Video

The Dream Coracle

at Northumbria University Nursery

What happened when Northumbria University Nursery switched from cots to Dream Coracles? Siren Films visits the nursery to see how the Coracles are accepted by the children and find out what staff and parents think. The film also explores how the Dream Coracles give children greater independence and security.


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This is Northumbria University Nursery. Children, even from a very young age, become capable of making choices about their own routines. To encourage this independence, the nursery has introduced a new type of bed, the Coracle.

I think it fitted with our vision of independent children's choice and where they could choose to crawl into the beds themselves. And it's not being chosen where you want to put all the children to sleep in cots. It's very much fits with us of being a child-led environment.

The foundations of children's independence lie in the relationships the practitioners build up with the children. Having the security of a familiar and responsive adult, means the children feel safe to gradually become more independent. Children who are supported and helped to be independent gradually become able to take control themselves. As they feel sleepy, the children are encouraged to become aware of the need for a rest. Evie has climbed in on her own and lies down herself. Her efforts are encouraged. Libby is ready for a nap as well. Lynn helps her in.

Lynn's comfortable on the floor than in a good position to help Libby go off to sleep. The eye contact, reassuring touch and soothing singing help Libby drift off.

Previously it would be traditional for a member of staff to sit next to a cot and slide their arm through the bars and to be patting the child, bending over. And also we had cots that the sides don't retract fully. The strain on staff backs putting a child into a cot, lifting back out of a cot .Whereas we have beanbags. I would sit on the rugs around the Coracle so the staff can sit at the child's level and it's much more comfortable for the staff as well to do that.

I've had good comments from parents as well and they've actually come to pick up their children and the baby has been asleep in the Coracle and they're just amazed how comfortable and cosy they look.

But I know in her own cot she started nuzzling towards one end where were all the teddy's are to sort of be part of a little space rather than being left in the middle of the [inaudible 00:03:44] . She slept for ages. It's a big cot as well. So I don't think they like being in this huge vast boundaryless space- It think it's nice to have these little pod spaces that they can be within.  And life generally it's part of a routine. Where are you climbing to?

That's the other good thing about a boundary. It means you can break it!

It's creating a little sort of cocoon, I guess, for them to cosy up in and snuggle up in. But I think they do have that added benefit of, they can be used to play as well, rather than on a mat on the floor that they're sitting on, or whether they can sort of have it as a play area as well.

Evie stirs. But she's given the space and time to get herself back off to sleep. She stroked her ear to sooth herself. Being more independent and taking control is known as self regulation. Waking up too soon, and being able to put yourself back to sleep is an important self regulation feature. Children use sucking, movements or tactile feelings, like stroking or feeling a blanket to put themselves back to sleep.

When children wake up, it's really lovely because they can lie there, they're safe on the floor and they're cosy and they can just basically wake up themselves, there's always a member of staff close by.

Evie is quite content as she moves from a sleepy state to a more alert one.

She babbles to herself and feels the boundaries of her space.

A few encouraging words from Lynn and she is ready to get up and explore. Libby is quick to rise, jumping up for a cuddle.

The independence they are given builds up their ability to know how they are feeling, what state they're in and what they want to do. This will encourage their confidence to manage things for themselves, helping them to become masterful.

With the Coracles, it's very simple. They're very light. We can stack them up, and then what we can do is put them to the side of the room. We can just slip them outside the baby room. And then that's given us a whole new space to be working in the nursery for a different activity.

When you first see them, because you're that used to having cots... But they do like them, and I think it is nice that they can just get into them themselves because they're never, ever going to be able to get into the cot. I think they're nice to play in as well. The area being defined as it is. It's just small, it's more purposeful. Yeah, they're very nice, very cosy. I like it, really like it. 
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