Children painting

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The nursery environment

Learning through play

Parents need to feel confident that even in Nursery and especially in Pre-school their children are being educated. They want to be sure that their children are given the best possible start in their young lives. There are of course formal educational goals set for young children through the Early Years Foundation Stage which all nurseries, preschools and schools must adhere to. At Westchester House we have adopted a highly successful philosophy to this, which is reflective of the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage and which is fully recognised and praised by OFSTED called 'Learning through play'.

At the heart of this approach we create an environment where a child can express themselves and experience a balanced curriculum of educational activities and experiences. The ability to do this through interaction, involvement and fun ensures that a child can access learning in a non-pressurised manner and therefore develop his/her abilities in all areas. Having operated this methodology for the past decade we are delighted to report that all of our Nurseries have achieved positive recognition for their care and education from the relevant regulatory authorities.

As an example, when playing with dough children will be exploring the texture, handling it to determine its weight, working out how to divide it into pieces so everyone can play, using new language to discuss and describe their experience and using social skills as they play with others. Children are experiential learners; they learn best through actually doing things, especially if they are allowed to practise and repeat what they have done.

The following are some brief examples of how we foster learning through our play-based curriculum, ensuring each child makes positive progress in their time with us:

Personal, social and emotional development

Children develop skills that are critical to their ongoing partricipation in society and ability to co-operate and work and play with others.

They learn about rules and boundaries and are encouraged to develop appropriate ways of behaving towards others, as well as recognise how others should behave towards them.

Communication and language

Children are given confidence to express their own thoughts and ideas with staff and others. They are encouraged to observe and question the world around them and to talk about themselves and their lives.

They contribute in organised group activity where in particular they learn to listen and respond appropriately to others.


Children have many opportunities to handle books, often sharing stories with staff; looking at words and letters which encourages the development of their literacy skills.

As children play and use their hands they are gaining increasing control over their movements, working towards increased pencil skills.

To develop this further children are encouraged to make marks in their play, for example, they create 'shopping lists' or 'menus'.

Children learn to respond to patterns in language, exploring alliteration, onomatopoeia and rhyme through singing, sharing books and exploring poetry which supports their increasing knowledge of letter sounds and how written and spoken words are formed.

Problem solving, reasoning and numeracy

Through daily routines children learn about numbers, problem solving, shapes and sizes in their play. Children learn how to solve problems; for example how many beakers are needed at snack time. Children learn to predict and test their hypothesis as they, for example, measure themselves and other children, determine who is tallest and shortest, and then compare and often record the actual results.

Information communication technology

Daily access to a computer and other forms of programmable toys encourages children's increasing understanding and use of communication technology.

Exercise and wellbeing

The programme recognises the critical importance physical movement has for young children, both in terms of health and in terms of good brain development.

Outside children can use a range of equipment to support them in developing balancing, climbing, throwing and catching skills, as well as playing, running, hopping, skipping and jumping games and learning to ride wheeled vehicles.

Inside physical development is encouraged through activities such as yoga, music and movement.