Wednesday, 16 September 2015

I've Moved!

I've been thinking about it for a while, but now it is time for me to go...

...but not far! I'm moving to Wordpress!

My new address is:

Thank you for all of your support throughout my time on this blog! I do hope that you'll continue to follow and read my posts!

Monday, 3 August 2015

The Great Nursery Bake Off

Monday morning has rolled around again! Still, I can't complain because the sun is shining for me up here in bonnie Scotland and I'm feeling ready and raring for another week! 
I also am due to receive my exam results tomorrow! Very nerve-racking indeed but I cannot wait for everything to be finalised and my place at University to be 100% confirmed!

Anyway! Enough about me! I'm on a roll with blogging recently and figure that I might as well write while I am inspired and motivated!

Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry - Judges from the GBBO (Photo from Google Images)

With the Great British Bake Off about to return to our screens, I thought that this would be a great time to explore the literacy, numeracy and science of baking with our children!

During our regular food technology activities, I observed that the children were very interested in recipes and quantities. Of course, when we are making something specific; it is important to include the correct ingredients and the right amounts, but we began talking about what might happen if we mixed it up a bit - adding more water or using flour instead of sugar. Some brilliant language was being used at this point such as wet, sloppy, dry, crumbly, sweet, sticky...

Following this, we decided to make our own recipe books. I took photos of the ingredients that we had to play with - flour, sugar, oats, food colouring, water etc and printed them off for the children to choose. 

The children selected which of the ingredients that they would like to use, and cut out the pictures for their recipes. This involved decision making, motor skills and hand, eye co-ordination.

I printed some large pages with the words:

"add __________ spoon   of "

We used spoons as our unit of measurement during this activity because we were focusing on counting and simple amounts, you could change this to "grams" if you want the children to use weighing scales and learn these different skills.

With some adult support, the children then decided how much of each ingredient they would like to add into their mixture. They stuck the picture of the ingredient onto the page and had a go at writing the number into the space. This involves counting, logical thinking and curiosity and also writing skills.
N.B. I left a space after the word "spoon" so that an "s" could be added. This created opportunity for a little extra discussion about language.

Once the recipe was completed, the children worked with the adult to follow it, adding the right amounts of each ingredient into a large bowl and mixing it with a wooden spoon. We counted the spoonfuls as they were added and used our motor skills to mix.

Lastly, the mixture was spooned into cake cases and we found a fun cake stand to display the 'cakes'. 
Once all of the children had made their cakes, we looked together at the differences and spoke about what had made them this way; "D had 10 spoons of water so his is so sticky!"

We didn't actually bake our 'cakes' but an extra scientific element of baking is observing the change as the mixture is cooked. You can talk about this during this activity or (if you're really brave) you could heat them a little to see what happens. Remember to always explain to the children about safety in the kitchen!

The children were very excited to show their creations to their parents, though I had to be very clear that these were definitely not edible cakes!

Some more Bake-Off inspired activities

  • Word Wall - display all of the fantastic language that you have been using

  • Create a cake shop/ bakery role play area - include aprons, cake tins, spoons, a till, play money, recipe books etc

  • Get baking! There are tonnes of ideas for simple baking and cooking with children to be found at

  • The circle time baking game - this is all in the imagination, but using a large plastic mixing bowl and a wooden spoon, the children take turns around the circle to add whatever ingredient that they can think off (often leading to hilarity as someone inevitably adds 'worms' or 'mud'). Involve counting as they add the imaginary items and encourage talk of the sights and smells as the wonderful mixture is created! I always pretend to bake the cake and then 'hand out' slices to encourage further talk of the tastes - for example "can you taste the strawberries that you added?"

Have a wonderful week everyone and as they say on the Bake Off: "on your marks, get set, BAKE!"

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Sing a song of sixpence

While working on supply I've come to notice that many of us have become stuck in a rut with our song times - singing the same songs over and over (Twinkle Twinkle being a prime culprit!)

This leaves me wondering WHY? There are so many wonderful songs out there, many of the traditional ones and classics have been forgotten! I spoke to my cousin and very good friend Emma who is a fantastically talented and passionate music teacher and she reminded me of some of the wonderful songs that we were taught as children. 
Following this I have decided to made a list of some of my favourites!

