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Confident Talkers – Conversations for Early Years

“Why is this special to you?”

“How do you know when your friends are sad?”

Asking children open-ended questions helps them to think critically and expand their vocabulary. It also builds their confidence, aiding their personal, emotional and social development.

In these Confident Talkers cards, I’ve put together 48 such questions to engage and stimulate conversation with children from two to seven years.

Each card contains a thought-provoking question that can be adapted to any number of situations – inside or out and about, playing quietly, on the go, in the car or at the dinner table. You can use different scenarios and objects to set the scene, such as using something the child has created, describing what their lunch tastes like or discuss how they feel about a special event, such as their birthday or other celebration.

By encouraging conversation children learn new words and concepts, develop active listening skills, learn to problem solve and make connections, and most […]


Home is home and school is school

I am delighted to hear that the charity Family and Childcare Trust has a dedicated Family Friendly Week. It is right to celebrate the family as a bedrock of society.

There are many pressures on family life: one of my ‘bug bears’ is homework!

My view is that in primary school homework should not be set. School is school and home is home! There is enough of a burden put on children from an early age with SATs in Years 7 and 11.

I have seen parents with their children doing homework on trains, in cars and even walking to school. Parents anecdotally comment that they have to rush back from family events to make sure homework is completed. Children getting into a state because they feel that their homework is not ‘good enough’.

When my boys were little, we had more fun visiting museums and other places of interest […]


Please Sir, can I have some more?

It is refreshing that the Government has introduced a new incentive of free school meals for young children.

Over the last 10 years Jamie Oliver has campaigned for healthy school lunches. I applaud him for his tireless campaigning to promote and make changes in what our children eat whilst they are at school. Children should be given freshly cooked food.

One of the things I strongly dislike about the school lunch environment is the use, in some schools, of these trays:

My reason for disliking them is that prisoners’ meals are served on these trays! Surely our children deserve better than this?

There is excellent practice in the classrooms, but then at lunch-times there is a shift in quality, which could easily be avoided. In essence, quality practice should be seen in all areas […]


Your name’s not down, you’re not coming in

I recently read a story, which quite frankly shocked me, both as a parent and an educational professional.

In brief an 11 year old was unable to join her friends for a special end-of-year treat for pupils who had a 100% attendance record. This child had missed one day to attend her mother’s funeral.

Please read her full story.

I have never been a fan of rewards for 100% attendance at school or work, be they certificates or treats, as this creates a culture of shaming those who haven’t achieved full attendance. There will be a variety of reasons for absence, for example a virus, a long term medical condition, or a sensitive personal issue. It is outright discrimination, creates divisions and can make some children feel under pressure to attend.

It can also lead to children becoming ‘people pleasers’. Yes, attending school is important, but children and parents should […]


Philosophical Play in the Early Years Setting

Communicating with children and interpreting their play and language requires skill and a sensitive approach. Therefore it gives me pleasure to have Sara Stanley, who supports children by using a philosophical approach, as my guest blogger

Sara is a registered level 1 SAPERE Trainer and National and International keynote speaker. She runs workshops, in service training and courses in Philosophy for Children (P4C) and enabling enquiry based classroom environments. She is also involved in long term projects working in Early Years settings in South African townships, working with Nali’Bali, PRAESA, the University of Cape Town and the DG Murray Trust.

Sara writes:

 “It could be said that children are at their most philosophical in their formative years. If you take Socrates’ provocation that “All I know is that I know nothing” then we see everything as new and puzzling. To a child the whole world is a new and strange place; a place where some things make perfect […]


Whose Voice Should We Listen To?

On Twitter I follow Huffington Post Parents and I read a tweet with the introduction, ‘Parents of a 7yr old boy in a wheelchair were shocked when they saw his class picture…’  With such a headline I had to click to read the article in full. Please read the article to get the background information on this story.

Like most people reading this, I was shocked by this story and then reflected on a few points.

The mother said the image was discriminatory. The father’s view was that although it was upsetting and hurtful the photographer and/or school did not intentionally discriminate against their son.

The photograph was retaken and this time Miles was sat on the bench with his peers. An expert on disability found this to still show a lack of awareness of Miles, as the wheelchair is part of him. Miles’s father commented that when he […]


Night, Night!

 “Sleep is the best medication.” Dalai Lama

We all know, as adults, that if we do not get enough sleep this affects us the next day – with symptoms that may range from feeling tired to being really irritable. Therefore, these signs of sleep deprivation may have the same effect on children and can have a negative impact on their day.

To ensure that pre-school children have a decent night’s sleep, they need on average about 12 hours sleep per night. If your child is not ill and your house is not too cold or too hot, (it’s always best to have a thermometer in your child’s bedroom) there is no reason why this can’t be achieved.

It is important that young children have an evening routine and become familiar with this. Children should be given enough notice that bed time is approaching; this can be developed by stating the following “We have five minutes before bed […]


Continuing Personal and Professional Development of the EYP in Early Years

It is an honour to have Kathy Brodie as my final guest post of 2012.

Kathy is an early years trainer and consultant and a lecturer in Early Years at Stockport College. She also undertakes coaching and mentoring, for practitioners with the Early Years Professional Status(EYPS).

Kathy has had articles in many publications as well as a chapter on Personal, Social and Emotional Development in ‘Early Years for Levels 4 & 5 and the Foundation Degree’ edited by Dr. Francisca Veale (Jan 2013: Hodder Education). Her book ‘Observation, Assessment and Planning: Bringing it All Together’ will be published in May 2013 by Open University Press.

Kathy writes:

“Many people with EYPS are currently worried about the future of status and the impact this will have on their personal and professional development. This is in response to the Nutbrown review which has put forward the suggestion of an early years teaching qualification replacing the EYPS (Nutbrown, 2012:8).

However, even though there […]


#EYTalking

I am launching a new initiative #EYTalking, via Twitter. In short, every Tuesday evening between 8:00pm and 9:00pm we will share national and international news, stories, research, blogs, documents and guidance via Twitter, using the hash tag #EYTalking. If you are a nursery, pre-school, day-care, childminder, out-of school club, nanny, school or you provide a service as a trainer, consultant, publication, organisation, company, college or university with an interest in early years and childcare then this is for you. Also, parents and carers who have an interest in early years will also find #EYTalking on a Tuesday evening the perfect opportunity to connect. There is a wealth of information out there which can be obtained from many sources, I often hear colleagues saying ‘I never have the time to navigate my way around websites and read threads on forums, etc’ or ‘Ooh, I missed that Tweet!’ With #EYTalking once a week, you will have the […]


We need to talk too!

“Truly great leaders spend as much time collecting and acting upon feedback as they do providing it” Alexander Lucia

As of late I have been very busy delivering supervision training in line with the revised safeguarding and welfare requirements of the EYFS.

One issue that comes up time and time again, irrespective of whether the delegate is a manager or owner, is that they receive no supervision or have a one-to-one with anyone. This is the same whether their setting is in the private, voluntary, independent or maintained sector.

This worries me slightly, as I believe that this should be in place for many different reasons: to discuss leadership and management issues, to focus on their own personal and professional development and, more importantly, to discuss how they support staff to make a difference to children’s learning and development.

Over the years I have coached, mentored and carried out supervision with managers and owners, with a focus on […]