Read all about us!!!!

There has been a lot going on with the Early Childhood team here at the OU, so have a look at our new brochure to find out more- here’s the link: Early_Childhood_Leaflet_FINAL


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Welsh Active Early Years

On 22nd March, Early Years Wales held a celebration event to share the work done in the Welsh Active Early Years project. Jane Dorrian undertook the evaluation of the project and in this blog she outlines that work.

The Welsh Active Early Years project was launched in 2020 as a 4-week facilitator led programme which aimed to increase the physical activity levels of young children and their parents/carers in order to develop and embed lifelong physical literacy. Each session was based on a story, with participants receiving a resource pack containing cards outlining the activities and also giving ideas about how to create homemade resources linked to that week’s focus. The evaluation of the project showed that, despite the fact that the COVID 19 pandemic hit just as the project was starting, the work had made a real impact on the children and their families. 71% of the parents who completed the programme recorded an improvement in average well-being scores, this was still apparent 12 months after completing the programme and 75% of the parents who completed the programme had increased physical activity levels.

The COVID 19 lockdowns meant that the delivery of the sessions had to be quickly changed form face to face to online, and whilst there were some initial concerns about the impact the change might have there were some unexpected benefits. Feedback from facilitators showed that ‘surprisingly Zoom worked really well. Parents felt less self-conscious and being in a familiar environment seemed to encourage better communication’ ( Facilitator 5), and ‘some parents commented positively about Zoom as it removed the stress of getting everyone prepared and out to get to a venue in time to attend a session’ (Facilitator 1). Parent responses also showed how the sessions had helped to provide a focus ‘with lockdown and nowhere to go it’s easy to slip into PJ days so it has been great having this to look forward to’ (Participant 17).

As the project team look to develop the legacy of the work one of the key focus areas is to increase the diversity of participants. In the original projects 93% of participants were female and 96% were white and Early Years Wales are working with partner organisations such as Dads Can Cymru and Women Connect First to expand and promote delivery of the programme to under-represented groups. The findings from the evaluation gave some indication that improvements in parent/carer’s well-being and physical activity were greater in areas affected by deprivation, but the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on data collection meant it was not possible to prove a correlation so this is another area for future focus.

The evidence showed that the parents/carers who had been involved in the project wanted to carry on engaging in physical activity sessions with their children after completing the programme. One of the important findings showed that involvement in the project had helped them to become ‘more aware [of] physical activity everyday, not just when we do sports’ (Participant 4), but this also presented a challenge as there is no clear pathway or information point in place at present to help them take the next step. The Welsh Active Early Years project is uniquely placed to act as a ‘Physical Literacy Librarian’, providing information and guidance to participants based on their interests, skills and abilities to enable them to develop lifelong physical literacy. This is due to the project’s pan-Wales remit and its focus on physical literacy rather a specific sport or skill. Hopefully the legacy work emerging from the initial project will help to create this and children and their families will be able to enjoy their lifelong physical literacy journeys.

For more information about the project follow this link: Welsh Active Early Years | Early Years Wales

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How do (or can) Early Childhood Education and Care practitioners promote young children’s health?

This blog is based on the presentation given by Jackie Musgrave at the recent BECERA conference

The BECERA conference on 22nd February was a great opportunity to share the latest instalment of the research that Jane Payler and I started back in 2018.  We were motivated to look at what practitioners do, and can do, to promote children’s health.  Many children experience poor levels of health, especially those who live in poverty, The state of children’s health was of concern before the pandemic, and the restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the virus have made a bad situation worse.


Stage 1, the pilot, was conducted in an early childhood pre-school setting with 106 babies and children on roll in an area of high deprivation. The work of Bryk, Gomez and Grunow (2011) on networked improvement communities and of Arbour et al. 2015 on continuous quality improvement guided our thinking and action for a participatory approach to promoting child health.


The pilot of the research included the use of an original tool devised by us, Child Health Promotion: A Toolkit for Early Childhood Education and Care Practitioners, we developed a 5 Step Programme as a model to guide practitioners in identifying and implementing a health promotion activity. The findings from the pilot (Musgrave and Payler 2021) helped to refine the Toolkit, which is now available electronically free of charge, and develop an onward agenda to extend the use of the 5 Steps.


