Helping Our Young Children With Social Distancing

The confirmation of the closure of schools and nurseries is obviously very unsettling news for parents everywhere.  It’s a fraught and challenging time for families as they work out how to cope with work and family life at home.

As adults we’re able to understand why we must make these adjustments and changes to our daily routines, but for our children, especially Daisy’s age, it is much harder to process.  Today they can go to nursery or school, play with their friends, run around in the playground, laugh and giggle through lunchtime.  Next week they cannot.

A couple of weekends ago (seems like longer!) we went for a walk in the woods with Daisy (primarily on a bear hunt, although wolves were acceptable quarry as well).  We ended up at playground where Daisy quickly befriended a couple of little girls and together they tried out all of the equipment, even laying side by side on the platform swing.  Sadly social distancing will mean that our children can’t get that close to their friends, they can’t go to their after school or weekend clubs and activities.  They won’t have school outings to look forward to and birthday parties will be very different for the next few months.  No more casual playtimes, our daily routines have changed.

Friendship is so important to us adults that many of us are already setting up virtual communication groups and networks to stay in touch with each other.  And I’ve been thinking about that and wondering how we help our young children to also sustain their friendships, at a distance.

Granny Smith

Maybe you can make similar arrangements with family and friends to fit in some regular time for your children, to help them stay in touch using visual communications (Sype, Zoom, Facetime, WhatsApp).  A close relative’s little boy recently discovered emojis on his Dad’s smartphone and he’s learnt that we send them to people in messages.  So now I occasionally receive a vehicle emoji!  Can you find time to give your children the opportunity to see and ‘chat’ with a friend on your Smartphone or send them an emoji or two.  Use any visual communications to let young children see and chat with their cousins, close relatives and their grandparents who may be self-isolating.

As schools prepare to close, a friend of mine is helping her young daughter to set up a ‘pen-pal’ group among her class of five year olds.  It helps the children stay in touch and is also a great way for those children to practise writing skills without it feeling like ‘lessons’.  And as grandparents, living a distance away from family, we plan to send letters and small packages to Daisy, as well as eagerly anticipating the next time we can Facetime.

Granny Smith says

If you have any other suggestions for ways to help young children to sustain their friendships while we have to be socially distancing, please send me a message so that I can share those ideas.


Bringing The Learning Play Into Your Home

Yesterday, through the wonders of modern technology I was able to watch Daisy playing at home with Mummy and Daddy.  When Daisy plays at home, her play is different from the play she has when she’s at a playgroup or with the childminder.  In Early Years environments, activities usually have ‘zones’ for different types of play. There’s a quiet area to enjoy books, there’s a messy craft area, a physical play area and there are pretend/imaginative play spaces.

With imminent early years settings and school closures there will be pressure on the home environment for many weeks to come. If you can set up similar zones at home, you might find that you are able to do some work during the daytime while young children can continue to play (play is how young children do their learning).

Depending on your available space, put some cushions on the floor beside the books, set up a small occasional table for crafting, put the physical play in the hallway or outside and leave the toy corner for the imaginative play.  The craft table only needs to be set out for one particular craft, not all crafts at once.  And if you don’t want your children to play TOO physically indoors, then encourage some music and dancing instead.

Once the zones are set up you will need to encourage your children to play in each one and not just play in one area.  How you encourage this will depend on your children, but if they are familiar with these different areas because they regularly go to playgroup or nursery they will happily adapt to that routine at home, with your guidance.

It’s useful to have a timer to hand; anything will do from an egg timer or cooking timer to your phone’s timer for activity timing to encourage play in each area; then reset the timer for the next play area.  You might consider using incentives or small rewards for your child to complete activities.

Home doesn’t have the same big space as most early years settings but any garden play, park or covered outside play area is a welcome change.  When appropriately dressed for outside play, most children will stay outside for ages!

Then they’ll be ready to come indoors for a snack and some quiet time with CBeebies.


Helping your grandchildren from a distance

I’ve realised that I need to change the focus of my blog.  It’s hard to accept but soon many grandparents will not be able to have close contact time with their grandchildren.  We’re used to being the reliable backstop, not the vulnerable ones aren’t we?

I don’t expect it to be long before schools, children’s nurseries, playgroups and clubs etc are to close and your grandchildren will be at home all the time.

Now you have an opportunity to help your families to prepare for these closures and by doing so, that might help you to feel in touch with them all.

Sit down, go online and order some equipment and materials; books or games to be sent to your families addresses so that it’s there and ready for them when the closures happen.

I’d start with ordering some craft materials as most children enjoy sometime doing craft activities.  Start with the basics like craft papers, crayons, paints and paint brushes, glue  and probably some stickers.  Baker Ross have a fantastic ranges of goods for children of all ages and they often have promotions too.   Amazon also stock children’s craft materials.

