Category : Recommended Resources

Recommended Resources

Informative and beautiful sharing books

Penny Tassoni MBE is very well-known for her textbooks for Early Years practitioners and educators because she knows how to explain difficult concepts in a very approachable and accessible way.

She has now applied this same skill to an informative and useful set of picture books for children, covering sharing, making friends, tidy up time and children’s food. The books are designed to be read together by parents and carers with their children to help the children to make those all-important connections. They are beautifully illustrated by Mel Four with clear images that are sure to delight children.

In the back of each book, there is a double-page of advice and help for the adults, which help and guide, without being too prescriptive. This is ideal for first-time parents, or if you are an educator working alongside parents.

These are a highly recommended set of books to have in your Early Years setting or on the bookshelf at home. I hope Penny Tassoni will go on to produce more in this delightful series.

* Disclaimer: Featherstone/Bloomsbury were kind enough to give me a set of these books for review purposes

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5 books on Supporting Children’s Mental Health

It is becoming more and more important to understand children’s mental health.

It is too easy to assume that children have no worries because they don’t need to pay bills, go to work or care for others.

The statistics are alarming. For example, one in eighteen (5.5%) preschool children have been identified with at least one mental disorder (1). But knowing there’s a problem and knowing what to do about it are two very different things.

So I was delighted to read five very helpful, but very different books this month, all published by Featherstone (part of Bloomsbury Publishing)(2)

  1. What’s going on in my head? by Molly Potter

A beautifully illustrated book, written using language that is ideal to share with even the youngest of children, this book starts with how emotions link to general health. Molly goes on to give some meditation ideas for children; asking for help; friends and thinking habits.

There is much to enjoy about this book. The many different scenarios and the variety of solutions are particularly useful – addressing the vast majority of everyday situations that children may find themselves in, from friendship problems to school and parents.

There are three full pages of guidance for parents and carers at the back, which condenses the advice, including resilience and emotional literacy.

There are two great books in the Featherstone ’50 Fantastic….’ series that I’ve chosen for their help in supporting children’s mental health.

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2. 50 Fantastic Ideas for Emotional Resilience by Jillian Harrison-Longworth

Jillian notes at the beginning of her book that children do not learn to be resilient by osmosis, they need to be taught some skills directly. Her 50 Fantastic activities are perfect for this.

The 50 activities are 10 in each of the 5 key characteristics of emotional resilience: routines; self-esteem; confidence; perseverance, and co-operation. These activities look deceptively simple, for example, drawing together or talking about your own reflection in a mirror, which means you can pick up the book and use it immediately.

However, to get the most from these activities, I would suggest treading about each of them all the way through, including the top tips, to ensure you understand the reasoning behind each activity.

3. 50 Fantastic Ideas for Mindfulness by Tammie Prince

This book has some excellent meditation and mindfulness activities. Most of them require no resources or very simple resources that you are already likely to have, such as pebbles, mirrors or leaves.

The activities are mostly about the process as children use their natural mindfulness to stack stones, flower breathe or smell the roses (or other flower scents).

The book ends on some ‘mindful teacher’ ideas for practitioners and educators. Although I think practitioners could easily use the ideas intended for the children for their own mindfulness as well. For example, the first activity, Just Breathe, changes ‘energy from tension to relaxation’ simply by using a breathing technique. Easy, useful and very effective.

4. A sense of Place: Mindfulness Outdoors by Annie Davy

This book on mindfulness is a more in-depth book, with references to seminal work and some interesting research references. Chapter 6 on mindfulness pedagogy is particularly interesting and includes focusing on the breath, nature’s breath, fire and finding a ‘sit spot’.

A sit spot is described as a place where adults can sit quietly and notice the invitations or affordances that nature offers for learning – as well as the impact this can have on everyone’s wellbeing.

The 3 part structure of this book – Setting the scene; Learning through the senses, and A sense of place – makes this an easy book to access, whilst still discussing some complex ideas and concepts.

5. Let’s Talk about When Someone Dies by Molly Potter

Hopefully, this is something that, as parents and practitioners, that we don’t have to encounter too often, but there may be occasions when it is necessary.

As with Molly’s other books, this is beautifully and sensitively illustrated throughout, with clear advice.

Molly includes some pages on different types of funerals, as well as how children may feel or the questions that may come up. This is an excellent book for practitioners and parents who would like to discuss death with children in a clear and non-euphamistic way. It would be ideal to have in the staff room or office, ready in case it was needed to help support children through difficult times in their lives.

