Paper plate wreath

Paper plate wreath

You will need:

  • Paper plate or circular craft paper (it needs to be thick)
  • Liquid glue
  • Paint brush
  • Green tissue paper
  • Pom poms or anything you would like to add as a decoration
  • Red and green pipe cleaners


  1. Cut out a circle in the middle of your paper plate, so it resembles a wreath
  2. Cut up your tissue paper into small squares
  3. Spread some of the glue on the paper plate using your paintbrush. Don’t go all over it, do it in parts, so that glue doesn’t dry up.
  4. Use the other end of your paintbrush to create little cups with the tissue paper. Continue until the whole wreath is covered.
  5. Now you can add your decorations, leave it minimalistic, or go crazy!
  6. Wrap two pieces of pipe cleaners (one red and one green) around each other and then attach it to your wreath.
  7. You are done!
An insight into a new EIF Ofsted inspection

An insight into a new EIF Ofsted inspection

© Chris Dorney 123RF.COM

The new Education Inspection Framework (EIF) from Ofsted is just about to enter its 4th month and many settings have already had their first inspection under the new changes. Parenta assessor and setting owner, Fiona Spencer, runs one of those nurseries that has received a visit from an Ofsted inspector; she gives us a bird’s eye view and summary of her experience.

Inspection day – a summary of a few highlights

  • Questions were asked regarding the numbers on roll, in particular numbers of 2-, 3, and 4-year-olds.
  • Policies were available on request; and the inspector took a brief flick through them, taking in the titles only.
  • Safeguarding – there were 3 case studies to respond to and all information was to hand.
  • Checks and discussions around DBS and core training were had – certificates were viewed and the DBS number noted for each member of staff.
  • We had a good discussion about training, above and beyond the core early years training.
  • We discussed our staff CDP training and the inspector was very interested in the fact we promote self-study, learning and development within our setting. The inspector looked at our supervisory roles and how training should be researched and delivered by staff-to-staff as an extension to training courses.
  • Because Ofsted scrapped its self-evaluation form (SEF) in 2018 we didn’t have to prepare any specific paperwork for the inspection. Instead, the inspector asked questions on what we have done to improve since the last inspection and how we plan to move forward in the future.

The Learning Walk

During the learning walk, Ofsted inspectors will probably want to see a well-considered, flexible daily routine that meets the needs of the children on the day.

  • We started in the foyer and we demonstrated to the inspector what and why everything was there. For example, the relevance of our posters, Mr Bump forms, achievement box etc. We were questioned in some detail about Mr Bump forms (accident reporting) and also about our security and opening procedures.
  • We then went into the cloakroom and were questioned about the height of hooks for coats, and observed children washing hands. The self-registration board with names on was discussed too.
  • The inspector looked at the room overall, asking how we covered all areas of learning – which is what was to be expected during a learning walk and observation.
  • We discussed how we used the jigsaws in our setting and we explained about the relevance of developing fine motor skills, co-operative play and using different jigsaws for different development stages and talked about how we use examples of tadpole to frog for growth, decay and changes over time.
  • The children have a choice with some of the toys so we showed the inspector our Mega blocks – used for building, counting, and to encourage thinking and planning i.e. building bridges for cars.
  • We showed the inspector our toy cars and garages – used for next steps for positional language for a child who loves cars, and to encourage co-operative play, and counting.
  • Free role-play – we demonstrated how Build-a-Blox encourages imagination, building skills, planning, working together and language – and we had a member of staff there to support (the child had even drawn a plan of what he wanted to build on a chalk board!)
  • We showed our Tuff Spot on floor with flour, sticks and pine cones – all natural equipment – to encourage mark-making for those who didn’t like pencils and paper, showing how we encourage the development of gross and fine motor skills. We also had a discussion about literacy outside – water on wall, sticks in mud, chalk on the floor.
  • We have some paper on the floor near our ‘car mat’ which was questioned, and again we were able to explain its use – to encourage mark-making by continuing the roads on the mat on to the paper – the children love it!
  • We gave the children the chance to do a baking activity that they don’t necessarily do at home (tapping into cultural capital). This particular activity was looked at in detail with questions to the relevant member of staff.
  • Our additional ‘free role-play’ resources were questioned – and we were able to demonstrate that this gave the children independence, and to extend their play.
  • We also showed the inspector our maths table with bears – this helps the children with colour matching, counting, sizing and weighing.
  • In our outside area, we were again able to demonstrate that we understand what cultural capital is in the new EIF. Not all children get to experience outdoors, so we showed our monitored free-flow, talked about playing in the immediate area during session, the larger area with the whole group, and in particular, our walks around the nearby fields, in woods, taking a picnic and to the local park.

Top Tip!

Prior to Inspection – Did you know you that you can find previous inspections online that your Ofsted inspector has carried out? This is a great tool when looking for clues as to what that particular inspector focuses on.

