Following a really interesting and informative chat last night on #EYshare (Read the tweets HERE), I’ve been thinking a lot about gender stereotypes and gender issues that need to be considered when working with children.

Firstly, I have to admit, this topic made me feel a little uncomfortable!  It’s an important topic and I’m glad that it was suggested (and so competently led by my wonderful guest hosts), but there was something inside me that made me doubt myself and double check anything that I wrote! However, this awareness of my own feelings has alerted me to the fact that, perhaps I need to do a bit more reading and research about this topic. In today’s world, we can’t bury our heads in the sand and avoid these kinds of issues!


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Anyway (back to the point), the overall consensus of the chat was that ALL children should have the opportunity to experience ALL activities and ALL toys. In other words; there is no such thing as a boy’s toy or a girl’s toy, there are just toys. This is something that I strongly believe and hope to continue to actively promote in all of my work, whether in pre-school or primary. We need to provide opportunities for children to make their own choices and decisions, without putting any of our own judgements or pre-conceived ideas onto them – for example, we shouldn’t giggle at that wee lad who has decided to wear the pink gown and the high heels. And we should reassure the girl who wants to play racing cars instead of baby dolls. The bottom line is, we need to respect each child as an individual. It is our job to open those doors!


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Another point that came up was that it is vital that we are introducing our children to role models which challenge unhelpful stereotypes. It is clear that film and TV are attempting to bring more women into strong, leading roles, however there are far less examples of caring and gentle male characters. As it was pointed out last night – this is YET ANOTHER reason why we need more men in childcare!



One of the big issues discussed was challenging parents/ families gender opinions. For example,


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if a parent doesn’t want their girl to be playing football/ their boy to be playing with barbies. I feel that it is important that EY practitioners and teachers attempt to talk to these parents and explain to them the value of these different types of play. However, it is also important that we do not disrespect parents and families. Children often have the firm belief that their parent is RIGHT and we need to be sensitive to this.

Finally, the chat got me thinking about my future practice as a primary teacher. Currently I have a pinterest board full of displays and ideas for ways that I would love to decorate my classroom. On second inspection, I realised that much of what I have pinned, and what I might choose could be seen as rather ‘girly’ and may not be appropriate for my entire class. I think that there is a simple way to address this – I will involve the children! Rather than making all of the decisions myself, I will ask the children’s opinions (where appropriate). Not only will this avoid suiting the environment more to one gender/ preference, it will also give the children a sense of ownership over their classroom.




Little Chatter Boxes

Last week’s #childcarehour was all about supporting Language Development in children.

It was a brilliant chat with so many great points and discussion! Please click on the image below for a link to the ‘Storify’ where you may read all of the tweets.


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Some of the points that were raised:

  • Language development covers making sounds (which eventually develop into words), listening, looking and mark making.
  • PLAY and following the children’s interests are the best way to develop these skills (as with all skills!)


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  • Questioning can be very effective, but it needs to be used carefully so that it is not false and doesn’t take away from real, genuine interactions.
  • We all love stories!!
  • Singing and music can help to develop rhythm, rhyme, intonation etc
  • Reading or singing together can also build those all important bonds with the children.
  • It’s vital to provide activities and environments that are stimulating and engaging.
  • And we all felt that children do not need to be formally ‘taught’ letter formation and writing (at the early years stage) – rather, we should be providing opportunities for the children to explore and develop the underlying skills of fine motor and co-ordination.

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Do you have any comments/ ideas that you’d like to share? Join the discussion using the hashtag #childcarehour!


P.S. I wrote a post on my University blog about how one might use a picture book in the classroom. If you are interested, please take a look HERE.


Wonderful Walks

I know, I know! Anyone who has read previous posts will be sick to death of me talking about nature walks – but they are brilliant!!

Today, I had a long overdue day off. I’ve been on teaching placement for the last 4 weeks which has kept me more than busy – getting up at 6:30, working until 4 and then coming home and planning/ evaluating until midnight. But now it’s all finished (I passed first year WOOHOO!) and my summer holidays have well and truly started.

So… how did I spend my day off? I went for a lovely walk in the sunshine!


Feeling inspired; I thought I would blog about some of the learning opportunities that I stumbled across:

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The first thing I noticed were that there are lots and lots of Dandelion clocks! I have many fond childhood memories of picking these and using them to ‘tell the time’.

