Who should I follow re: Early Years Education and parenting?

I ‘d start with these:

Try Teacher Tom (Advocate of child centred early years education) Laura Markham’s site aha parenting ( behaviour focussed) and finally Early Childhood Maths group (aimed at teachers but some great fun, research based ideas for activities you can do at home)


20.10.2023 Want children to learn from their mistakes?

Then think about how and when you learn from your own mistakes… and pick your moment. It can help to leave things to cool and return to the subject.   I was reminded of this a few times this week. The first was when I was stung with a parking ticket I had forgotten to appeal. My initial response was to rail against the injustice, blame others and generally be unpleasant. Only once I had cooled off was I able to see it more clearly, take responsibility and pledge not to repeat it. 

So when a group of children in the nursery had not been able to resist destroying someone else’s tower,  (against our ‘you make it you break it rule’) I told them that it was not okay and asked them to move away but  I could see they wouldn’t be receptive to any longer discussion about why.  Instead I concentrated on comforting the ‘victim’. When they returned from playing in the garden, I asked the ‘perpetrators’ to return and help build again. Whilst they were involved and engaged, I asked them how they would feel if someone knocked their building down. They looked a little worried and unanimously agreed that this would not be okay. I gently reminded them how upset the children had been before, and we went on to discuss how they would need to agree ‘as a team’ if this new construction could be destroyed, as it had been built as a team. 

Sometimes we attempt to deal with transgressions in the moment, either because other parents are watching, or because we feel that if we don’t we are ‘letting children get away with things’. It can be hard to resist the temptation to say ‘well, that’s what happens…’’  to an upset/angry child who has thrown a toy and broken it.

Instead make a mental note, and then don’t be afraid to come back to addressing this with your child, ideally when they are relaxed and calm, and relations between you are positive. ‘Do you remember when you threw that toy and it broke? That upset you didn’t it?’ They are far more likely to respond in a rationale way – it works for adults too! 


Teaching reading – Don’t rush in…

Parents and teachers can be in a rush to teach the mechanics of reading, before some of the building blocks are in place. One of these blocks, is the understanding that text carries meaning and that the meaning is fixed. This understanding does not come naturally, it comes from lots of exposure. At PIB we take every opportunity to teach this explicitly. Examples might be:

-children identifying their names on the registration board, when they mis ‘read’ a name we might say, “no that isn’t Teya… look its a e for Emilia..it says Emilia” and as we do that running a finger along the letters from left to right ( another essential building block for reading) . You can do the same with any text around the house and outside; always best to start with the children’s favourite things – “look, this is your favourite yoghurt flavour, it says strawberry here”

-children deciding that the Wendy house is an ice-cream shop. Teachers would use this ‘ teachable moment’ to offer to write a sign, encouraging children to watch as they write, and involving children in the process. “So shall I write ice-cream shop, or is it a chocolate ice-cream shop? Okay then, I will write 3 words, ch..o..c..o.late…i..ce…c..rea..m sh..o…p. Of course this also teaches phonic sounds, and letter formation, but for some children at an earlier stage of understanding, this will teach that text carries a specific meaning. Find any excuse at home for writing. The more meaningful for your child, the more effective your teaching will be; – what would you like for your birthday? If you tell me, then I can write it down. ” or “you don’t want your baby brother to play with your power ranger? Let’s put a label on it that says it’s yours”


STAND BACK 2.10.23 Our tip for this week – stand back. Sometimes when adults have precious time to play with their children they jump in, suggest, offer and talk. At PIB we remind ourselves to use some time simply to watch children at play (a huge privilege of the job!) This often reminds us of the enormous amount of learning in play, and also helps us tune in to what this play/learning is really about. A child ‘ just playing’ with cars, might actually be systematically testing each car to see which can fit under the sofa, or perhaps telling a quiet story as s/he plays, that you otherwise might have missed. In the process they are reinforcing mathematics, language and story telling skills You might get an invitation to join, but if you don’t it may be that that is independent play and learning, and is better left uninterrupted by an adult. Watch first; if you make a habit of it you will learn a lot about your child!

PS – if you watch and are confused about your child’s play, or unsure of the learning, please come and chat to me or one of the staff.


