Above and Beyond Educational Experiences
Our approach goes above and beyond the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) to foster deep level learning and optimise potential.
We offer a range of unique educational experiences which enable children to become successful, lifelong learners including
Forest School is an inspirational approach that focuses on offering unique experiences for children outdoors. Forest School takes place in a woodland or natural wooded environment to support the development of a relationship between the child and the natural world.
Forest School aims to promote the holistic development of all those involved, fostering resilient, confident, independent and creative learners. Children are offered a range of activities to support this which include:
- Whittling carrots and then moving onto sticks
- Den building
- Using tools to cut wood
- Storytelling by the fire
- Cooking on the fire pit
- Listening to the sap rising in the trees using a stethoscope.
- Haper zome – making marks onto cloth using leaves and flowers.
- Role playing among the trees.
Our Forest School is run by a qualified Forest School Leader who will also risk assess the activities on offer and decide on the control measures to minimise the risks. Forest School offers children the opportunity to take supported risks appropriate to the environment and to themselves. For example, children are involved in risk assessing their journey to the forest. Also, at the start of the session the group discuss the Forest School rules including how far they are willing to play. Once the children agree on the rules the Forest School lead will tie red ribbons around the trees to show the boundary of the Forest School. Having made the rules, children are more likely to observe them.
Forest School programmes aim to develop the physical, social, cognitive, linguistic, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of each child. Being in the woodland centres children and enhances their wellbeing.
Other benefits include:
- Plentiful access to natural resources which prompts children’s imagination and creativity without limits.
- Develops children’s self-esteem and confidence.
- Promotes mindfulness as children explore the outdoor environment.
- Gives children experiences that they would not get indoors, for example, the exhilarating feeling they get when climbing a tree.
- Nurtures children’s relationship with nature.
We have developed our unique ‘Comfort Approach’ based on research that even before a baby is born they begin to be able to detect different smells, and by the time they are born they will be able to recognise their parent’s scent. Midwives and health visitors have used this knowledge to suggest that clothing worn by a parent or a blanket or special toy that smells like home will provide reassurance and comfort to help a child to settle.
Our Comfort Approach pouch includes a scarf and crocheted square known as a ‘Comfort Blanket’ which we give to parents when they register their baby to start at nursery. Parents can wear them close to their body to enable their smell to be embedded into the fabric – filling them with love – and then send them to Nursery with their baby.
The baby’s Key Person can then use these to provide comfort and reassurance to the child until the parent returns. The scarf acts as a comforter for the child to make them feel closer to their parent while at nursery and will always be made available during the day. At sleep time the crotched square is placed close to the child to help calm and soothe them; this can help the baby to settle and encourage periods of more restful sleep.
We are committed to creating an environment where children feel secure and our Key Persons play a crucial role in this by always being available for the child, providing wonderful experiences and meeting their emotional and physical needs: the Comfort Approach further strengthens this. Therefore, the Comfort Approach will be used every day to support the child’s attachment with their Key Person and maintain the bond between the child and their parent.
Wake Up and Shake Up
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.
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.
Cooking in the Early Years is an enjoyable experience which offers a wealth of learning and development opportunities.
Our Nursery’s cooking activities provide cross curricular learning across all seven areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage, and because children enjoy the experience so much, they are not even aware they are learning new skills. These activities are a sensory experience often using all five senses, making it a more engaging and truly memorable experience.
Cooking also gives children the opportunity to extend their knowledge about healthy food options, explore where food comes from, and encourage a wide range of discussions.
Our cooking station is an experience that is on offer throughout the day. Practitioners will plan to cook with the children, but children are also encouraged to be independent and choose when they wish to cook. This might be once a week or every day.
Regular cookery sessions at our Nursery help children to learn valuable self-help skills, whilst enjoying cooking delicious recipes that can be shared with our families. Some of the skills children will acquire whilst cooking are listed below:
- Promoting good hygiene before beginning, such as cleaning tables and washing hands
- Encouraging children to name ingredients and discuss where they have come from, or where/how something has been grown, and understanding the farm to fork cycle
- Encouraging children to weigh out their own ingredients, using mathematical language.
- Teaching children skills such as how to cut safely or how to crack an egg
- Talking about what is happening as you mix the ingredients together, noticing cause and effect
- Using exploration language about the textures and smells; encouraging children to explore, actively learn, and to think critically for themselves
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.
Weather Boxes Play
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.
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 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.
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.