The Highworth Produce Show

It’s September, which (in Highworth) can only mean… it’s time for the Highworth Produce show! As well as all of our summer projects, we’ve spent the holidays preparing for the local craft competition.

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The craft categories were perfect for our children’s interests: dinosaurs and pebble art! At Westgate we value children’s creativity, so rather than simply follow the instruction of a painting/collage of a dinosaur, we opted to make one ENORMOUS dinosaur collage, which all of our children contributed to!

Headed up by Marie, the children were all given ‘dinosaur scales’ to decorate as they desired. As always, the children had free access to pens, pencils, crayons, chalks, and paint (with supervision!) and the scales are individual masterpieces. The toddlers then created a collage of all of the scales, turning mini artworks into a huge diplodocus (please see our facebook page for more photos)!

In addition, the oldest children decorated a pebble following their own creative interests. Some children used the bingo pens to splash ink; some decorated their pebbles with water colour paints; and some added sticky decorations!

The Highworth Produce Show will be held on Saturday 8th September at Warneford School from 2-4pm. Why not come and view our children’s amazing creations? We love sharing our children’s talents with the local community!

Five Currant Buns

Five currant buns in a baker’s shop,
Round and fat with a cherry on the top.
Along came Polly with a penny one day, 
Bought a currant bun and took it away!

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After breakfast on a rainy Thursday morning one Butterfly decided to play with playdough. He found the playdough, tools and table mat and set to work making ‘pancakes’ and singing to himself (Personal Social and Emotional Development)! I joined in his baker’s song (Communication and Language), and rolled out three playdough buns. We practiced counting the buns, then took it in turns to take away one bun at a time, marvelling at how our three buns became fewer and fewer (Mathematics). We were quickly joined by more children, who commented that our buns didn’t look right because they didn’t have cases or cherries. A quick raid of the kitchen (and roll of the playdough to make ‘cherries’!) also enabled us to introduce another sensory element – baking spices to smell! The children loved kneading the spices into their buns (Physical Development) and carried on the imaginative play for an entire hour (Expressive Arts and Design)!

To build on this, recipe books were provided to enable the children to have a go at baking themselves! They examined the print in the books (Literacy) and eventually chose to bake fruity bread buns. Together they mixed the ingredients and kneaded the dough, before Kerrie baked them into perfect buns (Understanding the World). We shared the buns together at biscuit time, spread with butter and a little jam – delicious!

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Here is just one example of how one child’s interests have sparked an entire day’s worth of learning and fun at Westgate!

Breakfast Morning Granola

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At Westgate we see learning opportunities everywhere – even in day-to-day routines. Breakfast is a time for the children to communicate with adults and peers, practicing conversations (and learning to LISTEN to answers!) and sharing news and ideas. It is a time to enhance relationships with friends, gain confidence in speaking in front of a (very small) audience, and to practice manners. We learn patience while waiting for the toast to cook; turn-taking while we wait for the milk or Marmite; and sharing when we hand out crockery and cutlery to our friends. The children can not only develop their gross and fine motor skills by serving their own breakfasts; they also experience the joy of independence when they successfully pour their cereal and milk or spread and cut our toast by themselves for the first time . And yes, we increase our familiarity of shapes by asking for toast to be sliced into squares, rectangles and triangles!

In our most recent breakfast morning the children were especially proud to serve their own homemade granola to their parents. Served with milk or natural yogurt (children’s choice), this alternative to cereal went down a treat!

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Westgate’s Breakfast Granola (serves a lot of hungry little ones!)
340g Porridge Oats
1tsp Cinnamon
4 tbsp Coconut Oil, melted
5 tbsp Golden Syrup/Maple Syrup* (or to taste)
Assorted dried fruits

Preheat the oven to 150C, and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

In a large bowl, mix the oats, cinnamon, coconut oil and syrup until the mixture becomes sticky. Pour onto the baking tray and spread out. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, turning once to ensure the granola doesn’t burn.

When the granola is cooked add the dried fruits and stir through. We used dried apricots, sultanas, mixed currants and banana chips – all chosen by the children of course! When cool. serve with yogurt or milk.

