In our nursery, we have a designated baby room for children aged under two years. This provides our youngest children with a designated space to play, sleep and enjoy meals. Each baby is assigned a key person who will link closely with parents and carry out most of the baby’s care routines – such as settling to sleep, nappy changing and bottle feeding. The role of the key person is to offer care and consistency to the baby, so they form a strong attachment. This is essential to allow a baby to feel safe, secure, and happy when they are away from their home environment.
Once children are ready (usually around the age of two years, but is totally flexible), they are ready to join the older children in our three family group rooms. These rooms cater for children aged from around two years to when they leave for school. This mixed age approach has been proven in extensive research to be of significant benefit to children’s learning, confidence, and cognitive ability.
Each family group consists of a small number of children aged from two to four years. These children have their own key person, and they will complete relevant activities with this staff member during the nursery day. Our curriculum enables children to initiate their own play, explore independently, and experiment with resources they have chosen. Our staff will carefully observe what children are doing, what they are showing interest in, and will then sensitively interact to support learning.
Our own experiences of this type of care for children matches the findings of academic research. Children develop in so many different areas. They are constantly learning new skills and sharing experiences with their friends across the ages. There is a widely recognised positive impact on the younger children’s speech and language development. They are surrounded by older, more confident children using everyday language and they quickly copy this and use this to communicate their needs and wishes.
Older children strive to set a good example to their younger friends, and this supports their sense of responsibility and their awareness of the diverse needs of others. They quickly adopt a very caring approach to the younger children and are mindful about how their behaviours and actions may affect them. We particularly see children who may not have siblings at home forming strong attachments with the other children. This helps to promote our homely, family ethos where every child is valued and taught to look after their friends.
We are very conscious about offering an environment which best suits every child’s neurological, psychological and emotional needs. Our staff supervise the children closely so that the safety and wellbeing of every child is always our main priority. We organise our routine so that some group activities are matched according to children’s age, interests and abilities. For example, when our confident school-leavers are having an in-depth conversation about the importance of recycling, we plan a different activity we know our two-year olds will love to keep them busy too!