November at Highgate

We started the month with a ‘Stay & Play’ session in our Baby Room. Our parents/carers were invited along to nursery to join in some fun activities. They enjoyed singing along to lots of nursery rhymes, listening to the story of ‘Dear Zoo’ & taking part in some messy activities! They painted pictures using different flowers for printing & then got all squishy in the multi-coloured spaghetti! A great time was had by all 🙂

On 11th November, Remembrance Day, the children in Pre-School & Rising 3’s enjoyed a trip to the local care home to sing songs to the residents! They gave out the poppies they had made at nursery that morning &, in return, the residents gave the children some chocolates to take home! We think the residents must have really enjoyed the children’s singing, as they asked us if we would like to go back near Christmas!

Children in Need celebrations got underway on Friday 15th November, when all the staff and children came to nursery in their pyjamas to raise money for this worthwhile cause!

We’re now looking forward to December & all the festivities that will feature 🙂

Learning in the early years

Blimey, children have got a lot to learn.

We already know that the first eight years of a child’s life is the most important time in their development. In the early years, learning is happening at a speed that won’t be equalled again, as children race to build those vital connections in their brains that help them to understand the world around them.

As it’s laid out in the EYFS, children learn best when they are in a safe, rich, enabling environment, with responsive, positive adults who have a good understanding of the uniqueness in every child.

But what exactly are we trying to teach them?

In these early years, it is important that children build their content knowledge. That they learn…stuff. But far more important is that they discover how to connect this understanding to the real-world around them, test ideas, apply their knowledge to different situations and develop the skills to live in the world.

And this deeper level of learning, that’s where learning through play comes in.

Why do children learn through play?

We all know play when we see it, but at the same time it can be kind of tricky to define.

It’s often described as the work of children, and we know that all sorts of different young mammals engage in play, which in itself is a strong argument for the developmental benefits of play.

Think back to your own childhood. What did it feel like to play? For me, I associate it with the freedom to explore, with doing something for its own sake rather than as a means to an end. I had choice and control, and was really engaged in whatever was going on.

Theorists have long talked about the different types of play, from physical play and pretend play, to social play, object play, and language play. What is continuous through all of them is that the child has control, or agency over what they’re doing.

Time to delve into exactly why that matters…

1. Children learn about the world through play

When children are making up a game, moving toys around, creating new worlds in their head – they are not just engaging in meaningless fun (as if fun was ever meaningless anyway!), they are taking in the world around them, understanding it by starting to put the things they experience into categories in their head – and exploring them.

From a young baby exploring their body movement as they start to crawl and grab things, to toddlers exploring movement, gravity and size in a sandbox, right up to pre-schoolers learning about emotions and broadening their imagination as they create pretend worlds with their friends – play opens up a child’s mind to the world around them.

This helps children to learn more than just unconnected facts. It gives them that deeper learning and allows them to apply their ideas to the real world.

2. Children are inherently motivated to play

In the most basic sense, play is valuable simply because children are motivated by it.

We know from research that we are most likely to learn when we are motivated, and in happy, well-nourished, safe populations of children, play thrives.

But you don’t need studies to know that. You can see in your daily life that children who are happy, healthy, and have confidence are naturally motivated to explore their world through play.

What this means is that you have engaged learners, who take something valuable from every experience, rather than bored children taking direct instruction while looking longingly out the window at the world of play just out of their reach.

3. Play allows children to take charge

We’ve mentioned already that choice and freedom are key components of play. But this is also part of why learning through play is so powerful.

Play can help children to become more self-aware and build their confidence – both crucial skills we all need to be lifelong learners. The fact that they’ve been the key decision-makers also means they get much more satisfaction from what they’ve done, which in turn contributes to a richer learning experience.

This isn’t to diminish the role of others in play. When children see adults or their friends playing too, it can help them to grow in confidence. Adults can help to scaffold language and provide opportunities in the environment that invoke curiosity and exploration.