Children also need to have some kind of physical play in their day and that might be a challenge in some homes.  What about some beanbags  – not the kind that you sit on, but the kind of bean bags that can be held in small hands and used to toss into/onto targets.  Or maybe some hula hoops which could also be used with a light fabric to make a tunnel.

Your grandchildren will also need some quiet time at home and another option for you to consider is to treat your grandchildren to a new book.  Usborne books have plenty of choice and you can search by age group.  Puffin books have a colourful website too, full of ideas.  Or browse the booksellers Waterstones site for ideas.

If you know that your grandchildren have plenty of craft kit, a good selection of books and physical play kit you can still treat them with an educational toy or game.  I’m going to recommend the Learning Resources website to you as I know that they have a large range of toys and games to suit different school ages and the full curriculum subject range.

Granny Smith says

These websites should give you plenty of ideas and the opportunity to make purchases from home.  I hope you enjoy this distraction and, whatever the news, think positive



World Book Day; Sharing a story “The Tiger Who Came To Tea”

Today Daisy is sharing one of her favourite stories, dressed up as Sophie from Judith Kerr’s classic The Tiger Who Came To Tea.

The Tiger Who Came To Tea  was first published in 1968.  Judith Kerr said that she made this story up as a bedtime story and she told it again and again to her daughter.

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Mummy did a great job decorating some white tights so that Daisy can look just like Sophie!

Returning to the library

A visit to my local library is just as familiar to Daisy as a visit to the library near her home.  Our visits to my library now begin with Daisy returning the books she’s had on loan from her previous visit to the library.  The process of putting the books under the scanner and then putting those books onto the returns trolley is part of her developing curiosity and independence.

The library offers such a variety of books that it gives us an opportunity to find different titles by favourite authors/ illustrators or an opportunity to try out a new author.  Now that Daisy’s level of concentration is increasing we are trying books with a bit more text on a page. Before I read a new book with Daisy we start by looking at the cover together and talking about what we can see, then we chat about what the story might be about.

Sometimes a library book will become so popular with Daisy that I’ve bought a copy of that book for Daisy to have and to continue to enjoy.  If I’m luckily I’ll find it in a charity shop!

I always allow plenty of time for our library visit so that Daisy can range through the book stands, select a book and then sit on the beanbags or little chairs to read a book with me.  Sometimes that book goes back on the book stand and sometimes it comes home with us.  The process is then repeated with her next selection.  At other times, Daisy will enjoy picking out and looking through a book that she may have enjoyed a year ago.  Reflecting on past books enjoyed gives her confidence to move on in her book enjoyment.

Eventually, when Daisy has settled on the books that she wants to take home, we return to the scanner with Daisy’s library card and her selection.  Putting the books in the scanner, pressing the touch screen to ‘Borrow’ and collecting her ‘ticket’ from the printer completes her library visit.


Granny Smith says

Libraries are becoming familiar friendly places to Daisy.  She enjoys re-discovering books she has enjoyed as much as discovering new ones.  This process, as well as understanding the process of borrowing books builds confidence and self esteem.

World Book Day 2020; theme to ‘share a million stories’; Thursday 5th March

Did you know that this year it’s World Book Day 2020 on March 5th?

The theme for World Book Day 2020 is to share a million stories and encourages us to share stories from breakfast to bedtime.  The official World Book Day 2020 website has resources for this year’s ‘sharing stories’ theme and ideas for grand children of all ages.  There’s a variety of things to make and activities, all based around story characters.

For grandchildren who, like Daisy,  are at the pre-school stage there is the Big Little Book Corner with activities and the Little Book Corner video books.

Counting on repetition: helping your grandchild to master numbers

Daisy first started to learn about numbers from rhymes and action songs then last year she started to watch Numberblocks programmes on Cbeebies.  This series of programmes has really improved Daisy’s understanding of numbers.

Over recent months, with the help of Mummy, Daddy and her childminder, Daisy has learnt the names of numbers up to 20 and now she can recite the numbers up to 20 in the correct order.

Once our grandchildren begin to know number names and can recite number names in the correct sequence we can encourage them to see how we all use numbers in a variety of ways, in everyday life.

By talking and counting out loud together we can help our grandchildren to begin to understand that numbers can represent objects and groups of objects.  As with all the activities, our grandchildren will learn through plenty of repetition.

Together we count out loud the number of little cakes just baked, count the pencils on the table, count the number of steps to go upstairs, the number of cars outside and the people waiting at the bus stop.   (After a visit to stay with Daisy I catch myself counting the steps down to the station platform, forgetting she’s not with me!)

Our next step will be more abstract as we start to show Daisy that we also use numbers to count the things that are not objects.  We will do this through activities such as clapping and counting each clap, walking across the garden and counting our number of strides and then listening and counting the different sounds we can hear in the garden.

There is always time for more talking and more counting; it’s the repetition that will help make numbers stick.