Wednesday, 31 August 2011

No - we dont read that here!

How classic stories are being omitted from nurseries and preschools

When I did a talk on books at my local Children's centre a few weeks back, I was shocked to hear that stories I have always read to children are now being banned from childcare settings because of their political correctness. The book in question was "The Tiger who came to tea" by Judith Kerr because apparently, it makes the Mum in the story come across as stupid!! Whatever next! The way I see it is that children do not see books as we adults interpret them. I have never ever had a child say to me they think the Mum in the story is stupid! As a result of someones opinion, children are being deprived of a delightful story, which has been loved for many years.

Another story I used to read when I first started in childcare 14 years ago was that of the Hairy Toe. The children used to love it and asked for it constantly. But, yet again the book was advised not to be read as it was deemed to scary. It is such a shame that this happens, it should be a child's choice as to what book they want to hear or read. Even the way practitioners read books has changed. I loved the story "Not Now Bernard" by David Mckee when I was young, but was warned to change how I read it when reading it to children, as the Monster bites the Dad in the book. I have this book in my collection for my daughter. I will read it how it is written, all I will do is say how biting is not nice - simple.

Authors spend a lot of time writing children's stories ( I know, I have tried myself!) and I am sure many of them would be appalled to hear that their stories are being changed or banned for something as trivial as how characters come across. These books may have been written a few years ago, but are as endearing as when they were first published and should be treasured as such. I feel like I have really ranted today, but I feel so strongly about children's literature and have such a great love of children's books, I feel I must stand up for them!!

Are there any books you have to read differently or are not allowed to read in your setting? I would love to know, so please email me!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Creating a music area

Music is a great way to make the most of your music area!

Not many nurseries and Pre schools have a music area. This is usually due to lack of space where so many areas have to be created. But, it doesn't have to be a huge area at all, and having a place to explore music can do wonders for children's learning!

The easiest place to think of is near where you have your CD player. If it is high on a shelf, then move it down!! For Pre- school aged children, it is great for them to have the opportunity to choose their own music to listen to. If you are concerned about the player being toyed with constantly, you can have a "Music Monitor" who chooses the music you listen to during the session. (this ca also help prevent squabbles about the choice of music!) I have seen this work very well in a Nursery, and also helps children with their ICT skills by learning how the machine works. Offering a range of music styles is also good to increase their knowledge of music from other cultures and around the world. I laid out Chinese, south African, Australian didgeridoo.......they all spark off great interest!

Another good method of practice is to have instruments freely available in the area. This allows children to gain access to equipment in order to explore rhythm at their leisure. Adding new and interesting instruments can spark of great conversations. I once brought in a didgeridoo of my husbands, and even bought back instruments from my holidays abroad for the children to see! I also placed pictures of people playing instruments around the room, printed off from the Internet with the names of the instruments written alongside. These were laminated and placed at the children's height for them to explore. You could also make these into cards if you are not able to place pictures on the walls. By doing this, you can also promote equal opportunities, as i found a range of different cultures and children from a range of different backgrounds to display.

To finish off one area I worked on, I hung musical notes from the ceiling. This defines the area to the children. To add to this, I had also found old sheet music, which I placed on the area for the children to look at, photocopying some for them to write on too!!

I would love to see pictures of your music area and find out what you have done to create music fun in your setting! Please email me, I will be happy to show them on here!!!

Monday, 29 August 2011

Danger for children who dont play outside?

By keeping them indoors, are parents doing their children more harm then good?

Today, the Daily Express printed an article about the dangers of keeping children indoors. With all the bad things happening to children on the streets, many parents are keeping their children safe from harm. But, the American Journal of Play asked some experts to research the fact that children are not getting any unstructured play and how it is effecting society.

They stated that without free outdoor play, children were more likely to become obese and have less chance of developing social skills. Children need to be able to build dens, climb trees and explore their surroundings. But, as a parent myself, I can empathise with parents wanting to keep their children safe from harm. It isn't easy to allow your children free reign when so much is going on out there which can cause harm. At the end of the day, although we may trust our children, its the other people out there whom we simply feel we cannot trust.