Phase 2 of the research started in Spring of 2022, with the aim of using the Toolkit and 5 Steps in other settings.  The area of health promotion that was identified by co-researchers as needing attention by the Phase 2 participants was physical development. The need for interventions to support and promote physical development and encourage physical activity reflects reports that many children’s physical development has been affected by greater levels of inactivity during lockdown.


The findings foreground the valuable role that ECEC can contribute to promoting health of babies and young children. Health can be improved and promoted through implementation of many of the aims of the Early Years Foundation Stage (2021), such as the requirement to provide healthy eating options and access to outdoor play. Key to successful health promotion work is the need for respectful and positive relationships with parents and carers.


And in the post-pandemic recovery, the concerns about the health of babies and children are not going away.  But the message to Government about the importance of high quality ECEC that is provided by practitioners who are rewarded appropriately for their work with young children, and in this case, for their contribution to their health outcomes, remains unheard. This situation must be addressed, our children are precious, and they deserve adult support to promote their health so that they can live the best life that is possible – they deserve no less.


If you would like to receive a copy of the Toolkit, please email me




Bryk, A. S., Gomez, L. M. and Gomez, A. (2010) Getting ideas into action: building networked improvement communities in education. Reorganising Educational Research and Development. Carnegie Perspectives. Stanford: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Department for Education (2021) Statutory framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage: setting the standards for learning, development and care for children from birth to five.

Musgrave. J. and Payler, J. (2021) Proposing a model for promoting Children’s Health in Early Childhood Education and Care Settings. Children and Society –

Ofsted (October 2020) COVID-19 series: briefing on early years, October 2020 Evidence from research interviews with 208 registered early years providers and maintained nursery schools between 5 and 16 October. Available from accessed 9 February 2023


Free resources

Supporting Physical Development in Early Childhood – 18 hours course. Developed in partnership with Public Health England and ActiveMatters – funded by Health Education England


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Layers of exclusion: Developing nature engaging and enhancing pedagogies with infants and toddler

By Dr Joanne Josephidou, Programme Lead, Early Childhood, The Open University

Recently, I had the opportunity to present at the BECERA conference along with my colleague Dr Nicola Kemp from Canterbury Christ Church University.  We talked about some initial findings of a new project we have just started, funded by the Froebel Trust. In our presentation, we began by revisiting the findings of a previous research project which found that babies are particularly excluded from policy/practice/research about outdoor practices in ECEC settings (Kemp and Josephidou, 2021). This exclusion seems to arise from an understanding that the outdoors is a risky place and also  a place to be physically active so that there is ‘a focus on mobile children and an underlying assumption that the outdoors is for older children and that babies will be inside’ (Josephidou and Kemp, 2022). We were interested to explore this idea of exclusion further so carried out a systematic review of the research literature which focuses on children aged birth to two and their experiences with nature and the outdoors. We still wanted to find out practices in settings but also what was happening in the wider community as well.


Socio-economic exclusion

An additional layer of exclusion that emerges when we look at babies’ and toddlers’ engagement both within and beyond the setting is that of ‘socio-economic status’. Sometimes this intersected with class and/or ethnicity as another means of exclusion. There are three key ideas emerging here:

  • Buying’ nature: access to nature experiences can depend on the families’ socio-economic status;
  • Living in a healthy environment: families with low socio- economic status are impacted more by air pollution because their homes can often be situated near busy roads or factories;
  • Creeping exclusion’: this is when certain groups can slowly come to dominate and therefore marginalise others in green spaces.

We also found that the outdoors is a key space to pass on cultural practices such as sleeping outdoors or the human relationship with nature. However, within this idea was an additional layer of exclusion which sometimes intersected with socio-economic status, ethnicity and class.

Cultural exclusion

Three key ideas that emerged from this theme of cultural exclusion are:

  • The ‘good parent’: ideas about what a ‘good’ parent is and does varies greatly from culture to culture;
  • Trying to be a ‘good’ parent: there is a lot of pressure on parents to try and meet cultural expectations including in terms of outdoor engagement;
  • The ‘other’ parent: parents can be excluded from outdoor spaces if their parenting is not approved of by others.

