Have you heard about the four-year-old who came home from playgroup, saying, "We had television time this afternoon?"

The appalled mother rang up the manager and asked why she was paying good money to have her child parked in front of the television.

Afterall, she said, "Why pay you, when I have a television at home?"

It was a misunderstanding.

The playgroup, like others that are helping three and four-year-olds work towards the Early Learning Goals, which underpin the Foundation Stage curriculum, uses a model television.

Why? Take a simple box painted to resemble a television and, with a cut-out for the screen, once put over the childs head, will transform them into a television announcer.

This makes children think hard about what they have to say.

Extend the role play by having a circle of small children watching television, and you can encourage even shy children to make a special announcement about their new baby or a birthday in a way that will make an impact.

At the same time, it encourages the viewers to listen carefully without interrupting on the basis that you can't talk to a television.

The misunderstanding between mother and child reminds us how differently children view their activities.

So, if your child comes home saying, "We've been playing pirates", do not under-estimate the planning and preparation that were behind the boisterous battles and vigorous searching for buried treasure.

For example, tempting as it might be for a parent just to let their child get on with it, skilled intervention and planning on the part of an adult can help a child to develop new skills and understanding in a hugely enjoyable way.

The starting point for playing pirates could be a storybook for some under-fives will not have come across pirates before all will be inspired by a good picture and exciting story.

From then on, the child-care practitioner can structure activities to develop a range of skills, building up to a role play, which could involve sunken treasure (digging in the sandpit), riding the seas (painted cor-rugated paper) and a battle.

First, there's the drawing, cutting out, painting and building needed to create the crucial props: the black eye patch and sword, the skull and crossbones flag, the map for buried treasure, the play-ground boat with a sail and so on.

These construction activities lead to others, which will be included in the planning.

How can a child draw a map without first knowing what maps look like and what they represent?

Most of these activities will involve working as a team and developing social skills, and this means:

Collaborating make a sail as a group and take it outside to test the wind direction by holding it up and seeing the material billow.

Negotiating over roles decide who should read the compass so they can check the wind direction, who should be captain and so on.

Sharing learning to take turns at using the paint or make a picnic lunch with a maritime theme for everyone to share.