Before I begin, here are a few tips for an enjoyable and engaging song time:

  1. This is important - you DO NOT have to be a fantastic singer to lead or take part in song time with the children. All you need is enthusiasm!
  2. Some children wont want to join in, but don't worry, even just through listening they are hearing rhyming words, intonation and patterns.
  3. Add instruments. For the children who don't enjoy singing, they can still be engaged through shaking, beating or blowing.
  4. Explore rhythm, pitch and speed. How funny to sing a familiar tune extra fast and high, or super slow and in a low voice.
  5. Get moving. I don't know about you but when I'm enjoying my music I can't help but bob along and have a little boogy. It's the same for the children plus the fact that they are big balls of energy. Don't fight a losing battle by trying to keep them still; find some space and explore  musical movement.

Song time inspiration:

Click to view (Videos from YouTube - I can't take any credit)

There are so many more and if I was to list them I'd be here all day!
Remember that singing and music has a huge variety of benefits for children including confidence and stress relief as well as literacy and numeracy development. It can be an important part of the children's day and routine, but if you're bored, they will be too.

If there are any songs that you really enjoy, share with your children or loved as a child yourself - please comment or tweet to me at @EarlyYearsIdeas

Have fun!

Bonus - Rod, Jane and Freddy song about nursery rhymes (I used to love them when I was little!)

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

DIY Sensory Tree

Here's a nice little addition to your sensory area/ activities - a sensory tree with scents that you can change or refresh easily and as needed.

What you'll need:

    *A twig/ small branch - it needs to have some off shoots to hang the scent pouches from (think mini tree!)*

    *Some permeable material, bags or pouches to hold your smelly items. I used these cute little organza bags.* 

    *A pot or jar to hold your tree.*

    *An interesting variety of different smells (some ideas below).*

    **Tissue paper, glitter, sequins, felt tip pens, ribbons and anything else you like to decorate.*

    What to do:
    1. Go for a walk, enjoy the great outdoors and find a suitable stick
    2. Make sure it's nice and dry and then decorate if desired. You could paint it, wrap it with coloured yarn, glue tissue paper onto it... whatever the little ones want!
    3. More decorating! Now it's time to make your pot or jar looks beautiful! Felt pens were used here but they have a habit of rubbing off onto everything around. I've heard that hairspray can help it set, but it's probably easier to paint the jar or collage onto it!
    4. Fill your pot or jar with soil/ tissue paper/ bubble wrap or anything that will hold the stick fairly firmly
    5. Find some interesting smelling items, you could use: fresh herbs, fresh fruit (citrus ones work really well), tea bags, smelly soaps, cotton wool soaked in coffee/ perfume etc and fill the bags 

     6. Hang the bags onto the tree and you're done! Allow the children to explore the different smells and maybe help them to think of and add their own.

    Have an awesome summer everyone!

    Sunday, 5 July 2015

    Being supply

    Oh I am terrible... it's been so long since I've posted! 

    Well, since I have finished at college for the summer and don't start at university until September; in the mean time I have signed up with a childcare agency to earn some pennies and keep me busy! This means that I am called on to cover in nurseries etc on an as and when needed basis.

    So far I have covered in a few different nurseries around my own area and further afield. I just love being nosey at other people's set ups and it's great to spend time interacting with the children without the pressures of being a 'proper' full time member of staff.

    I have worked in some beautiful purpose built nurseries, one of which had an absolutely amazing outdoor area! I have also been into some charming old buildings and wondered at how the space has been made into stimulating and enticing areas for the children.

    Here are a few things that I would like to let staff know about when I (or others) come in as supply:

     Please introduce yourselves (and the children if possible) and don't be offended if I don't remember your name. If your name is Sarah and I worked with a Sara and Sally yesterday... it gets a bit confusing!

     Don't assume that I am less qualified than you just because I am supply. I actually have lots of experience and am highly qualified! I know what I'm doing. 

    Having said this, don't feel like you need to leave me to my own devices,

     Feel free to give me jobs/ activities to do (Please do!) I do use my initiative and instigate activities as much as possible, but I don't want to step on any toes and would much rather work in line with your planning. I like to feel useful and I love being involved in the play and learning that's going on. That's why I'm here!

     It's really important to show me the basics (fire exits etc). I might only be here for one day but today could just be the day that I need to know.

    I had not realised how much I was missing working with children until I got back into the nurseries. 
    For example, I made a wonderful connection with a little boy who was quite new while working last week. I was told by other staff that he rarely laughs and barely ever speaks English, and when he does it is very limited words. However as I spent time playing with the boy, I found him smiling and laughing, and later while drawing he was confidently repeating my English words and using some of his own to speak to me! 
    I felt so privileged to be able to make this boy feel comfortable with me. 

