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Partnership with Parents. We organize outings, Parents Evenings and the celebrations of Festivals and events. Parents get involved in the planning and running these occasions and we work together as a team. The aim of these workshops is for parents and visitors to get together, socialise, meet each other and share information and experiences.

The workshops are intended as a time for reflecting on the aims of nursery education, children’s development, learning, play, health and other issues.

The workshops are fun and lively with parents and visitors not only listening but actively participating and contributing. They are interactive and informative with parents hopefully taking away something with them at the end.

If you would like to enrol in or suggest a topic for a workshop, please call the Nursery

The following are the main discussion points from each workshop, which we hope you will find of interest. Should you wish to request further information on any of these subjects, please phone Clayhall Nursery or email us at: info@clayhallnursery.co.uk

How to get the best from your child through play

How to support and encourage children’s learning

How to tame your toddler

At Clayhall Nursery we believe in our motto “…Let your child be one step ahead.” We value children as individuals and aim to provide the best possible care and education for all our children.

In order to do this we like to work closely with our parents (past, present or future), and ideas, comments and suggestions are always appreciated!

If you would like more information about our Nursery or would like to arrange a visit, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would love to hear from you!

Heuristic Play

… allowing children to learn things for themselves

Heuristic play for babies starts with the magical treasure basket with sensory objects for babies to investigate.

Inquisitive toddlers explore heuristic objects that keep them absorbed in play by allowing them to investigate and make discoveries for themselves.

Heuristic play with objects was devised over 30 years ago by Educational Psychologist Elinor Goldschmied. She developed a method of play that helps babies and toddlers to learn naturally, as nature intended.

The word ‘heuristic’ comes from the Greek word ‘eurisko’ meaning “serves to discover or reach an understanding of.”

Children without language learn by ‘doing’ and they learn best when they are allowed the freedom to make choices for themselves, to investigate the toys and objects that interest them, making any discoveries along the way. They are instinctively curious.

They will look at, touch, bang, open, close, shake, carry, post and sort all objects in order to understand them.

Heuristic objects have infinitive possibilities for play and learning as they have no right or wrong way of being played with.

Imaginative and symbolic play

The following are brief descriptions of the different types of play our children engage in.

Imaginative play includes pretend, fantasy and symbolic play. Imaginative play is also often referred to as pretend play children come to terms with and practice different aspects of daily life. They can act out familiar scenarios and can work through experiences.

Fantasy play – common between 3 years + 8 years. Children pretend to be certain characters such as a dinosaur, superhero etc.

Symbolic play – Children use an object in play and pretend it is something else – for example buttons can be used as money. Symbolic play becomes role play when a number of objects are used together, e.g. chairs put together to make a bus or plane, paper is used for tickets, passport etc. Small world play, dressing up, tea sets.

Energetic play – Children engage in physical play which also promotes exercise and large physical play, e.g. running, jumping using apparatus, balls and outdoor equipment which can be an outlet for energy. Music & movement, drama and group games are also categorized as energetic play.

Creative and Messy Play – This can include art & craft with use of a variety of materials, self expression through music & dance messy play using cornflour, flour, paint, dough, clay, mud, shaving foam, soap flakes and foods such as pasta, beans and jelly. These are fun materials to explore and experiment with. Tactile experiences are open ended and undemanding. There is no right or wrong way to use the materials. They can be soothing and a link from home. Children can often spend long periods of time exploring textures, properties and the feel of these tactile experiences. The most versatile materials are sand & water, which can be presented in many different ways!

Characteristics of Play


– is enjoyable, freely chosen by the player

– can be abandoned without blame

– has no preconceived outcome, the agenda can develop as play goes on

– gives pleasure and often counteracts stress

– develops skills which are important to overall development

Birth to 3: 4 aspects for the development of the under 3’s

– A strong child

– A skillful communicator

– A competent learner

– A healthy child

The foundation stage is divided into 6 areas of learning:

1) Personal, Social & Emotional development

2) Communication, Language and Literary development

3) Mathematical development

4) Knowledge and understanding of the world

5) Creative development

6) Physical development

The foundation stage is the term used for the overall development of children aged between 3 and 5 years.

