In 2021 Early Words Together training was undertaken by several childminders in Dundee who were filled with energy, drive and enthusiasm for the programme.
One of those childminders is Lesley Grant who works in partnership with Dundee City Council, providing funded placements for eligible children, and she has been a childminder since 2012. Here is Lesley’s account of her experience of participating in the programme.
I recently took part in the National Literacy Trust Early Words Together programme delivered by the National Literacy Project Manager in Dundee. I was keen to get involved because I know that literacy is extremely important in the early years as it is an essential skill for success throughout children's school years and then in later life.
Early Words Together helped me adapt my way of thinking about my setting and partnership with parents and the sharing of good practice to support early communication skills.
The programme gave me new ideas for my setting. The Volunteer Tool Kit and Delivery Guide that I received are very informative, a good read and excellent guides which encourage lots of engagement with the children and their families. Doing this programme has helped me reflect on what has and is working for the children and families I work with and how I can improve things moving forward.
Being a childminder means I can sometimes have children from 6 months old until they start school. Each and every day is an adventure and a learning experience. With every activity we do the children are learning so much. For example we can read a story together and through that story the children see different colours, numbers, shapes and sizes on each and every page and they can tell a story by looking at the pictures.
Whilst I am reading to them they are learning new words and sounds, they may ask questions about the story which can be explained to them and then they would in turn use these new words that they have learned and remembered. I usually read every day as they love a story and frequently re-enact what has been read to them.
We also like to visit the library fortnightly to read some stories and the children get to pick some books to take back to my setting to read at their leisure or indeed for story time.
When talking about the book The Cow Tripped Over the Moon by Tony Wilson, one of my four-year-olds said: “I liked picking books and I loved the ambliance (ambulance) on the book I liked. I loved the cow with the plasters.”
I usually take the children for a daily walk outdoors and whilst outdoors we do lots of numeracy; counting how many dogs we see, how many snails we can find, in fact we count anything that the little people are interested in. They read the numbers from the lampposts and look out for them as we walk along the pavements, they shout out what colours of cars pass, if it's a bus, car, tractor, lorry, lawn mower, bike, motorcycle, whatever passes doesn't go by unnoticed. It gets quite loud and there's a lot of mayhem but I love it!
Speaking of loud, we all like to sing. Sleeping bunnies is one of the favourite songs here because the little people love to snore when they are sleeping and love to jump up and down really fast and for a long time on the chorus; Hop little bunny, hop, hop, hop, Hop little bunny hop, hop, hop and once we've done it once, we do it again and again.
I like to involve the children’s parents in my setting so they get lots of photos and a diary each day, telling and showing them all the things that we have been up to. If we have done craft, drawings or paintings they are taken home to their families to show them their masterpieces, hopefully to be hung on the fridge or dedicated wall.
Everything we do can be a learning experience. Sometimes without even knowing we are doing it, we are giving them the skills they need for life. It's not until you take stock of what you are doing or have done, that it dawns on you what you can achieve or have achieved.
The Early Words Together activities show clear evidence of all of the elements involved in building a positive Home Learning Environment. The children have shared books, stories and songs and visited the library regularly.
They frequently enjoy drawing, painting, mark making and crafts. They engage in outdoor play and activities and have been introduced to numbers and letters and all of this has been shared with parents on a daily basis, along with links to the National Literacy Trust’s fun Facebook Live sessions and Hungry Little Minds videos.