    I'm looking forward to exploring more settings and meeting more new people in the weeks to come. I will update again soon (I promise!)

    Picture from

    P.S. In other news - I am now an official co-host of #childcarehour which is a twitter chat that takes part on Tuesday nights between 8:30 and 9:30. It is made up of a group of childcare and early years professionals as well as parents. Everyone is welcome! We speak about all kinds of different topics and have a friendly chat. If anyone is a twitter user I would encourage you to come along and join us!

    Monday, 16 March 2015

    2, 2 minute talks

    ... Continuing from my previous post about university interviews, here are the 2 short talks that I prepared and gave.

    The first talk was regarding homework in primary schools:

    "Homework has been the topic of controversy for many years; not only within the UK but around the world with some teachers and groups such as the Parents Outloud charity calling for schools to abolish it all together; following in the footsteps of some areas of Europe such as Denmark which has piloted homework-free schools.
    John Hattie (Professor of Education at the University of Melbourne) described homework as “low hanging fruit” in a recent BBC interview, continuing with the surprising finding that homework in primary schools in fact has no impact on children's achievement. Despite this, he does not call for homework to be abolished, but rather for teachers and schools to rethink the value of the tasks and work that they are setting.

    I am involved in many discussion groups on the social network 'twitter', where professionals from the early years, primary and secondary sectors can share ideas and discuss relevant issues. During these talks I have found that many Primary Teachers share the feelings of Professor Hattie that homework can be beneficial to children if it is used to reinforce the learning that takes place in the classroom, however it is vital that homework is planned with the same rigour as lessons and involves stimulating activities, rather than just tedious or 'boring' tasks.

    On reading many of the Homework Policies for (my town's) Schools, I found that homework is promoted as a valuable link between home and at school, allowing parents to become involved in the learning and development of their children. Many parents wish to be helpful and engage with their child's education and well planned homework can allow them to do this. Unfortunately it can also be said that homework is a major cause of friction and stress within many households, which raises the concern of children being discouraged from learning as they begin to associate work with being source of conflict with parents rather than a positive learning experience.

    Completing homework can provide children with many valuable skills such as time management and responsibility and abolishing homework would be damaging as it prepares them for high school and later life where increasing amounts of self led learning is essential.
    Despite this it is also important to remember that children need appropriate amounts of 'downtime' and that there must be a degree of separation between home life and school. Especially for children with difficult home lives or for those who find school particularly challenging.

    When setting homework, teachers should take into consideration that extra curricular activities such as sport or drama clubs allow children to continue their learning in different ways. If vast amounts of homework is set then children who engage in these extra activities are left with less and less time to relax and recharge before beginning the next day. Professor Hattie pointed out in his study that 10 – 20 minutes of homework is just as valuable as 1 – 2 hours. This again comes back to the quality of the homework being set.

    In conclusion, In the hands of passionate, skilled teachers; I feel that homework can be a valuable tool to extend learning and to enrich knowledge that is learned in the classroom. However it is vital that homework is planned and only given when it will benefit the children's learning rather than being set simply because a policy says so."

    My second talk was about outdoor learning:

    "As the interest in learning and playing outdoors continues to grow both in the UK and internationally, I have decided to speak to you today about some of the benefits of outdoor education and learning through nature.

    Outdoor education defines any learning that takes place outside of the school walls, whether it be in a playground or further afield in a forest or on a beach. In Scotland we are lucky enough to have access to a huge variety of natural environments and it is essential that children are provided with opportunities to explore the wonder and magic of their natural surroundings throughout their education.

    The curriculum for excellence states that in order for children to develop into Confident Individuals, they must be provided with opportunities to be active. There is a frightening prediction in The Foresight Report (2007) which concluded that half of the UK population could be obese by 2050 and with the temptations of technology such as television, ipads and video games, it is easy to see this becoming a reality.
    By taking children out of the classroom and engaging them in outdoor learning, teachers are able to promote the benefits of an active lifestyle and the enjoyment that goes alongside exercise.

    Outdoor education allows for many different learning styles, from visual to kinaesthetic and provides children with relevance and depth to the curriculum as they are able to apply their learning within real life contexts. Learning in this way promotes self esteem and confidence, it can also be used to teach team work and problem solving as well as improving attitudes towards the environment.

