As I sat in my garden, after work, mug of coffee in hand I listened to my neighbour playing happily with her children next door. Since the coronavirus lockdown this has been a regular occurrence as schools and workplaces are closed.
They were going on a bear hunt today and it was a delight to listen to the children chanting the words of the story….’we’re going on a bear hunt we’re going to catch a big one, we’re not scared…’ As they chased each other around the garden and walked through the swishy swashy grass and squelch squerched through the thick oozy mud I thought to myself….my neighbour would make a wonderful childminder!
It struck me that she had no resources to speak of just a wonderful imagination and a totally engaging manner that her children adored.
Childminders are having a hard time as are many small businesses across the country. They are either open for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children only or closed and the majority have had their income severely reduced.
Access to many toys and resources and activities, that are a usual source of support to childminders specifically, have stopped. Libraries (for both access to books and toys) are not available and toddler groups and local parks are closed so childminders are having to be more imaginative around how they support children’s learning and development in the setting itself. We thought that it may be helpful to draw together some ideas to support you.
Outdoor and indoor play
Kayte Cooling-Smith’s blog on Outdoor play demonstrates the importance of play in the outdoors for children. We know under the current circumstances that use of outdoor space is limited and restricted to outdoor space in the setting but there are still some great messages that can be taken from this. She describes the fun and learning that takes place by exploring her garden and how she overcame her fear of dirt!
Of course on really wet days children still need to move about which can be a challenge in a home setting. Helen Battelley’s blog on My home as a playground provides some brilliant ideas and thoughts on how you can maintain your home as a functioning space and a safe, learning environment along with continuously trying to encourage physical development.
Reuse and recycle
Due to the necessity of online shopping at present, many of us have lots of cardboard boxes and packaging. These can be excellent sources of fun and play for children. There are some wonderful ideas to support reusing and recycling in the previous blogs Treasuring the trash and Reuse and Recycle. These blogs show how almost everything can be used to enhance your setting. It also helps you to teach children about the value of recycling – and protecting the environment at the same time.
Childminders Sarah and Luke share their story in the blog Sustainability, efficiency and recycling on why they needed to change the way they created their setting in order to save money and be more efficient in their business. Take a look and get inspired!
Junk modelling is always a favourite. In this blog post Ben Tawil discusses the benefits of junk modelling and non-directive play to children’s development.
Have you ever thought about the benefits of woodwork for children's learning and development? Take a look at a blog post written by Pete Moorhouse on Creative woodwork that talks about the joys of allowing children to enjoy the smell and feel of wood and using real tools.
The Curiosity Approach and Loose Parts
Have you heard of the curiosity approach? It is an approach to childcare that focusses on a calm natural environment. Read more about how Jennifer Wooldridge began to look at her setting through fresh eyes.
Part of the curiosity approach is allowing children to play with ‘loose parts’. Loose parts can be anything from shells and pine cones to old tires and pieces of wood.
Loose parts play can also be linked to treasure baskets and heuristic play which younger children particularly enjoy. PACEY members can access a factsheet on the benefits of treasure baskets and heuristic play in the My PACEY area of the website.
As my lovely neighbour demonstrated no end of fun can be had when sharing books together. Take a look at some top tips and good practice suggestions on Sharing books to explore how you can make the most of sharing a wide range of books and stories with the children in your care.
PACEY’s new EY smart (available in England now with Wales specific resources launching in June) has short courses available, including some on storytelling, that help with continuous professional development and reflective practice. Take a look!
Digital books are another option and a number of quality, engaging resources have emerged in the last few weeks. A number of these specifically address supporting children’s well-being in these challenging times in a fun way. Take a look at the brilliant book written by Lauren Cooper titled the Stinky, Sticky Virus available for free digitally in both English and Welsh. For older children Coronavirus- a book for children explains some of the key facts that may help in discussions with children. Also the wonderful illustrations produced by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler depicting their famous characters adjusting to social distancing and the current crisis.
We hope that these ideas may be useful over the coming weeks as you continue to provide a safe but stimulating childcare environment for children. Thank you to childminder Kim Chatterton from Denbighshire for sharing some of the images used in this blog.