* At Westgate we are honey and nut free, as these are common allergens in young children. If making the granola at home, nuts and honey could also be added.

 

Thank you to all of the parents who joined us for our latest breakfast morning – we really appreciate you taking the time to join us and the children in sharing the most important meal of the day!

Our Atelier Project

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To us adults, the above assortment of objects simply looks like a mess. But to a child, it can be a treasure trove of possibilities.

This week alone, the blue roll mat has been turned into a hammock (balanced precariously between benches and weighted down with crates). The tyre has been a trough for cows to drink from. The pipes have been musical instruments.

Welcome to the creative world of the atelier.

Ateliers (art studios) are a feature of the Reggio Emilia philosphy of learning, which places emphasis on nature and outdoor learning, as well as providing experiences for children to learn from. A large part of the philosophy is giving the children ownership of learning and providing opportunities for children to unleash their natural creativity, something that can be achieved through art and creative play areas.

At Westgate we have been inspired by this and have been experimenting with different materials that can be used to harness creativity. From larger scale ‘found objects’ as featured above, to standard junk modelling materials (think cardboard tubes, cereal boxes and yogurt pots!), to clay and nature play. Marie created an atelier based on sticks, where the Caterpillars collaboratively decided to build stick houses for Stick Man and proceeded to select the necessary tools and materials – it was a fantastic source of independence, creativity and expression!

Ateliers provide opportunities for children to solve problems and create their own artistic visions. It has been a pleasure to witness the creativity; we can’t wait to see more!

 

How our ateliers support learning:

  • Personal, Social and Emotional: Children work together to support individual and group creations; taking turns and sharing resources.
  • Communication and Language: Children use talk to pretend objects are something they are not (for example, the tyre water trough!); share and communicate their ideas.
  • Physical Development: Depending on the type of atelier, children use fine and gross motor skills to interact with the resources (snipping, sticking, balancing, stacking).
  • Literacy: We encourage our oldest children to write instructions on how they made their creations; younger children are asked to write their names on their artwork.
  • Mathematics: Children need spatial awareness to create their creations; mathematical vocabulary (e.g. height) can also be introduced if appropriate.
  • Understanding the World: Children have the opportunity to recreate and make sense of their own experiences.
  • Expressive Arts and Design: Children can develop their self-expression; experience different media and materials and unleash their imaginations!

 

For more information on ateliers, please read this article!

 

 

Relaxation Time

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We have recently made a small change to our daily schedule that will (hopefully) generate big results: relaxation time.

We’ve noticed that our children are ALWAYS learning, and that means that they are always on the go. Many of our children experience up to 10 new activities every day – with so many new learning opportunities on offer, there’s little wonder we don’t all become overwhelmed!

Relaxation time is our solution to this. Inspired by the mindfulness movements we have devised an opportunity for our children to experience 20-30 minutes of quiet time. Each room takes this time differently – for many of the babies, relaxation time is synonymous with nap time; whereas our Caterpillars and Butterflies are learning to appreciate some quiet time during the day. Calming music is played (for anyone who would like to replicate relaxation time at home, we usually use Weightless by Marconi Union, which was created to ease anxiety and promote restfulness) and children are invited to sit or lie down and focus on their breathing.

For many children extended relaxation time can be difficult; as such, we offer focuses for the children to concentrate on. We encourage the children to rest their hands on their tummies and watch as they rise and fall with each deep breath; alternately the children are invited to watch the light patterns of a (slow-moving) disco light as it reflects on the ceiling. Sand timers and glitter jars can also be used to provide a focal point for smaller groups of children.

The benefits of mindful relaxation with children are numerous and can benefit all areas of the EYFS curriculum:
Personal, Social and Emotional: creates feelings of calm and encourages patience which supports children to interact thoughtfully; mindfulness practices can be used to support older children to control extreme emotions (temper tantrums!).
Communication and Language: Children use relaxation time to listen to the world around them, familiarizing themselves with sounds for auditory discrimination (a skill essential in early reading).
Physical Development: At its core relaxation time provides an opportunity for children to digest, unwind and, if necessary, fall asleep.
Literacy, Mathematics, Understanding the World: Relaxation time promotes focus and concentration, which are critical in learning the concepts of early literacy, mathematics and science.
Expressive Arts and Design: Relaxation can help to refresh and reinvigorate children, so they are ready to play, explore and create!

