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    Useful articles and information for Parents

    The importance of play is often overlooked, but not only does structured play provide an excellent platform for learning but it establishes bonds, develops communication, active learning skills and allows children to explore the world around them through experimentation, asking questions and observing outcomes.

    The importance of play is highlighted in its role of under-pinning the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS) further emphasising the importance of the adults’ role to provide safe, challenging environments to facilitate, support and extend learning opportunities.

    Parents are a child’s first educator, with research showing that babies are pre-programmed to respond to their parent’s voices and faces. Simple games that babies love, such as peek-a-boo, therefore enable them to acquire new skills and further their understanding of the world around them in a secure environment.

    Young children learn very quickly and because learning can be made fun, become absorbed in these activities therefore developing their ability to concentrate. Through this they gradually build up a sense of their own identity and an understanding of their own abilities.

    Understanding children’s development stages is key for developing learning through play, as resources and opportunities need to be age appropriate and achievable. Play should be open ended and children should be encouraged to not be afraid of making mistakes as this is all part of the learning journey.

    Children learn best in a warm and caring environment, where adults take an interest in their wellbeing and value their achievements. Many Early Years Year’s settings will assign a key worker to be that significant person but also to liaise with the family to discuss their child’s achievements and to create a programme of next step for learning.

    Nursery environments are often structured into, the following, areas corresponding to the EYFS framework learning areas, that encourage both independent exploration, and adult led activities, designed to teach new skills or to further the child’s understanding.

    • The Role Play Area – allowing the children to explore roles, relationships and skills in context i.e. a shop keeper counting money, adding totals working out change.
    • The Construction Area – encouraging children to develop mathematical, design and collaboration and negotiation skills.
    • Sand and Water Play Area – teaches about volume, capacity and displacement.
    • The Art Area – encourages creative expression and provides an excellent means for children to express their feelings and emotion in a constructive output.
    • The Music Area – songs and rhymes provide an opportunity to expand a child’s vocabulary and sense of rhythm.
    • The Outdoor Area – the role of outdoors play should not be underestimated especially for boys who enjoy the sense of freedom and adventure.

    The Department for Education offers a guide for parents outlining the different stages of a child’s development “What to expect when?” 4 children parents’ Guide.

    “Open space allows children to be physically active and challenge themselves so they sleep and eat well and form healthy habits that will stay with them for life.”- Play Strategy For Scotland 2013
    Children need space to be children; to run, jump, climb, race and create mess. Outside ‘classrooms’ can give them all this and the ability to work on a larger scale, as emphasised by the Early Years Foundation Stages. When outdoors, children have the freedom to explore and develop their physical boundaries, to take risks and to discover the real world using all their senses, creating positive effects on a child’s self-esteem, confidence and wellbeing.

    Young children need the opportunity to use their whole body and develop their gross motor skills. It’s only when they have mastered these that they will be able to control their fine motor skills, such as using a knife and fork or holding a pencil, for instance.

    Physical play allows children to expel energy and develop their physical capabilities, providing excellent multi-disciplinary learning opportunities, especially for young children who’s learning is best achieved through both sensory and physical experiences. Activities such as ball games, riding bikes and simple playground games can be undertaken in groups or as a solitary experience; however, they provide an excellent way of promoting discussion, an understanding of risks and rule setting; as well as improving co-ordination, learning about the natural environment and healthy lifestyles.

    Outdoor activities, such as building a bug hotel, enable children to solve basic problems, nurturing creativity, imagination, invention and resourcefulness, through discussing planning and materials, and learning about insects, measuring and construction methods. Activities such as this foster numerous learning opportunities across many curriculum areas allowing real life problems to be discussed and answered in a more memorable way than reciting numbers, and within a non-judgemental framework, that builds self-confidence and concentration skills.

    Children need opportunities to explore and discover the natural environment. Observing worms moving in the soil, examining bugs under rocks, listening to bird song and experiencing different weather patterns provide an open platform to question and extend children’s knowledge and vocabulary, as well as providing a means to discuss more mundane issues like hygiene and safety.

    Most nursery outdoor areas will include a role play area, which children can adapt to impose their own meaning. These areas provide opportunities for rich socio dynamic play where children use their imagination to create a play environment and story, in a safe and secure environment. Story telling is an excellent way of promoting not only communication skills but also sentence structure, descriptive adjectives and adverbs, all necessary for good written composition.

    Anyone who works with children will testify to the sense of wonder and excitement that is generated when children actively engage with their environment.

    8 signs that your child may show to say they are ready to start potty training.

    – Your child can stay dry for around 2 hours

    – Your child asks to be changed

    – Your child asks to use the potty/toilet

    – Your child’s poos are regular

    – Your child asks/takes an interest in wanting to wear underwear

    – Your child follows simple spoken words

    – Your child will start to saw they need to go

    – Your child can pull their pants up and down

    Sensory plays a large part in all child development. At Little Bear’s we have a strong focus in this area and us such have installed sensory rooms or areas in our nursery settings.

    Little Bear’s In East Village has recently revamped the sensory area in the under 2’s room to make it more cosy with sensory cushions, touch and feel toys, and music instruments, whilst Little Bear’s In Elephant Central has a purpose built sensory room applicable to all ages.

    There are a number of key benefits to the sensory areas for our children’s overall development:

    1. Research shows that sensory play builds nerve connections in the brain’s pathways, which lead to the child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks.
    2. Sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interaction.
    3. This type of play aids in developing and enhancing memory
    4. Sensory play is great for calming an anxious or frustrated child