Month: December 2015

Covering the 7 areas of learning…in one day!

The EYFS statutory framework 2014 lays out the seven areas of learning and development that must shape educational programmes in early years settings.

The areas of learning are:

  1. communication and language
  2. physical development
  3. personal, social and emotional development
  4. literacy
  5. mathematics
  6. understanding the world
  7. expressive arts and design

Today, with one of my mindees and my son we were able to tick off all 7 areas of learning through no particular pre-planning.

Given that it was his first day back after Christmas and it’s still the holidays, we had a relaxed day which we spent mostly at home with two short outings thrown in but still managed to cover all of the following –

  • Playing with the new remote control tractor (Understanding the World: Technology)
  • Read new book about Transport (Literacy)
  • Completed a puzzle about the Solar System (Understanding the World – The World)
  • Took a trip to the shops (Mathematics, Communication & Language)
  • Played with my son building with the Duplo bricks (Personal, Social and Emotional Development)
  • Played with playdough (Communication and Language, Expressive Arts and Design, Physical Development (fine motor skills) and Personal, Social and Emotional Development
  • A trip to the recycling centre (Understanding the World – The World)

And there we have it, all 7 areas of learning covered in just one day!



Focus on…Understanding the World


The EYFS statutory framework  2014  states that we must support children in 4 specific areas of learning one of which is “Understanding the World” and covers 3  themes– People and communities, The World and Technology.

Here at Aston Childcare I am very lucky to have very bright mindees who are very aware of the world around them.  These are just some of the resources and activities we do to support and strengthen their understanding and learning –

People and communities

  • Read books that show people from diverse backgrounds
  • Celebrate religious festivals and cultures (eg Diwali)
  • Happyland characters that depict people from different cultures
  • Happyland school, post office, village shop
  • We play games such as Eeboos “I never forget a face” which depicts ethnicities from around the world
  • We read books such as “Starting School” by Janet Ahlberg which depicts school children of different ethnicities.
  • Play with dressing up clothes eg Chinese clothing
  • Play with multicultural items such as Australian aboriginal boomerang


The world

  • We go on nature walks (collecting twigs, leaves, conkers, blackberries etc)
  • Trips to the shops, post office, garden centre etc
  • We grow plants from seeds in the garden (such as sunflowers) and plant herbs and vegetables.
  • We discuss world events that we have seen on the news (ie the earthquake in Nepal).
  • Looking after and collecting the Chickens eggs
  • Explore puddles and puddle jumping
  • Explore different surfaces under foot such as grass and mud
  • Heuristic play (exploring things like a horse chesnut, conkers, wooden dolls pegs, leaves, a textured branch, a feather, willow balls) for older children.
  • Treasure basket objects – For babies I introduce safe Natural Resources to so they have the opportunity to explore objects such as willow/wicker balls, metal whisks and wooden spoons
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Jumbo magnet
  • Windmills
  • Blowing Bubbles (Covers science processes such as investigation, discovery, experimentation, observation, definition, comparison, and classification)
  • World map puzzles
  • Solar system/space puzzle
  • Inflatable globe
  • Instruments from around the world eg maracas and catsanets
  • Books such as Oxford First Science Dictionary
  • Clock faces
  • Tell the time lotto
  • Sand and water table



  • Toy Remote control
  • Toy mobile phone
  • Remote control cars
  • Push button books
  • Toy Keys
  • Books with flaps and shutters
  • Laptop installed with child safety software (open DNS)
  • Dimmable light switches
  • TV, Radio and CD player
  • Visits to the shops and supermarket (using self-scanner checkout, conveyor belt, tills etc)
  • Access to digital camera
  • Technology in the environment – Traffic lights and pedestrian crossings when out and about


On my wish list currently are a pair of binoculars, wind up torch, karaoke machine, wind up toys and an electronic keyboard. If anyone has any further ideas please  do let me know!

Promoting Literacy Outdoors

There seems to a common assumption amongst childminders that we must have a box of books placed outside all year round in order to promote literacy outdoors. With the unpredictability of the English weather (gales and heavy rain this week)  I don’t much fancy this(!).  I would be heartbroken if one day I forget to bring a lovely set of books in from the garden and they were rained on.

