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EYFS - So What's It All About?

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, ToucanLearn, Child Development, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), Childminders and Childminding , Tags: areas of learning and development, eyfs, toucanlearn

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The EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) is a set of guidelines provided by the government to set the standards for the learning, development and care of children. It covers babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers from birth to age 5.

It gives childminders, carers and nurseries guidelines within which they can care for and guide the children. It provides targets for children and a means by which to measure a child's progress.

There are six Areas of Learning and Development defined in the Early Years Foundation Stage. These are as follows:

  1. Personal, Social and Emotional Development: This includes among other things how to make a maintain relationships, self-confidence and self-esteem; behaviour and self care and children's sense of community.
  2. Communication, Language and Literacy: How children use and develop language to speak, how they think, how they learn letters and soundsm how they learn to read and write.
  3. Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy: This includes numbers, counting, shapes and calculating.
  4. Knowledge and Understanding of the World: How children explore new places and objects; how they design and make things. How they use information and technology to learn; also, time, history and other people's cultures.
  5. Physical Development: How children move and use space and equipment, their health and bodily awareness.
  6. Creative Development: How children respond to what they see, hear, feel smell and touch; how they use new materials and make new things; dance, music and imaginative play.

Since 2008 all childminders registered in England who look after children must deliver the EYFS and be inspected by OFSTED.  Although childminders are trained professionals, its not restricted to them alone and parents can also learn a great deal from the EYFS and the guidelines it offers.

All of ToucanLearn's activities are linked to the EYFS Areas of Learning and Development which means premium members can search for activities within each area and encourage and entertain their children with appropriate crafts, games and activities.

The EYFS makes it easy for childminders and parents to see what each child should be doing. ToucanLearn gives a practical implementation and a whole lot of fun!



The Science behind ToucanLearn

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: ToucanLearn, Child Development, Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), Childminders and Childminding , Tags: child development, child psychology, learning programme, toucanlearn

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At ToucanLearn we promote a 'learning programme' for children from birth to 5 years, and although we hint at how this is derived in our FAQ, we don't offer an in depth description of the processes we took to devise at our 'programme'  - we'd like to offer that detail here.

At the outset, we examined a number of key texts in child development theory.  Although these are based on science and academic rigour, they propose differences in the understanding of how children learn and develop.  We don't favour a single theory of child development, but instead looked at the practical components and created our own 'scale' based on what different proponents offer.  ToucanLearn is built on many different sources but some of the key sources include work published by The American Academy of Pediatrics, we borrow from the unique longitudanal study still ongoing as Child of Our Time and presented by Professor Robert Winston, and the work of eminent child psychologts such as Dr. Richard Woolfson, Professor Tanya Byron, Professor Linda Pound, Jennie Lindon and other less well known, but no less important, individuals.

Common to most of the developmental literature and sources was the way that they break down 'development' into a number of key areas.  These aren't static, but there are key skill areas examined by child psychologists and practitioners.  We concentrated on four particular areas that were largely common to developmental analyses, and devised our own scale unique to ToucanLearn, but based on the experiences of different proponents.  These areas of development are:-

  • Fine motor skills
  • Gross motor skills
  • Cognitive skills
  • Language development

In order to offer this to a broad audience rather than the scientific community, we refer to these as 'Making', 'Moving', 'Thinking' and 'Speaking'.

We created a scale of milestones for each of these four broad areas of development.  We took the first five years of development and created a chart based on age, from day 0 when a baby is born, to day 2,190 when our programme ends (when a child turns 6).  For example, our scale pinpoints the day when a child should be able to pick up an object, when they should be able to clap, when they should be able to understand instructions, tell a story and so on.  Our chart, which we don't publish, has hundreds of milestones across these four broad areas.   Some of these achievements are trivial, others siginifcant, but to a parent or childminder, all of these are significant in the context of their own children.

