Friday 11th June: Hearing children’s voices about the transition to school.

Over the past few weeks I have been working with an establishment around transition to p1. Being in an Early Learning Setting at this time of year in the current climate (Covid) has left me feeling a bit anxious for the children around their transition to Primary 1 and I figured if I am feeling this way, then there may be children feeling the same and worse in the absence of their traditional transition experiences!! During my time here, new guidance was published around garden transition visits going ahead and encouraging these so visits have promptly been arranged for the children. The school themselves have also produced a wonderful set of weekly Sway presentations shared with parents and carers including some home activities that were encouraged to be shared. I have created a “virtual display” of just a snapshot of some of the experiences we have offered in the establishment to maximise and complement the transition experience and minimise any anxiety surrounding the change.

Line Drawings – This is Me

To complement our concise transition profiles, we wanted to really capture what the children wanted the teacher to know about them. We titled a piece of paper “This is me” and allowed children to draw a simple line drawing and scribed all of the things that they said as a child friendly introduction to their new teacher. These drawings will be passed onto the new teacher and also shared individually on each child’s profile for carers to see what is important to their children and how they view themselves through their own eyes.

Stories to support the recognition of and discussion about feelings.

We have read some books to prepare us for some of the feelings and changes. The children have really enjoyed the books and often ask for them in the book corner. Here are some Youtube readings of the books that you can re-share at home.

https://youtu.be/M-6W6yk5gb4 – The Colour Monster – a great story identifying feelings and linking to colours. We extended this by using paint colour swatches in check in with the children and creating colour pictures.

https://youtu.be/BU5RoqHEYZ4 – The Colour Monster Goes to School – The popular Colour Monster character starts school!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8J5Nf-nYsms – Whiffy Wilson: The Wolf Who Wouldn’t Go to School – Another loveable character nervous to go to school.

All the Ways to be Smart by Davina Bell – YouTube – Emphasises all the different strengths people can have – not just the “academic” which could be a worry for children.

https://youtu.be/5qYPsWzwKDI – The Huge Bag of Worries – can open a dialogue and introduces a strategy for dealing with worries – maybe you could make your own worry bag at home? Similarly worry monsters can be commercially purchased.

Worries and Wonders.

After reading some of the books and identifying some of our feelings about the transition to school, we decided to collate some of our “wonders and worries” around school. These have been sent to school for the staff to answer for us to put our minds at rest. We also received some pictures from school of the environment, which we have put into a social story to be shared in the book areas over and over again, to help the children become more familiar with this environment.

 

What’s in the Bag?

During my time working with the children, I have found a very popular experience to be “What’s in the Bag” – essentially a “lucky dip” sparkly bag that I fill with various objects and children take turns feeling, guessing and sharing whilst singing “What’s in the Bag”. I decided to fill my sparkly bag in one session with objects relating to school and this sparked some great chat around these objects, what they were for and if they had seen them before etc. I have photographed some the objects below. Carers may wish to recreate this experience at home if they have some of these objects, or even print the pictures. Children may wish to cut and stick these pictures to make their own book about what they need at school.

By Emma Williamson

Thursday 20th May. Little People, Big Feelings.

One of my all-time favourite quotes by Maya Angelou is – ‘They may not remember what you said, they may not remember what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel’

Young children are often challenged with big feelings like anger, frustration or sadness, however often lack the emotional awareness and breadth of language to articulate themselves in a given situation. As adults, we have a key role in modelling calm and considered responses in order to help children with using coping strategies. Over time, young children will grow in their emotional understanding and self-control through the consistent nurturing and supportive approach taken by the adult. 

Introducing the language of emotions

It can be a good practice to begin introducing children to the language of emotions and feelings through the medium of story telling and things like puppets. It can be helpful to discuss how various characters in books may feel. Pause to ask, “How do you think he feels right now?” Then, discuss the various feelings the character may be experiencing and the reasons why. Helpful books might include –  The Colour Monster by Anna Llenas  , In My Heart by Jo Witek or Lucy’s Blue Day by Christopher Duke

Encouraging children to talk about emotions using a colour analogy  can  help children to reflect on their emotions. The International Futures Forum ‘Kit Bag’ has some excellent resources for talking about emotions, including a colour chart to support children’s thinking and reflection. The picture below shows the contents of the Kit Bag.

A good example of using a colour analogy is encouraging children to check in daily, using the colours to describe how they are feeling that day using a ‘feelings jar’ 

Children who understand their emotions are less likely to act out by using temper tantrumsaggression, and defiance to express themselves. A child who can say, “I’m angry with you,” is less likely to hit. And a child who can say, “That hurts my feelings,” is more likely to resolve their conflict peacefully. 

It can be a good idea to allow children to observe themselves while they explore what an emotion makes them feel inside their bodies and how it changes their facial expression. 

