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Please help we are at the end of our tether!


My supervisor has decided that she may leave due to the fact that we have changed our planning from Long Medium Short term planning to this continous provison/free flow/ workshop areas and child iniated play

The whole staff team are confused and de- motivated including me!

We arent able to get on any courses at the mo and we have no mentor from our early years.

can anyone help us- other nurseries in the area is a no go- closed door policy!


I have said tomorrow I will sit down wth her and try and come up with something- at the moment I dont think i could do without her, part of me thinks yes a change of staff may be good but the other thinks I need her just to help us as a nursery get on the right track- shes been with me long time. We are a small nursery approx 24 children a day sessional am and pm some children stay allday

We are confused about

1 How many focus activites to do each day? and are these seperate from the workshop areas?

2. We have set our workshop areas do we just put suitable toys etc in these araes and let the children play observing these children? Do children just comein and chooce whatever they want to play with as we are letting them and it looks like we have been burgled- toys everywhere!

3 Do we target these focus activities to specific children?

4 How do we plan for each child when we have so many?

5 Do we do a focus activity covering all 6 areas of learning and BTTM or one for each area of learning?

6 We have tried re doing the daily routine we feel we need some form of structure as the children are free flow playing all morning and is just seems chaos!

Maybe we are looking too deep into this, we have been told to stop using topics and themes and think generally we are feeling lost! We thought we had just about cracked the planning and then everything changed!

Any examples or suggestions actually any help at all would be fantastic and greatly appreciated

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Oh sharon, I wish I could help but my experience is not in preschool.

However, if as you are saying you thought you had the planning cracked before, do you still have access to it?

You describe several things that you do not like, the mess with the toys etc which I would think need to be addressed.

Can you use your old planning alongside the continuous provision and use your ideas to motivate your staff, use your observations of the children to show you their interests and plan from these too? If you think of the topic plans as flexible guidelines, you will see howto move forward without them.


Good luck.

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Poor you-I think everyone is feeling rather demoralised in this hot weather. My advice would be to take a step back, simplify and concentrate on the children's need to be safe and happy. One focus activity per session is plentyand I would base it in a different workshop area each day. Have a learning objective in mind but write up after the activity what learning was achieved. You don't say how many staff you have, but I think they are crucial to making this type of planning work. Could you limit the workshop areas to start with so that there is a member of staff at each to train the children how to use the area, including keeping it tidy? As the children get used to the areas you can make more available, Don't expect the children or the staff to adapt to such a big change instantly. Take it in gradual stages and at the end of a each day think about what has been succesful and praise your staff accordingly.

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At the risk of banging my own drum, have a look at my blog here That was our response to this kind of issue.

Toys everywhere???? - why? are the children following their own agenda??? are you watching to see??


Get back to me, please, am interested in your progress, as you can see, we are in a similar position



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blog ha ha what is a blog ? Not to up on all this yet!


Out LTP has been revamped to remove topics and themes and just covers events festivals outings parents eve etc.

MTP is no longer one devised by us - we have been given by our early years these sheets one for each workshop area which contain all aspects for BTTM and FS (on 2 seperate A4 sheets)

We have been told when we are doing observations in our workshop area we use these and then plan from here.

This has confused us we now have all these bits of paper all over the walls- looks as though its taken over from the childrens masterpieces! seems a bit of waste of wall to me much prefer the childrens stuff!

Thats how the early years team left us and said work with it. ha ha ha

So we now have the nursery - only 2 rooms changed round into these workshop areas and each area has these bits on the wall.

Our 3-5 room (we do free flow play but do have a structured time 1st thing so the preschoolers have some time on their own without the under 3s) has computer, creative, maths and graphics, curiousity workshops and a carpet area for books. We were told to store all the toys in our storeroom and ask the children what they would like out first thing as carpet play and bring them out- this is then supposed to encourage the children to play in the workshop areasi?

Our under 3's room has an excuse for a role play- staff arent very creative- need some courses-a malleable area and construction area, toys are available in here in small quantities ie a basket of duplo etc. Sand and water play too.

I feel we need some sort of toy or activity plan showing what to put out in each area or not?

Focus Activity- not doing them yet as early years suggested working with workshop areas first?

Everything seems chaotic now as no structure- children come in look lost then charge around?

As for child iniated learning its enough just to get through the morning as they are all going in different directions!

Can you tell me what you think so far?

Shows you how much its bothering me I cant sleep should I really be doing this 7am on a saturday morning?

bye for now!

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"I feel we need some sort of toy or activity plan showing what to put out in each area or not?"


Once you start using your observations of what activity / toy is interesting / inspiring the children to explore / follow particular concepts or skills, then you can include in your plan what activities / equipment to put out, relevant to the particular children attending each session. You don't need to do this for every child, your observations will show that a few children will have similar play interests at any given time.


Basically, I believe that we as practitioners have always provided, to some extent, for childrens individual interests - those times when you notice a child enjoys for example the brio, next time they are in and the brio isn't out, you may notice the child is not particularly focused in any play, the child is maybe flitting from one area to the next, then you remember the last time you observed (informally) his enjoyment with the brio, so off you go to the cupbaord to get it for him.

