Poundshop Challenge!

I thought I’d set myself a challenge and I need your help.

I want you to name an item that you can buy for £1 in either Poundland or Poundworld and send me a photo of it by email. themalepractitioner@gmail.com

I’ll go and get this item and turn it into a learning experience for children.

Go ahead guys, challenge me!

GUEST BLOG: Wanderlust in the Early Years

Early Years Consultant, author and motivator Kimberly Smith is our guest writer for this item on bringing curiosity for the outdoors alive for our youngest children.


When asked if I could be a guest on this blog I was asked to write about something that I’m passionate about. For me I have two areas but I feel they can be combined well.

-Wellbeing of educators and children

-Igniting the curiosity of young learners to connect with nature.

I like to refer to this second one as Wanderlust in the Early Years. It is this second one I’m going to write about today.

During a recent shopping hunt on Amazon to purchase an enormous pair of pink pants… that’s a whole different story that we won’t go into now… I couldn’t believe what advertisement popped up onto the screen. A device that could fasten an iPad to a high chair. After further investigation I discovered a whole range of tablet holding products aimed at babies. There were ones to fasten onto prams, cots and even jumperroos.

No wonder our job as Early Educators is becoming increasingly more challenging as we are seeing an increase in young children with under developed sensory and motor skills as a result of excessive screen time. Perhaps this presents its self in the children you work with as falling over lots, poor posture, lack of special awareness as well as difficulties in managing their feelings leading to poor mental health.

These signs are not just linked to the development miles stones for young children but also affect the way children play. Many educators I have worked with discuss how children struggle to play imaginatively and lack creativity too.

So what are we going to do about it?

I feel that so many of these problems can be avoided if we just allow children access into nature. We need to fuel their curiosity to explore the world, ask questions and dream big!! Outdoors is the perfect place to explore barefoot; feeling the morning dew on the grass really does awaken the senses. Going outside at the night and looking up at the stars, growing fruit in the garden and tasting the freshness of the strawberries or experiencing the richness of the woods and climbing a tree. We as educators have to feel empowered to make these changes to our practice. We need to put a stop to excessive screen time and fill children’s worlds with all the possibilities that exist. If I was to name a song to be soundtrack to this it would have to be ‘A Million Dreams’ by Hugh Jackman and Ziv Zaifman… For those of you that follow me insta stories you’ll know that little bit obsessed with the Greatest Showman as well…

Wanderlust in the Early Years is on sale at the end of June.



Thoughts on my travels – part two

It’s been a while since the journey to Stornoway and I’ve only just realised I haven’t done the second of the two posts I had in mind. Here goes then.

So while on the ferry I was struck by this rack of postcards, not literally, that would be a whole different otherwise (and one who stood friend of mine who is a captain on one of these vessels might not like to read!)

What a magnificent mark making and early writing opportunity this is? Collecting lots of postcards and setting them out for the children is such a great way of encouraging mark making, particularly with boys. Gentle questsuch as who is this going to? Where is this postcard from? Are perfect opportunities to extend it, and further extension is available by setting out travel brochures, possibly even a globe? Your sand tray or tough tray could have sand, buckets and spades in to create a holiday atmosphere.

Sometimes adults need a provocation from simple things in their environment in order to provide a massive learning opportunity for the children in our care.

Thoughts on my travels – part one

I’m in Stornoway this weekend to take part in the Stornoway Half Marathon and 10k (guess which I’m doing!)

As I was whiling away the journey on board the MV Loch Seaforth I wandered into the gift shop and saw these bags available:

What caught my attention wasn’t the money making cartoon characters displayed on the front but rather the proudly displayed words “mess free”!

I can’t imagine that a child would choose this based on the fact it’s not messy, this is purely as a final hook for parents to the pester power of their children.

But should we really be encouraging children to be “mess free”? Surely the route to creativity in children should be in making glorious mess as this is their way of exploring and working out what things can do. Why do some adults restrict this area of learning just because they don’t like mess. As Greg Bottrill explained in his book “can go and play now?” as adults we can simply work around the children and tidy up as we go along.

Mostly we should just relax ignore the apparent “mess” and revel in the wonderous learning opportunities for children.

Guest Blog: Creativity in the Early Years


Early Years practitioner and author of ‘Can I Go And Play Now?’ Greg Bottrill shares his thoughts on creativity and how the essence of freedom needs to extend out from the creative area into our general continuous provision.

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way…” Edward de Bono

The more I work with young children the more I’m astounded by their ability to see the world in a different way to the adults around them. Equally I’m also astounded by the way adults tend to overlook the magic children bring to their settings and instead ‘impose’ their way of thinking and doing instead.

I see this no clearer than when it comes to the one place that children should absolutely have freedom of expression – the ‘Creative Area’. It’s possibly a bitter irony that adults tend to remove any semblance of creativity from it!

My interpretation of creativity centres around curiosity, imagination, interpretation and the opportunity to see things differently and uniquely. Creativity should surprise us. It should make us view objects in an alternative way. It should jolt us into a new realisation either of the art itself or of the person who made it or even ourselves.

It’s why children’s true creativity is so powerful. They have a way of viewing the world that adults cannot plan for or define. All too often I see adults trying to plan creative activities that have the same outcomes for each child, with the TA dutifully on hand to ensure that paint or glue goes onto the right spot or the right colour is selected. The adults see art as something that has to be accessed by other adults – something that has clear meaning and neatness, something that can easily be interpreted by other adults. This approach denies children their true creative selves. Children want to explore, merge, build and experiment. They don’t need a world that is presented to them, they need to present their own world.

When we see children’s self-chosen artwork or box constructions we seem to be looking for the end product to ‘be’ something that is obvious to us. We seem to want immediate meaning and often this is only clear to us if the product is neat and tidy. Yet children don’t have this in their minds. They are experimenting, taking risks, applying their curiosity, their ‘language’. Children’s creativity doesn’t fit neatly into our preconceptions and neither should it. Yes, children need to be exposed to new skills such as how to use tools like staplers, split pins, hole punches, clay, woodwork but they should then be enabled to use these skills to propel the ideas from their minds into reality. Creativity isn’t 30 same-shade yellow sunflowers drying on the paint easel, it isn’t 30 identical Mothers Day cards. Creativity should have personal significance and should be the outcome of the individual not of the collective.

Ultimately art is freedom. It’s why its outcomes shouldn’t be planned for. It’s why mess is okay. It’s why failure is acceptable. It’s why children need to be at the centre of their learning. It’s also why our wider thinking about Early Years needs to bring practice back to this sense of child-led exploration. It needs to be extended out from the creative area and into small world, the outdoors, the sand, the water, the role play in a fact all areas of continuous provision. The moment we plan is the moment that we jeopardise freedom. The magic of children is before us each and every day – it’s time to shrug off adult preconceptions of what learning is or isn’t and embrace the ‘language’ of children. When we begin to have faith in them children will open up a world of surprise for you…