Early years

making paper chains

Deck the halls!

With Christmas approaching, the four-year-olds in my local nursery are full of anticipation as they practice their Christmas play and learn new songs for this special season. Last week they were busy making some festive paper chains to decorate their classroom in between a good deal of very wet play outdoors!

Paper chain making is relatively simple, yet requires incredible concentration and gives those finger muscles a fine-motor workout. As the children glue and stick together the colourful strips of paper, sing-song counting can be heard around the table: “one, two, three, four, five, six, seven…one hundred!" And then they collaborate on the tricky task of attaching their chains together to form really long ones…

Interested in making paper chains with young children in your setting? Instructions here.

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Heuristic play

What is heuristic play?

According to the Oxford dictionary, “heuristic” means helping to find out or discover; proceeding by trial and error. It stems from the same root as Eureka – “I found it!”

In the early years classic, People under Three, Elinor Goldschmied and Sonia Jackson coined the term heuristic play, to explain how to provide a more structured opportunity for this kind of activity. Heuristic play “consists of offering a group of children, for a defined period of time in a controlled environment, a large number of different kinds of objects and receptacles with which they play freely without adult intervention”. It is particularly useful for children in their second year who often seem unwilling to engage in any activity for more than a few minutes.

Interested in running heuristic play sessions in your setting? Read this.

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playing with blocks

Osian's story

We all know that block play is good for children, but here’s part of an email we received from Vikki Curtis in Wales which portrays just how powerful constructive play can be. 

 

“When Osian started nursery at 3 years old, his use and understanding of language was very good. He also had excellent understanding of social language cues and non-verbal communication and extensive vocabulary, but he made most of his sounds at the front of his mouth. Osian quickly realised that he couldn’t be understood all of the time and as a result developed an anxiety stammer.

 

Osian was referred for speech and language therapy. By this point he was stammering most of the time and started “giving up” in the middle of sentences. His therapist worked with him to find ways to help his talk and had advice for me as his parent. We tried all of the strategies… but the most successful one was almost an accident!

 

Playing with blocks has always been one of Osian’s favourite activities. He loves to envelop and disconnect things, and blocks provide the opportunity to do both.  He would play for extended periods of time, building structures, hiding toys inside and then knocking them all down! Eventually, we noticed something…

 

Osian didn’t stammer when he was playing with blocks. He would talk to himself – fluently. No stammer. At all. Blocks gave him the opportunity to lose himself so completely in the play that anxiety disappeared. He also had plenty of opportunities to rehearse what he wanted to say. He realised that he was speaking without a stammer and used this new found confidence to talk in other situations.

 

Osian has now been discharged from speech and language therapy. He no longer stammers - but he does still play with the blocks!”

 

Read more about the many ways that block play supports learning and development.

 

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boys fighting over a toddle box

Teaching compassion

Learning how to interact positively with others is a vital developmental task of early childhood. However, many teachers are reporting a worrying increase in social problems such as bullying, lack of problem-solving skills, and anti-social behaviour.

 

Current trends, such as the increase of media and technology in the lives of young children, combined with fewer opportunities for play and interaction with others, are feeding this widespread problem which Diane Levin has characterized as “Compassion Deficit Disorder”.

 

No, this is not another label to slap on children’s behavioural difficulties. Rather, it is an indictment on a society where childhood is not valued and supported. It is vital that children have real life, meaningful experiences right from the start that help them to learn compassion and empathy. Parents and educators are in a unique position to curb this damaging trend. Read Diane Levin’s article.

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teacher and child singing or doing finger games

From stickers to self-regulation

“Do we really want our children to simply do as they are told without asking? Well yes – sometimes we would. But for a child to become successful in life, surely we want them to take some control of regulating their own choices and behaviours,” writes Ali McClure, author of Making it Better for Boys. “We would love our children to become self-regulated, happy individuals, but do some of the strategies we use in our early years settings actually backfire in this regard?”

 

Ali McClure will be running a full day course: “From Stickers to Self-Regulation”, for early years and KS1 practitioners on 12 November at the Community Playthings factory in East Sussex. Read Ali's article and find out more about her training.

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