Free play day

Today I had just one mindee (aged 4) and my own 17 month old son.  I enjoy having a different mix of children on different days to see the differences in their play and interactions. With no school runs and time constraints, I let my mindee lead the activities for the day. It was nice for him to be the eldest in my setting for the day and watch his confidence and leadership in situations alongside my young son.

Whilst my son went down for his nap, my mindee enjoyed playing with playdough. When my son awoke later my mindee then enjoyed playing with him until home time. Playing with babies and toddlers is great for their personal, social and emotional development (PSED) and teaches them lots of valuable skills such as the art of caring and sharing. There are also numerous benefits for babies and toddlers playing alongside older children.

The Early Years Outcomes early learning goal for making relationships within PSED is for “Children to play cooperatively, taking turns with others. They take account of one another’s ideas about how to organise their activity. They show sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings, and form positive relationships with adults and other children.”. I am confident that my mindees are exhibiting this behaviour which makes me very proud of them!

Focus on…Physical Development

We all know that exercise is good for us. It helps children develop strength, become mentally alert and stay healthy.  Children need space to run, stretch and explore and to have opportunities to develop both their fine motor and gross motor skills.

Here at Aston Childcare, we gets lots of exercise on our daily school runs, village walks and trips to the park as well as at home in the garden and inside too.

We are lucky to have a great park in the village which has a great array of large scale play equipment that the children love – swings, a roundabout, a zip wire and a variety of assault and rope courses. Back at home, we have a good sized garden for the children to play in.

Inside babies have ample space to stretch, crawl and explore. My older mindees currently love singing and dancing to the hokey cokey! Even the babies love this and laugh at the chorus. It’s a great mood booster! I have very high energy mindees – even the babies!

These are some of the resources and activities on offer here to aid physical development –

  • Push along walker
  • Jumperoo
  • Inflatable jungle roll around to encourage crawling
  • Action songs such as Row, Row, Row your boat
  • Ball pit and play tunnel
  • Ride on cars
  • Toddlebike
  • Hopscotch mat
  • Gymnastics ribbon
  • Dancing
  • Balls of all sizes inside and out
  • Skittles
  • Musical statues
  • Walking to and from school
  • Doing the Hokey-Cokey
  • We go to the local village park to play on large scale play equipment.
  • We go for walks in the village whatever the weather.
  • Puddle splashing
  • Sand and Water play (Gross motor skills digging, pouring, sifting and scooping)
  • Games in the garden – musical chairs, tag, races
  • Playing pooh sticks
  • Rolling down hills

And for fine motor skills –

  • Painting and drawing
  • Playdough
  • Threading/lacing boards
  • Large plastic tweezers
  • Using building blocks
  • Jigsaws
  • Playing with sand and water (Eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills as children manipulate sand accessories).



Nature detectives!


We turned nature detectives on our walk this afternoon. Armed with a jumbo magnifying glass my mindee loved looking at all the bulbs poking up through the soil, the berries on the bushes and the textures and sounds of various flora and fauna. We heard the sheep in the field go “baa!”. “I am the detective, I’m looking for clues” he exclaimed as we picked up some bits to add to our nature tray once back home.

Like us, it’s good for the babies to get fresh air too, we walked up to Aston Potteries, unfortunately at this time of the year their usually magnificent flower displays have all died down. My 9 month old mindee fell asleep peacefully in the buggy on the walk, I transferred her into the cot when we got back home for a nice peaceful afternoon nap.

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

More Maths outdoors…

Yesterday’s activity got me thinking about mathematical experiences and activities I provide outdoors.

We know that it’s important to provide a rich environment outdoors as well as indoors, in which children are provided with interesting materials to sort, count, talk about and compare. We’ve also touched before on the fact that maths involves much more than ‘doing sums’.

My 4 year old mindee loves being outdoors and I feel this is a great place for him to learn. Of course, outside isn’t confined to just my back garden, the opportunities for incorporating maths are everywhere, this is one of the reasons that I am not concerned with having numbers printed all over my garden, this ends up being like wallpaper that ends up not being noticed. I would rather it was incorporated into fun activities for the children who are actively involved.

These are just some of the ways I’ve identified that we are learning about maths outdoors –

  • Sand and water play (Sand and water wheels encourage children to think about movement and fast/slow, Filling jugs and containers explores capacity: full half full empty holds container) etc
  • Fishing ducks “(I’ve caught 5!” etc)
  • Number magnets on the easel (recognising numerals)
  • Hopscotch mat – Reinforces and practises arithmetic skills
  • Time – how long to the park “how long will it take to get to the park?”
  • Visiting the shops and using Money (Cheap, costs less, cheaper costs the same as how much…? how many…? Total)
  • Distance and Positional language – distance home from school – you’re behind me, in front etc
  • Counting stepping stones in the garden
  • Making a number line (recognising numerals)
  • Measuring plants in the garden – height (short, tall etc)
  • Jumping in puddles – (Capacity: shallow/ deep)
  • Counting conkers, blackberries picked etc (I’ve got more, less etc)
  • Rolling down hills (I was fast, faster, fastest)
  • Pooh sticks (“My sticks first”, last etc)
  • Looking at shapes in environment (rectangular doors, square windows, triangular road signs)
  • Nature finding walks (how many leaves, twigs etc)

I am constantly reviewing the activities I provide and as always am happy to hear if anyone has any good ideas!


Taking Maths outside

Yesterday my mindee and I made some fun, colourful number bunting to pin up in the garden. Not only was this a good mathematical activity, it gave us an opportunity to look at maths outside and provide print in the outdoor environment. Of course children get to see print in the environment all the time – road signs, shop frontages, car number plates and in the school playground.

