Spacious outside areas create quiet shaded learning spaces and provide ample room for exploring.

Baby room

Babies feel secure in their own classroom, equipped with cots, soft flooring, mats and toys.


The shaded playground has specialist soft flooring with quality equipment and a large walk in sandpit.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

How can I support my child's literacy development using phonics and music?

In my last post, I talked about why I feel early literacy is so important and how we can support our child's development through story-time and imaginative play. 

In this post, I continue the theme by discussing the importance of phonics and music in early literacy.


You will definitely have heard of phonics as it has long been one of the buzzwords in Early Years, but what exactly is phonics and why is it so important?

What is phonics?

Phonics is about learning sounds rather than letter names. This makes it easier to sound out letters and then blend them together to read a word. Learning that a series of letters make up a word is not an easy concept for little minds to grasp and it has been proven that phonics is much more effective when learning to read than the more old-fashioned wrote learning methods.

While the various phonics programmes all have slightly different ways of delivering phonics, they all have some main components:
  • Becoming familiar with sounds - most programmes will start with the most common sounds, such as 's' or 'a', moving through to more complex sounds such as 'ng'. Many programmes have an action that goes with each sounds and often a song. These are great ways to help your little one remember the sound and you can introduce the action or song early on, making phonics fun!
  • Recognising initial sounds - ask your child if they can think of words that start with a
    We made a sun to practise the sound 's'.
    certain sound, for example 's' sun. This is a first step in becoming aware that a group of sounds make up a word and you can introduce this concept using lots of fun games!
  • Becoming familiar with the letter - the next step is to associate the letter with the sound. See if they can recognize the letter by naming it with the correct sound. Once they are able to do this, they can start to write the letter which can be done in lots of fun and creative ways.
  • Recognizing end sounds - once your child is able to pick out end sounds as well then they are almost ready to start blending sounds to make words!
  • First words - try giving your little one 'consonant-vowel-consonant' (CVC) words such as 'cat' or 'pen' to try and read. This ability to sound out all the sounds and blend them together is key for early reading. While English can be a difficult language to read due to its large amount of non-phonetic spellings, this ability to decode a word will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

What can I do?

We played tennis to reinforce the sound 't'!
It can be quite easy and very rewarding for you to support your child's literacy development by helping them learn their sounds. If they are at nursery or school you could find out what sound they are learning about and reinforce it at home by playing games and doing fun activities. There are a plethora of interesting new ways to learn sounds. Some ideas to get you started are:
    • A treasure hunt to find items with the same initial sound
    • Creating art work that starts with a certain sound
    • Having a tray full of objects or sensory play with items with the same initial sound
    • Sorting objects by initial sound
    • Sing the song or practice the action associated with it (check with your child's nursery or school to make sure you follow what they are teaching)


    I am a huge fan of introducing babies to music. Children can get so much out of music and
    movement activities, as well as music being known to enhance your mood, attention span and learning capabilities. Music also has an important role to play in early literacy and here are some reasons why:
    • Music can help develop listening skills - when young children are listening to music they develop their ability to focus on different sounds, patterns, rhymes and the structure of language. Music gives them a chance to develop these skills in a fun, informal way!
    • Music builds a sense of rhythm - by building their sense of rhythm, children are more aware of the prosody of language - the patterns, intonation, stress and syllables we use. They will look for familiar rhythms and melodies when listening to music which is similar to identifying words with familiar sounds in reading.
    • Songs can tell a story - as well as just hearing language spoken by others or a story in a book, music is another medium where language can be explored. Songs not only practice skills such as rhyming and alliteration but they can also tell a story. 
    • Repetition - the repetitive nature of many songs and rhymes helps children identify familiar words, both spoken and in print, a great skill for emergent readers.

    What can I do?

    As you can see, music has lots of links to literacy and it can be a fun way of introducing key concepts to your little one. Some ways of encouraging literacy development through music are:
    • Sing lots with your child - encourage your little one to enjoy music and songs by singing and moving with them as much as possible.
    • Use song books - stories put to music can be a brilliant way of encouraging a love of stories and can help with recalling new vocabulary and familiar words, as well as developing their sense of rhythm and beat.
    • Play games that develop rhyming and rhythm - there are lots of songs that involve clapping to a beat, for example 'patter-cake baker's man' and most songs have lots of rhyming words. Helping your child develop these skills will really benefit your child when they start to read.
    For more information and ideas, check out our Facebook page

    See you soon!

     Katie is an Early Years specialist in Dubai, where she 
    manages an EYFS nursery. She has a special interest 
    in psychology and early childhood development. 

    Sunday, 16 November 2014

    Aspin Nursery's Top Ten Stories!

    It was incredibly difficult to whittle our favourite stories down to just 10 but we managed it in the end!

    Here are Aspin Nursery's top 10 stories!

    1. One of our all-time favourites has to be 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' by Eric Carle. An entertaining story, explaining the life-cycle of a caterpillar with vibrant pictures and it also helps children learn the days of the week and to count! A big thumbs up from all of us!

