What we did:
Over lockdown our NHSG Workplace Nursery remained open and we quickly adapted our practice to include a lot more learning experiences outdoors with the children. Some favourites were the fire pit, which the children used to make their breakfast of beans and toast or scrambled eggs. They also cooked up a storm with their potatoes they grew in their vegetable patch and made individual mini pizzas. Children especially enjoyed the opportunity to help the staff decide what to make and experiment their creations afterwards.
Staff introduced many more play experiences, in our 2-5 garden, a car wash, petrol station was made; in the story corner shed, children enjoyed stories and drawing: an assault course was created and we even had the help of a tree surgeon to create a climbing tree. This helped the children to develop their risk assessing skills whilst providing the opportunity for natural social distancing.
Children enjoyed video contact with our therapet Bruno the dog, with his owner sharing videos of them reading stories at home. The nursery children, in return then sent their own videos and thank yous. Children who were not attending daily, nursery videos were sent of the staff with the children leading singing, story time and fun activities which could be shared at home.
In our under twos garden, children especially enjoyed exploring the newly created sensory path way, fairy garden, sensory den, rock climbing wall, new shed chalk boards and hidden tunnel with slide. It was an opportunity to use many more natural resources with the children and take all the learning from indoors, outdoors.
Who we involved:
Staff and children were involved, with parents joining in from home, alongside Bruno and his owner. We had support from a tree surgeon and his team.
The difference it made:
This supported the parents who continued using the setting and emergency placements, all of whom were key workers within the NHS. Knowing that their children were in an environment that they were settled and knew well, helped to support the parents in leaving their children with ease whilst playing their part within the Covid-19 pandemic.
Parents commented how the daily videos, the staff were sharing with their friends, who were staying at home, gave the children excitement to have a look at on a daily basis to see the nursery and what their friends are doing. In return the children from home sent in videos to share with their friends, this helped to support their routine and return back to nursery as their parents returned back to their workplace.
The ability to access and develop the outside space also helped to support the children in their emotional and social wellbeing. Allowing them the freedom to have a continued routine, and space to express themselves, through what was quite a different time in their lives and evolving environment.
What we will do differently in the future:
The staff team have grown in strength and have worked extremely well as a team, supporting one another when it was such a challenging time and providing the children within our care with a safe, happy, challenging quality and caring environment for them to develop in. Offering the continuity in their care and although changes were made to our practice, this was done with minimal disruptions to the children and their care routines. To help support the team further, each week one room within the setting would create a team building activity for staff to join in with to help keep staff morale up.
Due to the guidelines, the children are spending almost all day out in the garden, including adapting meal times, and learning experiences for the children. This has in turn developed the staffs motivations and expanded their thinking about how the garden could be developed further to support the children to have continued variety, a more challenging environment, and risky play. Providing opportunities for continued expansion of learning and staff development experiences.