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Turn your Classroom into a ‘Festival of Lights’ by Celebrating Diwali on October 27th!

What is Diwali – Festival of Lights?

Diwali, is a five day ‘Festival of Lights’ celebrated each year by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains in India and across the world. The festival links to many different texts. The most popular is that of the tale of the Hindu God Lord Rama. Lord Rama returned to his Kingdom after 14 years in exile to defeat the demon King Ravana. It is also linked to Lakshmi, who is the goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity. All variations of the festival are associated with the same symbolic meaning; the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. The word ‘Diwali’ comes from the word ‘deepavali’ meaning ‘row of lighted lamps’. People put these lamps or ‘diyas’ outside their homes to symbolise the inner light that protects from darkness. During the five day festival shops, homes, temples, office buildings and schools are all brightly decorated. The festival is always celebrated sometime between October and November – changing every year. This year (2019) it is being celebrated on Sunday, 27th October. 

Why We Should Celebrate Diwali Every Year! 

Early years services bring people from many different backgrounds and cultures together. Encouraging children to celebrate many different religions and cultures fosters a diverse community. Helping young children to understand religious (or non religious) festivals acknowledges the beliefs and culture of individual children. Diwali is a very important festival for many people and early years services should embrace this celebration. There are many ways in which we can celebrate Diwali in the class. Making your classroom bright and colourful are two great ways to get Diwali ready! You could also invite any parents of children celebrating Diwali to come in to tell a story or bring some traditional items or food to see and try. They could also demonstrate how to make some of the typical Diwali crafts. You could use your Friends Together Journal to document the children’s artwork and observations as a group. Below are some craft ideas that you can use with the children to bring some light to your class for the Diwali Festival!

Diwali Craft Ideas to bring some light to your classroom!

Diwali Crafts: Paper Plate Rangoli Patterns

Traditionally during Diwali bright ‘Rangoli Patterns’ are drawn on the floor near the front door to encourage the goddess Lakshmi into houses. They are drawn using rice, flour, sand or chalk. For this activity you will only need some paper plates, a pencil, kids scissors, colourful paper and glue. Using the coloured paper draw lots of small shapes to include circles, squares, triangles and rectangles. Ask the children to cut them all out using their scissors. Once cut out they can each take a paper plate and begin to stick the shapes onto the plate. See below video for some ideas of how the shapes look. This is also a great activity for helping children with their fine motor skills.

Diwali Crafts: Diyas or Candle Light Holder

The lighting of diyas forms part of the Diwali Festival of Lights celebration. This is an easy way to create beautiful little candle holders or diyas to decorate the classroom for your own Diwali celebrations. Give each child a small amount of salt dough or air drying clay and have them mould it into the shape of a small bowl. Tell the children to use their thumbs to press into the middle of their clay or dough and continue to do so until they are beginning to resemble small bowls. Once the shape has been formed you can bake (if it’s salt dough) or air dry if it’s clay. Once dried out, the children can paint and decorate using colourful paints, glitter, and beads etc. Use battery operated tea lights to insert into each one and make your room glow! 

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Healthy Eating – Getting Children off to the Right Start

According to Aistear, The Early Childhood Curriculum Framework, ‘The Theme of Well-being is about children being confident, happy and healthy’. This theme focuses on developing as a person both physically and mentally. See Aim 2 of the Well-being Theme: ‘Children will be as healthy and fit as they can be’ and Learning Goal 6 of Aim 2: ‘In partnership with the adult, children will make healthy choices and demonstrate positive attitudes to nutrition, hygiene, exercise, and routine’. Pre-school provides a great opportunity to promote positive habits around healthy eating and being active.

Develop a Healthy Eating Policy

Everyone may have different ideas around what healthy eating should entail. This includes the individual parents of children attending the service and individual care workers who work at the service. A good way to ensure that everyone is in agreement about healthy eating is to have a written policy in place. If you have a written policy in place it gives everyone a chance (from parents to staff) to read, discuss and agree what the guidelines are. It will also help with new staff and parents to understand what your ideas on healthy eating are before they sign up to your service. Include both parents and staff in the discussions around the writing of your policy, ensure staff are fully trained in order to implement your policy and ensure that everyone has a copy of the policy so that they are aware of how the policy relates to them. Most importantly, ensure that your healthy eating policy follows the guidelines presented by Tusla in order to be compliant with the regulations. Our Meal Planning and Healthy Eating Pack includes a Healthy Eating Policy document you can use as a starting point and edit for the needs of your service.

Healthy Eating Should Be Made Fun!

