ON YOUR BIKE
We value cycling in our nursery for the physical aspects but also for the self-esteem and confidence gained from mastering a skill. Child obesity is a national problem and children are playing out less, so we want to encourage physical exercise and support gross motor skills, balance and co-ordination. Rather than having trikes, where there is little learning potential, we have invested in balance bikes, bicycles with pedals (no stabilisers) and helmets.
Before introducing cycling to our children we held a staff training day where we discussed the process of learning to cycle. All our staff are now passionate about bikes, even those who can’t cycle themselves. Before getting on the bikes we teach the children bike maintenance – the ABC of checking Air in tyres, Brakes and Chain – so it is a holistic experience.
The children then go from sitting on the balance bikes and walking to scooting, until they are gliding and lifting their feet. This can take many weeks. The garden team know which children need to practise on the bikes and will target them along with letting other children join in. We also talk about negotiating the space, turning and stopping. Luckily we have the room for bikes to be available all the time, so there is no frenzy to get on them and the children develop turn-taking skills, negotiation and patience.
We want children to be joyful in their learning, and the joy they achieve from their perseverance and achievement when learning to ride a bike is huge. We film them to share with parents and they celebrate with their peers. Those who have mastered cycling then help to support others, which is also positive for their self-esteem.
Riding bikes is a great way for families to spend time together outdoors. We lend the bikes and helmets out on weekends and during holidays, which has been really good in bringing parents onboard with cycling.
Children settling into our nursery often enjoy bird watching, probably because it is a small group activity that is quiet and calm. We are fortunate to have a lovely garden with mature trees and keen, knowledgeable staff. The team are continuing to develop their knowledge of birds alongside the children as they reference bird-spotter books and posters. The children use binoculars and have identified birds including blackbirds, thrushes, pigeons and seagulls. We discuss the birds’ different sizes, colours of plumage and markings. It is an opportunity to develop listening skills as they try to hear the birdsong. Being still and calm can also enhance children’s well-being.
We investigate different habitats, where the birds like to nest and what they eat. Talking about caring for the birds helps to develop the children’s empathy as they think about providing food for them and not scaring them away.
In winter we make fat balls, and in spring the children compile nesting bags with nature fibres and resources, including twigs and wool.
Each year we involve our families in bird watching and take part in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch. Along with learning about different birds, it helps the children to develop tallying and mark-making skills. Some children also draw maps of the garden and label them to show where the different birds like to be.
GOING TO THE SEASIDE
We’re committed to exposing our children to a wide range of environments, and one of these is the beach. We have organised an annual beach trip during the summer term for the past five years and have been very fortunate with the weather!
For some of our families, this is the first time they have been to a beach and there is often awe and wonder when they see the sea. We want the children to be accompanied by a family member so they can experience exploring the sand and water together. We give families a few months’ notice so this is possible.
There is a real community spirit and a sense of unity as we picnic and share amazing boxes of home-cooked food on the beach. We also buy ice lollies for the children. They love splashing in the water, going crabbing and building in the sand. A lot of families have told us that, as a result, they have returned to the beach during the summer holidays.
Rachel Keeling Nursery School is an Outstanding setting in Bethnal Green, east London
Two Dogs on a Trike by Gabi Snyder and Robin Rosenthal – ‘One dog stands alone, two dogs on a trike, three dogs on a scooter, four dogs on a bike…’ Count up to ten and back down again in this picturebook starring ten dogs and a tenacious cat!
Bear on a Bike by Stella Blackstone and Debbie Harter – A friendly bear travels the world by bike, train, raft, boat and hot-air balloon, visiting a market, island, castle and even a rainbow along the way.
Blue Rabbit and the Runaway Wheel by Christopher Wormell – When Blue Rabbit has an accident with his bike, the wheel flies off and rolls away, disturbing a group of animals’ peaceful day.
Otto Blotter Bird Spotter by Graham Carter – Otto leaves his family of bird-spotters in their hide and sets off in search of adventure. He finds a baby bird that keeps growing and growing, and Otto begins to suspect it may have a family…
Feathers for Lunch by Lois Ehlert – A cat encounters 12 common birds in the backyard but captures only feathers for lunch. Includes a bird guide.
Look Out, Suzy Goose by Petr Horácek – Suzy goes for a walk in the woods but a bear, wolf and fox all spy dinner! Look out for other Suzy stories, as well as Horácek’s Blue Penguin, Puffin Peter and Hello, Little Bird.
The King of the Birds by Helen Ward – The birds decide their king should be the bird who can fl y the highest. The winner seems obvious until a small wren outsmarts them all. Adapted from a traditional tale and beautifully illustrated.
A First Book of the Sea by Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton – A collection of beautifully illustrated poems about the oceans and their shores.
Wave by Suzy Lee – A wordless picturebook about a little girl’s day at the beach with her mother. New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book 2008.
Chu’s Day at the Beach by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex – In this adventure, Chu the sneezing panda gives such a mighty sneeze that he parts the sea, creating walls of water and leaving some animals stranded. Might another enormous sneeze solve the problem?