You might find it helpful to choose a couple of activities - with the children - so if they change their minds on the day when they get giddy because an inspector is in the house, you have some more ideas up your sleeve.
Inspection activity ideas might include…
· Playdough – add different textures and smells; get the children making it themselves following an illustrated recipe; talk about how it feels, looks and smells; give them scissors and things to press into the playdough to make patterns - use natural ‘finds’ where possible. I use Imagination Tree for all our playdough and other messy play recipes.
· Songs with props – make sure any props you use are age appropriate; if the children start wandering about change the tempo and add some dancing or clapping to bring them back into the group. Remember to plan a singing and reading session every day so the children will join in with the actions and know some of the words. I have shared information with our parents at Knutsford Childminding about our daily song and dance sessions on this blog.
· Messy tray outside – put something in the tray that the children enjoy exploring and add spoons, scoops, measuring jugs etc for filling and emptying; add coloured water and plan an activity making boats. Think about literacy outside – how can you enhance the area with words, pictures, activity ideas etc. Ask lots of open-ended questions to get children thinking about what they are doing. This blog which we shared with our parents will give you lots of ideas for open-ended questions.
· Bird food – use hoop cereal and short lengths of string to make food for the birds – count and talk about size and shape – do a garden risk assessment together and then go out and hang them in the garden – promote independence with putting on shoes and coats – pretend to fly around the garden - come back in and read a book about birds – spot some birds – sing the ‘2 little dickie birds’ song. Think about how you will extend learning so if the children are engaged you can add some more activities into the session… and if you feel you are losing them, think through how you will get them back – it is important that you know their likes and interests.
· Story sets / sacks – put together a box or bag with a story book, puppets and some linked activities that the children enjoy doing to extend their learning. Again, make sure the children know that you all sit, listen and read before starting the activities – Ofsted inspectors are looking for you to offer a range of activities that help children to be ready for school.
We have a planted practitioner session every day to support our children’s learning. The children know that the practitioner who is planted will be there for them and play with them for as long as they are interested. You can find more information about planted practitioners in this blog.
· Junk modelling – set out lots of boxes, glue, tape and imaginations to make something together. Stand back and let the children do the designing – talk about size, shape, colour, how things fix together etc. Ask more open-ended questions so they think about what they are doing and use their creativity and imaginations. Encourage the children to come back to their model and make adjustments – provide pens or paint so they can decorate it – extend learning by telling a story later about a little boy who made a box dinosaur.
· Natural pictures – inspectors seem to be looking for us having lots of natural resources at the moment so collect leaves, twigs, grasses, flower that have fallen etc and use them to make a natural picture. Herb pictures are nice – use a pestle and mortar to grind herbs and add them to lots of glue. We have shared our sensory play blog with our parents to give them ideas for activities they might like to try with their children at home.
· Cooking – it is important to prepare food / cook with the children every day – get them making their own snack and lunch as often as possible so they can use a knife safely and it’s part of their routine. Include hand washing (make up a song so children talk about washing the germs away), putting on aprons, discussing types of food and where it comes from, cutting safely, sharing out between plates etc in your day-to-day planning so it is a normal part of daily routine for the children.
I have shared information with the parents at Knutsford Childminding about how we cook with children on this blog.
· Story links – plan to follow children’s favourite story lines eg read the story -> go for a bear hunt outside -> sing some bear songs -> make and count footprints -> talk about size and shape -> watch the story read by the author on YouTube.
Note - I suggest you avoid anything too messy or possibly dangerous such as cutting with scissors on inspection day because you can easily lose focus if someone is behind you asking questions all the time… and during messy play children need full supervision to keep them safe. Have photos as evidence that you do offer these activities and explain to the inspector why you are doing what you are doing – maybe you are following a child’s interest or building on something they learned last week…
Your Ofsted inspector should watch / observe you during your planned activity - stay calm, remember to ask open ended questions, give the children time to answer, be ready to extend learning... if your inspector talks to you or starts asking you questions, respectfully remind them that you want to do your very best during the inspection and you would appreciate being given this opportunity to focus on the children.
After the activity the inspector will want to know -
WHY have you planned this activity? – how does it link to the children’s current individual planning?
What have the children learned? – we need to be doing 'high quality observations' and 'accurate assessment'
How could it be improved next time? – self-reflection is important for improving outcomes
I hope this blog helps you prepare for inspection. If you have planned anything particularly successful during your inspection please share it with colleagues in the comments below.
Thank you. Sarah.