Since opening our first nursery in 2011 we have come along way and our approach has been developed and fine tuned over the years, and we have no doubt that it will continue to do so. We were originally inspired by the Reggio Approach from Northern Italy, which is characterised profoundly by its commitment to child led learning. Children are seen as confident and capable beings who are able to develop their own theories and test them, whilst educators research and learn alongside them. This filters through into our approach and as well as children testing their own theories and enquiries, as adults we enjoy testing our own and looking deeper into children’s patterns of learning, fascinations and questions to find an underlying common interest.
Whilst we still hold the Reggio Approach close, we do not claim to be a Reggio Nursery because we believe that you cannot just take an approach from one place and exactly replicate it in another. We take inspiration from it and many other things – mainly our children and staff. We have added our own twists, theories and experiences along the way to develop our own ‘Little Learners Approach’.
Having said that, another important aspect of the Reggio Approach which we firmly believe in is that the environment is the third teacher. Our teams lovingly set up the children’s learning spaces with attention to detail and passion. Every corner and space has a purpose, and every interaction with the environment is a learning experience for the child. Each play space is inviting and inspires children to delve deeper and provokes focus and engagement in child initiated, free play. Enhancements to the environment and adult planned activities are used to add depth and breath to the children’s self directed learning. Resources such as light boxes, projectors, overhead projectors, mirrors and shadow sheets support a calm and welcoming environment as well as add new dimensions to the children’s play and explorations and create thought provoking experiences.
Whilst on the subject of resources, it is important to note that within our nurseries you wont see many typical toys, rather we value the role of natural and reclaimed materials to promote exploration, discovery, creativity, imagination, resourcefulness and curiosity. What better way to learn about the world you live in than by exploring directly with it. Natural resources such as branches, pine cones, leaves, flowers, mud, dried and fresh fruit, bark, shells etc are used throughout our environments indoors and out as our every day resources (toys). They are open ended and can literally be used for anything, but here’s a few examples:
- counting, adding and subtraction
- weight, size and shape
- using the objects to create the shapes of letters
- letter and number recognition with pebbles with letters or numbers written on them
- learning about textures
- imaginary play – representing one object for something else
- enhancing clay and sculpture work
- understanding of the world
- learning about the four seasons
- fine motor skills activities
In addition to natural resources, you will find our nurseries equipped with loose parts large and small and reclaimed resources such as old wooden apple crates, cable drums, tyres, cardboard boxes, pallets, variety of tubing, wooden planks, cds, pots and pans, utensils, nuts and bolts, pipettes, bandages, padlocks and keys…The list goes on, there’s too many to name but all as equally as valuable. Again these resources are open ended and provide a wide range of opportunities for children to build on their skills. As practitioners we are quite resourceful and will literally ‘make something out of nothing’ and we encourage and support our children to do the same by using their creativity and imagination.
When it comes to toys, we do have some, usually in the form of blocks of various sizes for construction, wooden or plastic animals and cars for imaginary play and baby dolls. Rather than plastic food and tea sets for role play, we use real food and real tea sets. A plastic apple has very limited capability of educating a child, but a real apple…well you think of the opportunities available.
As we have mentioned elsewhere, outdoor learning is a huge aspect of our approach. The great outdoors, we believe, is way better than the limited four walled space indoors. Children thrive outdoors and it is an extremely healthy and natural environment for them. The sky is the limit and the possibilities are endless when you use the outdoors as your classroom and a love for nature begins. Of course the indoor classroom has its place and is too very valuable, but we cannot emphasise enough the importance of nature and the great outdoors.
‘A child that grows to love nature will always have a reason to appreciate life’ (Adrianne Simeone)
The new experiences that naturally present themselves such as the wind in a child’s face, a bird flying across the sky, the clouds moving, rainfall, trees moving in the breeze, the wet grass, the dry grass, the cool air (and the list goes on) are second to none – something you cannot be taught, only experience. The outdoors presents new risks and challenges that children can negotiate and conquer and in turn, develop their confidence and self awareness.
We believe children need to be able to take risks in life, and in fact every day life presents risks to us all. Risk taking is not always physical and it may also be an emotional risk that a child (and in fact adults) have to take. One child’s physical risk is another’s easy conquest but then that same child finds it challenging to put their hands in paint. Learning to sit, crawl, walk, run, jump are all risks we have to take as we grow up so let’s not be afraid and embrace risky play.
We encourage you as parents to be happy and knowledgeable about our approach, from day one on your nursery viewing we will provide detailed information about our approach and how it benefits the children and our staff in each room can tell you more about what they are doing with their children in terms of their current learning and development and why. You will be able to see our beautiful learning spaces, meet the team and see our children in action and we hope the viewing will give you a clear picture about us and our approach.
During your child’s time with us, we actively strive to work alongside you because you are your child’s first and most important educator and therefore the valuable information you hold about your child helps us to better plan for their learning and development. We encourage home observations and we share with you the next steps we are working on with your child. Two times a year you are invited in for a parents evening where it is not only a chance to have an informal chat with all of the staff and management but also a formal meeting to review your child’s progress. In addition, three times a year you will receive a positive progress report on your child, focusing on all of their achievements. On an every day basis you are welcomed into the nursery to drop off and collect your child from their room and have that valuable communication with your child’s carers. This is also a good opportunity to catch a sneaky peak of your child hard at play!
As well as being here for the children, we are also here for you as parents. We have a designated parent liaison worker at both nurseries who you can book meetings with and they will support you with anything you need.