There is a very obvious connection to simple counting here (count how many puffs to blow away all of the seeds). You could also use them to spark children’s curiosity in telling the time – do the dandelion clocks really work? What time is it now?

A different way to explore these would be to think about simple seed dispersion. Why did these dandelions grow here? What will happen to the seeds when you blow them away?

Blowing the dandelion clocks has the added bonus of developing some of the muscles in the mouth. These types of experiences can have benefits for speech and language.

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Of course, it wasn’t just dandelion clocks that I saw. There were all sorts of flowers and plants!

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The next part of my walk involved sitting in the shade and looking up at the trees.  It’s important to take a break and sit in the shade – particularly if it’s a really sunny day.  Encourage your children to look at the patterns that appear as the trees move and sway. Can you move your body in the same way?  Children can also see how the sunlight sneaks through the gaps to create speckled patterns on the ground. Can we sketch any of these patterns? Could we make a similar pattern using paint/ collage?

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Speaking of light and shadow, how much fun would it be to trace the shape of these shadows with chalk onto the pavement? You could also have the children explore their own shadow shapes using their bodies or loose parts. Come back to the chalk outlines later in the day/ the next day. Are the shadows in the same place? Why do you think this is?

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Time to look up at the trees again! At this time of year you’re bound to find all kinds of beautiful blossom! What colours can you see?

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Consider using colour match cards or some kind of chart to note down the different colours that you spot while walking. I’ve seen some great examples of this using paint cards e.g. Dulux (with the various shades).

Again, this is a great link to some fabulous art – you could use tissue paper to imitate the soft, delicate blossom petals.

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As I was heading back towards home, this tree caught my eye. Firstly, the bark looks perfect for some fantastic rubbings, but also the bottom looks like a fairy door! If you have any trees like this near you, why not work with the children to turn the tree into a fairy house, and create a little fairy garden at the bottom? There are LOADS of great ideas for fairy gardens to be found on pinterest.

2016-05-17 15.12.54 Here are some of the bits and pieces that I collected while I was out walking.

Be sure to explain to the children that we mustn’t pick too many plants/ leaves (especially not from people’s gardens if you pass by).

When you bring these items back home/ back to nursery, you could display them on a nature table for the children to investigate wtih magnifying glasses or mirrors. You could also add your natural materials into the sand/ water table, into playdough or into potions. On the other hand, they could be used for measuring and weighing, painting, or printing… the possibilities are endless.


I hope this post has given you a few ideas for your next nature walk!

Don’t forget – you don’t need the sunshine to get outside, puddles and mud are just as much fun!



What do I think about me?

Self concept is something which impacts everyone from very young children to fully grown adults! Although it continually develops, a healthy self concept is something that must be fostered and nurtured from a young age to ensure the best possible chances for our children.

So what is self concept? Well Rogers (59) believed that it is made up of 3 aspects:

  1. The view you hold of yourself (Self Image)
  2. Your self esteem
  3. What you wish you were like (Your ideal self)

There are also 3 ways in which we develop definitions of ourselves and these are:

  1. Concrete – our physical characteristics and specific roles
  2. Abstract – our qualities, beliefs, feelings, morals
  3. Comparative – relational to others

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At a very young age, infants and young children begin to see themselves as unique individuals – separate to others. Parents and professionals can reinforce this by responding to baby as he/she makes eye contact, smiles, babbles. Smiling, talking and singing to baby has so many wonderfully positive effects! As they grow, children will begin to be self conscious of their actions and therefore reinforcement or criticism has a very strong influence on their self concept. You may notice this as a baby starts to look at the adult before pushing a toy off the table or opening a cupboard that they maybe shouldn’t! Try to avoid becoming frustrated and always remain calm while maintaining firm boundaries for the child.

As they reach the ‘terrible twos’ they often start to become independent and want to do things for themselves. Allowing them to experiment and recognising their independence is really important for reinforcing the child’s self worth.

As they continue to grow (3-4)  children begin to understand themselves in new ways; they use concrete descriptions (e.g. I have brown hair and I’m a big sister) and start using comparative terms, while still focusing on their own qualities (e.g. I’m a good runner!) Even at this early age, children are beginning to think about the things that they are good (or not so good) at. They are continually interpreting the reactions of those around them to influence their self esteem and concept of themselves. Providing children with learning experiences designed around exploration and investigation is a really positive way of promoting an – ‘I can do it’ – self concept at this age as there tends not to be a specific end result.

