Saturday, 15 October 2016

When a book becomes real!

One of the best parts of my job as a nursery teacher is that I get to enjoy reading children's books, of course I have my favourites and it's always good when the class enjoy them too! And sometimes the books we have read become a big part of play, the old classics like The 3 little Pigs etc. are always going to be incorporated into play but I love it when a more obscure book catches their imaginations and becomes part of their real life too!

This week we read 'Snip Snap' by Maria Bergman & Nick Maland, this is one of those books with a repeated refrain that the children can join in with and the illustrations are fabulous too. I have been reading it for many years and I can honestly say this is the first time any class has used it later for a role play scenario.
This year I have a class who are very detail driven, they notice the smallest things in lots of illustrations and this book was no exception. The alligator comes up onto the street through an open manhole cover and some of the children really honed in on this detail. "From under the street?" they asked me, "under where we walk?" asked another, "it's just a book isn't it, it's not real though?" asked another. This last question was probably prompted by the fact that I have reassured them before reading any books about witches or monsters or trolls by reminding them it is book and not real life. 

So, lo and behold, two days after we read the book, I brought out the chalks and showed the children that they could draw anywhere on the ground or tyres around the playground, one child was chalking on the ground and discovered a manhole cover. He quickly drew a pattern on the cover and said "That's to keep the alligator from getting up". Others gathered round and a whole discussion began on whether there was an actual alligator down there under the playground. They concluded, that whilst there might well be one (or several) down there, that our manhole cover was fixed so tightly in place that no alligator was ever going to come up through it!

Saturday, 1 October 2016

A month of fun!

The first climb up onto the summer seat - always a good moment!
I can't believe the first month of a whole new school year is over - there is no doubt that September is the hardest month as we get all 26 children settled into nursery, for many it is the first time they have been with anyone other than family. This year we also have 6 little ones who don't speak English so it has been difficult for some of them to settle - it must be do hard when you know the adults don't understand you or you can't understand them. 

It never ceases to amaze me every year at how quickly the 2 different groups become one big class & begin to gel and play together. Once most are settled and happy to let their parents go it is definitely easier to have the class as one group and we can really begin to get the routines of nursery into place. The class have been embracing every opportunity offered to them & I love their enthusiasm for tackling lots of new experiences. 

We are very fortunate that we will have 3 childcare students working with us this term so we will have a 3rd adult every day but even at this early stage I can say that this class is proving a very manageable one with just the 2 of us. We'll enjoy the next 3 weeks of getting to know names, having the whole new experience of lunch & dinner in nursery, exploring the playground in a variety of weathers & making our first visit to Bear Woods. 

Here are just some photos of some of things the class have been enjoying so far:
"It's my name" 

"It's a crocodile"

Saturday, 10 September 2016

So many skills in such a short time!

This is our daily routine, established on day 3.
Here I am 7 days in to a brand new term and with 24 of the 26 children having started, I am taking stock of all the new skills that they already taken on board in such a short time:

  • To wear a uniform.
  • To be part of a group of 12 other children.
  • To share 2 adults with 12 other children.
  • To walk through a room full of enticing toys & go outside.
  • To say goodbye to their parents or carers (not everyone's at this stage just yet)
  • To make a good attempt at taking their own shoes off.
  • To put wellies on to play in the sand.
  • To find their shoes & then take their wellies off.
  • To pull their sleeves up before washing their hands
  • To find their ticket for snack
  • To put a straw into a milk carton
  • To take the peel of a banana
  • To use a recycling food bin
  • Learning staff names
  • Learning peers names
  • Turn taking in a large group
  • To climb over lots of obstacles in the playground
  • To put a page on the easel before painting using magnets
  • To find their name & putting in on their finished art work
  • To take their page off & put it on the dryer
  • To leave a painting overnight before taking it home
  • To tidy up in small groups of 4 or 5
  • To listen to a short story
  • To sit in the story room
  • To wait for their parents or carers to come back
  • To have fun & make new friends
  • To walk away from all the lovely new resources, knowing they can come the next day
  • To take just 1 sweet from a full box on a Friday
When you see them all listed like that it is quite incredible and no wonder the children are tired! 
I am so adamant that preschool should be all about developing these important life skills and allowing young children to develop them at their pace. 
Here's to a fun filled year with all 26 children exploring and enjoying making new friends and learning lots of new skills.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Farewell to the long summer break!

Glamping with my female relatives to celebrate a 50th!
My long summer break was spent reading, drinking lots of coffee & meeting up with family & friends - sometimes during the school year, life just gets too busy to meet up & catch up with everyone so the 7 week break certainly provided the opportunity to do just this. 
Now as I gear up for the start of another school year, I can look back on my holidays and know that I made the most of every chance to have fun!

I started the summer break in Luxembourg with 2 good friends.
A welcome, off grid break in Donegal with my husband & mum.

Our 6th visit to the Edinburgh Festivals!

To finish the long summer break in London was the perfect end!

Here's to a great new school year and many more great breaks to look forward to!

Friday, 1 July 2016

Making separation easier.

