Creative and messy


Woodwork at St. Werburgh's Nursery School

Liz Jenkins, Head teacher of St. Werburgh's Park Nursery School in Bristol, believes in giving her children varied opportunities for creative self-expression and exploration. In this interview, she tells how woodworking sessions with artist and educator Pete Moorhouse have added "another element of richness" to the setting.

Watch the interview and see more pictures of the setting here.     

outdoor imagination

Giving imagination free rein outdoors

The outdoors has become fashionable, and that's great. But we need to be careful not to make our children's outdoor environments too prescriptive. Take the role play area, for example. I have seen mud kitchen kits for sale that provide new pots, pans and utensils. You can even purchase a mud kitchen cooker. Are we going to tell the children "Be careful of the new cooker" when the play gets messy? I hope no one tells them "No, that's the cooker over there" when they boil water on a tree stump instead.

The whole idea when equipping a mud kitchen should be to recycle old stuff that children can use for whatever they wish. I believe children's free imagination and the outdoors are closely related. Give them loose parts in the form of big blocks, crates, guttering and a leaky metal coffee pot. Then let them get on with it.

Painting outdoors

Letting your children paint outdoors

Try taking your children outdoors to paint and see what they come up with. Children who are out in the garden all day experience continuous change. Temperature and light fluctuate from hour to hour, scents and sounds vary from one season to the next and there is a progression of flowers and seeds, insects and birds over time. These nuances build children's subconscious knowledge and love of the world they live in, and inspire creativity.

So bring art, wet play and mealtimes into the garden whenever possible. You will find that children respond quite differently to these activities when they take place outdoors.

Painting of the week

Painting of the week

Many nursery leaders appreciate that visual calm helps children relax and focus. Yet because celebrating achievement is essential too, practitioners often plaster their walls with artwork. It’s a dilemma.

Staff at Lochgelly Sunflower Nursery found a solution that has turned into a happy tradition: Inside the main entrance stands a framed “Painting of the week”. A special album hanging beside it holds photos of previous “paintings of the week”, each flanked by proud artist and parents.

What a beautiful way to honour each child’s effort!

P.S. You can see our case study of Lochgelly Sunflower Nursery here.
Reflections Nursery forest school

Fostering creativity indoors and out

Before visiting, I wondered how Reflections Nursery could combine their thrust on creativity with a strong emphasis on forest school. Wouldn’t one of these priorities get the short end of the stick?

The children were hard at work in their atelier as the director, Martin Pace, welcomed my colleague and me. What had begun as an exercise in sculpture had turned into hat-making. I wanted to put down my camera and join in! Later in the woodland, we watched children busily occupying themselves with sticks, leaves and mud.

How do the two themes – creativity and outdoors – blend into one ethos? I’ll let Martin Pace tell you himself in the video included in this case study.

See the Reflections Nursery case study.

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