Friday, 29 November 2013


Little Signers Club uniquely focuses on how signing compliments communication development, enhances responsive interactions between small children and carers as well as increase spoken ability, impacting on self esteem and confidence. 

Using signing for speech development and support for toddlers.
Some children naturally take longer to talk than others as it’s a really complex process to get to grips with. 
Professional colleague Libby Hill, Speech and Language Therapist, comments:

"The more you know about all the factors involved in making speech sounds, the more you wonder how anyone manages it. The brain has to send a signal to the muscles, and then the airflow has to be co-ordinated with moving the tongue, mouth and gums (teeth in older children and adults). A baby can move their hands with some control from very early on. Babies will not talk until 12 months of age or later but they can indicate by gesture or sign much earlier. Early communication intention is about making choices and making your needs known."

The key part of what Libby says is about communication and ‘making your needs known’.
Children who don’t know how to communicate their needs and / or feelings easily resort to lashing out or biting or meltdowns. Children who have been shown how to sign – and therefore are empowered to make their needs clear, ride out the toddler years typically much more easily with far fewer tantrums and less distress.  
Using a sign in conjunction with speech can help with confidence, be a memory prompt for a word or convey meaning.  It also allows a child to concentrate on higher level learning and I am a huge fan of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, upon which principle our training and classes are uniquely centred around.  Created in 1943, the Hierarchy of Needs was based on Maslow’s theory that Man’s “most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire or focus motivation upon higher level needs.”
Basic needs are literally the requirements for human survival; food, drink, sleep, excretion – signs which we would recommend that everyone start with (please see my previous guest post!). Without these needs being met, quite simply the body cannot continue to function.  If a child is unable to communicate these needs and be understood, they are unable to progress upon higher level needs, impacting on interests and learning – always concentrating on the unmet need, feeling “anxious and tense”.
Signing "Star"!
A toddler’s comprehension and understanding is 6 months ahead of their ability to express themselves – it’s no wonder then, that this frustration manifests itself in hitting, tantrums and other behaviour that communicates their distress.  
ICAN, the children’s communication charity note that toddlers of 12-15 months old can be expected to have around 10 words at this age which increases to around 50 words between 18 – 24 months – most of which will be unclear as speech is very limited.  This can be so frustrating for the little child who is trying to get their point across as well as to the adult who is responsible for their care. 

Signing "cake"!
By comparison, a child of a similar age may have dozens of signs if given enough input and the research that Dr Garcia undertook indicated that this may be as many as 75 different signs at the same age.  The implication, of course, is that babies and toddlers who can sign have an advantage over those children who cannot sign – they are able to express their needs and have them met quickly, without resorting to tears.
For non signing toddlers who are slightly older and have more command over simple words, sometimes larger words, more complex ideas that they wish to express just simply overwhelm them.  They can’t think of the correct word or they have so much that they want to say that the words will not form. They stutter and stumble trying to communicate, becoming more and more frustrated with themselves when using just a few gestures can alleviate this problem for them until they are more confident with the necessary vocabulary. 
Toddlers are frequently unable to enunciate words clearly – by using the signs they have learned alongside their very first words, not only can a carer understand what it is that the child is trying to say, but also gently correct speech and pronunciation from the very beginning.

Signing "chocolate" while eating chocolate cake!
For those who worry about toddler’s speech development, I would like to make it very clear that signing is always replaced by speech once a child feels confident with the spoken word.  From time to time a child may use the sign as well as the word, to reinforce an important point for emphasis or to make it very clear that they require a need to be met. Signing also helps when toddlers are ill or tired as they will revert to the simplest form of communication to get their needs met.  Please note - a toddler wouldn’t be speaking more extensively if they couldn't sign. They’d not only be not speaking but also be unable to communicate in any other way. 

Signing "Wash face".
Ultimately, the use of signing, always in conjunction with speech, results in incredibly independent, articulate and confident children at a very early age.