I think there is much more to promoting literacy (reading and writing) and having a print rich environment outside. These are just some of the ways here at Aston Childcare that children can explore reading and writing whilst outdoors –

  • On our nature walks the children take nature worksheets and tick off what they find, this involves reading or for younger ones seeing the printed word.
  • Looking at and reading road signs, young mindees will often ask me “What does that sign say?” when we are out and about
  • In the school playground there is lots of print
  • In the village shop – posters and flyers in the windows, magazine and comic covers, food packaging.
  • Trips to the mobile library
  • Visiting local attractions with welcome signs
  • Signs up at the park
  • Writing and reading Plant markers
  • Making signs for the chicken coop
  • Buying plants at the garden centre
  • Mark making in the sand
  • Mark making outdoors using clipboards and pencils
  • Writing and painting on easels in the garden
  • Reading and looking at seed packets when growing flowers
  • Shut the gate signs
  • Looking at and reading road and street names

Christmas holidays!

We had a great start to the Christmas holidays today. As today was the first day of the holidays I hadn’t planned anything educational for the children but when I reflected on the day I realised just how many areas of learning we had covered.

This morning they had a great arts and crafts session. They coloured Christmas badges and decorated tree decorations (baubles, angels, Christmas trees and stars) with glitter and pens.

This morning during their free play session they loved the nursery rhyme laminated print outs I have in the playroom and had great fun reciting them and changing the words and inserting our names to make for funnier ones “Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, Emily jumped over the moon” and “Joshua ran away with the spoon”!

This afternoon we braved the park despite the strong winds! They kept requesting to stay longer and longer so we were there for a good 2 hours! They loved the swings requesting that I push them higher and higher and enjoyed pushing me faster and faster on the roundabout! We ran about and explored and being the only ones there was lots of singing and shouting! We found lots of mushrooms and some interesting pieces of bark.

Back home, they enjoyed catching Roald Dahls James and the giant peach and Jack and the beanstalk that were showing on tv.

Areas of learning covered: Communication & Language, Literacy, Understanding the world, Expressive Arts and Design, Physical Development, Mathematics

Christmas themed playdough


I have tried to hold off on Christmas crafts so far in a bid not to exhaust the theme!  However, yesterday our playdough session took on a decidedly Christmassy theme! We had great fun making snowmen, holly, Christmas trees, candy canes, stars and even Father Christmas himself!

I love playing with playdough, it’s definitely my favourite activity to do with my mindees. Yesterday reminded me how it’s fantastic for Personal Social and Emotional Development as we worked together to create things, sharing ideas, waiting our turn to use the playdough rolling pins and cutters.  It’s fantastic too for Communication and Language, we sat and chatted about what we were making, sometimes drifting off into conversations about their morning at pre-school and such like. Clearly it’s great for Expressive Arts and Design with the children using their imagination in their creations and exploring materials.  It covers Maths (Shapes, sizes, halving, counting etc) and finally, it’s also great for Physical Development and uses fine motor skills as mindees roll and manipulate the playdough and hold and control the rolling and cutting tools.

Free play day

Today I had just one mindee (aged 4) and my own 17 month old son.  I enjoy having a different mix of children on different days to see the differences in their play and interactions. With no school runs and time constraints, I let my mindee lead the activities for the day. It was nice for him to be the eldest in my setting for the day and watch his confidence and leadership in situations alongside my young son.

Whilst my son went down for his nap, my mindee enjoyed playing with playdough. When my son awoke later my mindee then enjoyed playing with him until home time. Playing with babies and toddlers is great for their personal, social and emotional development (PSED) and teaches them lots of valuable skills such as the art of caring and sharing. There are also numerous benefits for babies and toddlers playing alongside older children.

The Early Years Outcomes early learning goal for making relationships within PSED is for “Children to play cooperatively, taking turns with others. They take account of one another’s ideas about how to organise their activity. They show sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings, and form positive relationships with adults and other children.”. I am confident that my mindees are exhibiting this behaviour which makes me very proud of them!

Focus on…Physical Development

We all know that exercise is good for us. It helps children develop strength, become mentally alert and stay healthy.  Children need space to run, stretch and explore and to have opportunities to develop both their fine motor and gross motor skills.

Here at Aston Childcare, we gets lots of exercise on our daily school runs, village walks and trips to the park as well as at home in the garden and inside too.

We are lucky to have a great park in the village which has a great array of large scale play equipment that the children love – swings, a roundabout, a zip wire and a variety of assault and rope courses. Back at home, we have a good sized garden for the children to play in.

Inside babies have ample space to stretch, crawl and explore. My older mindees currently love singing and dancing to the hokey cokey! Even the babies love this and laugh at the chorus. It’s a great mood booster! I have very high energy mindees – even the babies!

