Arlin is three years old and lives in New Barnet, London with his mum, dad and older brother. Arlin and his mum Linda recently attended the 6 week ‘Good Start Great Start’ programme at St Margaret’s Nursery in Barnet, part of the Barnet Early Years Alliance (BEYA). Arlin’s parents are from Montenegro and they have lived in the UK for 17 years.
Before attending the programme Arlin was a quiet child. He wasn’t very independent and he had a tendency to be impatient. Linda has found the programme to be extremely beneficial in lots of different ways for both her and Arlin.
Arlin learnt a lot from the Super Snack activities; he has become more adept at helping in the kitchen. He has learnt how to use a knife safely; he helps clear away and puts things in the bin without any instruction. Linda thought the children attending the programme responded in a very positive way when seeing their peers working on an activity. This made the learning much easier as the children started to model each other and the parents all reported that their child would then copy the activity at home, like tidying up and putting rubbish in the bin. They now often make banana sandwiches together and have made some of the other recipes in the Parent Handbook.
Arlin really enjoyed learning to wash his hands properly and getting the children used to queueing helped them learn to wait to take their turn. The transformation from Week 1 to Week 6 was remarkable. All the children queued up without instruction to head off to ‘Children’s Me Time’ session.
Arlin enjoyed the different ‘Make and Do’ activities and going to collect the resources each week. He particularly liked the Shape Shop exercise and learning about shapes and making his own picture with them.
During the 1st session, Arlin was very upset about being separated from his mum when it came to ‘Children’s Me Time’. The facilitator advised Linda that it would be fine to allow him to be upset and cry for a while so that he could work through the separation. The next session, Arlin was upset again but less so and Linda could see a real benefit to allowing Arlin to feel these emotions and process them. By the latter weeks he would just join the other children in the line to leave their parents for the ‘Children’s Me Time’ session.
The structure of the programme helped all the children to get used to a sequence of activities and by the latter weeks the children were getting ready for the next activity without instruction. Linda also felt the work that was done around using facial expressions to recognise emotions was a really good way to get the children to show their feelings and understand other people’s feelings. Both parents and children enjoyed the Story Bag exercise and the activity helped the parents implement this idea into everyday activities such as shopping or going to the park.
Linda found the structure and rules within the programme invaluable for the children it helped them get used to following a timetable. This has led her to break down individual activities at home, for example stating that “We are now having breakfast”. This focuses Arlin so that he pays more attention in terms of what he is doing, whereas before he was eating breakfast and playing at the same time. She now prepares Arlin before doing an activity such as going shopping. This has made Arlin much more receptive and focused on the task at hand which has created a noticeable improvement in his behaviour. She now writes lists when they go shopping and puts a drawing next to each item so that he can participate in the shopping experience which has made him less impatient and more engaged.
Linda learnt some good techniques for communicating with Arlin. One particular technique that she now uses is rather than raise her voice when she wants to get his attention she touches him on the shoulder so he shifts his focus to her.
Linda made a good friendship with one of the parents through the ‘Parent’s Me Time’ activities. She found it really helpful to be able to talk to other parents about the issues you face as a parent. The parents decided to create a social media group at the end of the programme so that they can stay in contact with each other.
Linda says that Arlin is more independent and relaxed since being on the programme. Linda thought one of the most important parts of the programme is the social aspect for the children. The children developed their social skills and ability to interact with other children. Arlin made a good friend during the process.
Linda said that she thought the programme could be beneficial for all children and would definitely recommend ‘Good Start Great Start’
to other parents. She also thought that the programme could be very useful potentially for children with special needs. She felt that they would respond well to the structured activities and rules.
We’ve been given the right tools, we’ve been given a certain perspective which maybe we wouldn’t have had before, which is brilliant.
He became more confident each week. His vocabulary has improved.
Being with other mums in a safe environment where you can talk without feeling any kind of judgement and exchanging ideas.
I really enjoyed the one to one time with my child. The children loved the story bags.
It’s really nice, because it’s not me telling her a story, she is telling me a story, so that was really nice.
It gave me clues about how simple things, like posting a letter which we never do nowadays, or a postcard, something that you can really involve them in
I thought the queuing thing was fantastic, teaching them to queue.
And when she came back the next week, she was so excited, she said when we got home we did this and we did this and it’s something they wouldn’t have normally done at home.
Some parents did say that they have begun to tidy up a little bit at home and setting the table
They really enjoyed each other’s company and they really enjoyed talking, “oh this happened to me or that happened to me, don’t worry about it, he had a tantrum in a shop – oh that happens to me all the time”. So as parents now, they are helping each other.
A lot of them progressed from mum writing their name on their badge, they might have had back to front letters, but the children by the end of it were writing their own stickers.
The parents have set up a WhatsApp group to stay in touch and they are planning a trip to the park together.
I loved all of it, it was simple but effective.
I like the fact that I’ve made a difference to every family, I feel like I’ve done something, whereas sometimes I’ve done a programme and they’ve all gone away with a certificate and gone thanks for that but that is the end, it doesn’t feel like that with this programme.
The theory at the back was good because it’s concise, thank you!
BEYA – GSGS TOP TIPS
- Use a Xylophone as the time keeping bell for activities
- A kitchen trolley was used as the clear away area
- Provide plastic bags for the children to take home leftover super snacks and make and do items
- Took photos throughout the programme and gave the parents copies