Settling a child into Pre-School can be a time of anxiety for both parents and children. While some children effortlessly feel secure in their new environment, other children may take longer. For those that do please let me give you a little bit of insight into why and more importantly some ways we can help your child settle.

Your children are very attached to their main carers, there’s a lot of research into how children make secure attachments, strong relationships are key to children feeling safe and secure. Children can take a while to build a trusting relationship with us which is why we have a member of staff as your child’s key person, so that your child can build a new attachment to another trusted adult. If your child is finding it hard to settle it’s good to chat with their key person to come up with successful strategies. There maybe particular activities and toys your child prefers so we can put these out when your child attends for example.

Children crying when you leave can be quite normal at first. Most of the time children recover very quickly and the staff at Sparkles are very experienced at helping children settle. Occasionally we may ask you to stay in the lobby area in case your child continues to cry. Personally I don’t like to leave children crying for too long. It can cause stress and actually make the settling process longer. For the first couple of weeks please keep your mobile phones charged, and don’t wonder too far from Sparkles until you know your child is settled.

While time usually flies for us adults, for children in an unfamiliar environment 2.5 hour can seem a very long time! Children can’t gauge how much time one of our sessions is until they get used to our routine. It may be beneficial to shorten sessions (sometimes drastically at first) until your child knows you will most definitely pick them up! Staff will advise you if they need you to pick up your child early. Sometimes doing just 20 minutes to start can help the child build their confidence. Sometimes the slower you take it the quicker they feel settled. The length of staying time can increase quite rapidly and can be far less stressful for your child (and you!)

Another trick we have up our sleeve is for the parent or carer to leave something behind, a scarf or cardigan for example so the child can visibly see you will be back to pick them up (and the item of clothing. This gives them a comfort item to look at as well as the visible cue already mentioned.

Our staff want your children to feel safe happy and secure. They have a wealth of experience settling children successfully. However we really need you to tell us as much as you can about your child so we can work in partnership so we can meet your child’s individual needs.


I’m not one to go in for awards. So when Laura Henry phoned me to say she was nominating us for a “Reading for Pleasure” award from the Society of Authors award I was thrilled. And guess what? We won, what’s more, the only Early Years setting to have won! I’m made up, blown away, delighted, and just in a daze!

Laura BooksWhen Laura wrote her lovely children’s book about Jo-Jo and Gran-Gran we were lucky enough to be one of the first to share it with children with the author herself visiting our setting to read it to them. What a treat! Books are so important in our settings. You’ll find them everywhere inside and out. The books don’t have to link to the activities out, but more to give the children an opportunity to pick them up at any time and any where they go during the day. Stories have the obvious literacy learning outcomes, but it goes deeper than that. Factual books give knowledge. Children love books about dinosaurs or spiders. They can be fun, all those silly stories we baby school daycarelove to read like “The Naughty Bus”. Laura’s books promotes lots of conversation (and actions when Jo-Jo and Gran-Gran go dancing!) as well as having a mathematical slant.


play school and daycare

In September for us they are great for settling children if you read to them in a cosy corner so they feel safe and sound.
We also like to send books home with children in our Home Play Bag kits to share the reading in the comfort of their home. A little crib sheet is enclosed for parents on the value of reading and how it helps children develop so many skills.
It’s great to be recognised for giving children so much pleasure reading and building the foundations for their future success in literacy. Love it!
Secretly feel like Sparkles has won the Oscars in the trade I love. Well done team!


I’m delighted to have Sarah Marsh from Musical Bumps write a guest blog on the value of music and a few tips on how to use singing to help your child develop.

Why do we sing at pre-school, in the home, out and about? Is it just because children like it, because it’s fun?  Or is there more to it than that?

There is much more to it than just fun (I’m a pre-school specialist music teacher, so you won’t be surprised to hear me say this!).  Sparkles have recently increased Musical Bumps visits from monthly to weekly (starting in September), and I’m very excited about what that will mean for the children (and staff)!

Music stands alone as a skill – as a musician, I want our children to be musical too. We play percussion and sing; finding the beat, exploring musical contrasts, and other skills including basic musical notation.  In addition to this, music has so much to offer the whole early years curriculum.  Communication is the most obvious – music has patterns that are clearer and more distinct than speech and intonations that are better defined than speech.  If we want our children to be good communicators, then the absolutely best thing to do is to sing with them.

Singing shouldn’t be limited to a weekly session however, so here are some ideas for singing your way through the week!

  1. Back to basics.  Whilst we might want to be bang up to date, there’s nothing wrong with singing some of those old songs.   Humpty dumpty, twinkle twinkle and those ever-spinning Wheels on the Bus are an important part of our heritage.  If you are lucky enough to have roots in other cultures, or know family and friends that have, then use those songs too.
  2. Can’t remember the words?  Dum di dum di dum will do just as well.  It’s not just about the words, it’s about the game, the interaction and the steady beat!
  3. Join a group! Singing is good for the grown ups too – so join a group like Musical Bumps with your child, or a community choir just for you – and get singing.  You’ll make new friends and learn lots of new songs too!
  4. Sing your way through the day….. have you got a “hello” song to greet your child with every morning (no? make one up – quickly!).  What about a “tidy up your room” song – it works well until your child turns into a teenager…
  5. Transactional singing – this call and response style is used right across Africa.  It’s a great way to use music to build communication.  You’ll feel daft at first singing “would you like some juice?” – but your child will love it and, with any luck, sing right back to you!
  6. Can’t sing, won’t sing?  Oh, go on….. no?  OK try some rhymes instead. Humpty dumpty works just as well (even better maybe) without the tune.  The pattern and intonation of your voice will be just as useful!
  7. Be a bit silly!  Don’t worry if you divert from real words – the sillier the better! Laughter and fun makes learning and life so much better!