We then created hundreds of activities aimed at encouraging each developmental milestone, no matter how significant.  We categorised each activity against our derived scale.  Every activity is categorised across all four areas, with a score relating to the age of a child in days, pinpointing the day on which a child should be able to complete the activity.  Each activity has a single overriding focus, and this is the focus that we state for each activity, offering each as a making, moving, learning or language based activity.

Unfortunately for us, not all children develop at the same rate and although many of these milestones are linear in that they will be acquired in a certain order (for example, a child learns to stand before they can walk, and jump before they can hop), our 'programme' has to offer deviation to account for differences in development.  There is also a potential disjoint between developmental theory and real children!  This is where 'feedback' comes in.  We offer the option for every adult participating in ToucanLearn to 'feed back' in our blog area as to whether each activity was too difficult, too easy or just right.  This is a positive feedback mechanism that does two things.

First, we track the progress of each ToucanLearn child along four axes, one for each key development area, and depending on the feedback, we move them up or down each scale.  The scales relate to age, so if an activity aimed at teaching a child to clap is found to be too easy, we increase their 'fine motor' or 'making' score so that we take account of their ability; if it's too hard, we decrease their score.  This ensures that the activities offered to them are appropriate to their capabilities.  At the outset, we offer activities appropriate to their age in days across each of the four skill areas.  Over time and with feedback they are awarded a 'handicap' for each skill area that may be positive or negative.  This accounts for differences in the development of our different children across different skill acquisition.

The second feature of 'feedback' improves the placement of every individual activity.  Our scale derived from developmental literature might have walking or talking in the wrong place, but the collated feedback of each participant pushes the activity backwards or forwards depending on the response.  Over time this will have an averaging effect that refines the position of every activity thus feedback for each individual improves the experience for everyone.

Because our scales are based on age, if a parent registers their children at birth and participates intensively in our programme for a few months, but then goes away for two years and then comes back, the activities presented will still be relevant to the child.  If a childminder registers one child in order to access activities for several children of a similar age, then our programme falls down, because the benefit of individual tracking is lost.  That's not to say that activities won't be broadly relevant, but it won't be possible to drive each child according to their unique abilities.

Our feedback mechanism also allows for our programme to be used for children with special needs or different learning disabilities.  Although it can't be completely accurate for every situation, we believe that the core experience remains relevant for such children.  Their initial participation in our programme needs to adjusted according to their capabilities, and progress may be different to other children, but the linear nature of development across our key areas remains relevant and we can work with parents and carers to ensure that they remain on a suitable path.

Every activity is also rated according to the UK government's Early Years Foundation Stage Areas (EYFS) of Learning and Development.  This information is offered only to Premium Members as an enticement for people to subscribe.  We have to derive enough revenue to continue offering our service because we don't currently receive any governmental or other sponsorship!  EYFS is very much the 'icing' on a programme based on child developmental psychology, anyone participating in ToucanLearn will benefit from the underlying science whilst also being able to fulfil and track their progress through EYFS.

If you're still reading at this stage, then clearly you are interested in the route that we took to bring ToucanLearn to market and we hope that you have understood and agree with the path we have taken.  We conceived our initial ideas early in 2007 and spent over two years researching and developing the service before our formal launch in June 2009.  Every child is different, but we hope that our programme will remain broadly relevent to the majority of participants and whether the science is important to you or not, we hope that we can stimulate an interest in learning and development and foster a strong one to one relationship between every child and their parents and carers regardless!



Take a Look!

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Learning Play, ToucanLearn, Parenting, Child Development, Childminders and Childminding , Tags: activities, blog, observation, records, toucanlearn

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Children and babies at nursery or pre-school, or children looked after by a childminder, are usually "observed" by their carer or teacher.  Parents may be familiar with an "Observation sheet" that comes home or is available to look at in the childcare setting.  However, as parents we are often too busy to sit back and observe our little ones and yet it can be a fascinating exercise.

In order to understand and consider a child's current interests, stage of development and their learning, observation is essential.  It allows us to see the child's responses in different situations, see what they choose to do or which toys they prefer to play with.  It's a means to plan appropriate games and activities based on what you see.