He then settles to purposeful play. We've all done this, now we are being asked to think about this and record it and use our knowledge to 'plan' instead of just 'hope' someone remembers and gets the brio out.


This is part of the rationalle behind planning to their interests, the additional thought process is to observe more closely 'how' the child is playing with the brio, what concepts are he exploring, it is not enough to just know he likes Brio.

is it the magnets on the trains?

is it the setting up / joining of the track-possibly in long continuous lines.

or is he consistently directing his own play to construct the track into circles?,

does he favour a particualar way that the trains are connected, all the red ones together, then black ones etc-forming pattern sequences?

is he using the Brio to 'practice' his language, talking out loud his thoughts about particular 'actions' of the trains / track ie: narrating his play?


Close observations will inform you of how and what he is learning from his chosen play. This will help you decide how to support his exploration of particular concepts / skill. ie say he shows particular interest in sequencing the trucks in a particular pattern- you may decide to play alongside him, adding additional trucks to see whether he 'sorts' them. You may decide to encourage him to make patterns with the trucks using paint in the art area ( because you have previously recognised that he doesn't access art that often- here you may have a 'tool' to encourage him to use paints in a way that interests him)

ask yourselves at planning stage / meetings..........

Is he is ready for adult input to extend his learning,

Can you plan to support his exploration of a particular concept / skill within other play areas of the setting.?

Is there any other concepts you have identified that he needs support with ( shown from his development file) ie: maths calculating could be supported through playing with the trucks, "you have 2 red and 1 black truck on the line- what colour truck do you need to make equal numbers of trucks, how many more black trucks to make the same number of red trucks? If you hide one red truck away in the tunnel , will you have the same number of red trucks as you do black trucks on the track/line? etc ( this sounds very confusing in text- but would be understood 'in play' with real objects)


You may be able to identify the concepts that he is exploring through the list on your wall, then use this list as a prompt to consider what you plan for this child. I have similar lists displayed, plus prompts for adult role. They are useful for my unqualified members of staff and even I find them useful after 20 yrs experience, we can become stale and be too busy 'supervising' or 'crowd controlling' and forget to fully interact with children, especially on their level, on their thinking instead of the same old questions we as adults come out with. ( this is where adult obs are useful, to see that we as adults aren't using the same old questions over and over again- ie: with the Brio, I would not be surprised to hear "What colour trucks have you got?, how many trucks have you got?" - when the above hiding in the tunnel game would be so much more interesting for the child - this is assuming obs have shown he is at this stage of development)


It is really difficult to follow others suggestions, or it seems in your case directions, especially as you may feel that the advisor does not consistently see the dynamics of your particular setting.

Talk with staff and think through together what is the main aim of this particular adult development is, ensure you all understand why you are trying this method, with this understanding, it should become easier to

1/ try out

2/ evaluate it's success or not.


Give changes time to imbed, time to get used to the new method of working, we so easily go back to our 'old' way of working without noticing, so practice new methods for long enough to 'iron out' the old ones. Note down when something has worked well or not, because you won't remember, this will help when you evaluate, it will help you recognise which parts of the change are worth continuing and which ones are not working at this particular time. Remember that methods work with some children sometimes and doesn't at other times, this is why we need to keep adapting - if something doesn't work it doesn't mean its your fault, it's just not suitable for this particular group of children, it may work with another group or even the same group, at another time. So don't dismiss methods too easily as not working, they may be useful at some times. This open minded thinking can feel like 'hard work' at first, but it does get easier if you are open to 'follow the child' rather than try to get the child to follow the adult ( the old way).


You will eventually adjust your planning to what's best for your team and your children, but try the method offered by the EYAT, as a stepping stone to thinking in this 'follow the child' way of planning.


It will not work if all the staff are not on board to trying, to rationally reviewing and evaluating the new method ( feeling that you are being told what to do-doesn't help here-getting over that feeling will be the first step to you all trying this method rationally).


I hope I haven't confused, I'm just trying to say that staff's attitude to working with particular methods is just as paramount as them having the knowledge and skills to carry out particular methods. Your staff should know about how children learn, how they develop (stages) and how to interact with them, this knowledge should help them to follow this new method of planning( the list will help staff who are not as knowledgable about child development / adult role) but only if they want to. You have to motivate this, to get everyone agreeing to try, for a period of time, because they understand why. This will help all the staff to build on their current knowledge levels.


Good luck



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  • 3 weeks later...

Peggy I want to come and work for you!! I wish my Manager had such motivation and willingness to try new ideas..sometimes you can feel like you're fighting a losing battle...but thankfully I'm no quitter! lol I have pasted, copied and downloaded all wise words of wisdom and I'm going to take them to her and enlighten her!


Many thanks :D

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It is quite difficult to set up this new planning format ive had problems with my staff team being resistant to change its took a lot of staff meetings and although i know where i want to go with this planning unfortunatly others are not happy about it, just go with it and let it evolve as you go if your sure on where you want to take the children and have a good system in place for observing im sure the rest will fall into place.

i do understand how your feeling good luck x jojom x

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