Month: April 2016

Pirate Role Play

Two of my mindees (aged 4 and 7) and my 22 month old son all had great fun playing pirates after school today. They used the toy chest in which to hide their “treasure”. They loved taking turns as captain “Aye ayecap’n” and exclaiming “Ahoy there my hearties!” in their role play game.

Pirates seem perennially popular with young children and particularly here at Aston Childcare. I’ve had mindees past and present dress up as Captain Purplebeard from The Pirate Cruncher for World Book Day and dress up as pirates for their pirate day at school.

Our Pirate Pete potty training book is very popular even for those long past potty training age!

Areas of Learning covered: Expressive Arts and Design (Imagination), Literacy and Communication & Language.


My son (22 months old) is currently enjoying completing a variety of puzzles.  I’ve been amazed at how well he can do them. All my mindees get a great sense of satisfaction from completing puzzles. It’s got me thinking, in addition to being fun to complete, just how good they are for children’s development.

Here at Aston Childcare we have lots of different puzzles for all ages including Number puzzles, Alphabet Puzzles, Sound puzzles, Word puzzles, Shape sorter puzzles, Cube 6-in-1 puzzle, Parts of the body puzzles, Dinosaur puzzle, Large floor Fire engine puzzle, Map of the world puzzle, Solar system space puzzle to name but a few!

Puzzles are great for –

Physical Development 

  • Fine motor development: Puzzles are a fun way for children to develop their fine motor skills.  Children are required to pick up, pinch and grasp pieces and move them around, manipulating them into slots, sorting them and fitting them into the correct places. Small and precise movements, such as the movement of fingers to get a puzzle piece in exactly the right spot, are built and can lead to better handwriting and typing skills.
  • Gross Motor Skills: Larger puzzle pieces and stacking puzzle games can enhance the large movements of children to the point where they can then work on their fine motor skills.
  • Hand-Eye Coordination: Children will develop a keen relationship between what their eyes see, what their hands do and what their brain relates to this information. Playing with puzzles requires a trial and error process which involves a lot of hand and eye manipulation.  For example, as a toddler or child places a piece of the puzzle that does not fit, they will try all over again where their actions involve doing what they actually see.


Cognitive Skills

  • Puzzles come in a whole range of themes and topics.  It increases their visual spacial awareness and develops a deeper understanding of these themes and topics.  All children learn differently and puzzles may be their medium for grasping an understanding of certain themes such as alphabet letters.
  • Understanding the surrounding world: Puzzles are a great  way for children to gain an understanding of the world around them than by letting them literally manipulate the world around them.
  • Shape recognition: First puzzles use  simple shapes – triangle, squares and circles. From there more complex shapes are used until the abstract jigsaw puzzles are used.
  • Memory: Children have to remember the shape of pieces that don’t fit first when they will fit later on.
  • Problem solving: Either the puzzle piece fits or it does not. Children have to use critical thinking skills to solve the puzzle and, best of all, you can’t cheat a puzzle!


Emotional skills

  • Setting goals: The first goal is to solve the puzzle, the next goal will be a series of strategies children come up with to solve the puzzle. Such as putting familiar shapes or colors in one pile for future reference.
  • Patience: Children must practice patience and slowly work through the puzzle before you reach the ending.
  • Social: Puzzles are a great educational tool to enhance and promote cooperative play.  As children work together to complete a puzzle, they will discuss where a piece should go and why, take turns and share and support each other when handling frustration, then sharing the joy of finishing the puzzle.
  • Self Esteem: The accomplishment of achieving a goal brings so much satisfaction to a child.  Overcoming the challenges involved in solving a puzzle really gives them a sense of achievement and pride within themselves.  It provides a boost to their self-confidence and self-esteem as this prepares them for other challenges in life. Puzzles are a fun educational toy that challenges young minds, teaching and preparing them early in life some very important life skills.
  • Problem Solving: Completing a puzzle, even the most simplest of puzzles sets a single goal to achieve.  Toddlers and children must think and develop strategies on how to approach in achieving this goal.  This process involves problem solving, reasoning skills and developing solutions which they can later be transferred into their personal/adult life.

Areas of Learning Covered: Mathematics, Understanding the World, Communication & Language, Literacy, Expressive Arts and Design, Personal, Social and Emotional Development and Physical Development

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Since my son was born I have always enjoyed holding him in front of a mirror. He gets great joy from seeing his reflection and seeing us together in the mirror. I think mirrors are a lovely tool for providing a stimulating environment to babies and children.

