Enabling Environments: Tried and Tested - On the button

With so many ICT products now on the market, early years settings are spoiled for choice. Nicole Weinstein provided them with a few of the latest to test with the children.

ICT is an excellent addition to children's play. It helps develop knowledge and understanding of the world, and pressing buttons, buzzers and keys can help develop fine motor skills and co-ordination. CD-Roms and software packages can play an important role in helping to promote speaking and listening skills.




AGE: 2+

PRICE: £29.95 for DVD Rom; £6.95 per individual chapter

CONTACT: 020 3487 0665, www.madeinme.com

An interactive software package which takes children on a journey though an enchanted land with a racoon, a bear, an owl and Granny Olive, a tortoise, who tells heart-warming stories along the way. Developed in collaboration with early years ICT specialist, Professor John Siraj-Blatchford, of Swansea University's Centre for Child Research.

Tested by Godstowe Nursery, High Wycombe, Bucks

'The children loved this package, particularly the chapter on Rhythm and Dance, where they go to the river bank and select one of nine themed dance moves. Even those who are usually reluctant to join in with physical activities couldn't resist following the lively otter's instructions to flap their arms like the flamingo or snap their hands like the crocodile. We made some big frog eyes, which was one of the free print outs that came with the software, and the children put them on every time the frog popped out.

'There are so many opportunities for learning that fit with the EYFS. For example, the land contains cliff tops, a forest and a desert, and we talked about the different climates and landscapes. On each page there are questions and activities that can be printed out to extend children's learning. It's really captured the children's imaginations and they like to act out the desert scenes in the sandpit. It is a valuable, well-designed resource which we would definitely buy.'

Star Rating: ****




AGE: 3+

PRICE: £39.99

CONTACT: 01522 871259, www.digital blue.org.uk

An imaginative play ICT resource that can be worn on the arm and contains sound effects and a 'see-in-the-dark' camera with display screen to allow children to explore dark areas.

Tested by Kid Ease Nursery, Margate, Kent

'I initially introduced the product to a small group of children in an adult-led experience in a dark den. They were intrigued by it and explored the buttons, the screen and the sound effects. They used their imaginations to make the dark den a base and subsequently visited various areas to collect 'missions, shopping, enemies and heroes'. They used props such as materials and a climbing frame to create their imaginary world with the resource at the centre of the play. The product was used as a torch, a heat seeking missile, a camera, a mega blaster, a walkie-talkie, an inter-galactic telephone and a telescopic arm. This enhanced the children's imaginative learning immensely. It was particularly well utilised and enjoyed for sustained periods by boys within the group. Additionally, they used negation, both verbal and non verbal, to define their rules and turn-taking. They used rich and complex language structures, using descriptive words and long sentences in their play. We would definitely consider buying this product. It's a versatile way of introducing ICT across the areas of learning and a valuable addition to ICT resources.'

Star Rating: *****




AGE: 3-5

PRICE: single user licence = £50 (+VAT)

CONTACT: 0845 6035309, www.yellow-door.net

This CD-Rom takes children on listening walks through the seaside, the country, the street and the park. Suitable for use with interactive whiteboards, PC and MACS.

Tested by Ann Ross, childminder, Dartford, Kent

'The different scenes engaged the children and led to a discussion on real life events and experiences that they have had. The animation and bright colours held their interest. The 'What can you hear?' game helped them to concentrate and listen. The 'What's next?' game was excellent for mastering sequencing skills. The 'What's the sound?' game was excellent for getting the children to match the item to the sound. It helped the children to focus, listen and concentrate, thus developing their attention span. The variety of the activities and the multisensory approach means that this is a product that will complement all types of learning styles. The range of activities supports both memory and auditory discrimination which are both essential for the development of language. It links in excellently with the EYFS and, with careful planning, it could be used to plan for all the areas of learning.'

Star Rating: *****




AGE: 3+

PRICE: £33.99

CONTACT: www.tts-group.co.uk, 0800 318 686

A microphone that can record up to four hours of voices, sounds or music. Playback remotely or download straight to your PC through the attached USB.