Using signing, in conjunction with speech, also aids older children as it:

       1.  promotes better communication
       2. builds a larger word bank
    3.  facilitates more effective learning
     4.   increases confidence
     5.    improves literacy skills
    6.  creates calmer learning environments
    7.   brings meaning to everyday activities with inclusive methods
     8.   Reinforces memory and creative skills
    9.   Enables children with special needs to communicate supporting inclusion

This week we have a free download available for Early Years professionals, linking signing to the current EYFS and Development Matters. It also explains how simple activities such as blowing bubbles, reading stories and singing nursery rhymes help children to be develop speech and acquire language.

You can register for the Early Years download here - and if you missed it last week, download your FREE baby signing e-book at

   1 .       Begin with a few simple signs that are relevant to you, the children you care for and your setting and do them regularly.  It’s easier to remember and concentrate on 6 or 10 rather than dozens of signs. Start with the signs in the free e-book as they meet basic needs
   2 .      SAY the word as you sign it

   3 .      SIGN so that you are in a child’s line of vision

   4 .      REPEAT lots and lots!

You can find out more at

Tuesday, 26 November 2013


Today we looked a little more deeply in to the Thanksgiving story. I shared the story of the Mayflower arriving in America with the children using our new picture book. It was lovely to start to hear the children picking up on key pieces of information and using them in their play. Talking about the pilgrims on the Mayflower!

Between us, we looked for things that we could use to set a small world play scene.

The children used the book as a reference for retelling the story themselves and used the small world toys to help fix the stories in their minds. Using more than one part of your body to learn means that information is retained better. So here they had heard the story, they were looking at the story themselves and then acting it out again.

Little "R" decided the tress needed Owls! So some of our Autumn toys were brought in to the story.

Little "L" decided the boat was far too small for so many Pilgrims so she gathered up Noah's Ark and told me that this could be the Mayflower!

After lots of story telling and talking about the differences between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans we tried making some Indian head dresses.

Stickers are fiddly things to peal!

The children chose what coloured feathers they would like in their headdress and added them.

Don't they look lovely!

I made up a very quick sensory box as well. I used corn and some of the acorns from the Autumn sensory box. I included the cinnamon sticks as I think that always gives a festive smell and feel to the box! We found a wooden Turkey and some trees.  I would like to find more Thanksgiving related items to pop in their for next year. This will have to do for this year though and the children seemed to really like it. They asked about the smells. They found some cloves hidden in the corn as well.

We also used the corn to transfere from one dish to another using spoons. It is great hand eye-coordination practice for little ones and helps them to develop strong controlled movements.

 Today I wanted to extend the children's knowledge of Thanksgiving a little. We talked about it yesterday while playing in the homecorner and making big festive dinners with the food. They enjoyed the story and and had been briefly introduced to the history and traditions of Thanksgiving. Today I wanted to set up some small world play and use it to help develop their understanding and to cement some of the learning for them. 

 Everyone showed great interest and engagement from the start. The Native American figures arrived in the post today and so the new toy was probably a huge part of the interest and excitement. They wanted to make the figures a new home and so we set up a play scene using other loose parts form the playroom. The children gathered cloths and wooden trees as we talked about the things we needed to tell our story again. I held up the Thanksgiving book that we read yesterday and asked the children what we could find in the playroom that would be mentioned in the book. We found a boat and some blue cloths for the sea. I added some extra bits for scenery, like pebbles and logs.
  The children played with what they knew about the story and looked through the book to remind themselves about sections that they had forgotten. They chose their own ways to do things and solved problems for themselves, like the Mayflower being too small to carry so many Pilgrims... so lets get Noah's Ark! Both Little "R" and Little "L" took turns to tell the story while the other moved the figures around. Immersed in their play and concentrating for extended periods of time. Returning to and revisiting their play throughout the day.

Today's play, meets the following EYFS Prime and specific areas
  • Communication and Language
  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development
  • Physical Development
  • Understanding the World
  • Literacy
  • Expressive Art and Design.

