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Is your child starting primary school? We have tips for parents..
It won't be long until the next group of Junior Infants are heading to school in September, Marie Dowdall our Information and Training Officer has some tips to help both parents and children prepare over the summer:

  1. Make sure your child can do tasks by themselves, like unbutton and button/zip up their coat, use the bathroom independently and open their bag and lunchbox. Practice this as much as possible as some zips can be tricky! 
  2. If possible, casually go and visit or pass the school over the summer and sell it like an exciting and cool place to go. Maybe make links to children/siblings already attending. 
  3. Have a fun day out buying their school items, like school bag, pencil case, new coat and shoes. Ensure that they are all labelled and your child can easily identify them. 
  4. Let them have fun trying on their uniform, if they have one, or let your child plan what clothes they will wear if they don't have a uniform.
  5. Plan the school morning routine together and maybe practice the school drop. Don’t forget to add time for traffic if it will be a car drop off. 
  6. Play “school” with you child. It will be fun time together and may encourage your child to talk about any anxieties or worries they have. 
  7. Be available to talk about the start of school if your child wants to discuss it. Acknowledge their worries but reassure them that they will be ok. 
  8. Help your child to recognise their own name written down. Often their names will be on desks or on coat hooks and so being able to spot it will make their first day easier. 
  9. Recognise any anxieties you may have as a parent, talk about it with someone, if needed, and try not to project these onto your child. 
  10. Wear in their new school shoes, you don’t want your child hobbling around with cut heels because they have only worn trainers up to this point. Start them wearing the shoes a few weeks before school starts.


The National Parent's Council have a useful guide to the transition from early years to primary school, available at: 
http://www.npc.ie/images/uploads/downloads/HINTS__TIPS_8PP-am.pdf


    

Safeguarding the Safety, Health and Welfare of the Child (QRF Regulation 23)

The purpose of regulation 23 is to ensure that the protection and welfare of the children in any childcare service is paramount, and the children’s safety and wellbeing is the priority.

As a registered provider, you must be committed to safeguarding the children in your care, and to providing a safe environment where they can play, learn and develop. The scope of this regulation addresses the following:

General Safety including; Correct heating and hygiene of Infant formula; Choking; Safety and storage of toxic substances; the safe use of blind cords: the use of finger pinch protectors; safe use of portable heaters; safety and maintenance of furniture toys and equipment;

Safe Sleep (Print a Safe Sleep Poster for your service)

Administration of Medication

Management of Outings (where undertaken)

Infection Control

Risks Management

Accident and Incident Prevention

Fire Safety and Fire Drills;

 

Regulation 23 provides the core requirements of regulatory compliance as well as individual roles and responsibilities.

Read more...

(full information on this regulation, taken from the Quality and Regulatory Framework)


This, and all other regulations are available in the complete QRF document: https://www.tusla.ie/uploads/content/4566-TUSLA_QRF_DAY_CARE_LR.pdf. We are focusing on particular regulations in these blogs to draw your attention to the detail of them, as we are aware there is a lot for childcare providers to keep up to date with.

 

It is the duty of every person carrying on a preschool service to take all reasonable measures to safeguard the Health, Safety and Welfare of the children attending the service and to comply with the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016 and the Child Care Regulations (The Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services)( Amendments) Regulations 2016.


   

Following on from the shocking exposure of bad practice in RTE's recent 'RTE Investigates' documentary, we recognise the high quality of childcare in the majority of cases.  
Over the next few weeks we will focus on QRF* standards which are particularly useful in the running of services to a high standard. This week we focus on Standard 9, which deals with Management and Recruitment of Staff.
*Tusla's Quality and Regulatory Framework was developed to help Early Years Services to meet the requirements of the 2016 Childcare Regulations.
Having the correct policies and procedures in this area is essential, we have highlighted these in our blog post below to allow you to refresh yourself on the requirements.
Essentially you must:

- Ensure staff recruited are competent and qualified.

- Have references to indicate they are of good character.

- Not allow anyone to work with children until they have received Garda vetting, this must also be renewed after 3 years.