We are interested in the role of the ECEC setting in addressing these different layers of exclusion and so our  new project will involve by working with parents and settings to develop an understanding of nature engagement from diverse cultural perspectives. We want to work collaboratively with the families and practitioners at five ECEC settings located in contexts of socio-economic deprivation and cultural diversity to help them ‘naturalise’ their outdoor areas. We hope this will enable us to create a multicultural, inclusive and democratic model of Nature Engaging & Nature Enhancing (NENE) pedagogy for babies and toddlers and answer our research question:

How can English ECEC settings in urban contexts be supported to develop democratic and inclusive NENE pedagogies for babies and toddlers?

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Researching Experiences of Children with a Parent in Prison

Professor Jane Payler writes about her research with an often forgotten group of children in this post, which is though-provoking and powerful.

Imagine yourself in this situation. You are seven-years-old. Police bang noisily on the front door shouting, ’Open up! Police!’ They force the door open. Your mum is crying and your dad shouting, angry and afraid. The police put your dad in handcuffs and take him away. Everyone in the family is now crying, shocked and upset. You will later hear that dad has gone to prison, but you don’t know where that is or when you will see your dad again. You have seen prisons on television programmes. They do not look like nice places. How do you feel? What effect might this have on you?


In the UK, it is estimated that 312,000 children and young people each year have a parent in prison. It’s an estimation because no official figures are kept on how many people currently serving a prison sentence have children outside, who these children are or whether they are receiving support. Although new prisoners once in prison may be asked if they have children, not every prisoner wants to give that information and its accuracy isn’t checked. Not all the reasons for this are known, but often family relationships are complicated, and prisoners may be afraid that their children will be taken into care. When a parent is sent to prison, there are no structures in place nationally in the UK to immediately offer support or advice to the family and children left behind at home. Yet we know that those families suffer stigma, financial difficulties, housing problems, anxiety and mental health issues, to name but a few. And as a mother with a partner in prison told us,

A child’s way of looking at things is different to an adult. We can process things differently because we understand it.… it’s almost like you know when you lose a friend or you lose a mum or something like that, it’s almost like another loss, like a death, because they’ve gone.


Dr Victoria Cooper, Dr Stephanie Bennett and I are researching the needs and experiences of children and young people with a parent in prison. We are evaluating a new service in Worcestershire, Families First, established by the charity YSS  and funded by Worcestershire County Council, to provide support to such families. Part of our remit is to highlight the extent of need for such services nationally. Our research is a mixed methods study incorporating: an online survey; interviews with stakeholders (police, housing, schools, early help practitioners, other organisations dealing with similar issues) and practitioners; Freedom of Information requests; and in-depth interviews/activities with families. We aim to foreground the voices of those children and young people most affected by such experiences. Participating children are aged between seven and fifteen years, although families in the case studies with which Families First work include children as young as two years.


The children and young people in our research have left a mark on us for their stoicism and wisdom in the face of great difficulties as they try to make sense of and cope with what life has dealt them. As one twelve-year-old whose father was in prison reflected about parents committing crimes,

What were they thinking?… when they did it? Sometimes I don’t think they think about what they’re doing, but other times I think they just don’t care’…. ‘Dad wanted to impress his friends, but his friends are stupid. They’re all, like, a bit daft. I don’t know why he does it.


We are now approaching the later stages of analysis and writing up of the two-year study and expect to report in the New Year. We have so far shared our research at conferences in Worcester, at the Open University and in Florida. You can also read more about these Forgotten Families here. Look out for our forthcoming report and our seminar on 1st Feb 2023 at the Children’s Research Centre.


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Sometimes being an academic is quite a good job

In this post Jonathan Rix reflects upon his recent visit to the University of Debrecen to present on a project exploring the development of an early years, rights respecting pedagogy with OU colleagues Eleonora Teszenyi and Natalie Canning and John Parry.

You may not share this feeling, but it always amazes me when colleagues show an interest in my research. It is even more amazing when they ask me to share it with an international audience. You can imagine the state of my amazement then when Eleonora Teszenyi and Natalie Canning invited myself and John Parry to go and present at a conference they were organising in Debrecen, Hungary. The conference was focussing upon their fantastic project exploring the development of an early years, rights respecting pedagogy with Hungarian practitioners. During this project the University of Debrecen with whom Eleonora and Natalie had been collaborating had shown an interest in In-the-Picture, an observational method which John and I have been working with for over a decade. As a result the Dean of the Faculty of Education for Children and Special Educational Needs, expressed an in interest in meeting with us, and so we were invited to join the Conference as keynote speakers.