Monday, 25 November 2013


This week we are learning about Thanksgiving. I thought I would start of the week by setting up the homecorner ready for preparing a Thanksgiving meal to share. The homecorner is a big favourite of all the children at the moment and I thought it would be a great way to encourage their interest and open some doors of communication so that I could introduce the story of Thanksgiving and some of the traditions.

I thought it would be fun to offer some real veg to play with! They love this "Real" addition to the homecorner.

We set up a lovely Thanksgiving Turkey!

Little "L" set up a great meal and shared it with me. She told me we needed to sit at the table together for dinner and then I could have some ice-cream!

"I set up your dinner for you Pip!"

She worked hard at preparing the vegetables. She pulled the tops off the carrots and then told me they a bit mucky.
"I teened it for you! I got all the mutty bits off for you!"
"Thank you L" I told her. "That's very kind and looks really yummy!"

A bit later on Little "R" arrived and Little "L" came to play.
Little "I" was very interested in chopping up the vegetables to make dinner and worked hard at chopping the mini sweetcorns in to little chunks.

Holding with one hand and using the other to chop!

Little "R" worked on the Brussel sprouts. Peeling the otter leaves off of them.

After all her chopping, Little "I" feed her baby her Thanksgiving dinner!

Later on in the day I offered Little "T" the vegetable basket to explore. He continued on his interest in setting things in motion and rolled the carrots and sprouts around the room, chasing after them as they rolled from his reach!

Durring lunch the Postman came and delivered our new Thanksgiving story book. I shared the story with the children while they were eating and several times after lunch. Perfect timing!

After the school pick up, the homecorner get really busy........ and MESSY!
The older children are very good at chopping the vegetables and they asked for a cheese grater to cut things up a bit smaller! All great skills that they will be able use later in life when they start to cook real meals.
The older girls even set the table with a vase of flowers!

Kenzie was in charge of grating the carrots!

They also happily practised cleaning up after all the fun! They used dustpan and brushes, cloths to wipe the sides down, took all the dirty dishes to the kitchen and then got out the hoover. More great life skills being learnt for adult life.

 The idea of this weeks focus is to introduce other cultures and traditions to the children. To learn the story of Thanksgiving and to experience some of the fun and traditions that American families enjoy each year. I wanted to offer this experience as an introduction to Thanksgiving and use it to open dialogue with the children before we look more deeply in to the people and stories behind Thanksgiving day.

 All of the children showed real interest and motivation in this play activity. They all had their own ideas about how they wanted to use the food offered and the equipment.
 Little "L" wanted to clean the veg but offer up everything whole and she also wanted us to sit together to enjoy a family meal.
Little "I" wanted to chop everything in to smaller pieces so she could feed her baby. 
Little "R" wanted to play mums and babies and cook her family a meal.
The older children were much more keen in cutting the food in to tiny pieces and creating interesting dishes with the different coloured grated and chopped vegetables and with dried beans and pasta. They then turned the dinner table in to a restaurant!  They all had their own ideas and shared them freely. They thought critically and chose ways to do things while making links with similar real life experiences. 
The children were engaged and enjoying finding out about the vegetables as they peeled off outer leaves and chopped others up. They explored the resources offered and brought other loose parts in to their play.
 They enjoyed the Thanksgiving story and started to make links with the food on our table and the food in the story. "We have that in the playroom Pip!" 

Today's play, meets the following EYFS Prime and specific areas
  • Communication and Language
  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development
  • Physical Devvelopment
  • Understanding the World
  • Literacy
  • Expressive Art and Design.


Pacey asked me if I would come up with a Christmas craft for their craft section in this months magazine. So this is our offering! You can find it in this months Pacey magazine in their crafting section!

After looking in my art cupboards and trying to come up with something that a young child can manage, mainly by themselves, I decided on Christmas Pine cones! We have a lot of Pine cones around the house after our nature walk last week and I thought that adding some colour and sparkle might just make some cute Christmas decorations.

You will need:

  • Pine cones
  • Paper plates
  • PVA glue
  • Glitter
  • Small Pom Poms
  • Green paint

First paint a pine cone green so that it looks like a Christmas tree.

We left one green and put it to one side to dry. We then painted a second one green and sprinkled it with glitter!

