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By Jean EvansEarly Years consultant and author

Extend children’s knowledge of the different roles of emergency workers with engaging group activities

Children in role play


Activities in this article:

  1. The optician
  2. Emergency services
  3. Cross-curricular activities

1. The optician

Have fun recognising letters and shapes from an optician’s eye chart

Communication, Language and Literacy – Linking Sounds and Letters

Development matters: Distinguish one sound from another (22–36 months); Hear and say the initial sound in words and know which letters represent some of the sounds (40–60+ months).

Early learning goal: Link sounds to letters, naming and sounding the letters of the alphabet.

What you need

White coats; large chair; card; thick black marker pen; magnifying glass; images of eyes; old spectacle frames (glass removed); safety mirrors.

What to do

  • Make eye charts with letters shown in various different sizes; for younger children use shapes with which they are familiar or an outline of a favourite toy. Focus on children’s individual stages of development, and use letters they already know in lower case initially and gradually move to a familiar optician’s chart format depicting upper case letters. Provide children with a copy of the chart nearby, so they can point to identify the letter they can see at a distance if they are unsure of its name.
  • Invite an optician to talk about his/her work or make a visit to a local practice. Alternatively, your local health visitor or nurse may be able to talk about the eye tests they carry out in homes and settings, too. Talk to children about their experiences of visiting an optician for an eye test.
  • Set up a role play opticians together, with a chair for eye examinations placed opposite the eye charts and an area for trying on different spectacle frames. Provide dressing-up clothes for the optician and staff, and for customers. Set up a reception area with appointment sheets (see ‘Role play writing frames’ activity sheet), as well as magazines and newspapers to extend learning opportunities and discussions. Take on the role of receptionist and optician initially to model language to use, and then visit again as a customer.
  • Jim and the Beanstalk by Raymond Briggs (Puffin Books) is a great story to share with children, and will provide fun opportunities for children to measure heads and make pretend glasses too!
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