Stop #Bullying Before it Starts


Bullying is often in the news, in our streets, in our schools. Is it in our early years settings too? Sadly, the answer is probably yes. This is where it begins, if we don’t teach the children the right personal social and emotional skills to stand up to bullying, and avoid becoming a bully.

Bullying has touched most peoples lives at some time. Having needed glasses since three years old I was inevitably four eyes at school. Add to that the fact I enjoy learning, and I was soon teachers pet as well. Funny, I didn’t notice the football and netball champs getting teased, but liking English lessons was seriously uncool.

I don’t blame the children. They didn’t know any better, and having done it through primary school it continued in High school. The teachers weren’t that concerned. I mean it wasn’t racist, or sexist, just cruel. One particularly helpful head of year suggested I practised a ‘hard’ face in the mirror.

I hoped it would be different for my sons. The school had a zero tolerance policy and everything!

My son came home after a few weeks and said, “Mum. Why’s it okay to tease someone for the colour of their hair, but not their skin?”

“It isn’t okay to tease anyone about anything if it upsets them.” I said. “If anyone says something you don’t like. Tell them. If they keep on doing it and deliberately try and hurt you, that’s bullying.”

He looked from under his auburn curls, with his big brown eyes and said, “well, a boy got excluded today for making a racist remark to someone, but the kids tease me for being ginger all the time, and the teachers aren’t bothered.”

It makes me sad. No one should have to feel ashamed of their hair or skin colour, or for wearing glasses. All bullying should be taken seriously. Full stop.

My son coped by laughing at himself. He came in one day and held his hands in the air. “look, what am I?”

“I’ve no idea, I said confused.”

“A baked bean on a fork,” he said, and laughed.

I laughed too, but I think we were both hurting inside.

Early years professionals are in a unique position, where they can stop bullying before it starts. We can notice children’s feelings and help them to label them. We can support children to understand how others feel and give praise when they want to help others.

In a school I volunteer in, I recently saw a rather disruptive young man, being buddied with a young man who struggled with writing. Both children benefited from the experience. One was pleased to be able to help the other with his writing and both received praise for working together well. Given the chance, the normally disruptive child was very empathic and patient with his peer. He positively shined with pride when he was praised for his help

If you have ever turned a blind eye to bullying, or been afraid to make it worse, act now. The children are looking to you for guidance. Look at the behaviour again and ask:

  • Is it deliberate?
  • Is it persistent?
  • Is it an abuse of power?

If the answer is yes, then you might want to look at the following guidance for support.

If I could talk to my year head today, I’d tell her, “I don’t practice my hard face, I practice my smile. Because I’m one of the lucky ones. I had enough resilience to get through. Not all children are so lucky.”

Thanks for reading, and please share this message.

Judith x



Working Together to Tackle Childhood Obesity.


I keep seeing articles on childhood obesity and it’s got me thinking. What can childminders do to help?

The actual size of the problem (no pun intended) seems to differ from one article to the next, ranging from 1 in 10 children to 1 in 4. I have even seen it referred to as an epidemic.

One thing’s for sure. It’s a real problem and it isn’t going away.

According to the NHS:

Obesity is an increasingly common problem, because many modern lifestyles often promote eating excessive amounts of cheap, high-calorie food and spending a lot of time sitting at desks, on sofas or in cars

Taking steps to tackle obesity is important because, in addition to causing obvious physical changes, it can lead to a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as:

Obesity can also affect your quality of life and lead to psychological problems, such as low self-esteem or depression.

Obese children often become obese adults, so it is obvious that we need to tackle the problem as soon as possible. Having visited many childminders, I have never seen children who want to sit in front of a screen all day eating junk food. I have certainly never met a childminder who would let them!

So how can they help?

I think that part of the issue is the jumble of information in the media which often makes it hard for parents to make informed decisions. As the government tell us to cut sugar, we are also faced with information about artificial sweeteners and their possible side effects. Food which is supposedly healthy often has hidden issues, e.g. low fat being high in sugar and vice versa and not all parents know how to make a healthy meal on a low budget.

The government are committed to make choices clearer through better food labelling and advice.

I believe that childminders can help by passing on their knowledge of healthy eating and exercise, in easy to understand terms, to parents and children:

  • If you know that the children enjoy certain outdoor activities, share the benefits with the parents and encourage a continuation in the home environment.
  • Talk to children about the effect of different types of excercise on their body.
  • Let children grow fruit/veg and take some home.
  • Share simple healthy recipes with parents and/or invite them to cook with you and the children.
  • Encourage children to drink water. It’s only when they get used to the taste of sugary drinks that water becomes less interesting.
  • Show parents and children how fruit and vegetables can be tasty and fun for children. E.g make smoothies, fruit kebabs, soup.
  • Share government information with parents so they can make their own informed decisions.
  • Talk to children about the effects of different food on their bodies.

When I was childminding I asked all the parents to let children bring in a vegetable for harvest. We made soup together during the day then everyone ate it together later. The children ate vegetables they wouldn’t normally eat because they enjoyed the cooking process. Parents got to see how simple and enjoyable it is to make healthy food with their children.

For some simple guidance that you can share with parents please see these links.

You may also want to take this time to review you’re healthy eating policy. Is it working? Are parents on board with it?

If you have any other ideas or suggestions please let me know.

Judith x

A good day in the office!


As a Childminding Development Worker, my favourite days are usually spent out visiting childminders, or children centres, where you can see the positive result that quality childcare has on the children. So, a day stuck at my computer, is not a day I look forward to.

Last month, I settled down with a coffee to tackle my over flowing inbox, and my day was instantly brightened. I had received the following email from Debbie Luxton-Keough –

I thought I’d just let you know I had my inspection yesterday! (5 years)

And I have to say it was actually quite a positive experience! The lady I had was lovely.

A little bit of feedback:

She came in and told me what she was planning to do. She would spend the first hour or so observing me with the children (we spent all that time out in the garden). Then she would go back in, and go through all my paper work. Then she would observe again and ask me questions. Then feedback!

She was with me 3 hours! She observed me and she interacted with the children.

She didn’t ask me a huge amount of questions – she asked:

  • What training I had done over the past year and how I had changed/improved my practice as a result (I mentioned the aspiration tree!) – This a new Noel Quinn tool to help children reach their aspirations. You can find it at
  • About safeguarding and if I knew what to do if I had a concern
  • How I would help one of the children I had to be ‘ready for school’
  • How I got views of my practice (apart from parents and children) eg networking with other childminders etc
  • She asked how I took photos and what I did with them afterwards

I think she observed most of it or read it in my OFSTED SEF.

It was great to hear that she’d had such a positive experience with OFSTED, and even better when her report was published with an Outstanding grade!

I asked Debbie if she felt that partnership working has helped her achieve her Outstanding quality. This is her reply:

One of the things the inspector fed back to me on the day, was that I had great partnership working, especially with parents! She said the parents were very engaged!

A few of my methods –

When children start with me I offer two settling in sessions (more if needed). The first one, parent/s and child come along and stay for an hour or two.  Then they come back for a second visit where the parent will leave the child for a short period.

I ask parents to complete an ‘All About me booklet’ detailing likes, dislikes, routines and stages of current development etc.

I use this information as part of my ‘starting points’

I also offer home visits as I feel it really helps to see the child interacting with familiar people in their own environment.

Once a child is in my care I share information by:

  • a daily diary for general day to day information
  • a communication book. I encourage parents to write in this book to tell me about things their child has been doing at home including current interests, outings and anything new they have said or done
  • Learning journeys which I aim to send home every 6 months
  • I try to send out a bi-monthly newsletter
  • I use my Butterflies facebook page to share pictures of activities and outings
  • emails and text messages
  • and lots of face to face chats!

I know the local pre-school really well and have a great relationship with them. We share information about the children we jointly care for including lots of daily chats and we also share copies of development/learning summaries and plans.

I also have a really good relationship with the local School and communicate regularly with the foundation teacher. I get a copy of their termly topic letter and any other relevant class information. They are more than happy to share the children’s learning journeys with me and I often take them home and add to them!

I don’t currently work with any other professionals although I did ask a parent recently if she could get some feedback from the health visitor about the 2 year progress checks. The feedback was that ‘they are really useful if they are filled out well’.

Of course she also has the support of a very dedicated Childminding Development Worker, which I’m sure you meant to add really Debbie!

But seriously, Debbie has worked really hard to improve the quality of her setting and the outcomes for the children in her care, so well done!

If you want to read her report it’s here –

Another bit of work I have enjoyed doing at my computer, is writing my blog. And now I’m guest blogger for Home Carer magazine, so I was pleased to see the latest publication with my article on it. Please read it on page 38

If you’re reading this and want to celebrate everything good about your setting, please email me at

Passing on some good news will brighten up my office days!


Sports Play, Not Sports Day!


It’s that time of year again. All the schools are having sports days. This invariably means that many children have fun taking part in team activities and parents enjoy watching their children. Doesn’t it? Well for most, surely?

What I remember from my school years, is begging mum not to come and watch me running up to hurdles, then stopping, afraid of bashing my legs on the metal bar. I remember the humiliation of showing everyone how bad I was at P.E..

By the time my children were in primary school, things were handled much more sensitively. Awards were given for being a good sport (in other words being good at losing), as well as for winning. It was still mainly about winning or losing. Not having fun and getting fitter.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against having sports day. It’s important to encourage physical activity and celebrating achievements is also valuable. But I don’t remember going in on arts day and cheering the good painters, or having a prize for the person who tried hard, but didn’t do very well.

I think we need to find a way that every child can do well and give every child a medal/certificate for taking part. Yes, they need to learn that losing is part of life, but not in front of every parents and teacher in the school. Let that be the time they can all shine.

When I was childminding, a fellow childminder and I had a mini sports day for the children. We asked them all what  they liked doing  best and did a mixture of activities which they would all enjoy, be able to achieve and would support the different areas of physical development. We took photo’s to share with parents and invited them to join us in a picnic of healthy food, when they picked the children up. All the children had fun and didn’t have to worry in case they “let the team down.”

