Peeple Centre-led Peep in Oxford

There are Peep-trained practitioners in many parts of Oxfordshire, working in education, health and social care, family support and the voluntary sector. South Oxford is the only part of the country where Peeple as an organisation employs our own practitioners, based at our Peeple Centre and our Little Peeple Nursery. 

Here's a snapshot of Peep group delivery over a range of sessions, from our Peeple Centre practitioners:

Playing 'What's in the bag?', exploring schemas (play patterns) and Peep parent qualification unit

It was lovely to see how excited our Little Peep group was, to get back to finding out 'What’s in the bag?'!  The red bus and the rowing boat still seem to be their favourite finds, and we sang a rousing version of ‘Wheels on the bus’. 

In this group we’ve been talking about schemas - play patterns that children like to repeat again and again.  We set up a variety of play stations – rolling balls (Rotation); tucking up dolls (Enveloping); cars (Positioning); building bricks (Connection); pegs and pine cones with little bags to put them in (Transporting) - and enjoyed watching to see what the children were drawn to. And Bartholomew Bear’s antics in John Prater’s Again! is a story we can all relate to, and fits really well when thinking about schemas… 

Other groups have been getting started on the Peep Progression Pathway in Supporting Early Learning at Home. The chance to make a keepsake book which records a child’s learning and development is a really special reminder of those precious early years.

Early mark making

We enjoyed a great session making marks: we taped black and white paper to the floor and let the children explore coloured chalks on black paper and paint dobbers on white paper. The results were wonderfully expressive, lively and colourful. We were surprised how long they spent swirling, scribbling, writing and drawing.  Some of our younger children spent a long time making dots and curves, while one or two of our three year olds made a mixture of straight lines and curves which begin to mimic first letters.

By coincidence this week we were asking parents and carers for feedback on our sessions. The power of modelling was clear to see, as the little people were very happy to be copying their important adults, who were also busy writing away on the feedback forms.

As usual our songs included actions with a mixture of gross and fine motor skills (large and small movements). These are really helpful for developing muscles in the shoulders, arms, wrists, hands and fingers which are needed for mark making and later writing. We sang Ready and up and down… while we were sitting around the paper, and used the chalks and inks to mimic the words as we did the actions: up and down, side to side, around and around, backwards and forwards.

Counting, shapes, patterns, routines and everyday maths language

We’ve been counting in our Peep groups: fingers, toes, shoes – you name it, we’ve counted it!  Our 3 little ducks have been busy, and we’ve also been thinking about shapes, patterns, sequences, distance and space.  There are lots of lovely stories with numbers, but we’ve also been thinking about ‘all gone’ and singing Peepo! 

From their earliest days, babies seem fascinated by black and white high-contrast patterns. We talked about how routines of the day such as meal times, nappy changes and bedtime can introduce and extend the idea of patterns and sequence. 

All the maths activities are great for supporting language development too:

This teddy is small but that one’s enormous! 

Parents liked the Peep activity sheets which have great ideas to take home (Clapping Games and finger rhymes and Building a chimney pot/ tower together).

Treasure hunt and ORIM

It’s a great time of year for picking up apples and spotting squirrels.  We have been taking advantage of the late summer sun to be outside on a treasure hunt looking for squirrels, hedgehogs, autumn leaves and conkers.  ‘Pick up a conker and put it in the basket’ is a great song to make tidying up fun – you can substitute conkers for anything else!

Apples have been a big inspiration.  As well as encouraging us all to eat more fruit they have inspired one Stay and Play group who painted giant apple cores.

 As usual all our Peep sessions have used the ORIM framework:

  • Talking about what Opportunities the children have had over the summer break as well as what might be in store for the new term. 
  • Practitioners and parents/carers have been working hard Recognising what sort of activities would suit their children and groups while we plan for the weeks ahead, as well as offering lots of encouragement to our enthusiastic young learners. 
  • Interaction: it’s useful to think about the ways we can encourage our babies and children – songs, stories and sharing books feature in all our Peep sessions.  What better way to Model to our little ones – doing things together is a great way to show them new things, help them reach their next steps, and build on their instinct to copy what’s going on around them.

Preparing and eating food together (mixed age group) and balance and co-ordination (babies)

In our mixed age Peep group we’ve had a healthy start to the year, exploring fruit and vegetables and talking about where they come from. We also chatted about how buying, preparing, cooking and eating food together supports children’s learning and development. While whizzing up bananas and milk to make delicious milkshakes we were able to talk about cleaning our teeth and handwashing; ‘Here we go round the Mulberry Bush’ is great for modelling the actions. 

There are lots of songs to support this topic: ‘Pick up a fruit and put it in the basket’ and ‘Bouncing up and down on my little green tractor’ can both be sung to the tune of ‘Bobby Shaftoe’. 

Our handwashing song is sung to the tune of ‘Frere Jacques’/’I hear thunder’, and parents were impressed (and sometimes surprised) at their children’s enthusiasm for washing while they sang…

Soap and water, soap and water
Wash your hands, wash your hands
Rub them both together, rub them both together
Wash them well, wash them well

In Baby Peep we’ve been thinking about balance and co-ordination.  The babies have been bouncing, stretching, clapping and grasping and we’ve had fun playing with beanbags and balls.  We have been singing ‘Row, row, row your boat’, ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes’ and the old favourite ‘This is the way the ladies ride’. It’s such fun (and not just for the babies!) when they get to know a song, and you can see them waiting for you to touch their toes (or trying to touch their own), or getting excited before they go down in the ditch!

A simple but fun activity to try at home that helps develop co-ordination is playing roll the ball.

Visiting the library and sharing books with babies

Our baby groups visited their local library this month.  Not only can babies and children borrow up to 20 books, there are regular events for little ones to enjoy.  It’s a great outing, there's an enormous range of books out there to be enjoyed, and it’s free! 

Books are great for encouraging lots of things:

  • babies reaching out for books helps their gross motor skills
  • turning pages supports the development of fine motor skills
  • sharing books with babies helps nurture early language
  • from the earliest moments, black and white books will capture the interest of a newborn
  • focusing on the pictures helps concentration too.  

Parents in the groups talked about when and where is a good time for book sharing: books for quiet times, books in the bath, books before bed.  Listening to stories is a great way for young children to hear all the sounds that make up spoken language. Stories introduce young babies and children to these sounds, as well as to the rhythms and patterns of language.  There’s nothing better than settling down for a cuddle and a good book!

Exploring ORIM, routines and autumn sensory play

This term we have been enjoying using the updated Peep Learning Together Programme.  It’s made it really easy to follow any themes and topics that parents have raised in my baby group.  In the first weeks I introduced parents to ORIM, and in subsequent weeks we’ve talked about baby watching and Routines: using the Peep group to discuss why the routine helps babies to know what to expect, and to feel secure. Parents spent a lot of time thinking about the question ‘How did you feel before you came to your first Peep group?’. They could then relate that to how their babies  might feel about new experiences.

In other Peep groups Autumn has been a big inspiration. ‘Pick up a Conker and Put it in the Basket’ (sung to any well-known tune that fits, such as Bonnie Bobby Shaftoe)  reminds us all of the benefits of getting out and about.  Children have had opportunities to explore gourds – delighting in their interesting colours and shapes and feeling their knobbly  skins.  Autumn sensory play with felt leaves, real leaves, pine cones and pasta not only looked (and felt!) a treat, but kept children interested, and supported our autumn songs.

Early mark making:  Our mixed age Peep Group loved using fabric paint... Parents enjoyed getting involved too.  This session was supported by singing ‘Ready and… up and down’ which introduces young children to the hand and arm motions needed for making letters.