Freeing up young children’s minds to express their creativity is a passion of ours. We have an Atelier at the back of our woodland garden which is now a popular feature of our continuous provision. A fully equipped covered alfresco art studio where the children can feel inspired to create, surrounded by nature. We encourage the children’s respect for art and the tools they use, so you won’t find any plastic paint brushes and crayons, just real equipment for real artists. This gives our children the freedom to explore, create, imagine and innovate. This encourages confidence, independence and motivation to have a positive attitude to learning. Our ateliers have evolved thanks in large part to the support of our staff and parents, who supply lots of the resources!

Yoga is an activity associated with stillness and absolute calm, so we are able to incorporate this into our curriculum to help children cope with their emotions in a fun way. Yoga has a real impact on child development and is taught through actions, flowing movement and games. It helps develop body awareness, manages negative and positive feelings through breathing, awareness and meditation and healthy movement, builds concentration skills, increases their strength, confidence and positive self-image.

Music and Dance is another way that we encourage creativity and expression. Children listen to a wide range of genres and have lots of opportunity to express themselves through music and movement. Instruments are used and explored and we follow the document Musical Development Matters to ensure we support children developmentally in what we do and provide.

We have a strong culture of Seed to Plate. Children at Young Friends not only enjoy food prepared for them from scratch, but also grow, cook and prepare food themselves. We have a full range of cooking utensils specifically for children’s cooking activities and allow children the opportunity to explore these fully within cooking sessions. The children cut fruit and vegetables, break eggs, grate cheese, fry and cook food in our portable oven. Our focus on growing allows children to eat the ‘fruits of their labour’, providing meaning to growing, cultivating and cooking fresh fruit and vegetables, and encourages them to think sustainably about food as a previous resource.

We provide real and natural resources as part of sustainable approach. There are many reasons why ‘loose parts’ are beneficial. Loose parts are objects and materials that are played with and have no pre determined outcome. The great thing about loose part play is that children’s explorations can become anything.

Why use real and natural resources?

Using natural materials to enhance children’s learning encourages children to observe closely and use all their senses. Providing an interesting and ever-changing environment for children to explore is an ideal way to develop their curiosity, provide opportunities for them to ask questions, and to talk about things they have discovered. Building up a collection of natural resources can begin with a selection of resources found in your immediate environment.

As with any other resources we use in our setting, we ensure that the natural materials provided are safe to be used with young children. We are particularly careful if the children are at an age where they are likely to put the natural resources in their mouths.

Natural materials are perfect resources for use in the heuristic play sessions we provide.

We use natural materials such as twigs, straw, pebbles and moss to our environments to encourage children to create small environments for dinosaurs, farm animals, wild animals or small characters.

We also provide a  range of natural building resources such as large stones, shells, small branches, off-cuts of wood and pieces of bark to the brick and block sets in the construction area. This encourages children to be creative as they build and encounter a range of problems they have to solve as they explore how to build with irregular shaped materials.

So many things can be categorised and used as loose parts – a bag of buttons, bottle tops, conkers, corks, driftwood etc. A bonus is that all the materials can be reused over and over again. We record the results and take a photo of the work before it has to be cleared away. Loose part play develops children creative and critical thinking skills.