My solution? Allowing children to part of activity groups where unstructured play occurs, but well supervised. And why not carry out this sort of play with your children? If you encourage den building, it will soon spark an interest!! It is a hard one to call, but if we allow our children a little free reign within the bounds of some supervision, we can still prevent obesity occurring.

What do you think?

Sunday, 28 August 2011

A pinch of salt...........

How much is too much?

I have been requested by Katrina on Facebook to discuss salt and how much children need to have, especially with convienience food taking over the shopping trolleys. It is something I have been concerned about myself, especially once Emily began to ween and also as it is something i avoid because of my high blood pressure.

There is salt in a lot of foods you wouldn't even think of...........bread, biscuits, baked beans to name a few. These hidden salts do make it difficult for parents to keep track of how much salt their children are getting in their diets. A child aged 1-3 years only needs 2g of salt a day, 4-6 year olds 3g and rising to 6g by the time they reach 11 years old. ^g is the equivalent of a teaspoonful of salt. ( By checking the labels on the food your child eats, you can work out how much they are getting, although these labels often mark the content as sodium (0.1g of sodium in a 100g is a good level)

There are many ways to avoid salt too. When I was told to cut down on salt, I looked at my diet and cut out crisps totally. Another casualty was my beloved Marmite....although very good for B vitamins, it is very high in salt and therefore should be given sparingly to children. I also stopped buying pasta sauces and canned soup and began to make my own, as this cut the salt content in my diet drastically. By cooking for your child from scratch, you can see what is exactly going into your child's diet and therefore can help them to be healthier in the long run.
Not adding salt to your meals is also a big help.

Supermarkets are labelling their products with the salt content on the labels, but there are still a few products which need you to read the ingredients on the back. Remember, the higher in the list salt appears, the more there is in the product. There are many lower salt alternatives out there, especially for high salt content products such as gravy granules and butter. It can be very confusing, but you can read more about salt on the NHS choices website, which is very useful for many health queries and worth a look.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Developing fast!!

I never could have imagined how much can happen in 2 weeks!
We have just returned from holiday and as well as being totally relaxed, we are also gobsmacked at how much our daughter has changed in the space of a fortnight! You seem to wait ages for a new development and then all of a sudden, your child can surprise you and go all out in one!

With Emily, it has been both language development and physical development. Although she had begun to create animal sounds before we left, we have now added horse (clip clop!) sheep (baa!) and the sound of snoring to signify sleep! On the physical side, she has begun to pull herself up to stand and has cruised a few steps whilst doing so! At 13 months, we had anticipated the standing and are sure before we know it, she will be walking!

It has just amazed me how much she has grown up in this short amount of time. We have had a few issues with settling in new surroundings, which was to be expected and with the onset of another tooth, I cant say the holiday was all plain sailing. But socially, Emily has shone by being so receiving to all of the new faces she has encountered and sharing a house with 15 other people and 3 dogs! Everybody soon saw how quickly she catches onto things and processes her thoughts and actions. My Dad noticed that she was looking at a newspaper, licking her finger before turning the page, as he does every morning!

It just goes to show that no matter how much you long for your child to move on in their development, it can still be very overwhelming and powerful when it does! Things are moving so fast, before we know it she will be off to school and begging me to play outside with her friends!! I had better cherish these moments before they pass me by!!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Going on holiday!!

Packing for a holiday with a child in tow.........we never knew how stressful it can be!!
As my husband is at work and I am a stay at home Mum, it has fallen to me to organise everything for our fortnight away on holiday. We are staying in the UK, so the hassle of remembering passports isn't an issue, but we still have the many interesting tasks of deciding how many clothes to take for our little girl, what toys, cutlery, bowls, toiletries..........oh yes, and then there is us!!

It is harder packing for a holiday in the UK, as you have the difficulty of knowing what the weather is going to do. We therefore have a range of long sleeved tops, short sleeved tops, trousers, skirts, dresses and shorts (hoping for a mini heatwave!!) Not to mention the fact she is going through 2 or 3 tops a day at the moment(Long story!!) so even with the washing machine in our accommodation, we have to think practically!! I dread to think where we will put anything we buy on holiday, which we are bound to do, this being our first holiday as a family.