Here the children were re-creating different emotions in front of a mirror to see how their faces looked:

Teaching Coping Strategies

It is important to help children to understand that just because they feel angry doesn’t mean they can hit someone. Instead, they need to learn emotional regulation strategies so they can resolve conflict peacefully. We can be proactive and help children learn how to deal with uncomfortable emotions. Other feelings, for which it is important we support children to process in a nurturing, caring way are things like sadness. For example when children feel sad when friends won’t play with them, take time to talk about ways they can deal with their sad feelings. Children don’t always know how to react when they feel sad, and so this can sometimes manifest in aggressive and attention-seeking behaviours. 

Something that I have seen to work well in centres is to try and create a ‘calm corner’ or quiet space where children can go in order to learn how to self-regulate and calm themselves in times of highly charged emotional states. These areas could have resources such as blankets, soft toys, soothing music, glitter jars and other mindfulness games.

Further ideas for exploring emotions:

  • Use puppets to act out different situations (e.g, one puppet takes a toy from another puppet); ask the children what emotion the puppets might be feeling. After labelling the emotions, have children practice making the emotion with their own faces. Then ask what the puppet should do next to help when feeling the emotion. Have the puppet model coping with the emotion. This could lend itself well to supporting the children to make their own puppets made from odd socks or with lollypop sticks and old lids.
  • Play an emotion guessing game. Take a piece of paper or small blanket and hold it in front of your face. Slowly lower it down to reveal your face showing an emotion. Children guess the emotion you are feeling, and then show everyone their face with that same emotion. Then, talk about what might make you feel this way.
  • Children could create their own set of feeling stones – encourage children to choose colours that represent a feeling for them. These could be put in a mindfulness/calm corner or used as part of a circle time before children go home to talk about how they felt about their day in nursery. 
  • Communicate on eye level with all children and show them how your face looks when you feel different emotions. For example, you might say, “ I’m feeling sad because my friends weren’t listening to me when it was my turn to talk, see how my mouth and eyes turn down and I got really quiet.”
  • Sing when you’re happy and you know it with verses using happy, mad, sad, excited, scared etc. Include the actions you might do when you are feeling each emotion. For example, “If you’re mad and you know it, scrunch your face, give a growl, cross your arms, etc.” Have children generate different ideas. Have each child look in the mirror when they arrive. Label what emotion you think they are feeling by describing the facial features of that emotion.
  • Using playdough and loose parts, have the children make different emotion faces with them.

By Hannah Polland

March 2021 Documenting Learning in a Floorbook

Documenting Learning in a Floorbook  

                         

A blog by Avril Dante

I have been using floorbooks to document learning for a good few years and my practice has developed and changed, however, taking the children’s interests as the starting point has always been the fundamental point. I have always tried hard to document the progression in learning rather than using the floorbook as a journal – and I can’t say I’ve always been successful in that point, so when I saw a training session available for this very topic, I was on it like a seagull on chips!!!

I applied, got a place and was fortunate to attend two Zoom trainings with the inspiring and renowned Deirdre Grogan from Strathclyde University which had a focus on ‘Driving Documentation Forward’.  

Deirdre looks at documentation in three phases and we need to recognise, organise, support and document children’s learning using these three phases.

Phase 1: Finding the threads (noticing and observing)

Phase 2: Sewing the threads together (evidencing and interpreting)

Phase 3: Reflecting on the threads (analysing and reflecting)

She led us through these phases, with a clear focus the whole way through on children’s thinking and the progression and depth in their thinking. (She encouraged us to use the word THINKING for learning).

I was about to start a block of work with Hurlford and Crookedholm Early Learning and Childcare Services, so, armed and confident in my own learning and understanding, (and after a conversation with the establishment manager) I planned to put into implementation the Phases of Documentation with my brilliant bubble partner Angela and the engaging children in Bubble 2.  The Centre currently uses Planning in the Moment in Floorbooks, so this was a great opportunity to drive our documentation forward.

I kid you not, on day one the children provided me with an exciting new thread- I barely had to find it;

Phase 1: Finding the threads…Paper Aeroplanes

One child had penned a drawing, which was interesting in its own right, but she then asked Angela and I to make it into a plane.  Before we knew it we had a queue of children pushing a piece of paper in front of us.  After lots of conversation about how to fold and bring in corners to the middle and secure the integrity of the model with tape, there were planes flying everywhere – even out of the window!!!  And so our mini story began…

Phase 2:  Sewing the threads together

Bringing the floorbook to the table in this playroom guarantees an immediate rush to get it  open with most of the children really keen to be part of the chat and mark making. 

Here you can see the conversations that we had while making the planes, the questions and wonderings that the children posed and how we, as skilled practitioners, supported them to try out their thinking and talk about what had been happening.

