The mud kitchen has arrived

We are delighted to report the children have settled back in after the summer holidays exceptionally well. They have been keen to explore and embrace all the new activities and learning we have on offer. The exciting arrival of the new mud kitchen and sand pit has been met with delight and great concentration!

Leanne has ‘enjoyed’ a wonderful mud spaghetti bolognese made for her today and Nancy has been regularly enjoying a cup of mud tea!


Newsletter excerpt – Sept 18

The children have particularly loved being able to take advantage of the fabulous ‘Indian Summer’ with paddling by our Leeside beach being enjoyed even this far into October!!

We’ll no doubt be doing more of the same, albeit with wellies and coats, throughout the coming months!

Of course, as we say goodbye to the long summer, we welcome the splendid arrival of autumn leaves, and a beautiful landscape of colour. The children have been busy scavenging for leaves, conkers and fir cones to produce some lovely pieces of artwork. They delighted in swirling conkers around the paint trays, and watched in amazement as the paint changed colours.

By using different media for art, we encourage our children to think outside of the box, develop imaginative and creative thought processes, and importantly understand that the environment all around us can inspire something special.

Whilst our ethos is ‘learning through play’, like all other pre-schools (whether they are linked to a school, are a full day-care nursery or like us, an independent pre-school) we follow the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework.

However, at Leeside, Maths, literacy and phonics are integrated into all of the children’s activities rather than through standalone adult led activities – that’s why you don’t often see worksheets and formal teaching methods at Leeside. Studies have shown, and it is certainly our experience, that learning through play and child initiated activities results in greater child engagement and enhanced development as the children learn without even realising they are being ‘taught’.

Put simply, we strive to make learning fun!

This term it is evident that the children are eager to learn how their names sound out and understand how letters appear not just written on paper but also drawn out in sand, traced out in the mud, cut into giant courgettes, or even in the air with an invisible pen!

Phonics are naturally built into our conversations with the children and are also included in activities planned for the children as ‘invitations to play’ (an activity with a purpose in mind like maths/phonics/literacy but that is adapted by the children according to their interests, and where staff act as facilitators to children’s natural learning).

Our New Routine

Melissa and Leanne recently went on a conference called ‘Mark Making’. It taught them a lot about what children need to achieve before they can be expected to hold writing equipment correctly let alone before they can be expected to write anything down.

The conference focused on activities which will help the children to progress on to the next stage of development.

At Leeside we have developed a rota so each key group will do a different activity each morning depending on their stage of development. The aim is to do the activities as soon as the children arrive.

The three activities are:

Funky Fingers – this looks at activities which help to develop the hand and finger muscles. By doing these activities 3 times a week the children will be developing muscles which they will later need to be able to write.

Dough Gym – this is an exercise routine which uses play dough as its base. The children will be given massive balls of dough and shown different ways of moving with it to help develop their shoulder, elbow and wrist muscles. A child cannot be expected to write before they have developed the co-ordination and appropriate muscle strength first in their shoulders then in their elbows and lastly in their wrists.

To see more on this please click the link below:
Dough Gym and Funky Fingers

Air Writing – this will be linked to the children’s interests. A few off the top of my head are Rainbow Writing & Sword Writing. It is important that children learn the formation of letters before being expected to be able to write them down. They might recognise letters and be able to match them but to write them is a whole new concept.
By forming the letters in the air the children are able to implant the correct ways of forming the shape to make.
For example, the correct way of forming an ‘a’ goes like this: start at the top…draw a big circle all the way round…don’t take your pen/sword/rainbow off…follow the circle back down the side and flick when you get to the bottom.
Where as a lot of children will see the letter a and try to copy it by drawing a circle with a stick coming out of the side for its tail. Once a child has learnt the wrong way to write it is very difficult to un-teach them.

For more on this please click the link below:
Air Writing

This doesn’t mean that we are going to have children writing sentences before leaving Lesside. It just means that if your child is at the right stage of development then they will be introduced to Air Writing in their rota.

All of these activities will be done to a 3-4 minute track of up-beat pop music.

