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The Joy of Winter

Here in the UK, it is now turning cold and the first snows are falling. It’s tantalisingly close to our house – I’ve seen cars going by with snow on the roof – but so far we’ve only had frost.

I love the snow for the way that it transforms the whole landscape, deadening noise and turning the black branches of trees into sparkling sculptures.

Of course, one of the most magical moments is when children experience snow for the first time. It is worth all the time getting on hats and coats and gloves and boots just to go out to feel this strange substance floating down from the sky.

I was waiting to collect my son one day from Reception class, just as it started to snow. Without exception, every child came out of the door, looked up and stuck out their tongue to catch a snowflake. It was such an instinctive thing for the children to do!

Even if it doesn’t snow this week, there are so many wonderful things to do outdoors in the winter:

  • collecting sticks, fir cones, evergreen branches
  • jumping in puddles, squishing in mud and finding frozen puddles
  • ‘painting’ by dripping liquid paint onto the wet paving stones and watching the paint spread and move
  • having boat races in angled pieces of guttering
  • spotting different berries, hips and haws on the bushes and trees
  • lighting a fire and cooking over it
  • looking out for bats and owls at dusk
  • using strings of lights, torches and lamps to light up the area after dark

Because it gets dark so early, there are plenty more opportunities to explore light and dark indoors, for example:

  • have a shadow puppet show using a sheet and backlit with a strong torch
    project stars, planets or shapes onto the ceiling
  • create a magical land by lighting the room just with strings of lights and draped fabric
  • paint using glow in the dark paints and then view the paintings with the lights off
  • for the more adventurous, use a black light torch that makes colours and white gleam out in the dark

Stories such as ‘Owl Babies’ by Martin Waddell and ‘Whatever Next!’ by Jill Murphy can start conversations about being afraid of the dark and the types of adventures that can be had once the moon is out.

For older children, there are opportunities to discuss the planets and stars. In the UK at this time, you may be able to see Saturn from dusk in the Southwest sky and possibly Mercury low in the sky after sunset.

Even if it isn’t winter in your part of the world – what are your favourite winter activities?

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Articles

Take Care of Yourself

It is now well and truly autumn in the UK.

The nights are drawing in and there is a definite chill to the air. Over the weekend I started to ‘put the garden to bed’ – clearing up the leaves, cutting back the raspberry canes and picking the last of the dahlia.

By the time I came indoors it was beginning to go dark and the solar lights had winked on.

I felt tired and ached, but also felt incredibly peaceful and calm, satisfied with a good day’s work shared with an inquisitive robin.

Coincidentally, I have had cause to think about mindfulness and calm over the last week, and how critically important this is if you are a practitioner or educator in the Early Years.

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Recommended Resources

Is it a bird, is it a plane – no, it’s a book!

Superhero play is ever present in most settings, but it can be difficult to accommodate or ensure that learning is taking place.

However, this new book from Nicky Simmons and Ginny Morris, can really help to identify learning. Usefully linked to the EYFS, ‘Enhancing Provision Through Superheroes‘ is arranged into the areas of provision, from outside, maths, literacy to investigation and creative areas. This makes it very easy to use for planning and organising superhero play in the setting.

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Articles

Continuing your Professional Development

The Autumn Summit 2017 is now over but that is no reason to stop your professional development!

So, I’d like to share some of the great content that our Autumn 2017 Summit speakers have created, from viral blogs to fascinating and fun videos, they are all here, for free, so you can continue your professional development journey before next year’s Summit.

Rae Pica’s blog on barefootedness went viral, and you can still find it here:
http://www.raepica.com/2017/09/12/barefoot-benefits-brain-development/

and Jan White extends this theme (along with some fantastic photos):
https://janwhitenaturalplay.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/its-spring-now-why-not-think-about-going-barefoot/

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Viewpoint

Do we need Men in The Early Years?

One of the workshops that I attended at the Men in The Early Years (MITEY) Conference in Bradford was run by Jeremy Davies from the Fatherhood Institute and centred around recruiting men into the early years’ sector.

