may be telling fibs about their day, (they were visited by a space man and the teacher fell into the sandpit and they all buried her!) then, go along with it.  Make it into a fun story-telling activity!

Finding a Nanny

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Babies, Parenting, Preschool Children, Family, Childminders and Childminding , Tags: childcare, childminder, crb check, nanny, totallychildcare

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What overall considerations should I have to find the perfect Nanny for my family?

Looking for a Nanny for your family does not have to be a struggle. Below are 6 points to hopefully help you make the process easier.

1: Think about your ideal nanny. Write a list of your expectations. What personality and experience you would like your Nanny to have? What duties you would like her to do, for example Nursery duties only or light household duties. Write your requirements down - including "required" and "Would like", use this when you are interviewing as a guideline. Work out what you can afford for a nanny so when you discuses salary with the Nanny you have an idea what you can afford.

2: Look at what avenues you are going to go down to look for a nanny. Are you going to use a Nanny Agency, advertising in a local Newspaper, ask friends and family if they know of any good Nannies or search on the internet? More and more families are using the Internet to find Childcare as they are finding it is a much cheaper alternative. All the above have advantages and disadvantages, but all have the same objective: to help you compile a list of potential Nannies.

3: Make contact with potential candidates. Once you have got your list of potential candidates, you will need to find out weather they are interested and suitability for the position. First contact might be by phone or email not face to face. Once you have made contact and asked some question and are satisfied by the answers, you will need to arrange an interview date.

4: Interview date. Don’t forget your list of "required" and "would like". You will need to make a list of questions you would like to ask a Nanny, (Totally Childcare has got a list of question to ask when interviewing a nanny). Most families prefer to do the first interview in the evening when the child/children are in bed and if they like the Nanny then call her back for a second interview, this is normally done over the weekend to meet the children and spend some time together to see how they interact with each other.

5: Checking Reference and CRB (Police Checks). It is highly recommend that you check at least two references, one from the current employment if they are working as a nanny at present and one from a past employment. If they have not got two employment references for you to contact then a character reference will do. A CRB (police check) needs to be done, this can take up to 4/6 weeks to complete. Most nannies have got this already but if this is out of date a new one will need to be done.

6: Employing your chosen Nanny! Once you have found the right Nanny and offered the position and she has accepted the finer details will need to be put down in a Contract of Employment (Totally Childcare has got a standard Employment Contract which you can download and use). This will need to be signed by both parties and each have a copy to keep. Most families have a hand over period before they go back to work; this is so the Nanny can get to know the child/children while mum or dad is still around. It also helps the nanny to see what routine the children have and if they got to school they can be shown where this is and be introduced to their teacher. Contact numbers will need to be given to the new nanny in case of an emergency. A diary for the nanny is a good idea, here she can write down what the child/children have done during the day, what they have eaten and if they have had or not had a dirty nappy etc. This can be helpful for the parents to read when the Nanny has gone home and answer any questions if the child/children is not too happy in the evening. A purse with some money in it for use during the day for the children’s activities is also a good idea, receipts should be provided so there is no confusion as to what they have spent the money on.

If you can remember all of the above steps than hopefully finding a Nanny will be an easy process.

Getting Children Out in the Morning!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Parenting, Preschool Children , Tags: chart, morning, nursery, routine

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Getting children up for nursery or school always seems harder in the winter - it’s still dark outside, it’s chilly and it seems so much better to stay in bed. However, get up we must!  One way to get the children into a good morning routine is to create a morning picture chart  This helps them know what they are doing, it sets a president so they know it’s always going to be the same and it helps us too as parents guide the children through the morning.

Make a list of the tasks you usually do in the mornings:

  1. Wake up
  2. Get dressed
  3. Brush hair
  4. Breakfast
  5. Wash teeth
  6. Collect bag/shoes for nursery
  7. Head off to nursery

Find pictures to illustrate each task. Do this together.

  • Draw a clock and colour it in for the wake up picture.
  • Stick on a label from the cereal packet or toothpaste tube for the breakfast or wash teeth image.
  • Take a photo of your child all dressed and ready to go by the door for the leave for nursery picture.

Different charts may work for different children:

  • Pre-schoolers: Choose a strip of card and stick the pictures in order along the card. Had it up on the wall
  • Toddlers: Have larger cards and show them each on when you want them to get on with that activity.

Good luck!

Travel Games on London Underground

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Preschool Children, Days out , Tags: bus, colours, letters, london underground, numbers, plane, shapes, train, tube, underground

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Getting young toddlers to sit still on the London Underground can be slightly tricky because it's such an exciting place to be, and lots of other tube passengers are standing, so why shouldn't your little one?!

Luckily there is so much distinct iconography inside tube trains that can inspire even the youngest traveller to play fun games.  Look for different colours, shapes and letters.  Look around a tube carriage and you'll see yellow warning triangles, red circles for London Underground's logo and no entry signs on doors between carriages, blue rectangles and squares with notices inside.

You'll see the tube maps with lots of coloured lines on - ask your little one what colours they see.

Look for letters in the signs and adverts stuck all over the carriage, look for the letters that your children's names begin with.  Look for numbers - especially the number of how old they are.

Play I-Spy looking for items of different colours ('I-Spy, with my little eye, something that is red').

Older children can look around and spot all the different warning signs and instructions littered around the carriage - have you ever noticed just how many rules there are when you embark on an Underground journey?!

Of course most of these games will adapt to any train ride, and even journeys on buses or planes too.

You'll be amazed at just how quickly your journey goes, no matter how long it is.  Just take care that you don't have so much fun that you miss your stop!