- Provide a comprehensive system of support and supervision to ensure good practice is being followed and any potential problems are discovered and dealt with at the earliest possible opportunity.

- Encourage and support ongoing CPD (Continuing Professional Development) for your staff

- There should be clear lines of communication and it should be very clear who is in charge at any time.

As the manager it is your responsibility to be familiar with the following:     

Regulation 9: Management and Recruitment

The purpose of this Regulation is, that as the registered provider, you must ensure that an effective management structure is in place, and appropriate people are recruited to ensure the quality and safety of the care provided to the children attending the service. You must ensure that staff are competent to perform their roles by providing appropriate training, supervision and performance evaluation.

Core Requirements of Regulatory Compliance are;

  1. Governance » The service has clearly defined governance arrangements and structures that: set out lines of authority and accountability; specify roles and responsibilities; are appropriate to the size, ethos, purpose and function of the service; and are documented and available.
  1. Roles and Responsibilities » The registered provider and each person working in the service has a clear understanding of their own role and range of responsibilities to ensure the quality and safety of care provided to the children attending the service. The registered provider has established, and maintains, an appropriate administrative process, ensuring the effective operation of the service.
  1. Management » There is a designated person in charge. » There is a named person who can deputise if required. » The designated person in charge, or a named person to deputise, is on the premises at all times while the service is in operation. » The person in charge on a day-to-day basis is documented. Example: this could be an entry in the staff roster. » There is an alternative person in charge in the absence of both the designated person and the deputy. » There is a person in charge or a deputy at each place, where the service operates in more than one premises.
  1. Recruitment Policy » There must be evidence of the recruitment policy being implemented. » Relevant staff know the requirements, and have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities in relation to the recruitment policy. » Relevant staff have received training on the recruitment policy.
  1. Vetting» Ensure that vetting is completed before a person is appointed, assigned or allowed access to, or contact with, a child attending the service. » Each employee, unpaid worker and contractor is vetted. » Vetting documentation is available in English (or in Irish where applicable). » Vetting includes references and Garda/Police vetting:
  1. References: » At least two written past employer references if a person has been in previous employment. (One of the past employer references must be the most recent employer.) » References from reputable sources if a person has no past employers. » A reference, if practicable, from the childcare employer if the person was previously employed in childcare. » A reference from the registered provider if the person has been employed in the service for five years or more and does not have a previous employer. » All references must: 1.be from a reputable source; 2. be in writing; 3. be dated and signed by the referee, giving details of the referee’s position; 4. contain the address, phone number, logo or headed paper of the referee and the organisation’s stamp where applicable; Example: a letter with a college stamp. » be validated by the person’s employer or relevant organisation; » be kept (along with any other validations) in each individual’s file
  1. Garda/Police Vetting: » Vetting disclosure for the person is obtained from the National Vetting Bureau of the Garda Síochána in accordance to the National Vetting Bureau Act 2012. » Garda vetting is undertaken for any person aged 18 years and over. » Garda vetting is undertaken by the person’s employer or relevant organisation. » Police vetting, in so far as is practicable, is available for people who have lived in a state or country outside of Ireland for more than 6 consecutive months. Police vetting is undertaken by the individual and given to the employer. » Garda vetting for each person has been undertaken within the last three years, including Garda re-vetting.
     
  2. Qualifications: Each employee and a registered provider working directly with children holds one of the following: » A minimum of a major award in Early Childhood Care and Education at Level 5 on the National Framework of Qualifications, or a qualification deemed by the Minister to be equivalent. » An exemption from the qualification requirement and confirmation that this exemption is accepted by the Minister. » The qualification requirement or relevant specialist training and the basis on which the capitation may be used for a person employed under the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM), detailed in an exemption letter from Pobal.
     
  3. Staff supervision; A staff Supervision Policy will be in place » There is evidence of the staff supervision policy being implemented. » Relevant staff know the requirements, and have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities in relation to the staff supervision policy. » Relevant staff have received training on the staff supervision policy.
     