These are some of the resources and activities on offer here to aid physical development –

  • Push along walker
  • Jumperoo
  • Inflatable jungle roll around to encourage crawling
  • Action songs such as Row, Row, Row your boat
  • Ball pit and play tunnel
  • Ride on cars
  • Toddlebike
  • Hopscotch mat
  • Gymnastics ribbon
  • Dancing
  • Balls of all sizes inside and out
  • Skittles
  • Musical statues
  • Walking to and from school
  • Doing the Hokey-Cokey
  • We go to the local village park to play on large scale play equipment.
  • We go for walks in the village whatever the weather.
  • Puddle splashing
  • Sand and Water play (Gross motor skills digging, pouring, sifting and scooping)
  • Games in the garden – musical chairs, tag, races
  • Playing pooh sticks
  • Rolling down hills

And for fine motor skills –

  • Painting and drawing
  • Playdough
  • Threading/lacing boards
  • Large plastic tweezers
  • Using building blocks
  • Jigsaws
  • Playing with sand and water (Eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills as children manipulate sand accessories).



Nature detectives!


We turned nature detectives on our walk this afternoon. Armed with a jumbo magnifying glass my mindee loved looking at all the bulbs poking up through the soil, the berries on the bushes and the textures and sounds of various flora and fauna. We heard the sheep in the field go “baa!”. “I am the detective, I’m looking for clues” he exclaimed as we picked up some bits to add to our nature tray once back home.

Like us, it’s good for the babies to get fresh air too, we walked up to Aston Potteries, unfortunately at this time of the year their usually magnificent flower displays have all died down. My 9 month old mindee fell asleep peacefully in the buggy on the walk, I transferred her into the cot when we got back home for a nice peaceful afternoon nap.

Areas of Learning Covered: Communication & Language, Understanding the World, Physical Development.

More Maths outdoors…

Yesterday’s activity got me thinking about mathematical experiences and activities I provide outdoors.

We know that it’s important to provide a rich environment outdoors as well as indoors, in which children are provided with interesting materials to sort, count, talk about and compare. We’ve also touched before on the fact that maths involves much more than ‘doing sums’.

My 4 year old mindee loves being outdoors and I feel this is a great place for him to learn. Of course, outside isn’t confined to just my back garden, the opportunities for incorporating maths are everywhere, this is one of the reasons that I am not concerned with having numbers printed all over my garden, this ends up being like wallpaper that ends up not being noticed. I would rather it was incorporated into fun activities for the children who are actively involved.

These are just some of the ways I’ve identified that we are learning about maths outdoors –

  • Sand and water play (Sand and water wheels encourage children to think about movement and fast/slow, Filling jugs and containers explores capacity: full half full empty holds container) etc
  • Fishing ducks “(I’ve caught 5!” etc)
  • Number magnets on the easel (recognising numerals)
  • Hopscotch mat – Reinforces and practises arithmetic skills
  • Time – how long to the park “how long will it take to get to the park?”
  • Visiting the shops and using Money (Cheap, costs less, cheaper costs the same as how much…? how many…? Total)
  • Distance and Positional language – distance home from school – you’re behind me, in front etc
  • Counting stepping stones in the garden
  • Making a number line (recognising numerals)
  • Measuring plants in the garden – height (short, tall etc)
  • Jumping in puddles – (Capacity: shallow/ deep)
  • Counting conkers, blackberries picked etc (I’ve got more, less etc)
  • Rolling down hills (I was fast, faster, fastest)
  • Pooh sticks (“My sticks first”, last etc)
  • Looking at shapes in environment (rectangular doors, square windows, triangular road signs)
  • Nature finding walks (how many leaves, twigs etc)

I am constantly reviewing the activities I provide and as always am happy to hear if anyone has any good ideas!


Taking Maths outside

Yesterday my mindee and I made some fun, colourful number bunting to pin up in the garden. Not only was this a good mathematical activity, it gave us an opportunity to look at maths outside and provide print in the outdoor environment. Of course children get to see print in the environment all the time – road signs, shop frontages, car number plates and in the school playground.

My mindee has a fantastic imagination and as I sat cutting the triangles he enjoyed playing with the triangular offcuts – “Look, I’ve got the monsters teeth”. We counted the number of plain flags we had in total and then he was able to tell me which number I needed to write next on each of the 10 flags. We explored shapes (cutting a triangular shape out of a rectangular piece of card).  He was excited to choose which colours we should use for the line.  We then pegged it up outside and were even able to see it from the playroom window once back inside which brightened up the view on a winters day!

Areas of learning covered: Communication and Language, Mathematics, Expressive Arts and Design