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Provision of high-quality experiential play opportunities

The setting plans a wide range of engaging and interesting learning activities that help develop children’s skills while ensuring opportunities for them to follow their own fascinations and interests.

Childrens hands in water paints on table

Information about the setting

Crossway Nursery believes in an integrated holistic approach to childcare. It offers authentic and real-life experiences that follow children’s interests and encourage independence and exploration. It has created a natural, neutral homely environment bringing the outside in, encouraging care and respect for nature and the environment. A variety of play opportunities are available, which include cooking and gardening. The setting provides lots of messy and open-ended play experiences using natural materials and resources, which children can access independently throughout the day. This supports them to develop confidence and follow their own interests. Children learn, investigate, explore, develop, grow in confidence, build relationships, improve physical and mental health and learn moral and spiritual awareness all whilst playing in a homely, safe and happy environment. The setting has strong community links and good relationships with children and their families, which support children’s learning successfully. It is a small and intimate setting, registered to care for up to 10 children aged 18 months to four years. Crossway Nursery is located in the centre of Caldicot in a small, detached property. There is a small garden at the front of the property and a larger play space at the rear, equipped with toys and resources. Children have daily access to outside areas and these are explored throughout the day alongside trips to the local park, castle or library, which are located within walking distance. There are two playrooms within the property that are well-equipped with a wide range of toys, and resources to enable play and foster creativity. The setting provides resources reflecting a range of cultures and equipment to suit all age groups. It also has space to enjoy messy and wet play activities and its smaller playroom acts as a quiet transitional area where children can rest or sleep during the day.  

Context and background to the effective or innovative practice

The setting prides itself on promoting active experiential learning. It plans a wide range of engaging and interesting learning activities that help develop children’s skills while ensuring opportunities for them to follow their own fascinations and interests. Learning about different seasons and the weather is very important to the setting. This is enhanced by exploring books and stories, bug hunts, collecting leaves, and noticing changes in the environment around us. Practitioners believe that encouraging communication is crucial and concentrate on asking questions that encourage children to make purposeful decisions about their play.  

Practitioners provide children with exciting opportunities to explore and solve problems. They encourage communication skills by giving them plenty of time to think and talk with one other. Toys and resources are equally important as they enhance investigation and imagination. Children have opportunities to use interesting and challenging resources to develop their learning, such as magnifying glasses to look at seeds, and a pestle and mortar to grind and mix seeds and fresh herbs from the garden. Having access to natural materials such as stones, wood, bamboo, beads and real-life objects like seasonal flowers, fruits and vegetables greatly enhances their learning.   

At Autumn time, the setting includes lots of conkers, pine cones, leaves, pumpkins and other root vegetables in most planned activities throughout the season. These objects give children plenty of opportunities to be creative and use them in a variety of imaginative ways. The setting provides resources such as magnifying glasses, cameras, clip boards and mark-making tools with an enabling adult asking open ended questions such as "What do you think it is?" "Do you like it?" "What could it be used for?" This encourages children to think in new ways and solve problems, and begin to understand cause and effect. Through trial and error, they gain confidence in expressing themselves and gain a better understanding of the world.  

Description of nature of strategy or activity

Providing a rich learning environment is enhanced by ensuring that children have plenty of opportunities to make decisions, ask questions and solve problems. Observations of each child’s interests, fascinations and schemas are included in planned activities with lots of responsive planning that is child-led. Observations around schemas ensure that enabling adults respond to children’s individual needs. 

For example, in the garden, practitioners set up an activity in the mud kitchen, which contained a range of different equipment. They ask the children how they could use the equipment in different ways and investigate how they could use different containers to move water from one place to another. They enjoy making tea together, and develop confidence to collaborate together to solve their problems.   

What impact has this work had on provision and children’s standards?

On a daily basis, the children access numerous enjoyable activities and experiences that will enhance and develop all areas of learning and development. Practitioners aim to be holistic in their approach to learning, supporting and developing the “whole child”. They encourage the children to take part in simple yoga, relaxation and mindfulness activities too. 

Children have the opportunity to enjoy cookery activities and preparing their own snacks using practicing fine motor skills,  assessing risk and developing independence. Children have access to the outdoor environment throughout the day. They have access to resources and develop their physical skills through building with crates and planks. They play on a bikes or scooters and have a go at growing their own plants. For children to become confident explorers, practitioners allow them to make choices and decisions about their learning. This enhances children’s confidence and independence, and also supports their well-being successfully.  

Promoting and encouraging independence and confidence in children enhances a sense of belonging. A positive approach from enabling adults impacts on the children’s well-being. Modelling good practices and behaviour by adults encourages children to act in a similar way. Practitioners encourage children to talk with each other, and they talk about being kind to friends and family.

How have you shared your good practice?

The setting provides parents with information on topics and areas of development it plans to focus on as it feels that this gives parents the opportunity to be actively involved in their child’s learning and development. Crossway Nursery ensures that all children feel welcome and valued by building positive relationships with children, parents and siblings. Practitioners listen intently to children’s thoughts, ideas, suggestions and stories, responding thoughtfully and sensitively to children at all times. Welcoming all children with the same greeting and warm smile at the start of every day is crucial. Practitioners praise children for their achievements and efforts and value everyone’s individual cultures and backgrounds. The setting has a range of multicultural toys and resources in the playroom and delivers snacks and meals that reflect a wide range of cultures. It displays artwork and quotes from the children. Practitioners meet with parents and carers regularly to discuss children’s development along with monthly shared observations with parents using the family app.