Early Years Foundation Stage

A new Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) was introduced in September 2012. The first results of the assessments of children's development at the end of the EYFS (the end of the academic year in which a child turns 5) by teachers revealed some significant challenges for us as parents and also for teachers.

The new Early Years Foundation Stage Profile requires practitioners to make a best fit assessment of whether children are emerging, as expected or exceeding against each of the new 17 early learning goals. Children have been deemed to have reached a good level of development in the new profile if they achieve at least the expected level in the early learning goals in the prime areas of learning (personal, social and emotional development; physical development; and communication and language) and in the specific areas of mathematics and literacy.

It was alarming to see that only 52% of children achieved a good level of development in the new EYFS profile.

It was even more alarming to see that when looked at by gender then only 44% of boys achieved this level (girls were 60%).

At Toys Naturally we have therefore looked at how we think we can help support parents and teachers to help their children have lots of fun while playing and developing these essential skills.

The 17 new early learning goals are:

Listening and Attention

Understanding

Speaking

Moving and Handling

Health and Self Care

Self-confidence and Self-awareness

Managing feelings and Behaviour

Making Relationships

Reading

Writing

Numbers

Shape, Space and Measures

People and Communities

The World

Technology

Exploring and using Media and Materials

Being Imaginative

 
For those of you who have children who were born in the 'summer' months - (defined as May, June, July or August) - which we do - they can find it even more difficult to attain these levels. Only 38% of children born in these months were assessed as achieving a good level of development in the new EYFS profile.
 

Our philosophy at Toys Naturally is that play is the platform by which children learn and explore their senses and indulge their seemingly endless curiosity.  They learn about themselves, the world around them and the people they interact with through play.  Sharing a toy is probably one of the first lessons children learn that engages an awareness extending outside themselves.  As an adult, playing with a toy and sharing precious time with a child is the stuff memories are made of.

Toys Naturally goodies are all predominantly wood; because wood is timeless, it is natural and it is innocent, like children.  Wood tastes, it smells, has varying textures because of its grain and differing weights because of it's hardness.  It clinks and clunks and is an infinitely more sensory material than unpromising plastic.  Babies especially are sensory beings and their first learning is through their senses.  Wood makes more sense than any other material.  Furthermore, wood is wonderful because of its reduced environmental impact.  If we are going to give a gift to our children, why not one that won’t cost the earth?  Intelligent, ethical, beautiful toys - made of wood.

Children continually show us a world that we, as adults, seem to forget in our frantic grown up lives.  Children have a sense of timelessness and focus when playing which is blissful, and their perseverance when trying to complete a task, for the first time or the fifth is captivating and necessary.  How often have we wanted to ‘help’ and in so doing inadvertently interfered with and disrupted the learning process that was going on.   When we stand back and observe, prepare to feel your heart swell with pride and intrigue at what the little person you are watching achieves and shows you.

Rediscover the marvel of childhood through the art and joy of play.  Indulge in nostalgia and a dose of happiness.  Enjoy playing with, watching and having fun with your baby or toddler and help them get a great start in life and develop these essential skills early in their life. Wood you play?


















World Book Day

 
The 6th March 2014 is World Book Day. You'll know from our earlier blog - The Greatest Gift - just how important Toys Naturally think reading is for babies and toddlers in terms of their development. But it doesn't stop with babies and toddlers it really is the avenue for opening up opportunities for people. Education and learning has the potential to open up opportunities and experiences that would otherwise not be possible.
 
At Toys Naturally we fully support anything that encourages children to read books and to support thus we have discounted our fantastic wooden books for babies and toddlers by 10% until the 6th March 2014 along with some other fantastic wooden toys that will help your babies and toddlers have fun while learning and playing with you.
 
Click here to see these special offers on our wooden books and some of our other fantastic wooden toys.



















The Musical Toddler

Music is a brilliant way for babies and toddlers to learn, play and have fun. It is also a fantastic way for parents and children to play together and have fun either by themselves or with a group of babies, toddlers and parents.

Toddler or baby birthday parties can be great fun but can also be incredibly hard work and noisy!!  Having various games and activities planned for the party makes it so much more fun and much easier to keep control of.  How many times have you had tears at a party because someone didn't win a prize in pass-the-parcel or musical-chairs for instance.  Instead of the more traditional games why not try a bit of a sing-along for the children and parents? All you need is some good music and a few wooden musical toys and you can have lots of fun either at a birthday party or just a play day with friends.

