What to Look for in a Nursery
From a child?s earliest encounter with the world in which they live they are influenced by the environment around them The home environment is the first in which a baby is able to explore and learn fromFrom a child?s earliest encounter with the world in which they live they are influenced by the environment around them.
The home environment is the first in which a baby is able to explore and learn from. An environment in which a baby is stimulated will encourage them to experience and learn things for themselves. This is one of the most significant aspects of learning ? hands on experience. As adults we know that learning something new can only become a useful skill if we have practised it, experienced it and made it part of our everyday life. This is the same for children.
As children grow they become more curious about the world around them and begin exploring further. Providing surroundings which are constantly presenting new learning opportunities help children become accomplished at many basic skills. Things that can help development include alphabet freezes, ?hands on? toys teaching shape recognition, numbers displayed around the house, opportunities for painting & colouring, paper to draw on and cut and labels on things around the home.
In terms of deciding when to send your child to playgroup or nursery, this will depend on their development and your knowledge of your child. You are the best judge of this and you will know when the time is right. The sudden change from the safety of home to an unfamiliar place and people can be an unsettling period for your child and you. However, staff are experienced at easing the most reluctant children into new surroundings and involving them in activities within the room. This opportunity for children to interact with others will help them become aware of their needs, not just their own. They soon join the class activities, make new friends and begin their journey of discovery, as do you.
There are a variety of establishments available. Some offer 52 week provision from early in the morning to late in the evening and some offer term time only and there are variations between both. All establishments have to follow the new Early Years Foundation Stage (more information at http://www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/eyfs/). This forms the basis for all learning from birth to 60+ months of age.
To deliver this curriculum, and more importantly develop a love for life long learning, there are many things one should consider: the venue; facilities; staff; structure, and activities to name but a few.
The venue for the nursery plays an enormous part in the child?s learning experiences. For example, if I was looking for a nursery for a child who was three, then an establishment attached to a school which teaches children from the age of 3 to 18 is going to have far more facilities than one located in a converted house. It would probably have an indoor heated swimming pool which the children would have lessons in with a specialist teacher, a huge hall, lots of outdoor space to play and investigate in. The scope to continue one?s education in one place is vast. Your child would potentially have specialist teachers for music, PE, singing and as they grow all the other subjects too, the chance to interact with older children, have hot food in a dining room and be part of a vibrant community. These are just some of the benefits of being part of a school?s nursery.
Facilities need to be in excellent order and all activity rooms must be vibrant learning environment. The children need to be stimulated by their surroundings and be encouraged to interact with them. There has to be a good selection of toys and other resources to promote creative thinking, play and learning.
The leader should be open, welcoming and friendly and have the children?s development at the forefront of everything they do. Remember: it is not a requirement at present for a qualified teacher to be in the nursery. Most schools have qualified teachers, but other nurseries do have nursery qualified staff often to an equivalent level. There should be a member of staff for every eight children (three year olds) thus ensuring frequent interaction between children and teachers.
I personally favour a structured approach to nursery education and would look for regular elements of maths known as Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy, English known as Communication, Language and Literacy, coupled with reading as and when my child was ready, but balanced within the other four areas of learning in the Early Years Foundation Stage.
Children should be offered a variety of activities, both guided and free choice, coupled with areas for writing, role-play and ICT. After a couple of days I would expect to see evidence of my child?s achievements on display and be invited to look at other areas of their work. When asking questions I hope the staff would be able to offer advice and direct me to someone else if they could not answer my query. In discussing confidential issues I would expect to be seen in a private room and my business not to be broadcast around the nursery.
Above all, the children must be happy coming to school and if they spend their time within a relaxed, stimulating and secure environment then learning will happen spontaneously!
Matt Crick is writing for St Mary?s Hall, an independent school for girls situated in Brighton, that offers Pre-preparatory, Preparatory, Secondary and Sixth Form education. St Mary?s was founded in 1836 and is one of England?s oldest private independent schools located in attractive grounds and in easy reach of Brighton?s historic city centre. St Mary?s also hosts a reputable private nursery school that encourages a culture of learning and respect for knowledge at an early age.