The squiggles represent the flight paths that the planes took in the playroom. At one point, a plane flew out the open window to the outdoor area, which gave rise to more wonderings about what might be different when we take them outside…. we were progressing thinking with that question.

The children’s input is purposeful and they understand that we are telling the story of their learning.  This happens because of the meaningful involvement and ownership of the floorbook; the book includes mark making, photos, drawings, scripted conversations and annotations.

We use a photograph or two to give the children a starting point.  On this page we were recording what had happened when we took our planes to the field the day before.  The children had made some predictions but the weather had been really windy and that gave the children a chance to think about whether that was helpful to flying our wee planes or not.  They all had their own opinion about that!

Phase 3:  Reflecting on the threads – bringing the thinking to a close, tying it up

In the morning, I printed out a photograph in A4 from when we had been at the field.  I was able to ask the children open questions that encouraged them to think about their experiences the day before, and come to some conclusions about what they now know about paper aeroplanes.  These turned out to be really logical thoughts, and at the same time gave way to the understanding of variables.

Deirdre Grogan tells us that it is hard for the children to answer the question ‘how would you do things differently? especially young children, so I was delighted that they were able to recognise what made flying their planes more difficult.  It was up to Angela and I to support their thinking around what could have made the planes stronger, bearing in mind our own limited aeronautical knowledge and inability to change the weather! 

It became obvious which learning experiences and outcomes we had introduced and developed throughout this mini story, and these were easily added into the documentation.

As practitioners, we are skilled at considering PLODS (possible lines of development or next steps).  Deirdre Grogan encourages us to think of this as PROGRESSION in learning and thinking.  DEPTH will come from using this thinking in other aspects.  The children here are interested in how birds fly (or don’t fly in the case of penguins) and even since this phase of documentation, have revisited to think about different ways of flying… another thread for us now to bring together.

 

 

Celebrating the work of the staff team at Greenmill ECC

Our TAP teacher Carol has been working at Greenmill ECC . Today we want to celebrate the work of the whole staff team before they move into their new ECC ‘Cherrytrees’ with a blog on how they used a balance of child led and adult initiated experiences at Halloween. 

Finding a balance of scaffolding learning, stepping back and letting children take the lead and introducing provocations requires judgement, really ‘tuning in’ to children’s thinking.  Halloween provided an interesting context for staff to use as a starting point to offer a range of experiences.

 

Exploring and counting gruesome ingredients to make spooky potions with Karen.

 

Children were very good at identifying the correct number of items to make their spells. This game promoted some excellent conversations and language from some of the children.

The staff were able to use this experience to offer targeted support to encourage the development of  children’s speech and language skills.

A lot of pumpkins were brought in to investigate – this led to some designing faces and carving them on pumpkins with Lynsey.

The children had great fun using their senses to explore! “Pumpkins stink!” “Look at the seeds” “Can you eat the skin?” “I think pumpkin might be yucky to eat!”

Children designed and created their own scary pumpkins and some cut out their pumpkins and told some of their own ghoulish tales.

Children then listened to chilling ghostly tales with Donna. The real pumpkins and spooky spiders  helped make this experience even more relevant and exciting for the children.

Margaret used pumpkin and spider provocations to promote independent artistic creations. The children were very creative and enjoyed self-selecting resources.

 

 

 

 

Evelyn spoke to the children about Halloween, read them a spooky spider story…

…then they went on a ghoulish Halloween Hunt.  The children worked together to identify and count spooky items.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They also made pumpkin orange play dough with Julie, following instructions and exploring weight and estimation.

They then ‘warily’ selected some creepy loose parts to play with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

While investigating the pumpkins the children decided to have pumpkin races which resulted in some brilliant mathematical language.

 

“Mine is the biggest”

“My pumpkin is the fastest”

“It rolls because it is round”.

Staff used the children’s interest to encourage their mathematical thinking and language. The evidence was used to inform tracking of children’s progress.

They ended their week with a Halloween costume party where they went ‘scooping for apples’ (keeping Covid aware) using nets and buckets.
What a great week was had by all – no tricks just treats all round!

 

 

 

 

October blog. Teaching and learning through play – responding to children’s interests.

Insects at Dalmellinton ECC and Evaporation outdoors at Dean Park Nursery.

This is the first of our monthly blogs.  Our aim for these is to give you a flavour of the work we are doing and share some reflections on different themes. 

Teaching and learning thorough play: responding to children’s interests.

The teachers in our team are experienced at using play as a mode of teaching. One of the key skills required to be effective at this is knowing how and when to respond to children’s interests, taking these forward into planning and also responding ‘in the moment’, taking advantage of an interest or ‘happening’. Two great examples of these skills in practice were discussed at our team meeting last week and we will share these with you here.