Tested by Barton Primary and Nursery School, Torquay

'I would definitely consider buying this item. It's good for self-esteem across all areas of the curriculum, especially KUW and CLL. I used it to record the children's New Year's resolutions and then played it back to them. They were amazed at the clarity of the recording but a couple of children's voices didn't come through clearly. These children tried to develop a clearer voice and tried several times. It was wonderful for self esteem in a very non-threatening way. We did a survey to find out how the children travelled to school and the children acted as roving reporters.

'I think it's reasonably priced. I was very impressed by the device and found that I could use it in a variety of situations. However, there are a lot of buttons and I didn't find it really easy to define which buttons performed which function.'

Star Rating: ****




AGE: 3+

PRICE: £10.99

CONTACT: www.tts-group.co.uk, 0800 318 686

With ten large buttons, children can record messages, reminders or sound effects, and with the removable top sleeve they can create pictures or symbols to match their recording.

Tested by St Andrews Nursery Centre, St Andrews, Fife

'We feel this product doesn't really enhance children's play. It was useful for them to hear each other's voices and match the voice to the child, but it is a very adult-led product and quite fiddly for little hands to work. It was introduced as an exciting new activity and we worked together in a group, but the children quickly lost interest and moved on to other activities of their choosing. It would be helpful if the product came with batteries so it could be used straightaway. The product seems safe, although the battery compartment is very small and fiddly and we nearly lost the tiny screw. It is reasonably priced but we don't feel it's a suitable addition to our ICT resources and think it's better suited to a primary school environment.'

Star Rating: ***




AGE: 0+

PRICE: from £749 to £4249

CONTACT: 01254 298598 or www.prometheanworld.com

The ActivBoard Mobile System, at £3,949, is one of a range of interactive technologies ranging from a basic 64- inch whiteboard to a top-of-the range penand touch-capable board of 94 inches. This transportable system features a double-sided dry-erase whiteboard offering extra writing and display space and lockable storage. It can also be electronically raised or lowered.

Tested by Alyth Kindergarten, north west London

'When the whiteboard arrived, the staff and children were very excited. A few days later, a company representative came to install it and to give us a 90-minute training session, which was invaluable. It took a while to get to grips with connecting it to the internet, downloading the software and acquiring administration privileges, and the company were happy to organise extra training. After four weeks, we are starting to see what it can do and we would consider buying one that was considerably smaller with a retractable screen to utilise our space to its maximum potential.

'As an encyclopaedia, it is indispensable. We used it to show children video clips of steam trains as part of a train project. We encouraged two children at a time to use the drawing programme, which they loved. We also listened to Yellow Door's 'Come Alive Nursery Rhymes' - great on the whiteboard with the clear graphics and good sound. If we bought one we would limit the amount of time the children could access it as we feel it is vital to encourage physical activity and social interaction over turn-taking with ICT equipment.'

Star Rating: ****


All prices exclusive of VAT and post/packaging



For Elaine Cunningham of St Andrews Nursery Centre, Fife

'We wouldn't be without our Digital Blue QX5 digital microscope, which cost £89.99. It's really robust and easy to use for little hands. There are three settings of magnification. The children can take a still photograph of something under the microscope or make their own films, edit them and show them on the PC. The moviemaker software allows them to change scenes and add animation, sound effects and titles.'

Visit www.digitalblue.org.uk.

Nursery World Print & Website

  • Latest print issues
  • Latest online articles
  • Archive of more than 35,000 articles
  • Free monthly activity poster
  • Themed supplements

From £119 per year


Nursery World Digital Membership

  • Latest digital issues
  • Latest online articles
  • Archive of more than 35,000 articles
  • Themed supplements

From £119 per year


© MA Education 2020. Published by MA Education Limited, St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road, Herne Hill, London SE24 0PB, a company registered in England and Wales no. 04002826. MA Education is part of the Mark Allen Group. – All Rights Reserved