Joint observation at snack time

During the joint observation, we were asked about our daily routine and talked about healthy snacks and self-help skills. We were questioned if our juice is sugar-free and had discussions about a child left waiting for quite some time at the table as they didn’t know what to do next. Suggestions were given to help with this confusion, we were asked what the children do with their dirty bowls and cups, and were able to demonstrate they take them to another table when they had finished. A useful suggestion was made to put a washing bowl in that areas so that the children could put their pots there (as some may do at home) and that we put a small food compost bin by the side to put leftover food in with recycling written on side – again, tapping into cultural capital.

Discussions about key worker/child relationships

We talked about age, start date, parents, family and culture. We needed to show that we had in depth knowledge of the child but the inspector was happy with what knowledge we showed, especially when we referred to notes on next steps. Language skills were discussed – what she liked to play with, how she learnt through the characteristics of effective learning. We talked about the partnership we have with parents and how we work together for the improvement of the child – in this case showing care and concern for others.

All in all, a very positive and encouraging experience of the new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework!

Test your knowledge!

Test your knowledge of the new Education Inspection Framework in our quiz here: – just for fun!

Ethical and sustainable Christmas ideas

Ethical and sustainable Christmas ideas

Christmas – time for feasting, celebrations, meeting up with family, and remembering what the true meaning is – love, peace and goodwill to all.

And then there’s presents, trees, stockings, turkey, stuffing, mince pies, wrapping paper, decorations, sixpences in puddings, cardholders, advent calendars, pigs in blankets, reindeer food, secret Santas, carol singers, sherry, fairy lights, “Santa stop here” signs, tinsel, party dresses, loo roll embossed with snowmen, table runners and those oversized plates that you put the real plates on (!?!)..……the list is endless!

STOP!…too much – and it’s still 4 weeks to go!

The truth is that the stresses we face at this time of year can often put real strains on our health, families, finances, relationships, and increasingly, our planet. So, what if you took a more sustainable and ethical approach to it all this year – not just in terms of the resources you use, but also to your own health and wellbeing? Might we all start 2020 in a decidedly more peaceful place?

The true cost of Christmas

According to UK statistics:

  • Households spend an average £500 more in December than other months1
  • We waste 54 million platefuls of food during December2 and 70% buy far more food than we need
  • We’ll use 227,000 miles of wrapping paper – enough to stretch nine times around the world3
  • Other waste includes 125,000 tons of plastic wrapping and 10 million items of turkey packaging3

As concern about excessive consumption, un-needed packaging and our effect on the planet increases, here are some ideas to help make your Christmas more ethical and sustainable this year.

Cards and wrapping paper

We all like to send and receive cards but buying charity cards will help ensure your money goes to good causes as well. To help save trees, consider sending e-cards instead, as these save paper and can be animated and audio-visual too.

If you do send real cards, make sure they are sourced from sustainable forests, such as those carrying the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) mark, guaranteeing the paper has been produced sustainably and ethically. Find cards made from recycled sources, and then ensure you recycle them effectively too. Some types of wrapping paper contain non-recyclable materials, so be careful what you buy. A quick test is to scrunch up the wrapping paper: if is unfolds on its own, it may contain unrecyclable materials, but check with your local recycling centre if you are unsure.

You could also:

  • Cut up old cards and make them into gift tags, cards or place names for next year
  • Make new Christmas decorations such as mobiles, or keep cards for craft activities throughout the year
  • Use fabric instead of paper which you can reuse
  • Reuse bows and ribbons
  • Use gift bags to hold several presents instead of wrapping things individually
  • Buy gifts that don’t need wrapping – like experiences and events

Christmas trees

In the UK, we buy approximately 8 million Christmas trees each year, creating a lot of potential waste. Fake trees last longer but can be energy-expensive to produce and dispose of. One idea gathering momentum is the idea of renting your Christmas tree from a garden centre or local nursery. Some even deliver and collect them afterwards, and the living tree gets to continue growing as well. If you do buy a real tree, make sure it has been grown sustainably by looking for either the FSC or Soil Association logo.

You could also grow your own tree in a pot and enjoy it all year round. Some good examples of ‘alternative’ Christmas trees include yucca, apple, bay, pear, maple, firs, holly or just some painted sticks in a pot.

When it comes to recycling trees, most local tips and recycling centres will take them and many councils arrange a local drop-off point. Recycled trees can be rotted down for compost or used for mulch with a lovely pine smell. Alternatively, chop it and create a habitat for insects and birds in your garden.


Don’t buy more decorations – reuse the ones you already have or make your own. Use natural resources such as tree cuttings, pine cones, conkers, and dried fruit/flowers to make stunning displays and table decorations. Why not use old books as a centre piece, or create a mini forest scene with some branches in oasis? Use salt dough (flour, salt and water) to create some miniature figures such as snowmen and Santas. Children love to make and paint them, and they are cheap and biodegradable too. Just make sure they know they can’t eat them!


Who doesn’t like a bit of sparkle at Christmas? But can we add glitter to decorations and cards in an ethical and sustainable manner? The answer is yes – you can now buy biodegradable, plant-based glitter which degrades over time, so you can add that bit of sparkle without feeling guilty. There are even make-up versions so you can let your little ones really shine in their nativity plays as angels and stars!

