Month: January 2017

National Storytelling Week

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin….

This week (Jan 28th~4th February 2017) is National Storytelling Week.

The Society for Storytelling  explains how 

 “Over the past 24 years The Society For Storytelling has achieved much in its mission for the promotion of the oral tradition of storytelling, the very first way of communicating life experiences and the creative imagination.

National Storytelling Week takes place in storytelling clubs, theatres, museums, schools, hospitals, spoken word venues, and care homes. Where the events take place, the web of stories will be spun with sufficient magic between the breathe of the teller and the ear of the listener.

National Storytelling Week is celebrated by all ages. Folk tales, fairy lore, figments, phantoms, dragons, serpents, storms at sea. A good teller will conjure intriguingly.

Here at Aston Childcare I try to do my best to foster a love of books and storytelling. Encouraging a love of storytelling at an early age is an excellent way to nurture children’s creativity and sense of play.

The End. 



Happy (Chinese) New Year!

This week I have been loosely following a theme and planning activities around the fact that it is Chinese New Year starting tomorrow (Saturday 28th January). This year, Chinese New Year – The Year of the Rooster – begins on Saturday January 28 and lasts until February 15th, 2018.


Our village pre-school follow themes and last year followed and celebrated the Chinese New Year. They learnt all about how the Chinese celebrate and decorate their homes. They did lots of art and craft and card making. They made a large dragon as a class and did some fantastic dragon dancing. They tried lots of Chinese food and even had a special visitor in to talk about how she celebrates and to share her stories with them. The children all wore red to mark the occasion.

My mindees are much younger however and there will be plenty of time ahead for them to learn, understand and explore this festival further. So with my little ones, (youngest 17 months and eldest 2 ½ years) I used the theme to help inspire me to plan activities for them. Themes can sometimes help to have something to scaffold the day and activities around. They love painting so we used red and yellow paint and they love glitter so we used red and gold glitter. Their favourite activity was definitely the dressing up in the Chinese clothes from the dressing up box and the Chinese fan and parasol.Finally, we read and enjoyed our ‘Lanterns and Firecrackers’ book.

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

Winter sensory bag

This week I created a winter themed sensory bag for the babies I look after to explore. Neither of them seem too keen to get messy so this was perfect for them both. Sensory bags provide a fun sensory experience without any mess. They are also more easily tolerated by kids who hate sticky or messy sensations on their hands.

I try to provide my mindees with lots of different sensory experiences to help them become more comfortable with new sensations.

Sensory play is, quite simply, any activity that stimulates the senses. This includes the five main senses of touch, smell, sight, taste, and sound.

What are the benefits of sensory play?

At birth, a child’s senses are not fully developed. Instead, they develop over time as children engage with the world around them. This means that babies, toddlers, and preschoolers learn about the world by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, hearing, and moving their bodies.

Because young children’s senses are still developing, each new sensory experience builds neural pathways that grow the architecture of the brain. The brain growth that occurs through sensory play enhances children’s senses, and their enhanced senses in turn make them better able to use those senses for learning. For example, as children engage with various textures, they learn which ones are rough vs. smooth, which ones are hard vs. soft, and which ones are wet vs. dry. This awareness is a first step in learning to classify and sort objects.


Post Office Trip

On Friday I had some errands to run and a trip to the village post office and shop were in order. One of the great advantages of children being looked after in a childminding setting is that they can experience lots of real life experiences. I don’t believe the children should ever be subjected to a weekly supermarket shop, I think such things should be done on our own time but I do think quick focused trips like this are fun and educational. It is also a great opportunity to teach children road safety and promote positive behaviour by setting out expectations beforehand and having the children follow instructions.

Armed with our parcels the children were very excited to be heading off to the post office. We greeted the man behind the post office counter and the children waited patiently before they needed to hand over each parcel. They watched with great interest as he entered the details in to his till, stuck the labels on the parcels, told me the price, watched me hand over the money and him provide me with my receipt. We thanked him at the end for his help and wished him a good day.

Once back at home the children played with our wooden teddy bear postbox and letters and our toy till, clearly inspired by their trip to the post office. Our postbox toy is incredibly popular with all the children and  introduces them to colours and helps them learn about the world.

Other related resources are our fantastic puppets by the puppet company – one of a postman and one of a postmaster as part of our “people who help us” set.

The children love it when the postman knocks on our door (most days!!) and run to say hello and see what he has for us.

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




Toy Hygiene

I came across this story in yesterday’s news and wanted to share my own toy hygiene practices here at Aston Childcare.


The following information taken from the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene states that –

Evidence has shown that toys quite easily become contaminated with microbes. Toys are passed from child to child and become contaminated through handling or by children putting their mouths to them. Some germs can remain viable on toys for some periods of time, and in a number of studies, bacteria and viruses have been isolated from toys.

It stresses however, not to get neurotic about toys. Children will inevitably pick up infections it says but says there are ways in which you can reduce these risks by ensuring that looking after toys is a part of the household hygiene routine, particularly important where there is an infected child in the home alongside other children who are healthy, or a child who needs special protection from infection.

