Exploring Music in the Ladybirds Room


Music is a huge part of life – from moving film soundtracks to joyful songs on the radio, music has the ability to affect our emotions. At Westgate, we play soothing music to calm children during nap and relaxation times, and fast-paced, catchy songs during discos. Recently, however, as part of the emotional wellbeing focus that underpins everything that we do, we have been exploring other ways in which music can support our children.

Research (see article) has found that music can support brain development, and is particularly effective at developing literacy and speaking skills. Indeed, when examined against the seven areas of the EYFS curriculum, music can support nearly every area:

Personal, Social and Emotional – Children gain confidence and self-esteem as they learn to make sounds using instruments.

Communication and Language – Singing sessions help to familiarise children with songs, rhymes and words. Playing musical instruments develops the ability to differentiate between the different sounds of the instruments, which can later help with phonic learning.

Physical Development – Playing musical instruments can support hand-eye co-ordination and dancing to music supports gross motor and rhythmic movement.

Understanding the World – Listening to music from a range of cultures can help children to be interested in ways of life other than their own, which should also support tolerance.

Expressive Arts and Design – Playing instruments, singing and dancing supports self-expression, imagination and creativity.

With this in mind, we will be focusing on music throughout the nursery, but have decided to particularly prioritise music in our under-two’s room, where many of the children are non-verbal. The children already enjoy regular discos, singing sessions and story telling times, but to access the benefits of music we have decided to offer these multiple times a day, and have introduced musical instruments or props to these sessions. We will also be working with our team to empower our practitioners to confidently lead musical activities.

For some ideas of how to use music to support your little ones at home, please read the article here.

Process Art


At Westgate, we firmly believe that every child is an artist. Arts and design activities are integral to our daily practice – not only are they fun and tangible opportunities to explore colour, pattern, and shape; they also allow the children to explore and express their own emotions.

But… with that exploration comes the knowledge that not every piece of art will be beautiful. Preschoolers will painstakingly draw pictures of their dreams, only to tear their artwork to shreds with scissors. Toddlers will paint with rainbow colours, before deciding to mix every colour available to create a brown mess. Babies will giggle as their hands are tickled by a paintbrush, which is then printed everywhere but the paper!

As the saying goes, children will be children, and we believe there is more value in these learning experiences than a production-line style art activity, where each child creates the same artwork as the child before them, all of which are instantly recognisable thanks to the adult’s input. The child cutting in preschool is learning how to use scissors, developing their hand-eye co-ordination, gaining strength in the muscles in their hand. The toddler is exploring how colours can be changed, and will eventually use this knowledge with purpose in future artwork. The baby with painted hands is learning about touch and consequences when he sees the grown up scrubbing paint off the floor!

Take this example of a Preschool junk modelling activity. The table was set with boxes, bottles, tubs, and cardboard, as well as a variety of cutting and fastening tools. The child filled an empty bottle with string, sticks, and pencils from the nearby pencil holders, developing strength in her fingers and wrist as she undid the lid and posted each implement into the bottle. ‘It’s my maraca!’ she announced proudly, shaking the bottle as she started to sing a nursery rhyme. A pencil flew out as she shook it, which prompted her to realise that the maraca needed to be sealed. She selected a glue stick and smeared it around the opening, before placing the lid back on. The child decided to decorate her maraca by drawing a picture, but realised that the pencils were all inside the bottle. She tried to remove the lid, and was surprised at how easily it came off – realising now that the glue had not been strong enough. She attempted to remove the pencils, but found that her fingers could not fit through the hole, so shook out all of the implements before separating them in to categories of matching objects. The child then drew her picture, reassembled the maraca (without pencils), and selected double-sided tape to reseal the lid. She used scissors to cut the tape, and spent several minutes concentrating on wrapping it around the bottle lid, until choosing to ask for help. When the maraca was complete, she asked for a disco and proceeded to shake her instrument as she danced to the music!

This activity took no longer than fifteen minutes, but in that time the child learnt a wealth of skills and techniques – from fine motor skills, to categorising; problem solving (exploring fastenings and asking for help when required) to imaginative play. Process art offers so much more than a memento – it provides a voice to speechless children; a problem to be solved; and an experience to be remembered. For our children, art is not about the end result, it’s about the journey.

Story Telling Project Phase Three: Our Own Stories


This year we have been focusing on supporting our children’s literacy, communication and language, and speaking and listening skills with our Story Telling Project.

What started as a way to develop listening and recall skills, as well as familiarity with traditional tales has been extended as our children’s (and practitioners’) skills have flourished. First children listened to the tales; they then joined in with acting out and reciting familiar stories; now we are proud to announce that our children are inventing and creating their own stories!

