9 Tips to Improve

Your Nursery Learning Journeys
Without taking up all your time.

Learning journeys, learning journals, ‘paperwork’.

Whatever you call them, they do tend to be controversial. A hugely valuable resource for parents to see the progress of their little ones, they’re also a great way to show off all the hard work you’re doing in your setting.

But there’s no doubt that practitioners and managers don’t get into childcare for paperwork. At times, it can feel like all this paperwork is actually taking away from the very thing it’s trying to show.

So what’s the answer? Well, we’ve focused on trying to give you some ideas that will show off everything you need to show, without taking up hours each and every week.

1. ‘Wow’ moments

One great way to add some variety to your learning journeys is to include milestones, or ‘wow moments’. Rather than more formal observations, these are celebrations of when a child does something for the very first time.

Standard dates that will apply to any child are a good place to start, such as “My first day at nursery” or “My first birthday at nursery”. From here you can include the first time they tried something new, and when they managed to achieve the little wins.

Saving me time?
Take the time to draw up a big list of potential ‘wow moments’ for staff to reference. Look over old learning journeys and note down every time you find a new one. On a day-to-day basis, having this as a resource for staff will massively reduce the time it takes for these small additions.

2. More Photos, Less Work

Observations require a certain level of detail, and staff need to take the time to recognise next steps and evaluate each child. But we’re an increasingly visual bunch, and the more you can explain with photographs the better.

With great online systems to bring together the photographs, and free programs to help you if you want to print them out, you don’t just need to use the photos when you want to link to an observation. Parents just love to see photos, and having a wide variety is going to make a big difference to the look and feel of your learning journals.

Saving me time?

No one wants technology to get in the way of the real work. Consider putting staff on photograph time slots, so that they know for a few hours a week they need to try to take some snaps here and there, letting all the other practitioners focus on the important care they’re providing.

3. My favourites

Is there a song or nursery rhyme a certain child can’t get enough of? Their favourite book, toy, or role play area you’ve made? Include it!

Adding ‘My Favourite’ pictures or little notes serve a bunch of different purposes. Once the kids are off to big school, it’s a lovely way for parents to look back at all the things they’ve loved doing along the way. It’s also great for parents to further understand their children’s interests along the way.

Saving me time?

The good thing about this one is that these things are normally pretty self-explanatory. Just keep a small document on your system where you can note them down and they’ll be simple to fill up.

4. Don’t Repeat Your Work

The ultimate frustration is when staff are forced to do work more than once. Find ways to make sure this doesn’t happen. If you’re using an online system, it’s easy to copy information and photos across from different systems. With handwritten notes, the photocopier is your friend. You can repurpose displays of children’s work into their learning journals, saving both the time you spend on displays and on the learning journals themselves.

Saving me time?
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s worth checking over every way you contribute to learning journeys and other paperwork, trying to find ways you can use the work for dual purposes. It’ll be a huge relief when you realise quite how much typing up you can avoid.

5. Involving the kids

Who doesn’t like talking about themselves? Whether it’s drawing the front covers, adding little bits here and there, or just looking over the photos with you, involving the children in the process of making the learning journeys is what it’s all about.

Saving me time?
Getting quality one on one time with the children and a chance to walk them through some emotional development along the way, this is a great way to integrate some of your paperwork into the work that matters.

6. My Unique Child & More

Getting parents involved is key to creating a great learning journal (and take some of the slack off you at the same time!). Getting them to fill out a ‘My Unique Child’ page when they begin at your nursery is a great start.

It can include everything from basic information right through to some of their favourite things, what makes them laugh, and how they like to go through their day. Invaluable as a starting resource, it’s also great to see how the children develop through the time they’ve spent at your setting.

Saving me time?
Why stop there? Sending the journals home might seem a bit scary if they’re not digital but parents understand their importance and the risk is far lower than you think. Getting them to include photos, comments and ‘Wow Moments’ from home will be a great addition to the book and help to take some of the paperwork needed to create a fuller journey off your hands. Once a term should be more than enough.

7. “We Saw…” Notes

Much more informal than full observations, these notes on day-to-day happenings, successes, and activities are a great way to give some context to day-to-day life at the nursery. They might be random photos, or little notes about something that happened. Either way, they’ll help to flesh out the learning journal with little effort.

Saving me time?

Try leaving post-it notes or stickers around the nursery. That way staff can quickly jot down if something happens with one of their key children without seriously disrupting their day for a long period of paperwork.

8. Variety

By now you should have a few more things to add to the learning journals than the formal observations. Having small bits you can add on top of the more significant entries can make sitting down to update them a much simpler process.

Saving me time?
Having a wide variety of inspiration for pieces to add helps to make the learning journey process much less of a box ticking exercise. Hopefully, you’ll no longer have practitioners struggling to fit things into one child’s learning journal because they’re doing things a little differently than a lot of their other key children.

9. Organisation

The one key to all of this? Getting yourself organised. That way your staff don’t have to do it all for themselves every time they sit down to do an update. Understanding how to manage your time and theirs goes a long way, and setting aside proper time for staff to do paperwork and paying them for it is a must.

Things like having key worker folders online or off where you can collect everything ready for them to add, and giving them enough understanding and inspiration to be able to add to them easily and quickly are absolutely key.

It really needn’t be a weekly thing either. If you want, you can set aside time each month to just add observations and development matters goals, along with whatever bits and bobs you’ve collected. Then each term, before you send it home, you can tidy them up, evaluate next steps, add more information and then send them off, so the parents can help to contribute to a better learning journal too.

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