Chocolate Brownies!

After the success and popularity of our chocolate cookies this time last week, today we decided to make chocolate brownies. I baked these with my 4 year old mindee this afternoon and my after schooler was able to join us in enjoying them when she finished school.

Not a bad way to start the week!

School Readiness

In September one of my mindees will start primary school. It may seem a long way off right now but I’m sure the time between now and then will fly!

Here at Aston Childcare these are just some of the ways in which I get mindees “School ready”.

  • We read books about starting school such as Janet Ahlbergs “Starting School”
  • We talk about starting school and how mindees are feeling about it (nervous, excited etc)
  • Teach them to recognise their own name
  • Teach them to be independent by practicing putting on and taking off their own coats, shoes and socks.
  • Teach them to go to the toilet on their own and manage wiping themselves clean and washing their hands
  • Practise eating packed lunches and work out how to manage food wrappers or eat meals using cutlery.
  • Ensure children understand the importance and follow instructions such as “No” and “Stop”
  • Teach them to help with tidying up
  • Sit and read together
  • Offer lots of mark making activities
  • Practice lots of counting


In addition to the above I speak with parents and other settings about how I can help aid their transition. Hopefully this will help in ensuring we have happy school starters come September! J

Focus on…Communication and Language


The EYFS 2014 states that “Communication and language development involves giving children opportunities to experience a rich language environment; to develop their confidence and skills in expressing themselves; and to speak and listen in a range of situations”.

Communication and Language covers Listening and attention, Understanding and speaking.

I have a chatty, lively bunch of mindees here at Aston Childcare. To ensure I am providing them with opportunities to develop these skills we –

  • Sing songs and nursery rhymes
  • Read and listen to stories
  • We keep background noise to a minimum (especially important with babies when developing early communication and language skills)
  • Use puppets to encourage listening during stories and role play
  • Listen to one another and take account of what eachother say
  • Listen to sounds in the environment (using our senses on nature walks etc)
  • Play games which involve listening and following instructions such as “Simon says”
  • Communicate and chat with babies throughout the day including at nappy changes
  • Use actions to communicate words to younger children and babies such as waving when saying bye
  • Talk to one another about what we have been doing
  • Role play

Some of our favourite communication and language resources and activities are –

  • Toy mobile phone
  • Books and nursery rhymes
  • Role play item such as toy till and tea set
  • Happyland
  • Dolls House, Barn and farm animals
  • Playdough
  • Sand and water play
  • Baking

I currently have walkie-talkies on my wish list and am always happy to hear new ideas.


We love baking here at Aston Childcare and after hearing how much the children loved cookies I thought we would have a go at baking our own. We’ve spoken before how cooking is great for covering many areas of learning so it’s the perfect excuse to make some yummy treats. The children enjoyed the cookies for their afternoon snack and the remainder were sent home with them for them and their families to enjoy.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

We’ve had a lovely end to the Christmas holidays today. Today was an INSET day for my mindees so we were able to enjoy one more full day together for a while.

This morning the kids caught up after their Christmas and New Year breaks and enjoyed some free play (Personal, Social and Emotional Development) and read some new books we have (Literacy) before settling down to a film.

They enjoyed chicken and tomato soup respectively for lunch.

We then enjoyed baking some chocolate chip muffins (Maths, Physical Development (fine motor skills, stirring etc, Understanding the World) before they requested and enjoyed playing with the playdough (Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Communication and Language, Expressive Arts and Design, Physical Development (fine motor skills).

They then decided they wanted to make lightsabers(!) (Expressive Arts and Design, Communication and Language) which they then enjoyed using in their role play!

Another day covering all EYFS 7 areas of Learning.

Here’s to a good 2016!

Covering the 7 areas of learning…in one day!

The EYFS statutory framework 2014 lays out the seven areas of learning and development that must shape educational programmes in early years settings.

The areas of learning are:

  1. communication and language
  2. physical development
  3. personal, social and emotional development
  4. literacy
  5. mathematics
  6. understanding the world
  7. expressive arts and design

Today, with one of my mindees and my son we were able to tick off all 7 areas of learning through no particular pre-planning.

Given that it was his first day back after Christmas and it’s still the holidays, we had a relaxed day which we spent mostly at home with two short outings thrown in but still managed to cover all of the following –

  • Playing with the new remote control tractor (Understanding the World: Technology)
  • Read new book about Transport (Literacy)
  • Completed a puzzle about the Solar System (Understanding the World – The World)
  • Took a trip to the shops (Mathematics, Communication & Language)
  • Played with my son building with the Duplo bricks (Personal, Social and Emotional Development)
  • Played with playdough (Communication and Language, Expressive Arts and Design, Physical Development (fine motor skills) and Personal, Social and Emotional Development
  • A trip to the recycling centre (Understanding the World – The World)

And there we have it, all 7 areas of learning covered in just one day!



Focus on…Understanding the World


The EYFS statutory framework  2014  states that we must support children in 4 specific areas of learning one of which is “Understanding the World” and covers 3  themes– People and communities, The World and Technology.

