Author Archive

I have just finished writing an article for the trade press about the issue of first aid, and this followed a lot of discussion amongst our managers about recruitment challenges. It is no news that recruitment in the early years sector is very difficult at the moment, following the GCSE debacle that the Government managed to engineer, and the pipeline of new recruits is slow. The expansion of some settings caused by the 30 hours funding has increased pressure on supply, and many nurseries are finding it hard to recruit and retain staff.

Many of us are turning to agencies to help us to fill the gap, but it does feel that some of the agencies are not pulling in the same direction. We are committed to achieving Millie’s Mark at all our nurseries, which demonstrates excellence in paediatric first aid. This kite mark requires us to have all of our staff who deal with children qualified in paediatric first aid, and in order for us to be compliant, we have to ensure that this includes agency staff as well.

Before Christmas our Ops Manager contacted all the local agencies whom we used, assuming that they would be aware of this and would be starting to ask all their agency staff to work towards this standard. Unfortunately we were largely met with a negative response and there was no suggestion from any of them that they would be requiring this in the future. Agency staff need a minimum of a 6 hour paediatric first aid certificate to meet the requirements of Millie’s Mark, and this is something that the whole sector is being encouraged to adopt. It is time for the expectations around first aid to be raised, and we would like to see agencies leading the way on this, so that nurseries are able to provide the safest possible environment for all children. 

Why water play is wonderful!

July 29th, 2017 by Sarah Steel

All children are fascinated by water and you only have to see how much time children spend ‘washing’ their hands given half the chance, to realise that flooding the bathroom is all part of the learning experience! We have water play experience both inside and outside at nursery and are always looking for new oppportunities to use water. One current favourite is with children using large paint brushes and a small container of water to ‘paint’ the fence in the garden. Hours of entertainment, but also a great way for children to develop their fine and gross motor skills and to collaborate with each other and solve problems.

This is a lovely article from Community Playthings, which reminds us all of the benefits of water play.

Working towards Millie’s Mark

February 7th, 2017 by Sarah Steel

As a company, we recognise the enormous importance of ensuring that our staff are well trained to deal with emergencies. We are currently working with the NDNA to complete ‘Millie’s Mark’, which is a quality mark to recognise excellence in the provision of First Aid training to staff. At the moment our Filkins Nursery team are studying the requirements of the assessment process and are updating our policies and procedures, to share with all our nurseries, as well as getting all their staff fully trained in Paediatric First Aid.

Many parents ask about good First Aid training to raise their own awareness, and I recently found this website with some excellent advice on:

We will keep you up to date as our work towards Millie’s Mark progresses, but if you’d like to read a bit more about it, then click here:

https://www.milliesmark.comScreen Shot 2017-02-07 at 12.44.45

Why your vocabulary is so important for children

January 8th, 2017 by Sarah Steel

We already know how important it is to talk to children and not just ‘park’ them in front of screens, but this article quotes expert Michael Jones and makes fascinating reading. He reminds us that it can take a child up to 500 times to learn a new word, so we need to surround them with a ‘language rich environment’.  The temptation to ‘dumb-down’ should be resisted – a ‘baby horse’ is a ‘foal’, and a ‘baby lion’ is a ‘lion cub’.

I remember hearing Penny Tassoni talking at a conference a couple of years ago. She recounted a story of seeing a child in pre-school being asked ‘what colour was the post box’. The child rolled her eyes and said ‘red’. She was reading the same story again, after nearly 2 years in pre-school, and had clearly heard the question many times. How much more exciting to describe the post-box as ‘scarlet’ or explain the term ‘letterbox red’?

I have heard many a 2 year old explaining that the ‘stegosauraus’ is fighting with the ‘diplodocus’. If they can manage to remember complex words when they interest them, surely we should supply with them with as many interesting words as we can?

Food for thought – for parents and practitioners alike!

Give the gift of music this Christmas

November 30th, 2016 by Sarah Steel

Here is a fabulous guest blog from Harriet at Boogie Mites, about bringing the joy of music to your child as an entertaining and educational Christmas present:

Give The Gift Of Music To Your Child This Christmas

I don’t know about you, but I always feel overwhelmed by Christmas present shopping! We seem to be bombarded by adverts and marketing emails from just after Halloween through to Christmas Eve, and I even heard my first Christmas song in a shop just the other day (it’s not even December!).

Yet how do we know what will really be the best present for our child? There are always the tales from exasperated parents who spent a fortune, only for their child to play with the box or wrapping paper, or the 5-minute wonder present that was soon discarded with the wrapping paper in favour of the much-loved wooden spoon or a kitchen roll tube!

Here at Boogie Mites, we say that music is the top gift you can give your child this Christmas. Now this doesn’t have to be spending hundreds of pounds on the latest keyboard or guitar that no one in the family knows how to play, especially when children are still developing their own musical identities. It could be much more creative, interactive and (best of all) cheaper than that!

We know that when parents take part in music with their children, not only the children, but the parents benefit too. A study by De Gratzer (1999) found that parents reported non-musical benefits such as improved relationships and increased communication with their children, and Nicholson, Berthelsen, Abad, Williams and Bradley (2008) found that a 10 week music project showed significant improvements in measures of parental irritability, activities with their child, parental mental health, child communication, and child social skills. Closer to home, an evaluation report of Boogie Mites music programmes (Fairchild & Karousou, 2013) found that parents felt more confident when singing and with their general music practice. And in particular, parents of children with SEN stressed how Boogie Mites music was a valuable means of communication and interacting with their child and also an enjoyable activity as a family.

So now we know how great music is, how could you turn this into the Christmas gift that keeps on giving?

We at Boogie Mites absolutely love making our own instruments and encourage everyone to do the same. It’s cheap, fun, eco-friendly and best of all, something that is totally personal. In my last Old Station blog I talked about making shakers. If you’ve tried this, then why not add to your band by making a drum.

Watch the ‘How To Make A Drum’ video for tips on making your drum and then using it to have lots of fun with nursery rhymes – and boost language and counting skills too!

How To Make A Drum (

Are you having family with little ones round this Christmas? Try wrapping up all the craft elements needed to make a whole percussion band – empty bottles for shakers, wooden spoons for rhythm sticks, empty boxes for drums – and have fun decorating them together (yes grownups love this too!). You could theme them for each person or for the festive time of year. You could also use all that leftover wrapping paper to make sounds and music with.

Once you have your percussion band assembled, you could add sound effects to your favourite stories, and encourage your little one to be the conductor! Or perhaps invest in a quality, educational music CD that you could tap along to, or a book with all your favourite nursery rhymes in. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you could make a song bag yourself, with objects or props to represent your child’s favourite songs. You can keep adding to the bag as you and your child learn more songs.

All of these gifts could be used in many different ways throughout the following months and years, so won’t end up in a corner unused. And because they’re interactive, you’ll know that actually, you’ll be giving the best gift any child could receive: you.

Happy Christmas everyone!

About the Author: Harriet Thomas is Creative Director at Boogie Mites UK, offering early years music training for practitioners and licensee opportunities for anyone with a passion for music for under 5’s.






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