Happy New Year! And crumbs, how we all needed a new year after the last one?! I don’t think I’ve ever meant ‘Happy New Year’ more seriously than I do when saying it at the beginning of 2021. A year ago none of us could have imagined what we would have gone through in 2020 and are continuing to deal with as we enter 2021. But hopefully that light we are told is at the end of the tunnel will get steadily brighter and larger and more visible as the weeks and months go by. I think each and every one of us is truly hoping for a difference in the year to come, some kind of return to the life we had before. Although, there have been positives that we can all take from our very strange 2020, we mustn’t forget that!
Anyway, as I was reading the HfL e-bulletin and perused the Top Tips for January in the EYFS, they got me thinking about other tips for the start of the new term that I thought I’d like to share with you. So here they are!
1. Think about leaving your Christmas decorations up for the children to use – enabling them to explore them again with knowledge and confidence.
This is one I remember hearing some time ago and is clearly not for the superstitious. Although upon research, it seems that the bad luck that will befall us if we leave decorations up after Twelfth Night, is one that will be focused on our harvest…apparently we will have a poor one if the decorations aren’t cleared promptly by the 5th of January. So if you are concerned that your carefully planted broad beans in clear plastic cups will fail due to this superstition, steer clear. However, you will be missing a trick. Think about your children. They have thus far, at best, had only 5 Christmas Days, with potentially three of those not being remembered due to their young age. So this January, they are now in fact experts at Christmas! They have just lived through it..at home with their family bubble, or in shops, on the tv – it couldn’t be missed. So now it’s time to share that experienced knowledge! If Christmas isn’t their own celebration, they can share their friend’s knowledge.
If I’m too late and your decorations are already safely stashed away…consider this top tip for next year!
2. These first two months are cold and dark so think about ways to make your learning environment homely. Perhaps add some lamps for comforting lighting or cook some warming soup together.
You may have missed the HfL Hygge in the EYFS training session last term but this is the ethos of the Scandinavian countries. They live for much of the winter season in darkness so cosy warmth is a priority there. There’s that English day in January that’s been gloomily entitled ‘Blue Monday’. I believe it’s on the 18th this year. The day when the post-Christmas blues are a reality; it’s generally dark and cold and the Christmas credit card bills from all that online shopping arrive! Gloomy indeed! So get ahead of the game in your learning environment and create some Hygge happiness. There is research from Scandinavia that recommends blending home and school to support smooth transitions for your youngest children. Rugs, throws, cushions (washable to reduce covid-19 transmission if that’s in your risk assessment, of course) and adding some lamps to the provision to reduce the need for harsh, overhead strip-lighting if you can.
3. Make a New Years’ Resolution for your EYFS – it might be to socialise once each half term as a team or to empty that ‘bit box’ on a weekly basis (putting the odd bits of lego or lonely piece of jigsaw puzzle back where it belongs!).
Now I can’t profess to having ever kept up with a New Years’ resolution but that doesn’t detract in the slightest from the fun of making them. However, the two suggestions above might be a possibility, and the first one is potentially the most important. With all we have been through in the last year, and potentially more to come, it is imperative that we take time to bond as a team and hopefully talk about things other than our cohorts of children and covid-19! If you’re able to have a socially distant gathering in person, that would be marvellous (I am aware that between me writing this blog and it being published, advice from central government may change – hopefully for the better!). If not, a remote gathering on one of the now-prevalent social platforms would be good enough -just a chance to chat informally with a beverage of your choice and some cake would be a great thing to do.
4. Revamp your busy fingers activities to ensure they’re supporting the development of the right skills for the new term.
Make some creative additions and remember, the HfL publication Places to Play Every Day has lots of ideas!
Your children’s finger skills will have moved on since they came to you in September so don’t forget to evaluate what skills they now need to develop next and create opportunities for these new skills to be honed. The skills might be core strength or the development of upper body strength, refining their pencil grip or anything in between. It is important that the busy fingers activities you provide are finely tuned to the children’s needs and not just a ‘holding activity’ for their early morning arrival.
5. Remember to look after the wild animals in the winter time. Make bird feeders to hang on a fence or in a tree, put some fresh water out if their water source is frozen.
A great opportunity to develop skills in Understanding the World. Bird feeders can be made easily by squashing lard around a pine cone with a string attached, then rolling it in bird seed. Loads of gooey, messy fun and for obvious reasons best undertaken outdoors! Then hang the up for the birds to feast upon.
6. Celebrate festivals in January such as Martin Luther King Day which is on the 15th in the USA, the 18th which is Winnie the Pooh Day (celebrated on AA Milne’s birthday), Australia day on the 26th and there’s one you’ll love on the 31st of January – Bug Busting Day! (a national effort to rid ourselves of all those lovely head lice!!)
We had an abundance of festivals through the Autumn term and here are some more so you can continue the fun. I’m sure there will be others if you’d like to research further, but this variety of celebrations should provide something for all – but hopefully not in the case of head lice, one hopes!
7. And finally, remember to take time for yourself in these grey days after the warmth of Christmas. Remember the old saying, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’. So take time to replenish your own wellbeing, perhaps a walk in the countryside or along a river, just sitting for half an hour with a cup of cocoa, watch a film or read a book. Something for you that you enjoy
I think that one speaks for itself. Especially with the last year and what’s still to come taken into account. Take care of yourself – quite literally.
And just in case you unfortunately missed the e-bulletin…here are the top tips shared there:
- Time will be well spent sharing your learning environment with the children again. You did this in September, but a reminder will heighten their engagement and now they’re a little bit older and wiser, they may well engage with the resources in a different way and certainly develop new skills.
- Add any wintry elements to your outdoor daily risk assessment – ice being a big consideration and slippery frost. Check equipment and the ground cover surrounding it for ice and frost that might make it slippery. Sweep up any remaining leaves that could also become slippery if they encroach on a walkway.
- Prepare ‘weather boxes’ or bags so you have appropriate resources at your fingertips to instantly respond to any weather events we may experience be that wind, fog, frost, rain, sun or snow! When gathering the resources think about specific skills you might want to develop and tailor the resources accordingly.
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