Category : Guest post

Guest post

A Gender Gap in the Early Years?

A guest post by Verity Downing (MEd Open) – Master of Education

Qualified Early Years Practitioner and Independent Academic

 

Within this reflective opinion piece, I refer to ‘female students’ and ‘girls’ and ‘male students’ and ‘boys’ as a matter of reflecting the phrases used in the government data, although, I respectfully acknowledge that gender and sex are deeply personal states of being that everyone expresses differently.

 

This title is ambiguous, I grant you. But what I’m referring to is the gap between the success of female students and male students across the EYFS that has remained a constant from 2013 to the present (DfE, 2019). This may come as a little bit of a shock, especially as I think it’s fair to say that we’ve become accustomed to describing our EYFS as ‘gender neutral’.

While it is an absolute positive that we can see, from information published in October of 2019, that the “gender gap continues to decrease” (DfE, 2019), it has only done so by “0.6 ppts from 2018” (DfE, 2019). This translates to girls still exceeding the success of boys with regard to “a good level of development” (DfE, 2019) by “12.9 ppts” (DfE, 2019). The biggest consistent gap between the success of boys and girls can be seen in reading and writing, however, in recent years, gaps are becoming worryingly evident in “self-confidence and self-awareness […] and the world” (DfE, 2019).

These gaps lead me to think: are girls outperforming boys, or are these gaps showing themselves because there is a disparity between what practitioners expect from boys and girls, or perhaps, looking farther afield, do the ELGs and Development Matters statements lend themselves towards stereotypically feminine strengths? I will stop myself from going down the rabbit hole of theoretical comparisons and the fundamental underlying principles of EYFS’ culture, and instead, concentrate on how we can tackle this disparity and ensure that no child is being disadvantaged as a result of their sex or gender expression.

My concerns with there being a gap between the success of boys and girls at this early age are;

  • that boys may not be being supported to reach their full potential,
  • that girls are seen to be over-achieving in the EYFS and are consequently being set-up for a fall in their future education (due to teachers’ expectations being too high of them as they were seen to be doing so well in the EYFS) and,
  • that these gaps could continue into later life.

It is our responsibility to liberate children from the “deleterious impact of gender-stereotypes” (Wolter et al., 2013, p. 64) and support them as they develop confidence and capabilities across the social and educational spectrum. A wide-ranging set of skills and interests will serve them well in the long-run.

Researchers offer the following explanations for the persisting gap:

  • It is thought that practitioners could fall into adopting traditional gender-based stereotypes of children (Baroody and Diamond (2012), Chapman (2016) and Runions (2014)), which can affect the children’s outcomes (Matthews et al., 2009), Robinson-Cimpian et al., 2014).
  • Sanford (2005) suggests that there is the chance that learning and educational development is happening in the EYFS, but that it is not being recognised. This goes back to my point that EYFS guidance tends to focus on feminine strengths. If, for example, boys are regularly seen playing with the blocks, it is possible that this familiarity closets the learning that is taking place (this example may explain the gap that is evident in “shape, space and measure” (DfE, 2019).
  • This also relates to practitioner’s valuing and recognition of behaviour that fits with their gender-based ideals. Chapman (2016), in her work that delved into how gendered ideas affect play within Australian EYFS settings, details that EYFS practitioners may give varying amounts, and types, of feedback to their students depending on their sex and behaviour.
  • While it goes without saying that all EYFS practitioners strive to ensure that they have relationships with the children that encourage feelings of safety, trust and fun, it is thought that girls are more likely to have better relationships with practitioners than boys, as their perceived superior social skills bias practitioners towards them (Robinson-Cimpian et al. (2014), Runions (2014) and Sanford (2005)). This in turn will influence where the children play and consequently what learning experiences they encounter. It could be concluded that the feeling of safety that is cultivated through these relationships may lead to female students exploring more areas of the setting, and boys not, resulting in the ELG gender gap (Downing, 2020).
  • Children may police each other with regard to behaving within gender stereotypes. Prioletta and Pyle (2017), who spent a considerable amount of time observing EYFS children at play in settings in Ontario, Canada, found that “in 70% of the videos, girls and boys played separately” (p. 398). This data also showed that the predominantly girl-only play happened at “the art/writing centre” (p. 398) and the boys-only play was mostly observed at “the blocks centre” (p. 399). I imagine that this will be relatable to many. This peer-on-peer policing based on understandings of gender can restrict the breadth of learning experiences that the children have. The writers go on to detail how at the girls-only play centres, the opportunities for literacy learning experiences were abundant, yet this is not the case for the boys-only play (Prioletta and Pyle, 2017). There is probable cause to think that this trend could be partially responsible for the gap in outcomes that are presented in the government data.

