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Weekend Family time: Shotover Country Park

Yesterday (Bank Holiday Monday) I was keen for us to get out in the fresh air as a family and I was also hoping to spot some bluebells so after lunch we headed off to Shotover Country Park in Oxford for a family walk.

We last went here over New Year when the weather was considerably colder but yesterday we were lucky enough to enjoy a lovely walk in the sunshine and managed to miss the rain. My sons walking has come on considerably since then too so it was lovely that he was able to make it around on his own this time.

There is lots of parking and an information board when you arrive and free leaflets to help you with your chosen walk. We chose the red trail and armed with our map and directions we set off.

My son loved spotting the red triangles on the bridleway posts.  The views are stunning and the woodland and trees are beautiful. We walked through some lovely bluebells, spotted lots of lovely birds, met some lovely dogs, saw runners, children playing and making dens, saw couples out walking and families picknicking. It is such a lovely place to go, walking is good for the heart and the soul and I highly recommend it!

Taken from the councils website –

Shotover Country Park offers everyone a chance to enjoy a place of beauty and history right on the edge of Oxford. Covering 117 hectares on the southern slopes of Shotover Hill there are spectacular views from the top across south Oxfordshire.

The park is an intimate mosaic of hidden valleys, varied landscapes and diverse habitats; a haven for wildlife and an ideal setting for peaceful enjoyment of the countryside.

Because Shotover is a nationally important wildlife site, most of the Country Park is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) 

Shotover is open to everyone to enjoy throughout the year free of charge and is ideal for a summer picnic, leisurely strolls, a walk with the dog, jogging, riding or orienteering. Are you making the most of the countryside on your doorstep?

Discover how much Shotover Country Park has to offer! 

Let’s go fly a kite!

Today’s weather wasn’t very pleasant or good for much…except flying a kite!

Late this afternoon when I finally coerced the children outside after hours of crafting and playdough we went and flew a kite out in the garden.

With two two year olds this wasn’t the easiest of tasks!  They first had to listen to instructions namely “Stand still!”, “Wait!” and “Don’t let go!” and they had to work with one another taking turns. Their faces and squeals of delight as the kite went up were priceless.

We waited for the wind to pick up so they had to practice patience waiting for the wind pressure to make the kite airborne.

Obviously at this age we didn’t go in to the ins and outs of force and gravity(!!) but this activity could easily be tailored to make it applicable to all ages but today was all about having fun.

Areas of Learning Covered: Physical Development, Understanding the world, Communication & Language, Personal, Social and Emotional Development and Mathematics

Wonderful Wildlife!

Today (3rd March) is World Wildlife Day and interestingly this year’s theme is “Listen to the young voices”. The initiative aims to “encourage young people, as the future leaders and decision makers of the world, to act at both local and global levels to protect endangered wildlife” and say “World Wildlife Day 2017 encourages youth around the world to rally together to address ongoing major threats to wildlife including habitat change, over-exploitation or illicit trafficking. Youth are the agents of change”. 


Here at Aston Childcare we have been following a wildlife theme over the past couple of weeks. The theme actually stemmed from my son showing a particular interest in our British wildlife picture poster and asking me to name the animals. I thought it was important that we learnt to recognise some of the great creatures of British Wildlife and set about some activities to ignite their enthusiasm and interest.

We took a look at Squirrels, reading Beatrix Potter’s famous Squirrel Nutkin, created a squirrel out of card and tissue paper during one of our arts and crafts sessions, looked at acorns as part of our nature tray and watching an episode of Bing on Cbeebies about Squirrels and Acorns.

We also took a look at Badgers, creating our own badger faces out of paper plates, googly eyes and pom-poms, sticking with some fun badger stickers and reading “That’s not my Badger!” which they loved.

Finally, we took a look at Foxes reading some lovely books including Foxes Socks. We enjoyed some fox stickers, our fox puppet and made some fun fox masks.

I have previously looked at hedgehogs with another mindee to compliment a theme run by his pre-school. They had been following an Autumn theme, discovering about their senses and Autumn. They had watched a film about hedgehogs and hibernation and enjoyed drawing and talking about what they had found out. My mindee excitedly came home and told me that hedgehogs hibernate during the Autumn which was like a “long sleep”. I loved this analogy and we set about making a hedgehog out of the lovely Autumn leaves found on our walk home from pre-school.







Books Glorious Books!

Today (2nd March) is World Book Day.

I love seeing the children up at the pre-school and primary school all dressed up as characters from their favourite books, anything that celebrates books and instils a love of reading is fantastic.

Here at Aston Childcare we love our books! I do my best to provide a wide range of books to cater for all different ages and interests. Of course I have a never ending wish list of books I would like to buy.

I loved reading as a child and would like to instil a love of books in both my own son and my mindees too. I know from chatting with the parents that all the children are keen readers at home and I love it when they bring in their favourite books to sit and read with me.