It’s a team effort, but the child gains a lot from taking the lead.

4. Play can be social

It goes without saying, but being able to build relationships and work together is a pretty key skill in our society.

Play can be solitary, but especially with older children it is often social, and becomes a natural way for children to connect, develop communication, practice turn-taking and much more.

It also provides opportunities to learn from one other. From birth, children are learning an awful lot by copying what they see in order to make sense of it. Seeing a friend explore a new idea, or something unfamiliar in their play can be a great entry point to new experiences for children of all ages.

What’s more, collaborative play teaches children those key how-to-learn skills that make them lifelong learners, developing an understanding of what you can achieve by working together.

5. Play lets children experiment

For children, play is a safe space. They can try things out without fear of failure, solve problems through trial and error, and use their imaginations to come up with new solutions. By doing so, they expand what is possible for them.

Imagine that a child is putting up a den, and the sheet keeps falling off. By trying different angles, they might learn about balance and weight. They can try seeing if items like clips will help to keep it in place. Through trial and error, they’ll get greater satisfaction when they succeed, and learn a lot from their failures along the way.

Repeating skills over and over is also a key part of physical development, something that happens a lot in physical play. In pretend play, children are testing theoretical worlds and starting to think about and experiment with what might happen in the future.

Most importantly, they learn not to be afraid of trying things out and failing, which is another key skill in acquiring the skill to be lifelong learners.

6. Children are actively engaged in thinking during play

When you observe children in play, you’ll find they’re often deeply immersed in what might seem to you like a simple task, persisting even in the face of distractions.

This kind of ‘switched-on’ brain function has been shown to increase brain activation related to decision-making and agency, as well as memory and retrieval processes, that help to support learning.

This is why self-directed play is so important – because the best learning takes place when the child is immersed in what they’re doing and making discoveries for themselves.

Play helps children find meaning in the world
In a 2013 study, researchers split pre-schoolers into two groups.

One group were told a bunch of facts about triangles. Three sides, not always of equal size – usual triangular stuff.

The second were given a goal to discover ‘the secret of the shapes’, working together with the researchers in guided play.

Guess what happened? Not only were the latter group better at recognising more irregular triangles, they held onto that information much better when they were tested a week later.

Play is an opportunity for children to openly explore what they’ve seen in the world, to grasp the real meaning of something, to understand connections and relationships.

When they stack a tower, they’re learning about gravity, balance, and movement. Drawing and making their own marks teaches them about communication, symbols and representation. Imaginary worlds help them to understand the emotions and the thoughts of others, and theorise about the future. Risky play on a balance beam teaches them about their own boundaries, and how their bodies move. The possibilities of play are endless.

US children’s show favourite, Mr Rogers, famously said that “Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.” Even more than that, play in the early years can be the learning and the practice all rolled up into one.

That’s why we feel passionate about children in our settings having access to resources and skilled adults that promote learning through play.

October at Oak Valley

We have had a lot of fun this month at Oak Valley.

October started with Babies doing their tummy time sessions with lots of added sensory activities. They thoroughly enjoyed mark-making with paint brushes & water which helped in the development of their fine motor control skills.

Pre-School embraced the Autumnal weather & went on a nature walk; the children collected conkers, pine cones & leaves to explore in their investigation area.

We’ve had a high level of rain throughout the month which, in turn, created lots of mud & puddles. Our children wrapped up in their waterproofs & made the most of the opportunities the weather offered. The children’s favourite activities included a homemade slip & slide, & making apparatus to measure the rainfall!

Rising 3’s & Pre-School enjoyed our termly Mini Movez session with lots of dancing, rhythmic movement & songs. We enjoyed copying the actions, then making our own routines up.

With Halloween approaching, we ventured to the shop to buy pumpkins.The children made their own designs & carved their pumpkins with various tools. In addition to this, we had a Halloween workshop for parents. We made potions, wore fancy dress & played in jelly. We finished the day off with a go in our photo booth. Thank you to everyone who attended. We hope you enjoyed it as much as us!

