Did You Know?

One of my team came back from training with a brilliant idea! If we were exploring a topic we should find out something we don’t know about it. We can churn out activities, and if we’re not too careful, just repeat patterns of activities. This started the “Did You Know?” Board. It’s displayed for parents and children with interesting facts about our activities. For example, when we were looking at fruit…..Did you know, a lemon has more sugar than strawberries?….and strawberries are the only fruit with seeds on the outside? A few interesting facts. So now when I go into mt settings, I’m barraged by adults and children saying “Did You Know?”

B b&b.                    image

Looking after George

I love having children who have special and additional needs. There is always some anxiety about whether we will be the best place for a child, but when Georges Mum wanted us to take her child with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, we really wanted to be able to help. https://www.facebook.com/Georgetappendenfundraise

Taking George was a decision not to be taken lightly as it would have implications for feasibility of the practical aspects of care and could we give George all he needed to access the complete EYFS. We hadn’t taken a wheelchair user before, but had always had in the back of my mind how we could take a child with their wheelchair. Planning with other agencies was key to successfully including George into our setting. We were eager to find solutions to meet Georges needs, giving him the best time possible at Millies.image


There were financial implications as we would need extra staff for some of the time and special equipment that would need storing when we weren’t using the hall. The first conversation with the occupational therapist was interesting as she suggested fixture for hoist pullys and fixed height adjustable changing tables. Unfortunately we rent our hall so structural changes to the building wasn’t an option.  So we had to be inventive and resourceful. We had some council money to get the best we could to meet Georges needs.

We had a specialist trainer in lifting to help us problem solve handling George so he could do everything the setting offered with minimal risk to the staff. The process of planning took a while, but we wanted everything to be in place for George’s arrival. Input from his family, particularly his mother helped us get to know George, and a home visit with key staff helped us to get to plan for his additional needs.

Planning, training and accessing extra funds for staff and equipment took a while but we got there, and had the continuous support of other outside agencies already involved in George’s life. George’s Mum  accompanied him to start with, helping us to handle him and a few “what to do if’s” like signs he was tired, when he was thirsty etc.
Having Gearge at our pre-school was fabulous. Children became aware of disability, taking it very much in their stride. They were very accepting, asking frank questions and not being perturbed by the answers given. They seemed to gauge when they could help George and when he could manage himself. The key person took on the enhanced role of giving him the extra support he needed. As a team we also had an awareness that the role needed to be shared and lifting and manuevering him would take two members of staff. George was quite adept at getting around the room. We made changes to the layout to allow easy access to all areas, also putting his favourite activities away from the doorway to avoid draughts and chilling. It wasn’t long before he could make his way independently around the room and the garden, even over uneven grass!


George himself had a giant personality, cheeky, creative and bundles of fun. He is a bright boy who engages fully in play and activities, enjoying discovering new textures and exploring resources to learn. He has a fabulous family who supported us while we got to know George. Even though he has moved on to a new setting, we still here through the family how he is doing. The family are always trying to raise awareness of SMA and have many fundraisers for George and SMA.

Enjoy this clip of his early days at Millies.


Chatter Matters Conference

I’ve been blown away by the Chatter Matters Conference in Croydon. It was a brilliant day where I was able to take 4 staff (2 from each setting) and I’m so glad I did. I find sending a group more powerful as they can support each other to act on what they have learnt and discovered to impact on practice for better outcomes for children.

let me take you there…

The first keynote speech was from Sue Palmer, author of “Toxic Childhood”. Needless to say…..amazing! She spoke about how we have become a “screen” nation, with TV, phones and computers. She wrote her first book before the IPad so it is even more relevant to look at the way this affects interaction with other human beings. It begged the question, how important is that the to our younger children? It’s two fold, one, we look at screens more often with answering texts and pinging messages back and forth. Secondly, the time children and babies are stuck in front of screens. American research suggests children don’t need to see a screen at all between the ages 0-2, not even telly. Research shows as our use of screens go up, communication and  language development, particularly listening skills dramatically decreases. She said so much more, but this quote speaks volumes:

“Children’s physical and psychological growth cannot happen at electric speed.” Sue Palmer

My first workshop was calle Angels and Islands. I thought it would be attachment theory and bonding as I know it with Bowlby and other such theorists. But I was in for a great suprise. Carrie-Anne Black told us all about “reflective function.” She started with some amazing facts. The average babies brain is the weight of a coke can, and yet it already has a billion activities going on! Cortical neurones develop between week 6 and 18 in pregnancy, so some people won’t even know they are pregnant when this process begins. Sensory development, that is hearing and vision happens mainly in our first year. So our carers are so important to our reflective function and how we develop, and the effect of deprivation can deeply affect our future ability and success.

Reflective function is how we read what’s happening and why. Carry Anne gave the exampl of reading emotions. We would say ” you look upset” if somebody was crying. We wouldn’t say “you’ve got water coming out of your eyes and liquids coming out of your nose” we can read the situation and communicate. Likewise with a child in a shop, where a child is having a tantrum. Somebody with good reflective function would say, “he’s having a tantrum because he didn’t sleep well last night, and he’s due his lunch, so he’s probably hungry” where somebody else might say ” he’s having a tantrum because he’s just attention seeking”. Adversity can have a huge affect on our reflective function, which could affect how we communicate and develop as a child and beyond. How our main carer attaches  to us and nurtures us has a huge impact on future relationships and our development of reflective function.

“Secure attachment is an advantage for life” Carrie Anne Black

I now have a favourite man (sorry hubby!). Nick Butterworth is just delightful. Our second keynote speech from the well know Childrens author. Apart from being so funny with all his anecdotal chat about his life experiences, he had so much to give. The main things I took away, was the power of spontaneity with rhymes and stories. How we read stories is so important. For example, do a squeaky voice for the elephant in the story and a big bellowing one for the mouse, wouldn’t the child giggle! The power of punctuation and font, (the former you will have realised, one of my big faults!) If I had been taught punctuation by Nick, I would have got it (honestly Sarah Stokes!) He obviously was brought up in a literacy rich environment. He talked a lot about imitation. If you want to be lie somebody, try to imitate them. He talked about so many things I’m afraid I was so mesmerised, I didn’t take many notes! When we applauded him, he applauded us back, saying it was genuine applause for the work we do, and the impact it has. Humbled!

“Love is acts of kindness” Nick Butterworth


The last workshop was on the home learning environment.. No quotes here as it was a very practical and inspiring session. One we will certainly be actioning in our settings. the impact of involving home learning in your invironment is proved to have a success on children’s development and future success. The two ladies facilitating this session came at it from different directions. On workerd soley with parents (with a passion), helping them to play and use simple resources to create learning opportunities with their children, the second was a pre-school owner, who did home learning bags (which is what we will do ) for parents to borrow. The home learning bags had a variety of resources in each one. The bags had instructions where appropriate (eg cornflour) with a simple list of the learning to be gained. The parents filled in a form to say what they did with it and how they found it, and then they were given the next. What a way to proactively involve your parents. As a group we seemed to have all picked this workshop, so on the way home we discussed how we could do this. The bags were zip lock bags, and one of our girls also works for a stationers, any deals to be done? Could we do this in key groups, to strengthen that relationship. When we clear out cupboards we could think what will go I the zip lock bag. Planning already!

What an action packed day. Full of ideas and things to do. You should always come away from courses with things to do.

Did I mention the African drumming and dancing after lunch…no…fabulous. I would highly recommend Mango Tree Kids African Drumming session. Well worth saving up for the rhythm and the beat, making us smile and dance at the same time (50p fine if you didn’t smile). I’ve had these lovely people work with my children, but that’s another blog!