Tuesday 25 April 2023

The best place to be a child!

I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to work in our partner kindergarten in Norway over the Easter break, it was the perfect chance to spend time in the kindergarten without having to get cover for my own class while I was away. 4 of us in total took part in this job shadowing experience, 2 of us from N. Ireland and 2 from Croatia and as we all lived together for the 2 weeks it allowed for lots of discussions each afternoon and evening. 

I first visited Eikefjord Barnehage in 2006, then spent a week working there in 2008 and this transformed my practice. I revisit in January this year with my colleague and it was wonderful for her to see where I had got lots of my ideas from and why I had wanted to overhaul our class after spending time in this particular kindergarten.You can read about this previous visit in an earlier post on here. 

This time the plan was to spend time observing the outdoor class (5-6 year olds) and the 3-4 year olds, with each team spending at least 2 days with each group. The staff were just so welcoming and patient with our endless questions and the children just accepted these new grown ups who couldn't even speak Norwegian and made us part of their classes. 

The children all arrive into the kindergarten and go inside to their 'classroom', some arrive very early in the morning but the majority are all there by 9.15. Each class had approximately 14-15 children and 3 adults, 2 teachers and an assistant. At 9.15 both classes got dressed up for going outdoors, as I had previously discovered each class spends a lot of time outside not just the outdoor class. The kindergarten has a huge outdoor area, divided into different zones; a typical playground area with a slide, swings and sandpit, a steep bank and gravel area and a kitchen garden area. They also have use of lots of forest areas beside the kindergarten and above it. Some of the days the children got ready to go to a particular destination like the forest or woods, or out on the kindergarten boat (yes they have a boat!) whilst on other days they stayed in the playground but used the different areas throughout the day. They might have started out in the kitchen garden or swings etc. The outdoor class ate their lunch outside as much as possible and as they are the oldest children they didn't go inside for a rest time like the younger children did after lunch. 

In 2008 the thing that struck me the most was how calm the children were and they didn't have a lot of stuff to play with but I never heard any complaining of not knowing what to do etc. It was exactly the same 15 years later, these children are so well used to the space that they know exactly how to entertain themselves. Children are taught to make sure they can see an adult rather than the other way round and this gives them a lot more freedom to explore but equally puts the onus on them rather than on the adult. It was common to see groups of children heading off up the steep slope on their own and the adults were very relaxed and did not interfere with the play unless they felt they were needed to develop it or to help it progress. We tend to over teach in preschools and feel that unless we are in the middle of the play or leading an activity no learning is taking place. 

There were days that the staff had a particular aim and had groups of children with them to help e.g building planters, weeding or repairing structures but otherwise the children are left to play alone and develop their play as they want to without adult interference. By having 2 teachers in each class it also meant that 1 teacher could take a small group in to do more specific tasks e.g. precoding, whist the others were safely outdoors with the other teacher and assistant.

The atmosphere in the kindergarten is so relaxed and at least to all of us seemed very stress free. The children are definitely much more self sufficient than most of ours as they know each other so well having been together since they were very young (under 1 for most of them) and they know the environment too. The didn't keep coming up to an adult for reassurance like many of our children do, instead they wanted their peers approval. Staff are so skilled at observing that they don't need to be on top of the children either and what I noticed most of all was that no adult ever shouted for a child, they went to the child (unless the child was very far away from them). All staff are on the same page at all times and this consistency really helps the calm atmosphere too. If a child did hit another child or take something off them, the adult made a fuss of the 'wronged child' rather than admonishing the child who had been hitting or grabbing. When the upset child was soothed then they went to the other child to talk about what had happened, I really liked this approach and have been trying it in my class since I came back. (I say trying, as it does take a lot of patience!) 

Children are truly respected in this kindergarten and acknowledged as learners that will make mistakes, e.g they might not listen when asked to stay in one place, or to sit down when on the boat but they are allowed to be children and blind obedience is not expected nor are they punished for not doing as they were asked the first time. Our system too often will give a child one chance and if they don't comply they aren't given another chance but I liked how it was expected that a child would push boundaries as they are only children. 

I have come back from my latest visit to Eikefjord with lots of ideas of how I can be a better teacher and provide the best environment for my class. Being more patient is the biggest one for me! It also makes me very sad that our children only get 1 year of a play based preschool experience when I could see how much our 4-6 year olds could benefit from a more play based system. The emphasis in this kindergarten is on gross motor skills, independence and social & emotional skills, the academic skills will come later when they start school. 