Insects at Dalmellington. Using children’s interests as a starting point.

Mrs Dante and the staff at Dalmellington have been using the characters ‘Sid’ and ‘Shannari’ to help the children develop understanding about the different strands of wellbeing. The children became very interested in the characters and the staff recognised this as something that could be used to promote further learning.

This process sounds simple but requires judgement about the level of children’s interest and the potential of the subject as a starting point for learning. Both these elements need to be ‘strong’ to give this line of enquiry the best chance of being meaningful to the children and useful to their development and learning.

Sometimes we need to take a chance on using something we perhaps have not used before as a starting point because the level of children’s interest is arguably the most important element in this process.  Do you agree?  We also need to be ready to change direction if the children take the learning down unexpected routes. Perhaps sometimes we are worried about doing this, maybe we have invested time in contemplating various possible lines of development but a change is sometimes needed to re-ignite the children’s interest and enthusiasm.

Really tuning in to the children is essential in developing the skill of judgement in all aspects of teaching and learning through play.

The children at Dalmellington were certainly keen to demonstrate their existing knowledge about insects as you can see in the picture below.

 

It is important for us to remember that we do not know what children know until we ask them, and to be effective at this we need to create a climate in which they are comfortable in telling us what they know. This takes time to develop.

How do we do this? well, children are skilled at gauging our views about them, they have been ‘programmed’ from birth to ‘read’ us.  Our actions, non verbal and verbal send a strong message; do we respect their views? are we really keen to find out what they think and know? do we believe they can be successful learners? 

Our ‘image of the child’ will really influence the whole process. If we show children in all the ways we communicate with them that we are serious about hearing from them they will learn to trust us.

We need to be open to what interests emerge, mindful of taking a chance sometimes, applying our professional judgement to support children and take the learning forward. This is a balancing act that is perhaps not a typical model of teaching. It requires relinquishing some of the formal ‘control’ over the process and being ready to adapt. This can be daunting but ultimately it is empowering as when carried out effectively it leads to greater engagement and increased development and learning.

As Chris Miles says: “For me, ‘teaching’ is the intelligence of supporting learning to happen” Miles, 2018 p. 93.

Where might the interest in insects at Dalmellington lead? stay tuned for an update in the next blog!

Top tip on using children’s interests as a starting point:

Good quality visual encyclopaedias are excellent for promoting children’s thinking and questions. 

Responding ‘in the moment’, science and maths outdoors at Dean Park Nursery.

Mrs Polland has been working with the staff and children at Dean Park Nursery. They have been making the most of their lovely sunny garden with lots of opportunities for outdoor play using a wide range of resources to promote confidence, creativity and curiosity, discovery and learning.

The children had been playing with water and some of them noticed the water in the small puddles disappearing. Staff recognised an opportunity to introduce the concept of evaporation and this prompted experimentation with different sized pools in different ares of the garden (sunny, shaded) to bring science and maths to life!

Documenting this learning with the children in a way that is accessible to them (for example in their personal learning journals or in the floorbook or simply by using photographs) means they can revisit this and bring greater depth to the learning in the following days.

This anecdote from Dean Park illustrates how crucial the environment and resources are in providing a starting point for learning. Skilled staff knowing when and how to ‘scaffold’ the learning is the next essential element.

Realising the Ambition: Being Me has this useful visual on child-centred pedagogy in practice.

We would be happy to hear feedback on this blog on the form below, and until next month, happy teaching and learning through play!

Reference:

Miles, C. (2018) ‘Access to enriching environments in early childhood: Paradise lost?’, in Trevarthen, C. Delafield-Butt, J & Dunlop, A.W (eds.) The Child’s Curriculum, working with the natural values of children. Croydon: Oxford University Press, p. 93.

 

Monday 22nd June. The power of the practitioner.

The Power of the Practitioner.

Some implications from research in the field of neuroscience and attachment theory for current practice in the early years.

When early learning and childcare is fully open things will be different. There will be restrictions on how resources can be used and on the amount of time children spend in establishments. Readjusting to the return will have an impact on children, practitioners and parents and carers. 

Something that will be the same however, is the relationships practitioners create with children, families and each other.

We know that relationships are at the heart of effective early years practice but perhaps it is more important than even to remember this.

In this short blog I will outline two examples of knowledge from the field of neuroscience and one from attachment theory, describe how these apply to practice and suggest ways we can use this knowledge to maximise opportunities to promote feelings of safety and support the conditions in which children can develop and learn effectively.

We must remember that brain development is particularly rapid in the early years and therefore we should be particularly mindful of our impact on this.

How children feel matters.