Seven key activities that can stretch a child’s mind

Parents often ask us what they can do to encourage and support their children at home.

We have put together a mini guide on areas and ideas you may find useful in providing a good home learning environment, activities you can do with your children which definitely have a marked impact on children’s learning.  Have fun!  (we all do)

Seven key activities that can stretch a child’s mind

Going on visits

Local community activities like fetes and galas are good fun and offer lots of talking points, as well as family bonding time

Take time to really listen to what your child is trying to tell you.  Tune into their non-verbal gestures as well as their language.  Talk to them and use language with a high information, descriptive language to develop their vocabulary. Use adult speak, not baby babble, so train not choo choo.  Why have to learn it twice!

Top tip… create ‘phone free time’: put mobiles away and concentrate on interacting with your child.

Reading to and with children

Use a variety of books and repeat favourite stories.

Provide opportunities for storytelling and using props to make stories come alive.

Top tip… include all family members, make story time part of your family routine.

Have you tried… bedtime stories with a different family member if you are busy?  Using props with stories, e.g. real fruit with ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’?

Painting and drawing

Encourage children’s own ideas, provide choice and encourage independence.

Top tip… praise children’s early attempts at mark making and writing.

Have you tried… painting and drawing outdoors using a variety of media, e.g. paintbrushes and water on the path, or sticks in mud?  In the snow use squeezy bottles filled with warm water—it will warm cold hands and create patterns in the melting snow.

Going to the library

Give your child time to choose books about things they are interested in, and involve them in the process of taking them out.

Borrow a mix of fiction and non-fiction books.

Top tip… make sure you pick up your child’s ‘Book Start’ pack. It’s free!

Borrow books from our nursery library (feel free to bring in any unwanted books to add to it)

Creating opportunities to play with friends

Make use of our ‘stay and play’ type sessions arranged throughout the year

Top tip… arrange for children to have friends round to play.

Have you tried… meeting friends at the park to play group games like ‘Tig’ or ‘Duck, duck goose’?

Playing with letters and numbers

Make numbers and letters part of daily life.  For example, looking at house numbers on the way to the park, spot letters whilst shopping.

Top tip… play with underwater crayons at bath time, or add foam numbers to the bubbles.

Have you tried… including your child when you write a shopping list, or maybe let them write their own?

Singing songs, poems and nursery rhymes

Find songs and rhymes to match experiences as they happen, e.g. ‘Dr Foster went to Gloucester’ when you are splashing in puddles.

Top tip…  get the whole body moving by using action songs and finger rhymes. (they will know some from nursery)

Have you tried… making up your own silly rhymes and songs?

We hope you find this useful. 

Give feedback on some of your fun times at home to your keyworker so they can create a discussion and let your child chat about their experiences in group sessions.  Children love telling us all about their exploits and we can build on their out of nursery learning experiences too.

Don’t forget, you can use your parental ‘eyLog’ to upload photos and share home learning with us

Have fun!

The Importance of Outdoor Play in Winter

Many parents fear that their children will not “like” being outside in the cold, or that they will get sick from being outside in the cold fresh air. For this reason, it is particularly important that young children enjoy outdoor activities from a very early age.

Playing outside in autumn, winter, and early spring, each present their own unique opportunities for exploration and learning. Therefore, outdoor play should be embraced in all types of weather, as it is crucial for children’s ongoing development.

It’s a common myth that children will get sick if they play outdoors in the cold

Winter frequently gets a bad name for making children poorly, in fact many adults associate winter with getting colds and illnesses such as flu. However, it is not exposure to the cold that cause these viruses. The key reason for contracting germs is staying indoors and around people who are unwell. With less ventilation, germs are easily circulated, making children more susceptible to viruses.

