Founder of Ofsted Outstanding Keren’s Nursery, Keren Ben Ezra talks to us about the benefits of outside play, and how every single indoor and outdoor activity at her award winning chain of nurseries is tailored to strengthening children’s bodies and improving motor skills without them ever realising.
Child-focused occupational therapy
One of the seven key areas of learning for pre-schoolers is physical development. We believe that daily outside play is fundamental to children’s mental health as well as their physical well-being.
A vital part of our teaching style that many parents aren’t aware of is based around child-focused occupational therapy.
We follow a programme designed by leading Occupational Therapist Kate Hesketh. Kate’s motor skills programme is designed to help physical development in every single child. Underpinning every activity is the occupational therapy programme, “Moving Matters”.
Developing skills through play
As part of our on-going monitoring of children, daily activities at all our nurseries develop each child’s core muscles and fine motor skills without them even realising.
The scheme guides staff in developing activities to promote co-ordination, stamina and strength in the children through physical and sensory play.
Moving Matters helps our staff to identify those children whose physical skills are not at the expected level. Staff then go on to create specific plans to incorporate physical activity into other areas of the curriculum to improve a child’s physical development according to their specific needs.
On a practical level, almost anything to do with reaching a higher or lower plane, squeezing, climbing at an angle, crawling, even laying under something whilst reaching to draw or paint are all activities which have been mindfully crafted to benefit a child’s specific needs without them noticing.
Identifying developmental delays
Every practitioner at Keren’s Nursery is trained in Moving Matters. The scheme provides them with a great deal of knowledge to devise relevant activities for a child’s needs; from months-old babies, through to toddlers and pre-schoolers.
Since introducing the programme, staff members have picked up on a range of developmental delays in children attending the nursery, and now tailor everyday play to alleviate these physical difficulties. We work on core muscles and hand grips, spatial awareness and independence. This helps young children sit for longer in class as well as maintaining concentration.
We elected to become accredited Forest School Leaders so that children could learn from taking risks in the natural world. From the age of three, all children at our nurseries attend Forest School sessions. They explore wildlife and learn physical skills that other nurseries might not always encourage.
As well as the benefits of simply being outside, Forest School helps little children learn to take risks in a managed environment. By learning from experience, children come to understand their own physical limits, and appreciate and respect the natural world and its inhabitants.
Each outside session is preceded by an indoor learning session. These set out goals, aims and potential problems that might arise. The system helps children to anticipate outcomes and problem-solve in the real world; another great outcome of Forest School programmes.
What are the typical activities of a Forest School?
Typical activities might include tree climbing, den building, learning to make fresh mint tea, discovering mini beasts, splashing in streams and puddles and generally making the most out of wide open spaces whatever the weather.
We chose the locations of all of our nurseries with outdoor space in mind, so that children can benefit from as much daily outside play as possible. Each nursery also has its own landscaped outside areas.
We encourage children to create, get messy, run around and let off steam during daily outside free play.
Yoga, dance & movement
Our team of visiting specialist staff teach yoga, dance and movement on a weekly basis. We also offer a range of more unusual after-school activities like woodwork and cookery which all improve to a child’s motor skill development.
We believe that one of the reasons we excel in reaching all the EYFS targets is because our children are so well exercised.
15 years of excellence
This year Keren’s Nursery is celebrating 15 years of excellence and will be running a celebratory programme to mark this anniversary in Ofsted Outstanding nurseries. Our nurseries are located at Holland Park, Belsize Park and Hampstead Garden Suburb.
To book a place on the next open day at the Holland Park nursery on November 21st, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0203 457 8020.
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