Consider the ways that children naturally like to ‘be’; thinking, making choices, supported by adults who are calm and pleasant. These are the conditions in which children will be emotionally invested in what they are doing. In such conditions with this emotional investment, the brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine which makes us feel good. Dopamine also drives attention which in turn drives development and learning. 

If we ignore children’s emotional investment and perhaps veer towards more controlling and restrictive methods these may invoke feelings of anxiety. These negative feelings can lead to the release of other neurotransmitters and hormones such as cortisol and serotonin which decrease attention and effectively block learning.

We need to consider the environment, choices available to children and our interactions and ask how can we maximise children’s feelings of wellbeing and emotional investment and therefore their opportunities to learn? 

How practitioners and parents and carers feel also matters.

The same processes as described above for children also take place in adults, so it is important to consider this. We all have a responsibility to contribute to the ethos in our establishments, we are affected by and in turn affect this. How we treat each other matters, so what does this look like in practice? The environment and relationships between staff and parents will impact on this. 

Interactions really matter.

The way we interact and communicate with children has a direct effect on their brains. Mirror neurons trigger responses in children’s brains that are a direct result of our communication, verbal and non verbal. Babies are attuned to the nuanced responses of their caregiver and we need to remember that young children are too. Our facial expressions matter, do we physically go to their level when possible to communicate? What about our tone of voice and body language?

Perhaps we will be less likely to approach children and be close to them as a result of covid, and of course we must be mindful of guidance in this area but we also need to make sure that our communications and interactions with children still have the power to trigger ‘positive’ mirror neurons.

“A teacher’s moment by moment actions and interactions with children are the most powerful determinants of learning outcomes and development. Curriculum is important but what the teacher does is paramount” Copple and Bredekamp, 2009, p,xii

Relationships influence expectations.

We are all affected by the relationships we had in our early years. Young children develop ‘working models’ based on their experiences that shape their expectations of how adults will behave. Importantly, these will influence how children respond to adults no matter how the adult behaves. For example, two children with different experiences and views of how adults behave will respond differently to the same interactions as a result of their expectations. 

Children’s responses will perhaps be more influenced by their ‘working models’  and perceptions of adult behaviours after lockdown. Children who have had positive experiences and interactions that have supported them to have a positive self-view will expect the adults in early years settings and schools to behave in these ways towards them and they will respond to the adults accordingly. Children who have had less positive experiences will not expect things to be positive and may pre-empt adult interactions with ‘negative’ responses. Children’s views of adults and their own histories can therefore have a powerful influence on how they view themselves. 

The good news is that all of us who work with children have the power to influence their ‘working models’. For children who have negative expectations it takes more effort on the part of the adults to change their perceptions. They will need more positive experiences to begin to change their (unconscious) views of how adults will behave. Sometimes the children who are described as being ‘harder to engage’ and ‘confrontational’ are the very children we need to work harder with to begin to influence their views of adults. When you come across these children don’t give up. It may take time and effort but with persistence, positive interactions and by communicating a belief in children you have the power to make a difference.

Reference taken from. Copple, C., & Bredekamp, S. (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8. 3rd ed. Washington, D.C.: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Wednesday 17th June. Helping children remain calm with difficult emotions.

Helping children remain calm through difficult emotions

Anxiety

Many young children have difficulty regulating their emotions. What adults may witness and describe as tantrums, outbursts, whining, defiance, fighting, are all behaviours you see when children experience powerful feelings they can’t control. In the current climate and with yet more change ahead, we may begin to see these behaviours in our settings and the family home more than before, while children struggle to manage big emotions. Here is a quick guide with some ideas of how to manage this and contain the emotions.

One of the prevalent emotions around in our current climate in both children and adults is that of anxiety. Anxiety can be pictorially represented as below:

When children experience anxiety or a worry around something, the following may occur in their bodily changes.

Common Physical Symptoms of Anxiety in Children

Headaches

Tummy aches

Nausea and/or vomiting

Shaking

Dizziness

Sweating

Fast heartbeat

Breathing quickly Tingling

Dry/tight throat

Tight muscles

Sometimes adults may think that children are “making these symptoms up” to get out of something, but there is much scientific evidence to prove that these symptoms are very real physiological responses to stress. They can become problematic if children get into a cycle of focussing on the unpleasant physical symptoms and then they increase therefore the anxious feeling increases.

Children can have a visual of all of these symptoms in order that they can see what is happening to their bodies and communicate. This could be created for or with them depending on their emotional maturity and physical awareness. I highly suggest Boardmaker as a tool for making symbols for children particularly those that are very visual. It is widely used for children with ASN and is a recognised and universal method of using symbols that are easy to understand by young children.

“In the Moment” Relaxation Strategies

When children are experiencing these unpleasant bodily changes, we as adults can guide them to managing them in order that they can understand their emotions and deal with

them in a positive way. I have outlined some examples below of dealing with the symptoms “in the moment” when you may not have resources to hand and children may be in fight/flight/freeze mode – using only the reactionary part of their brains.