The Butterflies children enjoy taking turns to sit on the ‘grown up chair’ to tell their creative tales to an audience of their peers. Sometimes these tales reflect traditional stories, but more often the children are able to create their own, new stories – often featuring their friends!

To build upon this, we will be scribing our children’s creative stories and collating them in a book that we will be able to return to again and again. Not only will this continue to support our children’s listening and communication skills; it will also support early literacy and physical skills as the children have opportunities to write or illustrate their stories. Furthermore, the Story Telling book will provide a sense of ownership to the children, thus supporting self-confidence.

Watch this space to see how the Story Telling initiative evolves next!

The Learning Tree

At Westgate, we believe that children learn best when they are motivated, interested, and empowered. As such, this year we have redesigned our planning system to better reflect our children’s interests and harness their natural desire to learn. We are pleased to present: our learning tree!

Following observations and discussion with our children, each room has been able to identify themes that reflect the interests of groups of children. The key carers then use their knowledge of the child and the curriculum to plan activities that are both based around each child’s interest, and provide a challenge to the child. We have also been lucky enough for our parents to get involved, by sharing their children’s interests or suggestions for areas of development.

In Action:

The Butterflies team have used the learning tree to ensure that the role play area is a source of awe and wonder for children by relating it to the most popular theme from the tree. Over the summer, many of our children indicated that they were interested in exploring flowers. In order to facilitate this indoors as well as in our garden, the Butterflies team created a florist shop, which the children loved. This enabled the team to support the children’s fine motor skills by providing opportunities to wrap bouquets; extend vocabulary by using specific language related to flowers (flower names and parts); develop awareness of numerals and quantity by completing order forms and counting out flowers; and express their creativity by making flowers for the shop.

After several weeks, however, the children’s interest in flowers waned and the practitioners observed increasing interest in babies. As the learning tree was updated, it was also important to update the role play area to reflect the change in interest. Children were consulted about what they would like to do with the babies; each child made marks to represent their ideas. When it became apparent that the children wanted to care for the babies like grown ups, several children were taken to visit the Ladybird’s room and invited to take photographs of elements that they would like to incorporate into their role play area, before helping to create the new baby room role play.

Following the addition, the children are once again inspired to explore the roleplay area. Our baby room role play encourages the children to be empathetic to the needs of others (dolls); thus supporting PSE. The children talk to one another and act out scenarios, as well as singing to the babies like the ‘upstairs grown ups do’, to support C&L. The children act out care routines including hand washing and toileting, helping to solidify their own independence and self-care. Stories are read (and told) to the babies to support literacy; and of course acting out experiences and roleplaying is key to EAD development.


In this way, the learning tree has helped the Butterflies team to identify a change in interest and create an area that provides awe and wonder, and motivates our children to access opportunities to develop in so many other areas of learning.



Sticky fingers, runny noses,
Heads, shoulders, knees and toes-es,
Shapes and colours, ABC’s,
Taking turns, and 123’s.

Toothless smiles, hugs and giggles,
Circle time and lots of wiggles,
Wooden blocks and dress up clothes,
Learning how a flower grows.

Milk and biscuit, first-time friend,
Thinking days like these will never end,
Preschool’s done before you know it,
No-one’s sadder than this poet.

Like a butterfly, time has flown,
you have learned and you have grown,
Tiny chairs give way to desks,
homework and spelling tests.

So take off now, spread your wings,
Soar to new heights, learn new things,
Just remember, as you do,
We are all so proud of you.

Book Making


If you take a look at the book corners in each of the rooms at Westgate, you may notice some handbound or laminated pages. Please do take a closer look – these are the books that your children have made!

We have collated artwork that reflect the children’s interests – the Ladybirds have made books about themselves and their families; the Caterpillar’s books are about flowers and the Butterflies have made books about nature and bugs.

DSC05734In the Butterflies room children have even been helping to laminate their artwork, supporting their understanding of technology and safety. By making books as a team we can practice collaborative skills, as well as highlighting each child’s different talents. In this way our book making does not only support literacy and communication, but personal, social and emotional skills too!

The children love being able to examine their own creations, and we see so many proud smiles when they share their work with friends!

A New (Partly Plant-Based) Menu for Summer


At Westgate, we pride ourselves on caring for our children’s emotional and physical wellbeing.

Our cook Angie has whipped up a new menu to enhance our current mealtime offerings and ensure that our children receive balanced meals and the opportunity to eat SEVEN portions of fruit and vegetables every day. To encourage children to be open-minded eaters, our new menu features both new flavours and traditional favourites, with a little twist.

They’re plant-based.

True, we’re not an entirely plant-based setting yet, but of the eleven daily menus on offer, six are entirely vegetarian; with another four involve one vegetarian meal.

And why have we chosen to embrace plant-based meals? Partly because they are more inclusive to the needs of our children with dietary requirements, and we feel that mealtimes should be inclusive, social events. Moreover, we believe that children are more likely to try – and ultimately enjoy – unfamiliar foods when they have been exposed to it multiple times.