How do you undertake an observation?

  • Solo: Prepare a few different toys or activities for your child.  Try not to guide or lead them, and watch to see what they do.  Record what they do, how they manage the tasks and their movements.  Use your ToucanLearn Blog so you can compare week on week.
  • Together: prepare an activity or craft that you do together.  Record how your child manages, how you interact, what is said, how instructions are followed etc.  Try to be honest though - its only for your own benefit - and your child's!
  • Photograph: Take a couple of photos to record what they do.  Don't get them to pose - try to do it without them seeing; just snap them at play!
  • Moving pictures: Take some video or digital movies of your child playing.  Again, don't bother when they are performing to the camera or doing things on purpose.  Just catch them when they are restful and playing without thinking about you.
  • Notes: It's a good idea to have a little notepad to hand to scribble down anything your child does or says that's funny or interesting. Record these observations in your ToucanLearn blog at the end of each day or week so you can look back at them without losing the little bits of paper in the meantime!

Observation is a great way to get to know your child even better, see exactly where they are in their development and identify any area that may be weak and need extra help.



When Older Siblings Troop off to School...

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, ToucanLearn, Parenting, Preschool Children , Tags: school, siblings, toucanlearn

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The start of a new school year may introduce significant change in the routine of younger siblings. With older siblings no longer about each day, younger siblings may be upset by the sudden change. They may even experience fear or anxiety if they don't understand the change. Make sure you talk and explain to younger children that their brothers and sisters are starting at school, and if you are lucky enough to spend every day with your children, take advantage of quality time with the younger siblings. Try to take them out on excursions and fill their day with activities. Don't forget to use ToucanLearn as a regular source of activities to do together. Look for a craft activity to do each day at home, and maybe an outside activity to do on a walk. Many of our outdoor activities can be done on the school run itself as you walk to drop off or pick up siblings. If your younger children are upset that they can't go to school, pretend that their craft activities at home are their own school at home - they will love to be able to do what their older brothers and sisters are doing.



Developmental Milestones

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Babies, ToucanLearn, Health, Kids Art and Craft, Child Development , Tags: developmental milestones, doctor, toucanlearn

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When should I be concerned if my baby is not reaching developmental milestones? This is a question so many parents ask. But, you must remember that all babies develop at different rates. Some may be babbling early and chattering  at every opportunity. Another may show no interest in crawling while all his fellow babies are dashing about on all fours. Neither is right or wrong – they are just different.

However, if you have any concerns, go along to your doctor or health visitor – especially if you have worries that your baby might have sight or hearing problems. And, if your baby was doing something well, such as rolling over, and then seems to lose that ability and does it no more, do go to the doctor.

Remember, ToucanLearn has plenty of activities to track the developmental milestones and gives you lots of ideas of how to encourage your baby to achieve them. The key is not to compare your little one with other babies too much and help their healthy development by providing a happy, safe and stimulating environment for your baby. Go to ToucanLearn for some ideas!



Not Just an Activity Site

Permalink by Tikal, Categories: Toddlers, Babies, ToucanLearn, Parenting, Child Development, Preschool Children, Family, Kids Activities , Tags: activities, craft, games, learning program, toucanlearn

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You might think that ToucanLearn is just another activity site, but what we offer is a unique learning program for preschool children.  The program is made up from activities, games and crafts, but each activity is categorised for a very specific moment in the development of your babies and toddlers.  As soon as you have registered your children's name and date of birth, you can get access to loads of activities that challenge their capabilities.  Each activity is focused on one of four key skills in making, moving, learning and speaking which correspond to fine and gross motor skills, thinking and language development.  As your child grows older, so the selection of activities changes so that you will only ever see activities appropriate to the capabilities of each child.  The best thing is that you can use all of this for free - if you pay premium membership then you receive even more activities, and some other benefits, but if those don't appeal, you are welcome to use ToucanLearn without paying at all!

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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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