  4. Information exchange » An effective internal communications system is evident within the service which enables the flow of information between staff and management. This is evidenced by: having time set aside for one-to-one discussions and staff meetings for staff to ask and respond to questions without interruptions, and to communicate important information and provide feedback to management about the service; having staff meetings facilitated by a senior member of staff. Minutes are taken and made available, and actions are implemented; and having one-to-one supervision meetings between staff members and their manager.
     
  5. Staff Training / Staff Training Policy » There is evidence of the staff training policy being implemented. » Relevant staff know the training requirements, and have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities in relation to the staff training policy. » Relevant staff have received training on the staff training policy.

Adapted from :

Tusla (2018). 'Early Years Quality and Regulatory Framework'. https://www.tusla.ie/services/preschool-services/early-years-quality-and-regulatory-framework/

 

For support in developing any of these policies please refer to “Developing Policies, Procedures and Statements in Early Childhood Education and Care Services” available at; https://www.tusla.ie/uploads/content/4572-TUSLA_QRF_POLICY_PROCEDURES_LR.pdf

*A policy is a statement of principles, values or intent that guides decisions and actions, or (more usually) determines the decisions and actions to achieve a service’s goals. Policies help to ensure that you adopt a consistent approach – in line with the service’s principles and values – throughout the service. They provide you with a basis for agreed, consistent and well-thought-through decisions.

 

* Procedures spell out precisely what action is to be taken, in line with the relevant policy. They also outline the steps to be followed, or the way that a task is to be performed, to implement the policy. Clear written procedures can pre-empt issues that may arise. This can help to reduce the need to make decisions under pressure or to wait for a decision to be made by management when an issue arises. This is because the basis for decisions is made clear. You will have already made decisions when the policy was being developed — in consultation with all relevant people. Clear procedures provide for consistency and allow everyone to know what is likely to happen in a given situation.


We all know that for children entering a preschool/ childcare setting for the first time it can be daunting enough. Add to this the introduction of a completely new language, and often a new cultural situation and you can see why settling in is more difficult for these children.

As parents from other cultures understandably value their child speaking their own language and aim for them to become bilingual it is often in preschool that children encounter English for the first time. It is important that we understand the value of bilingualism for the child, while supporting them to eventually use English on a daily basis in our services.

You will see below that there are some great practical resources available which you can use with children in your services.

For children who are encountering a new language there seems to be agreement that language learning goes through a number of phases:

– speaking the home language (the child realises it doesn’t work)

- the silent stage (listening to the new language and learning routines)

- repetition and language play, use of formulae, routines and single words

– more complex English or productive language use eventually follows

(from https://www.naldic.org.uk/eal-teaching-and-learning/outline-guidance/early-years/)

The NCCA stress that the silent phase is not something to be overly concerned about, it is normal for children to take time to observe and listen in a completely new environment/ with a new language. It is vital at this time to provide reassurance and encouragement. If possible some use of the child’s first language is helpful at this stage. Including the child in activities with small groups of children and giving as many opportunities for child to child interaction is helpful. It is through these interactions and those with the teacher that the child will eventually learn language. At first this is seen with the use of single words and phrases, singing rhymes are also among the first use of English to be seen. It may take longer for the child to gain in confidence to use more complex English but with good support we eventually see this happening.

In the Aistear guide Supporting Children to Become Bilingual. Birth to 6 years. There are the following suggestions for the early stages:

Speak slowly and clearly. • Use pictures such as a picture-timetable to explain what is going to happen next. • Use gesture, pointing and objects to help the child understand. Encourage the children to do the same. • Identify words you use often and repeat them, for example, toilet, lunch, book and home. Have pictures of these items displayed low down so children can point to them. • Make short comments and name things that the child is interested in or is doing. • Give children extra time to respond as they will take longer to think of what to say.

Finally, patience is required, it can take children up to two years to be able to have a conversation in English, and up to five until they are fully fluent (NCCA).

Practical Resources

 

Does your child speak more than one language at home? Some guides below to support the second language acquisition process. 