If you are planning a birthday party for your baby or toddler then don't forget the party bag. Children love party bags - although their expectations might need managing a little bit!!  My children were a little disappointed after visiting Nanna for her birthday and having a few party nibbles, but then not receiving a party bag!!  Oh dear!!! 

If you are looking for some lovely wooden toys for your party bags then why not check out these fantastic wooden toys.  I know children love party bags but with the average amount spent on each party bag apparently £7.50, I think we should aim for a little bit more quality from the toys that end up in these bags.  Many of the toys in these bags end up being forgotten about 10 minutes after the party has finished and the cake has been eaten.

Given this potential waste of money I know a lot of parents are now doing a lucky dip as a thank you.  Our party bag toys are perfect for a lucky dip, one of these fantastic wooden toys and a slice of birthday cake and your baby or toddlers little friends will go home with a big smile on their faces.

A good song for getting babies and toddlers involved is 'I am the Music Man' - we've slightly amended the words below to make a Toys Naturally version - hope you enjoy it!!!

I am a music toddler,
I come from down your way
And I can play.  What 'Wood you play?'
I play the triangle.
Tria - tria - triangle, triangle, triangle,
Tria - tria - triangle, tria - triangle.

I am a music toddler,
I come from down your way
And I can play.  What 'Wood you play?'
I play the maracas.
Mara - mara - maracas, maracas, maracas,
Mara - mara - maracas, mara - maracas

I am a music toddler,
I come from down your way
And I can play.  What 'Wood you play?'
I play the xylophone.
Xylo - xylo - xylophone, xylophone, xylophone
Xylo - xylo - xylophone, xylo, xylophone.

I am a music toddler,
I come from down your way
And I can play.  What 'Wood you play?'
I play the wooden drum.
Wooden - wooden - wooden drum, wooden drum, wooden drum,
Wooden - wooden - wooden drum, wooden, wooden drum.

I am a music toddler,
I come from down your way
And I can play. What 'Wood you play?'
I play the tambourine
Tambo - tambo - tambourine, tambourine, tambourine,
Tambo - tambo - tambourine,
Tambo, tambourine.

If your baby or toddler is interested in music and singing then I can highly recommend Rocktotz which is a fun and funky parent and toddler music group with numeracy, literacy and sign language for babies and toddlers.  Although only currently available in the North East of England, watch this space for classes in the future near you.

If you are looking for some ideas for party themes or ideas for birthday presents then we'll be posting blogs on these in the near future.

 

 

Gleneagles

I wrote a while ago about visiting Edinburgh Zoo.  Sadly there weren't any panda babies last year but I'm sure they'll be trying again.  If you're looking to visit the zoo or visiting Scotland I can highly recommend the Gleneagles Hotel.  If, like us, you find hotels are not necessarily the easiest with babies and toddlers then why not try the fantastic houses they have in the grounds of the hotel (Glenmor).

 
You get to use all of the facilities of the hotel, such as the swimming pool, pitch and putt, fantastic restaurants and most importantly, for those with babies and toddlers, the playroom, but with lots of space and a fantastic luxury house of your own.
 
We've made the most of the playroom on many occasions - you get 2 hours free per day if you are staying in the houses at Glenmor.  It is a fantastic environment, very safe and secure, a high ratio of staff to children and toddlers and lots of fantastic toys for them to play with and plenty of activities to keep them entertained and wanting to go back all the time.
 
They have a great range of wooden toys including a fantastic wooden kitchen and wooden play food.  They encourage heuristic play and have brilliant baskets for babies and toddlers to play with.
 
What can you do with 2 hours to yourself in Gleneagles?  I'll suggest a few things on a later blog.
 
If you love golf this is a fantastic place to stay and a beautiful place to visit. 
If you have no interest in golf at all this is a fantastic place to stay and a beautiful place to visit!!
 
If you are interested in golf then the Ryder Cup will be played at Gleneagles in 2014 so what better time to go along and join in the fun?
 
The swimming pool in the hotel is always a favourite of ours and, as it has just been completely refurbished, we're looking forward to using it again.  When your babies and toddlers aren't swimming in the hotel swimming pool then perhaps they can take a dip in the bath in your Glenmor home.  These baths are so huge your babies and toddlers will feel like they have their own pool!!!  Don't forget a few toys for them to play with such as these splash and stack cups or a dunk and spin fish and bath time won't be as difficult as it sometimes can be!!
 