Every staff member could say why they had this approach - they knew children need to have hands on learning experiences before you put pencils into their hands and ask them to sit at desks - they all knew of and referred to Froebel's Principles. 

It is one of the best places to be a child and they are truly living their best lives. 

Huge thanks to all the staff and pupils at Eikefjord Barnehage especially Dag & Katrine for letting us tag along in their classes and June Anne for sorting out the best accommodation ever!

Sunday 5 February 2023

Eikefjord revisited - Erasmus Plus.

The original wooden building has had a beautiful new build added to it. 

 *In December 2020 the U.K government withdrew from the EU funded Erasmus programme, despite assurances during and after the whole Brexit campaign and vote that this would not affect the U.K's participation. (After all many non EU countries already participate) It came as a complete shock to all involved and it proved to be yet another time when the Conservatives said one thing and then did another. The loss of this programme will have huge implications for staff, students and schools in the U.K and particularly those working with the youngest pupils as the new U.K Turing scheme does not allow for younger pupils to be involved as they would have to go abroad to visit schools and there are no staff development opportunities.*

The Full Steam Ahead team. 
Our school was very fortunate to be involved with Comenius and then Erasmus since 2004 and we had 3 projects running when Covid hit and were therefore able to add a further 12 months onto existing projects that should have finished in 2021 and 2022. It is through one of these KA2 projects 'Full Steam Ahead" that I was able to revisit Eikefjord Barnehage in January 2023. This project is all about outdoor learning and involves kindergartens and schools with kindergarten classes in Iceland, Belgium, Norway, Croatia and England. Each visit to a partner school allows the partners to bring an activity to do with some of the children in the host school and at the end of the project we will have a bank of ideas for fun outdoor STEAM activities. I was lucky to visit Iceland in December 2021 and Belgium in June 2022 and we hosted everyone in November 2022 at our school Our pupils in nursery and Foundation Stage (3-6 year olds) had a wonderful few days doing lots of fun activities with our different partner schools & they still talk about those few days months later. 

Inger & I first met in 2006.

Dag & I who first met in 2004. 

In January 2023 myself and Beverley who I work with every day in the nursery got to travel to Bergen and then onto Floro (the most western town in Norway) where we were based to spend 5 days with all our partners visiting Eikefjord Kindergarten or as it is known in Norwegian, a Barnehage.

This kindergarten was in a partnership with our school from 2004-2008 in our very first foray into European partnerships. During that project with preschools from Poland, Italy and Norway I learned so much and as it was very early in my teaching career it definitely shaped my practise. I first visited Norway in 2006 and then went back to spend a week doing a job shadow in the outdoor class at the kindergarten in 2008. You can read about that in this post:


This time I was excited for Beverley to see the kindergarten as, without her blind faith in me we couldn't have overhauled our setting after my visits there, I was really hoping when she was there herself she would see why I had wanted to start doing certain things back in our setting. It couldn't have been better as it had just snowed and we got to the see the kindergarten in a magical snowy state. 

Since my visit in 2008 the kindergarten has had a beautiful new building added on to the original old wooden building and it has been done so sympathetically & I was glad to see they didn't knock down the original building. The kindergarten now uses much more of the space around it and has incorporated a kitchen garden area - with a planting boxes, an outdoor kitchen, green houses etc. The whole outdoor area has a feeling of different destinations for children to interact within the wider outdoor space. As is typical in most settings I have visited across Scandinavia, they have a lovely peaceful staff room designated just for relaxation and separate work room so that there is no cross over while people eat their lunch or enjoy a cup of coffee. 

The relaxing staff room. 

Outdoor kitchen area. 

The work room. 

It was just a joy to be back in Eikefjord and I truly felt at home despite the language barrier. In my opinion it is one of the best places to work in and to be a young child attending. The whole place is so relaxed and chilled, nothing is hurried or rushed - in my opinion, it reflects all that I feel Froebel would have strived for in his original kindergarten. 

The activity day with the children - the best part of the project. 

What was also so special was that so many of the staff I met through the first project were still working there and it was wonderful to reconnect with them over the few days. The children were a delight to be around, confident and competent in their environment, climbing trees, sliding down steep banks, playing in shallow water in the forest and just very content and happy. In 2008 it was one of the things I noticed the most - how happy the children were playing outdoors with very little resources and not a lot of adults interference. Froebel saw autonomy as a key part of a young child and their experience in kindergarten and that is what I observed the most in 2008 and again in 2023 - children were confident to try things for themselves but the adults are skilled enough to know when to step in to assist or extend learning opportunities. 