A New Room Layout for 2015

Last term we observed the different areas of the nursery to see what was being accessed by the children and in what way. We also asked the children their opinions of the room – which area they liked the best, which areas they didn’t and why. The results were quite surprising.
So based on their likes and dislikes, and the observations we had done, we decided to have a change around.

It turns out that books weren’t being looked at in the book corner, the girls wanted to use the home corner more but the boys were always in their playing builders and no-one accessed the Maths cupboard to do anything mathematical.:-)

With all this new info we decided to have books placed all around the nursery, this way they can still be accessed but are not taking up a big part of the hall.

We also decided that we needed a role play area for the boys to play builders and a separate home corner for the girls to play house.
So we created 2 areas – The role play area has big boxes, builders tools, doctors equipment, laptops, telephones, tills and hairdressers supplies so they can create their own world. The home corner has all the food, kitchen equipment, cushions & teddies to create a home from home environment. It has surprised us how much more integrated the play has become, some of the the boys now like to sit with the girls and play picnics and some of the girls like to go play doctors with the boys.

Another change is we have taken away the Mark Making table. We have developed meaningful mark making as opposed to a place to go and draw. The children now have access to little tubs of pens, pencils and chalks all over the room. The reason being that they can (if they want to) make pictures / practice writing where ever they are. They could be in the house and wish to make a shopping list or be building something new and wish to draw up plans. This is much more meaningful for them and will help with their development so much more than being asked to go to a specific table to draw something.

Our aim, as always, is to help them develop by delivering new skills through their play.

Pictures of the new layout to follow…

Summer Term 2014

Our Daffodil Tubs

The summer term saw the end of our beautiful daffodils.Daffs

After a chat about life cycles, the children agreed to help chop the stems back. This was a great way of practicing our scissor skills in the outdoor environment. The children started seeing who could chop the longest stem, we raced to see who could fill up their bucket the fastest and then we found something…


IMG_2663…What is it? Lots of questions were asked, lots of answers were speculated over. We looked in our flower book but we couldn’t find a picture to match. With Melissa’s help we found it on the internet. We found out that it was a daffodil pod. We opened it up and found some tiny seeds!


New flowers


The children did a great job of planting the new flowers.


We love Frozen!

An absolute favourite (throughout the whole of the summer) was ‘Frozen’. Boys and girls were singing the songs from the film and so a lot of our activities were based on this.

One activity which captured our imaginations was making Olaf.

We mixed shaving gel and glue together, added some sparkle then painted using our hands and brushes. The children did a great job of following instructions and creating some fantastic masterpieces. They also decided to add twigs for arms!

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More Planting

We had so much fun planting the flowers in the secret garden that the children who stay on a Wednesday afternoon decided to grow some herbs in our side garden. The tub was empty so the children had to work hard as a team to fill the tub up with soil. The soil was super stinky! It had horsey poo in it (which we learnt to be manure) so we put on some gloves on to protect us. Putting gloves on was difficult but good practice for when the weather gets colder.



The children then found stones so we could separate  the herbs.

IMG_2722The children chose one herb each and sprinkled the seeds in to 1 section. They speculated over the rocket seeds – would real rockets grow so we can travel to the moon?

The children soon realised that real rockets would not grow as tiny green shoots started to poke out of the soil. The rocket grew so fast that they decided that must be where it got its name from!


Caterpillars and Butterfly World

Next came the caterpillars. Penny was given a butterfly cage and found some caterpillars while chopping a bush in her garden. So they came in to nursery. The children were fascinated by them and enjoyed looking at them through the net with their magnifying glasses.

Unfortunately the caterpillars didn’t cocoon until half term, so they didn’t get see the process but they did get to see them in a cocoon afterwards. We also took a trip to Butterfly World to see all sorts of butterflies. A lady there gave a chat about butterflies and insects, we impressed her with our Metamorphosis Song (found on the internet).

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As an even bigger surprise, our cocoons didn’t hatch into beautiful butterflies but into moths! We didn’t mind though as they were really pretty moths and we had fun researching what type of moths they were. The children didn’t want to let them go, so we had to have a chat about them needing to go find food as they would be hungry.