What an inspiring few days it was. It began with visits to a kindergarten and a nursery. As ever, exploring practice in another country reveals so much about your own presumptions and priorities as well as those of the place you are visiting. It was fascinating, for example, to see how immaculate the spaces were. I have never been to such neat and tidy, spotlessly clean early years settings. It was also fascinating to explore with the academics, centre managers and practitioners the issue of outdoor activity. We were told by some that there was lots of outdoor play, by others that there was very little and by others that it depended on the weather and time of year. It was evident though that the children are not trusted outside the walls of the building in the way I have experienced in Scandinavian countries, perhaps even a little less than in the UK.


We were then fortunate enough to spend an hour talking to the University academics about In-the-Picture and then to hear about their own research interests. This enabled us to have a fascinating discussion about the nature of academic careers, the experiences of the local Roma community, the nature of young people’s experiences in football academies, and whether we need to reconceptualise the nature of play. This last point seemed to revolve around a need for practitioners to accept that the established theoretical models of play miss the point and a child at play is only understandable to the child itself within that moment. I say ‘seemed’ because as is so often the case when visiting another country, we were reliant upon the skills and generosity of a volunteer translator. Ours was a gem.


The conference was the next day. At its core were practitioners. Each was introduced by an academic from the core research team and then went on to unpack one of the central themes from the rights respecting pedagogy model. People talked about children’s autonomy and self-expression; the importance of the social, emotional and material environment and of people who matter to the children. They then talked about their experiences of meeting the basic needs of life along with adult dominance in most contexts, finishing with a discussion of the play of freedom. This was entirely suited to what followed; a puppet show re-presenting the findings from the research. This show had been created by Vojtina Puppet Theatre. The theatre, which was also the venue for the conference had been established in 1975 and become Debrecen’s official puppet theatre in 1993. The show which this incredibly skilled company put on drew directly upon the data from the research in ways that were uplifting, provocative and highly entertaining. The full show should be ready in a years time, but John and I both felt certain that it will not only brilliantly represent the work of the researchers but also engage a great many children, families and practitioners over the coming years. It was and is a splendid, innovative and creative approach to the sharing of findings.


So then it came to John and me. We did our best. Our translator was there once more, so maybe we were improved in translation? After the puppet show and all those practitioners, two old bearded blokes must have felt like a bit of a come down. BUT the audience joined in with our activities. They did not leave. They seemed to enjoy themselves. Perhaps more reassuringly, the Dean subsequently raised the possibility of working with us on developing In-the-Picture in a Hungarian context.


What an honour and privilege it had been.

There is more information about the project available here: “It’s so good just to be”: Understanding Children’s Rights Through Pedagogic Practice in Hungary | Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (

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Kindness- and why it matters.

In this article Marina Postlethwaite Bowler ECYS staff tutor and AL explores kindness and its importance.

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” Henry James.

Sometimes the worst day can be totally changed by a stranger’s smile. The “small, tiny moments” really matter the most. We should all try a little harder to live each day, remembering to spread a little kindness around to others, family, friends, or total strangers.

Unfortunately, this works both ways. It’s never a nice feeling if someone is rude or mean, however much we try to distance ourselves from such things, they always impact our day. When we feel open and spacious it’s easier to be kind to others, but when unsure, tired, frustrated we tend to move away from social contact and connection. So, how about spreading kindness through your day? Treating others as you yourself would like to be treated. If more people tried to live this way, the world would just be that little bit better.

“How do we change the world? One random act of kindness at a time” Morgan Freeman.

So how can we be kinder to ourselves and others?