Contaminated equipment such as play mats, plastic beakers and ball pits can also contribute to the spread of infection.

Soft toys: Studies on soft toys in a variety of settings such as intensive care units and day care centres show that soft toys can be contaminated with bacteria, including some potentially pathogenic species.

Hard Toys: Bacteria of the upper respiratory tract have been isolated from hard toys taken from a general practitioner’s surgery. Toy balls in a day care centre were contaminated with faeces. Several studies have suggested that hard toys can contribute to outbreaks of diarrhoea and vomiting. For example, in two different day care centres with an outbreak of rotavirus, 39% of toy balls were contaminated with the virus.

Cleaning of toys and equipment should be included in the regular household cleaning rota to ensure that they are regularly cleaned. Ideally, toys should be washable. Soft toys can be put into a washing machine in the hot water cycle. This is particularly important for children at special risk. Where toys are known to be contaminated, e.g. where they become contaminated with vomit or faeces, or mucous from a child who is ill, they must be hygienically cleaned or may even need to be discarded.

Here at Aston Childcare I take the following measures to ensure toys are clean and hygienic:

  • I store toys in clean containers or cupboards
  • I clean toys frequently and, at least whenever soiled.
  • I clean hard or plastic toys that have become dirty or dusty by washing thoroughly with detergent or wiping with alcohol wipes and storing them in a clean and dry place. I may place them in the dishawasher or soak them in a mild bleach solution where necessary
  • I wash soft toys when they become dirty in a washing machine

I also –

  • Ensure that our playdough is changed regularly.
  • Cover our sandpit and water table to avoid any contamination (e.g. from passing animals) and ensure that the sand is changed regularly.
  • Clean the balls from our ball pits  regularly.
  • I empty water play equipment daily and store in a clean, dry place.
  • add all toys and equipment  to the regular household cleaning rota
  • Ensure I don’t put toys back out if they look dirty.
  • Machine wash any play mats regularly

Red, Red Robin

When the red, red robin comes bob bob bobbin’ along…

I’ve been trying to capture our resident baby robin (we like to think it’s the same one each time!!) on camera for weeks now. I finally snapped him sitting still long enough today on top of our parasol.  We’ve been enjoying spotting him every time we’ve been in the garden over Winter.

He’s been a big hit with the children, they absolutely love spotting him and commenting on where he is and what he’s doing –

“Baby robin!”

“Where’s he gone?”

“He’s scared of us”

 “He looked at me!”

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is coming soon from 28-30 January which I hope we can take part in in some form.

Areas of Learning Covered: Communication & Language, Understanding the World, Mathematics

“There’s no such thing as bad weather…

… only unsuitable clothing.”

We love to get outside and make the best use of our outdoor space. It’s lovely to let the kids roam and run free in a child friendly, risk assessed space . Parents are great and provide me with all-weather clothing so that getting outside, whatever the weather, is never an issue.

Little ones develop their walking, dealing with different surfaces underfoot. The sand and water table and outdoor kitchen are a huge hit with all ages. Our chickens are an endless source of fascination. We have balls, bikes, ride on cars, gardening equipment, hopscotch, play tents, ball pit, paddling pool, easels, blackboards, clipboards, bug boxes to name just some of our resources.

I feel there is an increasing pressure on childminders to join expensive forest school or forest childcare type associations to prove our commitment to the outdoors. However, I firmly believe,  that outdoor play can be and should be completely free and just as worthy.

I observe lots of learning in all 7 of the EYFS areas of learning whilst we’re outdoors – Communication & Language, Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Mathematics, Understanding the World, Expressive Arts and Design, Physical Development and Literacy. I also regularly observe many Characteristics of Effective Learning.

The EYFS states that children must…

3.54. Providers must ensure that their premises, including overall floor space and outdoor spaces, are fit for purpose and suitable for the age of children cared for and the activities provided on the premises. Providers must comply with requirements of health and safety legislation (including fire safety and hygiene requirements).

3.58. Providers must provide access to an outdoor play area or, if that is not possible, ensure that outdoor activities are planned and taken on a daily basis (unless circumstances make this inappropriate, for example unsafe weather conditions). Providers must follow their legal responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010 (for example, the provisions on reasonable adjustments).

I am committed to finding ways to further develop outdoor learning opportunities to fully promote children’s learning and play outside.

‘Breakfast sugar’ warning

According to this story in the BBC news today, Public Health England say that “Children are packing in so much sugar at breakfast that half their daily allowance has already been eaten before school” which is slightly worrying.

My sons cereal of choice is Weetabix so using the “Food Smart” app they recommend, I scanned the barcode of the Weetabix box to find out more.


I was relieved to see that Weetabix is listed as a great choice and scores low on their traffic light system for Sugar, Saturated Fat and Salt.

I will definitely be using the app to review all the foods I am offering the children as part of my commitment to providing the children in my care with a healthy diet