As I read out our curriculum intent to our staff team, the words I read run deep and
resonate, I feel like I am reading my wedding vows or reading an oath, for these words are emotional, we live and breathe them each day. For our small, staff team understand and we stress this within the recruitment process that their ‘job’ is a career choice, a passion that runs through them beyond their working hours. They invest in us, we invest in them. As a nursery setting, we have put wellbeing at the core and heart of everything we do. We stand for family, community and wellbeing. This has developed over the course of several years, out of deep-seated desire to love, accept and nurture the child for who they are.
It has taken time to collate knowledge and information from a variety of formats, whether this be from Laura Henry’s first Safeguarding conference, the work of Jane Evans (now a life coach; www.thejaneevans.com) and Mine Conkbayir or more closely to home, the enduring passion and commitment that Alexis (nursery owner of twenty years) demonstrates or my personal friendships of families with adopted children. It also took time for me, as curriculum lead, to have the confidence to shout the message from the rooftops and embed it into everything at nursery!
Historically, as a nursery we knew that positive relationships, knowing families well, children being loved, respected and cared for; were elements that were always commented on as our strengths. But we wanted this to be embedded further and be outworked every day.
Our first step was to rewrite our behaviour policy, now our ‘Self-Regulation’ policy. This was the way in for me, leading the staff training, as it held everyday relevance and immediate impact. I used a variety of sources to talk to the team about the developing brain expertly written by Mine and using an Early Years TV episode with Penny Tassoni in which she talked about ‘Behaviour being a means of communication.
During a team workshop we talked through and created a step by step practical strategy that we already used to support our children, especially when their emotions become overwhelming. This both empowered the team to understand what they were already doing and to lose the official outlook of a ‘policy’ because the policy was just a step by step guide. As an avid reader and leader, it is easy to become overwhelmed with terms such as, ‘neuroscience, attachment, co-regulation, mind mindedness, professional love… I could go on.’ and this can lead to inaction through fear of not getting it right. For me it was ensuring my team knows enough to outwork it in their everyday practise without overloading them with the theory. This was the catalyst for a mindset shift and confidence boost within the team.
Wellbeing is woven into everything; our families have a month of settling in visits, so we really get to know the family and the child is settled before parents/carers return to work. Wellbeing is in the fabric of our every interaction, whether this being co regulating with an upset child or mirroring a baby exploring natural resources. We understand each child’s nuances and their sensory profile; the child that needs rough and tumble to regulate or the child that needs a reassuring rub on the back to help them to remain calm during mealtime. We have spent time ensuring high quality, two way communication with our children; listening to their voice, respecting it and responding appropriately. On a larger scale, we host a summer garden party, international banquet and fireworks night to enable our families to make friendships. We host information evenings regarding the school application process and getting ready for school; holding family at the centre of this time of transition.
We invest in our team’s professional development which positively impacts on their wellbeing and the quality of education for the families. We have added wellbeing within supervisions and the team are discovering what self-care and wellbeing looks like for them. The atmosphere is one of love, care and nurture; for both children and grown-ups!
We embarked on a project with Liz Clark called; ‘Our Creative Adventure’ in which our children and team use movement and dance as a tool for connection and communication with the children, which in turn, leads to an increase wellbeing and involvement. This has a marvellous impact on levels of engagement, the children’s sense of agency as well as their attachment. We’ve been able to celebrate their uniqueness and creativity all with a huge injection of fun! We have recently qualified as teachers of baby massage and yoga, exciting times ahead and further embedding attachment and wellbeing. I could go on providing examples of how wellbeing is at our core. As the nursery owner says; “Wellbeing starts from the moment you open the front door.”
I am thankful for lifelong learning and those professionals that plant the seeds of knowledge at conferences, through books, conversations and social media, that then lead to a positive shift in early years practise, in which the unique child remains at the centre.
Sarah Yorkstone @jogonmummy
My name is Sarah Yorkstone graduating from Loughborough University in Sports Science, an ex international athlete, I found Early Years upon the arrival of my eldest son. I am an Early Years Teacher and SENDCo in a small private day nursery, passionate about providing the very best for every unique child in a loving and nurturing environment.