Flexible and responsive planning

It’s been a funny week.

First my youngest son fractured his finger (rugby!) on his writing hand, just before his mock GCSEs start. So we’ve had various A&E, fracture clinic and physiotherapy appointments.

Then my husband’s cough started to sound quite worrying and after a doctor’s assessment we ended up at an emergency clinic at short notice.

Consequently all my planned visits, writing and a podcast recording have had to be rearranged, shuffled around and generally put out of the nice, neat order I had organised. I have to admit at this point that I’m really not happy when things don’t go according to plan. Everyone has been very understanding, but I hate having to re-organise, even for the best of reasons.

It’s that same feeling you get when you’ve spent the previous day freezing small world toys into a balloon full of water, ready for the morning session, only to find the children are much more interested in something else entirely.

I remember only too well the day that I had my small speech and language group all sat quietly (Good sitting, Good looking and Good listening all sorted out) ready to start the planned session for the morning, to find the window cleaner turn up at the exact same moment.

It transpires that watching soapy bubbles being cleaned off glass is much more engaging than the activity I had planned! Once the window cleaner had finished we filled the water tray with bubbles and did some cleaning of our own, instead.

This is the basis of flexible planning – following the children’s prevailing interests and fascinations. It can be incredibly frustrating when you have taken time and energy to plan activities and resources that you have identified as being perfect for the children’s next steps, only to find the children are not interested or have moved on to something new meanwhile.

This can be reduced by planning activities only one or two days ahead, so there is an immediacy to your planning. Similarly, thinking how each activity could be adapted to meet a variety of interests. For example, how you could introduce different size and colour blocks into the block play or how adding black colouring to the play dough could make it more appealing to children who don’t normally access the play dough.

It is worth noting these, very briefly, on the side of your planning sheets, so other practitioners can make adjustments if you are not there (after all, you may be sat in the fracture clinic with 30 other people…!). This also demonstrates how your planning considers the needs of every child in your setting.

It may be a couple of minutes of extra work, but could save you hours if things don’t go according to plan.

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  • Sam Apr 19,2017 at 5:31 pm

    The very reason I abandoned ‘traditional’ planning when I started childminding. I come from a primary teacher background where planning was done termly to the smallest of details. That just doesn’t ( I know from experience) work in the early years. Now my planning mostly consists of looking at my environment and questioning (constantly) does it meet each child’s needs? Everything else is ‘in the moment’.

  • Hanan Feb 8,2015 at 12:01 pm

    Iam child development officer and I like new ideas for the children learning and I love outdoor play. And thank for the tips

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