Christmas crackers

Make your own crackers using the inside of a kitchen roll. Fill with sweets, a joke and a homemade paper hat, and cover with some recycled paper, old maps, newspapers or children’s paintings/drawings. Or recycle jam jars, paint the outsides with Christmas images and fill with goodies!

Ethical gifts

There has been a burgeoning of ethical and different gift providers in recent years. Nowadays you can buy goats, chickens, food, footballs, water, seeds, tools, and bees. The recipient gets a card and a wonderful feeling; and disadvantaged people from all over the world receive something that could make their life just that little bit easier.

Top Tips!

1.  Simplify – less is more

2.  Make things – it’s more personal and unique

3.  Reduce, recycle and reuse

4.  Source local goods

5.  Use what’s around you in nature – it’s free!

6.  Car share with friends when shopping

7.  Check for sustainable and ethical third-party endorsements

8.  Don’t overbuy – most shops open again on Boxing Day!

9.  Stop and give yourself a break – you deserve it

10.  Remember that Christmas is more about giving your time and your love than it is your money – the people you care about will appreciate it much more than an extra oversized plate!

10 ways to empower children

10 ways to empower children

Be present

In this fast-paced world, it can be very easy to get distracted. We all have a million things on our to-do lists at any given moment and it can mean that we rarely stand still. It’s important for children to feel heard and valued, and a good way to do this, is to make sure that when we are with them, that we are truly present. By taking away any distractions and giving children our full attention, we are showing them that they are important and that we want to hear what they have to say.

 Teach them about body autonomy

It’s important for children to know that their body is theirs and for them to learn how to set boundaries. Quite often with friends and family members, children are asked to give hugs goodbye. If they don’t want to, it is common for us to try to cajole them into doing it, but is this the right thing to do? If we want children to know that their body is theirs, we need to teach them this when they are younger, and by simply allowing them to not give a hug if they don’t want to, we reinforce this message.

Allow them to take risks

We all want to protect children and it’s important to keep them safe. However, there are times when we can overprotect them. By allowing children to take small risks like climbing the ladder to the slide without us reaching out our hand, we show them that we trust them and this, in turn, builds their self-belief. Of course, we will be there to catch them if they fall, but by not helping them in the process, you are showing them that you believe in them.

Allow them to fail

Failure is a part of success and it’s important for children to learn this. A person that sees failure as a stepping-stone to their goal will achieve far more than someone who lets failure define them. It can be hard to let children fail as we want to protect them. However, if we want them to succeed in the future, we need to build their resilience and learn that failure is a part of life.

Choose your words carefully

The words that we use are powerful. If we want children to feel empowered and confident, we need to make sure that the language we are using around them is instilling these values.

Respect them

Quite often we can hold children to a higher standard than we can live up to ourselves. If we were in the middle of a task and engrossed, how would we feel if someone just came up to us, told us it was dinnertime and took what we were doing away without any warning? We’d be so annoyed! I think it’s important to ask ourselves how we would feel if we were on the receiving end of our actions and to extend the same respect to children that we would expect ourselves.

Teach them gratitude

We teach children to say thank you, but we rarely teach them about gratitude. Studies show that practising gratitude on a daily basis reduces stress and anxiety and increases happiness. By teaching children to be grateful about the small things, we will support them to be happier and empowered because they will see the beauty in life. Download your free gratitude pack here:

Show them they are enough

We all have different strengths and weaknesses and it’s important for children to learn that they are good enough as they are. We don’t have to be perfect all of the time and great at everything. Children will be far happier in life if they realise this and learn to accept and love themselves even with their flaws.

Allow them to be their authentic self

We are all unique and it’s important for children to feel accepted for who they are, not who we think they should be. Children have their own minds and each one has different skills, abilities and ways of doing things. We need to nurture children to become their authentic self and to know that it is okay to be different.

Give them choice and explain yourself

Nobody likes to be controlled and the same applies to children. Of course, we have to guide them and there are times that we need to take control, but it’s important for children to learn that they have a voice. We can give children choice and still control the outcome. For example:

Put 2 outfits out and let them choose what to wear
Give them 2 lunch options
If they need to do something for safety, like holding your hand, ask them if they’d prefer to hold your hand or for you to hold the bag on their back instead
It’s also important to explain things to children. Quite often, we tell children to do something without explaining why. It may seem obvious to us, but children are not always developmentally-equipped with the ability to join the dots and by explaining things, it will help them to understand why you are doing what you are doing.

About the author

Stacey Kelly is a former teacher, a parent to 2 beautiful babies and the founder of Early Years Story Box, which is a subscription website providing children’s storybooks and early years resources. She is passionate about building children’s imagination, creativity and self-belief and about creating awareness of the impact that the Early Years have on a child’s future. Stacey loves her role as a writer, illustrator and public speaker and believes in the power of personal development. She is also on a mission to empower children to live a life full of happiness and fulfilment, which is why she launched the #ThankYouOaky Gratitude Movement.

Sign up to Stacey’s premium membership and use the code PARENTA20 to get 20% off or contact Stacey for an online demo.



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