The big green chair all ready for a child to climb up to reach the biggest hole.
I am all for making the parting between a child and a parent as easy as possible and not a fan of taking children crying from their parents or parents sneaking off without saying they are leaving. Having said that, if after a few weeks, if we know a child is settled and just prolonging the parting, we may well encourage a parent to leave, knowing their upset child will settle within 2 minutes. I have done a few posts on how we settle children into our nursery class & have to admit, it really does work best if parents are relaxed about the whole process. 
A few years ago, Juliet from Creative Star Learning Company did a lovely post about the different entrances she had noticed at the incredible Highway Farm Activity Centre & I was inspired by their little circular holes in the fences to give little glimpses of what lay beyond. I persuaded our caretaker to cut some into our gate & fence, thinking that this would allow the nursery children to 'spy' out into the main school or others to peek into the nursery playground. I never foresaw how important these little holes would become for many children each morning as they said good bye to their parents. 

Two years on, these holes have become part of the morning ritual and I would recommend them to any setting. The children generally get one of the big chairs & climb up to kiss their parents goodbye through the largest of the holes, some like to watch the car drive off before jumping down to start playing with their friends. 
This year some of the children discovered that there were lots of these holes in the gate & dotted along the fence & it was a truly gorgeous moment to watch 2 parents in particular taking the time to kiss their children through each of these holes - this often involved a 6 foot daddy down on his knees on the pavement on the other side of the fence to ensure he could reach the lowest holes!

I hope that this little touch helped some children to make that parting easier & let them feel they were in control of the separation.
As one little girl commented after her visit to Primary 1 "There are no holes in the fence or door in P.1" so maybe I can persuade the caretaker to get his drill out again!!

You can read more about our settling in 'policy' here:
A link to Creative Star's Highway Farm post:

Friday, 17 June 2016

Creating quiet spaces.

In a noisy and busy playground I think it is very important to provide areas within the space where children can retreat to when they need to be quieter or more reflective. Sometimes the children will create their own spaces within areas too - we have a pallet den at the back of the slide and some days it is used as space to just sit and read books whilst on other days it is a busy hub of climbing children.
Our willow dens have really bloomed in the last few dry weeks and the children are enjoying going into them to have conversations and be away from the business of the wider playground. It is lovely to hear snatches of conversation from within them or singing etc. as two or three children gather inside them.
We created a little reading nook under the slide a few years back and you often find solitary children in there enjoying books or again a little group gathered together sharing a favourite book. This class added a few extra chairs to allow for more friends to pile in. 
The tunnel in between the 2 slides always proves a popular spot for children to gather together and chat or just watch the world go by - it is also the go to spot when a child knows they have done something they shouldn't - I think they realise no adult will be able to get up there to them!

Some quieter children are drawn to the chalk board or to just sitting chalking on the ground, oblivious to everyone and everything else.
When designing new playground spaces I believe that little spaces to be out of sight and away from the hustle and bustle are important. I can only imagine that nursery with 25 other 3 and 4 years olds must be hard for those children who are introverts and they really need time to be allowed to just sit and reflect on they have experienced that day.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Creative use of ICT in the kindergarten.

Those who know me, are well aware that I am always looking for opportunities to travel through work after being bitten by this bug over 12 years ago through the British Council's Comenius programme (now called Erasmus Plus). Between 2004 & 2011, I was fortunate to be involved in projects that allowed me to visit settings in Norway, Italy, Poland, Sweden, France & Turkey. And have also had opportunities to visit Iceland & Lithuania through separate ventures.
So, a few weeks ago, I got an email through to say the British Council were running 3 PDW (professional development workshops) across Europe, and luckily one was really geared for me - Creative use of ICT in the kindergarten. I applied immediately and waited to hear whether I was successful or not, knowing such a course was bound to be very popular. Imagine my delight when I got a place! 
So I travelled to Oslo on the 2nd of June to spend 2 full days & 2 half days engaging with other early years professionals from Norway, Denmark, Malta & Czech Republic. The premise behind the training was to try & get all the participants (46) to go home with not only new ICT ideas & skills but to have found an eTwinning partner. (eTwinning is an on line project between a minimum of 2 schools)
It is great to actually meet up with colleagues before embarking on a project.
From the very first session, I knew this was going to be a great workshop, Peter from Denmark, shared loads of easy ideas to get the youngest children using ICT to acquire new skills or reinforce new knowledge. It wasn't about children all having access to an individual tablet or device or playing loads of games but about learning how to take photos, how to classify photos or justify what they have taken etc. 
Over the 4 days we go to test out lots of different apps & resources & more importantly, to chat to each other about how ICT is integrated into our curriculums. We also had time to listen to some colleagues talking about their practice. 

Me and my new eTwinning partner, Lone from Denmark.
I came back, totally enthused & raring to get going. It is not that common to attend events like this & get something almost every hour that I was able to take back to nursery & use.
I just asked each child to find 3-5 green things around the playground.

In just 2 days since I have been back, the children have had so much fun using the iPads to document their favourite things in the playground, green things or just created a guessing game based on shoes! 5 children & I also made a very short movie using StopMotion. I honestly hadn't though this was something nursery children could do until I saw some of the movies coming out of the Norwegian kindergartens. 
A great idea that was shared was from a Danish colleague - they use BookCreator to make transition books for their children. This is such a lovely idea & I want to try it for next year.
A major highlight for me was the unexpected opportunity to visit 2 kindergartens on the Saturday afternoon. 
So, my advice to any colleagues is, to keep an eye out for future PDW's on offer from the British Council & get your application in. 
For more information about eTwinning check out this link:
Find more information on Erasmus Plus here: