Thursday, 28 July 2016

Focus on EYFS: Breaking it down

The EYFS is split into seven areas of development.
The three prime areas:

  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development
  • Physical Development
  • Communication and Language
And the four specific areas:
  • Literacy
  • Maths
  • Understanding the World
  • Expressive Arts and Design
The prime areas are fundamental to a child's development. They provide the foundations upon which all other learning is built and so, tend to be the focus for the first three to four years of a child's life. The specific areas provide important skills and knowledge that our children will need throughout their lives. 

Each of the areas of development are then broken down into smaller focus areas called aspects. These aspects make it easier to look at what a child is doing in more detail. 

Personal, Social, Emotional Development
  • Making relationships
  • Self-confidence and self-awareness
  • Managing feelings and behaviour
Physical Development
  • Moving and handling
  • Health and self-care
Communication and Language
  • Listening and attention
  • Understanding
  • Speaking
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Numbers
  • Shape, space and measure
Understanding the World
  • People and communities
  • The world
  • Technology
Expressive Arts and Design
  • Exploring and using media and materials
  • Being imaginative
Each of these areas of development are also subdivided into overlapping age bands, that suggest a typical rate of development.
  • Birth - 11 months
  • 8 - 20 months
  • 16-26 months
  • 22-36 months
  • 30-50 months
  • 40-60+ months
  • Early Learning Goals
Recently, Baobao has turned 17 months. Looking at our copy of the EYFS, she is working within the 16-26 months age band for most areas of development. Over the next few months, I will be looking at each of the areas more closely for this age band and posting about it. I will also be posting activities that I do with her, that fall within this developmental age band. 

Monday, 25 July 2016

Baobao's Activity Time: Orange Pear Apple Bear

 At around 14 months, Baobao became very interested in stories. All day long, instead of playing with toys, she brought me books to read to her. As an avid reader and a lover of picture books, seeing her enjoy them brought me great joy.

One of the ways to get children to understand and remember stories, is by allowing children to act out and retell them. 

Baobao is obviously still a little bit young for that. Instead, I wanted her to handle the real objects from the story while I narrate for her. Similar to a story sack, but for the early language acquisition stage.

Each time we would encounter a fruit in the book, I would help Baobao match the real fruit to the one in the picture. By the time we had finished the story, Baobao could pick up the fruit as I named them. She especially enjoyed handling all of the fruits and eating them.

What other stories could you retell using objects? What are your children's favourite stories?

Update: About 2 months later, Baobao is able to name apple, bear and pear.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Baobao's Activity Time: DIY Ring Stacker

For Christmas, Baobao received a ringstacker. Because the pole was on an elastic and could move, it proved to be too difficult for her. So we made her one. Using a kitchen roll holder (£5 from my local market) and bangles (50p each from my local charity shop).

I was eager to choose interesting bangles made from natural materials. They all have different shapes, colours and textures.

Baobao is able to choose her own toys, we have them set out in an Ikea Kallax unit, one activity per section, and rotate on a weekly basis. Since we made this ringstacker, it hasn't been rotated out. Baobao plays with it daily.

Ringstackers are brilliant for children's physical development and problem solving skills. Baobao is always very proud of herself when she gets a ring on. She also enjoys using them as bracelets and anklets, and so are great for her awareness of her body.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Baobao's Favourites: 16 Months

Baobao turns 17 months on Saturday and so now seems a good time to reflect on the toys and books that she has enjoyed over the last month. We've recently had building work done and so have been confined to two rooms, so our play options have been a little limited. Baobao, however, has always flourished with a limited number of toys, as lots of options tends to overwhelm her.


When we first bought this for Baobao, it was a little too tricky. She understood what she was meant to do, but the wobbly base and movable inner pole meant that her hand-eye coordination hadn't developed enough yet. 4 months on, Baobao is able to stack with ease. Next, we will use it to learn about colours and size.
Baobao has developed a love for puzzles this month. She enjoys the challenge of trying to fit the pieces into the correct slot. This simple shape puzzle works well for when children are first learning to rotate objects and can then be used for learning colours and 2D shapes.

Baobao has recently learnt the word "car". Whenever we walk past a car, she has to stop and point it out. We got her toy cars down from her storage boxes in light of this development and the joy on her face proved to us that we had made the right decision. She runs around with them shouting "car car"

Baobao has recently taken an interest in Duplo. She's only just learning to put the pieces together, so we have limited the number of pieces she can use at any one time. Duplo is brilliant for fostering young children's imaginations, before they have developed the fine motor skills necessary to use Lego. 
Baobao's imaginative play skills have greatly improved over the last couple of months. She really enjoys using the pots and pans in her play kitchen to cook and feed us. She also uses them to feed her baby. Ikea's metal pots and pans also double up as great musical instruments.