PACKING BAGS: The educational benefits : 22.9.23 At nursery we always have a stock of bags of different sizes and sorts for children to use. You might want to offer your child something similar at home. To find out why, keep reading…

Piaget identified that children’s play follows ‘schemas’ and one of these schemas is ‘transporting’ i.e. packing bags/containers to move objects elsewhere. Many children are simply driven to do this, we see it as part of their ‘hands on’ learning about many things:  ‘Capacity’ – you need experience of what ‘full’ and ‘empty’ look like before you can talk about the theory, ‘quantity’, gaining experience of adding one more’ and understanding ‘lots’ and ‘more’. There’s little point in giving a child a worksheet to complete about weight unless they have experienced a bag getting heavier and then felt the weight as they tried to drag it somewhere else! (Okay – this is not the only way children can experience heavy and light, but you’ll get the message.) Our current nursery children are also using this play to re-enact and make sense of their recent holidays and moving house experiences, so also learning and applying vocabulary and conversation skills. We believe it is well worth the effort of unpacking these bags every evening; if this is your child’s current passion – go with it!

15.9.23 Question: How do we talk to young children about different religious/cultural festivals? It is really important to ensure that messages are age appropriate and also have a context. We always start with the celebrations of staff and children we have in the nursery, as this has meaning for the others. Teaching festivals in the abstract is unlikely to make much sense for young children. We usually use language like ‘ So and so had a special day yesterday’ ‘The special day was called x. We might well teach even tricky names in other languages, children like to have a go with new sounds, we might clap out longer words ‘ Di…wa…li…”. If there is an age appropriate story that is told at that festival we may share it (Diwali and Chinese New Year stories are always popular!) or we may focus instead on sharing customs, traditions and symbols which can be really powerful. Apple and honey are coming up next week for Rosh Hashanah, and listening to the sound of the rams horn is usually a hit. Even our youngest children can join in these sensory experiences, and as they mature they will be ready to attach some meaning. 


July 2023 CHILDREN’S DRAWING:  This week our advisor from Camden visited, she was (of course!) pleased with what she saw, but she likes to leave us with a challenge; to think about how much children were using mark making as a tool to express their thinking. Whilst there is certainly a place for showing children who are interested, how to draw or write specific symbols or letters, we do children a disservice if we don’t show just as much interest in their use of drawing as a free form of self expression. Many children are keen to draw as they talk, a vertical line represents a ‘mummy’, rapid circular movements show the ‘monster’ and a horizontal line shows the monster running away. This is a world away from neat symbols for ‘a house’ and  ‘a person’ but,  if adults show that they value this type of painting or drawing, then not only will children be encouraged to develop skills in this area,  we may also be nurturing the next Picasso or Kandinsky.


TALKING ABOUT TRANSITIONS – WHAT TO AVOID It is of course important to prepare children for change, whether they are leaving nursery for big school, or staying but saying goodbye to friends and familiar faces. Three well-meaning mistakes that parents and carers should avoid: 

1) DON’T START TOO EARLY. At PIB we begin focusing on moving on, two weeks before the end of school. It will be another 6/7 weeks before children start their new school, and in the life of a 4 year old that is an eternity.

 2) KEEP TALKING ABOUT OTHER THINGS! If all the adults around children are excited about their move to ‘big school’ or the next group, then there can be too much focus on something which is, to a large extent, an unknown for a child. This focus may actually serve to increase children’s anxiety. Make sure it doesn’t dominate conversations

3) KEEP IT POSITIVE – please, please keep all discussion positive. As tempting as it may be when faced with an uncooperative  child, to say ‘you won’t get away with this at big school’ please resist. Children will quickly absorb this and ‘big school’ will loom as a threat, rather than an exciting next step.


SCISSORS AND CUTTING 30.6.23 – For many nursery age children, one handed cutting is tricky, but practice does help so children who have had lots of access will develop skills faster. We’d recommend that you have child scissors accessible at home, our ‘risk/benefit assessment’ of these,  is that the benefits of development of fine motor skills far outweighs the low risk of a small cut. And being able to cut opens up whole worlds of design and making. Children generally love to ‘snip’ before they move onto cutting things out which is much harder. Try providing smaller strips of paper they can chop up, also scissors and playdough, and even leave out some of your (safe) cuttings from the garden – leaves and stems are great sustainable way to get some cutting practice ( give children exciting things they can cut, and explain that there are other things around the house that they can’t cut!) 