What can we do about this?

The smallest changes can make the biggest of differences.

  • Invite as many different people into your setting as possible. Sometimes there is nothing more influential than for a child to meet a ‘real-life [insert job title]’. Additionally, think carefully about how you interact with your visitor and the language used about them as the children will follow your lead. This then leads into ensuring that your setting represents people defying gender stereotypes in society. Also, if a female/male comes in to visit and is in a traditionally feminine/masculine job, ensure that this is as equally represented and appreciated as someone who is working outside of gender stereotypes.
  • This leads on to ensuring that we are mindful about the language and phrases that we use when around the children. “Matthew, can you please hold the door open as you’re a big, strong boy” may seem like a harmless phrase, but this is conveying all sorts of messages to Matthew and the other children who are listening in.
  • Think critically about how you assess your children. “Dominic is playing with the blocks again. I’ve already got an observation of him using positional language”. Don’t overlook this; what else is happening there? Is he sharing and taking on his friends’ ideas? Is he persisting when that top block wont quite stay still? Is he making a garage just like the one that mummy took the car to on the weekend for it to be fixed? Sometimes we have to look beyond what is right in-front of us and recognise the children’s play for its variety and value.
  • We need to get to know our children. The more that we talk 1:1, in small groups and in bigger groups with our children, the better. This immediately nips in the bud any chance of us falling into gender stereotypes if we can value and understand our children for their special, individual, little selves. Also, choose a topic to discuss with your key group. Let’s say ‘People who help us’. Brainstorm it together and model using inclusive language. If an unhelpful gender stereotype comes up, address it. Handle the situation gently and ask lots of questions. “Girls can’t be firemen!” “Why do you think that? Have you seen this book where there are lots of pictures of girl firefighters? Heather, would you like to be a firefighter when you grow up? It would be great to help people, wouldn’t it?”. These conversations allow us to open the children’s horizons.
  • Let’s encourage the children’s ownership of the resources. If you notice that one area is dominated by boys which could potentially alienate girls, or vice-versa, address it! Ask the boys why they don’t play with the playdough. “We like to play outside”. So, take the playdough outside! “We like the building area”. Incorporate little diggers and signposts into the outdoor playdough area. The results can be astonishing! Plus, think of all of those opportunities for incorporating fine-motor skills and mark-making skills into that play. I can sense the reading and writing gap narrowing as I type!
  • This then opens up the wonderful world of the role-play area. Building on from your brainstorming, “Perhaps we could turn our role-play area into a fire station?” Facilitate the children to have an input into creating this area. The opportunities for encouraging inclusive play in this area are endless. Oh, and get involved! Model playing different roles. This is a great way to build and strengthen your relationships with the children that will encourage them to see you in a whole new light. Prioletta and Pyle (2017) say “becoming involved in children’s play can be a useful way for practitioners to encourage […] alternative ways to be a girl or boy” (p. 405). We mustn’t underestimate our competences, versatility, and adaptability, and instead should push ourselves and capitalise on it because we can be incredibly influential in showing the children that everything is available to them.
  • In an ideal world, there would be a more balanced EYFS workforce, with more men joining the profession. However, when reflecting on their research, Wolter et al. (2013) said:

“it is not the biological gender of the kindergarten practitioner per se that has a differential effect on girls’ versus boys’ competence. Rather, our female practitioners were just as effective in supporting individual learning in boys as in girls as long as they took care not to provide predominately feminine gender-typed activities but offered masculine gender-typed activities to the same extent” (p. 64).

 

I have written this piece, chose to focus on it for my Masters research, and hope to continue researching it during future Doctoral work, because I really believe that we owe our littlest learners the best start to their education; a start that is free from the restraints that society puts on sex and gender expression. We want our learners to develop skills and interests in the widest reaching range possible. We want our learners to take these skills and interests on into the big wide world and change it for the better. We want our learners to be whatever they want to be, and we as practitioners can support that. And it’s wonderful.

