Here at Aston childcare the children all love stickers. They get immense satisfaction from peeling the backs off and sticking them down in their chosen spot.

At one time, I questioned whether they were slightly limited in what they can teach children but, after reflecting, I found that they are great for Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Communication and Language skills and Physical Development (Fine motor skills). They also help children learn and talk about all manner of subjects (Understanding the World) so I think they do have their place when varied with other activities.

I always try and have a good stock of them. I find they are particularly useful say, at transition times, when we are waiting for parents to pick up at the end of the day when it’s not so suitable to have messy paints or arts and crafts out. I also have a range of reward stickers that the children always love to receive with positive comments such as “lovely listener”, “great helper” and ones to reward self care and healthy eating such as “I ate all my food” and “I used the toilet”.

Some of our favourites have been from the Usborne sticker books and some fab re-usable Melissa and Doug ones. We’ve covered all manner of subjects – sea creatures, wild animals, domestic animals, minibeasts, airports, trucks and transport, children of the world, letters, numbers and shapes  to name but a few!

Areas of learning covered: Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Communication and Language, Maths, Literacy and  Understanding the world

Focus on…Phonics

Here at Aston Childcare, with my son and mindee turning 3, my mind has turned to phonics and how I can support them in their learning. We have this lights and sounds phonics toy and I also have this I’m ready for phonics – Say the sound book both from the Early Learning Centre.

The book is a fun, bright book that helps children from the age of 3 upwards focus on the initial letter sounds at the beginning of simple words. It contains all 26 letters of the alphabet and words beginning with that letter. It claims to have been developed in conjunction with a literacy consultant and phonics expert and says it’s ideal for introducing phonics to your child.

Meanwhile the lights and sounds phonics ‘desk’ is an Interactive game unit teaching phonics, spelling and counting and colours has 8 different games to play. It claims to help with early reading and builds communication skills and is good for learning to sort and match.

I am also in the process of creating a ‘Letters and Sounds’ file with further activities we can enjoy.

Finally, there are lots of fun phonics songs on YouTube that are fun to watch too, here’s just some –

Today’s lunch: Tomato Soup

Today’s lunch was Tomato Soup from Annabel Karmel’s ‘Feeding your Baby and Toddler’ recipe book. This recipe uses tinned rather than fresh tomatoes making it much quicker and easier to prepare than previous versions I have made that require skinning fresh tomatoes. It is so difficult to get my son to eat any vegetables so the fact that this contains carrots is great. He absolutely loves tomato soup and to hear him say “More soup Mummy” upon finishing is very satisfying! I served this up with wholemeal bread for my youngest mindee (21 month old) and with garlic bread for my son and other mindee who are both nearly 3.


Today’s lunch: Ham and Pea Pasta

Today’s lunch was once again from Annabel Karmel’s ‘quick and easy toddler recipes’ book. It was another pasta dish, this time Ham and Pea Pasta. This is another meal that I can cook fresh and serve in under ten minutes!

Here at Aston Childcare I serve up a lot of pasta based dishes at lunchtime. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. The body breaks them down to release glucose, thereby providing itself with energy. There are two main types of carbohydrates: slow burning and fast burning.

Pasta is an example of a slow burning carbohydrate and peas a slow burning vegetable.

Slow burning carbs are digested and absorbed — burned — more slowly than carbs with a high glycemic index. Eating slow-burning carbs also keeps hunger away and helps with blood sugar control.

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.