For the children it is a great age to begin learning about a healthy lifestyle. There are lots of different ways that you can incorporate healthy eating into your daily routine. The main thing is to make it fun for the children. Songs, stories and rhymes help to set the stage to a really playful environment in which children are inspired to explore new foods. Here are a few ideas that you may like to use in your setting to get you started on your Healthy Eating Journey.

Healthy Eating: Eat The Rainbow Challenge

Create a chart where every day is labelled a different colour, i.e. Mon – Red, Tues – Green, Wednesday – Orange, Thursday – Yellow, Friday – Blue/Purple. Introduce the children to a different colour fruit or vegetable each day. Allow them to explore by touching, tasting and smelling the various foods. Talk about the food and explain to the children in simple language how the food can help make them fast, strong, smart etc. Explain to the children that they should eat foods that are colourful – that they should eat the rainbow!

Healthy Eating: Create A Vegetable Patch

Find an area that you can create your very own fruit and vegetable patch. Give the children ownership of it by allowing them to plant the seeds, water and care for the plants. Use the vegetable patch as an opportunity to talk about where food comes from and how it grows. Once the children begin to discuss between them, ensure to note any emerging interests they may have around healthy eating that you can use for the following days and weeks in the learning environment.

Healthy Snack Makers

Use old magazines and brochures to allow the children to cut out some healthy foods. Once they have them cut out they can make healthy snacks from them. For example, carrots sticks with mashed avocado, cheese on crackers, scrambled eggs on toast, fruit and yoghurt. 

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Cosy Corner: Creating an Intimate Space where Children can chill!

Infants, toddlers and preschoolers all need somewhere within the classroom setting where they can relax and have some time away from the busier and louder areas of the classroom. Creating a ‘Cosy Corner’ or a ‘Quiet Space’ is a great way to ensure the children have somewhere to go when they need to have some quiet time to themselves. If a child is upset or simply overwhelmed they may not yet have the skills to regulate emotions on their own. Some children like to be soothed by an adult with some hugs or cuddles and others may prefer to go off to soothe themselves. Self-soothing is a great skill for young children to learn. If the children have an quiet area, such as a Cosy Corner, they will utilise it to calm down, relax and soothe themselves, before coming back to rejoin the bigger group. 

Also note that under the 2016 regulations you are required to have a cosy area where a child can rest or sleep if tired or feeling unwell. Many services have been marked non-compliant because their cosy areas are not cosy enough!

How To Create A Cosy Corner In Your Early Years Setting 

A Cosy Corner is very easy to set up. You can use items that you already have in your setting including floor mats, books, shelves etc. Here are some tips to get you started: 

  • Choose an area in your setting that is away from the main class room area and any doors and toilets (if possible). 
  • Set out bookshelves on either side so that children can come in and out easily. 
  • Place a shoe basket beside the entrance so that the children can take their shoes off before going in. 
  • Place things such as floor mats, a cosy rug, bean bags, cushions, pillows, blankets or a small sofa/chair in the area
  • Fill the bookshelves with books so that the children can do some reading while exploring the area. Try to include some ‘feelings books’ such as Tracy Moroney’s Feelings Book Series or The Feelings Book by Todd Parr
  • Hang some pictures on the walls above. Include pictures of feelings (sad, happy, angry, jealous, lonely, excited etc.) and relaxation exercises (belly or balloon breathing, stretching exercises etc.). See Mindfulness Post for more information on relaxation techniques
  • Be sure that the area is visible to teachers 
  • It is important to note that this area is not to be used as a ‘Time Out’.
  • Teach the children how to use the area ahead of time. For example, ‘Remove Shoes’, ‘One/Two at a time’. 

Review Your Cosy Corner Regularly

Once you have your Cosy Corner up and running be sure to review the area on a regular basis. Swap out the books every couple of days or weeks to keep the children interested. Add a new teddy or different shaped pillow after a certain period. Change up the pictures on the walls so that children get different ideas of things to do. The main thing is to make sure that it continually serves its purpose of being a place where the children can relax away from the busier area of the classroom and of course that it is fun for the children!

Cosy Corner related products:

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Support Children’s Emerging Interests with New Rugby World Cup 2019 Curriculum Plan Pack

The 2019 Rugby World Cup, hosted by Japan, has kicked off and will run until the 2nd November. There are twenty teams taking part in the tournament and Ireland is one of those teams. Are any of the children in your setting showing an interest in supporting Ireland or any of the other teams who are playing in the 2019 Rugby World Cup? Is there more talk about rugby in your class than there normally would be? Are the children looking to play rugby during playtime? To support those emerging interests we have come up with a Curriculum Plan to support the Rugby World Cup 2019. This curriculum plan will give you activity ideas for the Rugby World Cup 2019 and how you can support the children’s emerging interests around the topic of rugby while tying in with the Aistear Themes Well being and Identity and Belonging.

