Using space effectively
Regularly audit your resources, your toys, books, craft materials and so on. Consider how often they are used and, importantly, what they're used for. If there are items taking up space that you rarely use, clear them out. Or, if you have a loft space, shed or other secure storage, consider rotating your resources. When toys reappear, they'll seem new and exciting to the children!
If storage space is tight, could you organise a swap with other childcare facilities in your area? They might be desperately seeking the resources that you rarely use.
Consider how you can make the best use of shelving and storage units. Many childcare settings store their toys and resources in ways that are accessible to the children so they can self-select their activities. Working in this way can help you rotate resources to meet different needs, themes and seasons.
Invest in resources that can be easily stored, for example, collapsible tents or foldable play tables. This gives you maximum flexibility with your space.
Have a look in the PACEY shop for storage, furniture and accessories for your setting.
For inspiration, go to our creating enabling environments spotlight page on how to create the best enabling environment and how this can support children's learning and development.
If you provide meals for children in your care, you will know that this can be a huge dent in your weekly outgoings. Here are some of our favourite efficiency saving ideas:
- Plan your menus and make meals in bulk and freeze where possible.
- Take advantage of supermarket savings and offers – a membership card at discount stores such as Costco can be a good way of making savings.
- Made too much food? If you have extra vegetables, meat or potatoes, blend them all together to make wholesome, nutritious baby food – you can then use it the next day, or freeze it for future use.
- Use your freezer. To avoid waste, consider freezing items that you know you will always need, such as meat and certain vegetables. Milk and bread can also be frozen.
- Order food shopping online – you will often need the same food every week, and your online shopping account will let you create a ‘list’ of items regularly purchased and will deliver it to your door, saving you time and money!
- Childcare settings (though not those registered with a childminder agency in England) are eligible for free milk under the Nursery Milk scheme – go to www.nurserymilk.co.uk to sign up.
Take a look at the Voluntary Food and Drink Guidelines for Early Years Settings in England here. View the Wales version here.
Could parents in your setting qualify for 'Healthy Start'?
Healthy Start is a government scheme to help improve the health of pregnant women and families with young children on benefits and tax credits.
Parents in your setting could qualify if they are at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4 years old and their family are in receipt of:
- Income tax
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Child Tax Credit with a family income of £16,190 or less per year
- Pension Credit; or
- Universal Credit with no earned income or total earned income of £408 or less per month for the family.
If parents are under 18 and pregnant, they qualify even if they are not receiving any of the above benefits.
Parents can apply on the Healthy Start website.
Reuse and recycle
Have a look at some of these great reusing ideas here – and you can use it to teach children about the value of recycling – and protecting the environment at the same time!
Children can be entertained by almost anything used in the right way, so think about how you might want to adapt some of the following ideas for your setting. As well as helping them learn to use items creatively, you'll save some money, too!
- Reuse household ‘rubbish’ such as toilet roll tubes, plastic containers and cardboard boxes for hours of junk modelling fun. And it's OK, toilet roll inners are perfectly fine to use - even under "health and safety". Read more from the Health and Safety Executive.
- Repurpose old cutlery and kitchen utensils as digging implements in the garden or for play dough sessions. It's a great way to encourage fine motor skills and get children used to handling cutlery and utensils.
- Old blankets and bed linen are perfect for making dens or using outdoors during the summer.
Have a look at some of these great reuse and recycling ideas here.