 IMG_2829 IMG_2852 IMG_2846IMG_2850We then became engrossed in caterpillar and butterfly crafts. The children practised their threading skills by making pasta caterpillars. One child said “now he needs to build a chrysalis to take a nap inside” (this was part of our metamorphosis song -it was lovely to see that they had understood it and were using it their play). So we went on a hunt for the perfect material, and he got straight to work on his chrysalis. It was no wonder that soon all the children wanted to make their own chrysalises!

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Making Quiche

Another afternoon activity was to do some cooking. In the past we have made cakes, granola bars, banana loaf and lots of other yummy treats, so this time we wanted to make something savoury. We decided on quiches. The children were given a ball of pastry to roll out and put in their pastry tin. Rolling was hard work and got their upper arm muscles working hard.

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They then had to use their fine motor skills to prick the pastry with a fork.

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The children chose a selection of vegetables to chop up by themselves, they chose their favourites then added them to their pastry dish. Some children wanted more vegetables than others. We had a chat about knife safety and the children showed us how careful they could be.

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Our flowers grew!!!

We were really good at keeping our flowers watered – it was the children’s favourite job and what a fabulous reward to have beautiful flowers in our garden.

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And Finally….

The Leeside Nursery Parent’s Committee had worked hard all year to raise money for our new shelter. Then with a final burst of fundraising they managed to raise enough money for a new sand and water tray! It’s a super-fantastic unit from Community Playthings.


More Grass

During the February half term my husband and I took a long hard look at the side garden. The grass was so patchy it was more mud than grass. We wanted to do something about the situation but don’t have a garden of our own and so thought we should start off with a small patch to see how we got on.

The patch we chose was right outside the door. It went from this:



To this:



We were so proud of our efforts we decided we should do the rest of the garden over the Easter holiday.

We cleared the area, prepared the ground and waited for the grass to grow.

At first the grass was hard to see:



And now its really getting strong!



We are going to give it a couple more weeks so it looks like the patch by the door then we will let the children explore the natural garden.




A fun day ahead…

We have lots of exciting activities set up for the morning.

Here’s a sneak preview of a few:

The fine manipulative table has some nuts and bolts for building. Great for getting those fingers working.



The playdough table has a selection of legs, wings and eyes for making bugs. By rolling the playdough out the children will be strengthening their shoulder muscles and arm muscles.



The mark-making table has a selection of insects and insect pictures to inspire the children to create some bugs of their own.



Split pins have been a new interest this term. We have dinosaurs and bugs for cutting and joining together. Great for developing their fine manipulative hand-eye co-ordination.



In the garden we will be searching the sand for buried treasure. There is one golden button for each paper coin. This activity is suitable for all age groups. There is one-to-one matching, counting up to 24, pincer grip practice and turn taking. There will be many questions “How many altogether?” “What if we find one more?” “What if we take one away?” “We have … How many more do we need to find?”



In the tuff spot there will be bug parts hidden in shaving foam. (We had a spider, butterfly and bumble bee hidden in baked beans last week)



Fe Fi Fo Fum…



The children showed great cutting skills when making this story scene for Jack and the Beanstalk.

This was one of those activities which I didn’t think would keep their interest for long and I half expected them to do their own thing with it but they totally got it.

One child drew the beanstalk on the paper, others cut the leaves out and stuck them on, some of the more confident cutters wanted to cut the characters out, the older children took charge – telling the others where everything needed to be stuck down, then on top of all of that, they told the story and wanted the book read to them as well.

All in all a great activity. We had concentration, hand-eye co-ordination, co-operation, literacy, communication and lots of art and craft skills.

The activity was printed from the ‘Twinkl’ website.

Self Registration

When the children arrive in the morning they are asked to find their name card and post it in a box.

This week we are testing their fine manipulative skills by having them pegged up on an old airer.



This helps to keep self registration interesting. A lot of the children are able to find their name easily so we will be adding surnames soon to help further their learning and keep it challenging.