By encouraging outdoor play in winter, children gain much needed exposure to fresh air and Vitamin D, which is proven to help improve mood and create a positive mental attitude, while avoiding bacteria. Vitamin D also increases energy levels and sharpens memory.

The physical health benefits of outdoor play

Playing outdoors in winter promotes physical development and well-being. This is because outdoor play encourages the use of the whole body by offering a safe space to run, jump, and exercise key muscle groups, helping to strengthen bones and promote good fitness levels

Through activities such as riding tricycles, climbing, and running, children increase their large muscle use. This increase in physical activity supports children’s gross motor development and overall health.

It is important that children remain active in the colder months so that they continue to build emerging skills that are crucial to their physical development.

The emotional benefits of outdoor play

Outdoor activities also promote emotional health benefits, such as self-confidence, and the ability to assess risks. By encouraging outdoor play in the winter, children learn to identify hazards, such as slippery surfaces, and moderate their behaviour to ensure their safety.

The social benefits of outdoor play

Playing outdoors with others encourages social development and collaboration. This is because play teaches children how to work together in groups, which includes learning to share, negotiate, and solve conflict.

Social outdoor play also provides children the opportunity to exercise and stretch their imaginations. In winter, the physical changes to the outdoor environment provide children with new opportunities for socio-dramatic play, and winter-themed games.

So, by trying to protect them from colder weather, we are doing the opposite and hindering learning and possibly their health.

So please, let’s all do the best for your children together.  We will do the hard work, all you need to do is send them in appropriate clothing for cold/wet weather, and watch them flourish.

Mud kitchen, bark, new area, explore, find, learn, curiosity, transport

Kingswood in September

A new term and an addition to our staff team

September started with us welcoming our new apprentice; Kat Burrows. She became part of the team at the beginning of September and joined the Toddler Room to work alongside Zoe, Amanda and Charlotte. Kat has settled in well and has made a good start to achieving her qualification. It feels like she has always been part of the team; well done Kat, keep up the hard work!

New mud kitchen!

Everyone loves a mud kitchen right?!? We certainly do at Kingswood. Our children have really enjoyed exploring and actively learning in our new and improved mud kitchen area. We have recently had this space defined by a small fence and we have added bark to create a real exploration area. The children have enjoyed making mud pies and transporting the bark from one area to another with the big diggers!

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mud kitchen, mud pie, mix, stir, sieve, shake, bake, imagination, explore, develop,natural resources, open ended environment

Sheffield Waterfront Bicentenary Festival

As it was the Sheffield Waterfront Bicentenary Festival this month (which marks the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Sheffield to Tinsley canal), the babies in our Baby Unit decided to decorate their own boats and then put them in some water to watch them float. The babies particularly enjoyed colour mixing, and had a go at mixing the colours together themselves.

painting, colour mixing, boat festival, celebration, exploring, learning, creativity
Floating, boats, homemade, creative, curiosity, exploring, experimenting, interested,

Jeans for Genes

Charity event, raising money, group effort, rewarding,

We supported this amazing charity by all wearing our Jeans on Friday 20th September. We feel like we all helped to raise awareness for this wonderful charity! Thank you to those of you who supported us in this fundraiser, we managed an amazing £70.00!!! Well done Kingswood children, staff and parents/carers alike, what a great achievement!

Autumnal walks

The Baby Room children had great fun and collected some really interesting finds during their Autumn walk this month. TheY showed great interest and curiosity in the conkers, acorns, pine cones and crunchy leaves. We collected some of our findings to add to our playdough and other sensory/malleable activities. The children really enjoyed the sounds of the leaves under their feet as they walked and said “crunch, crunch crunch” as they walked back to nursery with their Autumn collection.

Autumn walks, nature, leaves, crunch, acorns, pine cones, exploring, finding, curious, interesting, engaging, walking, outside, fresh air, nature hunting,
Autumn walks, nature, leaves, crunch, acorns, pine cones, exploring, finding, curious, interesting, engaging, walking, outside, fresh air, nature hunting, fun, exciting

All in all a great month at Kingswood!

