Mindstretchers Nature Kindergartens
Contact: Claire Warden or Niki Buchan through email@example.com (T: 01764 694744)
Mindstretchers opened the first nature kindergarten in Scotland in 2006: Whistlebrae Nature Kindergarten near Braco in Perthshire. There followed a second Nature Kindergarten in 2008: Auchlone near Crieff, also in Perthshire. Claire Warden (CEO) defined the philosophy of these Nature Kindergartens as fully naturalistic spaces utilising the high play affordances of nature with a high level of consultation. The parents of young children in the local communities provided the impetus for the establishment of these centres.
The Kindergartens provide both a secure and natural indoor space for children and a gently challenging outdoor investigative zone which supports young children to develop emotional confidence and skills. In addition to these areas, children also benefit from spending time in the wild wood where the Kindergartens are situated, in order that they can experience the freedom of a fully natural environment. Children from the age of 2 years spend the majority of the day outdoors in all weathers, either in the naturalistic gardens of the Kindergartens or in the woodlands, where they undertake activities such as making dens and bird hides using tools such as saws and loppers, making fires to cook their own snacks, climbing trees and exploring the wood.
Themes within the early level of Curriculum for Excellence are covered by the Kindergartens, always using nature as the context. An example is that early numeracy is covered using a range of sensorial materials such as seed pods, lengths of twig and number stones gathered on sessions in the wood. Routinely, in the course of daily activities, children are given the opportunity to learn about concepts such as slope and gradient (when building slides from natural materials) and measuring the depth of water (when building bridges over streams). There are also daily opportunities for children to learn about negotiating risk in a safe space.
Research supports the use of nature as a learning medium. Children who play regularly in natural environments show more advanced motor skills whilst their imaginative and creative play is more diverse and fosters language and collaborative skills. Children with additional support needs, including ADHD respond positively to the calmness of natural playscapes. In addition to the term-time provision for young children, the Kindergartens offer after school clubs to provide older children with the opportunity to explore the woodland. Holiday camps for children aged 3-14 are also available during spring and summer holidays.
Auchlone Nature Kindergarten was inspected by HMIE in May 2011, and received an extremely positive inspection report.
Particular strengths identified within the inspection report were:
- The warm, nurturing, family ethos based on mutual respect.
- Confident, creative and independent children who engage in high quality learning experiences.
- Strong partnerships with parents, the local and international community.
- Children's challenging learning experiences indoors, outdoors and beyond which allow them to progress with confidence in their learning.
- Effective teamwork of all staff in providing high quality support to all children based on children's voice.
- The inspirational vision of the Director, senior management team and all staff to continually improve the kindergarten.
Start to Play - Moray
Contact: Kim Paterson, Moray Council
At the end of 2009, the Moray Childcare Partnership held an information night to raise awareness of the Healthy And Active Children agenda among practitioners, and to identify any further training needs in this area. Over 150 childcare staff and childminders attended, and were given presentations from a range of agencies including Sports Development, Health Improvement, the Librarian Service, Speech and Language Therapy, Health Visitors, Paediatrics and Physiotherapy. Following on from this session, the childcare staff and childminders were asked to highlight the areas where they had the lowest levels of knowledge/skills, and where it would be helpful to receive additional training.
In response to the feedback from childcare staff and childminders on the information evening, Sports Development organised seven workshops across Moray to deliver the Start to Play training programme throughout 2010. The programme was commissioned through the Youth Sports Trust and was aimed at practitioners engaging with children between 0-5 years.
Start to Play was designed to educate and train childcare and childminding staff in physical activity and play opportunities. The long-term aim of the programme was to ensure that young children starting school would be better equipped with the fundamental movement skills and ability to run, jump, hop, balance and play, and would more generally get a healthy start in life, with a lower risk of developing conditions such as obesity, coronary heart disease, diabetes and strokes
Through funding obtained from the Moray Childcare Partnership, each childcare centre and childminding group that attended the training received a Start to Play resource bag which included colourful play equipment, story books and accompanying audio CDs, music CDs, resource cards which include a variety of games/activities, 5-a-day healthy eating activity bag and a participation award scheme.
A Sports Development Officer delivered the Start to Play training to over 100 childcare and childminding staff in 2010. Evaluations from the training were very positive, and many of those who attended have since reported an increase in confidence about instigating game play and activities with the children in their care, to the extent that they were using the Start to Play equipment and resource cards on a near daily basis. Childcare centre staff also reported an improvement in children's balance, hand-eye co-ordination and fundamental movement skills in the period after they participated in the "Start to Play" activities.
Following the success of this project, the Sports Development team incorporated Active Start sessions into their term-time and holiday programmes for 3-4 year olds in response to feedback from parents on the importance of their children being physically active.
Moray Childcare Partnership are currently investigating future funding avenues to continue to deliver the Start to Play training to new staff, and to extend the programme to those working with children in the 5-8 age group. Regardless of future funding for the Start to Play resources, the Sports Development team will continue to offer training through Moray Childcare Partnership, working with childcare centres and childminding staff to source funding to purchase the resources if necessary.
East Ayrshire Council: EA Positive Play
Contact: Tammy Devlin, East Ayrshire Council
EA Positive Play is the brand name of East Ayrshire Council's mainstream play development provision and was implemented in 2007. Funded by the Big Lottery Fund and East Ayrshire Council EA Positive Play focuses on the inclusive development of active play, and the promotion of healthy lifestyle choices among the population of children and their parents/carers, in addition to, community groups with an interest in play living in East Ayrshire.
The Service is managed and delivered by the Council's leisure development section, working with others including Community Sports Development; the Recreation Partnership Service and Community Health Improvement Partnership to provide a coherent, whole population approach to improving health and wellbeing and reducing health inequalities within communities.
The service is fully integrated within East Ayrshire Council's single outcome agreement, community plan and children & young person's service plan. In addition, the service works in close partnership with other agencies and departments to achieve shared outcomes to deliver the elements of transformational change set out within the Early Years Framework, specifically "Improving outcomes and children's quality of life through play". EA Positive Play offers the following services across East Ayrshire to achieve this aim:
- Early years play & activity motivation initiative
- Fun 4 Hire - Play Equipment Hire Service
- School grounds and community open space initiatives
- Positive play initiatives
- Seasonal community programmes for children and young people aged 0-15 years
- East Ayrshire community play forum
- Annual national playday event
EA Positive Play, via the delivery of the above range of interventions, delivers a range of outcomes for local children, including:
- Improved interaction and bonding for children aged 0 - 5 years and their parents/carers and extended family, through increased opportunities for active play and physical activity at home and within the community
- Greater participation in outdoor play for children and families
EA Positive Play has undergone an external evaluation carried out by Caledonian University - Scottish Poverty Information Unit in 2009. In addition, the project continues to evaluate all services delivered for the purpose of continuous improvement and customer satisfaction.