So, five very different books, but as a group, they cover a lot of angles when supporting children’s mental health as a matter of good practice.

It is also very encouraging to see ever more recognition that the practitioner’s own mental health is valued in these books as well.

You can purchase these books on the Bloomsbury website here: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/superpage/featherstone/

or from Amazon here:

What’s Going on in my head by Molly Potter

50 Fantastic Ideas for Emotional Resilience by Jillian Harrison-Longworth

50 Fantastic Ideas for Mindfulness by Tammie Prince

A sense of Place: Mindfulness Outdoors by Annie Davy

Let’s Talk about When Someone Dies by Molly Potter

(1) https://files.digital.nhs.uk/A6/EA7D58/MHCYP%202017%20Summary.pdf
Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2017 Published November 2018 by NHS Digital

(2) Disclaimer: I was sent one or more of these books from the publishers for free. You can be assured that the reviews are fair and honest reflections of the contents.

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Fantastic Nursery Garden ideas

Being outdoors with the children has a huge range of benefits, but sometimes thinking of a new activity or how to improve that small, disused corner can be a challenge.

Luckily, there is now a book that meets that challenge!

50 Fantastic ideas for nursery gardens is a full-colour book, with ideas that are presented clearly and are easy to follow. There is an activity per page (some go over 2 pages), with some of the classic ideas such as building a bug hotel and feeding the birds, to the more unusual, such as making elderflower cordial and a plastic bottle greenhouse.

As well as all the beautiful photography and colour co-ordination, each page is structured well, so you can instantly see what you need, what to do, the type of learning that may happen and some fantastic Top Tips. There are activities for all the seasons and ideas for large or small gardens.

The love of being outdoors and in the garden really shines through in this book, which makes it a joy to read and explore.

You can purchase this book from Featherstones here or Amazon here.
*Disclaimer: I was kindly given an advance copy of this book for review purposes

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Holistic development from Birth to Three

The age from birth to three is an explosion of development and learning for young children. From being totally dependent on parents and carers for their every need to becoming independent children, with unique personalities, complex language skills and physical abilities, children learn it all in an incredibly short time.

This does not happen in a vacuum, however. Babies need to hear language and see communication to be able to learn proficiency; a whole range of physical skills are required and need to be practised before crawling, cruising and walking can be mastered; attachment, bonding, episodes of joint attention and developing resilience are just a few of the social and emotional aspects that will help to develop personality.

Similarly, this development doesn’t happen according to a fixed timetable (although there are some general developmental norms) or in discrete pockets of development.

Babies and young children learn and develop holistically, meaning that many areas develop all at the same time and interdependently on each other. This is particularly pertinent in the birth to three age range, where there can be significant benefits to giving babies and young children experiences that are interconnected and consider all areas of learning and development.

For example, baby massage is physically soothing, and, in addition, it is beneficial for bonding and emotional soothing.

Physical development with respect to eye contact, pointing and babbling are all important beginnings of communication.

Of course, communication in the form of storytelling and narratives greatly supports young children’s sense of self, their sense of community and may also be a vehicle for exploring their own sense of morality at the basic level of ‘goodies’ vs ‘baddies’.

Superhero play (which may take the form of ‘goodies vs baddies’) can be used to encourage different forms of movement with older children such as leaping, spinning and creeping during their play.

As you can see, birth to three is all about the interactions, the interdependencies and the links between ALL areas of learning and development.

I have explored these concepts and ideas in my latest book – The Holistic Care and Development of children from birth to three which has just been published. The aim of the book is to illustrate just how vital it is that we consider children holistically, rather than arbitrarily sub-divide their accomplishments into pre-determined boxes, especially in the birth to three age range.

In the book, I have included lots more examples, as well as activity ideas to support them. There are also the underpinning theories about babies and young children’s development at the beginning of each chapter to set the context.

Babies and young children are amazing learners, capable and curious. It seems a shame not to acknowledge this and support them in their preferred way of learning – holistically.

You can purchase the book now from David Fulton Publishers here: https://www.routledge.com/The-Holistic-Care-and-Development-of-Children-from-Birth-to-Three-An-Essential/Brodie/p/book/9781138211056 or from Amazon here: http://amzn.to/2nOcDQK

 

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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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Anthology of Educational Thinkers – perfect for all practitioners!

I love reading about the different perspectives and pedagogical approaches to young children’s play, learning and development. It is fascinating to me that different people can view the same scene of children playing, but be able to analyse this in many, many different ways.