If bath time is a bit of a difficult time either at home or when you're on holiday why not try something different?  Have you tried some confetti - yes really - it floats for a while and then dissolves in the water and is a fun to use soap!  If you think your baby or toddler will like to get a bath in funny coloured water then why not try these bath pearls, they won't stain your bath or your children but will add a bit of fun to bath time!!  And what about crackling bath crystals - these will certainly add a pop to bath time!!!
 
There are plenty of other exciting things to do in and around Gleneagles and there is lots of fantastic countryside and open spaces to explore so the adult bikes that come with the house are great for getting around.  There are bikes and trikes available for toddlers too, or you can take your own.
 
If you're thinking of visiting Scotland then I can't imagine a better place than Gleneagles, you will be surrounded by luxury, beautiful surroundings and with so much to do you'll want to visit again and again!!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



















The greatest gift you can ever give your child .......

 ....other than love?
 
 
In the build up to Christmas there will be a host of lists showing the 'Top 10 Wooden Toys' or the 'Top 10 Most Wanted Toys for Christmas 2013'.  These lists will be filled with lots of very creative and entertaining toys (lots of which would be wooden toys and sold on my website - if you ask me!!).
 
However, in my opinion, the greatest gift you can give a child or toddler is the ability to read and communicate!!!
 
Everything in life builds on this most important of skills.
 
Watching the world open up to a child as they begin to read and how this helps enhance their life is one of the most rewarding experiences for a parent. As much as your child or toddler will get out of learning to read there are also points at which you as parents will get such a sense of pride out of their achievements and the happiness and enjoyment they get as they develop.
 
There are certain events when you have children that will remain with you forever.  One of these for me was during a visit from the Health Visitor.  This was with my first child and I had no idea why they were coming to my house........were they coming to check on whether I had a clean enough house to raise a child?  Were they coming to check on the health of my child and see whether I'd been doing a good job and therefore been a good Mum for the first 18 months of their life????
 
Well as we sat in the playroom and began to chat, my toddler went to get their wooden alphabet puzzle.......
  
 
......which was very similar to this Melissa & Doug Puzzle on our website.  They emptied all of the letters onto the carpet and then without any prompting started by saying:
 
A for Apple - and putting it in the correct place, then
B for Ball followed, then
C for Cat
 
all the way through to......
 
Z for Zebra (on the one we had at the time).
 
I knew he was pretty good with his letters and numbers, but the Health Visitor was slightly taken aback by the 18 month old sitting on the floor looking very pleased with himself!!  At the risk of sounding a little gushing, I was very proud of him!
 
As you might expect we had played with this wooden toy a lot, and our toddler loved it.  We also had lots of little books....
 
 
 
....just like these wooden books, which we were always reading and playing with as our toddler sat on our knee.
 
For those of you that have read my Panda Blog, you may already have the impression that my husband is a little mad!!  Well, this next bit won't help him.
 
When he was washing and then drying the dishes, he would spell out to our toddler each thing he dried!  Our toddler was bouncing away merrily in his bouncy chair while being slowly brain washed!!
 
It got to the point where my husband would be drying a bowl, and he would hold it up for our 2 year old toddler, who would then spell out and say 'B-O-W-L, bowl'!!!  It was amazing to watch.  The same happened with P-A-N!! 
 
Another of those proud 'Mummy Moments' occurred during my child's first year at school.  The children all came running out one day with a letter.  While many of the other children were asking their parents what it was about I was being read the letter by a child who was only just 5!!!  His reading was opening up a whole new world to him, and for a while after this other children would often ask my child to read party invites, birthday cards and letters home so that they knew what they said.  It was very weird hearing this from teachers at Parent's Evening!!!
 
The letter was about a trip to Seven Stories, which is a fantastic place for you to take your children if you are in Newcastle.  Seven Stories is the National Centre for Children's Books, and they offer fantastic regular exhibitions, events and learning programmes.  They help to bring books to life for children, and encourage a love of reading.  There are costumes the children can dress up in and put on their own shows, and fab craft activities, along with many other brilliant things to do - have a look at their website as they always have special events and new and interesting things happening. 
 
I don't subscribe to the thought that babies are born with a pre-determined aptitude and ability.  I think it is what we teach them, the experiences that they have and the environment in which they grow up that develops them into a child who we then send to school.
 
As parents we try to prepare our children as well as we can to be ready for school.  Reading brings our children and us hours, weeks, months and years of fun!!  We can give them the 'Greatest Gift' by teaching them to read.  Take a look at some of our fab wooden toys for toddlers to help with the fun and learning - it certainly worked for us!
 
We would be really interested to know what worked for you, so please get in touch at hello@toysnaturally.co.uk