Supporting emotional wellbeing is at the heart of our practice at Westgate. Often our children are confident and comfortable to ‘use their words’ to articulate their emotions, however we are aware that some of our children find it difficult (or impossible if they are non-verbal!) to share their emotions with peers or adults. In order to support these children, we have tweaked our environments to ensure that children can access resources that will bring them emotional wellbeing independently.
Throughout the nursery we have age-appropriate emotional wellbeing check-in points. These vary in each room: for our youngest children, musical instruments are stored at child height to ensure our babies are able to express themselves; whereas our toddlers enjoy access to mirrors in which they can see facial expressions; and our preschoolers are able to self-identify whether they are experiencing positive or negative emotions using their emotion sticks. By enabling all of the children to access these tools independently we are able to monitor each child’s emotional state, and support the children through focused activities such as therapy putty, if necessary.
At Westgate we have always been believers in the healing power of nature, and we have recently extended this to bring nature inside! There are many plants in the children’s environments, each of which have been selected due to the beneficial effects they bring to emotional wellbeing. For example, the spider plants in the Butterflies Room help to remove traces of harmful chemicals from the environment, reducing the risk of coughing and headaches, and enabling the children to focus on play and learning. Moreover, the dragon plant and ivy in the Book Room work together to create a microclimate of oxygenated air, which should support the children’s brain functioning and concentration skills during story time, as well as creating a calm environment for relaxation time.
In addition to this, plants offer other educational opportunities such as enabling children to care for living things (teaching compassion and kindness) and helping children to develop an understanding of growth and (hopefully not) decay!
To further enhance the tranquility of our environment, each room has a diffuser, through which essential oils are diffused at various points of the day. These oils have been carefully researched to ensure they are not harmful to the children. Lavender oil is used to create a sense of calm during relaxation and nap times, where as lemon oil can support children’s focus at story times, and eucalyptus oil can support the respiratory system in the winter months!
Finally, thoughtful displays of the children’s artwork add colour to the neutral background to each room, as well as providing a sense of homeliness that enables our children to settle in so well. Perhaps more importantly displaying artwork (and Wow Moments) helps to cultivate feelings of pride and ownership in our children, thus supporting their self-esteem.