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Symbolic item for every child

I watched with emotion this clip from BBC Family & Education on Facebook.

In brief, six-year-old Bodhi, who is autistic, showed delight every time he walked past the large cuddly gorilla.
The gorilla unfortunately disappeared and its owner, Jason,
searched for another one and Bodhi was delighted again.

This story reminds me of my eldest son, Rian, who as some of you know is on the autistic spectrum. When he was younger and attended a local pre-school, his behaviour was ‘a cause for concern’. This was before his diagnosis. Rian’s ‘thing’ was Thomas the Tank Engine, and I have since been told that some autistic children love Thomas.

On entering
the pre-school each morning, Mary used to hand Rian the Thomas train from the
shelf. This made Rian feel that he belonged and grounded him.

Mary sadly
died of cancer a few years ago, but I will never forget the kindness that she
showed my son.

On my travels, either in training […]


Don’t throw out ‘all’ of the plastic

On a  recent train journey with my colleague Kim Benham. We were off to deliver a training session to a nursery group on KISP.

The train was delayed and sitting opposite us was a three-year-old child with her mother. We started to talk about how she looked like the character in my children’s picture book. After eating her lunch, the child said she didn’t want to have the iPad, so her mother took out a few Duplo pieces, including one piece – the cat – from her pocket. Her mother shared with her daughter why she had the cat in her pocket. The child carefully arranged the pieces into a long train with a piece of string and began sharing stories out loud about what was happening with the train, the cat and the girl and boy. For a three-year-old, Kim and I were impressed with her language skills and her imagination.

At […]


World Book Day or World Outfit Day?

As an author of a recent children’s book series and someone who loves reading (despite being dyslexic) I love the idea of World Book Day.

However, it didn’t surprise me to read an article, that when it comes to World Book Day, parents spend more on outfits than they do on books.

There were numerous threads on social media on the subject, including from author Alom Shaha, who shared these thoughts.

“If you work in a primary school, please think about how asking children to have costumes for world book day might *not* be a good idea. There are lots of ways to celebrate the day without causing unnecessary expense and stress, especially for poor families…If you’re lucky enough to not know the shame of not being able to participate in such things, you probably think I’m being a grump. You’re wrong.” I believe that with a bit of thought we can […]


Understanding parents

I love Sunday evening period dramas, particularly in the winter months. Call the Midwife is one of my favourites, always finding a way to pull at my heart strings.

Sunday’s episode featured a mother who seemed overly concerned about her baby, imagining the worst outcome regarding its wellbeing. On reviewing her medical notes, the staff discovered that her first child had died in his sleep aged eight months and the anniversary of his death was looming.

In the episode, as soon as they were aware of this the medical team showed compassion and empathy towards the mother.

This made me think about how we can support parents and be less judgemental.

We can sometimes put labels on parents: ‘lovely family’, ‘caring’, ‘he’s demanding’, ‘she always has something to say’. We need to press the pause button and not place parents in the ‘good parent’ or ‘bad parent’ file. Labels are not helpful.

What is helpful, is trying to understand […]


Personal experiences and professional theories

I recently read a thought-provoking, inspiring and personal blog post by Annie Richardson. I let Annie know how much I’d enjoyed reading it.

In it, she reflects on her family, growing up within a minority community and her career and journey into Early Years.

You can read her blog here.

For me, Annie has shown vulnerability by sharing her own narrative and this is something that Brene Brown’s informative research is based on, as she asserts her paradoxical view of how vulnerability can also be a strength. Indeed, Annie has shown courage and strength in sharing her personal and professional history.

Annie also reflected on whether it is better to share more head than heart in her blog. My opinion is that blogs should be from the heart: personal reflections, observations, a comment or whatever you feel you want to write. Blogs are different to writing an academic or […]


All about professional development…

I have at times read with interest on social media and heard on my travels, that providers believe that if they don’t undertake training then they will be penalised by Ofsted, with a few claiming that this was the reason they didn’t get Outstanding. To clarify, Ofsted do not require you to have undertaken face-to-face training.

I have said many times that language is important and that it is the term Continuous Professional Development (CPD) that should be used.

Training makes up only a small percentage of CPD. There are many other areas of CPD, including: reading research, journals, papers, blogs, visiting other settings, taking part in webinars, listening to podcasts and attending workshops, briefings and conferences. Training also includes connecting on social media chats, such as #EYTalking on Twitter, watching Facebook lives, inspirations from Pinterest and Instagram. It can even be watching a […]


World Environment Day

Yesterday was World Environment Day. My colleague, Francis Joseph, shared this image on his Facebook page.

I love this quote and reflected also on how quickly we change our setting environments without considering whether the change will have a positive impact on children’s learning and development. How does the change mirror the setting’s ethos/values? Are we changing just because it’s trendy to do so? Are there links to evidence, practice and/or research?

A case in point: children can experience the benefits of mud without a mud kitchen!

What a timely reminder that, the World Forum’s, International Mud Day is on Thursday 29th June, 2017. Here’s an informative blog to read on the event.

Follow the conversation on:

Twitter: @IamLauraHenry

Facebook: @LauraHenryConsultancy

 


We were told!

For a number of years, I have been perplexed by the amount of unnecessary paperwork that educators complete within their settings.

It’s important to remember what the EYFS states:

“Assessment should not entail prolonged breaks from interaction with children, nor require excessive paperwork. Paperwork should be limited to that which is absolutely necessary to promote children’s successful learning and development.” EYFS, 2014

On various social media platforms or when delivering training or speaking to clients, I hear comments such as:

“We were told to do this.”

 “Ofsted want to see this.”

 “The local authority advisor has given us a month to complete this.”

 “A consultant/trainer suggested this was the best way.”

As a consultant/trainer, I see myself as an advisor, which means that it is only advice.

In addition, in some settings the system is so complicated that educators are unable to fully vocalise why they do what they do.

“Less paperwork = more time with the children!”

In my opinion, […]


Respect the uniqueness of every child

My son’s final parents’ evening and my final one as a parent, was on Wednesday night. Fingers crossed for university next year. Ro didn’t attend and decided to go to a ‘drum & bass’ concert with his mates! Yes, on a school night! Ooh, to be young!

I fed back to Ro what the lecturers said. They also shorten his name – just like we do! Shows that they know him!!

“100% he’ll have a successful career in the creative industries. His thinking is unique… original ideas… lovely son… great student. Great sense of humour…witty… academic… no complaints… you should be proud… reflective student… his work is outstanding!”

Ro wants to work in interactive media, in the film industry.

However, since the age of four, it’s always been the same area for improvement from his teachers: “He needs to speak up more.”

Ro said to me. “Hmm, yes, but if I do that I’ll be the same as everyone else!”

“Indeed, […]


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 […]