How our garden grows!
Last month on this page I talked about the positive effects of a “problem solving environment” in creating a space for children to learn and gain independence. This month, spending some time in the Rising Star room, I was led to think about the influence of peers on children’s developments.
Whilst we separate the children into Rising and shooting stars for a large part of the day, even within these rooms there are differences of ages and abilities and they can learn so much from just being sociable. The encounter depicted below is of two children about a year apart (one approaching 2 the other 3) sharing a painting activity and the learning that they both gained from each other was noticeable: with very little contact, talking or interference from an adult.
In this we see children becoming social beings, learning the value of working together, of talking together, of sharing and having fun. And if that is a skill that we can help them take with them as they become adults then we can have hope for our future leaders
wc 19th March: Little Star is alive with the sound of music
With the formalisation of education, SATS, targets, tests, exams and even in Early Years, a definite main focus on the 3 R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic), the artistic and less academic subjects are in danger of being pushed to the sidelines. Yet the opportunity to show creativity through music is an important one that is being fought for and one that we at Little Star give much attention and value to. Song is integral to the children’s day, from the ‘”hello” song at the start, through to songs to indicate tidying up, to come together and listen, to stop, to have a nappy changed or to brush teeth to. It brings us together, helps up focus, learn new things such as rhyme and alliteration or gives a means to express ourselves. I can call out for children to stop what they are doing to limited effect (in fact would usually have to do this at least twice) but as soon as I sing “everybody listen” the response is (pretty much!) immediate and universal.
Learning nursery rhymes teaches children valuable communication skills, picking out sounds and syllables. As they grow older they can identify rhymes and make up their own (check out our Little Star book of rhymes below), putting these sounds together is all part of early reading skills.
Songs with actions and props engage children on a multi sensory level and this is recognised in the BANES programme of Voice Play that we embed more with the Rising Stars and Abbie is leading the team in this programme currently.
We always try to give the children a wide variety of different music to listen to and to move to. The beauty of the internet is that we have every possible type of song and music at our finger tips. So when children ask for one of their favourite songs to dance to, we can provide it. In this way home life and nursery become one or their ballet class is transported to the setting. We have had ballerinas dancing to ‘Let it go’ as well as disco dancers grooving down to ‘The gummy bear song‘. The children have danced and moved to dinosaur beats, jumped to House of Pain and Van Halen, relaxed to Gimnopedie no 1 (someone commented the nursery felt more like a spa!), drummed to African beats and stretched with Tatty Bumpkin…to name just a few.
Music can also tell a story, as the Shooting Stars have learnt this week when they learnt the tale of ‘Peter and the Wolf’, being told both through words (of the great David Bowie) and music and we made up our own version too, following the rules of active story making. The story of Peter and the Wolf
The children were quick to identify the scary wolf music and the happy violins of Peter. We then followed the usual techniques of story making and translating what we heard into pictures on paper.
Music makes us feel happy, how many of you have commented just on the tune that the door bell makes when you arrive in the morning? It can build memories and resilience, it can relax you, soothe and calm, it can excite, innovate and inspire. So let’s keep music alive. Put some of your favourite music on, have a dance, sing along…while your children actually want you to and aren’t totally embarrassed by parents dancing and singing….it will happen
wc 12th March: A “problem- posing” education
Following last month’s conference at Bath Spa university (see below) which talked amongst other things about the adult’s role in children’s play and learning, I thought it was interesting to share this observation from the Shooting Star room, of about 20 minutes where all of the action was dictated by the children and the adult’s only involvement was at the children’s invitation.
What was observed and hopefully what you can see, is independent children following their own ideas, using skills such as writing, imagination, playing together, talking, creativity. And after all isn’t this what we want for the next generation: free and creative thinkers who aren’t afraid to do things for themselves, to make new discoveries and to feel confident and supported in their journeys? The adult in children’s education should be that supportive figure, who provides the space for creative power to test itself, not one who controls thinking and action who does the thinking for others.
“Do not keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play“ – Plato
What fun doesn’t come without taking a few risks?
Most of you by now know that we are all about active learning here at Little Star and that we aren’t afraid to take a few risks in the process. Luckily we are blessed with parents who embrace this attitude and yet it’s worth reminding ourselves of why we do this and this article from community playthings sums the importance of risk in play up nicely. The sense of challenge, of achievement, of doing something for themselves is a quality and skill that they can’t be “taught” or fed from a “teacher” at a table. It can’t come from a work sheet or a text book. It does however come from climbing (and falling down) hills:
Based on the above, I think we are safe in being confident that we won’t fall under Ofsted’s concern over not being active enough. As well as woodland climbing, swinging, jumping, walking, running, clambering (and multiple other different ways of moving) we ensure a constant supply of possibilities for being active.