At one point Beverley turned to me with the biggest smile on her face and said "I get it now" and I knew that she had seen exactly why I wanted to change so much when I came back in 2008 and I am so grateful that she trusted me enough to go along with it all. 

Beverley and I - without her trust in me I could never have overhauled our setting. 

I am returning over Easter with another colleague from home and 2 Croatian colleagues to work again in the kindergarten with the outdoor class and the 3-4 year olds and I can't wait to spend more time in this amazing kindergarten. My colleague is at the start of her teaching career and as I near the end of mine I can't wait to see what she brings back from our experience but I am also so angry that the U.K government has robbed younger staff and pupils of these wonderful experiences to grow and evolve practice through European partnerships. 

Sunday 23 October 2022

My Froebelian Journey Part 2

"Early Childhood is important in its own righting not merely a preparation for later learning. Learning begins at birth and continues throughout life" 

Tovey H. (2017) Bringing the Froebel Approach to your Early Years Practice p125

I am now 3 sessions in to my Froebel in childhood practice certificate and each online session just strengthens my desire to describe my own practice as Froebelian. It feels like I have come home and am among other practitioners who really get how early years education should be offered to our young children and their families. It is very interesting to see how Tina Bruce's Bedrock Principles are so interwoven with a Frobelian approach as it was these principles that resonated the most with me in 2003-2006 when I undertook further studies after my PGCE in Primary Education. I knew I wanted to teach nursery and that I would have to have robust knowledge of how young children learn to be able to be the best advocate for the type of play based curriculum I wanted to offer. My PGCE year was intense and was focused on primary teaching which seemed to be at odds with how I had seen young children learning in nursery when working as an assistant and later a substitute teacher. 

The biggest issue for me on teaching practice and then when subbing in primary was that stories were no longer read for pleasure. In nursery I had got used to reading or telling at least one story a day to the whole class, then in primary no story was read without there being questions afterwards or a dreaded worksheet to complete. It seemed like there had to be evidence of learning after every activity instead of trusting that the children were learning all the time.  So  I knew I needed further studies more based in early years so I could begin to articulate why I wanted to teach a certain way. I enrolled in a Masters in Early Education and it was whilst attending lectures that I was introduced to Bowlby and gained more insight into Vygotsky & Piaget. I heard about Montessori, Steiner and Froebel and began to read widely on practitioners who were influenced by these methods and approaches. One such person was Tina Bruce, I was just so struck by her Principles and I really enjoyed her style of writing. I loved the reading aspect of the Masters and probably spent more time reading in the library than writing my assignments. I devoured Margaret Edginton's The Nursery Teacher in Action and ordered anything written by Cathy Nutbrown. These were practitioners who had confidence in their approaches and were able to be advocates for the young children in their settings. 

I was terrible at research however, so decided to do an extra module and get a DASE (Diploma in Advanced Studies in Education) rather than do a dissertation to get a Masters. I really enjoyed the assignments and my then Principal was very helpful and read them for me to critique my writing style and to see if he, with no early years background could understand what I was writing about. This lead to us having an incredible relationship were we both learned from each other and he respected my early years knowledge and I was given a lot of freedom in the running of my class. I remember using Bruce's Principles as a way to explain why I would not be taking my nursery class to assembly or to eat in the dinner hall. I was able to articulate that the nursery year was not a preparation for school or P1 but that the young children in my class had a right to be 3 or 4 and had legitimate feelings and needs that should be met in the safe environment of the nursery classroom. These Principles particularly helped me argue for a more slowed down settling in period and of course this in turn does make it easier for the next teacher but it is not the main goal. 

I was very fortunate over the past 18 years to take part in the Comenius and then Erasmus programmes and was able to visit early years settings across Europe and host visits from European pedagogs in my classroom. The idea of kindergarten seems to be so natural and it always baffles me why in Northern Ireland, we only offer our youngest pupils one year of a preschool experience compared to the minimum 3-4 years their European peers are offered. 