 Bilingual Leaflet - English

 Bilingual Leaflet - Gaeilge/ Bileog Dátheangach

 Bilingual Leaflet - Russian/ Двуязычный листок 

 Bilingual Leaflet - Portuguese/ Folheto Bilingue

 Bilingual Leaflet - Polish / Dwujęzyczna ulotka

 Bilingual Leaflet - Malay / Risalah Bilingual

 Bilingual Leaflet - Czech / Dvojjazyčný leták

 Bilingual Leaflet - Arabic / نشرة ثنائية اللغ

Integrate Ireland. English as a Second Language: Activities for very young Learners. http://www.ncca.ie/uploadedfiles/curriculum/inclusion/activities.pdf

This activity sheet has some useful ideas for the early years’ practitioner to use with children learning English as a second language, which include:

Suggestions of play activities to learn basic language, including learning to answer ‘what is your name’, describing family, body parts, food, days of the week. Using puppets, playing games to help interact & express themselves.

Also, from the UK based Early Learning HQ, there are ideas for practical activities: http://www.earlylearninghq.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Julie-Cigman-Strategies.pdf

and here http://www.earlylearninghq.org.uk/lesson-plans-activity-ideas/eal-esl/

 

Referenced in the blog:

NCCA Aistear guide. Supporting Children to Become Bilingual. Birth to 6 years. http://www.ncca.ie/en/Practice-Guide/Planning-and-Assessing-using-Aistears-Themes/Resources-for-Sharing/Supporting-children-to-become-bilingual-Birth-6-years-.pdf

NALDIC. Supporting bilingual children in the Early Years.
https://www.naldic.org.uk/eal-teaching-and-learning/outline-guidance/early-years/


By Joanna Fortune

 

We have to distinguish between anxiety and worry.  All young children will experience worry, or the uh-oh feelings, as I like to call them.  When young children are in a situation that is unfamiliar, they do not know what to expect, they cannot predict with certainty what might happen and perhaps Mam and Dad are not around (if I am at school, a party, a play-date, starting at crèche etc) my body and brain fire up to recognise this as being dangerous and my worry alarm is set off.  When my worry alarm goes off, I get a sudden energy boost that is going to send me into either fight (stay around and work through it, or perhaps stay and act out behaviourally) or flight (run away and hide) mode.

 

You see when our internal worry alarm goes off it’s like our brains flip our lids.  This means that my cortex area (the more logical and rational part of my brain) is off line and I sink down into the back of my brain where it is very hard to think or act in a rational way.  Our feelings need for protection and general survival instincts are all located in this more primitive part of my brain. But worry is a good (albeit unpleasant) experience. Worry is a form of protection and a little bit of worry can keep them safe by stopping young children from taking dangerous chances or touching things they shouldn’t.

 

Image result for child worriedSome children start to worry even when there is no sign of danger or anything unfamiliar to trigger their worry alarm system.  It’s as though they have false alarms in that area. For children like this even a thought or an idea can be enough to trigger their alarm and send them into fight or flight mode.  This is called anxiety and it is different to worry because there isn’t always a reason for the child to feel like they do and so they will begin to see danger in situations where it doesn’t belong.  Anxiety can run in families, it can be cause by stressful life events and sometimes a blip in our brain chemistry can cause it. Anxiety keeps a child in a state of what is called anticipatory arousal and this means that they are on high alert all of the time.  They are always watching for signs that they are right to feel the way they do.  Being in this heightened state makes it hard for them to concentrate in school, to keep their friendships, to take in what you say to them (so you probably feel like you are saying are you listening to me? A lot)

 

When you see your child’s worry alarm go off it is great if you can step in as quickly as possible.  Respond to the feeling rather than the behaviour you are seeing.Image result for sitting with a worried child

  • Have them sit alongside you and look out of the window.  Together name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can touch and 1 thing you could taste if you were outside.  This can be enough to reset the brain

  • Sit facing them and gently take their hands in yours.  Holding eye contact, simply take slow in/out breathes and ask them to do as you do, at your pace. This helps their nervous system move from fight/flight mode back to rest mode.