The Garden Bird Watch

We are pleased to announce that Westgate will be taking part in the RSPB’s Wild Challenge!  Our children already love spending time outside, so we have decided to harness this interest with a challenge designed to encourage our children to explore, interact with and protect the environments around them.

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To start, the Butterflies decided to take part in the RSPB Garden Bird Watch. The children spoke about the birds that they recognised – including magpies, seagulls, robins and blackbirds – before deciding to tempt more birds into our garden by scattering bird food (or granola left over from our breakfast morning!). We then spent nearly an hour looking out for birds in the garden and forest, with children using clipboards to make marks representing each bird that they saw: 14 blackbirds, 8 pigeons, a seagull and even a brave little robin!

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When we finally came in to warm up, one child realised that magpies might be tempted to steal her shiny shoes! This prompted the children to make posters to display in the garden to warn the magpies away – they decided to cover the posters in foil to make sure the magpies read them!

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The Garden Bird Watch engaged our children for a whole afternoon, and helped to develop so many skills:

  • Personal, Social and Emotional – taking turns with the clipboards;
  • Communication and Language – listening to the birds singing, subject-specific vocabulary (bird names and facts), recalling and sharing past experiences of birds;
  • Physical Development – climbing hills and roaming the forest in search of birds, holding pens and recording the birds we spotted, writing warning posters, cutting and sticking foil;
  • Literacy – ‘reading’ the bird fact files, writing warning posters;
  • Mathematics – counting birds, recording ideas of number;
  • Understanding the World – learning to care for British wildlife;
  • Expressive Arts and Design – creating our posters!

A Day in the Life at Westgate

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08:23 – Breakfast time! The children usually have toast and cereal, but occasionally homemade granola and croissants also grace our table. As always, the children are encouraged to be as independent as possible – the oldest children even serve themselves!

09:23 Breakfast has finished and it’s time to play! Some of our children begin their day at 9:30, so we will have exciting activities ready to play with. These activities will change throughout the morning, depending on the children’s interest – dragon chase in the garden could turn in to taming dragons in the forest, or cooking for them in the roleplay corners.

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The Three Bears’ House Roleplay

10:23 Snack Time! We host a ‘rolling snack’ where children approach the snack table when they are ready, so as not to interrupt play. Each day we provide a bowl of fruits which the children choose, help to cut (if necessary), and share with their friends.

11:23 The play continues! In this cold weather usually most children have migrated indoors by now, so activities and space for free play will be set up across the nursery.

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12:23 Lunch time (sort of)! The oldest children will be finishing their puddings now, which is served slightly earlier for toddlers and babies due to their napping schedules. The little ones are patted to sleep with gentle music to soothe them.

13:23 Some of our little ones will still be sleeping, so the other children will use this time for quieter activities, like painting, playdough or cutting and collageing.

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14:23 It’s time for a biscuit! Some of our children leave for the day at 2:30, so before they go we serve a biscuit snack and milk and usually bring the children together for a story.

15:23 The children spend the afternoons building upon the most enjoyed activities of the morning – the Butterflies children loved the car mat at lunch time, so we made a ‘road’ for the cars and bikes in the garden! Some of the children may also help to prepare tea…

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Pineapple upside down cake for pudding… made by our very own Caterpillars!

16:23 Tea time! Every day we serve our children high tea at 3:45. This light snack and pudding varies from homemade soup to fish finger butties or crumpets and spreads – where possible the children will have contributed to their meal too, from choosing and chopping the vegetables for soup to making quiche!

17:23 It’s nearly the end of the day, so activities will be starting to wind down. The toddlers and babies will be getting ready to play with the older children downstairs and to have a few bedtime stories, nursery rhymes with instruments, or puzzles and turn taking games.