The Secret To Choosing A Good Nursery

Already know about The 3 Most Important Things In Choosing A Childcare Provider? Well maybe it’s time to go into more detail on how to spot a good nursery.

Like myself, a lot of people work in childcare because they’re passionate about it and want to make a positive difference in children’s lives. However, a nursery is still a business, and like all businesses, you can tell how things are doing by taking a close look at the staff.

Uh-oh. Too Many Kids?

If The Staff Aren’t Happy, The Children Won’t Be Either

It may seem obvious, but scientists decided to study it anyway:

Depressed Caregivers Hostile, Not Warm, To Children

So unhappy staff will have a negative effect on children. Simple. What’s less simple though, is judging how happy staff are.

How Do You Tell If Staff Are Happy?

If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to have a private chat with some of the staff. However, don’t expect them to come to you saying “Hey, this place sucks, get me out of here!” Other things you should look at include:

  • Turnover. Staff leave if they’re not happy, so check with the management what turnover is like. On the flip side, management will also brag if they have staff who’ve been around for a long time, so if they don’t do that, alarm bells should be ringing. And don’t just believe whatever management says; double-check with the staff.
  • Staff benefits. Good employment packages and opportunities for career development  go a long way in keeping staff happy. The current  nursery setting I’m in has booked a hotel for a training day, which has been great for morale.
  • Staff ratios. Nobody likes to be doing more than they should be, and staff ratios help to ensure that a room isn’t understaffed. Not every country has a legal requirement for staff ratios, but in the UK staff to children ratios are according to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), which is 1:3 for under 2s, 1:4 for 2-3s and 1:8 for 3-5s.

These are some of my personal views from a staff member’s viewpoint. I wonder how others feel about the issue?

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Why I Don’t Like Rewarding Children

I recently read something interesting about reward systems: The greater the reward for an activity, the more we’re programmed to believe we dislike the activity.

For instance, 2 groups of people were told to pick up rubbish in a park. One group was paid more than the other, and then both groups were asked how much they enjoyed the activity. The study found that the group which got paid more found the activity less enjoyable.

So the more someone is willing to reward us for something, the more we must dislike doing it right?

Probably. But does it apply to children? Well, in a childcare environment, I can’t exactly force children to go around picking up rubbish. And there’s not exactly a lot to offer them in terms of rewards either, nor can I survey them at the end!

Nonetheless, here are some of the experiences I’ve had with reward systems:

Reward Finished? Good Behaviour’s Finished Too!

The children were asked to sit down nicely, and whoever sat the nicest would be allowed to feed the fishes. One child who is normally very “strong-willed” thus sat extremely well, and was given the reward.

As soon as she had fed the fishes however, she started being disruptive and  challenging, and was put in time out within minutes!

Stickers, Pee And Poo

A less isolated incident would be a child’s toilet training experience, where he would be rewarded with stickers if he did well. This led up to the point that he would be eager to go to the toilet, and as soon as he’d performed his “task”, he would immediately demand a sticker.

Meanwhile, at home, not only did he have frequent accidents, but he actually hid under a table to do a poo!

Please feel free to share any success stories of your own though. On a separate note, the children actually enjoy picking up rubbish, because they like putting things in the bin.

I know, I’m not a big fan of either punishment OR rewards, so how do I get children to listen? I like the methods in the punishment article for instilling self-discipline, but it’s a gradual process which takes a lot of patience and effort. At least it feels like I’m building a proper relationship with the children, rather than just constantly threatening or bribing them.

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3 Social Understanding Activities For Young Children

Children Human Pyramid

Social Understanding Is Important For Kids To Fit Into Society

I’ve always found that young children are just plain self-centred. Even before they are born they’re already showered with attention, and their favourite first words will be me, mine and more.

Therefore, when I was required to plan an activity for my 2-3 years old age group, I decided to focus on building social understanding. I haven’t actually done it yet, but here are some of the best ideas that I came across while looking for a good activity:

Follow The Leader

Here’s the activity I’m going to try, which is an easier version of Changing The Leader. The children will take turns being the leader, doing whatever actions they wish, and the others will have to mimic their actions. I hope this will build on their awareness of others, as right now they wouldn’t even notice if they’re stepping on one another.

Lead Me

What better way to build trusting relationships than with blindfolds? One child will be blindfolded, while another will be responsible for leading him from one point to another. I’d probably remove the ‘verbal instructions only’ though, as the children are a bit young.

All In

I’ve actually been through an activity like this myself. The children will be grouped together in a contained area, perhaps on top of cushions or a rope circle. The area is then made smaller by removing cushions or making the circle smaller. They will have to communicate with one another as well as be aware of others in order for them all to stay within the contained area.

Building social understanding takes time, and it’s hard to measure the results. Nevertheless, children always delight in new experiences, so at the very least I hope they’ll have fun, and maybe even make some new friends.

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Men In Early Childhood Education: Why We Are Where We Are – Perhaps?

It’s not often that I come across a good, well-researched article on Men In Early Childhood Education. Therefore, when I read this article, I chased the author, Richard Harty, as well as Steve, the owner of the Foundation Stage Forum, for permission to post it here.