The History of Play

Various theorists have offered accounts of the origins, functions and pattern of play. Until the 1800’s children were largely regarded as small adults with no special provision made. Babies were swaddled to prevent too much movement. Once laws were passed prohibiting child labour, children no longer worked and the number of children per family went down. Play was then used for self improvement and there should be a purpose.

Children’s play can be divided into the following age categories:

Stages of Play:

0-2 years – Solitary play: Toddlers live in a very private world. They play with things in all kinds of inventive ways, exploring and trying things out. They engage in play alone and tend not to involve other children or adults.

2-3 years – Parallel Play: Although aware of each other’s existence, children aren’t able to co-operate for very long since each is thinking egocentrically. They will play alongside, but not with each other.

3 + years – Associative Play: The awareness of the other child is increased as they start to communicate.

Co-operative Play: As children start to be able to take other people’s wishes and needs into account they start to become more sociable. They gradually learn that cooperation can lead to new and interesting things to do and games to play. They start to be able to make ‘best friends’ out of people who live near and have similar interests, although they can also ‘fall out’ just as quickly!


Analyses of play

As we strive to understand more about play, it could be helpful to consider the different reasons people give for playing. This applies to both adults and children. Perhaps you would like to analyze your own reasons for playing in this kind of way?

– Fun reasons: for enjoyment

– Skill reasons: to improve some aspect of performance

– Social reasons: to make or meet friends, the activity itself being less important

– Fitness reasons: to maintain or increase health

– Challenging reasons: taking risks, seeking thrills

– De-stress reasons: seeking release from pressures elsewhere

The list shows different reasons for playing. The main reason is developing skill reason, this suggests that learning is a part of play. the common question asked by parents/carers is: ‘Do children learn as they play? This can therefore be answered as “YES!”


Isaac (1933) description of play:

“Play is a child’s life and the means by which he comes to understand the world he lives in.”

Adults role in play

For both Parent and Practitioner: Our role is to facilitate, organize and support play. We observe and protect from injury or hazards.

Children should be able to explore and experiment freely. Time, space and play equipment need to be provided. Children need to be stimulated so adults can provide additional resources to adapt and extend play. Children should be enabled and confident to direct and lead their play with an adult taking on a more passive role. This will enhance children’s self esteem and self worth. An adult can observe, listen and make suggestions, allowing children the freedom to choose, explore materials and investigate equipment.


Play Equipment

Ideas for toys and materials:

babies to 2 years:

  • Heuristic objects
  • Materials
  • Boxes
  • Containers
  • Soft Toys
  • Shiny Objects
  • Sorting Objects
  • Trolleys

2 to 3 years:

  • Dolls
  • Homecomer equipment
  • Outside Apparatus
  • Messy Play
  • Sand and water
  • Construction
  • Puzzles
  • Small world
  • Drawings etc.

3 to 5 years:

  • Books
  • Colouring
  • Scientific Exploration

Spidergraph of Supporting Learning

These are some of the ways in which a child’s learning can be supported by an adult, The above are all strategies or approaches a practitioner may use in guiding a child to learn or practice skills.

The Role of the adult

The adult can support and encourage learning by taking in the following roles:

Active participant



Provider of resources

Initiator of ideas






In supporting children’s learning we need to stimulate the children and help them become engaged in the learning experience or activity. Learning experiences should be fun and versatile as well as being attractive to the children. Everyday situations can be turned into valuable learning opportunities, as learning can be promoted in a variety of contexts.

Simple activities such as cleaning, washing up, cooking and going for a walk can be used constructively without expensive resources.

Lots of learning can happen without children knowing!

The E Framework: A framework for the practitioner’s role in supporting learning

Experience: Provide experiences, opportunities, resources inside and outside the learning setting.

For example: Inside: planned play areas, cafes, shops, literacy, numeracy, creativity areas. Outside: chalking boards, walks in the local environment, big toys, climbing apparatus.

