Peacock plate

This afternoon we enjoyed making a peacock. My mindee asked me what a peacock was and so I explained and showed  my mindee a photo  of one that I had taken on a recent visit to a wildlife park. We then set about making our own.

My mindee enjoyed using the glue and sticking all the coloured feathers on.  The feathers gave a lovely sensory element to an otherwise simple craft.

We were rather pleased with our pretty peacock plate!

Large scale painting

Here at Aston Childcare we do quite a few structured arts and crafts activities (ie making a pumpkin because it’s Halloween or making poppies because it’s remembrance day) so it’s nice to give the children an opportunity to make marks themselves with no guidance on what the end product should be. So today we did just that with some large scale painting. It’s important as childminders that we provide opportunities for making marks both inside and outside on different surfaces and on a large scale. This is especially beneficial for reluctant writers as it gives them an opportunity to make marks in an unstructured way and to give meaning to their marks which is all good preparation for writing.

Children gave meaning to their marks “this is an aeroplane”, “this is a jet” and became immersed in their own imaginary world as they got painting which was lovely to observe.

Areas of Learning covered: Communication & Language, Expressive Arts and Design, Physical Development (fine motor skills)



Happy Diwali!

Yesterday as we all know was Armistice Day but it was also Diwali. Diwali is known as the Festival of Lights and will be celebrated this week and beyond by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains.

The date of Diwali changes each year as the day it is celebrated is calculated according to the position of the moon and the Hindu lunar calendar. This year, Diwali fell on Wednesday November 11.

Diwali is the five day Festival of Lights and is traditionally celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains and is one of the most significant festivals in the Indian culture.

The word Diwali means rows of lighted lamps and it is known as the Festival of Lights because houses and shops are decorated with candles and colourful lights. This shows the victory of light over darkness and good over evil.

For many Indians, Diwali honours Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and people will start the new business year at Diwali and some will say prayers to the goddess for a prosperous year ahead.

Large firework displays are held which celebrate one of the Diwali legends, Rama and his wife Sita.

The fireworks signify Rama’s return to his kingdom after being exiled for 14 years and defeating king Ravana, when the local people set off their own version of fireworks.

Those celebrating Diwali also light traditional earthenware oil lamps called diyas which are said to help Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, find her way into people’s homes, and they’ll leave their windows and doors of their houses open so that she can enter.

People will also create rangoli artwork which are patterns created using coloured rice or powder, with the most popular pattern being the lotus flower as Lakshmi was often pictured either sitting on one or holding a lotus.

During Diwali, families and friends share sweets, dried fruit and gifts, and many give food and goods to those who are less fortunate and in need. It is also a time when people spring-clean and redecorate their homes and wear new clothes.

So as not to duplicate activities my mindees have already done at school and pre-school, we  did some simple colouring in sheets and had a chat about Diwali, what it is and who it’s celebrated by. After lunch, we watched “Let’s celebrate” which explained the story or Diwali.  My school aged mindee was able to tell me what she had learnt at school about Rama and Sita.

Areas of Learning covered: Understanding the World, Communication and Language, Expressive Arts and Design

Lest we forget…

Today is Armistice Day.  Armistice Day is on 11 November and is also known as Remembrance Day. It marks the day World War One ended, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, back in 1918. A two minute silence is held at 11am to remember the people who have died in wars. The anniversary is used to remember all the people who have died in wars, not just World War One. This includes World War Two, the Falklands War, the Gulf War, and conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The first two minute silence in Britain was held on 11 November 1919, when King George V asked the public to observe a silence at 11am. This was one year after the end of World War I. He made the request so “the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead”

Why do we wear poppies?

Poppies are red flowers which are worn to show others that you are remembering those who died for their country.The reason poppies are used is because they are the flowers which grew on the battlefields after World War I ended.

Here at Aston Childcare we have spoken about why we wear a poppy and enjoyed some poppy related arts and crafts using red and black paint. We decorated a paper plate to resemble a poppy and painted a poppy field using our thumbs to print the poppies!

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Remember, remember…

…the fifth of November!

We had some great fun doing some firework painting to celebrate bonfire night. We used red and blue paint and a toilet roll tube to get some great results.

I taught younger mindees the rhyme “Remember, remember the fifth of November” and with my school aged mindee we spoke about the reason we celebrate Guy Fawkes night who impressively was already able to tell me the reason we do it is because it’s the anniversary of an attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament led by a man called Guy Fawkes. It’s called the Gunpowder Plot, and bonfires are lit to burn the “Guy” – a kind of dummy that represents Fawkes.

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Save Oxfordshire’s Children’s Centres

Oxfordshire County Council is proposing to shut down all 44 of the County’s Children’s Centres, and halve the current Early Years budget of £16m. Instead the council will replace them with just eight Children and Family Centres, which would only be accessible to the most vulnerable by referral.

I’ve signed the petition….have you?

Giving nature a home

The rspb are currently running a lovely campaign called “giving nature a home”.

