A day with our Nursery gym design team

Nursery gym bridge

Each Community Playthings design team spends time at the start of the project learning about the early years environment and considering how the product can support child development. Last year our Nursery gym team spent several weeks visiting centres and talking to practitioners. In addition, they asked experts from the field to join them for a day.

Jan White is known for her enthusiasm for the outdoors – so why would she advise a team designing an indoor gym? I met Jan years ago, and we immediately clicked: we shared a love of dens and tree houses, mud pies and slippery slopes (the good kind). We also shared a fascination about why children instinctively pursue such experiences. So she was the natural person to invite when facing the challenge of how to integrate outdoor attributes into our Nursery gym. Jan first showed us snippets from the "Babies, toddlers and twos outdoors" film she produced in collaboration with Siren Films. We discussed what we had "seen", then watched again so we could see more. The rest of the morning was spent on the central role of physicality in children’s well-being and development.

In the afternoon Jan was just "one of the team" gathered round the whiteboard as we tossed ideas around. How could we replicate some of the textures and variable surfaces found in nature? There are no "wrong" ideas at a session like this, and we discussed some wild ones. Many of the suggestions were manufacturing nightmares, but ideas flowed.

The results from this day were the arched bridge, the grooved slats that let you slide over the bridge on your tummy and make cool sounds when banged with a block, the little den underneath, and the sand dune surface that simulates walking on beach sand. The steps, slide, mirrors, captain’s wheel, tunnel, magical roof and Juliet balcony resulted from further sessions.

Watching children use the final product was the reward. If you’d like a FREE copy of The Nursery gym in action at Pen Green (a 20-minute Siren Films video) Call 0800 387 457. Better yet, purchase a Nursery gym and watch the action live!

P.S. Jan's blog is janwhitenaturalplay.wordpress.com

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