We took a third Pine cone and rolled it in glue!

We then rolled that one in glitter too!

We set them all to one side to dry. Later on in the day we came back to the plain green one and added little Pom poms to its branches. They looked like baubles!

Little "L" wanted to make a snowy Christmas tree so I had a little think and we made this one by rolling a Pine cone in glue first and then in dessicated coconut!

I tied a little bit of Christmas ribbon around the top of each cone so that they can be hung from a real Christmas tree branch.

This activity is great for encouraging children to think about what Christmas trees look like and what they would like to add to their trees. Offer different items for them to cover the trees with or that you can attach in some way to make the tree look decorated.

Use descriptive language with the children. Sparkly, shiny, green, glittery etc..... Let the children share what Christmas trees mean to them. What comes to mind for each of them when you mention the words Christmas tree. For little "L" it meant snow. We used her idea to make a tree that I hadn't even thought of in my planning. Let them really take control of their creations.

All the careful painting and rolling in glue and glitter will help develop a child's fine motor skills and finger muscles. Adding gems or pom poms is a fiddly business that requires concentration, a steady hand and good hand eye coordination.

Today's play, meets the following EYFS Prime and specific areas
  • Communication and Language
  • Physical Development
  • Expressive Art and Design
  • Understanding the World

Sunday, 24 November 2013


This week I have noticed that there has been a marked interest developing in meaningful mark making. 

The children in my setting often have access to forms of mark making in the garden and indoors. There are tools for them to use like paintbrushes and chalks and sand outside. Inside we have paint, pencils, chalk, pens, papers, note pads, chalk boards and post it notes. Marks are often made but they are not always given a meaning.

 The children have now shown an awareness that print carries meaning. (EYFS Literacy, reading- 30-50 months • Knows that print carries meaning and, in English, is read from left to right and top to bottom.)

This week I have noticed a change. Lots of marks are being made but now I am being told what they mean. They are numbers, shopping lists, names being written. (EYFS Literacy, writing- 30-50 months 
 • Sometimes gives meaning to marks as they draw and paint)

This picture shows the back of Little "L"'s  drawing where she told me she was writing her name. This is usually where I write it on their pictures. 

She also wrote it on her Stop signs and told me it said "STOP"

Little "C" writes his name in the corner if pictures using the same wiggly and zigzag lines. I think he has seen people do this in his other childcare setting. In the picture below you can see he is using a note pad and pen that he selected. He is finding it hard to hold the pen correctly and keeps using the other hand to re-adjust it till it feels right.

Little "C" had been working at the number station a lot on this day and he told me his marks represented numbers. When his mum arrived to take him home he was very keen to show her how he writes his numbers as well.

I have decided that it would be a good idea to start planning for the number station to have a transformation in to a mark making station in a week or so. I will look in to different and interesting ways to mark make and how I can offer these to the children.

 This observation is key to me being able to extend an interest that has been initiated by the children. I have managed to pick up on this change in their use of marks as it happened and so I can offer them more opportunities to mark make at a time when their motivation is high. I can create an environment that is rich in words and letters. Like I have with the number station. I hope this will give them the tools and freedom to explore their mark making and become more confident in using it. They will be able to practice control of a pencil and gain better pencil grip. This will all help them to reach a point where they are physically more capable of writing letter shapes.
This is a self initiated interest so the motivation comes from their own interest and desire to explore meaningful mark making. They are exploring different ways of writing letters and numbers. Using different surfaces and tools. This can be extended by offering a greater selection to play with.
They are engaged and concentrating and enjoying achieving what they set out to do. Little "C" was keen to share his "numbers" with his mum and myself. Smiling and feeling great pride!
Little "L" knows some letter names especially ones that are relevant to her, like the letters of her own name. She makes marks on the paper and says some letter names randomly at the same time. making a connection between the marks she makes and the marks that she has seen other use.

Today's play, meets the following EYFS Prime and specific areas
  • Communication and Language
  • Understanding the World
  • Physical Development
  • Literacy


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