Here at Monkey Puzzle in Shefford we have made big changes since we opened 4 years ago and definitely believe it has been a positive experience for everyone. It started 2 years ago when we decided to repaint all the walls. Following visits to other nurseries and extensive research we decided to move away from the bright, over stimulating, bold colours and instead switch to a pale green and cream. Overnight we saw a change in the children for the better. They were calmer and stayed at activities for longer periods and the number of behaviour incidents reduced significantly. We also observed a drop in staff absence as staff reported less migraine type headaches.

Following the redecoration, we started to introduce more natural, authentic resources and reduced the number of plastic and prescriptive toys. We are now in the process of
working towards our Curiosity Approach Accreditation and staff are really on board with sourcing new materials from charity shops and car boot sales. Parents love seeing our role play areas filled with shirts, trousers, dresses, hats, shoes, bags and jewellery. A dressing table with perfume bottles, makeup brushes and hair rollers are always well used by both girls and boys. There are open access cooking stations, playdough stations and craft trollies. The construction area and small world resources provide hours of awe, wonder, curiosity and imagination. Naturally resourced sorting trays provide opportunities for counting, categorisation and pattern making. Our parents are fully on board with the approach and will often donate resources or help us source specific items. Potential parents are wowed by the setting on show rounds as it is nothing like any other setting in the area and they can see the children are happy and engaged in fantastic learning opportunities.

At the heart of the approach is a language rich, communication friendly, learning environment. Having worked as a paediatric Speech and Language Therapist for over 20 years I have been able to implement lots of strategies and staff training to ensure every child in our care has the opportunity to learn to communicate fully and any difficulties are quickly identified and further support is implemented. We are in the process of working towards our communication friendly setting accreditation and hope to achieve this in the summer of 2020.

The nursery has always been family friendly and child led so it made sense to switch our planning system over to In The Moment Planning following external training from Anna Ephrave which was then cascaded down to all staff at Inset training. My staff are fantastic at observing the children’s play and learning and knowing when to hold back and when to intervene. They encourage the children to be independent and think about how they can extend their play. They add language by modelling new vocabulary and asking open questions, ensuring they also allow extra processing time.

And as if 2 accreditations wasn’t enough we are also completing our paperwork for Millie’s Mark as I have always believed in having all my staff first aid trained. Hopefully, by this time next year we will have our hattrick.

This fantastic, holistic approach was recognised on our recent ofsted inspection and by our LA who have been very positive in their feedback to our changes. We have strong outcomes for our school leavers and local schools have requested visits to our setting with a view to implementing a similar approach within their reception classes. If any staff from other Monkey Puzzle settings would like to visit us and see for yourselves our beautiful setting, we would be more than happy to welcome you.