Happy Valentines Day 

This week my mindees have been enjoying some Valentines Day related arts and crafts. Using tissue paper cut into different shapes we created heart shaped collages, lots of gluing and sticking was great for developing fine motor skills. We learnt new words such as “collage”. We learnt that Valentine’s Day, or St Valentine’s Day, is celebrated every year on 14 February and explained that it’s the day when people show their affection for another person or people by sending cards, flowers or chocolates with messages of love.  We also enjoyed some playdough and some mark making and sensory rice play too.

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


Focus on…Literacy

The last area of learning and development I wanted to focus on here at Aston Childcare is Literacy.

Literacy covers both reading and writing. The EYFS 2014 states that “Literacy development involves encouraging children to link sounds and letters and to begin to read and write. Children must be given access to a wide range of reading materials (books, poems, and other written materials) to ignite their interest”.

Here at Aston Childcare we love our books and we are lucky to have a fortnightly mobile library that stops at the top of our road in the village.

Here are just some of the resources and activities we have to encourage both reading and writing –


  • Alphabet abacus
  • Variety of books (including fabric books, touch and feel books, board books, lift the flap, slide and find, sound effect and pop up books)
  • Alphabet flash cards with letters and words
  • Single Decorative cardboard letters A-Z
  • Magnetic board and letters
  • Books such as Oxford First Dictionary and Oxford First Thesaurus.
  • Role play items such as a tea set that have words like “tea” and “sugar” on them.
  • Happyland characters and buildings encourage literacy. Buildings say “Post office”, School, “police station”, “Fire station” and “Doctors surgery”. The doctor’s surgery displays the days of the week and surgery opening hours. Street furniture such as a Telephone Box and road crossing signs say things such as “POLICE- Road Closed”. Community figures such as a lollipop lady has a sign that reads “STOP children”, Emergency vehicles are labelled “POLICE” , “Ambulance” and “Fire” and other vehicles say “School” , “Taxi” or “Post Office” on them.
  • I rotate informational posters in the playroom that display numbers, letters, the human body and maps to provide a print rich environment for the children and a source of information for children to learn.
  • In the garden further print takes the form of plant label markers, magnetic easel boards displaying messages eg “Happy birthday” to mark a child’s birthday.
  • Mark making resources – small pencils, clipboards (both mini and large for inside and outside)



  • Children enjoy reading books and being read to. Older children enjoy reading to younger ones.
  • Play Hangman
  • Children enjoy making names with the decorative letters
  • Making words with letter magnets on the magnetic easel.
  • Visits to the mobile library that visits the village.
  • Writing in sand
  • Water painting
  • Finger painting
  • Using chalks on blackboard
  • Looking at print in the environment ie road signs, shop signs and house names and numbers
  • nature walks with worksheets
  • Labeling plants

Further to this I have some magna doodles and etch-a-sketches on my wish list and lots more books!



Chinese New Year

Happy New Year! Chinese New Year that is!

Each Chinese New Year is characterised by one of 12 animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac.  This year is the year of the monkey.

My 4 year old mindee was already enjoying lots of activities at pre-school to celebrate the Chinese New Year, they wore red for the day, they had a Chinese visitor, enjoyed Chinese food, made a large dragon as a class and lanterns too.

I decided that pre-school had this one sewn up(!) so I opted for a very simple activity of drawing monkeys to mark the year of the monkey instead! They impressively chose to draw their monkeys on blossom trees. Blossom trees are much prized in both China and Japan and linked closely with spring festivals. Chinese New Year, for example, celebrates blossom in all its forms. They completed their pictures with some bananas…

Colour themed baby treasure basket

This week I put together a colour themed sensory tray for my 1 year old mindee. I went with the colour blue and collected various bits and pieces from around the playroom trying to get different shapes and textures for her to explore.

The final basket included –

  • 1 plastic blue stacking ring
  • 1 plastic stacking cup
  • 1 wooden tea cup
  • 1 wooden prism
  • 1 wooden rectangular piece with a hole
  • 1 sensory ball
  • 1 sensory cube
  • 1 long soft jersey scarf
  • 1 small wooden car
  • 1 square piece of duplo


I sat back and watched her explore on her own, without any interference or direction of play. It’s lovely to sit beside them while they play and just observe how they explore the materials and what they make of them.

She enjoyed the motor element of the basket as much as the contents, simply taking each thing out one by one and putting them back in again! Then she began touching, rolling and banging the pieces together and generally discovering what they can do.

It’s fun to create these resources and I always find they love engaging with them so much more than shop bought toys.




Focus on…Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED)

The EYFS Statutory framework 2014 explains how Personal, social and emotional developmentinvolves helping children to develop a positive sense of themselves, and others; to form positive relationships and develop respect for others; to develop social skills and learn how to manage their feelings; to understand appropriate behaviour in groups; and to have confidence in their own abilities”.

Here at Aston Childcare respect and consideration underpins everything we do. I ensure I am a good role model by being fair. I praise good behaviour and am alert to any injustices and ensure they are addressed and resolved.