Sarah Marsh (head of Musical Bumps)




play school and daycareParents are under constant pressure to get their children to read earlier on in their childhood. What we need to inspire at this early age is the joy of reading. There are some interesting play ideas to help build the foundations of reading, and most of all don’t panic if your child isn’t interested in sounding out letters if they are approaching school age. Enjoying stories and books being read to them is paramount! The rest will follow. Please trust me. A mum recently came to me. Her child is just in the juniors and she said “Can you believe he’s the best reader!” To which I replied “Yes, he started with us!”

There’s a great document with lots of ideas at the bottom of this article about the beginning stages of phonics. I’ll just pick out some highlights and a few other tips. Listening and discriminating sounds is the first step to phonics. Children hear sounds from being in the womb so their listening skills develop early. They are already beginning phonic development! Going on a walk in the park and listening for various sounds, birds, cars, planes leaves rustling etc will help discrimination.

We do lots of rhymes, clapping tapping etc to build rhythm and look at words that sound the same. Research shows time and time again that children who are regularly exposed to rhymes are more successful readers. One of the reasons I’m keen to have Musical Bumps, lots of listening, different sounds and rhymes to build the foundations of reading. There is the Silly Soup game which I love too.
The Silly Soup Song (to tune of Pop goes the Weasel)

daycare school I’m making lots of silly soup, I’m making soup that’s silly. I’m going to cook it in the fridge, To make it nice and chilly
Take it in turns to stir the soup while singing the song.
Add an ingredient, picture or toy food and make the silliest soup ever!

Lots of books…did I say that already! If your child can’t sit long, read short books. Don’t make it a chore! Pick books the children are interested in. My favourites are
Shark in the park (lots of rhyming)
The Tiger Who came for Tea
The Hungry Caterpillar
Dinosaur Roar (short)
Don’t put your finger in the Jelly Nelly
The Naughty Bus ( love the fonts and prints in this book)

There are so many children’s books!!

If your child is really showing an interest in wanting to read, when you teach letters teach the sound not the name. Why? I hear you ask! Take the word cat. The names of the letters are “see” “ay” “tee” the letter sounds are c-a-t. I hope this is clear, please ask me if you don’t understand. If we want a child to read they need to blend the letter sounds to build words. If your child isn’t quite at this stage but nearly ready, robot speak is great. We do this with the “one potato, two potato” song. But you can use it for anything. So it goes in a robot voice, “one po-ta-to two po-ta-to”etc. Children begin to get the concept of syllables and sounds.

Reading should be enjoyable. Learning to read should be fun. Building the basics is important before you go straight to letter sounds. You need to develop the skills step by step. Don’t rush it. Don’t panic if they haven’t got any sounds when they go to school. It’s so much more important to enjoy books and rhymes. Do this first and your child will enjoy their reading journey.

There are lots of ideas here. Have a look and see where your child is in the stages. Wherever they are, practice at the ones before are always good to fully secure the foundations to progress.

play school and daycare


Children are amazing, but we don’t often give ourselves credit for the foundations of playing with children and how it affects children’s later success at school. There is so much research out there, I want to share some of this with you hopefully to take the pressure of so you can enjoy playing with your child and realising your part in their future.
In my experience there is a lot of anxiety over children’s writing. I’m often frantically told (especially as children approach going to school) “they can’t write their name.” I say…”don’t worry.” Even if they can write, you can improve the future quality of writing through play.
Writing development starts early with big arm movements. That’s why we have the easel out a lot at Pre-School, or we have big paper to draw on with chubby pencils and crayons.
Painting with water and decorating brushes outside helps those big arm movements.
The last stage in preparation for writing, is having strong fingers. If fingers aren’t strong enough, then you will have a poor pen grip. Don’t rush it, but some play materials really help. Play doh is an excellent finger gym for children. Squeezing and pinching doh to model it helps creative development, but really helps those fine motor movements needed for writing. Pegs also help that pincer grip, so pegging clothes, or pairing socks with pegs makes strengthening those fingers fun. Threading with string and old birthday cards that have been hole punched helps the pincer grip, very therapeutic and keeps them busy!
Get creative with writing. As adults we now type more and write less, so create opportunities to write lists and make notes. Your children love to copy you! If your out doors paint and write with mud and sticks. Make mud pies and leaf stew…just don’t eat them! Most of all have fun. This will so boost your child’s self esteem and give them confidence.
So when your child is playing, there’s so much learning going on. Plenty of time for sit down learning later, this age goes so fast, slow down and put those play foundations in and enjoy your time with them.

Mark making starts early. Making it fun!

Mark making starts early. Making it fun!