There are also tonnes of fun activities to be done around this stage; for example creating an ‘all about me’ book where children create self portraits, write words about themselves/their friends/ their family, include photos of themselves doing various activities. You could also involve some maths by creating tally charts/ bar graphs etc of various physical features within your classroom (e.g. how many of us have blue, brown, green eyes…?)


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At around age 5-6, children are having to deal with the big change of going to school. Some children may be more confident around groups of peers than others but there is a possibility for all children to feel anxious. As they get older they begin to use more comparisons between themselves and others (e.g. My friend Billy is good at maths but I’m not) and they also recognise themselves as part of groups (e.g. I am a girl guide.)

It is important to help children to recognise the things that they do well, but equally important to let them experience failure. This is one of the reasons why I despise the stories of sports days where there are no winners and everyone receives a medal – children need to learn that everyone has their own unique abilities and that it is OK if you don’t win. If they are deprived of these experiences as children, then they will often lack the coping abilities that are needed within the real world.

I also believe that it is important to model a healthy self concept to your children. Of course, it’s not possible to feel wonderful about yourself 100%  of the time, but show off that positive mental attitude. This might even mean admitting to the children when you find something difficult. This particularly applies to me when it comes to maths – but I feel that (when I’m a teacher) if I am honest with my children and admit that even I need to continue to work hard in order to accomplish my goals then this is a positive and helpful experience for everyone.


I hope that you can join me on Twitter: Tuesday at 8:30-9:30 where we’ll be discussing this topic some more along with any questions, ideas or related reading from various knowledgeable tweeters from the world of childcare. It’s a very friendly and informal chat, just add the hashtag #childcarehour – see you there!


Further reading: – How children develop self concept

Positive Parents – Building a positive self concept


On a slightly related side note – I was pointed to an interesting article this week which debates the idea of telling a child that they are beautiful even if they are not. In my opinion, every child is beautiful in one way or another – but it is an interesting read: TAKE A LOOK  – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Baby play

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My broody brain has taken over! With friends and family welcoming tiny bundles of joy into the world over the last couple of weeks, and after spending a lovely day yesterday working in a baby room; I though I would post some of my favourite toys and resources for baby play!

In no particular order:

  1. Mirrors – this might be an obvious one but it’s amazing how much stimulation and enjoyment a little one can get out of looking at themselves in a mirror. Try different shapes and sizes.
  2. Scarves and soft materials – whether you’re waving them, stroking them onto baby’s skin or playing peek-a-boo, materials and fabrics are wonderful for all kinds of games and enjoyment.
  3. Brushes – Stroking, brushing and squashing are all wonderful kinds of sensory experiences to be had from playing with brushes such as a clean toothbrush or hairbrush.
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    Pots, pans and spoons – not only fun for putting things in and taking them out again, these metal resources can make fab (read as “loud”) noises when banged together.

  5. Foods – baby safe food can be a great invitation to play and can help to encourage those young children who are beginning to try new foods.
  6. Stacking/ sorting toys.
  7. Play cups, teapots, babies – and all kinds of resources that allow children to imitate those adults that they see around them.
  8. Noisy toys – toys that sing songs, squeak, rattle (and are the cause of many a headache to us grown ups) wont fail to be engaging and attractive to little ones.
  9. Discovery bottles – fill pop bottles with water and glitter/food colouring/ beads/ conkers/whatever else takes your fancy and seal it up tight. Then let the children explore by shaking, turning and watching.
  10. The most import one of course is YOU! No amount of beautiful toys or environments can give a baby the stimulation and joy that you can. Don’t forget how important you are and what a fantastic job you’re doing!

Lots of the above toys and items can be made into treasure baskets. HERE is a wonderful article explaining the value of heuristic play and the link with treasure baskets. There are also more ideas for you to explore so I recommend you give it a read!

N.B. please do ensure that any resources that you add to your treasure baskets or baby play areas are child safe and appropriate for your baby’s age and stage.

Blog hopping (baby treasure baskets):

The Imagination tree – Baby play ideas

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The train driver’s wife – 150 items to include in your discovery basket

Baby centre – DIY baby sensory treasure baskets – 101 Items to put in a treasure basket for babies

Very Messy Mummy – Treasure baskets

Hope everyone has a fantastic week!