    From my own first hand experience working within a pre school which promotes outdoor education and forest school experiences, I have witnessed the positive impact of outdoor education, including increased motivation and enthusiasm for learning, that continues even on returning into the classroom environment.

    Of course, there are many factors which must be given careful consideration when taking learning outside. Risk assessments must be rigorously completed and accessibility for all students, including those with additional special needs must be taken into account. However, with careful planning and preparation, teachers are able to overcome these challenges in order to provide valuable experiences for the children.

    I believe that taking education out of the classroom gives them access to a wealth of benefits and by allowing children to explore and investigate of our natural world, together we can ensure that learning is powerful, exciting and rewarding."

    Keep in mind, I had a 2 minute limit for each, and there is so much more I could have said about either topic!

    Interviews exams and exciting times ahead!

    This is not my usual type of post; but I felt like adding a little update as to what I've been up to lately.

    At the moment, I am doing an Access course at college, designed to prepare mature students who have been out of education for some time for higher education and allow them to gain the grades required for university. I am doing this because I am making the move from working with pre-schoolers (which I have done and loved for so long... but feel it's time to take on a new challenge) into training to become a primary teacher.

    As part of the application process to university, as well as submitting my personal statement and predicted subject grades to UCAS; primary Ed applicants are also required to attend interviews. These usually take the form of group interviews, sometimes involving a group task and a short presentation/ talk, followed by discussion. 
    I think that these group interviews are a great idea as they quickly identify the individuals who have confidence, are able to take on the views of others, are able to make their thoughts and opinions clear and can work in a team. This being said: group interviews are stressful and intimidating!

    I was lucky enough to be invited to 2 interviews (and also offered one place with no interview!). My first interview had set a task of listening to a BBC4 interview with Professor John Hattie about the benefits of homework within primary education (which can be found here), and then to present a short, 2 minute response. This is such a massive topic with so many different opinions and arguments to consider - 2 minutes was never going to be enough to discuss everything that I wanted to discuss, however I approached this task using research and feedback that I had gathered from other professionals hoping to give an informed and well thought out answer.

    Read my talk re: homework in primary schools in the following post

    I came away from this interview (which had been with 9 other applicants and 2 interviewers) feeling positive and enthusiastic. I had given it my all and felt that I had done everything within my power to secure a place. As optimistic as I felt, I didn't dare get my hopes up too high as the course has an extremely high number of applicants and a very small number of people accepted. This was also my top choice of university as the course is extremely good and the university is based in my home town so would require no commute or upheaval of moving!

    My second interview had a totally different feel as it began with a presentation designed to sell the university to us, rather than being all about selling ourselves to the university. This time, the interview itself took place in a much smaller group of only 3 others. Within this interview we had been asked to prepare a short, 2 minute talk on any relevant topic of our choice. As I am very passionate about taking learning outdoors, this is what I chose. I was last to give my talk, and very disappointed to find that the girl before me had also chosen outdoor learning as a topic. But as it happened, my talk complimented hers and I had expanded on different points to those that she had discussed - disaster averted! 

    Read my talk re: outdoor learning in the following post

    I came away from this interview feeling positive, yet less inspired. I didn't have the same buzz as when I had finished the first. Despite this, I was pleased with my own performance and hoped to be offered a place on the course.


    The wait for a response felt like an eternity! Though I have not been sat twiddling my thumbs as last week it was time for Pre-Lims. Psychology, maths, sociology and enlgish exams all within one week! It wasn't easy but I survived (...just!)

    Now for the good news! I have been offered a place at each of the universities that I applied to! Most importantly - my top choice university
    Now all I need  to do is buckle down and get a good grade in my final Maths exam (not an easy task - I've never been much of a numbers person) and I'll be on my way! 

    Wish me luck!

    Monday, 16 February 2015

    It's a Pancake post!

    Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday, otherwise known as Pancake day; a chance for lots of yummy fun and learning to take place. Here's a few ideas that I've come up with, as well as how they can link into the Curriculum for Excellence:

    Health and Wellbeing

    Choosing and preparing healthy fruit toppings for a delicious pancake snack

    Cooking pancakes - Identifying personal likes and dislikes
                                  - Understanding risks and safety
                                      - Taking turns and sharing
                                             - Maybe take your cooking outdoors/ to the forest and 
                                               cook pancakes over a camp-fire!

    Flap the pancake game: cut a large circle out of paper and place on the floor. The child holds a concertina paper fan (perhaps that they have made themselves) and then the race is on! Just "flap your pancake" from one place to another! So simple and so much fun!

