Wake Up and Shake Up
At our nursery, children over two years of age take part in a fun fitness session every day at around 9:00am, and younger children are invited to join in with the session if they wish to do so. This exciting five-minute session is part of our Nursery’s everyday routine and ensures children’s brains are engaged, and they are alert and ready to learn.
Research has shown that when children are carrying out cross-lateral movements, this encourages the two sides of the brain to communicate. In turn, this strengthens the nerve-cell pathways linking both sides of the brain, making it easier for children to learn and absorb information and skills from activities. Other benefits of exercise for children include, healthy heart and lungs, strengthening of muscles and bones, as well as providing relaxation and developing co-ordination.
The Wake Up and Shake Up songs which accompany these sessions, encourage health and well-being and link in with the Early Years Foundation Stage areas of learning, particularly Physical Development and Communication and Language – both prime areas of learning for young children.
Music and movement sessions teach children to move with control and confidence whilst encouraging them to become more aware of the space around them. It also provides the opportunity for children to learn about their bodies and what they can do.
At our nursery, we believe that preparing children mentally for the challenges that life may bring, is just as important as preparing them intellectually and physically. In our ever-changing world, one third of children within nurseries today will go on to jobs that currently do not exist. To ensure they are as prepared for this as possible, it is vital that children’s Personal, Social and Emotional Development is at the forefront of everything we do. Making relationships, being able to regulate behaviour and understanding how to manage their feelings are key skills that children must learn to be successful in their later lives. With this in mind, our nursery has a dedicated area where children are able to develop these skills.
Starting with our youngest children; the ‘Feelings Bag’ is filled with resources that allow them to begin to acknowledge different types of feelings, such as happy, sad, shy, excited and angry. Practitioners use tools and resources, supported by detailed activity cards, to introduce these feelings to the children and also to demonstrate different ways in which they can be supported or ‘made to feel better’. This provides children with the initial understanding of how someone might make them feel happy and excited, or supported when they feel sad or shy.
As the children develop their understanding of feelings, the emotional aspect is added into our learning experience. This is achieved by helping children take their understanding of different feelings, and begin to look at how they may affect others. Activities such as using an animal puppet to simulate body language which represents how a child might be feeling, and supporting the children in their language and behaviours, are key ways that practitioners help children secure an understanding of emotional patterns and the impact of the actions of others.
Emotions and Relationships
The final stage, which takes place with the Pre-School aged children, explores the development of relationships and how children’s understanding of behaviour patterns which relate to emotions and feelings, can be used to support them in building lasting, meaningful relationships with adults and children.
As children develop, more advanced feelings and emotions are included, to further extend children’s vocabulary and their comprehension of how to process and handle these, and many other feelings, for example, feeling blissful, ecstatic or panicked.
It is through these activities and interactions that children are also taught about the concept of anger, frustration, and being annoyed when things don’t go how they planned or when something unpleasant happens. Staff use stories and activity cards to support each child in knowing that it is okay to feel these emotions, whilst also providing them with the tools to be able to recognise and regulate their behaviour to ensure they act appropriately.
At our nursery, Family Boxes are created to enable young babies to connect with photographs of people or objects that are special to them. Research suggests that young babies focus best on high-contrast tones of black, white and red, which is why in our Baby Room, we have created an area using only these high contrast tones, to stimulate our young babies’ minds. We ask our parents or carers to provide photographs which are mounted onto objects that can be manipulated by the baby’s small hands. A sound object will also be placed inside. This offers babies, not only sight recognition, but also sound, enabling them to connect with the item using three of their senses. Young babies will reach out and touch their own object to explore it further.
The Family Boxes are kept at the baby’s height in the contrast area, allowing them to be explored by the baby when they are mobile. If a baby is not yet mobile, they will explore and discover their Family Box with their Key Person.
Practitioners use facial expressions and a voice that shows interest and excitement, together with lots of language, to engage babies whilst they explore and discuss the boxes.
Chatter Box Session
Our older children are encouraged to construct and make their own ‘Chatter Box’ at home by collecting a few of their favourite items and placing them in a shoe box or something similar in shape and size. The box is decorated at home with the parent or carer and then brought into the nursery.
In small groups, with their Key Person, children are encouraged to share the contents of their ‘Chatter Box’ with their peers. This activity is always undertaken in small groups to allow each child in the group a turn to discuss a few of their items. All children will be given the chance to ask questions and participate in conversations within the group.
Taking part in ‘Chatter Box’ time will encourages children to listen to their peers which helps develop their attention and concentration skills.
The vocabulary a child uses when describing their special items will extend to reflect the breadth of their experiences. This activity also enables children to organise, sequence and clarify their thinking, ideas, feelings and events. Children will be encouraged to express themselves, whilst showing awareness of the group’s listeners and needs, whilst using past, present and future forms of language.