In the last month, Baobao has begun to listen carefully to stories. Whereas before, she would only be able to focus on one sentence per page, suddenly she can listen to 4 or 5 sentences. Here are a few of her favourite stories.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Baobao's Activity Time: Our Weekday Schedule At 16 Months

This week, I want to talk about how our week looks. Baobao is very active and so I try to give her as much time playing outside, as we can fit into our day. I also try to let her do quite a bit of free play, as this is good for independence

Here is a general break down of our day:
8:00 Breakfast - Baobao and I sit down for breakfast together every morning. I find that it sets the right tone for her day and we have a much better day because of it.
8:30 Free play - Baobao has some time to choose what activity she will do, while I clean up after breakfast and get all of the going out things we need ready
9:00 Playgroups - Most mornings we have play groups. Our current groups include Toddler Group (Monday), Tots' Club (Wednesday), Jelly Tots (Thursday) and Toddler Sense(Friday)
11:30 Nap time
13:00 Lunch time - We sit together at lunch too. Baobao eats better when she can see that we have the same food. She also drinks more water if she uses a glass like we do.
14:00 Outside time (Park) - After lunch we head to our local park. Luckily we have a park two streets away from our house, that we can go to so quickly. Sometimes we bring toys, such as her push toy or her ball. Sometimes we go on the park equipment. Sometimes we walk around the park and Baobao looks at the plants, ground and local wildlife like ducks and geese.

15:15 Snack time

15:30 Structured play - We try and do an activity each day, where I play with her. Activities include messy play, music, drawing and singing.
16:00 Outside time (Garden) - Baobao loves to play in our garden. We currently only have a sand/water table, but plan on expanding to include a play house and eventually a mud kitchen.
17:00 Free play - Baobao has some more time here to choose activities, while I do some exercise and then prepare dinner.
18:30 Dinner time - Dinner is the one meal in the day, where I usually don't sit with her. Instead, she sits with her Baba to eat, while I shower.
19:00 Bathtime/Free Play
20:00 PJs, Story, Milk, Bed

So this is how our day looks at 16 months. Our weekends are much more free, since her Baba is home. We often visit her grandparents, go shopping or take her to a park that is a little further afield.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

A Guide To The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFS)

If you have a child under the age of 5, who attends a childminder, nursery or school, then chances are you have seen the letters EYFS. As a parent, your main experience of the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFS) is likely to be in the links to the EYFS section of an observation. This can sometimes be confusing, with the links being shortened or with information missing.

It's difficult as a parent to know what communication and language at 8-20 months means, other than your child is reaching developmental milestones that are appropriate for their age. When I was working as an early years teacher, I was just as guilty of doing the same. Now, as a parent, I realise that this approach isn't great for reporting on children's progress with parents, especially those who do not have experience of the EYFS. 

A good example of how reporting can be better is the app used by some nurseries and child minders, which explains clearly which part of each area of learning.

What can we do as parents, if our childcare provider doesn't provide much information?

Foundation Years is a great place to start. It features news, resources and information on the early years. It also has an excellent Parents section, featuring lots of information on child development and play, tailored towards parents. 

One of the best sections of the website is the EYFS Framework section. Here you can find links to Development Matters and the 4Children Parents' Guide.

Development Matters is the document that early years professionals use to assess children. It's based upon the Early Years Outcomes document published by the Department for Education. Other than showing what behaviour should be observable at each stage of development, it also includes ways for the childcare practitioner to enable those behaviours, both with their actions and the learning environment. It is an invaluable tool, one which I continue to reference for Baobao from time to time.

The 4Children's Parents' Guide, titled "What to expect, when?" uses the same information as development matters, but has it set up in a way that is more easily accessible to parents. Rather than presenting development by area of learning, in a way that early years professionals might find it useful for planning next steps, it presents information by age. This can be useful for parents, who can see if their child is working developmentally at an appropriate level for their age across the board quickly, rather than having to scour through pages of fragmented information.

Hopefully, by accessing Development Matters or "What to expect, when?" you'll be able to know more clearly how your child is getting on and make more sense of those observations.

In the coming months, I'll be posting a more in depth guide to the EYFS and how development looks in the different areas of learning at each age, using Baobao and the activities we do together, as an example of how you can use these tools to plan effective learning experiences for your child at home.

Monday, 4 July 2016


"Play is the work of the child." - Maria Montessori

Here at Baobao Tea and Soy, I firmly believed in children learning through their play. As an early years teacher, small group activities, based around children’s interests, as well as expanding their experiences inspired me. As a parent to a one year old, I believe in the ethos of learning through play and experiences even more.

In December 2015, I gave up work to become a stay at home mum to Baobao. I am incredibly lucky to be able to have this experience with her. Now I dedicate my life to offering her age appropriate learning experiences, through a mixture of child led and adult initiated activities. I am a firm believer in narrating over her experiences. Allowing her to explore, primarily without adult intervention, only commentating on what she is doing to allow her the experience of language.

Baobao is the main focus of this blog. It will chart her experiences and progress, as I share her activities and interests with you. This will include her outfits once a week. Since she was 14 months old, Baobao has chosen her outfit in the morning, I would like to share her sartorial choices with you.
Then, of course, there is the more theoretical side of the blog. Nurseries, childminders and schools all use the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) to chart progress and plan activities and next steps for the children in their care. After working in a joint Reception and Nursery setting for 5 years, I am well versed in the different areas of development. I quite often refer to it when thinking of activities for Baobao and it means I can raise any concerns with my local health visiting team earlier. It can be difficult for parents to access, however, and so I would like to use this blog to provide an access point to developmental information.

Books and reading, is another great passion, here at Baobao Tea and Soy, and so I will have regular book reviews, both of books related to the ethos here at Baobao Tea and Soy, and reviews from Baobao’s perspective of the books that she enjoys having read to her.

I hope you enjoy your time here browsing Baobao Tea and Soy and that you find something useful to use with your own children.