We all love pound shops, right? Being in there holding a shopping basket full of pens, pencils, crayons, paints, paper and card of all colours & sizes, straws, paper plates, marbles, containers, balloons, stickers & labels, envelopes & bubble wrap, trouser hangers (don’t ask), stainless steel cooking & baking utensils, pastry cutters & tongs, measuring spoons, ping pong balls, pegs, packets of seeds & bulbs, paintbrushes & rollers, masking tape, sandpaper sheets, craft packs, glue sticks & scissors, while we’re sliding another full basket across the floor with our foot. The typical observer would be forgiven for thinking that we’re getting ready for a spot of decorating, organising a party, doing a bit of gardening or maybe sending some parcels. Forgiven even for wondering why on earth we’re buying 4 packs of fly swats when there’s already 5 in each pack, or why we’re pulling apart all of the cat litter trays so we have 12 of the same colour to go with our colour scheme, or asking the assistant if they have any turkey basters in stock … in July. But we all recognise a fellow Childminder when we see one don’t we?

How excited we are to get home, take everything out of its packaging and reduce the waste by setting aside everything that can be re-used or recycled by the children for arts and crafts or model-building. Then, how we marvel at how fantastic it was that we got 21 play dough (pastry) cutters for £3 and how they’d have cost £3.95 for just 6 cutters in the supermarket. How we got 10 sets of balloon bats (fly swats) for £4, 2 x A4 magnet boards (baking trays) for £1 and 4 new paint palettes (silicone 6 hole muffin trays) for 50p from the bargain bucket. We sit in the middle of the floor with all our wonderful stuff spread around us and then wrack our brains about what the heck we can use the ping pong balls for – because the kids are actually all too little to play table tennis and more besides, we don’t even have a table tennis table. Nothing immediately springs to mind right now but we’re Childminders – we will think of a fantastically clever idea very soon – or we will see something inspiring on a forum or a blog, or somebody from a playgroup will tell us what they use them for or, we could always just put them in a bowl among the other resources and see what the kids decide to do with them. It doesn’t get more open-ended than that does it?

As usual I’ve gone all around the houses but before I do get to my point, let me tell you how shocked my parents, colleagues and associates are when I tell them that my lesson planning for further and higher education students is far less onerous than some of the planning that I see some practitioners doing for 0-5 year olds. That despite being comparatively basic, my lessons are interactive, engaging and learner-centred. And yes, I do observe lots of professional practice and I do go into lots of different settings including: maintained schools & nurseries; independent and private schools & nurseries; community nurseries; children’s centres; early years centres; workplace nurseries; Home-based Childcarer and Childminding settings so I speak from considerable experience here.

So, here’s what you need to do. Make a shopping list of things that you will need from Poundland (well, you might have to try Poundsmart, Poundworld, Poundshop or even 99pland but I’m sure you get the gist) to get yourself ready for paperless planning.

THE BASICS: Plain paper banquet tablecloths (3 in a pack usually). Go for pale colours or white. But, if you’re more environmentally friendly and/or want to adopt paperless planning for outdoors too then buy plain plastic banquet tablecloths (also usually in packs of 3) or shower curtains (you can use the rings for a million other things of course so set these aside for another day). A4 dry wipe boards, preferably one for each child and one for yourself. Look out for the ones that come with a bonus dry wipe pen and eraser too. An assortment of felt tip pens for the paper tablecloths and dry wipe pens for everything else. Thick white card and laminating pouches. That’s it.

If you want to take it a bit further you could get these extras (not usually available in pound shops but you could always ask Santa nicely): an A3 dry wipe board to hang on the wall – one for indoors and one for outdoors perhaps (or to stand on a shelf or unit if you don’t always want to see it hanging around); and an A4 perspex/acrylic display stand (preferably one for each table-top activity or play area).

It’s presumed you already have a laminator, laptop or PC, printer and digital camera, maybe even an ipad or other mobile device but for those technophobes out there, don’t worry, I’ve never left a student behind and I’m not about to start now. Paperless planning is still entirely possible. Worried that you won’t have the right evidence for your Ofsted Inspector? Don’t, because you will.

Now, it might seem fairly obvious to some of you where this is going but, if not, don’t worry. Part 2 is coming very soon with an accompanying tutorial/presentation demonstrating and illustrating not only how to use your fabulous new resources but how to add some very excellent teaching techniques to your everyday practice.

“But we’re not Teachers, we’re Childminders!”

I hear you cry but yes, you kind of are actually so off you pop to the pound shop and if you find any of these items anywhere cheaper than £1 then you will have to spill the beans because technically, the title of this post and its alliteration will be just all wrong and you have noooo idea how that rankles a perfectionist such as I.

Until part 2, here’s tip #1. Use Microsoft Powerpoint to annotate photos and send to parents. If they want to print them off as a learning journal then they can. Do one per child per week, per fortnight, per month – whatever you can fit in.

paperless planning