  • Have them draw or write about the worry.  What is the worst part of it and what would need to change to make it better?  Have them draw/write this new scenario and focus on this. Tasks like this help to reengage the more logical and rational part of the brain.

  • Re-direct them to a play activity with you.  Play with them. Young children rarely say “I have something I would like to talk about” but they do ask, “Will you play with me” and in their language that is the same thing.  They are asking if you will help them to process something.

Joanna Fortune is a Clinical Psychotherapist specialising in child and adolescent Psychotherapy, with over 12 years experience working with children and families. She regularly writes in national media on parenting and family issues.


To date we have shared the experience of Early Days Montessori and Hillhouse Preschool.

 

 

This week’s service is “Shining Stars Academy” based in Athy. “Shining Stars Academy provides a Full day Early Years’ Service and a Homework School Age Childcare Service.  Shining Stars Academy aims to provide an excellent environment for children to develop their social, personal and educational skills and learn through a planned play-based curriculum influenced by the Montessori philosophy and underpinned by the national curriculum framework Aistear.”

 

Shining Stars Academy

 

Our outdoor day was enjoyable for both children and educators. We are making provision for outdoor play each day and it is evident in our setting. We value the play (indoor and outdoor) as it has benefits to children’s health, social, emotional and physical development.

 

 

The equipment in our back garden is relayed with children’s interest. On the day we carried our routine as always; we brought indoor outside. We carried the circle time in the garden and as they were investigating musical instruments the fresh air and the space allowed us to experience different tones and vibes created by guitar, violin, xylophone and many, many more musical instruments.

 

Some of us enjoyed obstacle course as the space allowed us to use tunnels, two spring games, using balancing stilts, throwing balls into the designated container. We all felt that it was beneficial as we tried to be team players and cooperate with each other.

           

 

 

Our younger friends enjoyed hopscotch, mark-making with chalk and sensory play with water, spaghetti and leaves. Educators provided activities based on children’s interests and on what could be beneficial to stimulate in natural environment. We feel that that the children gained skills such as co-ordination, balance, confidence and self-esteem. We noticed that the outdoor experience also allowed the children to express themselves freely, without the limitations of indoor space and “indoor rules”.

 As a general feedback we can say that outdoor learning has a positive impact on children’s well-being, they are more relaxed and keen to explore world around them.

 Written by: Shining Stars Academy Staff Team

 

 

CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO VIEW FULL PHOTO VIDEO GALLERY

 

 

If you already acknowledge and support the benefits of outdoor play for young children and participate in outdoor play on a daily basis, then this is a day to celebrate what you are doing and inspire other services to get involved.

If your setting is new or needs to develop more outdoor learning opportunities for the children, then use the Outdoor Classroom Day to act as a catalyst for more time outdoors every day.

It’s easy to get involved and there is something everyone can do!  Help build a movement that gets children outdoors to play and learn every day!

Sign up to be part of the Outdoor Classroom Day movement today! 

Sign up here: https://outdoorclassroomday.org.uk/


Last week we shared the experience of Early Days Montessori.

 

This week’s service is “Hillhouse Preschool” based in Naas. “Hill House is a not-for-profit initiative that aims to support the role of parents as the primary educators of their children and offers a programme of parenting, family, faith formation and cultural activities as well as mother-and-toddler groups and a pre-school facility”.

Read their story and enjoy the Photo Video Gallery……….

 

Hillhouse Preschool

Outdoor Play and Learning at Hill House Preschool

At Hill House Preschool, situated on Tipper Road, Naas, Co. Kildare, we appreciate the benefits of having outdoor play central to our daily routine. The children are at their happiest and most energetic at outdoor play. We see it as an extension of the classroom which compliments indoor learning. It is the children’s favourite part of the preschool day.

 

At Hill House Preschool we are extremely fortunate to have such an expanse of outdoor space, which allows physical movement for the children on a grand scale. It encourages exploring, creativity and imagination. It gives them the freedom to shout and make noise that they could not do indoors.

