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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Chatter Box Session
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.
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.
Young Investigators Group
Our Young Investigators Group gives children a solid foundation for their knowledge and understanding of science, which they will later build upon when moving on to primary school. The group focuses on developing children’s skills in observation, prediction, critical thinking and discussion, when reviewing the data. Concepts of number, size and position, developing motor skills, expressing themselves and building relationships and self-esteem will be involved.
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.
Together, Old and Young
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.