20 September 2008

Book Time

New research reveals daily reading to children diminishes as pressures on parents increase Children now spending more than twice the time watching TV versus reading with parents or carers. It is widely acknowledged that one of the most important things a parent or carer can do to help their children's learning and development is to inspire a love of books and reading. But independent new research* commissioned for Booktime and Booked Up published today reveals that it is harder than ever for parents and carers to find the time to read with their children.

Findings include:
  • Daily reading aloud with children has decreased over the last two years. In 2006, 43% of parents of young children read to them daily but this figure has now dropped to one in three in 2008.
  • 23% of parents never or rarely read aloud with their children. For those who do, just one third of parents read with their offspring on a daily basis.
  • Mum takes the lead reading role: Mum is still the chief reader (64% of mums of 4-5 year olds say that they are the principle ‘reader' with their child compared to just 12% of dads). Among parents of 11-12 year olds, mums still dominate, with 46% stating that they are the principle reader compared to just one in 20 dads.
  • Time and tiredness stopping parents reading more: Top three reasons why parents/carers do not read more with children include: too much else to do (35%), tiredness (30%) and busy cooking dinner (25%).
  • Age of parent determines who reads the most with children: The older the mum, the less likely they are to read most with their child. Conversely, the older the father, the more likely they are to read most with their offspring.
  • Poetry reading not popular with the Scots but a hit with Londoners: 47% of Glasgow parents state that they never read poetry with their offspring. However, poetry is still a much loved genre among many Brits including London parents who claim the highest rate of weekly (or more) poetry reading with their children.
  • Poetry classics stand the test of time: The research also reveals the nation's favourite poet in 2008 is First World War soldier Wilfred Owen, narrowly ahead of late comic Spike Milligan and English Romantic poet William Wordsworth. ‘If' by Rudyard Kipling is the UK's favourite poem of all time.
  • Book time loses out to TV: The average four to five year old spends twice as long watching TV compared to reading with parents (and six times more than reading and looking at books by themselves). There has been a decrease in the amount of time spent sharing book time (a 10% decrease year on year from 3hrs 25mins in 2007 to 3hrs 4mins in 2008).
  • One in five of all children say that they don't read enough with their family and friends. This rises to 40% of 7-8 year olds and is highest regionally in Bristol and Newcastle (30% each respectively).
  • Time spent on household chores overtakes time spent reading for older children: The average 11-12 year old spends 4hrs 14mins surfing the internet compared to just 41 minutes reading with their parent/s. In 2008 Britain, they actually spend more time doing household chores than reading with mum or dad!
  • More poetry reading wanted: One third of all children said they would like to read more poetry or have more poetry read with them.

It's not all bad news though. While some parents unfortunately struggle to find time to read to their children, others don't: Sheffield and Liverpool have the highest rates of ‘daily parental reading' where four out of ten (mostly mums) read aloud with their child everyday. Plus, the research uncovered an additional benefit for parents in reading with their offspring, with 78% agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement that ‘reading with my child(ren) is a good way for me to get away from everyday worries'.

* Booktime and Booked Up 2008 research: 1,507 UK parents of primary school aged children (representative of UK population) took part in the independent research between 12 Aug 2008 and 8 Sept 2008, conducted by Tickbox.net via an online and telephone survey.

The research also explored parents' views on reading poetry with their children:

  • Poetry reading with children strong in major cities: Poetry is still a much loved genre amongst many Brits. London (17%), Birmingham (14%), Sheffield (14%) and Liverpool (13%) have the highest rates of weekly (or more) poetry reading
  • Children's enjoyment: Parents and carers stated that the main benefits of reading poetry is that children enjoy the ‘rhythm and rhyming' (62%), humour (36%) and that the repetition and sounds of the poem aids a child's memory (34%).
  • Poetry saves on story time for some parents: 9% of parents (rising to 12% of dads) say reading poetry with their children saves them time.
  • The benefits of reading poetry were also explored as part of the research: 39% of parents say reading poetry sparks the imagination; 26% like doing it as it's enjoyable/fun; 25% say reading poetry reminds them of happy memories and childhood days; 22% believe it expands their language and vocabulary; 22% of parents say reading poetry represents the perfect escape from the stress of modern life; 18% say it helps them feel better; 7% say it helps them to understand life and the world more.

To help encourage a lifelong love of reading - both stories and poetry - over two million free books will be given to schoolchildren across the UK. These will be given to every reception-aged pupil and Year 7 pupil in England this term through two programmes from independent charity Booktrust, supported by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and education and publishing company Pearson.