While the Rugby World Cup is on we are offering our Rugby World Cup Curriculum Plan Pack FREE with any purchase of €30 or more on the Early Years Shop! Just remember to use the offer code: RUGBY

How Supporting The Rugby World Cup can give children a sense of belonging

From the time children are born they begin to develop a sense of who they are – their own identity. This happens through their relationships with those around them including family members, other children and friends within their community. Belonging is when children have a secure relationship or connection with a group of people. Supporting a team in the World Cup Tournament can give children a sense of who they are and where they belong. Decorating the classroom with flags and bunting they have made themselves and wearing their team colours will give the children a sense of involvement, pride and team spirit. With the exposure of the World Cup there may be a surge in children who wish to play rugby themselves which shows that they have gained confidence to try something new and take them out of their comfort zone. By playing a new sport they will not only be exposed to more physical exercise but it will also give them positive attitudes towards commitment, resilience and persistence.

See description of Aistear Theme: Identity and Belonging

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Supporting Transition in Early Years Services – New Transitions Pack Now Available on The Early Years Shop

A stable environment is essential in the life of a young child, yet, change is something that cannot be avoided in most young children’s lives before they reach school age. Transition is the process of moving from one situation to another and taking time to adjust. Times when it is key to be supporting transition include:

  • the first start a child makes from home to an early years service
  • the daily transition from home to service and back again
  • the transition from one activity to another 
  • the transition from indoor to outdoor (or vice versa)
  • the transition of one room to another
  • the transition from one service to another/primary school

The above transitions show that early years services play a significant part in laying strong foundations for ensuring smooth transitions for young children. To support these transitions we need to ensure that we have effective management and communication plans in place. If we can manage transition carefully then it will make the process easier for the child, the early years practitioner, and parents/family. Strong relationships between practitioners and parents build the foundation for a successful transition. For the practitioner, opening up conversations with the parents will provide information about the child which in turn will allow the practitioner to help the child process changes and transitions. 

Supporting Transition in the Early Years: How We Can Help!

Tusla are identifying poor transitions as a common area of non-compliance in many services. Our new Transitions Pack has been created to help early years services to manage transition within their service. The pack includes great tips, activities and ideas to help children make the many transitions, big and small, they need to accept. The Transitions Pack provides material for children from ages 0-5 years as well as children with additional needs. The processes and routines in place supporting transitions must be flexible so that the needs of the child and their family are met. Although the activities in the pack are broken down into age and ability, a flexible approach allows you to make your own judgment in using the younger-aged activities with the older children and vice versa. The pack also includes handover forms to allow practitioners inform their colleagues about any child transitioning between key workers (from room to room). In addition to policies, tools and activities around managing transition, this pack provides some useful guides for parents in coping with their child starting in early years services or transitioning to “big school”. Print out as many copies as you like to hand out to parents of children in your service.

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Mindfulness: Teaching Young Children Some Basic Tips For A Healthy Mind

Keeping little bodies healthy is something that we are all very conscious of but what about keeping little minds healthy? Could we be doing more to teach our children how to keep their minds healthy? Could we give them some basic tips that they will take with them throughout their lives so that they will be resilient and ready for anything that life may throw at them. The word ‘mindfulness’ is a word that we have heard so much about over the last couple of years. In a nutshell it means ‘to focus your awareness on the present moment’. Today’s world is a fast paced environment and sometimes it is very easy to become overwhelmed or stressed and children too can feel these uncomfortable situations. Mindfulness techniques are being used by adults in various forms to help keep their minds healthy – these include techniques such as mindful breathing, yoga, mindful eating and practicing gratitude. 

Mindfulness: Teaching Our Young Children To Become Resilient Adults 

If we introduce children to some of these simple mindfulness techniques from a very young age, we are preparing them for their future as a resilient adult. We are teaching them ways to overcome uncomfortable situations by using simple mindfulness techniques. Practicing mindfulness has proven to reduce stress and focus attention. Practicing mindfulness gratitude teaches children to focus on the appreciation of the things that they do have in their lives rather than what they may want or crave. It also teaches them to appreciate the people in their lives and helps them to have more empathy for those around them. In a world of technology mindfulness helps children (and adults alike) to switch off  and be present which in turn helps to keep little minds happy and healthy. 