Early on in the workshop, Jeremy asked a very interesting question, which set the pace for the workshop – Why does it matter to children if we have men in the early years? Where is the evidence coming from? Bearing in mind that this was a ‘Men in the Early Years’ conference, I thought this was a fascinating place to start and I started to guess that this was going to be more than your average workshop!

Sure enough, after a series of group discussions, we had covered some very stimulating questions, with some excellent contributions from both Jeremy and his audience. A few things gave me particular pause for thought:

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Articles

What can neuroscience teach practitioners?

child and sunflower

I was delighted to be able to catch up with Mine Conkbayir at the Childcare Expo in Manchester. It was the first time we had met in person, although I had previously interviewed Mine for the Spring 2017 Summit. On the Summit, Mine had explained to me how neuroscience can support children’s personal, social and emotional development.

However, in this latest interview, I wanted to examine neuroscience as a broader topic – and why we need to know about this as Early Years Practitioners. So, I was thrilled when Mine agreed to record this interview with me, where she talks about Love, self-regulation and finding out more about neuroscience.

Enjoy!

You can also read more about this fascinating topic in Mine’s book Early Childhood and Neuroscience: Theory, Research and Implications for Practice available from Amazon here.

Some of the links that Mine mentions are:
Lighting up Young Brains: http://www.kathybrodie.com/viewpoint/lighting-young-brains/
and original report at: http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/sites/default/files/docs/Lighting_Up_Young_Brains.pdf
Neuroscience for Kids: http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/neurok.html

You can still buy the video interview with Mine Conkbayir on the Spring 2017 Summit here: Early Years Summit Online Store

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Articles

Men in The Early Years 2017 (MITEY17) Conference

I had the great pleasure of attending the second Men in The Early Years (MiTEY) Conference in Bradford this week.

There were so many great people – the first two people I met when I arrived were the amazing dynamo who is Nathan Archer and the man who started the Men in The Early Years Conference last year in Southampton, David Wright (aka Mr Paint Pots), a brilliant start to the day! And the content of the day turned out to be just as impressive.

Dr Jo Warin, along with Yuwei Xu, spoke about the gender flexible Early Years practitioner. In this fascinating keynote, Dr Warin talked about a number of interesting facets of being a man in a female dominated environment but the one area that grabbed my attention was the discussion about our understanding of ‘gender’.

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Guest post

Sensory processing and children with autism

In today’s guest post, Mrs M. explores the world of sensory processing. For many of us, we assume that others experience the world in the same way that we do – lavender is a calming smell, it is pleasant to have soft music playing in the background and the smell of bacon frying makes your mouth water. However, this is not always the case.
Mrs M. takes us through some of the different experiences that children with autism have and, most importantly, how we can support children to make sense of the world around them and thrive in it.

*****

Imagine living in a world that bombarded you from every angle with sensory information that you couldn’t process…

Imagine desperately wanting to open your morning snack, but being unable to as your fingers feel as if you are wearing a thick pair of gloves.

Imagine walking into your classroom every morning only to be hit by the smell of your teacher’s perfume which is so strong that it makes you feel sick just to be near her.

Imagine the labels in your uniform scratching against your skin like a cactus, making your skin sore and irritated.

Imagine the flickering of the light in the classroom flashing so brightly that it was like a strobe light in a disco.

Imagine the smell of lunch wafting down the corridor which is so overpowering that you simply can’t focus on anything else.

Imagine not being able to feel your seat underneath you, almost as if you had been numbed. No matter how hard you wriggled around you just can’t get comfortable.

Imagine snapping your pencil in half every time you tried to write as you can’t judge the amount of pressure you are applying on the paper.

Imagine the sound of the chairs scraping along the floor as if it was fingernails being scratched down a blackboard.

Imagine being surrounded by beautiful bright displays that make your eyes go funny and your head spin around like you’re on a fairground ride.

Imagine having to filter out all the noises, visual distractions and smells from around the classroom every second of every day.

Imagine having to hold all this in.

Having to concentrate.

Trying to focus.

Attempting to follow instructions from your teacher. 

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