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Category Archives: children

Learn from nature and animals

I was at a friend’s family celebration at the weekend, sitting chatting away to her mother, who was full of words of wisdom, as ever.

I watched a child moving in and out of the kitchen and into the garden. I then observed her interacting with my friend’s cat, she was talking to him and stroking him.

Of course, I had to take a photograph! I showed her mum and asked for permission to use it in a blog and during my training. She told me that her daughter is three years and four months and that they have no pets at home. This made me reflect on how quickly she was  able to connect with the cat, based on trust and natural instinct.

What an awesome observation of a child in her natural state of calmness. My message to educators would be to observe and assess children for who they are, rather than observe to […]


If you took a holiday.

I read with interest news of the victory in the high court for Jon Platt, who took his daughter out of school during term time. Rightly so, the judges in the high court agreed with Mr Platt.

When my children were at school, I proudly took them out during term-time for family holidays. These included to visit my gran in St. Lucia, around the time of her birthday (which was during term time), as well as for other family celebrations. My gran passed away seven years ago and those special memories that my children have of their great-grandmother are irreplaceable, giving them many stories of their own to pass on. In fact, many of the laugh-out-loud moments that we have as a family are when we reminisce about these holidays – from my sons remembering key events and speaking with a St. Lucia accent to learning the odd word […]


Bottom-up!

So, the Government is busy recruiting the next HMCI, to replace Sir Michael Wilshaw.

The shortlist has been reported via TES and the education community is in full flow discussing who the Government may choose and why.

One tweet that caught my eye was from the inspiring Sue Cowley, who noted:

“I think it’d be a good idea to have someone with primary experience as the next head of Ofsted. Historically it’s mostly been secondary people.’

I would wholeheartedly agree with Sue. In addition, they should have working knowledge and an understanding of the Early Years.

For far too long we’ve had a top-down approach, which has had a detrimental effect on little people, from inappropriate testing to a lack of understanding of the importance of play within Early Years.

Biology informs us that it all starts from conception.  There’s a reason why babies are not born […]


Let’s G.O!

Last year I had the pleasure of visiting an awesome colleague, kindergarten teacher Heidi Echternacht, at her class in Princeton, New Jersey, USA. Heidi explained that kindergarten children in the US are aged five to six – equivalent to our Year One.

What was amazing about Heidi’s class was how much she valued play and allowed the children to be themselves. When I arrived, they had just come back in from a mid-morning break. Heidi introduced me to the class and I had a long conversation with the children about London and Paddington Bear!

They didn’t settle down to do maths or English.

Oh no, we went for a walk in the woods!

Heidi informed her class: “Right, time to go for a walk! Let’s go. G.O!” “Yes, Ms Echternacht!” they replied.

How wonderful it was to observe five and six-year-olds being able to be themselves through play, […]


Literacy Champions

I’m delighted to have Rebecca Marsh with us to discuss how she implemented literacy within her setting.

Rebecca is a manager at one of the Portico group of settings. Rebecca has been in Early Years for over 10 years, three of these as a manager.

Rebecca is currently completing a level 5 in management, and is passionate and driven about leading successful teams and ensuring the children in her care are given the best possible start in life.

Rebecca explains:

“Starting the literacy project was by far one of the best decisions I have made in management. We were able to participate in the NDNA Literacy Champions as we had an Early Years professional (EYP) in the setting. The project works so well for us and will do for any busy setting because apart from certain deadlines, you use the resources and webinars at your own pace […]


World Nursery Rhyme Week

Register here for Nursery Rhyme Week

See my book on Nursery Rhymes!


It feels like very cold ice-cream on your teeth!

A colleague posed a question on a social media forum that I belong to as to whether other colleagues had heard of using sensory immersive approach within a coaching session. A number of colleagues asked him to clarify, he then showed a picture of a school’s ‘sensory room’.

My reply was to be cautious when using this approach, as some individuals may have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).  As many of you know, my son is on the autistic spectrum and one of his conditions is SPD.

It made me think about children who are on the spectrum within Early Years settings who are displaying SPD, as educators may think it is due to something else.

In his own early years, my son would not step on leaves – a real challenge in autumn!

I recently spoke to a specialist in autism-related behaviour and explained how my son […]


Keeping it real and strengths!

On Friday, my 21-year-old amazing son, Rian, was officially diagnosed with Autism. I always knew that Rian was different and wonderful, right from when he was a baby. Throughout his primary and secondary school years I had many conversations with teachers about Rian’s behaviour. I even had him privately assessed twice. This highlighted dyslexia and borderline attention deficit disorder. I started to question my parenting style and as an educator became ever more frustrated with not getting to the bottom of Rian’s complex symptoms.

Rian became less sociable and his communication decreased as he headed towards his mid-teens. He avoided at all cost any social situation that meant he’d have to communicate with others.

His main focus is football; he’s a mean left-footed defender and can tell you everything you need to know about Arsenal. He plays for a local team on Sundays and takes part in the weekly 5k Park […]


Little Green Fingers

It is my pleasure to have Francis Smith, the owner of Studio Cultivate, with us. I have already had the pleasure of seeing Francis at work in a nursery. Studio Cultivate’s key principle is to realise horticultural potential in people and places. This to me is awesome and connects children with nature and their local environment and provides so many learning opportunities within settings and extension activities for children to do at home.  Of course, I had to ask Francis to write a guest blog for me, to share his amazing work!

Francis writes:

“In my previous role working as a landscape contractor I came across many underused and underappreciated outdoor school spaces. In a city where green space is limited I felt it a real shame that their potential for learning, exploration and general fun was often being overlooked. Eighteen months ago I set up the educational wing of Studio Cultivate, with the ambition of revealing […]


Keep on moving….

I recently shared this statement via social media: “Indeed, outstanding doesn’t mean that a setting is perfect! Quite the contrary, it is all about constantly improving from a 360% perspective.”

A few tips on consistently improving:

Clarity about your values and how they mirror in practice
Doing your best for every child
Staff form meaningful, personal and positive relationships with children
Environment challenges and supports children’s development
Teaching clearly supports children’s current development and their next stages
High standards in place, which staff are committed to
Robust leadership, which is different from managing
Rigorous auditing of practice not only completed by management, but by the whole staff team
Moderation meetings to discuss children’s learning and development
Stakeholder involvement and consultation
Meaningful and regular two-way communication between home and setting
Self-evaluation is a team effort
Full understanding of reflective practice and use as a catalyst to improve
Regular reflective professional development that impacts on practice
Child’s voice and opinions are heard

If you would like to discuss in detail how […]