Our experience with children’s eating habits has also taught us that the more involved children are in preparing meals, the more motivated they may be to try it. As such, many of our meals are made – at least in part – by the children. Whether it’s grating carrots for the coleslaw to go with BBQ Quorn and sweet potato wedges; or adding spices and slicing up homemade tortilla chips to top our spiced chickpea tagine, we will provide opportunities for our children to join in too!

For a sneak peak at our menu – and a few cheeky recipes – make sure you check out our facebook page!

Parent Readiness and Our School Transition Initiative

Moving from nursery to ‘big school’ can be a nerve-wracking transition, both for the children and for their families. At Westgate, we have a comprehensive program to support our children to face this change as positively as possible.

But what about the parents of the transitioning children?  We recognise that the more comfortable and confident a parent feels about the upcoming transition, the more secure the child will feel. So here is a glimpse into what we get up to in the Butterflies room to support the school transition!


We believe that social skills, independence and emotional literacy are of equal importance to academic performance when considering school readiness; our provision prioritises opportunities for children to develop and consolidate these skills in accordance to our beliefs.

The ‘school’ roleplay corner is set up to give the children an idea of school routines and expectations. The children participate in ‘registration’, as well as sitting together in a group for a ‘lesson’ (no longer than two minutes). We introduce the idea of uniform with dressing up options, as well as school books and pencil cases on our writing station.

Many of our table games and activities relate to school readiness as they encourage the children to take turns, share and follow rules to play the game.

In fact, every learning experience offered in the Butterflies contributes to their school readiness, as they are planned in accordance with the EYFS curriculum for 30-50 and 40-60months. These objectives are intended to gradually prepare children for school; thus ensuring that all learning opportunities on offer in the Butterflies will contribute to school readiness. For example, our finger gym enables the children to develop the fine motor skills and coordination that are necessary for early writing in a fun, playful way.



As for parents… we have recently reviewed our school transition schedule, and will be incorporating two new Parent Readiness Evenings. In the Autumn term we will host an evening session so parents can have a ‘taster’ of our curriculum, and the ways in which we support school transition through play. We will then repeat the evening in the Spring term, when we will also invite representatives from the local schools to join us.

The school transition can be a daunting experience, but it can also be filled with excitement as your child begins on the next stage in their lives. We wish you all the best of luck!

(For more information, please ask a member of the Butterflies team to share our Parent’s Guide to School Transitions!)


Story Telling Project Phase Two: Bedtime Stories Evening and World Book Day 2019


Following the introduction of our Story Telling Project last year, we have made several developments. We are pleased to say that our children are engaging brilliantly with the stories, and the older children are starting to tell their own versions of traditional tales – last week we were treated to Goldilocks and the Three Pteradactyls!

Every February we host a Bedtime Stories event, where we wear pyjamas and read stories together. For the first time, the Butterflies Team invited their children’s parents in to experience the power of Story Telling themselves. We were so impressed with the turn out, and it’s great to think that some of the parents will try out some of the strategies with their children at home.

Again, our Westgate family did us proud for World Book Day. The children’s outfits were fantastic, and we were able to share some special stories from home which made the event even more memorable. We are so pleased that our families clearly value stories as much as we do, and we will continue to foster a love of stories in the future!


Our Garden from a Child’s Eye View

We are aware that most of our parents hear about their child’s nursery experience from the practitioners. So with this in mind, we handed out cameras over to the children to show you a child’s view of the goings on at Westgate!

Welcome to our garden, as seen through the eyes (and camera skills) of some of the Butterflies children!


Our Summer House contains tables and chairs for picnic meals and garden activities; as well as our literacy cupboard. Children can access the literacy storage freely for mark making tools and equipment and story books.


Our A-frames were created a few years ago, when we were searching for an open-ended resource that would support physical development of all children at the nursery. Our babies enjoy practicing climbing, while the older children challenge themselves to balance across the bridge or jump safely from each step.


In our triangle ‘stage’ we store smaller toys for the children to access, as well as using the stage itself for small group activities such as singing or story telling. The children love exploring the area behind the stage, which is full of plants (and usually some bugs!).


We are currently in the middle of a project to transform the garden shed into a roleplay area! We will be building on the children’s current interest in Spring and growing by creating a garden centre/farm shop, complete with chalk wall to encourage our little ones to make marks!


We love to make the most of our outdoor space with numerous games and activities for the children to explore. On this day, the photographer captured a water tray ball run experience. The children explored gravity and angles by dropping the balls through tubes propped up on different height crate towers (that the children had also made). The children also used the water to develop their physical skills of pouring and mixing (particularly with sand!), as well as counting all of the balls to support mathematics!