Sometimes it felt like I was trying to cram 3-4 years of play experiences into 1 year and my day in nursery felt frantic as I tried to have it all. It felt very disjointed with lots of stopping play to transition to the next activity. I had the opportunity to listen to a webinar by the Froebel Trust and first heard the term 'wallowing in play' and it struck me as something I needed to work towards offering in my setting. If I am completely honest the recent Covid 19 pandemic was the turning point for me as a practioner, I was able to take part in many online trainings and webinars and I began to see how I could slow the routine down in my classroom to allow children time to actually get in to deeper play experiences. When visiting European kindergartens I was always struck by the gentle flow of the day, transitions were seamless and didn't always involve the whole class but more importantly staff and children had a lot more trust in each other - it was common for children to be out of sight and rarely did I see a whole group sitting looking an adult awaiting instruction. One big jarring aspect for me in my class was that we needed to clear the room to set up for dinner & this meant the children had to be in the story room for at least 30 minutes every day while the room was set up. I saw lovely dinner routines in the kindergartens I visited and really wanted to offer something similiar but we didn't have the space for a separate eating room or did we? Cue the pandemic and suddenly we closed the doors to families and children were dropped off and picked up from a gate or door and families were no longer coming into the setting & we had a big hallway sitting doing nothing. We took the decision to turn the hallway into a dedicated eating space and create a calm environment where half the class at a time could eat together whilst the other half remained at play. This has had the effect of slowing the whole routine down, children now have a choice, do they want to go for dinner now or in the second group? It allows for a relaxed ebb and flow in the play as the group dynamic changes from 27 to 13 or 14 children. 

Our current set up was inspired by Alison Clarke's research on 'Slow Pedagogy' (available here on the Froebel Trust website) and during the last 2 years I found myself drawing closer and closer to Froebel and those practitioners who are doing their best to reflect his approach in their settings. I love the term 'Slow Pedagogy' and am striving to ensure I try my best to offer such an approach in my classroom. As I continue on my journey I am constantly reminded of why I embarked on further studies over 16 years ago and why I need to keep on learning and connecting with other pedagogues who have similiar outlooks as myself. 

Sunday 25 September 2022

Enjoying a fire in nursery.

I have now been lighting a fire with my nursery class for over 10 years and at this point it feels very much part of the routine of the class. Before we ever light an actual fire we spend time teaching the children how to move safely around the fire, so as a class we sit round the fire pit and practise how to move seats by walking around the back of the seating area and not moving across the are circle. At present my class of 27 children are still in 2 smaller groups of 14 and 13 for 2 hours per day, so we use this settling in time as the perfect way to introduce fire safety and have a fire while in the smaller groups. 

We have a high percentage of children from a Newcomer (English is not their home language) this year so it is even more important to have lots fo practise time to make sure these children have grasped the rules. (If need be we have had families come in and run through the 'rules' with they child in their home language).

After a few run throughs we felt the groups were ready for a real fire and decided to start with the best science experiment of all times - popcorn. The children were so excited to have a fire but were a little disappointed when they saw the 'raw' popcorn - one child said 'My popcorn at home is big popcorn', so it was wonderful to allow them to see, hear and smell the transformation of the kernels. No matter ho many times I cook popcorn I always love that 'Ooooh' moment when the lid is lifted and the children see the 'big popcorn'. We have had 2 fires now with this class, popcorn and toasted brioche. They love the ritual so far, gathering around the fire pit, watching me set and light it and waiting to see what will happen to the food we are cooking. 

I regularly have other teachers come to visit on our fire days so they can see how it all operates and I am glad to say most if not all, go back to their own settings and begin to have fires with their classes. 

My Froebelian Journey

 "Play is the highest level of child development. It is the spontaneous expression of thought and feeling.....This is the meaning of the word 'play'..." 

Froebel (1826)in Lilley (1967), p.83-4

For those who are new to my blog or don't know my story, here is a short synopsis. 

I went back in 1999 to do my PGCE in Primary Education after years of resisting the pull of teaching. You can read more about that journey in this post: http://nosuchthingasbadweather.blogspot.com/2013/12/how-did-i-get-here.html

But suffice to say I become a teacher in 2000 and was determined to teach nursery or preschool rather than primary and so as soon as I had a job as a nursery teacher I began my Masters in Early Education so I could have a better understanding of how the young children I was going to be teaching operated and how I could best teach them. I ended up stopping at a DASE (this means I didn't do a dissertation) and this extra qualification certainly gave me the confidence to defend my practice and the rights of the young children I teach to an age appropriate curriculum. 

In the past 16 years I have read widely and attended many conferences in person and online and engaged with colleagues across the world to help me develop my knowledge and understanding of the youngest children in our education system. I have been fortunate to visit settings across Europe thanks to different funding programmes and engage in discussions with colleagues across the globe. These visits and interactions have had a huge influence on my practice. During all my time as a nursery teacher I felt myself drawn to one particular theorist - Friedrich Froebel, something about his ideas and approach just resonated with me. 