(Please note, statistics for the 2019-2020 period were due to be released this month, however, due to the pandemic, the scheduled release will not be going ahead https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/announcements/early-years-foundation-stage-profile-results-in-england-2019-to-2020)

References:

Baroody, A. and Diamond, K. (2013) ‘Measures of preschool children’s interest and engagement in literacy activities: Examining gender differences and construct dimensions’, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28(1), pp. 291-301.

Chapman, R. (2016) ‘A case study of gendered play in preschools: how early childhood educators’ perceptions of gender influence children’s play’, Early Child Development and Care, vol. 186, no. 8, pp. 1271-1284.

Department for Education (DfE) (2019) Early years foundation stage profile results in England: 2019, [Online], Data Insight and Statistics Division, Department for Education. Available at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/839934/EYFSP_2019_Main_Text_Oct.pdf (Accessed 5 October 2020).

Downing, V. (2020) ‘The stronger the bonds, the greater the chances of success: Actioning on research to address the gender-based achievement gap in the Early Years’, Impact: The Journal of the Chartered College of Teaching, Issue 10, Autumn 2020, pp. 34-36.

Matthews, J. S., Cameron Ponitz, C. and Morrison, F. (2009) ‘Early Gender Differences in Self-Regulation and Academic Achievement’, Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(3), pp. 689-704.

Prioletta, J. and Pyle, A. (2017) ‘Play and gender in Ontario kindergarten classrooms: implications for literacy learning’, International Journal of Early Years Education, vol. 24, no. 4, pp. 393-408.

Robinson-Cimpian, J., Ganley, C. and Copur-Genctruk, Y. (2014) ‘Practitioners’ Perceptions of Students Mathematics Proficiency May Exacerbate Early Gender Gaps in Achievement’, Developmental Psychology, 50(4), pp. 1262-1281.

Runions, K. (2014) ‘Does Gender Moderate the Association Between Children’s Behaviour and Practitioner-Child Relationship in the Early Years?’, Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 197-214.

Sanford, K. (2005) ‘Gendered Literacy Experiences: The Effects of Expectation and Opportunity for Boys’ and Girls’ Learning’, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 49(4), pp. 302-315.

Wolter, I., Gluer, M. and Hannover, B. (2013) ‘Gender-typicality of activity offerings and child-practitioner relationship closeness in German “Kindergarten”. Influences on the development of spelling competence as an indicator of early basic literacy in boys and girls’, Learning and Individual Differences, vol. 31, no. n.a, pp. 59-65.

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Guest post

Quality story books reflecting positive images for all

Quality Story Books for the Foundation Stage reflecting positive images for all
By Fiona Greenwood

I was delighted to be contacted by Fiona to tell me that she’d been inspired by Kala Williams’s Early Years TV interview. Here’s what happened:

After watching Kala Williams on Early Years TV I became painfully aware of how few books we had in our Nursery which reflected diversity. It also made me think about stereotypes in children’s books and illustrations and I decided to spend some of our fundraising money on some good quality books.

As Kala had discussed, it struck me how few books there are which reflect Britain today so after searching the Internet I phoned my local Waterstones to help me in my quest.

They were incredibly happy to help and it was brilliant to see how many appropriate books they had for sale in their store. Vicky also ordered more for me and below is the start of what will become our new library. Some of these titles will also become our Core Books which the children will get to know extremely well.

I am Assistant Head at a predominantly white British Nursery School which made it so important for us to question the books we had and purchase new books which showed positive images of our whole society, not just of our immediate area.

This first list are great stories that depict black girls as the main character – not set in Africa – but here at home!
Look up! by Nathan Bryon
Billy and The Beast. by Nadia Shireen
Biily and The Dragon. by Nadia Shireen
Suzy Orbit Astronaut by Ruth Quayle
Ten Minutes to Bed Little Mermaid by Rhiannon Fielding
The Dinosaur Department Store by Lily Murray
Cendrillon by Robert San Souci is a fabulous Caribbean Cinderella. Imagine the discussions with this book!