My mindee has a fantastic imagination and as I sat cutting the triangles he enjoyed playing with the triangular offcuts – “Look, I’ve got the monsters teeth”. We counted the number of plain flags we had in total and then he was able to tell me which number I needed to write next on each of the 10 flags. We explored shapes (cutting a triangular shape out of a rectangular piece of card).  He was excited to choose which colours we should use for the line.  We then pegged it up outside and were even able to see it from the playroom window once back inside which brightened up the view on a winters day!

Areas of learning covered: Communication and Language, Mathematics, Expressive Arts and Design


Treasure basket for babies

I have had a lovely 9 month old join me in recent months.  She is still suffering badly with separation anxiety and likes to be with me the whole time. I can encourage her on to the floor to play for short periods to explore the items out of the treasure basket though which I have been compiling carefully recently.  My own son who is slightly older loves heuristic items such as these over any “proper” toy, his particular favourite at the moment being a small metal tea strainer!

All items are new and clean and used with supervision. I like to sit alongside them and let them explore. I sit and observe as they pass items from one hand to another, turn them over, put one inside another. Sometimes I chat as they look at the items but the key idea here is to let them explore.

Current items in the treasure basket include

  • Metal Tea strainer
  • Willow ball
  • Wooden Pastry brush
  • Fir cone
  • Wooden dolls peg
  • Wooden nail brush
  • Pumice stone

I am always thinking of new items to include and reviewing what’s popular with them and what’s not.

I find this kind of play great as I can provide them with an ever changing assortment of ‘toys’ to enjoy and the benefit is the fact that they provide a rich sensory experience for them to discover.

I found a great link on the NCT website which talks about separation anxiety in babies – for any new mums going through this.




Sensory Walk

When we had a slight break from the rain and the sun popped out for ooh, 5 minutes earlier this week(!), we went on a lovely sensory walk. On our walk we talked about what we could see (ponies, berries, daisies), what we could feel (wind on our faces), what we could smell (fresh air) and what we could hear (cars, wind, leaves crunching on the ground).

I’m always surprised how these simple activities ignite the children’s interest.

Without any prompting and within a few paces my mindee was naming all that he could see, feel, smell and hear. His imagination and language flowed as he told me I should be the discoverer and he should be the explorer…

It was lovely to get out and soak up our surroundings! IMG_6711

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

Quick Focus Activity: Maths Quiz

Today after lunch as my son took a nap, I set up a quick, fun quiz for my mindee. In addition to our normal planned activities, I am trying to introduce additional, short, focused and fun educational activities.

It’s thought that the average 4 year old may spend 7-8 minutes on a single activity alone, or as much as 15 minutes if the activity is new and especially interesting. With a small group, a 4-year-old may spend 5-10 minutes playing without interruption. Therefore this activity which required hunting and finding objects and placing them on the correct sheet held his interest for just long enough for it to be both fun and educational. He correctly identified items of different shapes and placed them on the corresponding sheet. He then was able to count all of the items afterwards. He loved running back and forth to the playroom and was excited each time he found an object of the correct shape.

I am going to keep trialing these quick focus activities and see how they go.

Areas of Learning covered: Communication & Language, Mathematics (shape and numbers) and Literacy.

Focus on…Expressive Arts and Design

Today I am focusing on Expressive Arts and Design. This area of learning, as defined by the EYFS (The early years foundation stage), calls on us to provide children with opportunities to explore and use media and materials and to be imaginative.

Here at Aston Childcare we love our arts and crafts! We love to paint and draw, print, do collages, model making (junk modelling) and play and listen and dance to music.

Every day during their free play sessions the children engage in role play and imaginative play, the dressing up items on offer such as various hats and scarves are always big hits and open up the children’s imaginations.  I also provide a wide variety of musical instruments for the children to play with.

I try to expose the children to many different medias. Over the past few months alone, the children have enjoyed all kinds of painting and printing, drawings using pencils, felt tips, crayons, chalks and glitter pens, drawing on both paper and blackboards and whiteboards, produced many a creation using paper plates, tubes, cardboard boxes, they have made and painted masks, made lavender bags by sewing, made bugs using pipe cleaners and pom-poms, used stickers in conjunction with a theme ie bug stickers when making bugs and talking about them. They have played with clay and plasticine, they have enjoyed decorating fabric bags, t-shirts and pencil cases with fabric pens, decorated wooden stars, wooden dolls pegs, egg cups, door hangers, photo frames, wooden spoons, mugs and treasure chests.

We also do lots of messy play activities like making and playing with playdough, salt dough and gloop and playing with shaving foam, glitter and rice.

Some of the expressive arts and design resources I offer –

  • Musical instruments (including maracas, kazoo, xylophone, tambourine, castanets, clacker, percussion scraper, etc).
  • Musical CDs – including Baby Einstein classical music (Vivaldi and Neptune)
  • Easels
  • Paints
  • Crayons, pencils, chalks
  • Plasticine
  • Model making resources
  • Ingredients to make playdough, salt dough and gloop.
  • Sand and Water play where children make castings, moldings, and prints.
  • Role play and small world items.

I am always adding to my resources and this is probably one of my favourites to buy for!



Robot Maths

I had an inkling that this Robot related activity would be a big hit with my 4 year old mindee today and it was! It’s amazing how, when applied to a fun subject matter, that maths can come alive and be interesting!

I presented him with a series of coloured shapes and asked him to identify each shape and its colour which he did perfectly. We then set about making our robot which sparked lots of great ideas from him – “this triangle could be his icecream cone” etc.

My mindee then named his robot “hearty” and was then keen to use the remaining shapes to make another one!

We then did a short quiz counting how many of each shape our robot had.

Simple, effective and fun!

Areas of Learning covered: Maths, Expressive Arts and Design, Communication & Language.