Extend: Question, listen, intervene in, and extend children’s learning where appropriate.

For example: Adult during a local walk – questioning and listening: ‘What can you hear?’ ‘What sound do the leaves make when we walk in them?’ adult in the home corner – intervening in and extending a child’s play: ‘Could you pour me a nice cup of tea please?’

Encourage: Praise and value each child’s progress in learning. Help children to achieve tasks and activities they may not be able to achieve on their own.

For example: Adult writing with a group of children – ‘I enjoyed your reading so far. What might the dragon do next? I’ll help you with any long words you may need so that you can make your story exciting.’

Engage:Become involved in children’s learning experiences. Provide for their individual needs.

For example: Adult baking with children – ‘You’ve made some lovely cakes. I enjoyed making them with you. Johnny wants to ice them, so shall we do that, Johnny?’

Educate: Be a role model for children by demonstrating knowledge, skills and understanding.

For example: Adult at story time – ‘Today I am going to read you one of my favourite stories. I hope you’ll like it as much as I do.’

Explain: Listen to children and answer their questions. For example: Adult responding to a child’s questions about where the water goes when the bath plug is pulled – ‘The water goes down the plug hole into sewers, which are big tunnels under the street. It then flows along pipes to the sewage works where it is cleaned.’

Examine: Examine children’s learning and development through observation and assessment in order to plan for their future development.

For example: Adults meet at the end of the day to review the observations of children they have carried out the day. This review informs planning of the next day’s activities to meet the child’s individual needs.

The E-Framework can be used in a variety of ways to support learning. As a guide it breaks down some of the strategies used within the Nursery to promote children’s learning in a simple, concise way.


There are different types of observations that practitioners use within the setting. Observations range from long written reports of what the practitioner has observed over a period of time to short, brief notes stating an achievement.

The different observation techniques are:

Free descriptions: detailed objective recordings of what takes place over a period of time, normally under 5 minutes.

Event samples: recordings of a sequence of events, the frequency and occurrence. They may be used to track the number of times an action takes place within a given time. Typically they will be used as a means of recording the effectiveness of an intervention programme for modifying a child’s behaviour.

Timed Observations / Time Sampling:recordings of a child’s precise actions every 10 minutes. also recording of language, communication and social interaction.

Duration Observation: recording accurately how long children spend at particular activities or using certain equipment.

Frequency Sampling: tracking incidences of particular aspects of behaviour in a child or group of children. Features of behaviour can be identified and the frequency and duration recorded.

Tick List or Check List: method of recording whether or not a child is capable of achieving specific age-related tasks.

Observations are used as evidence as of children’s learning and development. They are used by practitioners to collate information on each child, and are used to assess further areas for development. Observations on children are confidential, and are only used by practitioners to create a ‘picture’ of how a child is developing.

How to stimulate your toddler

As toddlers are usually very active, here are some ideas on how to keep them busy!

Activities which stimulate curiosity:

  • Water play
  • Sand Play
  • Messy Play – cornflour, shaving foam, soap flakes, finger painting, mud, gravel, spaghetti, pasta etc
  • Playdough, large boxes, material sheets, bed sheets etc

Activities which build up self-esteem:

  • Washing up
  • Dressing up
  • cleaning, i.e. car, windows, cupboards etc
  • Cooking
  • Gardening

Activities which encourage imagination:

  • Small world play – cars, dolls, animals, bricks, train set, blocks etc
  • Dolls and teddies
  • Dressing up
  • Imaginative play with home equipment, e.g. pots and pans, cutlery, sieves, colanders, bowls etc

Activities which promote physical development:

  • Drawing and painting
  • Junk modeling and model making
  • Collage and cutting magazines, newspapers etc
  • Papier mache
  • Obstacle courses
  • Races
  • Visit to the Park

A Case Study

This case study is of a 2 year old and 2 different strategies of how to act in response to the child’s behaviour.