  • It starts with us! –most of us would like to think we are kind to others, but can we be kind to another if we are not able to be kind to ourselves?
  • How often do we treat ourselves differently from how we would a friend/loved one?
  • Show compassion to yourself and others-research has shown a decrease in bullying, increased feelings of well-being and a rise in the practice of compassionate behaviour to all living beings.
  • Say kind things to yourself and others- You might think being kind is soft, it’s maybe even weak, but being kind doesn’t have to be soft, it can be fierce too.
  • Small acts of kindness can really affect not only our own mood, but other people’s mood as well- They don’t have to be massive things, maybe you share your snack with someone, help someone to lift something heavy or buy someone a coffee let a mum and her hungry impatient children skip to the front of the queue. The person receiving the kindness feels good, and you feel good too when that person thanks you or smiles back. You have a moment of connection,
  • We can show kindness in different ways Loving-kindness meditation (sometimes called “metta” meditation) is a great way to cultivate our propensity for kindness. It involves mentally sending goodwill, kindness, and warmth towards others by silently repeating kind words and thoughts in our mind.
  • Be there to listen to others when they need you to.
  • Read and research “kindness” For example “The Happy Newspaper” celebrates all that is good in the world:
  • Practise gratitude-people who practise gratitude and notice the things they are thankful for are happier and have a greater sense of wellbeing. Try and think of a few things in the morning or before you got to bed. You could tell someone in your household or write them down. Actively focus on the positives of your day.
  • Self-care-keeping healthy routines and rituals are an important way to look after yourself.
  • Practise mindfulness- a way of thinking – focusing on the here and now. You can mindfully do almost anything – eat a meal, brush your teeth, or choosing to go for a walk mindfully.
  • Taking a breath and distracting yourself-can give you a short break from negative thoughts and a chance to reduce anxiety.
  • Become your own coach or cheerleader will help you quiet your inner critic, try to have compassion for yourself like you would for anybody you care about.
  • Create community- build a social circle with people who have positive energy. Spending time with positive people encourages you to focus on the good as well.
  • Finding your passion-consider giving yourself time to do things that bring YOU joy.


The more we practice kindness and compassion, the easier and more natural it becomes, until that energy expands like the tide rising- it’s like a good habit. We feel willing to open the gift of kindness to other people, animals, plants, and our planet.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. Maya Angelou”



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Bilingualism – The key to another world? / Dwyieithrwydd – allwedd i fyd arall?

In this post Carys Jennings, an OU Primary Curriculum Tutor on the PGCE Wales course, outlines how the Welsh language is supported by the education system and curriculum in Wales and discusses the benefits of bilingualism. It would be great to hear your experiences and views about these issues- please leave a comment.


Celebrating diversity, culture and heritage is such an important aspect of education. To educate is to open minds, to see possibilities and participate in new experiences. When peeking through the door of another world, the environment, rituals and customs that are part of cultural traditions can be sampled and appreciated. However, when we add to that mix the language that is spoken, it often opens up a whole host of new opportunities that couldn’t have been imagined previously.

‘One language sets you on a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way’



Educating learners in Wales means affording our youngest citizens with the ability to learn two languages. Welsh and English are given equal legal status within education and beyond, with the Welsh Government’s pledge to reach a million Welsh speakers by 2050 being testimony to its commitment to ensure thriving Welsh communities (Welsh Government, 2020). With this in mind, ensuring schools encourage and produce ethically informed citizens who can, with increased confidence speak Welsh is imperative.

Our youngest children usually start full time education in reception classes at the age of 4 years with many having attended preschool and nursery classes prior to that. One such example is the Welsh medium preschool provisions in Wales run by Mudiad meithrin that ( has long held the view that growing up bilingual is to be celebrated – two languages mean two options.

The national education reform currently underway sees the roll out of Curriculum for Wales (2022) across all primary and Year 7 in secondary schools. The content of the curriculum is delivered as a balance of bespoke areas and a blend of the areas brought together by purposeful contexts with the ‘four purposes’ and ‘6 areas of learning and experience’ guiding the way ( ). One of these areas of learning and experience is Languages, literacy and communication which aims to support learning across the whole curriculum and to enable learners to gain knowledge and skills in Welsh, English and international languages as well as in literature ( ). Note that the word ‘languages’ is highlighted to promote the diversity of speakers here in Wales and to demonstrate an acknowledgement of their background. Literacy is also given additional attention along with numeracy and digital competency as being one of the cross-curricular responsibilities that all teachers should promote and develop across all areas of the curriculum.

From a cognitive perspective learning additional languages during infancy and early childhood is thought to be easier as it will probably happen within an experiential context making more sense for the developing child to understand meaning as it occurs.

