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Short Term Planning & Routine- Advice Please


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Hi- I am in the process of trying to improve the planning in the private preschool section of the day nursery where I work. At the moment the long term planning seems fine- monthly topics with the different aspects given coverage across the year. The weekly planning is very confusing though. The daily routine is like this:



9 -9.15 Register then whole group singing / storytime / news / circle time

9.15-9.45 Tabletop activities (games puzzles, workbooks, tracing books)

9.45-10 Snack

10-10.30 Outdoor play

10.30-11.30 3 adult directed activities one with creative focus, other maths and other literacy

11.45 Lunch


Same again in afternoon. So you can see it is all adult directed and I am concerned that there is no time for child initiated play. The children in all week are zombied by Friday and so are the staff.


We have one new staff member who is doing the new Foundation Degree in Early Years and she is having such trouble being able to do the observations she needs within such structure she was going to have to leave and get a new job- I thought we can't have that!


The weekly plan is a big grid with spaces for the tabletop activities, circle time and the 3 set activites. These change each session. The thing is we have some children only for one session each week ranging through 2, 3 and a couple of full time children. It feels like we are always rushing round preparing these set activities and little room for something to develop over the week, such as setting up the role play as a doctors adding to it each day. However it is how 'things have been done' for a while.


With Ofsted looming in Jan I have been spurred to get the courage to change things, I know I have to keep the basic timings and routine through.


i have taken one of the weekly planning formats off here to use. I have set up a ticklist thing so we have different circle times, tabletop activities each time so don't always have to write these in on the plan. I will put signs in the two pre-school rooms to say the children have to have free access to water, sand, construction, painting, book corner, writing table, role play, musical instruments etc after outdoor play. Then we will have focus activities within these areas based on the aspects of learning for that topic. However it won't be the case as it is now that the children have to do 3 set things. Hopefully if there is one directed 'ongoing' activity for each area of learning each week this will be much easier and there will be more time to support the children in their own play too. What do you think? It should be easier to observe and assess the children too.


Hope it works! The other thing I hate at present is that we have to do these 'daysheets' This is an A3 sheet split into the 6 areas of learning and we have to note down all the things from circle time tabletop tme and the 3 activities in the boxes, then we highlight what each child has done. We also write down how they have eaten etc. With up to 40 children a session it is stressful also getting these done. I plan to provide the weekly plan to the parents with copies if they want it, instead, then we can simply note on the register how they ate and tell the parents.


It is a busy preschool - we have two rooms one taking 25 and the other 16, with 5 permanent staff.

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Hi Mharhi

Goodness you seem to cram a lot into the short time you have!!! :o

We have free play from 9.00am to 10.45 am. Within this time we have about three activities taking place. So, as the children are doing their own thing we take them either as a small group, perhaps of 4 or in 2's or individually to take part in these activities. We also have snack during this time, in groups of 8. We have keyworker sessions and the staff have their group on a rota basis through a 3 week cycle. We then tidy up and the children are then split into 2 groups. The older children have story and the younger ones do something like gym, dance, band or parachute etc. This lasts about 15-20 minutes then they swap. This all takes us to about 11.30 when we start lunch for those who are staying for it and the rest either split into small groups for a keyworker session or we do some singing and action songs. We don't, unfortunately, have an outdoor play area.

If you can't swap your times around can you not incorporate some free play into the 10.30 slot and not have 3 activities? If you only had 2 then they would be able to have some time choosing what they do.


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Hi Mharhi,

Your days certainly seem very structured!!!! Do you have no chance of changing the routine? We work rather like Linda :o and have a selection of activities covering the 6 areas with one focus, for the first hour and a half. During this time children also have an opportunity to get outside (but we dont have free access). I would worry very much at such an organised routine for little ones. There is no research to support this being good practice! Are you part of a large organisation? Have you done any monitoring of your setting to evaluate pratctice? Or undertaken a self review?

The changes you have outlined sound good. Just keep on reviewing and making adjustments where you can.

Those daysheets sound horrendous xD !!!!!!



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While not a day nursery but a pre-school we are open for 2 sessions a day and we only have 1 focus activity for the children each day - the rest is free play with staff observing key children, writing down any observations needed, and extending the play for thier children as they see them progress. they do this in the free play so it is done by adapting the childrens choice of play to the learning needed.


ALL our session is free play with regular changing of toys as we are unable to allow children access to them- as with others we work in a church hall. If we could we would allow more childrens choice during the session.

we come together as a large group for story, songs daily and music and movement weekly.

we have even recently changed snack time to a cafe style, something we have always had problems with but have now sorted them out , and the chikldren join us at the table when they want to between a set time of half an hour. So far this is working..

Ofsted were very impressed by the way all our session was learning through child initiated play and not completely adult directed, isnt this what the FS is all about.

It will take time but the session is more relaxed and parents are happy.

Those sheets seem too time consuming, I would ask what does the child gain by this? And if possible rethink and try other simpler ways of recording.



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Mharhi - no wonder you're all frazzled by the end of the week! :o Alot of this sounds like paperwork for paperworks sake. I'm always keen to find ways to cut down and think you and your staff will benefit from it too. I work very much like Inge in our playgroup. I try never to take children away from their chosen activities, but instead try to work with them at what they are doing and gather observations this way instead. We do have focussed activities, but if a child doesn't chose to participate in those then I'll find another way to address the learning goals within an activity they prefer. :) Good luck with trying to sort it all out though! :D

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  • 2 weeks later...

I was exhausted just reading about your day, goodness knows what the children feel like. I have been an early years teacher for over 10 years and never have I had such a structured routine even in Reception classes that I thought were far too formal. Has everyone read the Foundation Stage Profile and it's emphasis on not having teacher directed activities all the time. Outside play is also vital, not just half an hour. Planning should ideally always be led by what the children are doing, their interests, their needs. How can you know this with all this structure.


Our nursery opens at 9.30, and the children have free choice inside and out until 11.30 when we have carpet time. Snacks are out on a table for them to choose when they are ready. The afternoon is similar. This allows children the time and space they need to really become involved in their play and learning. We have one focus activity a day and the rest of the time is spent working with children on their interest, joining in their play and observing, which I find the most valuable activity to help planning.


I really think you need to fight for some change, for your own sanity if nothing else. Good luck anyway.

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Hi Jane,


Thanks for contributing. :) It sounds like you really have it all sussed and are very confident in what you are doing. Your children are very lucky to have you. :D Hope to hear more about what you do.

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