Category Archives: Jane’s Blog

Preschool Is Crushing Kids?

This article is US based but still very relevant. I love the suggestion that nursery (kindergarten) is now considered a gatekeeper checking who is ready and who is not to go to school when once it was the welcome mat encouraging children to cross into formal schooling.
I have often said that relationships are central to positive early years experiences and its one of the reasons I am so passionate about playgroup. At playgroup we have the advantage of significant parental inviolvement and of being very community focussed – both of which foster relationships between staff, parents and community as well as with children. Its a win win situation as far as I am concerned.
By its very name playgroup centres around children’s play – the way children are designed to learn – not on teaching and not on being the first step of the formal education ladder.
A child’s early years are short and we shouldn’t be wasting them by imposing our adult ideas of what their learning should look like.

Makaton Friendly

I took over the role of lead practitioner at Cambusbarron Playgroup in September last year. Our playgroup is a small, but busy, community playgroup for children aged from 2 1/2 to pre-school. We are located in the beautiful village of Cambusbarron, just outside Stirling. Our staff team is small, 2 staff members, 1 administrator and 1 relief staff member. We have for 16 children attending sessions each day.

We are very proud to say that our playgroup has just been awarded Makaton Friendly status, the first setting of any kind in the Stirling area to be recognised in this way.

My personal interest in Makaton began many years ago but I only undertook formal Foundation training last year, coincidentally just around when I began working at Cambusbarron.

Last year was also when I completed my honours degree in Childhood Practice. The Makaton rationale and ethos resonated very clearly with what I had studied about children’s learning and development. It seems so obvious that communicating information both orally and visually enhances learning.

Having loved every minute of Foundation I immediately signed up for the Enhancement course which I completed early this year. I have been passionately using and promoting Makaton since.

Although Makaton had been in use before at playgroup it is now much more embedded in our daily routines. Our children love signing and are always keen to show off their skills. We sign our names at Welcome Time and parents, staff and children all learn the Sign of the Week and promote it more widely within our community. Last Christmas we learned how to sign Christmas carols and went carol singing and signing in a local supermarket. We have received very positive feedback from parents and its rewarding to hear reports of children teaching their parents and siblings how to sign.

We have created our own electronic dictionary of the Makaton signs we know. Each sign is shown with the relevant symbol and a video of one of our children demonstrating the sign. The children enthusiastically help find, then copy and paste, images into our dictionary. They love taking videos of each other demonstrating the signs. We have recently asked family and community members to submit videos of them signing too – we aim to include more people in the community and make our dictionary a real village resource. The learning achieved by the children in this project is significant. In addition to the Makaton signs and symbols they are developing communication and language skills. They are learning about technology and developing social and emotional skills such as teamwork, confidence and perseverance.

It has been gratifying to see that parents and staff have also embraced the use of Makaton and a supportive learning community has developed around signing. Just as there is always something new to learn there is also a new sign to learn This week we read the story Shark in the Park and, of course, had to find out how to sign Shark and Park!