Hill House Preschool is a Country House setting. This makes it the most interesting outdoor environment to play and learn in. The children enjoy nature walks on its private grounds amid mature trees and interesting hedgerows. They get to live the seasons, connect with nature and respect, love and care for the environment. We have snack outdoors on fine days. The outdoors satisfies all their senses.

The children plant flowers and vegetables, adding colour to their outdoor space and learning where food comes from. The three classes do outdoor play together and so the children cross the divide of the classrooms and build on these friendships each day.

Hill House Preschool provides the children with a wide range of valuable outdoor experiences. They play in sand, water and mud. They search for insects and explore plants. The children build and construct. They jump on logs, chase bubbles, draw with giant chalks and play in tents/houses. Basically, they run, skip, hide, carry, pour, plant, dig, and play ball. They take turns and take risks with new things such as ride- ons, cars, trikes scooters and slide. They co-operate, share, problem solve, follow game rules and direct their own learning and play.

We were very enthusiastic, therefore, about getting involved in the Outdoor Play Day with Kildare County Childcare Committee. The children were so excited at doing the entire morning of preschool outdoors. A lot of planning went into the day. Tables, chairs, kitchen play areas, book areas were moved outdoors. The children never looked to go indoors throughout the morning. It proved to be an invaluable experience as the children moved between the different areas of play and learning. We realised there is nothing in the preschool routine that can’t be done outdoors. The visit from Kildare County Childcare Committee on the day, provided us with some great new ideas to add to our outdoor play going forward.

Year round the parents feel the value and appreciate the benefits of daily outdoor play at Hill House Preschool and they see how happy and fulfilled their children are as a result.

Written by: Valeria Larkin, Manager

 

CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO VIEW FULL PHOTO VIDEO GALLERY

 

 

If you already acknowledge and support the benefits of outdoor play for young children and participate in outdoor play on a daily basis, then this is a day to celebrate what you are doing and inspire other services to get involved.

If your setting is new or needs to develop more outdoor learning opportunities for the children, then use the Outdoor Classroom Day to act as a catalyst for more time outdoors every day.

It’s easy to get involved and there is something everyone can do!  Help build a movement that gets children outdoors to play and learn every day!

Sign up to be part of the Outdoor Classroom Day movement today! 

Sign up here: https://outdoorclassroomday.org.uk/


Last week, KCCC began our series on Kildare Early Years Services and their experience of participating in Outdoor Classroom Day in May 2018.

 

What is Outdoor Classroom Day?

Outdoor Classroom Day is a global campaign to celebrate and inspire outdoor learning and play. On the day, thousands of schools around the world take lessons outdoors and prioritise playtime. In 2017, over 2.3 million children worldwide took part, more than 580,000 of those were in the UK and Ireland.

 

The Outdoor Classroom Day was a day to celebrate what Kildare Early Years services are doing outdoors and inspire other services to get involved and practice and promote outdoor play as an authentic everyday learning experience, rain, hail or shine!

 

 

Kildare’s Early Years Services Experiences

 

Kildare County Childcare Committee (KCCC) invited and encouraged early years services in Co. Kildare celebrate outdoor learning and play by participating in Outdoor Classroom Day on the 17th May 2018.

Early Days Montessori: Kilmeague, Naas, Kildare

Hillhouse Preschool: Tipper Road, Naas, Kildare

Shining Stars Academy: Coneyboro, Athy, Kildare

 

Our first service sharing their experiences is “Early Days Montessori Playgroup” based in Kilmeague, Naas.  Early Days is a sessional based early years’ service that caters for morning and afternoon sessions for children aged 2.5 years to 6 years and are “committed to providing: A high quality service based on the Principles of Síolta, the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education. A developmentally appropriate play-based curriculum based on the themes of Aistear, the Early Childhood Curriculum Framework”.

Early Days Montessori

Outdoor Play at Early Days    

The smell of turf fires from surrounding houses in the autumn and winter, the smell of fresh grass in the summer, the sound of the birds busily gathering to build their nests, the sound and sight of aeroplanes overhead, the shape and speed of the clouds, the taste and sensation of raindrops on their tongues, the sound and sight of the crows as they gather on the steeple of a nearby church and the rustle of leaves underfoot.