The Booktime programme will give children aged 4-5 years across the UK a copy of Harry and the Dinosaurs go to School by Ian Whybrow, illustrated by Adrian Reynolds (both of whom have waived fees and royalties). The packs will also contain a guidance booklet for parents and carers to encourage sharing books with children. The Booked Up programme will give children aged 11-12 a book from a list of 12 carefully selected titles, encouraging independent reading. Both programmes promote reading for pleasure at important transition stages in children's learning and development. Plus, for the first time, free poetry anthologies will be given to both age groups in England. Reception-aged pupils will get a special Booktime edition of The Puffin Book of Fantastic First Poems, while Year 7 pupils will be able to choose a copy of Read Me and Laugh: A Funny Poem for Every Day of the Year (Macmillan) as part of the Booked Up programme.

Model and TV presenter Nancy Sorrell, herself a mum of two children and this year's Booktime and Booked Up Celebrity Ambassador, comments: "It's such a joy to snuggle down with the girls and a book to share in fantastic adventures, faraway worlds and meet exciting new friends. I'm proud to be supporting these two reading initiatives that provide free books for five year olds and 11-year-olds to enjoy. It's a brilliant way to keep children interested in books as they make the move from nursery to ‘big school' and from primary to secondary. Plus, the fact that it's free and available to everyone makes it even more appealing!"

Viv Bird, Director of Booktrust, says: "These wonderful quality books that children will be receiving through Booktime and Booked up will provide many hours of fun for them to share with families and friends. Booktrust is very grateful to Pearson and the DCSF for their generous support."

Marjorie Scardino, CEO, Pearson, adds: "We started Booktime because we wanted every child in the UK to have a book of their own as they started school, and we're proud to be working with Booktrust, DCSF and a group of very talented authors to make that possible again this year. We hope Ian Whybrow's story of Harry's first day at school plus a first taste of poetry through Puffin's fantastic poems will be the start of a lifelong love of reading."

For more information on see http://www.booktime.org.uk for more information and if your child has just started school look out for their special pack.

19 September 2008

New Products: People Who Help Us Puppets

These lovely People Who Help Us Glove Puppets are a fantastic resource for both role play and teaching about occupations / jobs people do. They are simple flat hand puppets which can be used by adults or children. Doctor, Fireman, Lollipop Man, Nurse and Policeman available now!

18 September 2008

New Products: Fantastic Fairy Tale Puppets

We have now added four new sets of story puppets - Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and The Three Billy Goats Gruff to our range of puppets.

These fantastic puppet sets are come with a detailed story card to help you tell the story of the fairy tale and contains the main characters you would expect to find in the enchanting favourite story.

These puppet sets are great for children learning traditional tales, beginning role play activities and are ideal for giving as a gift coming in it's very own see-through PVC handy bag / carry case. They are also a great for inclusion in story sacks.

We also now have all of the other story sets:
Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Little Red Riding Hood back in stock.

15 September 2008

The Communication Cookbook

BT and the children's communication charity I CAN have developed The Communication Cookbook, a resource book of activities to support children’s language and communication development.

The Communication Cookbook it focuses on 5 essential ingredients that support children’s communication skills, and contains simple recipes to help parents and teachers to develop these in skills in children.

These five essential ingredients are:
  • Attention and Listening
  • Vocabulary
  • Building Sentences
  • Story Telling
  • Conversations

Download your copy of The Communication Cookbook here and find out how to help your child learn to communicate.

12 September 2008

New Product: Magnetic Fractions Set

The second featured new product is this set of Fraction Magnets.

These colourful Magnetic Fractions are a fantastic resource to help children learn about simple fractions.

Children can play with the magnets on stuck on the fridge (or a special magnetic whiteboard) dividing up the red whole unit stick into halves, thirds, quarters, fifths, sixths, eighths, tenths and twelfths and visually see the equivelant values.

11 September 2008

New Product: Magnetic Money Chart

We've just taken delivery of the first of our new products ordered at the Autumn Fair - this includes the Magnetic Money Chart.

The Magnetic Money Chart is a fantastic resource to help children learn about money. The set contains a printed chart, 20 coin magnets, 6 note magnets and 1 wipe clean pen.

You can use the wipe clean pen to write a sum of money in the small blank box and ask your child to use the money magnets to get to this amount. See if they can make the same amount in different ways! Or do the reverse activity - you put out the money magnets and ask your child to work out how much money is there.

For children just starting to learn about money the coin and note magnets can also be used for basic money recognition as well as matching to the value space.

Check out
Littlesheep Learning for this and other Money teaching resources.

10 September 2008


Another term, another town, another 'Stay and Play' group! We went to a new toddler group today and the 'take home idea' was play dough.