I have learnt it is a ll about organisation. I have a husband who leaves things to the last minute.....therefore I got him packed last weekend! But I tried desperately to do all the washing and have it dry and packed away so I come home to a tidy house with only a few holiday clothes to wash. Well, the house is OK, but the wash basket is still full thanks to a messy husband and equally messy daughter!!! Oh well, the trick is now to relax!

My tips for holiday organisation are:

Don't leave things to the last minute!
Pack what you need.......if you forget anything, it isn't the end of the world (more excuse to shop!)
If it helps, make a list of what you need to take for your child
Make sure if you are going on a car journey, your child has toys, a drink and a neck pillow in case they go to sleep
Remember it is a are meant to relax!!

Trust me, I have had a headache from stressing about whether I have remembered to pack everything and will it all fit in our car!! I have had to take a deep breath, and remind myself that I deserve a holiday and as it is my daughters first proper holiday, we need to make it as fun and memorable as possible!!!

This is childcare Clair signing off for two weeks!! See you again at the end of the month!!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Holiday Activity idea!

Children bored? Get them making a miniature garden!!

It's a long holiday, so thinking of ideas to keep your children occupied can be a little tricky. How about trying a miniature garden? Its a fun way to be creative and create a little place for your children's little figures or Lego people to live in!!

All you need to do is find a tray (supermarket trays that you get vegetables in are great), grab some soil or compost from the garden, a bottle top to create a pond, stones and/or sand to make a path and grass and flowers, leaves etc to create your growing areas. You can even plant cress or various grass plants and rockery shrubs to make your garden a living one!! You can use lots of other materials such as lolly sticks to create walkways or little benches. Foil can be used instead of bottle tops to represent can even use Lego to build a little shed!! I love the idea of creating a fountain using an old CD and some tissue paper, like in the photo above!

It is something so simple and so fun to do ( I remember making one as a child!) If you make one, I would love to see your pictures and I will post them on here too!! Give it a go!!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Story telling

Stories are so important and really can make a difference!!

Today I did a talk at my local children's centre on storytelling. It went really well and just chatting to the other Mums about the impact stories have had on their children has made me even more positive that books and stories are vital in the development of children.

The government are stopping their Book start scheme for 2-3 year olds, which is such a shame as this is the age where children are really beginning to gain an interest in books. I am disappointed that my daughter will not get this service offered to her, as she already has a love of books which has amazed me. Stories are so important in children's lives. I heard parent telling me about their experiences with stories and books and I was so pleased to hear there are parents still instilling a love of stories with their children. One Mum said she was amazed how her child loved to hear the story of the Hungry Caterpillar and loved to read the part about the watermelon being eaten! Unfortunately, so did his sister and this caused arguments!! But, her child worked out that if they took turns, if he said the other foods in a certain order, he would get to read the watermelon part!! This is early maths in action, learning sequences from one story!!

And it starts in the womb! Another parent told me how her son would kick when she read the Gruffalo........and not with other stories!! It is amazing the power stories, the tone of your voice and books can be! It was sad to hear some parents say that they had been told they shouldn't read to their child because they read it "wrong". Just because you don't feel comfortable doing "voices" or putting emphasis in your reading, does not mean you shouldn't read to your child. It doesn't matter what you sound like, the importance is sharing that story with your child and the bond it can help to create. With 1 in 3 homes having no books, it is important we change this and give our children the love of books that so many of us had as children. And for those who didn't get the chance to gain a love of books, what a perfect opportunity to get the chance to fall in love with books with your child! It is amazing what books are out there!

Many thanks to those parents who listened to my talk today and to those who helped to support me to do the talk today

Monday, 8 August 2011


With all the violence going on in London, I am wondering why I bought my child into this awful world!!
You cant protect your children from everything, that's a fact, but whilst watching the news today, I fund myself apologising to my daughter for bringing her into a world where mindless people do mindless things, purely for the fun of it.

I found myself crying at the television this morning. Mothers trying to protect their children from the rioters, but still being harmed. Others calling for help whilst their houses burn and their children are stuck inside. It makes me so cross that this should be allowed to happen. I know this site is used for advice for parents and practitioners, but I felt I needed to vent the way I feel as a parent right now. I sit watching the news unfold, wondering how I would react if that was me trying to keep my family safe. We do it everyday in some respect, tyring to keep our little ones from harm. In those situations such as in London, peoples cries for help were being seemingly ignored by the police and as a result the public who are not part of the riots, are losing their homes and livelihoods.