Jolene, aged two years, was happily playing with her new cars when her father came to get her ready for bed. Jolene was not ready to stop her game; her father was waiting to go out and insisted. Within seconds, a previously happy scene – with Jolene singing tunelessly – changed into a full-blown temper tantrum. Jolene’s tantrums could be a frightening sight – a whirlwind of exploding emotions, involving foot stamping, screaming and lashing out.


Her father waited a few seconds and then calmly sat and held Jolene, gently but firmly, until her outburst had died down. Her screams and shouts eventually turned into sobs, and ended in a comforting cuddle. Jolene then went to choose a book to read after her bath.


Her father waited a few seconds and then gently held Jolene by the arms, but Jolene kicked and thrashed at him. He gave up and let go of her and she continued screaming and crying. He sat down and watched until she calmed down again. He gave her the cars and Jolene continued playing.

The following questions are designed for you to think about the way we, as adults, react to children and their behaviour.

Why do you think Jolene reacted so angrily to her father?

Do you think Jolene’s father acted in the right way?

How might you have dealt with this situation?

What is the best way to deal with tantrums?

Managing unwanted behaviour

Here are some ideas of curses of action when dealing with unwanted or undesired behaviour:

As practitioners and parents we should be aiming to use positive preventative strategies to avoid unwanted behaviour rather than have to deal with it. This means anticipating potential sources of conflict or danger and making sure that children are well supervised and have interesting activities. However, there will be times when unwanted behaviour occurs and needs to be managed.It is important that unwanted behaviour is dealt with sensitively, Intervention needs to be prompt, calm and controlled. There are several ways in which you can intervene, depending on the situation.

through eye contact/facial expression. Sometimes a simple look will warn children that they are stepping over the boundary and this will be enough to help them remember that their behaviour is not appropriate. Eye contact may need to be held with a child along with an expression of disapproval. Once the child starts to show appropriate behaviour, you should make sure that immediate praise is given. This strategy is particularly useful if you are working in group situations and you do not want to disrupt the activity.

-Say a determined ‘NO!.’ Most children respond to this expression and understand its meaning. For this to work, it is important that you use it sparingly. It is also important that children understand that ‘no means no’, and you do not allow children to continue with inappropriate behaviour. This strategy is particularly effective if combined with facial expression and is useful in situations where children need to be prevented from doing something potentially dangerous.

-Explain the consequences of children’s actions. It is good practice to make children aware of the consequences of their actions. They may not realize that throwing sand may lead to pain for a child getting sand in the eye. It is also worth explaining to older children what will happen if they continue to show unwanted behaviour – this sets clear boundaries for them. For example, ‘If you carry on kicking the ball towards the road, I will have to take it away in case it goes against a car.’ Once you have suggested that there will be a sanction, it is essential that you are prepared to carry out the sanction. Do not threaten sanctions that you cannot justify or carry out, otherwise children will not believe you another time.

-Removal of equipment. Taking away equipment should be a final measure, but may be necessary if children have either been threatened with this sanction or they are putting themselves or others in danger, for example tying a rope around a child’s neck to play horses. This type of activity may be so exciting that even if you warn children about the dangers, they will still be tempted to carry on. If you remove equipment, it is a good idea to give children something else to do so that they do not go from one inappropriate situation into another!

-Time out. The idea of time out is not to punish children, but simply to allow them to calm down and step back from the problem. Older children particularly benefit from time out, especially if a sympathetic adult can talk about why they are needing to calm down.

The 2 to 3 year old stages

Actively explores environment

Imitates adults in simple tasks

Repeats actions that gain attention

Alternates between clinging and independence

Has understanding that toys or other objects may belong to others.
To play alongside other children (parallel play)

To carry out simple instructions such as ‘Can you find your coat?’
Good supervision, as children of this age do not understand the dangers around them.

 Distraction, to stop unwanted behaviour as children often forget what they were doing, for example, if a child wants another child’s toy, offer him or her another instead.

Praise, so that children understand how to get an adult’s attention in positive ways and to help develop good self esteem.

Calm and patience, as children of this age are often persistent at trying to do something, for example a child may keep going back to something that is potentially dangerous.