So here I am 16 years after I finished my DASE in Early Education, embarking on a new course through the University of Edinburgh  - A Froebel in Childhood Practice Certificate. This course can be done in person over 2 week in the summer but I am doing it online over 8 months.

You can find out more about this course here:


I am looking forward to delving deeper into all things Froebel and learning about other settings and practitioners who are already well on their Frobelian journey. I hope it will challenge me as a teacher and help me to introduce some new ideas to my classroom. After just one 3 hour session I already have lots of ideas about engaging families more widely and after the past two years it seems the perfect time to welcome families back into nursery and to strengthen the partnership between school and home. 

Even before Covid we spent a huge part of the nursery day outdoors but since 2020 have been based outside for the majority of the nursery day and it was great to learn from Dr Jane Reed that this is exactly how Froebel ran his kindergarten in Bad Blankenburg.

I will be using my blog as a journal to record and reflect on my journey as well as sharing some of the things I get up to with my nursery class. 

Thursday 1 April 2021

Let's Visit Numberland!

The Numberland Numbers from Haba. 

 In November 2020 I was fortunate to watch an episode of Early Years TV where Kathy Brodie interviewed Barbara Schindelhauer from Numberland. I just loved Barbara's enthusiasm for maths and the concept of Numberland really appealed to me as it encouraged deeper thinking about numbers and attributes of number than just by colour, shape or size. You can visit Barbara's website here: Numberland

It reminded me of a visit to a Swedish preschool where I saw young children using much deeper thinking about same and different than we would normally see in our settings, a child had brought 3 things that were different to show the teacher and one of the attributes was that the dinosaur was extinct and the other animals were still alive, it was far beyond the 'They all have 4 legs or are green ' that I expected. 

In Numberland each number has a house a garden, I loved that the houses had the amount of corresponding windows for each number and the gardens were shapes that could also have properties connected to that number e.g. a triangle for number 3, a pentagon for number 5 etc. I know as a preschool teacher that young children have no problem seeing anything as an animate object and I knew my class would love the wooden numbers with their faces and the fact that each number has a matching attribute to their numberness e.g. number 2 has 2 feathers on the hat, number 9 has 9 teeth. 

I made contact with Barbara straight afterwards and we began chatting through messenger and I ended up buying a set of the wooden numbers for my classroom. When they arrived I was so impressed by the quality and couldn't wait for the children to explore with them. Of course then we went back into lockdown and remote learning so the children didn't get to actually play with them until March. However I took them home with me so I could start to use them with the children during some live sessions. I was fortunate to have some little wooden houses that I could use for numbers as they had the right number of windows. During the live sessions I would hold up a house and the children would shout whose house it was & then they had to go get that same number of objects to show me. 

These wooden houses from Cosy were just perfect!

I had also downloaded the printable booklet from Numberland and it allowed me to make up laminated paper copies of the numbers, houses and gardens for the children to interact with more readily once we got back to nursery.

The printable Numberland resources. 

The wooden resources are made by Haba in Germany and anyone who has ever come across their products knows just how beautifully made and robust they are. Whilst a colleague was searching for a local supplier for the HABA fire pit she came across an Irish supplier called Jaggo Educational and I was delighted to discover they not only sold the fire pit but also all the Numberland resources, as it was becoming harder for them to be sourced from Germany thanks to Brexit. You can visit their website and specifically the Numberland resources here: Jaggo

The HABA fire pit that we use weekly in nursery. 
Once we got chatting to Jaggo about supplying schools in the North of Ireland a new partnership was formed & I ended up buying a fire pit for my garden too.
I also got the Numberland set of wooden houses, more numbers and number lane and blocks to try out with my class. 

I set the room up for a visit to Numberland and incorporated some of the Play to Learn More methods (read more about that here: Play to Learn More)
The children loved the concept of going to visit the numbers in their land and getting to see where they lived etc. After a few small group sessions I then allowed the children to just play freely with the numbers and their houses - 0-4. It was lovely to hear them chatting to each other and saying 'hey number 2 can I come visit you?' and 'Number 3 you would like this bike because it has 3 wheels' etc.
For after Easter I have set up 1-3 on a little table for the children to play with and during Numberland sessions in small groups we can explore more deeply who or what might visit each number because of their attibutes e.g. a cat could visit number 1 because she has 1 tail or number 4 because of her legs etc. 

I can't wait to see the children interact more and more with these beautiful resources and to learn more from Barbara. 