Here are a few books where the illustrations depict diversity
Jack and the Flum Flum Tree by Julia Donaldson
When a Dragon Comes to Stay by Caryl Hart
Flotsam by David Weisz

The next few books kick stereotyping into touch for both boys and girls
Pink is for Boys by Eda Kaban
Not Every Princess by Jeffrey Bone
The Girls by Lauren Ace (This is a beautiful book)
Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

And a few Early Years books about our environment in danger
World in Danger by Frankie Morland
Greta and The Giants by Zoe Tucker
A Planet full of Plastic by Neal Layton ( with multicultural images too)

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Guest post

Five Fantastic Faeces Facts

Five Fantastic Faeces Facts. (5 minute read, just for laughs)
by Jungle Jo

Yes that’s right, I’m going to talk about poop. Some of you may find it a bit disgusting and others like me chuckle about it. I’m surrounded by it every day with my animals and children so to do my job I need a crazy sense of humour. Like it or not poop is really interesting and super important for the planet. There are several names such as dung, frass, guano, droppings, pats, manure, pellets, scat, dodo, number 2’s etc. dozens to choose from. It all depends on the animal its structure, shape and what the animal eats. Whatever you want to call it here are some cool facts for you to chuckle about.

1. Animals eat poop including humans. Animals can eat it to hide the scent of their babies from other animals such as wolves eating their pups poop. Some animals like rabbits will poop a soft nutritional pellet overnight and eat it. So actually eat their own poop (imagine that). The first time they ate it, their digestion hasn’t completely absorbed all the nutrients so they don’t waste it; they just eat it a second time round. Cockroaches, worms and millipedes eat other animal poop which cleans up the planet but then they will poo an amazing fertiliser which in turn grows our fruits, trees and veg. Of course the dung beetle is the most famous poop eater of them all. Thank you very much poo eaters you rock.

Humans can use poop in our food products the most expensive coffee in the world has been eaten and excreted through a civet cat. There are drinks such as beer and even green tea which benefit from faeces. Finally shellac is the excretion from an insect which we use to coat many of those tasty crunchy coated sweets which we all love. Yummy…

2. Animals and humans can use poop to make houses. There are several species which can use other animals’ faeces to make a home or nest. Birds are great at using herbivorous animals poop. It has a great fibrous structure and dries solid. Using poop for your house can repel other animals; it can be shaped into many different structures both small and large. It can work as a great insulator. It can also become a wind block and rain proof once smoothed and finished off with a coating of your own dribble. Humans have used animal excrement for thousands of years. Normally horse or cow manure mixed with urine, hair, mud and straw. It has protected us from all of the elements and many countries still use it to this day. Remember that it’s super strong and thankfully over time the odour becomes weaker. Just remember to not light a match.

3. “Poo with a purpose” or a “very important poo” (VIP). Here I am backing up the point I make on the video. Spiders are not everybody’s best friend but I love them and own 4 tarantulas. Their poo is absolutely awesome. They do not poop like we do. Every living thing, plant and animal, as we know must eat and excrete. The spiders and tarantulas of this world are the perfect recyclers. They eat and then their excretion is their venom and their WEB. Yes their web is their poop. It is completely recycled into a liquid protein silk which they can use for their houses, to catch their prey, to dance on and generally show off their skills in remarkable patterns and orbs. If their web breaks they can eat the broken web to recycle it and remake their web again. They can poop a tiny silk pellet which they leave in their webs, if they don’t catch any more food they will eat the silk pellet to make more web. Oh my goodness, it amazes me. The Madagascan bark spider is smaller than your thumb nail and can throw its first single thread of web downwind 25 meters across. Spider silk, poo, web whatever you want to call it is super strong and super fantastic.

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Guest post

The History of Physical Development Champions

In this blog post, I asked Sharon Skade what had motivated her to set up ‘Early Years Physical Development Champions’ and what the benefits for children are.

You can find out more on Sharon’s FB group: @EarlyYearsPhysicalDevelopmentChampions and you’ll find lots of interesting posts, articles, links and advice on her Twitter feed here: twitter.com/GMUnder5s

You can contact Sharon directly to ask about training and consultancy here: sharons7@hotmail.co.uk

Here is what Sharon had to say about young children’s physical development:

Physical activity specialists are often seen as the poor relations when matters of curriculum are discussed.

I experienced this first hand during my time working for a Local Authority, when having been asked to consult on local provision for families and attending some very productive meetings I was not invited back as I only had a Level 3 Childcare qualification. My various Coaching qualifications were not recognised, even though many of my ideas were implemented.

I was delivering a long-standing successful physical activity programme for children and their parents/carers and had developed a new programme which would encourage parents to interact and engage in physically active games with their children and be able to continue this in the home environment without the need for expensive specialist equipment or a large amount of space.