’18-’19 End of year review

Well there we go, somehow, we find ourselves in September & the next academic year! I’m finally convinced that my parents were actually telling me the truth all those years ago when they kept telling me that “the older you get; the quicker time goes”. Back in those days, the Summer holidays seemed to stretch out endlessly in front of us in July. Unfortunately, nowadays it feels like it’s gone in the blink of an eye!

So, here we are, looking back on the second year of our new and improved Company. At the risk of repeating what I certainly said in last year’s ‘end of year blog’, firstly, I’d like to start by congratulating our four fantastic settings and their Managers on what has been an amazing year. Along with the Director, myself, our Quality Practice Manager (Anna Cam) & our Company SENCo (Clare Hough) we are extremely rich as a Company in terms of enthusiasm, drive & commitment to striving for quality.

I’m always amazed, when I take stock, of just how much we manage to pack in for all the lovely families that attend out settings. In addition to the wealth of visitors into nursery & trips out of nursery, we’ve hosted a number of parent workshops & Stay & Play sessions as well as welcoming Mini Movez, Rhythm Time, Leanimals & Paint a Pot. We’ve held numerous charity fundraising days &, of course, our regular Parent’s Evenings, Transition Evenings for our school leavers &, my personal favourites, Graduations & Christmas Concerts & parties.

Our biggest development this year has been the investment into the nursery software package that we now use across the Company – eyLog. It’s changed the way we do a lot of the administration tasks but the most important aspect of it is that it’s enabled our parents to access their child’s development as & when it happens. We’ve had some great feedback comments but the running theme is that the photos are the most treasured aspect, along with being able to contribute themselves.

As always, throughout the year, we’ve undertaken a great deal of maintenance & improvements at each of the four branches to ensure the environment is kept to a high standard for each and every one of the children we care for.  We’ve re-structured our Manager & setting support package & placed a bigger emphasis on looking after our fantastic staff team; their health & wellbeing & continuous professional development. Our staff training programme has certainly been stepped up a notch this year; as well as our internal termly training sessions & numerous external & online courses that have been attended, I must take the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Clare (Hough, Company SENCo) who was amongst the first cohort of only 20 people in the whole of Sheffield to take part in, & successfully complete, the very first ‘Early Years SENCo Award’, & also Emma (Wheelhouse, Oak Valley) who undertook a further management qualification – we’re very proud of their achievements. All this alongside a fabulous Christmas party to end 2018 & a wonderful day trip to Bridlington last month – it’s been another cracking year!

As I look forward to the rest of this new academic year, and more success for Early Years Care and Education Ltd, I’d like to say a huge thank you to all our wonderful employees and to all our existing families for their continued support.

Lisa Mapley – Area Manager

August Fun At The Little School House

We have had a very, exciting busy term here at the Little School House.  The Babies had a lovely visit to Heeley City Farm. We walked all the way to the farm, taking in all the sights and sounds en route before having a picnic for our lunch. The children saw lots of animals including pigs, sheep, horses, cows, goats, and a range of birds.  We loved playing in the park before enjoying a yummy ice cream. There were lots of sleepy children on the way home when we caught the bus back to nursery.  What a lovely day!

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Our Toddler Room enjoyed helping hatch some beautiful butterflies. The children observed the
changes of a caterpillar as it becomes a butterfly. They drew pictures of the before and after and
loved making collage pictures of the beautiful colours on the butterfly. We read The Hungry
Caterpillar and the children decided they wanted to try some of the foods from the book, so we had fun pretending to be emerging butterflies and tasting the same foods as the Caterpillar.
Lots of learning whilst having so much fun.

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In August, all the staff across our four branches had a chance to relax and enjoy a great Seaside trip to Bridlington for the day. The trip was a treat
from the owner to thank staff for an extremely busy, progressive year and  to celebrate 2 years of the newly
branded company.  It was a lovely day with good weather, exciting rides, a yummy fish & chip lunch,
which was all perfectly topped off with an amazing new gin bar!  ( well it would have been rude not to !)