Monday 11 January 2021

Play Based Learning

So here in N. Ireland we are back to online learning as schools are closed to the majority of pupils. Moving online this Lockdown should been more manageable for most as schools have spent the last few months upskilling staff and pupils for this very situation - even though we would all prefer to teach face to face any day. 

Play with water outdoors to explore match and science. 

In preschool a lot of classes already use an online tool to keep in touch with parents and share what is going on in the classroom so that makes it easy to switch to home learning in many ways but this pandemic has made it harder to let parents experience a play based curriculum in person. 

Normally at this time of the year we would have a whole term behind us and parents would have been in and out of the classroom on a regular basis. In my setting many would have spent at least 10-15 minutes playing outside each morning with their child, joined us on school trips and visits and taken part in Stay and Play sessions. Even at pick up time, many parents would have enjoyed their child showing them what resources they had been playing with that afternoon or hoped to play with the next day. Monday to Thursday parents and children would have poured over a selection of books to take home and enjoy each evening. Last term was so different and definitely not how a preschool experience should be for parents. Parents have had to drop their children at the playground gate and pick them up from the back door every day, they haven't got into the school building at all and haven't been able to stay to see their child playing in the playground. I have uploaded videos and photos to our class app and school website but it is not the same as actually getting to spend an hour or two in the nursery or on a trip with us.

Make shapes, letters or numbers outdoors. 

So, now we move to online learning for our nursery children and for many parents this is an anxious time, especially if they have other older children at home and are trying to juggle work for themselves too. But as I listened to many questions from anxious parents I realised what an impact NOT being in the nursery this year has had on their perceptions of learning for a preschooler. 

For a preschooler the next few weeks are not about sitting up at a table learning letter, shapes or numbers from books or tracing letters etc. In my setting all learning is done through play, at no point do we sit the children down and say 'Now we are going to learn shapes etc.' and that isn't how it should be done at home either. 

Learning all about shapes whilst playing

There are 4 parts to the nursery day that I think it would be helpful to try and have at home some days - snack, lunch, tidy up and story are big transition times of the nursery day and they provide a welcome break between other types of play and learning. This year our day is even less structured and all the staff agree that is is a more pleasant day for all concerned. 

If parents want to help their child learn at home set up their toys for them and encourage your children to play independently for at least 30 minutes, if you have other children at home even better as they can play together. Let children role play and dress up, let them play with small world figures - people, animals etc. encourage them to chat away as they play, if you have time to join is do but it is important for them to learn to play on their own too. As children play with their small toys they are learning how to sort - they might put all the small animals together or all the ones on 2 legs or ones with babies. they might sort by colour, shape or size. Hopefully you will hear them chattering away to themselves as they try to make sense of their world through play - you will probably hear 'your voice' in there sometimes too as children repeat phrases you might say to them a lot. I always enjoy but also cringe when I see children playing out being the teacher with their peers and see them holding a book like I do or saying things they have heard me say (I hear the phrase 'Excuse me' a lot as I must say this as a way to show I am not happy with some behaviour!)

Play a game to teach prepositions - put crocodile in front of, side, behind etc. 

You could have a couple different types of play set up for them - building with blocks, lego etc. and drawing, small world play and books, don't be afraid to set out the clean laundry and ask children to sort it into piles of who it belongs to in the family, sorting socks is a great skill and a fun task for children whilst a terrible one for adults! Get them to sort out the cutlery too. 

if you can set them up at the sink with some water and toys and allow them to explore early maths and science through water play - this can of course be done outside too with a basin or bucket. Young children will endlessly fill and pour from one container to another and this is all great for understanding capacity and volume. On these very cold nights fill up some old containers with water and put some small toys into them and have fun trying to get them out the next day if they freeze.

If you have time, the biggest thing you can do is read with your child or get an older sibling to, they will benefit from time reading aloud and the younger child will gain so much. When reading one to one a child gets time to look at the pictures and discover small details, they are hearing rhyming words and understanding how words sound and this will all help them when begin to learn to read. You can point out 'their' letter when it appears in words and what other names or words have that letter. In preschool it is all about giving a context to learning - it is more important that a child recognise their letter in lots of different places that they learn to recite the alphabet without knowing what the letters actually mean. 

Young children learn by doing and by having fun rather than sitting up at a table with books etc. Go for a walk if you can and have fun counting how many steps between lamp posts, what numbers you can see or letters or shapes. 

During the next few weeks I'll try and write a few more posts about how to try and have some fun whilst learning at home. Best of luck to everyone who is trying to home school, work from home and manage younger children. You can do this and schools have got your back.