MAKING A BUG HOTEL 23.6. 23 Can you find something at home that your child can bring in to contribute to our garden bug hotel? Whilst you are collecting you could take the opportunity to talk about how important minibeasts are for us, and the jobs they do – worms churning up the soil to help our plants grow, bees and butterflies pollinating, providing food for larger animals, eating waste leaves.


For the structure:

  • Smallish wooden crates
  • Old planks of wood
  • Few old bricks if you can carry!


  • Old ceramic plant pots, insides of kitchen rolls, almost anything with holes but avoiding plastic.
  • Almost any Natural materials – cones, twigs, leaves, stones,- (These are the easy bits to collect with your child over the weekend)



You may have already noticed that your child loves being silly with sounds, maybe they love made up words like ‘bdoink’ or they enjoy stories with made up words. Playing with sounds, changing the sounds in words, is fantastic for developing listening skills and sound discrimination, all of which children will need for hearing and using phonemes for reading. Children loved this week’s game when we changed everyone’s names to begin with ‘s’ and then ‘t’. Here’s a link to a silly song that does the same kind of thing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4AOHOdJ1Bk. It can drive adults mad, but its perfect for that kind of learning!


This week our maths focus was ‘ 2D shape’. At Puss in Boots this means much more than simply pointing at a paper triangle and naming it. That is relatively easy, and perhaps not the most interesting things to teach children about shape. At PIB we count the sides of each shape, running our fingers from corner to corner, and we love asking children how many sides a circle has! We show children what a corner is, and  talk about curved and straight sides, and draw shapes in the air. Really importantly, we teach children that shape is everywhere, and we spot similar shapes in the environment – luckily our tables, our trapezoids and hexagons which adds challenge. But just as importantly, and arguably more so, to gain  a real understanding of shape, we PLAY with shape, we BUILD with shapes, and we put shapes together. It is this ‘hands on’ practical experience that is so essential for this age and stage. It’s certainly not just naming the shape that counts. Old fashioned wooden blocks for building are great for this, and can be found in almost any charity shop. If you don’t have, then it’s worth investing in a set!

Why are you so excited about planting?

One of the many wonderful reasons to work with pre-school age children is their brutal honesty. 3 and 4 year olds have not learnt resigned acceptance that this week’s ‘ theme ’ will be what they need to sit and listen (or feign listening!) to that week. At PIB it is our role to offer children exciting, developmentally appropriate projects. Our aim is that these will engage and inspire, but we accept  that can’t be the case with all children all the time. This past half term PIB staff and children have been working on planting up the new beds. One boy, sensing the enthusiasm of the teachers, asked us directly ‘ Why are the teachers so excited about the planting?’ We want our children to think for themselves and to think creatively and critically, and this question demonstrates those attributes perfectly. The question asked for a thoughtful and honest answer, not all of which could be given at that moment; Because we wanted to show the children how exciting it is to grow vegetables from seeds. Because we wanted to encourage bees and other bugs to visit by planting flowers. Because we wanted to teach children how to grow and care for plants, so if you want to do it at home, you will know how. Because it makes the nursery look beautiful! 

Then there are the things we might not share with the children, but are still true,  Because we know this project provokes almost limitless learning across the curriculum, children develop fine and gross motor physical skills whilst digging and sowing, spatial awareness, counting and size, literacy skills ( Come and write some labels for our vegetable beds) and huge amounts of vocabulary.  

Whilst we hope that even the doubtful ‘gardeners’ will be convinced of the joys of Springtime planting, if that’s not the case, then there’s learning in the observing and questioning too! 


Looking After The Forest at PIB

When we take children to the Heath, there are many exciting natural materials they can collect from the ground. These vary with the seasons but include conkers, leaves, wood, seeds. However, we ask that they do not pick any living  flowers, or plants, or break off sticks from living trees. This is part of our ‘ We Look after the forest’ rule. Whilst we appreciate that families make their own rules, I would suggest that you might want to adopt the same policy.

We tell the children that the animals need the plants  to keep growing (and so do we) , and if everyone took something home, there would be nothing left. This is an important part of beginning to teach children about looking after their world.

We also tell children that if you would like to pick flowers or plants, then you can plant and grow them yourself,  in a pot or in a garden if you have one. Then you can choose whether you leave them in the soil, or pick them. We are looking forward to demonstrating this with the produce of our planting over the next few weeks.