It is hard to imagine that anyone who worked on the Stock Market wouldn't have any idea what the FTSE index was or how their shares were trading. It is this essential knowledge that allows them to make the best investments and chase the best deals.
Whilst in Early Years we don't necessarily have to concern ourselves with FTSE we should all know what is current in the social media lives of the children that we work with.
Early Years in a very specialist area of teaching and so are the viewing habits of the children that are in it.
There will always be the 'dead cert' themes like Football, Princesses, Dinosaurs and Pets.
Football themed mark making table and 'self display' area Ladybrook Primary School
But now that children have access to multiple channels on the television as well as the ability to view their favourite shows on a laptop or tablet, specific television programmes are more accessible and more watched than ever.
Advertising is everywhere (and very clever) so children become very engaged and influenced by what is 'current'. This high level engagement is a real gift when it comes to enhancing our provision and activity planning.
Peppa Pig and Ben 10 interest boxes and lacing cards – St Augustines RC Primary
If I can tap into an interest in Tree Fu Tom to teach my phonics or mathematics I am far more likely to get some high level engagement than I am if I am counting multi link or pulling random objects out of a feely bag!
If you are asking yourself 'Who is Tree Fu Tom?' That is the point!
Tree Fu Tom themed resources – St Andrew's Primary School
For lots of early years staff, the issue is staying current. I know when my own boys were small our lives were dominated with Teletubbies, Wonder Pets and Ben 10, but that phase soon passes and morphs into the ultimately more annoying one of American youth TV like iCarly and Sweet Life on Deck and then further into The Regular Show and The Amazing World of Gumball (if you have no idea what I am talking about here, my advice is keep it that way. It will be better for your sanity!).
Whist I am not saying that you should festoon your setting with mass market media products or promote endless hours of TV watching, it is a real shame if we don't tap into what interests (both on and off the screen) the children that we teach.
I asked my two Early Years age nephews to give me a list of the current TV programmes that they LOVE to watch. This is what they came up with – see how many you know…
- Sarah & Duck
- Old Jacks Boat
- Lingo Show
- Team Umizoomi
- Yo Gabba Gabba
- Ben & Holly
- Jake and Neverland Pirates
- Doc McStuffins
No one is suggesting that you sit and watch Cbeebies for hours on end, although it can make a refreshing change from the gloom of the news! But there are some things that you can do to help build your knowledge:
Talk – Make sure that you have times built into your day where you can engage in quality talk with children. Times when they can set the agenda and talk about what interests them.
Listen in to play – You can find out an awful lot about what children need to learn by observing their play and interactions, but you can also glean a great deal about how they would like to learn it.
Read up – As well as having that copy of TES delivered to the staffroom every week, make sure you get a couple of Early Years comics too. Not only will they get read more than TES, they will also keep you up to date with who is who and who is doing what!
Best thing is that when you have finished with them you can use them as part of your provision. The list of things that you can do with them is endless!
I cannot emphasise enough the difference a cultural reference can make when you are 'dressing' a resource or teaching input, especially with those children who can be the least engaged when it comes to learning.
In the words of Peter Andre and Katie Price…
…it's 'A Whole New World'!