Why have plastic fruit when children can play with real apples? Last year, nursery manager of three-branch Court Moor Playgroups in Hampshire, Wendy Hamley (pictured), decided to bring in more natural and authentic resources.
She was inspired to do this by training delivered by Jigsaw Early Years Consultancy. During a Curiosity Ignites Learning course, which taught how to encourage children’s curiosity through teaching, Jigsaw director Vanessa Dooley brought suitcases - called curiosity cases - of teaching materials for childcare professionals to explore.
Having previously studied theories of ‘loose parts’, which encourages children to play with materials in multiple ways, Ms Hamley decided to work with Ms Dooley to encourage her staff to be more creative.
As a bespoke training provider, Ms Dooley consulted Ms Hamley over email and telephone and designed a training package. This began with a competition between all 18 of the settings’ staff to find as many interesting items for children to play with as possible, with a budget of just £20.
Two months later, in January this year, Ms Dooley delivered the training and assessed the workers’ findings. The staff produced old typewriters, binoculars and kaleidoscopes, among other items. Ms Dooley explained how to use these to hold engaging conversations with children, or group the resources together to tell a story. ‘It made everybody think out of the box,’ says Ms Hamley.
On her request for staff to become better at using natural resources in play, Ms Dooley also showed them how to use plants and flowers during painting activities.
Ms Hamley says using a bespoke training helped her organisation ‘change practice and have enthusiasm about something new. The training we got from her was just what we needed for that purpose.’
As a result, she has noticed improved communication between children and staff. ‘There’s a lot more chat and imagination taking place,’ says Ms Hamley. Children ask questions about the items, and think of new and different ways to play with them.
Ms Dooley says bespoke training can help settings fill gaps in staff’s expertise. ‘We say every child is unique, and so is every setting,’ she adds.