They say ”Gone are vast swathes of wild flower meadows, miles of hedgerows and hundreds of ponds: there are fewer and fewer places for wildlife to call home. More than 60% of the UK species assessed are declining, so it’s more important than ever that we work together to help them”.

I sent off for my free guide and am happy to say myself and the mindees can tick off some of their 20 suggestions and we are pleased we are doing our bit to give nature a home.

No 2. “Cut back on cutting back” The guide recommends that “Rather than rushing into action with the secateurs as soon as your flowers have died off, leave them to go to seed. Birds, such as goldfinches, will appreciate the extra food, and minibeasts may hibernate in hollow stems over winter. The dry seed heads also add visual interest to otherwise bare winter borders”. So, here at Aston Childcare, we are leaving the sunflowers that we planted back in April that have since died alone.

No 3. “Grow flowering plants” The guide says that they “provide shelter for insects, which in turn provide food for birds and small mammals”. We are growing some tulips and daffodils which we hope to see bloom early next year.

No. 6 “Create little green patches” The guide says “Herbs such as thyme and rosemary make perfect container plants – not only are they brilliant for insects, they taste great too!”. Here at Aston childcare we have grown some rosemary and mint and the mindees have written plant markers.

No. 11 “Make a bug hotel” The guide says “You can make your hotel as large or small as you wish – the only limitation is your imagination. Just remember to provide as many nooks and crannies as you can for minibeasts and other wildlife to shelter in”. One of my mindees has made a great bug hotel and filled it with twigs and fircones and covered it in leaves to appeal to the minibeasts. She wanted to put tissue inside so that the bugs “would be comfy!”.

No. 13 “Bring your garden to life with dead wood” The guide says “At first glance, a pile of dead wood might look just that – dead. But look closer and you’ll see that it’s alive with all kinds of fungi, mosses and lichens. As it decays, it will become a thriving bug hotel for a variety of minibeasts, and frogs, toads and other creatures may shelter in the nooks and crannies. What’s more, a dead wood pile is really easy to create. Just stack a variety of logs and branches in a sheltered spot and wait for the wildlife to move in!” Here at Aston Childcare, our log store is a favourite of birds and we’ve recently spotted many a robin taking up residence there.

No. 19 “Set up a garden restaurant” The guide says “Providing additional food all year round will give the birds in your garden a boost, helping them to get through hard times and to feed their families. Calorie-rich bird cake will help birds to fatten up and survive cold winter weather, while juicy mealworms are particularly appreciated in spring, when busy parents are on the lookout for insects to feed to their growing chicks”. We have left out fat balls for the birds on the bird feeder.

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Happy Halloween!

Here at Aston Childcare, we are celebrating Halloween a week early as not everyone is here next week for half term. We’ve enjoyed decorating paper plate pumpkins and ghosts, Halloween inspired hand-prints and spooky bats. We have also enjoyed reading our Halloween book called “Spooky” with sliding windows which is enjoyed by all ages and kids classic Room on the Broom.

We have coloured the playdough to give us a great ghoulish green and blood red to play with which resulted in some great creations including a dismembered body!

I wasn’t prepared for apple bobbing to be requested so with some quick thinking we created a great cork bobbing game instead using large corks – a great lesson in floating!

To top it off we indulged in some tasty Halloween treats.

Happy Halloween!

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

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Global Hand Washing Day

Today is Global Handwashing Day! It’s a day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

The children here at Aston Childcare are great at washing their hands and knowing that the warm water and soap kills germs.  They know to wash their hands thoroughly after going to the toilet, or going near the chickens or any other messy, dirty activities!

We have a poster detailing 8 steps to effective handwashing up on the mirror in the downstairs toilet that  serves as a visual reminder to them.

We’ve enjoyed lots of hand related arts and crafts in honour of global handwashing day!

British Values

Ofsted are now inspecting childminders – and all early years providers – on how well we ‘actively promote’ British values.

The term has got lots of us childminders in a spin!

Admittedly, I didn’t like the term when I first heard it, I was worried that it had some xenophobic undertones, but, on the contrary, it’s about teaching our children how to live together peacefully, each of them a valuable part of our multicultural world.

Here at Aston childcare, respect and consideration underpins everything we do.

Every childminder will have their own take on how they like to promote British Values but this is what we practice here at Aston Childcare –

  • We explore different cultures and celebrate diversity
  • We teach children to be kind, helpful and respectful of others
  • We teach children to be part of their local community
  • We say “please” and “thank you”
  • We celebrate and support cornerstones of British infrastructure – village post office, village shop, police station, village school and teach children to be part of their local community
  • We celebrate the seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter)
  • We eat fresh, seasonal British grown produce
  • We play with resources that reflect our multicultural society
  • We sit and eat at the table with a knife and fork
  • We treat men and women, girls and boys with the same level of respect.
  • We learn about world events and discuss them
  • We learn about and respect other religions
  • We learn about our political leaders and discuss our right to vote and the fact that we live in a democracy
  • We learn about our monarchy and mark noteworthy events ie. The Queens reign
  • We learn about right and wrong
  • We learn to respect the natural world