Early years

overflowing classroom shelves

Time to clean up

Shelves overflowed with piles of games, equipment and donated items, making the room look more like a neighbourhood boot sale than a classroom. In fact, there seemed to be more storage space than floor space.…

A cluttered play environment can make children restless and unfocused. When toys do not lead to deep engagement, children are easily distracted and tend to flit between occupations. Having more stuff certainly does not make children happier and often stifles imagination. Educational consultant Sandra Duncan refers to this as “mental clatter” which has a “negative impact on children’s growth and development – and especially their behaviours.”

Is there stuff in your classroom that just collected dust this year? Arm yourself with more than a feather duster for a real clean! This article is a bold invitation to De-clatter your Classroom.

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two children building a structure with outlast blocks

Why we must return to kindergarten

Two centuries ago, Friedrich Froebel combined the German words for “children” and “garden” to illustrate his revolutionary approach to early childhood education – kindergarten. He envisioned a fertile environment where young children blossom and grow into creative, free-thinking individuals. Through meticulous observations he arrived at the conviction that a child’s natural play and exploration is the primary mode for learning.

Often, this “children’s garden” becomes the bottom rung on a pressure-packed, test-driven, educational ladder. How can play be restored to this important chapter of a child’s life? For some thoughts from US educators, read this article.

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nursery gym

Celebrating success

Babies practice so many skills on the Nursery Gym. They are pleased with each achievement, and especially pleased when they can share it with a responsive adult.

Kai, just a year old, pulled himself laboriously up the steps, babbling all the way. At the top he gave a loud shout, and smiled rapturously at his caregiver. Moments of frustration that give way to victory are always worth celebrating.

Watch the Nursery Gym in action at Pen Green.

Woodworking

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.     

seaside

Summer scavenging

I have been enjoying a beautiful book, I Love Forest School by Martin Pace, owner and director of Reflections Nursery. It's full of pictures and detailed observations of children's explorations at Forest School and (a new idea to me) Beach School.

If your children don't have those opportunities, can you bring Forest School to them? Summer offers chances to collect the natural materials, be they seashells or pine cones, that enhance construction, craft or role play areas. Children and staff can help gather these resources, which then provide a springboard for discussion about where they were found, what kind of tree the pine cone grew on, or what kind of animal lived in the shell.

Even without trips to the woods, your setting can develop what Martin Pace calls 'lively connections' between indoors and out.

Hear more from Martin Pace and link to his book here.

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