Breaking the Cycle

In order to break the vicious cycle, we can try to not give too much attention to the physical symptoms. So try saying something like “So you feel your heart moving fast, that can’t be very nice……..” then move on and distract by playing a game, doing an activity together, or getting them to help you out.

Shifting the focus

For some children, they may already be further into the cycle of worrying about their physical symptoms and it may be more difficult to distract them. We can talk these children through focussing on their immediate surroundings. For example, notice all the different colours around them, sounds or even textures. Keep it short so they can keep paying attention. With practice children will become stronger at focusing their attention away from their uncomfortable physical symptoms. This is mindfulness used to bring back children from fight/flight/freeze.

Breathing

The Hoberman Sphere

The Hoberman Sphere is a lovely visual aid for breathing that can be picked up cheaply online or in toy shops. It works to visually demonstrate the lungs expanding as we breath in and contracting as we breath out and so when played with children can help them understand how to calm and slow their breaths. Be aware of the following if you are demonstrating as it is not appropriate to slow the breath of a young child to that of an adult due to physiological differences.

An alternative would be for the children to use it to breath at their own pace and slow to a pace suited to them.

The Breathing Ball is a great attention getter, but you risk creating frustration in children if you don’t choose an age appropriate pace.

Blowing bubbles can also be a good way to regulate breaths by encouraging slow/deep breathing. I carried a bum bag around with this and some malleable resources at all times when working with a child with anxiety so that I had these to hand when things got hard for that child.

Structured Resources and Activities to Promote Calm environments

Some children may not be receptive yet to what we see as “structured” experiences of yoga or mindfulness and this is OK. You must know your children and be responsive and the above can help in a less structured way when children need it. We can also model as adults how to regulate ourselves in times of stress and anxiety and this has a huge effect on teaching children and allowing them to develop their own regulation system. However, there are children that can benefit from a regular practices that may help to prevent anxious episodes occurring and build their own internal regulation systems.

Story based relaxation using yoga poses as calming techniques

For children that are interested, a regular yoga practice can really benefit them by allowing them a safe space to gain a greater bodily awareness which can help to tune into emotions and associated physical feelings and it also teaches breathing techniques that can aid in emotional reguklation. A good way I have found is through yoga stories, I have posted some of my favourites below. All can be found on amazon but alternatively I have posted author read youtube videos that can be watched without purchasing the book.

https://www.ommie.co.uk/

There are also some lovely stories which deal with emotions in young children. I have posted these below along with author readings.

Blog Created after reading:

Helping with Child’s Fears and Worries: A Self-Help Guide for Parents, Cathy Cresswell and Lucy Willetts

Mindfulness for Parents: Amber Hatch

Playful Parenting: Laurence J Cohen

Blog written by Emma Williamson.

 

Monday 15th June. Arty Provocations.

Arty provocations and a little bit of culture.

Plus a few other key skills for young learners.

I have a very arty 3 year old who pretty much goes at 100mph from waking until bed. During lockdown I have been challenging myself to think beyond the normal blob paintings and glitter. Provocations in early years are basically things that interest and engage a child to explore, investigate, experience and generally be curious about. So here are some of the provocations I have used with R recently.

Abstract Aboriginal Art

Before babies my partner and I lived in Australia for many years. My job was working with Aboriginal communities around the New South Wales area. As a result I learned a lot about the very interesting culture. R loves to hear our stories of times before she was around. Instead of using our stories or showing photographs of our travels I decided to share some Aboriginal artwork and see what her reaction was. I had also set up some paint on a plate with cotton buds in each colour and some different coloured paper, glue stick and scissors.

We first looked at the pictures, talking about what they were of, how have they made them – emphasising the dots and wiggly lines. R at this point was more interested in matching the colours of paint to the colours in the artwork but we decided to try and make our own with dots and lines. I am not a great artist, I studied at high school but this was out of interest in art most certainly not talent. I am also not the kind of person who expects children to follow specific instructions, I am more about setting up the materials, providing a little provocation and then allowing children to interpret as they wish with the materials in front of them. Here is what we created – can you guess which pictures we were using as our inspiration?

1 – After her first attempt at loving the paint, R’s interest and concentration became more focused. She started to create her own picture using mix media. There’s a fire, a turtle and some clouds.

2 – This is the first picture R created, I basically just gave her free rein over the materials to see where she went. It might not look like much but R can describe each part in detail, eyes, feathers, toes etc. (Dad the made crown at R’s request).

3 – This is the one we did together. R was sitting on my lap, it is combination of R independently adding, hand over hand together and me adding some bits.

