A little bit about why we engage in lots of positive risk taking,
for those who are interested… Playing adventurously motivates children to develop persistence and an enjoyment rather than fear of challenge and extending and exploring boundaries. A willingness to take risks is an important characteristic of an effective learner. The Early Years Foundation Stage guidance states that an effective learner is willing ‘to have a go’ through initiating activities and seeking challenge, showing a ‘can-do’ attitude, taking a risk, engaging in new experiences, and learning by trial and error. When adults look anxious or repeatedly say to children ‘mind out’, ‘be careful’, ‘don’t do that’, ‘come down or you’ll fall’, there is a danger that they undermine this important disposition to learn by communicating their own anxiety. There is evidence that risk and challenge in a supportive environment is positively linked with emotional well-being, resilience and mental health and that small mistakes and minor accidents can offer some protection against the negative effects of future failure. Managing a small amount of fear and uncertainty, such as balancing along a wobbly plank or rolling fast down a slope and holding your nerve when feeling on the edge of control, is important to emotional well-being. Such play develops children’s resilience and help them to cope physically and emotionally with unexpected events. Vigorous almost out of control play, such as swinging, hanging, rolling or romping – where the normal body position is altered – is crucial for developing children’s sense of balance and sense of their own body in space. Research on children’s neuro-motor skills in primary schools shows that children with immature motor skills do not perform as well on educational measures at eight years old. However, despite an inbuilt sense of danger, children who lack experience can sometimes take risks that are inappropriate, which border on recklessness or which put themselves or others at risk of serious injury. As in many areas of learning, children need the support of experienced others who can help them recognize and assess risk for themselves, teach safe ways of doing things and encourage a ‘can-do’ attitude and a positive disposition to adventurous play. Teaching skills such as testing the strength of a branch before climbing or using a stick to measure the depth of water in a stream before paddling helps children to feel confident in managing risky situations. At Young Friends Nursery we fully support this and as such our children are very effective and confident learners and explorers.
As with all the EYFS areas, we ensure that literacy and maths learning is a very natural part of children’s days from the moment they begin with us to the time they leave. As early years practitioners, our roles are not to teach but to provide an enriching environment that fosters awareness of the everyday aspects of literacy and maths, thus establishing a foundation for future academic learning.
- PEGS, PLACEMATS, LABELS – All children’s coat pegs, placemats, and water beakers are labelled with both a picture of the child and his/her name. These are not only to help children feel they belong in the environment and recognize what is theirs, but also begin to recognize what their names look like.
- Storytelling and sequencing – With the help of our storytelling representative, all groups engage in lively storytelling activities and, where appropriate, support math concepts with the language of sequencing, such as “what happens next, after, etc. The team create story bags, shadow puppets, and/or story packs that engage children in understanding elements of story, support attention and recall, and prompt their own story-making ideas.
- Jolly Phonics – In the preschool, children engage in phonics activities using the Jolly Phonics system. This is used in Brunswick school and supports children with early reading. Each phonic/sound is associated with a song and action, creating a more natural way of remembering and using phonics in reading. Our resources include a full set of Jolly Phonics books, phonic cards, and cds. The preschoolers also engage in phonics activities on their room laptop.
- NUMICON – To support a more natural, intrinsic way of learning math, we use the Numicon resource, typically only seen in school settings. Our set includes baseboards with overlays and number lines for focused Numicon activities with support and independently. The Numicon shapes allow children to experience number in a sensorial way so that they build a deeper understanding of what numbers represent. For instance, the three shape is always green and has three holes while the one shape is always orange and has one hole. Eventually, they learn that if they combine the green and the orange, they will have four holes. It really is one of the best resources to support real, child-initiated understanding of number and quantity.
- LANGUAGE AND VOCABULARY – All team are trained in supporting and developing children’s ideas of maths and literacy with appropriate word building, i.e. using the language of time (before, after, yesterday, etc.) when talking about routines, positions (over, under, etc.), and/or descriptive language in everyday conversation (can you pass me the blue one?).
Our dedication to positive outcomes for all of our children includes an astute awareness of gaps in children’s attainment. Using Tapestry analysis, we monitor children’s attainment and progress across specified groups (boys, girls, etc.) to determine if there are any gaps in learning across the seven areas of development. If gaps are identified, such as boys being less engaged in literacy, these are shared with the team and plans are implemented to further support and develop children in these areas. Monitoring progression and attainment among groups also highlights areas that staff need to develop in their own practice to ensure a broad, yet balanced, spread of learning and observation.
Our goal is to ensure all children are succeeding in accordance with their development and no child is falling through the net with regards to achieving.
Our preschool group, the Gorillas, is obviously the last stop before children head off to reception. As such, our aim is to provide as smooth a transition to reception as possible, offering every child extensive opportunities to develop into confident, active and avid learners. In the spring-time, school readiness kicks into high-gear as the preschool team prepare the children for this huge transition, and the room leader will create a school-readiness outline for parents to see what the group will be doing over the course of the run-up to reception.
- An area in the preschool becomes a classroom for our school-leavers in the spring time as they engage in more school-based activities. These are an extension of the phonics, writing, and maths work they already do in the main room, but differentiated for their needs as school-leavers. Kaila, the persona doll, also visits them here and the children engage in discussions about their schools and the transition.
- Role play – The children have access to dressing up uniforms, school desks and images from and of their schools. We encourage families to donate old uniforms so as many of the children can dress up as possible.
- Persona Doll – Kaila makes fortnightly visits to the Gorillas. Her role is to promote conversation about the school transition from feelings to reception expectations. In the past, she’s talked about being a bit scared going to a place where she doesn’t know anyone, which has naturally opened up lively conversations about the children’s own feelings and how to deal with them.
- Books – The nursery has a wide selection of books that support discussion about school expectations and facilitate conversation about children’s thoughts.
- School visits – Quite a few of our children attend Brunswick school located behind the nursery and we endeavor to get Young Friends children put into the same classes so there are familiar faces with them. In December, the Gorilla group attend their Christmas play rehearsals in to see the school and old friends. When schools are confirmed, the team put up a list of where children are going so that parents can make links with each other and the team can contact each child’s school, requesting brochures and information that we can use here in the nursery.
- Transfer documents – While not a requirement, the Gorilla team prepare transfer documents at the end of a child’s time here to be sent to his or her school. The document is very similar to our termly progress reports and provides information about where the child’s learning and development is such as ability to write/recognize own name.
At the end of their time here, we like to make a big fuss of the children, so each child has a leaving party and receives a Preschool Certificate. We make a lovely year book photo of sorts of the Gorilla team and children. These are included in their leaving bundles along with their Tapestry journals.
Please see our preschool leaflet for more detailed information about the Gorilla group.