    Language and Literacy

    Reading and writing pancake recipes. There might be some new vocabulary here to go up on our word wall! 

    Learning about different types of books - Story books and Information books

    There's a lovely story called 'Mr Wolf's Pancakes' which you can use to link into all areas of the curriculum - Find it YouTube HERE


    Following recipes; weighing and measuring ingredients

    Learn about money in a role play cafe (selling pancakes of course!)

    Expressive Arts

    Artwork based on foods and ingredients that have been used. Paint them, draw them, use foods for stamping, cut pictures of foods out of magazines and collage with them, explore the colours of the foods that you have prepared... tonnes of possibilities!

    Create a role play cafe along with play menus, price lisits and pretend pancakes for children to flip

    Social Studies

    Research and learn together about the traditions of pancake day and how it has been celebrated over the years. HERE is a website which is too advanced for the little ones - but has some wonderful old photographs that could provoke some investigation and discussion!

    Take your children on a trip to the shops to buy the ingredients that you will use for making pancakes, or take it even further and visit a farm where the eggs and milk come from!


    Encourage children to be involved in selecting the materials and resources needed for cooking

    Allow them to use their senses to explore throughout the activity! Maybe add some of the ingredients (such as flour) that you used into your messy tray for further exploration and fun.


    Encourage children to work with you to investigate websites and find lots of information


    Using digital cameras, allow the children to document their own learning


    What is Shrove Tuesday about? Research the origins of pancake day the Christian teachings about lent. (HERE is a useful website with lots of information)

    You can also find out about different celebrations and traditions surrounding pancake day - from all over the world by clicking HERE

    Have a wonderful week everyone!


    Monday, 2 February 2015

    National Storytelling Week

    I haven't had much time for blogging lately! My life seems to be a whirlwind of revision, assessments and essay writing! Not that I'm complaining as it'll all be worth it if I get accepted into my first choice university for Primary Teaching (my interview is on the 11th February - wish me luck!)

    However! This week is 
    National Storytelling week (31st Jan - 7th Feb) 
    and I felt inspired to post a few ideas...

    An inviting area for reading and story telling

    Have the children help you to set up a snugly, cosy reading area using soft rugs and cushions. Drape soft voil around the area and include fairy lights to make the area even more magical.
    Remember to create spaces for reading outside in your garden as well as indoors!

    I adore this reading area from 'sew inspired'  

    And this lovely cosy area uploaded by Rebecca Warren: (

    Story of the week

    Do your children have a favourite story? Choose a book together to read throughout the week and use this story in particular to inspire artwork, song time and role play.

    A story table is a lovely resource for small world story play. Provide small world characters, props and anything you need to make up the landscape of the story.

    Variations on the traditional 'Story time'

    • Telling a story without a book
    • Using puppets and props
    • Acting out the story
    • Using musical instruments as each character
    • Whiteboard stories

    Why not go out for a walk and re-enact the story of 'We're going on a Bear hunt'? Find some long 'swishy swashy' grass, a puddle to splash through, some squelchy mud and bring the story to life!

    Another way to get moving is to tell a story through music and movement. One of my favourite stories for this is 'Jack and the Beanstalk'. Now, this requires some pre-planning because you'll need to find some pieces of music which you feel suit each part of the story (such as loud, rhythmic music for the giant or gentle harp music for when Jack finds the magic instrument). Think up some actions and movements – and let the children come up with some of their own!

    Links with home

    Story sacks are wonderful for allowing children to share and continue learning at home with their families.

    Why not also have the children to begin writing/ drawing/ telling their own stories (or diaries) where they can discuss events that have occurred both at home and at nursery.

    Sharing is caring

    For your more able children who can either read, or are confident to tell a story from memory or using pictures – allow them to visit siblings/ children within the younger nursery rooms and share a good book!

    Group times/ together times

    Allow the children to bring in their favourite books from home and share them together for group time.

    Or how about a circle time game when each person tells a little part of the story, for example:

    Person 1: Once upon a time there was a frog...
    Person 2: … who went for a walk...
    Person 3:... and found a magic wand...

    (This one may need a bit more support and guidance but can be ever so much fun and can result in plenty of giggles and silliness!)


    Lastly, why not have a special story day or party where the children dress up as their favourite characters from a book or story? Don't forget to take photos of them and display them in your reading area!

    Have a lovely week everyone!