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Tips of the trade 33. Keep a pocket spare

If you teach nursery, a capacious pocket is essential. Contents should include a puppet, Post-it notes, a pen and a wad of tissues. Throughout the day it will become a useful temporary home for confiscated lipstick, bits of used sticking plaster, misplaced toys and the odd coin or bead retrieved from a mouth or nose.

Puppets immediately engage a small child's attention. My mouse mopped up tears, stroked cheeks and elicited conversation from the most reticent pupils. It reassured children who'd wet themselves by admitting it had done the same. It reduced the noise in group sessions by saying it was tired and needed quiet to sleep, and it showed how to listen to stories. It always felt safe. It praised progress and frowned on jiggery-pokery. In short, it performed miracles.

The Post-its can be used as an aide-memoire, or to make instant tickets for travel to Australia, the zoo or the moon. You can even put the sticky bits on your fingers to demonstrate "two little dicky birds sitting on a wall".

Tissues are a must for sudden tears, poorly knees and bleeding or snotty noses, particularly after an unexpected sneeze.

If your wardrobe lacks a large-pocketed garment, or you don't want your Versace dragged out of shape, pick up a suitable item at a charity shop.The nursery teacher's watchword is "be prepared".

Gill Tweed retired last Easter from Sheringdale school, in the London borough of Wandsworth. Have you any useful tips for new teachers?We pay pound;50 for all tips published. Send yours to

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