There are a number of skills developed in activities like this not just being arty. Cognitive development in asking questions, increasing attention spans, language development asking questions, talking through their play, developing emergent skills for writing, physical development in fine motor skills, social skills in a curiosity for the world. This list is not prescribed or fixed, each child and each adult will gain in their own unique way from activities.

I hope this gives you some ideas and not to feel like everything has to be perfect. I used something that was from a personal experience. We all have experiences, it doesn’t need to be fancy and perfect, just personal. Children love to hear our stories and about our experiences – even better when they can do something related to it.

Henri Matisse and Shape

This next activity was actually a Dad and daughter activity. He is not a teacher but he took my method and applied to something else to keep R busy. He is methodical one between us and a bit of a math wizard given that Grannie A was a math teacher. So he used this and his love of all things French to bring a little culture and math to mix.

The steps were the same – he had the pictures, scissors, paper, glue sticks and a variety of paper. They began talking about the colours and the shapes in the pictures. Trying to decide what they might be if anything. They then set about making their own versions.

Cutting out the shapes was the first part. R had a go but mainly just wanted to order Dad to cut out different shapes to her specifications including colour and size. They then started to glue on the different shapes to their paper. Here is what they made.

4 – There had to be some glitter in there too at R’s request.

An idea for a provocation can literally come from anywhere. A favourite artist, place, memory, person anything at all. Have a go at creating some of your own and see where the journey takes you and your child. Above all else remember that you are not there to dictate what must happen or be done. Just take part and follow your child.

Thank you for reading!

Laura.

 

Monday 8th June. We are all Different: Promoting Equality and Diversity in the Early Years.

We Are all Different. We Are all Unique and Special.

  • Equality and Diversity in The Early Years

A few days ago, I was travelling home from the shop with my 3 children and I happened to have switched on the radio when the news was on. Usually we listen to a children’s podcasts or music, I tend to avoid having the news on as I find it so depressing and I don’t like the children hearing a lot of what goes on in the media. Anyway, this week my daughter had heard a report about the recent ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests going on across America and Europe . It sparked a conversation about racism and equality. I decided to read up and find out more when I got home, as it is such a big issue at the moment. I live in a small village with a predominantly white demographic and so race issues and conversations are easy to forget.

In brief, equality and diversity, or multiculturalism, is the idea of promoting and accepting the differences between people. More specifically, equality is about ensuring individuals are treated fairly and equally, no matter their race, gender, age, disability, religion, or sexual orientation (The Equality Act 2010). Diversity is about recognising and respecting these differences to create an all-inclusive atmosphere.

As a parent and teacher, I sometimes stumble to know the ‘right’ way to approach this sensitive subject with my children. However, there are many resources and activities that would be a great way to open up the subject in settings and in the home. Here are a few activities, games and resources that you might like to consider.

Race

Find three different apples of different size or colour. Examine them with the children – what is their colour/weight/size smell like etc. Then cut all the apples in half, show the children that they are all the same on the inside – just like people all over the world.

And a few more ways to look at differences in skin colour –

Children’s books about race :

https://www.embracerace.org/resources/26-childrens-books-to-support-conversations-on-race-racism-resistance

https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/arts-and-culture/g32743703/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-racism-books/

https://mommypoppins.com/Childrens-kids-books-about-racism-preschoolers-teens

https://www.mother.ly/child/best-childrens-books-about-race-and-tolerance/skin-again-by-bell-hooks-illustrated-by-chris-raschka

Gender & Sexuality

During children’s play, avoid commenting on children’s appearance, for example if a girl/boy chooses a dress to wear from the role play corner – try not to say things like “what a pretty dress you’re wearing”, but rather focus on children’s traits and attributes when offering compliments. You can foster self-esteem in children of any gender by giving all children positive feedback about their unique skills and qualities. For example, you might say to a child, “I noticed how kind you were to your friend when she fell down” or “You were very helpful with clean-up today—you are such a great helper” or “You were such a strong runner on the playground today.”

Offer a wide range of toys, books, and games that expose children to diverse gender roles. For example, choose activities that show males as caregivers or nurturers or females in traditionally masculine roles, such as firefighters or construction workers.

Provide dramatic play props that give children the freedom to explore and develop their own sense of gender and gender roles.

Avoid assumptions that girls or boys are not interested in an activity that may be typically associated with one gender or the other. For example, invite girls to use dump trucks in the sand table and boys to take care of baby dolls.

Use inclusive phrases to address your class as a whole, like “Good morning, everyone” instead of “Good morning, boys and girls.” Avoid dividing the class into “boys vs. girls” or “boys on one side, girls on the other” or any other actions that force a child to self-identify as one gender or another. This gives children a sense that they are valued as humans, regardless of their gender. It also helps all children feel included, regardless of whether they identify with a particular gender.