What is a Smartboard?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Learning Play, Preschool Children , Tags: education, games, ict, interactive whiteboard, learning, smartboard, teaching, technology, television

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If your children attend a nursery, there's a good chance that they come home talking about what they've done on a smartboard, and you're possibly left wondering what on earth a smartboard is?! Classroom technology has shifted from blackboards to whiteboards, through acetate projectors and onto computer projectors. The smartboard is your children's generation classroom presentation equipment!

A smartboard is an interactive whiteboard.  A computer projects a video display onto a touch sensitive screen and children and teachers can interact with the screen using their fingers or special 'pens', which may also have buttons on like a mouse.  Smartboards can be used for a variety of purposes including:-

  • watching television and videos
  • playing interactive games
  • drawing and writing
  • story telling

At one level a smartboard can be used just as a large screen for a computer, but it is enhanced with interactive games that allow people to interface in all sorts of fun ways.

In nursery schools, smartboards are often used for projecting children's TV programmes, telling stories (sometimes interactive) and for educational games to introduce colours, numbers, letters, shapes and other basic learning.

All of this is introducing children to information and communication technology from the age of 3 years and upwards.  There's no doubt that children are growing up in a world very different from the one we grew up in; by the time they are starting school at the age of 5, most children already have varied exposure to computers, ICT and numerous digital gadgets!

Children's Parties Don't Need to Break the Bank!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Preschool Children, Family, Kids Activities , Tags: birthday party, church hall, decorations, games, ideas

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As your little one approaches their special day of the year, it is very easy to get carried away by throwing extravagant parties at play barns or hiring lavish halls.  Then comes helium play balloons, piles of food, prizes, party bags, decorations and all the other bits and pieces that go with it.  However, you can still have a great party without it costing a fortune and with a bit of thinking, the kids will still have a fabulous time!  Here are a few party themes to get you in the party mood.

  • Fairy Party - feature flowers, fairy wings, fluffy clouds, sunshine
  • Pirate Party - feature pirates, treasure, ships, islands
  • Under the Sea Party - features fish, mermaids, sharks, dolphins
  • Circus Party - tight rope walking, clowns, juggling
  • Dance Party - make up a dance and teach it to the children
  • Princess Party - features princes and princesses, crowns, jewels, thrones
  • Superheros - Star Wars, Spiderman, High School Musical and any superheros
  • Traditional fancy dress party - with musical statues, musical bumps, Oranges And Lemons, Duck, Duck, Goose, and lots of fancy dress

Ideas you can adapt to make the party really unique!

  • Invites: Try and theme your invite to match your party.  Make fairy party invites into the shape of flowers, or pirate party in the shape of a ship.
  • Decorate: the simplest shapes like stars or flowers or car shapes in bright paper and stuck to a dull church hall wall can really bring the room alive.  Try making bunting or hanging glittery curtains to make it feel special.  Try hanging cut out shapes or pictures from the ceiling or by the window so they blow in the wind.
  • Have a colouring session as the children arrive.  Prepare colouring pictures and lots of crayons on a big table and invite the children to colour a picture while you wait for everyone to arrive.
  • Balloons are great to play with and look fun hung about the place.  Tie one balloon to each end of some ribbon or wool and hang over any pictures on the wall.  Give each child one to take home.  You could also place a piece of jewelery or sweets inside each balloon so there is a treat inside when the children get home!
  • Make something like an edible necklace out of cheerios or popcorn and thread with string or wool.
  • Throw a tiny bit of glitter over each child as they arrive: magic dust to make them have a great time!

Use It or Lose It: Visit Your Library!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Preschool Children, Days out , Tags: books, cafe, library, reading

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Local libraries offer a fabulous resource, but at a time of severe funding cuts, there's every danger that your local library may be targeted for closure.  When evaluating the value of local services, local authorities will look at how well utilised their services are.  If you want to keep your local library open, then make sure you are using it and are appearing on the local radar!

  • Make sure you and your children are enrolled so that you are counted when the council investigate how many people use the library
  • Make sure that you borrow books regularly to help contribute to healthy lending rates
  • Attend special events laid on for children during half terms and holidays
  • If your library doesn't hold craft days or readings, see if you can help organise some during holiday periods
  • If your library has a cafe or toddler group, make sure you use them, even if only occasionally
  • Spend time in your library with your children, take them in and read to them in the library

Local libraries offer all sorts of services in addition to simply lending books.  It would be a shame to lose these facilities, yet they can only be justified if they are being used.  Make sure that you use your library with your children, and help local authorities justify keeping libraries open so that your children's children can one day enjoy them too!

Adopt A Word!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Learning Play, Preschool Children , Tags: adopt a word, communication, i can, speech, words

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Parents, grandparents, celebrities and people from all walks of life have chosen to adopt a word in order to support the charity I CAN the children’s communication charity.

Some celebrity choices are shown below:

  • Sara Cox: blossom
  • HRH The Duchess of Cornwall: grandmother
  • Sir Paul McCartney: gift
  • Stephen Fry: wordy
  • Graham Norton: frolic
  • Dr Tanya Byron: mummy

I CAN promotes and supports parents and teachers, and indeed children, with communication. They claim that one in ten children has a communication difficulty and they try to help.  Communication is so important because it impacts on all aspects of a child’s life.  Apart from academic issues (reading and writing, passing exams etc.) there is also the fundamental issues like making friends, playing, reading etc. where communication is vital.

Why not adopt a word too and lay claim to a piece of our language for a whole year?!  Go to the Adopt a Word website for more information.


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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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