In some instances, the sessions involved providing time for the parents to learn how to play but more alarming was this knowledge had to be shared with the practitioners supporting the session.

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Guest post

Some of the benefits of homebased childcare

Pebbles Childcare was the first winner of the brand new category ‘Childminding Business of The Year’ at the Nursery World Awards 2018. Bridgit Brown has built up this childminding business, based in Worthing, West Sussex, over the last 3 years, drawing on her 20 years of childcare experience in a huge range of settings.

I was therefore delighted when Chloe Webster, who works at Pebbles Childcare, offered to write a guest blog, detailing some of the many benefits of home-based childcare. You can see how this good practice supports children’s holistic wellbeing and development.

Home-based childcare has countless benefits, despite a sad lack of understanding and recognition from society, other childcare professionals and parents alike, who still struggle to see home-based childcare as a viable career and childcare option.

Home-based childcare provides children and their families with a home-from-home childcare environment, which for the parents enables them to build up a friendly rapport with their child’s caregiver, and the process of walking into someone’s home, instantly puts you at ease, making the parent as well as the child feel comfortable.

For the children, home-based childcare provides an individual and holistic approach to childcare and with reduced ratios, provides them with a sense of ‘family’ amongst the flexible, real-life learning experiences that home-based childcare has the freedom to provide.

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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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Guest post

Education for Sustainable Citizenship in Early Childhood

Dr John Siraj-Blatchford is a well-known name in Early Childhood research and a staunch advocate for improving the outcomes for young children. I have read a lot of his writing, but one article caught my eye when preparing the Early Years Summit – Wellbeing and Sustainable Development. Co-authored with Lynette Brock – a passionate supporter of play for children – the article explores how sustainability and integrated cross-generational initiatives are essential to improving children’s wellbeing and welfare.

This was a fresh perspective on children’s wellbeing that I’d not come across before, but which made a lot of sense. So I was delighted when Dr Siraj-Blatchford and Lynette Brock submitted the guest blog post below, linked to this very subject!

At the end of the blog post, you will find a link to the original article, along with links to other, free articles, and details of training sessions and conferences. 

Education for Sustainable Citizenship in Early Childhood

by Dr John Siraj-Blatchford and Lynnette Brock.

Education for Sustainable Development is about Environmental Education, it is about Global and Intercultural education, and it is about the Economics of wellbeing and the virtue of thrift. Most important of all, Education for Sustainable Development is also about improving the learning outcomes of children who are currently underachieving. Inequality and underachievement provide a significant barrier to sustainable development and this has been identified as a major priority in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. References are provided at the end of this posting to free to download resources that provide more detailed explanations and rationale.

Education for Sustainable Citizenship in Early Childhood (ESCEC) draws upon the logic of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which requires us to consult the child on all matters that affect them. In fact their future is the central concern of Sustainable Development, and we therefore believe they should be given a voice in determining this future. From the ESCEC perspective it is important for children to learn about the interdependency of humanity and nature, and about their interdependency with other people near and far. But it isn’t enough just to learn about the efforts being made in achieving a more peaceful and sustainable world, in adopting a ‘rights’ perspective it is clear that children also need to be involved in contributing to these efforts.

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Guest post

The Many Faces of Anxiety

It seems particularly apt to have a post from Mrs M. about the different faces of anxiety in January, as this month is often linked with the Janus, the Roman God of war and peace or the beginning and end of conflict. In this guest blog, Mrs M. describes how we can recognise the signs of anxiety in children with autism, and then some really practical strategies for managing anxiety. It is an honest and inspirational piece. Please do share and comment.
Enjoy!

For my son, anxiety is part of who he is.

In fact, it is as much a part of his make up as the colour of his hair or the freckles on his nose that come out every summer. It is his constant companion and is far more than just a bit of worry that can be soothed away with some reassuring words of encouragement.

It is with him forever, and it is important we take it seriously as it plays such a huge part in his life.

It was also actually one of the first indicators to us as he was growing up, that something wasn’t quite as it should be. The older he got the bigger his worries seemed to grow. But at the time we didn’t realise that all the different behaviours we were seeing were driven by this hidden force lurking inside him. And the more we tried to overcome it and force him into situations that we thought he should be able to cope with, the worse we made it; because we didn’t take his anxiety seriously. We didn’t realise how much his anxiety was controlling his emotions and behaviours.

So we bowed down to pressure.

