The Best of the Blog in 2020: making learning fun

It goes without saying that 2020 has been the most tumultuous year in the short life of this blog, which I started in 2017 with a focus on sharing my experiences and play ideas following a career in teaching and early years education.

But then, it has probably been the most tumultuous year in living memory – even for us grandparents who might dimly remember everything from the launch of Sputnik through to the release of Nelson Mandela, right up to our present climate crisis.

Now as the year draws to a close, those of us in the UK are looking toward a Christmas unlike any we’ve experienced before, but with some hope on the horizon for a gradual return to a ‘new normal’ later in 2021.

Distanced from Daisy

The inspiration for this blog – and it’s constant focus – is my granddaughter Daisy, who turned four years old this year. At times, lockdowns and local tiered restrictions have made physical contact with Daisy impossible, presenting a new challenge for me as I worked out both how to stay part of her learning journey and how to keep the blog relevant by writing about that experience.

These challenges meant the family had to get creative at times, but surprisingly I was left with no shortage of things to write about!

In fact, this year has seen double the amount of visitors to the blog compared to 2019. Hopefully some of my ideas have been useful during a difficult period for many parents, grandparents and carers.

With that in mind, and before I start to plan my festive offerings for the blog, I thought I would look back over this strange year and pick out six of my favourite blogs.

A quick reminder that most of my posts are based on the seven areas that make up the UK statutory framework for the early years foundation stage – the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to five.

My six favourite blogs of 2020

Various animals shown at Colchester Zoo – a Fennec Fox, a basking lioness, a West African slender-snouted crocodile and a giraffe

When I think about my 2020 with Daisy, a particularly special blog that comes to mind is Making the most of a Zoo visit. It reminds me of Daisy’s enjoyment in seeing many of her ‘small world’ toy animals in the flesh (and fur). This was the first time we were together as a family after the UK’s first lockdown. It was a perfectly magical reunion and I remember very fondly how Daisy chased around the zoo to be sure that we saw each of her favourite animals, and then returned to see the penguins again!

A garden made of Duplo, with a small Duplo girl surrounding by toy cats

My list would be incomplete without including the blog on imaginative play, focusing on how Daisy makes own storylines. This kind of role play is absolutely Daisy’s favourite activity and forms such a core part of her daily play, both at home and (according to nursery teachers) at school as well!

A preschooler puts the finishing touches to a square constructed from 100 individually and multicoloured interlocking blocks

I hit a personal landmark with my 100th blog, in which I described introducing a 100-square number board into Daisy’s play and then observing her curiosity as she found number patterns on the board and covered them with tiles. We followed this by making a 3D square from 100 separate blocks using Mathlink Cubes as shown above, to represent one of her favourite Numberblocks characters, One Hundred. (Writing this, I have One Hundred’s catchy show tune stuck in my head). After we finished the 3D square, we practiced counting in tens and for our finale we tried, and succeeded, in making a teetering 100-cube tower!

A series of images showing primary colour paints in the process of being mixed, with the final image showing newly created orange paint

My blog on mixing colours to paint paper pumpkins represented a landmark of a different kind, as it marked a stage in Daisy’s development – she really embraced this craft activity perhaps more than any other this year, her enthusiasm driven by the realisation that she could make different colours on her own. (Pumpkins made several special appearances in the blog this year, just as they did in 2019 and 2018.) 

A series of images shows a child preparing a serving of leek and potato soup from peeling potatoes and leeks to stirring the mixture to eating the blended soup.

The recent blog on cooking and baking together brings a smile to my face, because this is a perennial favourite activity that we can share as a family, and one that is ever-changing, depending on the seasons, Daisy’s developing motor skills and of course her enjoyment of the final product!

A series of child's Christmas themed flash cards are shown next to Christmas stocking and some gifts beneath a Christmas tree

Finally, as we move towards Christmas, I’ll also include my early January blog on Matching, sorting and language skills using a set of festive Usborne snap cards. Daisy was so excited to discover that she could match the image on the card to the real object in our festive setting! And for me, that blog is a reminder that I’ll need to bring those cards out again, soon.

Much more to explore

Of course, these are just my particular favourites – the blog has covered much more in 2020. In fact, there have been guest posts from Daisy’s grandpa and her daddy, both of whom have offered their unique perspectives on, and joy in, her development.

And how fast that development has been! Young children grow physically and mentally at such a startling rate and Daisy is no exception. Her gross motor skills and fine motor skills have come on rapidly this year, and that’s before we look at how her brain is changing – this year has seen us begin to deal with everything from phonics to challenging new emotions. It’s been exciting and exhausting, but most of all rewarding!

Recently, Daisy asked Daddy to phone us so that she could tell us that she misses us and wants to come back soon to see us. A brief FaceTime call with Daisy and her parents is refreshing – being reunited, even virtually, helps both grandparents and grandchildren to find ways to cope with all of our new emotional challenges.

As well as new challenges, 2020 has given us new phrases and terms. Now we all know about PPE and social distancing, and as I’ve observed before, in her imaginary play our granddaughter sometimes instructs her toys to “stay two metres apart!”

Of course 2020 isn’t done yet, and I’ll have a few festive blogs as we put up the decorations, start opening the doors of the advent calendar, and, while following the advice of government scientists, we look forward to Daisy’s arrival in just a few weeks time…

A series of six images each representing the best of Granny Smith's blog in 2020

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