When I have a baby in my setting I recognise the importance of attachment and ensure I give them plenty of one to one time, playing with them and building security and attachment with me.

With older children I ensure they have my full attention and ensure I understand and teach them to understand one another’s feelings. I teach the children to treat one another how they would like to be treated themselves regardless of their age or gender.

I encourage children to be independent and to give things a go.

Here are just some of the resources I use and activities we do to help the children develop and learn personally, socially and emotionally –


  • Books eg. “What makes me happy”, “What I like” and “The Feelings book”.
  • Books such as “The Little Old Lady who Cried Wolf” showing effects of negative behaviour on others
  • Role play items such as tea set and dressing up clothes
  • Mood Spoons – wooden spoons featuring different emotions (happy, sad, angry, worried).
  • Emotion flash cards depicting a variety of emotions ie. sad, angry, happy


  • Role play with the doll’s house, barn and Happyland characters that depict people from all walks of life.
  • Making dens using the dining table and chairs and sheets
  • Sand and Water play in the garden (promotes social skills as children work together at the sand table they are faced with real problems that require sharing, compromising, and negotiating).
  • Children sit and chat with one another on the sofa, sat on cushions or in dens they’ve created
  • Games that involve turn taking such as cards or matching pairs.
  • Looking in mirrors with babies and chat about what we can see
  • Creating pictures and crafts of one another’s faces

Mark Making and encouraging early writing

Mark making is recognised as a precursor to writing.

Research shows that boys can often be reluctant writers. A document issued back in 2008 The National Strategies, Early Years “Mark making matters” says “In an emotionally secure environment, where their creativity is valued and respected, children will often become prolific mark makers. This is particularly true when the purpose and the means of representation are within their control. Boys’ mark making tends to flourish when the pressure is off, the choice is theirs and the motivation arises from a specific desire to communicate”

My role as their childminder and the the importance of providing positive support  is explained further in the document “As well as providing rich opportunities for young children’s mark making, practitioners will also need to consider carefully their attitudes and responses. Genuine interest and encouragement are prerequisites, alongside some opportunities for the teaching of new skills, but over-zealous questioning and attempts by adults to alter or correct the marks that children make can be intrusive and nearly always counter-productive. Stencils and adult-drawn outlines should not be used, as they provide little in the way of new learning and unintentionally give children a hidden message that the adult version is superior to theirs.

Children, particularly boys, seem to gravitate naturally towards whiteboards and blackboards, where they can experiment freely, take risks with their mark making and test their own limits, safe in the knowledge that this medium is not permanent, so changes can be made when they think they are needed and ‘mistakes’ can be rectified as necessary”.

Here are just some of the things we do here at Aston Childcare to encourage mark making:

  • Water painting
  • Finger painting
  • Dot to dot
  • Making marks in sand
  • Making marks in gloop
  • Making marks in shaving foam
  • Making marks in oats and rice
  • Large scale painting
  • Drawing
  • We use crayons, chalks, felt tips, colouring pencils, glitter pens
  • We make marks on wood and material as well as paper
  • Use small portable clipboards and small pencils
  • Use portable A4 clipboards outdoors
  • Use a range of writing materials eg Sticky notes, notebooks etc
  • Use blackboard and whiteboard easels both inside and outside


And to Develop the muscles needed for writing we:

  • Use giant tweezers to transfer small objects (To encourage and support pincer grip development)
  • Pop bubble wrap (yes, really!) between their thumb and index fingers
  • Playdough (which helps develop finger and hand strength and control. When they are playing with these materials, children are squeezing and kneading, poking and pinching, rolling and pressing – all excellent strength building movements.)
  • Using scissors (develops and strengthens the hand muscle)
  • Play with construction toys and blocks (develops and strengthens the hand muscle)
  • Turning pages of books (To encourage and support pincer grip development)
  • Using lacing boards (To encourage and support pincer grip development)
  • Using letter and number magnets (to strengthen the upper body while standing)
  • Use vertical spaces for drawing (strengthens upper body)



Outdoor Play

The Foundation Years Team at 4Children (The national charity
all about children and families) say that “Being active regularly is good for all of us, but for the under fives it can be vital to their future health and wellbeing. 91% of children aged 2-4 are currently not meeting the UK physical activity guidelines for their age group of three hours of activity a day. This means that they are missing opportunities to positively benefit their health and establish healthy behaviours that carry on into adulthood.”

They say “Being physically active at a young age is proven to support brain development, enhance bone health and muscular development as well as have non-physical benefits to social and cognitive skills development and emotional wellbeing.”

In light of this and in order to ensure that every child has the opportunity for the best start in life the British Heart Foundation National Centre (BHFNC) and its Early Years Advisory Group last week launched its manifesto for physical activity in the early years. This sets out the Centre’s key asks to ensure every child has access to high quality physical activity opportunities from birth.

Read more about the manifesto here.