Here are just some of the books available here at Aston Childcare:

  • For babies: First fabric sensory books, Board books, Usbornes touchy-feely books such as “That’s not my badger!” Slide and Find window books,
  • For toddlers and pre-schoolers Pop up books, sound books, Children’s favourites such as Rabbits nap, Foxes socks, Where’s Spot, Tickle Monster,Nursery rhymes, Fables, First Fairytales, Audio CD books, Books on Starting school
  • Books celebrating and exploring diversity: Susan Laughs, Handa’s Surprise, Handa’s Hen, Whoever you are, All kinds of people, All kinds of beliefs, Mama Panya’s pancakes, The skin I’m in
  • Books about the world: Books on Money, Recycling, Time, Energy, Food, professions, bugs, bats, snakes, Seasons, Weather
  • Books about us: Our bodies, Books on feelings, All about me
  • For older children: First poems, Early Readers, Wonderwise Collection, First Thesaurus, First Dictionary, First Science Dictionary
  • Special Interest Books: Books on Trains, Dinosaurs, Costume Design
  • Festivals and Celebrations: Christmas, Chinese New Year, Easter, Diwali
  • Children’s Classics: The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Tiger who came to Tea, The snail and the whale, Paddington

I also make use of story sacks from time to time. Books are stored in the playroom at Babies height so they can pick and choose their own and we have a much wider selection in the living room in a large bookcase on the floor. The kids pull up a cushion and sit and choose books to read or climb on to the sofa and we read together.


In today’s news: A third of children ‘not reaching expectations’

This is a worrying story in today’s news that says a third of children are ‘not reaching expectations’ in the early years.

As childminder’s we have a great responsibility to ensure children are developing well and are school ready. I firmly believe that the formative years shape a child’s future. They are the foundation that shapes children’s future. It is well known that Children learn more quickly during their early years than at any other time in life.

Here at Aston Childcare these are just some of the ways that I ensure children are making progress and developing the skills they need for the future –

  • I collect childrens starting points when they start with me to enable me to track their progress during their time with me.
  • I observe the children in all 7 areas of learning – Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Communication and Language, Literacy, Mathematics, Understanding the World and Expressive Arts and Design
  • I plan activities to ensure learning and progress in all 7 areas of learning
  • I look for signs that children are displaying characteristics of effective learning – playing and exploring, active learning and Creating and thinking critically
  • When children turn two I perform a 2 year check along with their health visitor to flag any concerns or issues
  • Continuous communication with parents ensure that we can identify any issues with their child early
  • An online learning journey shared with parents and, where applicable, other settings, logs all my observations and termly reports
  • In the year before they start school I discuss what is meant by a child being “school ready” with the parents and share information with parents on this.
  • I aim to promote childrens independence by providing them with lots of opportunities to do things for themselves be that drinking from open topped cups, putting on their own coats, socks and shoes or washing their hands
  • I encourage children to share and be considerate of others
  • I do a mixture of child and adult led activities throughout the week taking chances to teach children throughout by modelling language, questioning, facilitating, setting challenges, demonstrating and explaining.

National Storytelling Week

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin….

This week (Jan 28th~4th February 2017) is National Storytelling Week.

The Society for Storytelling  explains how 

 “Over the past 24 years The Society For Storytelling has achieved much in its mission for the promotion of the oral tradition of storytelling, the very first way of communicating life experiences and the creative imagination.

National Storytelling Week takes place in storytelling clubs, theatres, museums, schools, hospitals, spoken word venues, and care homes. Where the events take place, the web of stories will be spun with sufficient magic between the breathe of the teller and the ear of the listener.

National Storytelling Week is celebrated by all ages. Folk tales, fairy lore, figments, phantoms, dragons, serpents, storms at sea. A good teller will conjure intriguingly.

Here at Aston Childcare I try to do my best to foster a love of books and storytelling. Encouraging a love of storytelling at an early age is an excellent way to nurture children’s creativity and sense of play.

The End. 



Happy (Chinese) New Year!

This week I have been loosely following a theme and planning activities around the fact that it is Chinese New Year starting tomorrow (Saturday 28th January). This year, Chinese New Year – The Year of the Rooster – begins on Saturday January 28 and lasts until February 15th, 2018.


Our village pre-school follow themes and last year followed and celebrated the Chinese New Year. They learnt all about how the Chinese celebrate and decorate their homes. They did lots of art and craft and card making. They made a large dragon as a class and did some fantastic dragon dancing. They tried lots of Chinese food and even had a special visitor in to talk about how she celebrates and to share her stories with them. The children all wore red to mark the occasion.

My mindees are much younger however and there will be plenty of time ahead for them to learn, understand and explore this festival further. So with my little ones, (youngest 17 months and eldest 2 ½ years) I used the theme to help inspire me to plan activities for them. Themes can sometimes help to have something to scaffold the day and activities around. They love painting so we used red and yellow paint and they love glitter so we used red and gold glitter. Their favourite activity was definitely the dressing up in the Chinese clothes from the dressing up box and the Chinese fan and parasol.Finally, we read and enjoyed our ‘Lanterns and Firecrackers’ book.

Areas of Learning Covered: Understanding the World, Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Communication & Language, Literacy, Physical Development and Expressive Arts and Design