Our ‘Chatter Boxes’ encourage and enable the older children to speak confidently in a friendly and secure situation, whilst initiating conversations and forming good relationships with others. These are all skills which are required for school readiness and which will help to ensure a smooth transition for your child when they start their Reception year.
Weather Boxes Play
Outdoor play is an essential requirement for children of all ages, but it shouldn’t focus purely on running, jumping and riding bikes. The natural world is the perfect place to enhance children’s curiosity, critical thinking and communication and language development.
Our Weather Boxes have been specifically designed for all age ranges to provide additional learning and development opportunities outside of the classroom environment. From story times and mark making, to mobile mud kitchens and science and investigation, these boxes have it all.
The boxes have been dynamically designed to provide everything our practitioners need to effectively carry out the activities contained within the box. Children are given the free choice as they enter the garden or head out for their walk, to choose which, if any boxes, they would like to access. Each adult-led activity using a Weather Box provides cross-curricular learning for children of all ages and covers the breadth of the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum.
Outside of the Early Years Outcomes, our children learn the importance of looking after the environment around them. They are encouraged and effectively supported in playing and exploring, actively learning, and questioning ‘the norm’ with their skills of creativity and critical thinking. This is all achieved through the use of a Weather Box and the interaction and teaching from our practitioners.
Our children develop an understanding of the fundamental British Values during these activities, through turn taking, joint decision making and sustained shared thinking. They use the inventory included within each Weather Box to ensure they have repackaged each item, showing that they have developed a level of care and respect for the resources they use. This also demonstrates care and respect for their peers in ensuring that the next group of children to use the Weather Box have all of the resources that are required.
Children today, have an ever-growing curiosity about the outside world, where foods come from and how they grow. Garden Champions is our own bespoke extra-curricular gardening activity. This activity extends children’s knowledge of the outdoor environment, habitats, caring for living things, growth cycles and growing vegetation outdoors. Our Garden Champion activities are an effective method of harnessing our children’s curiosity in this area and shaping their understanding of the world around them.
Our nursery has a nominated ‘Garden Champion’ who attends regular training sessions to further develop their own knowledge and skills, enabling them to bring back to nursery, a range of seasonal activities which can be carried out with the children. This is not simply an activity of planting grass seeds in a pot, but is in fact an opportunity for children to make use of real-life gardening tools and equipment to prepare an area, sow seeds, tend to vegetation and harvest their produce at the end of the process. The use of these tools further extends the children’s knowledge and understanding of how to manage their own risk, handle tools carefully, and keep themselves safe in an outdoor environment. Our children always complete their own visual risk assessment of the area, with the support of a practitioner, and decide for themselves if it is an appropriate and safe time to complete their activity. If the children decide it is not, they will then discuss what can be done to make it so.
Aside from developing knowledge of plant life and what is needed to promote healthy growth of their garden, our children also gain an understanding of agriculture, farming and the food chain, through a wide range of extension opportunities, both inside and outside of the classroom.
Fruits and vegetables grown are picked and prepared by the children, alongside the nursery chef, who will then factor them into the menu for that day. This provides children with the ‘garden to plate’ experience, a fundamental aspect of supporting them in being able to make informed choices about the foods they put into their bodies.
Our nursery is registered with the Royal Horticultural Society and has achieved their RHS accreditation.
Together, Old and Young
The purpose of this project is to promote intergenerational learning and create new possibilities for older adults and young children to learn together and benefit from each other’s interactions. For many families, older adults and younger children are having less and less contact with each other due to working life or travelling distance. The relationship and bond that forms between the elderly and the young is amazing. Children visit a care home on a regular basis to cement the relationship and enable memory skills to be recalled.
Children learn important life lessons – what better way than to learn from wise elderly people who have lived a long and interesting life? The elderly have learned many valuable lessons and sharing their stories with the children is magical.
If the children are having fun and learning with the elderly residents, then their respect for each other will grow naturally. Key persons aid the interaction at the elderly care home with close supervision ensuring neither age group is vulnerable to any risk of fall or over stretching themselves.
Children will bring cakes or biscuits made at the nursery or share their artwork on the visit and descriptive language and recall on memory skills will be encouraged. The strong partnership helps the children have a sense of their own community and offers local citizenship; all strengths needed for the awareness of the world around them.
Our nursery features a ‘Chatter Approach’ in the walk up to, or reception area of the building. The chatter approach is designed to promote each child’s communication and language development through a series of visual prompts they can explore. These may include a range of images, questions or small challenges to complete and share with their peers/key person within the setting.