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The summer terms brilliant staff training session topic was ‘Meeting safeguarding requirements –
recognising, understanding and responding effectively, to possible risks’.  We are constantly updating our knowledge and all staff felt more informed.  It was one of the many areas we have had organised training in this year

Pre-School enjoyed learning about ‘Healthy Food’ this summer. They talked about what foods are
healthy, what foods are not and why we should eat them. Children brought in food from home that
they thought was healthy, we then discussed the food at group times. We also went on a walk to
Asda to by some healthy foods for our snack. We continue to do Fresh Fruit Friday in which we encourage parents to take a piece of fruit and eat with their children.
It is lovely to see children developing their understanding of thee foods they eat.

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Finally, we  held a very successful open day last month for our 20 year anniversary. We welcomed current
families & new ones to view the setting. We have lots of fun activities including a bouncy castle, tons
of treats were sold on the cake stall & treasures were won on the tombola. We raised almost £300
for Sheffield’s Children’s Hospital. Thank you to everyone who came.
Twenty years later and still going strong. 

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End of term fun at Highgate in July

July saw the end of term & lots of sad goodbyes to our children leaving to start school in September!

Before they left, all the school leavers went on a trip to Curious Kids Town on 10th July. They were picked up from nursery by coach & taken to the role play village. They enjoyed taking on lots of different roles, from hairdressers to fire fighters!

On 16th July we had a wonderful graduation celebration which we held at St Mary’s Church. Parents & other family members were welcomed in to come & see their children collect their certificates & celebrate their time with us at Highgate. The children did some beautiful singing of some special songs that they had been learning throughout the term. Each child was individually presented their graduation certificate & then everyone enjoyed a delicious buffet afterwards. A fantastic time was had by all!

We raised lots of money for Sheffield Children’s Hospital from our raffle in July, which saw lots of happy families winning some great prizes such as tickets to Disney on Ice, family days out & activity vouchers!

On 23rd July Highgate hosted a free Parent 1st Aid Training Session. We had a great response from parents who really enjoyed the session & the opportunity to widen their knowledge & understanding.

We had a very warm staff training session on 25th July during the heatwave! It was based around Understanding schemas, the Leuven scale & the key person buddy system.

We’re now looking forward to August & the new term in September where there will be another range of exciting events to tell you all about!

June 2019 at Oak Valley

June marked the start of our school preparations for our Pre-School children. They tried on the uniforms and PE kits for their new schools, met their teachers and read lots of stories about what to expect in the upcoming months. We had a busy term transitioning the children to school and having fun organising our graduation and leavers workshop.

After a fun staff training session around ‘loose parts’, the children had fun exploring with a variety of materials. We particularly enjoyed making a map to help the night pirates find their treasure!!

Rising 3’s and Pre-School made some new friends this month; Benji the bear and Kevin the koala! Benji and Kevin have been spending the weekends at the children’s houses; camping, visiting the seaside and going on day trips. The children have been documenting the fun they have had with him in their learning journal.

During June it was Healthy Eating Week. We encourage healthy eating all year round at Oak Valley with a nutritious menu and free fruit Fridays at the end of every month. To celebrate this occasion we went on a trip to the local supermarket to buy different kinds of fruit. The children then cut the fruit up and made kebabs to eat with their friends.

On 21st June it was World Music Day. We had fun singing, dancing and making our own instruments. We also had a visit from Mini Movez who showed us some new dance routines and movement games.

Thank you to all the parents/carers who came to our Rising 3’s Fathers Day Workshop where we made gifts and keepsakes.

Baby Room sensory workshop where we had lots of fun getting messy and exploring different materials.

We had a mix of weather this month, but managed to play out in rain or shine. We can’t wait to see what fun July brings.