Children have a huge opportunity to experience these simple things by being afforded the chance to spend time outdoors and while we are based in a rural village, these are the wonderful experiences children are having in our service.  Our outdoor environment is a space where children can explore, imagine, investigate, create, mix and concoct, construct, smell, touch, climb, balance and dig amongst other things. 

 

 

They have the opportunity to engage with small world through our beach, farm, jungle, dinosaur and construction themes.  They engage in water play from our water wall, our under the sea small world area to fishing for rainbow fish, sharks and mermaids.  Their imagination is endless.  

 

The children create structures in our larger construction site, digging sand, mixing cement, stacking bricks, transporting stones while using wheelbarrows, lorries, diggers and excavators, buckets and shovels.  In this space they can be whoever they wish.

In our reading den, an area separated from the rest of the space, they can be observed reading stories, engaging in another fantasy world, or just setting the world to rights with their friends.  In our little outdoor house, resources are available for them to create their own artistic masterpieces and there are instruments to enable them to be musicians.  This space at times also becomes a coffee shop, a vets’ office, a doctors’ surgery and a supermarket amongst many others.

The children are encouraged and supported to express themselves by painting on our wall, mark making with chalk on the board or on the ground. They are challenged to climb, balance and develop their many other senses in addition to taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing. 

 

 

 

In our sensory garden, children can smell and touch various different types of plants and are encouraged to be responsible for all of the small trees, plants and flowers we grow together. 

Our outdoor space while not huge, has been created with love, care and attention – all materials where possible are completely natural and recycled, and this encourages children to engage in many types of play such as symbolic, imaginative, superhero, solitary and collaborative.  For example, a simple stick can represent many different things to a child.

Being outside brings a new, added, very valuable dimension to children’s learning.  We offer seamless provision (for most weeks of the year) for outdoor play where the children are free to choose where they want to be and what activities they wish to engage in.  The environment as the “third teacher” can most definitely be observed here as one which supports the children to explore learning which cannot be taught but one which is experienced and lived through the senses, in nature for each and every child.

The benefits of our outdoor play space for children as described above far outweigh the challenges of lack of funding and health and safety requirements such as; risk assessment twice a day, ensuring all exposed areas of small world and sand are covered at the end of each day, removing these covers each morning, cleaning and sweeping up sand and mud that the children endeavoured to clean up with all their might, ensuring that resources and materials are appropriate and safe.  Having applied for capital funding twice and having no success, this space has been created by rummaging in sheds, kitchen presses, kindly asking a landscaper for logs and discs from trees being cut down and working in partnership with parents, accepting resources they may no longer need and can add.  Ultimately this journey to creating a warm, inviting and engaging outdoor play space was and continues to be a labour of love, ensuring that we create this space with the children in mind where they are free to engage in play and learning through nature.

Written by: Sinéad Early O'Brien, Owner/Manager

 

CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO VIEW FULL PHOTO VIDEO GALLERY

 

 

 

 

If you already acknowledge and support the benefits of outdoor play for young children and participate in outdoor play on a daily basis, then this is a day to celebrate what you are doing and inspire other services to get involved.

If your setting is new or needs to develop more outdoor learning opportunities for the children, then use the Outdoor Classroom Day to act as a catalyst for more time outdoors every day.

It’s easy to get involved and there is something everyone can do!  Help build a movement that gets children outdoors to play and learn every day!

Sign up to be part of the Outdoor Classroom Day movement today! 

Sign up here: https://outdoorclassroomday.org.uk/


By Joanna Fortune

It is hard to be a parent. It is really hard to be a parent who also works outside of the home. It is even harder to try to strike a balance of how to maximize quality time with your child when you don’t have quantity time! Parents are usually exhausted after a day at work and come evening time just want to fall down on the couch and relax...But this isn’t a reality for parents, unfortunately.