Introducing Simple Mindfulness Techniques to Young Children

Teaching mindfulness techniques doesn’t have to be elaborate sessions that may take up a whole morning but instead easy, short and simple tasks. A simple mindfulness exercise: ‘Close your eyes and breathe. What are you aware of right now?’ This is a very effective use of a basic mindfulness technique and can be used at any time during the day with an individual or a group. Of course a group of young children may not always want to sit still and do yoga poses, or lie with their eyes closed for a prolonged period so you could think about using techniques that include movement and engagement and/or keep them short. Here are a couple of simple but effective ideas that you may like to use as a starting point in your class. There are some videos included that you can watch before you get started! 

Mindfulness Breathing: Belly Buddies

Belly Buddies is a simple technique that children will love. Ask the children to bring a stuffed toy (or for older children anything of interest will work) with them and lie on the floor. Ask them to place the stuffed toy on their belly. Set a timer for five minutes. Ask the children to stare at the object they have on their tummy and to watch it rise and fall as they breathe in and out. This is a very effective way of getting children started on the most basic of mindfulness strategies – simply breathing! This can be done at the beginning of each day, at the end of each day or both. 

Mindfulness Eating: Pretend to be a Scientist

The exercise of eating mindfully is another great way of instilling mindfulness into young children. Place a selected piece of food on a plate in front of each child. Fruit or dried fruit such as raisins is a good example of something to start with. Tell all the children that they are going to pretend to be scientists and that they should take a moment to investigate their food. What do they see, what shape is it, what colour is it and does it smell? Tell them to use their imaginary telescope to look closer for any patterns on their food. Ask them to bring the food to their mouth and slowly place it on their tongue. Tell them to just feel it on their tongue before biting it. When they bite it ask them to discuss how the food has changed in their mouth – shape, texture and taste. This technique can be expanded by encouraging more discussion and could also be introduced at snack/lunch/dinner time if the children enjoy it.

Mindfulness Gratitude: Thank You Teddy Bear

Pick a teddy bear or stuffed animal and sit all the kids on the floor. Each child should get a turn of holding the teddy bear. When they are holding the teddy bear ask each child to tell you something that they are thankful for today. You can build this into your ‘circle time’ on a daily basis so that it becomes part of everyday routine in your class. 

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Use Medical Care Plans to Document Your Commitment to Health and Safety for the Children in your Early Years Service

Document Your Commitment to Health in Your Early Years Service

The child’s health and well being must be at the forefront of the service provided by Early Years practitioners. Before all other considerations, families depend on a safe early years environment and particularly that if their child has any individual health issues all staff will be aware of the correct protocols and procedures.
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Autumn: A Great Way to Introduce Children to Change while Tying in with Aistear Goals

Child Collecting Leaves

Big Changes: A New School Term and a New Season

As the long lazy summer days end and we say goodbye to picnics and beach days – a new school term begins. We see new faces at the school gates. Some faces looking curious, others nervous or excited. Do they know that their little worlds’ are about to change with so much learning and adventure ahead of them? How will we introduce them to change without overloading their growing brains? Well, not only are our children’s little worlds changing at this time of year because parallel to a new school term comes Autumn! Continue reading Autumn: A Great Way to Introduce Children to Change while Tying in with Aistear Goals

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Preparing for Your DES Inspections: Where are You Falling Down?

Today’s Thursday Tip is to encourage you to look at the recommendations of the DES Inspection reports and evaluate how you can prepare better.

Each published DES Inspection (EYEI) report contains a wealth of observation in relation to where services fall down and where there is potential for improvement. See below the recommendations under the 4 key areas.

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STEM Education in the Early Years; new Curriculum Plan Pack

Early Years STEM Curriculum Plans

STEM by its definition is an ‘interdisciplinary approach to learning where students learn and apply concepts in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths’. The Early years is a perfect setting to begin to introduce children to these concepts. Children are naturally curious, searching with enthusiasm for the answers to their own questions. The child views the process as being more important than the end result, this makes them perfect candidates to take on the role of explorer, investigator and scientist. As educators we are aware of how critical the first 8 years are to child development, thus by stimulating and exposing children to such concepts at an early-age, connections are made in the brain which will have positive results in the future.

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Documentation – The Story Begins

Documentation in the early years aims to tell the story of a child’s journey as they grow and develop within the early years setting. As with every good story it is important to have a strong beginning, an engaging middle and a conclusion which will satisfy all stakeholders involved in the care and education of each child. As educators we meet many unexpected challenges and highlights along the way. It is important that this journey reflects each child from a strengths-based perspective. This can then be used to inform new learning experiences for the child as they move on to primary school. Meeting the children where they are now is the starting point of any learning journey. Through careful collaboration with parents and caregivers, we form an impression of the child, their likes, dislikes, attachments, and skillsets. This will inform the beginning of the child’s story with us. The environment can then be prepared accordingly to reflect each child. This strategy enables children to feel secure, and they are more likely to begin to explore and develop in their new environment.

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