Indeed the nature of the provision itself supports and encourages children to be active in their everyday play. Take away the chairs from tables and the children gain muscle strength in their arms playing with play dough; take away the tables and they move across the whole floor space with their cars or trucks. Role play areas dictate that children move around the space and having resources available and accessible to them ensure they “actively” source toys and materials for themselves. Music playing inspires freedom of dance and of course continual access to the outdoors extends the range of physical activity. So in short I think we’re doing OK in this area!
“When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too” (Paulo Coelho)
Beeing “outstanding” is all about continually being self reflective and considering how we can always do better for the children we have in our care. To this end we access as much relevant and inspirational outside training and experiences for all of our staff so that we are open to new ideas and keep our own practice fresh and relevant.
This month Abbie returned from the Banes early years conference buzzing with new ideas as to how to create nurturing spaces for her group of Rising Stars and you may have noticed the book corner becoming more cosy with new rug and “no shoe zone”. She is also working to making our smaller baby room an intimate and inviting space for small group work for all ages.
Another work shop Abbie attended looked at using clay as a valuable resource in the act of “being creative” rather than just as a means of producing an end product. This idea of providing children with their own possibilities to pose questions, to explore open ended materials and solves their own problems equally meets our ofsted objective of increasing the amount of problem solving opportunities for all children. We have been testing it out on all ages over the past couple of weeks and have seen the children develop fine motor skills as they make marks, squeeze and manipulate the clay as well as the older children posing questions and comments about the effects they are making.
Meanwhile, to link with her focus as maths lead, Vicki shared with us ideas that she gained from attending training on ‘maths in games’, where emphasis was placed on consolidation of mathematical learning which I think is very relevant considering the speed at which is applied to children’s learning once in school. Learning should be absorbed like a sponge and not poured into someone to drain away the next day!
Kate attended a conference put on by the staff at Bath Spa university where various research projects were shared. She came away with ideas about using video as a tool for observing and the team have been discussing how we really tune into and respond to our children to ensure we are genuinely planning for them as individuals and not merely to meet the next step as dictated by the EYFS. We also thought about humour and the children’s love of poo….but that’s a story for another day
“Laughter and play do not allow themselves to be controlled and may therefore not be understood by reason that aims to find causes and seek defined goals” (Øksnes 2008: 162)
Meet the new team
We are very pleased to be starting back to term 4 full steam ahead and with a full team. Chelsea has been using her first couple of weeks settling in, meeting her new key children and familiarising herself with our routines and practice. Don’t be shy to introduce yourself to her if you haven’t done so already.
Science and creativity
‘Creativity‘: definition: ‘The use of the imagination or original ideas to create something, inventiveness‘. ‘Science‘: The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment’
After attending a conference at the Bath Spa University last week, ed by the Early Years team there, one presentation about science and creativity in children really got me thinking about all of the creative and scientific opportunities that the children at Little Star have (and in fact all children are having every day). Being ‘creative’ is sometimes interpreted in an ‘arts and design’ capacity. We think of someone being creative if they are artistic and yet to be creative as per the definition is in fact to “think creatively”: to think independently and to find out something new. Thus children need the opportunities to make these discoveries and links for themselves; they need an environment rich in open ended resources and space where they can make their own questions rather than being fed information that is only correct according to the adult giving it them. This then is so intrinsically linked to science that the real importance of an icy walk, mud play, water play, gloop play, exploding a volcano, mixing colours, seeing what happens when we change a soapy mixture by blowing through a straw, is evidenced.
In such activities children are making their own discoveries about how things happen, why has the pond frozen over? Why does the water over spill when we pour too much in? We will be discussing more over the next few weeks just how involved we as adults need to get in these experiences and in their independent learning in order to keep this fascination with the world around us alive. This (and the gallery below illustrates some of the ways) is how you bring up scientists of the future, not by filling them with facts and basing their knowledge on the result of tests.
Change in faces
It’s been a slightly disrupted start to 2018 where staffing is concerned in the Rising Star group, with us saying farewell to Gemma and Abbie enjoying a two week Caribbean Cruise. However it is absolute full credit to my team of regulars, along with some help from Emily loaned to us back from the baby room, our students Emily and Sophie as well as some extra hours from another returning face in the form of Lizzy, that everything has run completely smoothly and I am sure you will agree with me that the children have been as happy and engaged as ever (as you can read on the Rising Star page). Our new recruit, Chelsea is really looking forward to joining us from 5th Feb and next week I will give you a new and updated “meet the team” round up and update the staffing page accordingly, but for the moment a big thanks to a great team of guiding Stars that give your children the very best if their devotion, love and attention! It takes many stars in order to form a galaxy!
