Nursery World Awards 2020 - Working with Babies and Toddlers

Friday, February 5, 2021

The Baby and Toddler Pod at Snapdragons Nursery, Bristol

When Snapdragons Nursery opened its 200-place setting in Redland, Bristol, a key aim was to create baby and toddler environments that respected the emotional and physical needs of the very youngest.

Its baby and toddler pod is a single-storey building with level access to purpose-built gardens. There is air-conditioning, a variety of dedicated sleep areas and a baby kitchen. Safe zones with comforting sensory environments are integrated into rooms for babies.

The staff team is led by an early years teacher, and new advanced practitioner roles have been created in recognition of staff’s experience and knowledge.

An apprenticeship scheme also supports the expertise of those who recognise the importance of development in babies in particular.

Staff focus on building firm relationships with parents and babies immediately, with settling-in sessions tailored to parents’ needs, and arranged around established naptimes and mealtimes, as well as parents’ working patterns and any other siblings. When settling in takes longer, the nursery offers further sessions to ensure babies are secure and happy by the time they start.

As a further extension of parental partnerships, the baby pod has hosted ante-natal group meetings and parent information sessions for those experiencing problems or wanting advice on mealtimes and sleep routines at home.

Emphasis is also placed on the importance of transitions. Strong bonds are formed between age groups through long settling-in sessions when moving between rooms and excellent interaction between staff.

Communication is a focus at all times and staff are trained in language development, repeating and extending language, but also communication through body language and signing. Makaton is used routinely throughout the day including during sing and sign sessions.

Specific under-twos policies and a specialised baby room induction for staff highlight the importance of respect and interaction, while changing nappies, the importance of making feeding times with bottles special and the need for quiet times where babies are held lovingly and eye contact is maintained.

A specially created 360-degree audit guides staff through every aspect of the children’s experience and encourages staff to put themselves in the shoes of the child and develop strong empathy with their experience.

During lockdown, the setting offered a special hotline for those needing support. The setting’s quality and training manager, who is also a Norland nanny and trained maternity practitioner, answered calls and emails, and published advice and activity ideas to help fill the days.


Supporting the Under-2s at The Old Forge Day Nursery

Supporting the Under-2s builds on Old Forge’s existing Baby Room Project to include children under two.

A regular discussion group with parents allows staff to share their in-depth knowledge and experiences.

The Under-2s garden allows young children to safely explore all the sources of awe and wonder of the setting’s main Forest School.

Meanwhile, practitioners tailor routines to each child’s individual needs, including sleep routines in which children choose whether to sleep in cots, prams, outside or even in hammocks.

Children are moved into new rooms using pictures and other items to help them settle using all their senses.

As a result, parents say that they feel more confident understanding their children and happier leaving them at nursery.


For early years provision displaying exemplary practice in working with the youngest children


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