 

As a parent your time will either be spent on basic needs: Related image

• Feeding

• Bathing

• Sleeping

• Clothing

or on the over-and-above kind of needs:

• Having a chat

• Playing a game before bedtime

• Bedtime Story

• Riding bikes together on a Sunday afternoon

 

Every child needs both sets of needs to be met and responded to.  While they will survive on the basic needs being met they will thrive on the over and above kind of needs being met. It’s about you being tuned in and putting everything else aside to spend time with your child, not just about you fulfilling a basic need. Sometimes you will need to prioritise to make this work...leave the dishes in the sink and attend to the bedtime story. 

 

Other ways to spend quality time with your children

 

Double up with your chores

If you have to wash your car, put one child in it with you and use the time sitting in the car to play a game of thumb wrestling or pee-a-boo or make a handstack together.  If you have to go to the supermarket, bring one child with you and make them their own shopping list so that they are engaged in the activity rather than just following you around.

 

Have a day out

Have a day out (or a morning/afternoon/evening) with your child that is just you and they and spend the time doing things that they like to do while connecting and talking together. This should be one to one time and it can be with Mum/Dad (ideally alternate so that your child gets this special time with each of you). This shows your child that you know the things that they like and are prepared to share in these with them.

 

Plan your week ahead

Tuesday/ Thursday is story night; Friday is make-your-own-desert night, football or outdoor play on Sunday afternoon. In this way time won’t fly away with all your good intentions.

 

Make a point of having dinner or breakfast together

Make a point of having dinner or breakfast together and don’t be in a rush. Talk about your day and ask about theirs, what is everyone’s best bit of the day and the day they wish they could do differently.

 

Joanna Fortune is a Clinical Psychotherapist specialising in child and adolescent Psychotherapy, with over 12 years experience working with children and families. She regularly writes in national media on parenting and family issues.

 


By Joanna Fortune

Premature and prolonged access to screen based devices can have a negative impact on developing children across all areas of their development including sleep, weight, behaviour, mental health and even motor skills development.  The research tells us that the best advice for parents of young children is no screen time under 18 months old and a limited amount thereafter with a maximum of an hour a day beyond 2 years old.  This is largely because the critical period for brain development in young children is 0-3 years old.  Young developing brains cannot process the multiple forms of stimuli screen based devices deliver and as such young children get over stimulated and are unable to process or regulate their brains resulting in behavioural meltdowns.

 

In reality many children are spending much longer than this on such devices and this is impacting on the very skills most parents are seeking to work on with their young child. Their ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s emotions and connect with them, to build a large vocabulary are all negatively impacted upon with excessive screen use at this young age.

 

Schools report that young children are having difficulty gripping and holding a pencil or developing handwriting skills because their fine motor skills are under developed as a result of too much screen time.  If you read this and are concerned about that in your child you can start to address it now with simple and small changes.  Limit the screen time and introduce access to play-doh, have them use and pick up other items using a grip tweezers (under your supervision), practice pulling the zipper up and down on coats, painting with cotton buds because the grip is small and tight, or lacing up ribbons or shoe laces.

 

Develop some screen play alternatives.  Create a treasure map either around your house (if raining) or outdoors and have your children follow clues (drawn or written) to track down a treat at the end.  The treat can be a baking session with you or a nature walk. 

Develop a check-list before they are allowed onto the screens.  Such as 

  • Have you shared a story with someone today?
  • Have you told and been told a joke today?
  • Have you spent at least 20 minutes playing outdoors today?
  • Have you done two chores to help around the house today?

The answer must be yes to the above before screens are handed over.  With very young children you can ask and answer the questions of them saying “Have I shared a story or a laugh or been outdoors with my child today” etc.

 

Screens are an unavoidable part of our lives these days and they are not going away so it will help you in your parenting to develop a proactive plan about ensuring they are a small part of you and your child’s daily activities rather than the main activity they engage with.

 

Joanna Fortune is a Clinical Psychotherapist specialising in child and adolescent Psychotherapy, with over 12 years experience working with children and families. She regularly writes in national media on parenting and family issues.

 

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