Here at Aston Childcare I am very lucky to have very bright mindees who are very aware of the world around them.  These are just some of the resources and activities we do to support and strengthen their understanding and learning –

People and communities

  • Read books that show people from diverse backgrounds
  • Celebrate religious festivals and cultures (eg Diwali)
  • Happyland characters that depict people from different cultures
  • Happyland school, post office, village shop
  • We play games such as Eeboos “I never forget a face” which depicts ethnicities from around the world
  • We read books such as “Starting School” by Janet Ahlberg which depicts school children of different ethnicities.
  • Play with dressing up clothes eg Chinese clothing
  • Play with multicultural items such as Australian aboriginal boomerang


The world

  • We go on nature walks (collecting twigs, leaves, conkers, blackberries etc)
  • Trips to the shops, post office, garden centre etc
  • We grow plants from seeds in the garden (such as sunflowers) and plant herbs and vegetables.
  • We discuss world events that we have seen on the news (ie the earthquake in Nepal).
  • Looking after and collecting the Chickens eggs
  • Explore puddles and puddle jumping
  • Explore different surfaces under foot such as grass and mud
  • Heuristic play (exploring things like a horse chesnut, conkers, wooden dolls pegs, leaves, a textured branch, a feather, willow balls) for older children.
  • Treasure basket objects – For babies I introduce safe Natural Resources to so they have the opportunity to explore objects such as willow/wicker balls, metal whisks and wooden spoons
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Jumbo magnet
  • Windmills
  • Blowing Bubbles (Covers science processes such as investigation, discovery, experimentation, observation, definition, comparison, and classification)
  • World map puzzles
  • Solar system/space puzzle
  • Inflatable globe
  • Instruments from around the world eg maracas and catsanets
  • Books such as Oxford First Science Dictionary
  • Clock faces
  • Tell the time lotto
  • Sand and water table



  • Toy Remote control
  • Toy mobile phone
  • Remote control cars
  • Push button books
  • Toy Keys
  • Books with flaps and shutters
  • Laptop installed with child safety software (open DNS)
  • Dimmable light switches
  • TV, Radio and CD player
  • Visits to the shops and supermarket (using self-scanner checkout, conveyor belt, tills etc)
  • Access to digital camera
  • Technology in the environment – Traffic lights and pedestrian crossings when out and about


On my wish list currently are a pair of binoculars, wind up torch, karaoke machine, wind up toys and an electronic keyboard. If anyone has any further ideas please  do let me know!

Promoting Literacy Outdoors

There seems to a common assumption amongst childminders that we must have a box of books placed outside all year round in order to promote literacy outdoors. With the unpredictability of the English weather (gales and heavy rain this week)  I don’t much fancy this(!).  I would be heartbroken if one day I forget to bring a lovely set of books in from the garden and they were rained on.

I think there is much more to promoting literacy (reading and writing) and having a print rich environment outside. These are just some of the ways here at Aston Childcare that children can explore reading and writing whilst outdoors –

  • On our nature walks the children take nature worksheets and tick off what they find, this involves reading or for younger ones seeing the printed word.
  • Looking at and reading road signs, young mindees will often ask me “What does that sign say?” when we are out and about
  • In the school playground there is lots of print
  • In the village shop – posters and flyers in the windows, magazine and comic covers, food packaging.
  • Trips to the mobile library
  • Visiting local attractions with welcome signs
  • Signs up at the park
  • Writing and reading Plant markers
  • Making signs for the chicken coop
  • Buying plants at the garden centre
  • Mark making in the sand
  • Mark making outdoors using clipboards and pencils
  • Writing and painting on easels in the garden
  • Reading and looking at seed packets when growing flowers
  • Shut the gate signs
  • Looking at and reading road and street names

Christmas holidays!

We had a great start to the Christmas holidays today. As today was the first day of the holidays I hadn’t planned anything educational for the children but when I reflected on the day I realised just how many areas of learning we had covered.

This morning they had a great arts and crafts session. They coloured Christmas badges and decorated tree decorations (baubles, angels, Christmas trees and stars) with glitter and pens.

This morning during their free play session they loved the nursery rhyme laminated print outs I have in the playroom and had great fun reciting them and changing the words and inserting our names to make for funnier ones “Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, Emily jumped over the moon” and “Joshua ran away with the spoon”!

This afternoon we braved the park despite the strong winds! They kept requesting to stay longer and longer so we were there for a good 2 hours! They loved the swings requesting that I push them higher and higher and enjoyed pushing me faster and faster on the roundabout! We ran about and explored and being the only ones there was lots of singing and shouting! We found lots of mushrooms and some interesting pieces of bark.

Back home, they enjoyed catching Roald Dahls James and the giant peach and Jack and the beanstalk that were showing on tv.

Areas of learning covered: Communication & Language, Literacy, Understanding the world, Expressive Arts and Design, Physical Development, Mathematics

Christmas themed playdough


I have tried to hold off on Christmas crafts so far in a bid not to exhaust the theme!  However, yesterday our playdough session took on a decidedly Christmassy theme! We had great fun making snowmen, holly, Christmas trees, candy canes, stars and even Father Christmas himself!

I love playing with playdough, it’s definitely my favourite activity to do with my mindees. Yesterday reminded me how it’s fantastic for Personal Social and Emotional Development as we worked together to create things, sharing ideas, waiting our turn to use the playdough rolling pins and cutters.  It’s fantastic too for Communication and Language, we sat and chatted about what we were making, sometimes drifting off into conversations about their morning at pre-school and such like. Clearly it’s great for Expressive Arts and Design with the children using their imagination in their creations and exploring materials.  It covers Maths (Shapes, sizes, halving, counting etc) and finally, it’s also great for Physical Development and uses fine motor skills as mindees roll and manipulate the playdough and hold and control the rolling and cutting tools.