A good role model, as children are learning behaviour through imitating those around them.

Wants to be independent, but does not always have the skills.

Becomes frustrated easily and has tantrums.

Is jealous of attention shown to other children.

Has no understanding for the need to wait.

Finds sharing difficult.

Is active and restless.
To wait for needs to be met, for example at meal times.

To share toys or food with one other child with an adults help.

To play alongside other children.

To sit and share a story for five minutes.

To say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ if reminded.

To follow simple instructions with help, such as ‘wash your hands.’

Good supervision and anticipation – the keys to working with this age range. Children are trying to be independent, but lack some of the physical and cognitive skills that they need. This makes them frustrated and angry. Adults need to anticipate possible sources of frustration and support children, either by offering help or by distracting them. For example, a child who is trying to put on a coat may need and adult to make a game of it so that the child does not become frustrated. Where possible, adults should try to provide as many opportunities as possible for children to be independent.

Calm and patience, as children who are frustrated can trigger off negative feelings in adults. This has the potential to inflame a situation. It is a good idea to allow plenty of time for children to complete day-today tasks. Children of this age often forget and need reminding about boundaries and goals.

Praise and encouragement, to enable children to learn what behaviour adults are expecting from them. Some unwanted behaviour that is not dangerous should be ignored so that children do not repeat it hoping for adult attention. Adults should also provide plenty of love and attention if children have has a tantrum as some children can be frightened by the force of their own emotions.

Questions and Answers


The following is an exercise, where your knowledge of children aged between 3 months and 5 years is put to the test!

The questions are adapted from Mary Sheridan’s ‘Birth to Five’ development book, which is a much used reference book for all child carers.

At What Age Does A Child…

1) ….begin to name drawings before production? see answer

2) … show delighted response to active play? see answer

3) … put objects in an out of a cup or box when shown? see answer

4) … watch other children at play with interest, occasionally joining in for a few minutes? see answer

5) … play ‘pat-a-cake’ and waves ‘goodbye’ both on request and simultaneously? see answer

6) … engage in elaborate make-believe group play? see answer

7) … respond with obvious pleasure to friendly handling, especially when accompanied by playful tickling? See answer

8) … display parallel play. The child plays contentedly near other children, but not with them? see answer

9) … play ‘peek – boo’ and imitate hand clapping? see answer

10) … push large, wheeled toys with handle on level ground? see answer

11) … manipulate objects attentively, passing them frequently from hand to hand? see answer

12) … do constructive out-of-doors building with any materials available? see answer

13) … do more sustained role play, such as putting dolls to bed, washing clothes, driving motor cars, but with frequent reference to a friendly adult? see answer

14) … become fascinated by household objects and imitates simple, everyday activities such as feeding a doll, reading a book, brushing the floor and washing clothes? see answer

15) … find a toy which is wholly hidden under a cushion or cup? see answer

16) … follow a parent or carer around the house and imitates domestic activities in simultaneous play? see answer

17) … manipulate cubes and may build a tower of two cubes after demonstration? see answer

18) … join in active make-believe play with other children, and understands the concept of sharing playthings? see answer

19) … enjoy putting small objects in and out of containers, and learning the relative size of objects? see answer

20) … vividly realize make-believe play, including invented people and objects? see answer




















































1) 3 years Return to Question 1




















































2) 6 months Return to Question 2




















































3) 12 months Return to Question 3




















































4) 2½ years Return to Question 4




















































5) 12 months Return to Question 5




















































6) 5 years Return to Question 6




















































7) 3 months Return to Question 7




















































8) 2 years Return to Question 8




















































9) 9 months Return to Question 9




















































10) 15 months Return to Question 10




















































11) 6 months Return to Question 11




















































12) 4 years Return to Question 12




















































13) 2½ years Return to Question 13




















































14) 18 months Return to Question 14




















































15) 9 months Return to Question 15




















































16) 2 years Return to Question 16




















































17) 15 months Return to Question 17




















































18) 3 years Return to Question 18




















































19) 18 months Return to Question 19




















































20) 3 years Return to Question 20