The following activities support Balance, co-ordination, strength, agility, spacial awareness and confidence:

Running around a bean bag obstacle course.

Crawling through a tunnel (if you don’t have one, make one with sheets and bent wire in the grass.)

Throwing or rolling balls at targets.

Jumping or hopping from one stepping stone/mat to another.

Balancing on low boards.

Balancing a bean bags on their heads.

Hoola hooping.

I also found this great blog with simple relay ideas –

Let me know what you think. Do you have a sports day in your setting? How do you make it inclusive and enjoyable?

Judith x

When Planets Meet


Something amazing happens tonight. After sunset, look south west, where Venus and Jupiter are so close, they will look like one big star. You don’t need a telescope, you can see it with the naked eye.

I have always found it hard to imagine how big the universe is, and how small I am in comparison. Rather than make me feel insignificant, it’s always comforted me. I am constantly in awe of the wonders around me, and feel honoured to be part of it, however tiny.

One of my sons used to love saying goodnight to the moon before he went to sleep. I think he liked the thought of it watching over him at night. My eldest is fascinated by the sun and it’s solar flares.

It isn’t easy to find activities to do with young children about space, which don’t involve little green men and robots, but some great fun can be had with mobiles, involving cutting, counting, colour, shape e.t.c –


And there are some activity ideas here –

But I think the most important thing, is to talk to children with wonder in your voice, and your heart. Help them to understand that they are part of something huge and amazing.

I hope you find the time to go outside and look up tonight. Mercury is a tiny planet, but when it joins with Venus it will shine brighter than it has ever shone before.

It’s the same with the children in your care. You can help them shine more brightly, you just need to share your light.

Judith x

The magic of nature


“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Albert Einstein

If you have read my blogs before, you know I’m a big fan of story telling and also outdoor learning. This week, I’m suggesting that you combine the two.

A long, long time ago, when I was young, I had several fairy tale books. My favourite one had a recipe to make a fairy, in it. Unfortunately, I never managed to collect dew from a daffodil at midnight (being 8 and too scared to sneak out at that time), so I can’t say whether it would have worked.

To this day, I remember the excitement of wondering.

For me, fairy tales and nature have always been linked. I see fairy purses on plants, seats in toad stools, homes in trees.

Crazy? Maybe, but If you need new ideas, or something creative. I’m you’re girl.

Both fairy tales and nature, fire children’s imaginations. Imagine a world with no creators or innovators.

Within fairy tales, children are not hampered by normal rules or logic. They are free to express, act and listen to anything, without being judged. Fairy tales often deal with moral conflict, good versus evil, good choices, versus bad ones. Allowing children to consider, discuss and think about valuable life lesson.

Take the children outside, and they will have the space and inspiration to be whatever they want to be.

When my children were young, I told them about garden fairies. If you collected things for their spells, they would leave a treat as a thank you. It gave me the opportunity to watch the children excitedly finding 3 blue flowers, two small pebbles, grass from underneath a tree….You get the picture! They were learning, using their imagination and getting physical exercise at the same time. After their nap they would find the fairies had been and left something to eat in return.

I found this great link recently, and thought I would share it with you. It gives ideas about building fairy dens in your garden and made me wish my children were still small!

I hope you enjoy putting some magic into playtime,


Are you communicating with parents effectively?

Do you have lovely daily diaries or journals for the children in your care?

Do you find some parents just never write in them? Is it the same if you send out a questionnaire?

Well it can’t be helped- your doing your bit right? Wrong!

It is every providers responsibility to get feedback from parents and use this when evaluating practice. If parents don’t write in the journals, or answer your questionnaires, maybe you need to change the way you communicate.

Having been a childminder, I know how frustrating it is when you spend lots of time lovingly producing something to show parents how their child is doing. Of course you want them to be excited by it, and you want to be able to show OFSTED how much they liked it.

But as a parent I have often committed the sin of forgetting to fill in a form for school, or send feedback for something in time. Why? Is it because I don’t care about my child, or the school?

NO! It’s because the form has got buried in a pile including; my other sons things, the bills, notes from scouts, sea cadets and of course, I work. When they come home from school, I stop work and ask them about their day, I spend time with them. What I don’t always remember to do, is rummage through the biscuit crumbs and exploded yoghurt pot debris in their bags for information from school.

But I would be happy to talk to them, and happy to give them my feedback and views.

What would be helpful, is if settings asked parents HOW they would like to receive and give information. It may be difficult for large settings to do this individually, but for small settings a range of options could be offered.

For a parent with dyslexia, verbal feedback would be a great option. Perhaps they could record it and send it via their phone, or talk to you, and have you write it down. If this were offered to all parents, they needn’t feel embarrassed about asking for it.

You may need to look at you questionnaires. Are they too lengthy and off putting? If so simplify it. All you need to know is what they like, and what they would like to change.

Then there’s social media. Love it or hate it, it isn’t going away. younger parents in particular will happily post on social media every evening, so why not utilise this. Yes it needs risk assessing, but the alternative is excluding a potential communication tool that parents love.

To help you get to grips with social media, and where to start with it, look at this link –

I’d love to hear any more ideas from you,

Judith x