Hopscotch: The greatest playground game of all time!

Hopscotch has previously been hailed as the Greatest Playground Game of all Time.

The game which involves hopping between designated squares on a chalk grid, dates back to Roman times. Apparently the game was used for military training exercises; Roman foot soldiers ran in full armour and field packs along hopscotch courts which were over 100 feet long to improve their foot work. Roman children then imitated the soldiers, drawing their own smaller grids on the ground.

The game remains popular in playgrounds today.

Because my garden is all laid to lawn we have nowhere to mark out a chalk hopscotch grid but I have a fab hopscotch mat that does the same job.

This simple game that I remember fondly from my own childhood is not only fun but also great for maths and physical development.

Loose parts play

I recently completed an outdoor space audit as a result of some training on the subject of Playing and Exploring I had completed. As a result of my audit I found that I didn’t offer much in the way of “loose parts” for the children to play with.

The Oxfordshire Play Association (OPA) explains that “Loose parts are items and materials that children and young people can move, adapt, control, change and manipulate within their play. They provide a high level of creativity and choice, as there are endless possibilities for how they can be used. When a child is playing with sand, it can become anything they want it to be, whereas many bought toys lack such flexibility. Studies show that children and young people prefer to play with loose parts such as water, sticks, sand, ropes and boxes than traditional toys and play equipment, because they can use their imagination, and have greater control in their play. In the saying “Children prefer to play with the box than the present inside”, the box is an example of a loose part, and loose parts have a very high play value for children. Simon Nicholson came up with the ’Theory of loose parts’ in 1971. He said that in any environment, the degree of creativity and inventiveness is directly proportional to the number of variables in it. Nicholson suggested that a beach is a good example of a loose parts environments, with plenty of moveable and adaptable materials, such as sand, water, rocks and shells. Loose parts are the reason that most children are absorbed in play for hours on a beach”.

They explain “Children are drawn to new, interesting and novel items—and have a natural drive and ability to decide what to do with them in their play. Leave a pile of loose parts, let the young people know they can use them, and keep adult intervention to a minimum. Loose parts are springboards for play, and are an essential element of a rich, child-centred play environment.”

This week I addressed the lack of loose parts in my garden by simply adding some lengths of plastic guttering we had lying around in the garage. Racing cars down the lengths of guttering proved very popular. We spoke about which car when down the gutter fastest and whether a steeper slope meant the car would go faster. This is great for exploring the subject of speed in mathematics. The guttering has since moved to the sand and water table where the children have loved exploring pouring water and sand down them.

I plan to introduce more loose parts in the garden in the coming weeks. Examples of loose parts – tyres, logs, crates, cushions, fabric, buckets, hoops, wood.

Areas of Learning covered: Physical Development, Maths, Understanding The World, Communication & Language, Personal, Social and Emotional Development.



Embracing Diversity

We live in an extremely diverse society and this should be reflected in the care that we as childminders give.

Children have the right to feel valued and be free from discrimination. A positive self-image and high self esteem gives children the confidence and security to communicate effectively and to explore the world around them. It is important that the children I care for are sensitive to the needs and feelings of others and show respect for people of other cultures and beliefs.

This week we had fun creating these characters chatting about their different hair colour and features and looking at different skin tones.

Here at Aston Childcare I endeavour to provide an inclusive environment by ensuring I –

  • Value each child’s individuality
  • Challenge any racist and discriminatory remarks, attitudes and behavior
  • Find out about family customs and beliefs, dietary requirements, dress code, hair and skin care, help required with toilet and washing
  • Provide activities to help children appreciate and value each others similarities and differences
  • Provide play materials which reflect diversity such as books and puzzles which show positive images of boys and girls and men and women from a variety of cultural backgrounds and varying needs.
  • Explore religious and cultural festivals

A selection of some of the materials and activities I provide that celebrate our differences –






Storysack – Elmer and friends

The literacy trust (http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/) describes story sacks as “a large cloth bag containing a favourite children’s book with supporting materials to stimulate language activities and make reading a memorable and enjoyable experience”.

Storysack.com says “Storysacks enhance the teaching of literacy in any setting and contribute to the child’s life-long love of books and reading, helping to bring stories to life worldwide”.

I have been keen to put one together for a while now and in light of it being World Book Day tomorrow I finally got round to putting one together for the story of “Elmer and friends” by British author David McKee.

In this sack, I had a patchwork elephant, a giraffe, a lion, a zebra, a mouse, a snake and a leopard. It proved an instant success with my 4 year old mindee today and he loved dipping in and pulling the characters out of the bag! When we finished the story my mindee excitedly shouted “again!”. He then eagerly scoured the playroom to create his own storysack! It’s a lovely, simple idea that really brought the story to life.

I am looking forward to putting together some more to enhance our daily reading sessions further.


Elmer is a children’s picture book. Elmer is an elephant who has a colourful body, with yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, blue, green, black and white arranged as a patchwork.

The Elmer series of stories are suitable for early exploration of the themes and issues relating to the concept of diversity, as Elmer discovers that when he tries to change his appearance in order to ‘blend in’ with the other elephants, they no longer recognise him, or accept him as one of their own. This makes Elmer sad, and he experiences how it feels to be treated like an outcast, after being ostracised by his old friends. It’s only when it begins to rain, and the grey paint that Elmer has covered himself with starts to disappear, that Elmer’s ‘true colours’ are revealed, much to the surprise and delight of his friends, who preferred his multicoloured and fun loving persona. Following their happy reunion, the elephants reassure Elmer that they love him because of his differences, and not in spite of them, and they celebrate by painting themselves in multi-coloured paint, in recognition of Elmer’s unique appearance and personality.

In the news: Tooth decay in children

I blogged about this last year and it’s back in the news –


Here at Aston Childcare children are given water to drink rather than sugary drinks and I have taken dried fruit off the menu as it is high in sugar and can stick to teeth.

It’s important our children are brushing twice a day too.


Water play

Water is one of the basic raw materials for purposeful play. Like sand, clay, and blocks, children can use water without being constrained by the one, right way to use it.

Water play promotes problem-solving and thinking skills and is particularly well suited to the development of concepts in mathematics and science. Its good for  developing language, and promoting social skills.

Children find  water intriguing. It seems to draw children to explore its structure and properties.

“Water play is developmentally appropriate regardless of the child’s physical condition, age, language, gender, culture, or exceptionality” (Bredeikamp 1987).

Earlier this week I set out a tray of water with various sized and shaped measuring jugs, different sized funnels, a variety of measuring spoons and a sieve.

I let my mindee play with it and stood back and observed –

So…what did we learn…?

We were able to explore some mathematical concepts –

  • Empty/full/many/few
  • Before/after
  • Thick/thin, more/less
  • Same/different
  • Heavy/light/shallow
  • Deep/greater/less than

We used physical skills as small muscles got a workout as water was poured from container to container, they fitted funnels to containers and sponges were wrung dry.

We learnt new words such as “funnel” and “sieve” and “flow”.

And finally, we learnt some science as playing with water naturally leads children to ask questions such as “What does it do?” Their curiosity leads to experimentation and they learnt about the properties of liquid.

I plan to change the objects I provide with the water tray regularly so we can explore all manner of things, next on my list to explore and try are medicine droppers and squeeze bottles.


Signs of Spring

Today we made the most of the sunshine this week by getting out in the garden to re-energise ourselves after lunch!

Although it’s still a month to go before its officially Spring, it felt distinctly Spring like with the sun out, the lawn freshly mown and the daffodils in full bloom!

From 13 months old to 4 years old my mindees all had fun running about, playing with the sand and water tray and stepping over the stepping stones in the garden.