Playdough is great for children to play with and learn new skills at the same time. Play dough is:

  • good practice for sharing / turn-taking
  • soothing / calming
  • good for releasing tension
  • good for strengthening muscles / developing motor skills
  • good for developing language
  • creative
  • multi-sensory
  • fun!


Cooked Play-Dough

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup water
food colouring

Mix dry ingredients and mix wet ingredients and then stir together.
Stir constantly over a medium heat until the ingredients change from a lump paste into a more rubbery blob.
Turn out onto a working surface and knead the dough.
Store in an airtight container.

Cooked Play-Dough

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water
food colouring

Mix flour and salt, add water and food colouring.
Turn out onto a working surgace and knead the dough to make a clay consistency.
Store in an airtight container (doesn't keep as long as the cooked version though).

Other ideas:


  • glitter
  • spices
  • mint
  • herbs
  • cocoa powder
  • yeast (makes a stretchier dough)
  • raisins
  • pasta
  • ginger
  • lemon juice
  • curry

Use a variety of tools to play with the dough, for example;

  • lolly sticks
  • fir cones
  • toy cars
  • cutters
  • rolling pins
  • paper cases
  • straws

Play dough is suitable for children over a year old. Make sure that you supervise the play and use protective coverings for the floor, clothes and surfaces. Some children may try to eat the play dough but because it is so salty after a few tastes children will discover that it is much more fun to play with than eat!

Please feel free to share more playdough recipes / activity ideas.

07 September 2008

Autumn Fair

We've just got back from an exciting day at the Autumn Fair at the NEC. We had fun meeting up and networking with other WAHMs (the people behind Delicate Dreams, Stork Gifts, Knot Just Jigs, Funky Dory Party Bags, Kiddymania and Perfect Presents - shout if I've left you out?) and have placed orders for some great new lines. Keep reading this blog to find out about the new products and ranges at Littlesheep Learning!

02 September 2008

EYFS - Early Years Foundation Stage

From the BBC News website:

Under-fives get 'learning goals'

New welfare guidelines including 69 "learning goals" for the under-fives have come into force in England.

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets out expected standards of care in registered childcare settings.

The "toddler curriculum" includes being able to count to 10, spell their names, understand stories, know right from wrong and be able to dress and undress.

Ministers say the EYFS will help stop disadvantaged children falling behind in educational attainment.

The guidelines have provoked a worried reaction from some childcare workers who believe increasing levels of associated paperwork could put them out of business.

'Best start'
Others fear children will be required to start formal learning too early and that it could set some of them up for failure at a tender age.

So England's Children's Minister Beverley Hughes announced that learning goals requiring children to be able to write their own names and begin using simple sentences by the age of five, sometimes with punctuation, would be reviewed to see if they were suitable.

But in a joint letter to the managers of England's 3,000 children's centres Schools Secretary Ed Balls and Ms Hughes said their guidelines would help make sure that all young children had the chance to engage in stimulating play.

Children's centre staff would be able to use it to engage mothers and fathers, to make sure these experiences are built on at home, they said.

Mr Balls added: "I am driven by a determination to make sure that the most disadvantaged children get the very best start in life.

"We want to give all children a level playing field and help all parents get the best care and support for their children.

"I believe that every child in this country is entitled to the benefits of learning through play as set out in the EYFS and that their parents are entitled to the reassurance that their children will be well supported and cared for by high quality childminders and nursery workers."

Developmental milestones
Research shows that gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged children can affect them from the age of 22 months and are likely to get bigger as they age.

By the time they take GCSES, children from poorer backgrounds are half as likely to get five good grades as their wealthier peers.

The EYFS applies to all formal childcare settings for children under five and is based on the idea that children need to learn through play as they begin to understand the world around them.

Childcare providers are required to keep parents up to date with their children's progress and will be encouraged to be involved with their early education.

Profiles of each child will be completed by nurseries and childminders, recording the developmental milestones the reach.

These are intended to provide an accurate picture of a child's development for parents and primary schools when they reach them.

However, ministers are keen to stress that the youngsters will not be tested on the goals included in the guidelines.

They also argue that as the framework is a combination of two existing sets of guidelines they should not place extra burdens on those working in childcare.

In Scotland, what and how children learn in pre-school nurseries is set out in the Curriculum for Excellence which is currently being rolled out. It does not apply to childminders.

In Wales, a new Scandinavian-style Learn through Play nursery and infant curriculum is being introduced for three to seven-year-olds, which moves away from the more formal classroom based lessons.

For more information on the contents of the EYFS, please see our article.