It angers me that the people doing this have no thought for those they are hurting. I saw on the news a youth being helped to their feet after being injured, only to be robbed at the same time. It just is beyond belief. My thoughts are totally with all the families and innocent people affected by this craziness.

And my words to those doing this................... think about the parents and children who have done nothing and are suffering because of your "disagreement" with the police.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Thinking about the old days!

So young when I started, but the benefits are still coming through!

Yesterday, I met up with children I looked after about 10 years ago! It was very bizarre, watching them playing with my little girl, something I would never have imagined all that time ago! That is the beauty of working with children, they stay with you long after they go off to school! It is crazy to think after so many years that you can still be remembered, but so lovely when you are. It is mostly through the parents, keeping the memories alive!

As a practitioner, you sometimes don't realise what a difference you can make. Parents rely on you to look after their most precious thing in the world, and it is up to you to make an impression and a good relationship. I always kept a professional relationship with the parents when I worked in settings, and carried this on when babysitting etc, but I have been very lucky that once the children have gone off to school, the relationship has become more of a friendship! That for me was always very important, to keep that distance and not become too friendly when working with parents, reaping the benefits once the children move on!

It is sometimes hard to keep yourself professional. You are not supposed to have "favourites", but I always found within each group of children I had, there were some who I just bonded really well with. This is only natural, but as a practitioner, it is your responsibility to remain professional, as getting too close can cause issues within your position, as well as with the child not settling with other staff. That is why I have always supported the idea of a 2nd Key person system, allowing children not to rely heavily on one member of staff. If that member of staff is off sick or on holiday, it can cause distress to the child if they are heavily attached. It even happens at home, my daughter went through a stage of screaming with her daddy because she was so used to me 24/7, but we had to persevere and make her realise her Dad is just as capable as me!!

So, what I am trying to say here is that those practitioners out there have a very important job, and although at times you may feel that you a pulling your hair out, the truth is you are really making a difference to families out there, some of which can last for ages. I am truly blessed to have met some lovely children in my 12 years in childcare, and hope that we can be in touch when they have children of their own!!!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Up all night and early to rise!

Prefer a picture like this to your child's sleep pattern driving you mad?

Sleep - it is a big issue for parents from the moment their little one makes their entrance into the world. There are so many issues regarding sleep, or lack of, with children, but today I have been asked to look at when toddlers are up during the night and still wake up in the early hours!!

There are many reasons why toddlers wake in the night. There are the obvious nappy and teething reasons but also night terrors, temperature and separation anxiety. At the moment, we are dealing with the latter. If our little girl hears us upstairs, she begins to scream for attention. I quickly learnt that the best thing to do in this case was to ignore her. She soon drifts back off to sleep!! If there was anything seriously wrong, she would cry for longer and that's when we would go in. ( I usually leave her for 7-10 mins before going in)

Our sleep routine is simple........story, bath, milk and then bed. There is no hanging about once we get in the room. We put her in bed and then say goodnight and straight out of the room. Sometimes we have tears for a good 5-10 mins, other times she goes straight off. We gave up the dummy at 9 months, and she has a sleep blanket which she only has at sleep times. There are many techniques you can try, but its worth finding out what works with your child and to doesn't work straight away (and you do need to be firm with yourself!!)

Technique 1 - A simple check technique where you go into the room and pat your child on the back, telling them its time to go back to sleep. This involves no picking up or cuddling and being firm but gentle in your tone. leave the room and go back in 5 mins, doing this repeatedly until they drift off. Doing this alongside a consistent night time routine should help to stop night waking.

Technique 2 -Have a consistent nap time routine in the day. Always have the nap times at the same time every day, if you can (we have found our daughter is now down to one nap in the morning around 9 o clock, which makes her more ready for bed at 6.30 and she then sleeps through) Try not to rock your baby or give a dummy to go to sleep, instead try to get them off by simply placing them in their cot and leaving them to self soothe. This is a hard thing to do at first, but we are proof it does work!!

Technique 3 - Make sure there is a consistent bed time routine which is comforting and supporting. If your child calls out to you, do not rush in, but merely call back to tell them how proud you are they are going off to sleep in their bed. By reassuring but not rushing in, they know you are there and they are safe without needing to be held.