Pressure to make him conform because he looked so ‘normal.’ Pressure from professionals who didn’t have the answers we were so desperately seeking. And pressure from ourselves to live up to the perfect family image that everyone expected us to be.

Pressure to fit our son into societies neat little boxes.

But in fact, we quickly learnt that the key to us being able to move forward as a family unit was far more about us learning to accept and embrace his differences as much as anything else. Learning to accept that his anxiety was part of who he was, and it wasn’t going anywhere. And after all that we had to learn how to unpick his behaviour to see what was really going on underneath the surface.

And so out of necessity his anxiety became our constant companion. We have reluctantly learnt to share our lives with it, having to let it into our routines and family time. Allowing it to dictate the ebb and flow of daily life like the tide. It’s inevitable when your child has anxiety linked with their autism, there is no hiding from it…ever! So, we learnt to accept that it is part of what makes him so unique and roll with it.

Sometimes we can all see his anxiety, even people that don’t know him inside out like I do. It is etched on his face, in his body language and it seeps out of every muscle in his movements. There’s no mistaking it. It controls him like a puppet master making him bite his nails, compels him to ask the same questions again and again with nothing being able to satisfy its hunger. It makes him pace around the room like a caged tiger, and at times it completely takes over his body. Primal instincts kick in which trigger the fight or flight reflex in his body.

But this anxiety also has a darker more secret side.

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Guest post

Exploring construction materials

davidvphotoArtist and qualified teacher, David Veron invented a creative construction toy for his wife’s daycare nursery in 2015. Realising its potential he offered it to nurseries and schools near his hometown of Otley in Yorkshire. By the start of the second year began exporting across Europe and as far away as The Falkland Islands. The construction toy he called u-nu has now been enjoyed by thousands of young children.

David has kindly written this guest post about some of the things he has learned about how children use construction to further their learning, imagination and design skills.

I’m now approaching the end of my second year exploring the subject of early years construction and I’m finding out all sorts of interesting data.

There can be little doubt that early years construction is a vital part of how we encourage children to explore the world around them. By combining different kinds of construction materials, both bought and found, and making them available in an area of continuous provision, we offer children the opportunity to develop a diverse range of skills, from creativity to collaboration – from gross and fine motor skills to numeracy.

It goes without saying that we should also take an holistic approach to their learning, and where children are engaged in one activity, we as practitioners need to remain aware of the opportunity to introduce elements from their other experiences.unu1

Take for example the activity of building a tower. This could relate to a book that has recently been read to the children, let’s use for example the classic story of Rapunzel.

What if we then introduce some small world toys and engage with the child to recount the story, asking them questions about how Rapunzel feels being trapped up in a tower. They may wish to subvert the story and to take ownership of the narrative. This in turn may feed back to redesigning the original structure of the tower to provide Rapunzel with her own means of escape.

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Guest post

Twelve Days of Christmas

I am super excited to tell you that Mrs M. has written a special Festive blog for us, full of her usual great practical advice and top tips. I love Mrs M’s writing because I can really relate to it (I get a wiggly tummy sometimes too!) and it always makes me smile, but most of all, she has a great knack of emphasising the positives – perfect for the holiday season! I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Hi folks, it’s lovely to be back doing another guest blog for Kathy after what has been a hectic few months in our household I can tell you.

I ended up having to take a few months off from writing. So, for those of you waiting for my series of blogs to continue in which I have been looking at supporting children with autism in the classroom, don’t worry I’ll be back in the swing of things by January with my next instalment as promised. In it I will be looking at managing anxiety in the classroom, and how unmet sensory needs can lead ‘challenging behaviour.’ Keep an eye out for that one in the new year, and apologies for my absence these last few months…what can I say?  Sometimes life just has a habit of getting in the way at times doesn’t it!

Anyway, back to the here and now and I can’t believe as I am sat here writing this how quickly we’re hurtling towards Christmas. And I don’t know about you, but for me, this is the time when panic usually starts to set in as I realise how much I still have left to do in the coming few weeks.

The shopping, wrapping, unexpected guests, decorations, school concerts, parties… I mean the list goes on and on. If I allow myself to dwell on it all too much little wave of nausea washes over me as I stress about the Christmas cards write yet and how on earth I am going to manage to be in three places at once next Wednesday as my kids school commitments ramp up by the day.

So, let’s take a deep breath and pause from the Christmas chaos for just a minute. 

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