The 5th November heralds the start of an explosion of colour and glitter at Little Stars. The Shooting stars used splatter techniques to make their starry skies. This action also helps develop all muscles in the arm which leads to control of using a pen. They also discovered ways of printing using a large tube to roll over the paint and make marks with their fingers. More fine motor work was practiced in making, numbering and writing on our name rockets.
The Rising stars took to the fields to make their own splattery pictures using paint and straws.
When learning is scarily fun….Halloween!
We had lots of fun not just at our Halloween Party on Tuesday but in the days leading up to this All Hallows festival. The nursery has been a buzz with chatter and talk is always good: children telling us of their own parties and their dressing up outfits and we have seen children using ideas from Halloween across their learning: such as choosing to move like ghosts or talking about what creatures come out at night and we’ve posed questions such as why do we have pumpkins with lights in (How many of you know? We discovered the story of Stingy Jack) and why do vampires only come out at night?!
We’ve used fine motor and writing skills in drawing and then carving out faces on the pumpkins; we’ve done a lot of dancing and moving in different ways and listened to rhyming Halloween poems; we’ve mixed potions and made rhyming spells as well as explored the properties of “gloop” in making some magical mixtures. And you thought it was just an excuse to dress up and gave some fun!
Thanks also to Farrington Farm shop who invited us to share in their pumpkin carving fun and to Francesca for our Halloween themed lunch.
A place to be..a place to be…a place to be me
At Little Star we are not a one size fits all setting but one that adapts our size to fit all and this includes a constant evaluation of our provision and the environment as it meets the needs of our children here at this time. We fit the hole to the peg and not vica versa!
This years’ cohort are imaginative and sociable. They seek out peers to share their thoughts, ideas and games with. Ideas develop collaboratively and often in their own free play, their own free space away from the “controlling” adult guidance. So to this effect over the past coupe of weeks we have seen the quality of play and learning that has happened when we have given the children back their own private places to play.
A den in the garden, a new all weather base in the shed, both have given opportunities for self initiated learning through reading, writing, imaginative play, measuring, calculating, sharing and lots and lots of talk. With just an occasional nudge or suggestion from a subtly supportive adult (What are you writing there? maybe you could add your own register? How about getting a cup of tea for … etc etc!) children have the satisfaction of gaining knowledge all by themselves!
‘Have you got a mud kitchen?’
This is part a question being posed to us as part of a research project looking into key trends and how they impact on children’s learning, experiences and development. Ahead of this, it led me to answer the question with a ‘yes’ and actually consider what exactly this provision does add to our enabling environment.
We have a couple of “kitchen” areas in our garden: a sand kitchen at the bottom of the garden next to the large sand pit as well as one designed near to the water tap, where there are many resources such as pans, utensils, cups etc. This area is ALWAYS BUSY but what are they actually doing there and what benefits to they get from it? Rather than making this into an essay of my own here is my summary of how it links to the EYFS:
Problem solving and self learning was also one of our Ofsted goals in staying “outstanding” so we are very confident that our mud kitchen, water play areas and in fact any area that has mud in the garden will help us keep our Little Stars on the right road towards becoming superstars of the future!
Welcome back and welcome to the new faces to Little Stars, who have all made a very positive start. Our Shooting Stars have also made a good transition to their new group and have been renewing friendships as well as forming some new ones. You can read the start we’ve made on their page.
Starting a new term, and a new year is a good opportunity to recap on the routines of your children’s day.
After breakfast and free play, at 9am the children are split into their separate cohort groups (Rising/ Shooting Stars). We group as a chance to come together and sing “good morning”, to review our timetable for the day as well as “get up and go”. This is an active session that prepares us all to be “ready for the day”. It can be a combination of some yoga moves, action songs, breathing and relaxation at the end.
The children then break into smaller groups for what is usually a more adult led (but still following the children’s lead!) activity the staff have planned specifically for a group of their key children. This can be followed by free play before snack time (all of this happening inside or outside). Planning sheets are posted above on this page and displayed on the board when you sign in.
Snack times are another opportunity to share more than just food and drink. Fine motor skills and independence are developed as the children cut fruit for themselves, we talk about the different types of food we eat: where they may come from, what they look like, taste like, our own preferences.
This is followed by circle time (again in separate key groups). This week all the children have started on their “active journey” learning the 3 Billy Goats Gruff. If you haven’t already done so, please have a read through the information letter on the parents page as well as sharing the story at home (Look out for copies in your trays and the children will hopefully soon teach you the actions).
The second half of the morning is mixed free play where the two groups tend to spend time together, engaging in play of their choice, either inside or outside until lunch at 12.30.
One key practice that we will be continuing this year is “sunshine circles”. These can take place in small groups in our chill out room or incorporate some of the games in circle time or ‘get up and go’ time.