The more you reflect on different types of pedagogy, the greater your understanding of how children learn, play, grow and develop. It is vital that practitioners don’t fall into the (very easy) trap of ‘We’ve always done it like this’ and forget to reflect on their own practice.

There are some great opportunities for self-reflection and professional development, such as attending conferences, having professional discussions with others in networks or sharing on social media sites. But for quiet, personal reflection there is nothing to beat a great book, especially if it challenges some of your existing thinking.

So, when I received my copy of ‘An Anthology of Educational Thinkers’ written by Sally Featherstone, I was a little nervous that this would just reinforce all my current thinking, giving few opportunities for reflection.

How wrong can you be!

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Talking and Learning: Book Review

I’ve followed Michael Jones’s blogs ‘Talk4Meaning’ for a number of years, for three very simple reasons:

  1. They always have sound advice, based on Michael’s vast knowledge
  2. They make me stop and think about the ‘obvious’
  3. They are fun, filled with music videos, reminiscences and stories.

So, when Michael mentioned to me that he had a book coming out, Talking and Learning with Young Children, I immediately pre-ordered it.

When the book arrived, it was even better than I’d hoped, with Michael’s enjoyment of language evident on every page.

From the very start, Talking and Learning with Young Children has a positive message: ‘It is fun to talk, for the sake of talking’ and has a focus on joint learning between adults and children, rather than adults hijacking the conversation.

As you would expect from such an experienced observer of children and raconteur, there are plenty of beautifully written examples of children’s interactions, in fact there are examples and case studies on almost every page. In addition, there is a very useful glossary at the end of the book.

The book starts with some of the most important theories, but doesn’t get bogged down with these. Michael starts his analysis of communication with those fascinating interactions between adults and babies, which start to form the basis of verbal communication. The chapters then move through first words, talking with two-year-olds and consideration of the home learning environment.

Chapters six and seven investigate the early years setting. First of all ‘quality talk’ is explored, with some excellent examples of Sustained Shared Thinking, and a range of different scenarios that practitioners will find themselves in.

In chapter seven, the perennial problem of having valuable and meaningful conversations with small groups of children is examined. This is the most realistic situation for most nursery settings and Michael has included some very practical ways that adults can extend and share conversations, even when there is a large group of children.

Taking a step back to look at the bigger picture, chapter eight looks at the pedagogy in a setting and how this can be organised to influence practice in a positive way, with some very thought provoking sections (see ‘Saying what you mean’ on page 157).

The final chapter considers ‘Communicating complex ideas’ and explores how practitioners can support children’s thinking using quality language. This chapter starts with a fantastic example of a four-and-a-half year old grappling with the question of ‘Is Elvis real?’ (page 172). The young child’s logic is impeccable and it is a brilliant illustration of how language exposes children’s thinking processes.

I think this is a book you could read just for the sheer joy of it – you don’t need to be doing a course or studying language development. It would certainly be a very valuable addition to the staff room or network group and for starting reflective conversations in staff meetings.

However, I will leave the last words to Michael – Enjoyable conversation is the place where children develop as talkers.

You can get the book from all good booksellers and your Amazon link is here.

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The Health Gap by Sir Michael Marmot

You will probably know the name ‘Marmot’ from the Marmot Review (see Review Roundup here) published in 2010 and from a previous blog post of mine entitled ‘Leading scientist affirms importance of Early Years’.

Sir Michael Marmot has been publishing again, and this is an incredibly powerful book with a deceptively simple message, summed up in the first and last sentences:

Why treat people and send them back to the conditions that made them sick?

Do something, Do more, Do it better

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The New SSTEW Scale

The new SSTEW – Sustained Shared Thinking and Emotional Well-being Scale for 2-5 year olds

SSTEW cover

by Iram Siraj, Denise Kingston & Edward Melhuish

I was very excited to see that there was to be a quality assessment tool for Sustained Shared Thinking and Emotional Well-being (SSTEW). As I’m sure you know, I’m a massive fan of Sustained Shared Thinking, and its benefits, but measuring the quality of Sustained Shared Thinking is massively difficult.

How can you really analyse the quality of interactions, which may only be a few minutes long?

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Reducing the paperwork

Whenever I visit settings to do training, or ask practitioners what would make their job role more satisfying, the usual response is “less paperwork”. I have been discussing this with Catherine Lyon, an experienced nursery owner, who has developed her own solution for this problem.

In this guest blog, Catherine explains the rationale for her software as well as its benefits.

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