Singing songs, reciting rhymes, playing games and engaging in language rich environments are the bedrock of language learning in classes across the nation. Creating experiences where talk is encouraged, interaction is planned for and developing opportunities to share are constants on a practitioner’s planning for learning. Activities that begin as a whole class or group directed task is then broadened within the learning environment so that the children can use, practise and consolidate their understanding of this newfound treasure trove of words. Each element of learning a language requires time, space and resources to promote effective engagement and enjoyment. A significant part of the planning involves knowing where each child is at as regards his or her ability to speak the languages and prepare accordingly to support progression.

As a former classroom teacher and early years lead it was essential that children heard high quality use of language, were exposed to print on a regular basis throughout the indoor & outdoor environment and were encouraged to communicate in a plethora of ways.

Many of the children came from an English-speaking background to our Welsh medium school, one method to aid the learning would be the sandwich method where a word would be said in Welsh – English – Welsh so that the learner was exposed to and able to understand in her own language also maintaining wellbeing. This can be used for any language and is an effective way to encourage participation.

Talk time was a daily activity when each child had 10 minutes exclusively with an adult to discuss whatever they deemed important to them – a story, a song, an experience they’d had or getting their personal items shoebox and talking about an item that was special to them. This allowed the child to be the lead or more able other and the adult to listen, support and prompt in a sensitive manner.

Letter fun involved creating a collection of objects that matched the letter of the week – these all started with the letter. HOWEVER children also need to recognise letters in the middle and at the end of words so we would sing or recite:

B is the letter of the week

Bin begins with b.

B in rubber at the end of web

Our letter of the week is B.


C yw llythyren yr wythnos hon

C am cot, cap, ci.

C yn bwced ar ddiwedd tanc.

C yw’n llythyren ni.


We would search for hidden letters during letter hunts and using coloured pens highlight letters in old newspapers or magazines.

Pointing, modelling and intonation was another strategy that gave the children cue and clues when learning new vocabulary and phrases. We would point to objects or show what we meant by doing or modelling the activity so that the words had meaning in the first instance. Changing the tone of speech along with body language are effective ways of supporting acquisition.

Interestingly during the pandemic in 2020, Welsh became the fastest growing language in the UK with many turning to popular apps to support their language journey. Potentially this could be an additional means of supporting language learning in settings and schools especially with parents. Utilising resources that further support individuals in an engaging way could enhance the learner experience.

Marian & Shook (2012) highlight that the neurological benefits of bilingualism extend from early childhood to old age as the brain more efficiently processes information and staves off cognitive decline. There are also social benefits of being able to engage in different pastimes and employability benefits of being bilingual.

We are now a globalized people with opportunities that are far reaching, since the late decades of 1900’s bilingualism has become a popular discussion point and it is now recognised as beneficial not only to the individual but to society as whole. Bilingualism can open doors to new possibilities and to a new understanding from differing perspectives. Unlock that hidden world – start today!



Some words & phrases

Shwmae! – Hi there!

Sut wyt ti? – How are you?

Croeso – Welcome / your welcome

Diolch yn fawr – Thank you very much

Llongyfarchiadau! – Congratulations


Further reading:

Daily Welsh on Pinterest

Hamman-Ortiz, L. (2020) Identity and two-way bilingual education: considering student perspectives: introduction to the special issue. Available at:

Smith, F (1992) To think: in language, learning and education. London: Routledge

Welsh Government (2022) Welsh medium and bilingual education. Available at:

Welsh Government (2017) Cymraeg 2050: A million Welsh speakers. Available at:



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Do you know a Martian?

Two children in astronaut costumes

[Image courtesy of No permissions required ]

It’s World Space Week- and did you know that NASA have said that the first people who will set foot on Mars are already alive, which means they are the children we are working with right now (NASA’s Next Giant Leap | NASA ) We know that our youngest children are creative, curious and ready to be inspired and Space Week gives us an opportunity to focus on providing the STEM activities that will inspire them to reach for the stars. In 2018 the European Journal of STEM Education published a special issue dedicated to STEM in early childhood education and the editorial highlighted the issue that often practitioners are wary of venturing into the field of STEM because ‘explorations quickly become messy and unpredictable, and children can ask questions that are difficult to answer’ (van Keulen, 2018, p. 2).  For some people not knowing the ‘right’ answer cuts across well-established ideas of what being an educator is,  but in early childhood education and care settings child-led learning approaches underpin all elements of best practice so we should embrace the opportunity to get all the children we work with seeing themselves as scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians.

