NAME OF SETTING: Sandfield Natural Play Centre
Sandfield Natural Play Centre is open Monday to Friday all year round from 7am until 6.30pm. A maximum of 52 children may attend at any one time. The nursery also offers after school care to children aged over five years to eight years. The nursery is based in a Georgian Grade II listed house situated in Whiston, Merseyside. Staff and children use the ground floor rooms and a 1.5 acre walled garden area. There is also a 6 acre private woodland used for walks, expeditions and pond-dipping which is accessed via gates leading from the nursery garden. The Nursery is currently being mentored by Jan White to develop the concept of ‘Natural Play’.
EFFECTIVE OUTDOOR PRACTICE:
The garden area is being carefully managed by staff to create a ‘natural playscape’ where children have good opportunities for physical activity, confidence building, creativity, problem solving and contact with the natural world. The children are able to experience their outdoor environment first hand and have protective outer clothing so that they can play outside in all weathers. Children are absorbed and engrossed in their play and they confidently explore and use the whole space. They move freely, make a noise and enjoy the sense of space, light and scale. They create dens using twigs and branches, and make a hide to observe birds. The garden also has quieter areas where children can relax under the trees in hammocks. Children grow and pick their own vegetables, they enjoy home-cooked food using fresh ingredients and often sit in the fresh air to eat their meals. Staff value children’s ideas and make good use of the outdoor environment to give effective support to children -moving around the garden with them and extending their play and learning.
BENEFITS AND POSITIVE IMPACT:
Outdoor play is given a high priority in the Nursery and the value of this approach has been recognised by Ofsted; in March 2011 the Nursery secured an ‘Outstanding’ judgement for the overall effectiveness of the provision. The inspection report notes that ‘All children make significant gains in their learning and development. The educational programme is extremely well organised and excellent systems are in place to monitor the children’s progress. Emphasis is placed on the benefits of outdoor play, as well as challenging indoor activities. Close partnerships with parents and other professionals help ensure the children’s individual needs are consistently catered for. The children display high levels of confidence and a sense of belonging as they play in a safe and inclusive environment. The management successfully embeds continuous improvement and uses rigorous evaluation systems to identify future plans.’
Sandfield Natural Play Centre featured in a Nursery World Good Practice Guide written by Jan White (for further information see link below), and the Nursery has just been awarded the National Day Nursery Association prestigious accolade ‘Day Nursery of the Year’. When I visited the Suzanne and her team in June it was easy to see why; this Nursery is a beacon of good outdoor practice -and demonstrates that where there is a will there is a way!