Here at Aston Childcare, we love the great outdoors. We visit the local park to play on large scale play equipment (ropes course, roundabout, swings etc) and we walk to and from school. We also enjoy lots of village walks.

I recently completed some training on Playing and Exploring which made me consider my immediate outside space and prompted me to do an outdoor audit to consider what activities and opportunities I offer in my garden.

For safety reasons, I operate a “one out, all out” policy, this means that if I have a baby indoors napping we will not go out.

Parents provide me with all weather clothing so the weather is never a hindrance to us getting out.

In the colder weather we obviously consider how to keep warm and in the hotter months we consider water provision and sun protection (including shade and suncream). In rain and ice we consider the surface underfoot.

The garden is secured by gates with locks and children are within my sight at all times.

A full risk assessment has been completed and is reviewed every 6 months.

Here are just some of the outdoor resources and activities on offer –

  • Painting and drawing
  • Number and letter magnets
  • Chalks
  • Gardening and gardening tools
  • Hopscotch
  • Den
  • Ball pit
  • Tunnel
  • Various ride on toys
  • Balls
  • Sand and water play
  • Blowing Bubbles
  • Gymnastics ribbon
  • Picnics
  • Magnifying glass
  • Paddling pool
  • Making mud pies
  • Skipping rope
  • Box of books
  • Picnic blanket

I am constantly reviewing the garden to ensure I am providing an enabling environment with opportunities to learn and explore.

Learning where food comes from

This week we took a look at where our food comes from with a fun picture quiz. The children loved this and loved shouting out the answers. Some they knew and some they didn’t know or were unsure about.

So we learnt that – Carrots and potatoes grow under the ground, cabbages grow above the ground, pears and apples are grown on trees, broccoli and strawberries grow on a plant, fish fingers can be made from cod, tomatoes grow on a vine and herbs can be grown in pots and then of course the ones they knew – milk comes from dairy cows, beef burgers from beef cattle, eggs from hens and that sausages are made from pork from pigs.

A recent study revealed just how little the latest generation of youngsters know about the foods they eat and the animals that produce them.

One in five have no idea bacon comes from pigs – while one in 20 think we get cheese from them.

There is a similar ignorance about fruit and veg. Five per cent believe strawberries grow inside the fridge, while six per cent think they grow on trees.

Over a quarter, 28 per cent, have no idea that carrots grow underground, with 9 per cent, believing they grow on a bush.

And six in ten admitted they didn’t know lettuce grew on the ground while a massive 78 per cent didn’t know broccoli grew on a plant.

Here at Aston Childcare we like to take a healthy approach to eating and that of course includes knowing the origins of the food we eat. Keeping chickens in the garden is a great way to teach children where food comes from. They know exactly where the eggs have come from when they eat their scrambled eggs for lunch as they’ve collected the eggs from the coop themselves!

As with lots of things we do, this activity ended up in role play with the children playing a quiz game each taking on the part of the scary quiz master! They turned a cardboard box into their podium from which to read the questions and rustle their papers on!

Areas of Learning covered: Understanding The World, Communication & Language, Literacy, Expressive Arts and Design

Learning through play

We know that play underpins the EYFS. It also underpins learning and all aspects of children’s development. Through play, children develop language skills, their emotions and creativity, social and intellectual skills.

Earlier this week, my mindees used the Duplo to build a large pyramid. “Look we’ve built a huge pyramid” they told me.  I asked them in which country they may find pyramids. The elder of them knew that the pyramids are located in Egypt and told me that one of the pyramids was The Great Pyramid of Giza. I told them the capital of Egypt was Cairo “Oh my parents have been there” she said.

They then extended this all into their role play setting up a great pyramid scene with talk of pharaohs and sphinxes. It was fascinating listening and watching them, imparting facts and asking questions of one another.

Areas of Learning Covered: Maths (Shapes), Expressive Arts and Design (Being Imaginative), Communication & Language, Understanding the World.

Cold as Ice!

With the temperatures plummeting to well below zero this week (-4 here in Aston today!) it seemed like the perfect time to explore ice!

My mindee had been exploring water at pre-school this week so this seemed the perfect opportunity to extend this activity and explore ice in some detail.

The watering can I left outside the back door overnight had frozen as I had hoped which gave us a good opportunity to look at ice. “When will it melt, how do I break it?” my mindee asked. We had lots of descriptive words as to how the ice felt – cold, slippy, hard.

Back inside, we looked at ice cubes and explored what happened when we dropped them into a bowl of warm water with my mindee exclaiming “Look its gone!”. I introduced words like “defrosted and defrosting” and asked why they thought it was melting. They correctly told me it was because it was warm.

I had added some food colouring to the ice cubes which, coupled with the feel of the ice, gave the activity an added sensory element to it.

We looked at the puddles that had frozen over on our school run and walked over the frosted lawn in the garden once back home.  My mindee knew that the ice on the ground would melt when it got warm and that had it frozen because it was so cold.

Areas of Learning covered: Understanding the world, physical development and Communication and Language