Books and stories –

https://sexpositivefamilies.com/sex-positive-families-reading-list/

https://depts.washington.edu/dbpeds/healthy-gender-development.pdf

https://www.scholastic.com/parents/books-and-reading/raise-a-reader-blog/6-picture-books-about-transgender-children.html

https://sexedrescue.com/sex-education-books-for-children/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=pinterest&utm_campaign=tailwind_tribes&utm_content=tribes&utm_term=300504648_8552772_111323

https://www.mightyape.co.nz/product/a-practical-guide-to-gender-diversity-and-sexuality-in-early-years/26814000

Disability

Play games to raise awareness of different physical disabilities. Can your students put on a jumper with just one hand? Can they guide a friend around the classroom with a blindfold on? Can they lip-read what the characters on TV are saying with the sound off? Use these activities to show the difficulties that people face and explain how these people learn to overcome them.

Stories and Books:

https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/childrens-books-about-special-needs https://intentionalfamilylife.com/childrens-stories-about-special-needs/

https://teachingexceptionalthinkers.com/2020/02/04/books-about-disabilities/

Religion and Cultures

Try and include days to celebrate different cultural and religious events such as Diwali, Ramadan, Chinese New Year, Easter. Try and include opportunities to eat traditional foods and games played during these times.

Play music from different cultures, and have a go at creating your own procession instruments from around the world.

Stories and Books:

https://www.rebekahgienapp.com/dragons-books/

https://www.kcedventures.com/blog/kids-books-about-countries-around-the-world?utm_medium=viraltag-content-network&utm_source=viraltag-post&utm_campaign=Viraltag

By Hannah Polland.

Wednesday 27th May. Sculpting a New Future

Returning to Nature – Sculpting a New Future

Imagine being passed a lump of clay – and being told to just make something… anything at all.

You might just stare at it with dismay or panic. How do you sculpt clay? Where do you start? Should you use just your hands, or use tools? With no outcome and no rules or guidelines to follow the possibilities are endless.

In some ways, the current situation we are finding ourselves in at the moment could be likened to being handed a piece of clay. With the prospect of lockdown measures being lifted on the horizon, educators all over the country are now thinking about how to best ‘re-sculpt’ the educational experience for our children. This could be met with some trepidation and concern with no real understanding of how long the pandemic is to last and what kind of effects the lockdown will be having on both child and adult mental health.

It is my hope that – just as clay is sourced from the ground – that we return to the earth and nature to help us re-sculpt and adjust our educational model for our young people.

It has been noted that Scotland are viewing outdoor learning as precisely the way forward for early years and schools. Scotland’s children’s minister, Maree Todd, said: “There are a growing number of fully and partially outdoor childcare settings in Scotland. This model could have many benefits for maintaining physical distancing and minimising risk of transmission as part of the transition from lockdown back into early learning and childcare and school. While specialist outdoor nurseries are well attuned to the needs of children spending all day outdoors, other establishments are considering how to adapt their practice to enable more time to be spent in gardens and playgrounds.”

Forest School is an initiative well known in the UK and is one form of outdoor learning, centred around ‘learning by doing’ to nurture pupils’ curiosity. This has been adopted across schools with innovative outdoor learning activities being designed for many different subjects.

Transitioning to a more outdoor focus could potentially help in different ways –

Social Distancing and Safety

Being outside will help teachers ensure there can be as much social distancing between the students as possible and therefore lowers the risk of transferring the virus. When you’ve got the natural world at your fingertips, you don’t need as many toys and resources, which means fewer surfaces where the virus can be passed on.

Mental Wellbeing

Outdoor classes will help keep children engaged and happy during a time where there may be rising levels of anxiety and increased stress on mental wellbeing. Indeed, at times like these it is important to shift the focus away from academic achievement and onto the students’ mental health. It is a well-known fact that being outdoors and immersed in nature has a beneficial effect on both mental and physical health in all kinds of wonderful ways (see here for more research and information – https://www.ltl.org.uk/health-and-wellbeing/)

Increased Imagination and Creativity

Einstein once said – “Imagination is more important than knowledge, knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world” Creativity, in its most natural state, is all about freedom. When children are given the freedom to be creative without the restrictions of structured activities, they experience growth that just cannot be replicated.

The question now needing to be addressed if such an approach was to be taken is how to cater for such provisions across the nation. Especially for those settings in urban environments where close natural places are harder to locate and utilise. The city council of Glasgow are considering how use the city’s many magnificent public parks as a base for outdoor nursery shifts, alongside the possibility of registering unused outdoor space close to existing nurseries, and rewilding them on a small scale.

Now is the time to allow our imaginations to run wild and begin re-creating new possibilities and options for the future…

Hannah x

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