An illustration of a planet and a spacecraft

An illustration from Dr Joanna Barstow’s Alien Story

If you are looking for ideas about how to develop more STEM activities in your work there are plenty of free resources available. Dr Joanna Barstow, Lecturer in Astronomy in the School of Physics Sciences at the Open University wrote and illustrated a story about an alien looking for the perfect planet which is available to watch here Alien story – YouTube and the free OU course ‘Living on the Moon’ has lots of experiments and activities to help children find out what they need to know in order to be that first Martian (OLCreate: PUB_3578_1.0 S.T.A.R.S Project Teacher CPD : Living on the Moon ( ). English LE Landing page | Early years STEM (  has a wide range of free resources that outline activities and show how they relate to different aspects of STEM and identifies children’s books that can help develop learning.

This Space Week why not take a moment to think about what STEM learning you are doing- talking about the weather, using building blocks, videoing activities, looking at autumn leaves and see how you could build on that to get your children closer to getting on that rocket. Let us know your ideas and share your tips and resources in the comments below.


Van Keulen, H. (2018) STEM in Early Childhood Education European Journal of STEM Education (PDF) STEM in Early Childhood Education (

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Why we need to get children moving

This month’s post is written by Dr Jackie Musgrave, Associate Head of School (ECYS) for Learning and Teaching

A recent tweet from EdPsychEd (@EdPsychEd) has really made me wonder if we are losing sight of the importance of physical activity for very young children? The tweet reminds us that if a child appears to not be listening during lessons, it doesn’t mean that they are being disrespectful.  The tweet goes on to say that children are often sensitive to internal and external influences that can impact on their ability to listen.  Such influences include the possibility that a child may need a toilet break, or something to eat, or their clothes may be itchy, or they may need to get outside and move around.  However, children are increasingly finding themselves in environments that constrict and/or restrict their opportunities and ability to move their bodies. For example, babies can spend a great deal of time in ‘containers’, in buggies, car seats, slings and highchairs.

Every September, many children are starting school for the first time, and in England some children will only just have celebrated their 4th birthday.  If they have attended a pre-school nursery setting, they will go from an environment where they have relative freedom to move between activities, and in many nurseries, children are given the choice to move freely between the indoor and outdoor areas.  As an Ofsted report stated, ‘We know that in the early years, a crucial part of preparing children for school is developing their muscular strength and dexterity. The best nurseries recognise this and encourage children to be busy and active’.(Ofsted 2018, p 270)

But once they are in ‘big’ school they are expected to sit for prolonged periods of time, either at tables or often for school assemblies, sitting on the floor with their legs crossed.  This experience can be made even more uncomfortable by having to wear an unfamiliar school uniform; in addition, playtime and outdoor access is often limited and regimented.

So how do the changes in children’s lives and these restrictions affect their physical health?  We are all aware of the ‘obesity epidemic’ and in part, this is attributed to reports and concerns about the overall reduction in children’s physical activity.  However, physical activity is important for all areas of babies’ and children’s development and critically, it is also vital for children’s mental health.

The restrictions caused by the pandemic have had an impact on children’s physical activity and their development.  For children who live in housing and within communities that are not conducive to supporting children to move freely, the restrictions have had a negative impact.   Findings from another Ofsted report highlights that the impact has been more profound on children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

It is imperative that we recognise that all adults have a shared responsibility to create environments that facilitate and enable children’s physical movement.

As a response to concerns about the need to support children’s physical development, the Open University, Public Health England and ActiveMatters have produced a free online course aimed at professionals and parents, here is the link



Ofsted (2018) The Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills 2017/18. Available from

Ofsted (October 2020) COVID-19 series: briefing on early years, October 2020 Evidence from research interviews with 208 registered early years providers and maintained nursery schools between 5 and 16 October. Available from COVID-19 series – briefing on early years – October 2020 ( accessed 7 January 2021


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