This term we have been considering our children’s experience of Westgate, and how our invisible curriculum (not-academic provision) can best support our little one’s needs.
With that in mind, we have developed a daily rhythm. A rhythm offers more flexibility than a routine, which enables our children to set their own pace for the day, rather than be lead by time constraints.
Our rhythm is intentionally simple. Using meal times as anchor points, we have designed a flexible rhythm that ensures our little ones get the most out of their time at nursery. The loose structure of the day is a comfort to our children as they can predict what will happen next. Our rhythm allows us to balance exuberant, fun experiences with time to slow down and reflect, and mimics the children’s biological needs for activity and rest.
Breakfast – Separating from family can be tough when you are little, so breakfast is designed to bring a sense of peace. The children serve their cereal or toast independently, and engage in calm conversations with their friends or adults. Our biggest children also discuss projects or activities that they may like to try that day, which will then be incorporated at play time. As part of our ‘Respect. Responsibility. Community.’ initiative, our children remain together until the whole table has finished eating, and then help to look after the environment by cleaning the furniture.
Play – The largest portions of our day are dedicated to play. After a sedate breakfast, our little ones are raring to go, so we begin our day outside in the garden or forest. The children have time to interact with nature (and each other) while their adults set up learning provocations based on their interests. Play time is precious as this is where we see children collaborate, communicate, imagine, and strategise, all to enable them to develop an understanding of the world. Our adults guide and support our little ones to challenge themselves and meet their end goals – from inventing new games, to creating a ‘bird catching trap’ or a ‘spooky scarecrow’!
We offer snack mid-morning, and the children can choose whether they would like to eat or to continue playing.
Group Time – After a period of such productive play, it is only natural that the children should have time to rest before proceeding with their day. The nature of group time varies from day-to-day, depending on our little one’s needs and desires, but generally focuses on supporting communication and language development through storytelling, rhymes, or songs. This is a particularly important time for our babies, as music and singing activities support self-expression for non-verbal children.
Lunch – All of our children look forward to this time to socialise with their friends and refuel their bodies with home-cooked, nutritious meals. We encourage the children to take their time and enjoy the experience so our little ones can eat and chat in a stress-free atmosphere.
Relaxation and Nap Time – After lunch we focus on having quiet time to enable our children to rest and digest. Relaxation time has evolved over the years; each room has a modified approach to best support their children. Our babies offer ‘Meditation and Music’; a sensory experience of relaxing music, light displays and bubbles. Our toddlers practice breathing exercises as they listen to nature sounds and enjoy scents from our aromatherapy diffuser. Our biggest children participate in a ‘Gratitude Gathering’ where they reflect on the joys of their morning, before practicing breathing techniques.
Play time – After our rest, it’s time to play again! The children return outside and choose to continue their earlier play, or engage in something new. This is a time for focused (and fun!) play supported by adults. As well as child directed play, practitioners invite children to join in with creative experiences, movement and music, and sensory learning opportunities. Again, to avoid interrupting the children’s flow, snack is offered and our little ones can choose whether or not to take part.
Group time – Following an afternoon of play, the children come together for another short group time. This gives the little ones an opportunity to calm themselves before our evening meal, and usually involves peaceful activities such as storytelling, songs, or audio books.
Supper – With a day of play under their belt, our children are ready for another meal! This is another un-hurried affair, where the children are encouraged to be as independent as possible. We discuss our time at nursery and consider what we have achieved.
Play Time – After Supper our children can be quite tired, so we offer relaxed activities to take them peacefully from nursery to bedtime routines at home. Watercolour painting, clay, and yoga are popular choices as they enable the children to unwind before hometime.
As you can see, our rhythm is a balance of play and rest, designed to help our children to have the most enjoyment and satisfaction during their time at nursery!