It took some time, and although I can’t copy the article here, it is now available to the public, so please click here and read it.

My favourite bit:

Although everybody agrees that there should be more men working in Early Years Childcare, it’s pretty hard to pinpoint exactly WHY there should be more men.

Discussions about the benefits of having more men in Early Years Childcare will begin with people saying things like ‘we are fortunate to have a man’, ‘the children love him’ or ‘I am a man and I do a good job’.

In other words, nothing really substantial.

From there, things normally descend into discussions about sexuality, pay, and negative misconceptions.

More words with little practical use in supporting the arguement for WHY we need more men in Early Years Childcare.

The Foundation Stage Forum

The Foundation Stage ForumThe Foundation Stage Forum, by the way, is an outstanding forum for Early Years Practitioners, with a very VERY friendly, helpful and active community.

I hope that someday, my own forum will be at least half as successful.

There’s a whole list of references towards the end of the article, for those who are interested. You won’t be able to join the discussion on the Foundation Stage Forum, however, unless you’re a member, so please feel free to voice your thoughts here.

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ARGH! Darn You Children!

First off, I’d like to say a big thank you to all my readers. I used to feel like I was just talking to myself, but recently, many of you have connected with me via comments, email and Twitter. You’ve really made my day by showing your support not only for this blog, but for my new reflective journal as well!

So now that I’m not just talking to myself, I thought I’d ask for a little audience participation. In fact, it’s more along the lines of asking for advice. Maybe even a cry for help.

You see, for the past week, a couple of boys have been throwing rocks at my windows…Every. Single. Night. There’s no punishment or reward involved here, I’m not as young as I used to be so I doubt I can actually catch them.

What do you think I should do? Pause for a moment and really think about it before you carry on reading.

Got your answer yet?

Great, do carry on reading, and tell me (please!) at the end.

Aren't Kids Just So Loveable?

At Least They're Having Fun...

The first night rocks started banging against window, I decided I was just going to ignore them. They were probably just bored kids exhibiting challenging behaviour to try and provoke a response. If I refused to be part of their game, they’d stop. And they did.

For 20 minutes.

Then they started throwing harder. I tried to ignore them again, but the banging against the window was getting louder and louder, so I thought I’d better put a stop to it before they smashed the window (it’s been broken 4 times already). Anyway, I opened up the window and yelled at them to stop, causing them to run off while laughing hysterically.

Half an hour later, I heard a crashing noise. Fortunately, it wasn’t the sound of another window repair bill, but instead they’d thrown a coke bottle. I must say they have very good aim…must be all the practice.

The attacks stopped for that night, so I thought the worst was over. But they’ve returned every night, and they’re so bold that they actually target the window of the room I’m in (seeing the light from the outside).

As far as I can tell, my options are to:

  • Report them to the police (I even have them on CCTV)
  • Yell at them each time (I think they like it though)
  • Try and catch them (Yea, and then what?)
  • Find out where they live and throw rocks at their windows every single night (Maybe we can be friends!)
  • Ignore them (Who needs windows anyway right?)

OK, so that’s the story so far. I’m hoping that they’ll tire of their game, but just in case they don’t, what do you think I should do?

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My Reflective Journal

Requirement number 4 of the first 2 weeks of  my Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) work placement is to:

“Begin a reflective journal concerned with communication and relationships with children. Entries should be made each week throughout the placement and should identify your personal practice in communicating and developing your relationship with very young children. (This task addresses Standards S25 – S27).”

In light of this, I’m going to start another blog consisting of my journal entries. I’d like to keep it separate from this blog, as I’m not sure how many people would be interested in my daily ramblings. Regardless, it will serve as a good record of my thoughts, so I expect to be more personal and expressive in my new blog. I will, of course, continue to write on this blog as well.

As always, I greatly appreciate any suggestions and input so please spare me a few minutes in the comments section below or at My Reflective Journal!

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5 Awesome Hand Shadows

I’ve always been amazed at people who can entertain kids no matter the situation.

Give them a sheet of paper and they’ll fold an origami Transformer. Sing any song and they’ll know the lyrics AND the dance moves. Put them in an empty room and they’ll fill it with children’s laughter.

Well, if you’d like to be a step closer to becoming one of those people, here are some cool hand shadows you can learn to entertain kids and adults alike!

They’re taken from a free eBook called Hand Shadows To Be Thrown Upon The Wall by Henry Bursill. There are 17 hand shadows in total, including everybody’s favourite, “bird in flight”. If you’d like to see them all, feel free to download the eBook at the end of this post.

Hand Shadow Boy

Hand Shadow Boy

Hand Shadow Tortoise

Hand Shadow Tortoise

Hand Shadow Rabbit

Hand Shadow Rabbit

Hand Shadow Dog

Hand Shadow Dog

Hand Shadow Elephant

Hand Shadow Elephant

Click here to download the free eBook:

Hand Shadows To Be Thrown Upon The Wall by Henry Bursill

Any success learning the hand shadows and showing them off to others? Take some time to practice them, try them out in front of an audience and come back to tell us how you did!

Hand Shadows to Be Thrown upon the Wall by Henry Bursill

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