As for the early risers ---- well, first you need to check the environment. Is the sun streaming through the window at 5 am? A black out blind or curtains may help solve this. Do you need to rethink your baby's bedtime. Funnily enough, putting your child to bed earlier can actually help them to sleep till later in the morning, as they are less likely to be sleep deprived!! With our little one, we have a rule of 6.30am! If she wakes before this and is chatting away or just moaning, we leave her and she either goes back to sleep or continues to play. We then go in at 6.30 to greet her. There are times she cries to get up, usually for a nappy change or thirst.

I hope this is of some help, there are lots of other sleep problems to discuss, if you have any queries please email me. Thank you Louise for your email, I hope this post will be of use to you

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Two recipes for tart cases!

Here are 2 recipes created by myself and my fellow Tums to Mums ladies!

We did a bit of experimenting in the kitchens of the Children's centre today, discussing weening and trying to be a bit more adventurous! After much deliberation as to what to create, we came up with two delicious recipes for a savoury and sweet tart. So have a read and give them a go, they are really simple and easy to make!!

Fruity tarts (by Childcareclair!!)You need:

Pack of sweet pastry cases
1 apple
1 Nectarine
A handful of strawberries
1 pot apricot yogurt
1. Skin and chop up the apple and nectarine and slice the strawberries into small pieces
2. Add the fruit and yogurt into a mixing bowl, saving a couple of strawberry slices aside.
3. Using a hand blender, blend the ingredients together with a tablespoon cold water.
4. Once mixture is slightly smoother (you can leave some chunks of fruit!), place into the cases and place the remaining strawberries on the top.
5. Place in the fridge to set for 1 hour

This recipe went down really well with the Mums and looked and tasted fab!

Topsy Quiches (by Manda, Claire and childcareclair!!)You will need:

savoury tart cases
1 Large Carrot, grated
30g broccoli, cooked
Cherry tomatoes (about a handful)
Some grated cheese
1. Using a hand blender or food processor, blend the tomatoes and broccoli together until a paste is created.
2. Spoon the mixture into the cases
3. Place the grated cheese and carrot on top of the mixture and place under a grill for 5 mins, or until the cheese is brown and the carrot crispy.

These taste fab!! The beauty of both recipes is that you can adapt them to create different combinations. Adding chunks of ham to the "Topsy quiches" or crushed pineapple and different flavoured yogurts to the "Fruity Tarts" Give them a go..........let me know if they go well!!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Taking risks!

It is sometimes best to step back and allow our children to take a risk!

Our little girl got a bit brave the other day, and decided to climb onto a box. She was ever so proud of her achievement, smiling from ear to ear and clapping her hands when she reached her goal! In 2007, the charity ROSPA suggested that it is better for a child to occasionally fall out of a tree then to be sitting in front of a computer game. Generally, parents are very adverse to allowing their children to take risks, meaning that they are not getting the chance to try new experiences out and learn by their mistakes.

I think that as long as an adult is nearby to oversee a child's risk taking, and that the risk is not too dangerous (eg playing with fire!!) there is no reason why children shouldn't take a few risks. I could have been very jumpy when my daughter started climbing on the box, but I was nearby, there was carpet around her and the fall would not have been too far. If I would have panicked, it would have caused distress for her, making her feel uneasy about trying out new things.

Local authorities are running courses for practitioners about allowing children to take risks and how it can help their development. There is a managing risks in play provision document which underlines how practitioners can make sure risk taking in settings can be done safely. When you really think about it, do you allow the children in your care to take small risks? If children take a few minor risks, they will begin to risk assess by themselves. In fact, many settings now encourage their pre schoolers to risk assess activities and rooms when they arrive at a session.

I would love to know others thoughts on this. Email me at

Monday, 1 August 2011

Playdough recipe

A playdough that is a bit different for you to make with your children
This playdough recipe is one I used a lot when working with children. It smells great and lasts for a week when stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Give it a go!!

2 cups Ground coffee,
1 and 1/2 cups cornflour
1/2 cup salt

Mix all the ingredients together unti, pliable, adding water and flour until workable.

Have you got a playdough recipe that is different and fun, email it to me and I can put it on the site for you!!