Two Can Learn Better than One!

Category: Toddlers



Toddler Colouring Skills

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, ToucanLearn, Kids Art and Craft, Kids Activities , Tags: colouring, colours, crayons, pictures, writing

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

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

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



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!



Hello!

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 http://hello.org.uk/.

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

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

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



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.



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"...it 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.

http://www.totallychildcare.com/



What is a Key Worker?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Babies, Parenting, Child Development, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Tags: development, early years foundation stage, eyfs, key worker, nursery, preschool

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If your baby or toddler attends a playgroup or nursery, they will be assigned a key worker who takes on the responsibility of liaising between your child and you, the parents.  The key worker assumes the role of primary carer for your little one, ensuring that they settle into the nursery setting, integrate with the other children, and generally ensure your baby's welfare whilst they are in their care.

The key worker is also responsible for reporting on the six areas of learning and development within the Early Years Foundation Stage and to this end, they will make regular observations and report back to the parents.  They will also raise any concerns about development should they notice anything.

The key worker does not shadow your child the whole time or play solely with their key wards.  A key worker will take responsibility for several children simultaneously and may only make observational notes on an occasional basis rather than every day.

You should always be made aware who your child's key worker is, this information is usually displayed on a notice board within the setting, and the preschool may hold 'parent's evenings' where you can interface directly with the key worker to be told of progress and any concerns.  Over time your key worker may change, and you should be informed at the time.  If you ever have concerns about how your child is setting into their day setting, then do not hesitate to raise them with your key worker.



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!



Telling Tales

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Learning Play

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If you have ever been told events by toddlers who have just learned to speak, you'll know that some of the key facts are blurted out in a relatively random order, whilst other key facts are forgotten, leading to a situation where stories are garbled and difficult to understand! ...often with hilarious consequences!

Describing events and objects, telling stories and giving directions require narrative skills that must be learned.  Reading stories helps to form those skills, but probably more important is that you interact with children and have them practice describing a story by asking a little bit at a time and prompting them in a linear route through the narrative.  For example, ask a young child directions to walk to the park, and they will probably give up after the first 20 yards!  Ask them step by step and you will probably get there!

When we leave the house, do we turn up the hill or down the hill?
'Down the hill!'
When we get to the traffic lights, do we turn or go straight over?
'Straight across'
When we reach the pond, do we walk around it, or walk towards the shops?
'We walk around the pond'
And when we have passed the pond, where do we arrive at if we cross the road?
'The park!'

Prompt using key landmarks (or facts for a story) and you will find that even children around the age of three are able to get through without too much problem.  Practice over and over in different situatiuons  and eventually children will gain a grasp of what is involved in telling a story, describing an event or giving directions.  As adults we take these skills for granted, but it requires pretty strong mental concentration to think  your way through a series of events in a coherent way!



Brighten up a Room with Stickers!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Babies, Parenting , Tags: baby, bedroom, decorating, nursery, stickers, wallies

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One disadvantage of not knowing whether your baby will be a boy or a girl is that it makes it difficult to decorate their bedroom before they arrive.  You don't want too much pink for a boy, or swathes of deep blue or green for a girl!

One way to overcome this problem is to decorate the room in colours suitable for either a boy or a girl, and leave the final decoration until after the baby arrives.  If you favour cream throughout your house, then you may opt for the same colour for the baby's bedroom.  If you like a splash of colour, or want to create a vibrant nursery for your little one, then why not paint in a bright yellow, baby blue or soft purples?

Once the baby has arrived, add character to your room using vinyl stickers.  In the USA these are generally called 'Wallies', but in the UK we are more familiar with adhesive borders and wall decals or wall stickers.  Wallies vary in size from just a couple of inches to a couple of feet for really brash ones.  As these are becoming more popular in the UK, you will find stickers available in many of the children's themes that you see in soft furnishings elsewhere but you'll also find non-branded imagery based around letters or numbers, animals, fish and many other themes.  Search online for a few minutes and you will quickly find that you have hundreds of themes to choose from.

Using wall stickers allows you to personalise your baby's nursery for a girl or a boy after they arrive.  They take only minutes to apply and there's no odour of paint, or any other decorating smells, if you apply them after the baby has moved in!  They are also usually 'reusable' meaning that they can be taken down and reapplied.  This is useful as you buy additional furniture over time and may find that you need to rearrange the stickers away from new items.  It also means that you can rearrange the look every so often as your child grows older.

One point to bear in mind when applying wall stickers - make sure that they are out of reach from a young toddler, and nowhere near the cot!  Although they are unlikely to create a hazard, you don't really want your little munchkin pulling down all the decorations!



How to Find a Baby or Toddler Group

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Babies, Parenting, Childminders and Childminding , Tags: baby group, church hall, nct, support, toddler groups

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Joining a baby or toddler group when you have your first baby can be one of those life saving moves!  Just as you are getting over the extraordinary experience of your first birth, and you are trying to return to a normal life, but suddenly find this dependent little thing everywhere you turn, life can become a little overwhelming.  Find a local group and start meeting and mixing with other mum's and baby's, and you will find a supportive community and quickly make a host of new friends.

There are bound to be toddler and baby groups in your area - you may never have even considered there existence, but they really are all around you!  Here are some ways to find a group near you:-

  • Contact the NCT, they run groups all over the country and you may not have to be a member to attend
  • See whether there are any groups in local church halls and community halls, you'll spot notices in the halls and they should have contact details with them
  • Search on the internet to see if you can find a group near you
  • Look for a local childminding group and then ask the organiser or members for information, they will most likely know what goes on locally to you
  • Contact your local council for a list of local groups
  • Make enquiries at hospital before you leave or ask your midwife - maternity wards usually have a noticeboard with information about local support groups and other services on offer to new mum's

If you really can't find a group near you, or you can't find one that suits you for whatever reason, you could even start your own!



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!


Sound Games

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Learning Play , Tags: animals, games, phonetics, sounds, word games, words

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Toddlers may be too young to be able to play word games, but as soon as they start talking, you can play sound games based on word games that older children enjoy!  Here are some fun ideas:-

  • I-Spy: Rather than playing I-Spy for words beginning with letters, play I-Spy for things beginning with sounds.  For example, I-Spy with my little eye, something beginning with 'TR' (for 'tree'), 'K' (for car) or 'Sh' (for sheep)
  • Alphabet Animals: Go through the alphabet giving the sound for each letter and ask your little one to name an animal beginning with that sound.  Couple this with a trip to a petting farm or zoo where they can learn new animal names!
  • Word Chains: Look around and say the name of something that you see.  Then have your little one say a word that begins with the sound of the last letter.  For example, you might start with Table, then your toddler must offer a word beginning with 'L', perhaps Lamp. Then you say a word beginning with 'P' and so on...
  • Sounding Words: Take words and sound them out with your toddler so that they begin to understand sounds and syllables.  This will give them a head start when they start to learn spelling phonetically at school!  Trak-ter, spag-ett-ee, okt-o-puss, tel-er-vish-un and so on.  Have your little one sound out words for objects they see in the room.

These games are great to play when you have to pass time, perhaps when you are waiting at the doctor's or dentist's, on a car journey, or queuing at the supermarket.



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!

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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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