    2. Julia Donaldson has written a fantastic range of stories, with one of our favourites being 'Room on the Broom'. Guaranteed to make your little ones laugh as her broomstick gets fuller and fuller...what will she do? The rhyming style is great for early literacy as well :) 

    3. Brown Bear is a lovely story, looking at animals and colours, and is also written in rhyme. Children never fail to get tired of this story and is the first book pulled off the shelf during story time!

    4. This story / song has all the components of a great classic children's story. Join the family on their bear hunt through the outdoors, where they have to go over, under and through things. Will they find the bear?

    5. Red Rockets and Rainbow Jelly is one of my personal favourites. It is great fun to read and has brilliant pictures! We learn that although we may like different things, we can still like each other :)

    6. This is such a lovely story that teaches us all about sharing and putting others first. With lovely glossy pages and shiny special scales, this heart-warming story is sure to capture both you and your child's hearts!

    7. Honey biscuits is a great book where the little boy learns how to make honey biscuits with his grandmother. Not only that, you learn where all the ingredients come from! It also has the recipe so you can make your very own honey biscuits with your little one after reading the story!

    8. Probably Julia Donaldson's best known book,  'The Gruffalo' was an instant hit amongst children and adults alike, with sequel 'The Gruffalo's Child' being just as well loved. Follow the journey of the very clever mouse and find out what he is really up to!

    9.'The Very Busy Spider' has all the hallmarks of a great Eric Carle classic. With fantastic pictures, lots of descriptions and interesting information, it is sure to be a winner in your house at story-time!

    10. Finishing off our list is one of the most iconic children's stories around. Elmer the elephant is a funny, sad, happy, silly, exciting story which teaches children all about individuality as well as colours. There have been many follow on stories to Elmer, each one as good as the first!

    Happy reading!

    Aspin Nursery

    Sunday, 9 November 2014

    Why are reading and imaginative play so important for my little one?

    It seems that all you hear these days is about how important it is to read to your child from an early age and there are lots of schemes around to encourage early literacy in many countries. In this post I have attempted to explain why early literacy is so important and how you can make the most of story-time with your little one :)

    Why is it important to develop early literacy skills?

    The first few years of your child's life are incredibly important for early language and literacy development and on top of that, research has shown that developing early literacy skills is crucial for cognitive development. Due to this, it is never too early to start sharing books and stories with your little one. 

    Sharing a story involves so much more that just learning to read. There is a plethora of different skills involved such as:
    • learning to communicate effectively
    • developing vocabulary and understanding of language
    • learning about and respecting books
    • beginning to understand how books work i.e. there is a front cover, pages are turned one by one to read the story
    • developing fine motor skills through handling books and turning pages
    • turn taking and sharing
    • beginning to understand that books convey meaning
    • listening and concentrating for periods of time
    • learning to predict what will happen next
    • imagining and building their knowledge of the world around them
    As you can see, there is so much to be gained from spending time sharing and appreciating books with your little one. Developing a love of literacy early on will prepare them for the reading they will do later. As they already enjoy books reading will be fun, not a chore.

    Tips for a successful story-time!

    • Encourage your child to self-select books. This will give them ownership and involvement in their story-time and they will be happy to have their choice read out to them!
    • Show them how to hold and take care of books. They should understand that books are special, so explain that we hold them carefully, turn the pages like this, close the book when we have finished reading and put it away carefully.
    • Ask your little one to tell you the story. Discuss what you can see on each page and

      what they think is happening. Some children will happily recite a story off the top of their heads, others will need more guidance or prompting. This is a very important exercise and links to the areas of development mentioned above.
    • Adlib - you don't have to read every word in the book. Pitch the story for your child, using words they will understand. They may want to read a certain book but you feel it is too long, so instead of not reading the book, paraphrase to speed the story up. Sometimes it is fun to change the words entirely and read a story from the pictures, especially if you want it to link to a certain topic or idea.
    • Use your voice - vary the volume, pitch and tone of your voice to keep your child engaged in the story. Put on silly voices and accents to make them laugh, it turns
      the story from words on a page into something alive! That is the magic of good story telling!
    • Ask lots of questions while reading - ask your child what they think will happen next and why, and ask questions when you have finished the story (e.g. was that what you thought would happen? Who was your favourite?). Ask your child to point things out or finish your sentences. Not only does it keep them engaged but it's a great way of reviewing their development and understanding.
    • Know when to stop - sometimes it just doesn't work. Know when to stop and either read another story or leave it for another time. Reading should be an enjoyable experience, not a chore.

    How does imaginative play link to literacy development?

    Children develop early literacy skills such as talking, reading and writing through interacting with others. Imaginative play such as role-playing and small world play links to many areas of development and develops communication by taking on different characters, developing a story and having different roles (characters) in the same story.

    Imaginative play also give children the opportunity to:
    • make friends and get to know their peers
    • communicate feelings
    • interact with peers or play independently
    • investigate materials and their properties
    • join in with songs, stories and rhymes
    • re-tell or tell stories

    Why not check out my June blog post 'Supporting your child's literacy and mathematical development at home' for more ideas!

    For more information and ideas, check out our Facebook page

    See you soon!

     Katie is an Early Years specialist in Dubai, where she 
    manages an EYFS nursery. She has a special interest 
    in psychology and early childhood development.