Visiting Each Others Nurseries Brings Many Benefits – From Social Enterprises to Fairy Gardens

May 6th 2016

Recently, I was lucky enough to enjoy the company and conversation of a number of Early Years colleagues; I met colleagues from OMEP Ireland and Acorn who wanted to know about childcare social enterprise and how we do it at LEYF. We may be establishing the ground work for a national directory of social enterprise nurseries.

Another visit included at Child’s Place where I learned more new ways of doing things outside. Visiting other settings is such a good idea but we don’t do enough of it. Just getting out and about to all the LEYF nurseries is a challenge these days, such is the pressure of staffing and other demands. Yet when we get out and visit the benefits are immeasurable.

‘The 21st century child is living in a world unimagined by many twenty years ago.’ Woodward (2004) suggests that ‘…changing social structures at global and personal levels create uncertainties, insecurities, diversity and opportunities. What is important is our ability to articulates influences on our pedagogical approach.’

Codd. A., An Leanbh Og OMEP, Ireland 2015 pg 78

Recently, I spoke at a conference and there were many questions from the audience about how to balance managing a demanding day job and keeping up to date, particularly in order to have the most relevant research and practical ideas to challenge practice and the expectations of small children. There were many worries expressed by young teachers who felt pressurised to use teaching techniques more focused on the past with insufficient attention on the understanding needed to develop the critical skills children would need to manage the future. They were debating the importance of play, personal skills, resilience, creativity and problem solving; all of which they felt would ready children to become Star Trekkers and go where no one had gone before.

What was the advice these young people received?

  • Visit other settings.
    It will have many benefits including challenging what we believe to be best practice either because it’s brilliant and you realise you need to improve. Remember, you want to light up the room when children come in.
  • Ensure you have a good pedagogical conversations either at or after the visit to challenge our practice. On a recent visit to see Tom Shea in Milton Keynes my colleague and I talked non-stop on the train about children’s learning, the environment, recruitment, and collaboration. Also, what I saw in terms of space, climbing, dens, bugs and fairy gardens inspired me and rekindled the “risky play” conversation.
  • Read when and what you can. Look for shortcuts such as blogs and twitter that take you straight to a link to new information.
  • Use social media to link up and connect. The Early Years needs a central collaborative voice so it’s heard above all the noise. Check out different ways of doing things such as @EYTalking or #eytalking on a Tuesday evening or an open access platform like @IeyToday.