Development Matters suggests a number of ways in which they can be used to provide an enabling environment –

8-20 months (Personal, Social and Emotional Development; Self-confidence and self-awareness)  Place mirrors where babies can see their own reflection. Talk with them about what they see.

30-50 months (Communication & Language; Listening and Attention)  Help children be aware of different voice sounds by using a mirror to see what their mouth and tongue do as they make different sounds.

Birth-11 months – (Communication & Language; Understanding) Provide resources that stimulate babies’ interests such as a shiny bell, a book or a mirror

Here at Aston childcare, we have a lovely cheerful yellow sunshine mirror on the wall in the playroom which is fantastic for pre-schoolers and school aged children. We also have a great wooden colour flap mirror which is a shiny shatterproof mirror that hides behind four colourful wooden flaps, making it a captivating toy. It’s appealing to both babies and toddlers and helps young children master colour-recognition, basic vocabulary and concepts of cause-and-effect.

We also have various sized sheets of plastic, acrylic mirrors which are great for all kinds of sensory play activities. They can be used to create fun repeat reflections and can be used both inside and outside. I like to use the smallest one I have in my treasure basket, babies and young children love to pull this out and look at their reflection and explore the mirror.

Mirrors, an easy, excellent Early Years resource…







Happy Birthday Ma’am!

Today is the Queens 90th birthday. When I picked up my after-schoolers today it was lovely to see they had put up a string of union jack flags on the school gates. The children excitedly told me that they were up because it was the Queens birthday. They’d had a special assembly in which they had sung God Save the Queen.

I just love this picture one of them drew when they sat down to draw and colour after their snack, really made me smile!

Happy 90th birthday Ma’am!



The power of play

I am currently reading a fantastic book by child psychologist David Elkind which I thoroughly recommend to parents and childminders alike.

I will be reviewing and discussing the content in future blogs.


Easter Holiday Fun

Today marked the end of the Easter holidays. I always love the school holidays with my mindees. We’ve had lots of fun doing arts and crafts, playing in the garden, going to the park, doing puzzles, watching films, baking cakes and going to soft play.

Working with other settings

With the 15 free hour’s childcare in place and the hotly anticipated extension to 30 hours, it is more and more common that care of children is now shared between settings.

I have recently been looking after a 4 year old who attended pre-school every morning from 9 until 12 then I would pick them up and they would spend the remainder of their day from 12pm-5.30 with me.

It is vital in such cases that the two settings communicate with one another so that they compliment or indeed contrast what the other is providing.

This is how I was working in partnership with the pre-school and this could be applied to any setting –

  • Checked their noticeboard daily which would tell me what their morning snack had been and would say “Ask me about..” which would detail their mornings activity
  • Parents would email the weekly pre-school newsletter to me which helped with my planning. It’s also useful to check the settings website as newsletters are usually posted here too.
  • Chats and meetings with pre-school staff, either at pick up or pre-arranged to discuss termly updates
  • Provide them with access to the child’s online journey

I am always reflecting on the best methods to share information between settings and am always happy to hear any suggestions should you have any.

Working in partnership with parents

I know myself that picking a childminder can be a daunting task and as a parent I understand your concern for finding the right person. Leaving your child with a stranger for the first time is a huge step for both you and your child. This is why it’s of the utmost importance that you and I develop a good working relationship so that you are comfortable and happy leaving your child and most importantly that your child is happy and settled.

Here are just some of the ways I work in partnership with parents to ensure your child is getting the best possible care –

  • You will come and meet me and get a feel for both me and my setting
  • You will be given the opportunity to view my qualifications and certificates
  • We will then decide a start date and discuss your requirements for settling in sessions – these can be as many or as few as you would like
  • I will ask for your child’s “Starting points”. For babies these will be the EYFS 3 prime areas (as defined by the government and Early Years professionals) which are –
  • Physical Development,
  • Communication & Language
  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development

For older children it will be the 3 prime areas plus the EYFS 4 specific areas  –

  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Expressive Arts and Design
  • Understanding the World
  • You will complete a comprehensive form about your child telling me all about them (their sleep preferences, eating habits, allergies, any comforters etc).
  • I will observe and plan for your child’s time with me – All observations will be made available to view at your convenience on an online system where you can also view pictures of them
  • I will email you termly updates about your child’s progress and development
  • In between all of the above we will have doorstop chats, emails and text messages to discuss your child.

In addition, I am always available by phone or email whenever you wish to chat.

Two of my mindees have moved on this week due to changing circumstances with their parents work. I was very touched to receive lovely bouquets of flowers and chocolates from them both. Both said their children were very happy in my care which is always lovely to hear.