A reflection on our Journey through the Pandemic

As the nation moves towards a significant relaxation on COVID restrictions, we have been reflecting on the impact of the past twelve months here at Willow Cottage. Learning from our experience will help us to ease restrictions and shape our nursery practice for the future. This month we have decided to remain in our family groups until September, keeping the children in their familiar groups as we start to relax our system of controls.   

Our journey so far… 

Last spring, we were thrown into the challenges of lockdowns and a pandemic that has had a significant impact on our provision. Since reopening our nurseries in June last year, Willow Cottage has been structured in mixed age group Bubbles. This structure was introduced to minimize the infection risk whilst also providing a secure and familiar environment for our children and teams.

Our bubbles operate independently with minimal cross over and movement of adults and children between the set spaces. This has included very limited access to parents (settling in visits only), with drop off and collections from the door or gate. For all the bubbles, we have increased the amount of time spent outside. This has facilitated meals and sleep times in our beautiful and spacious outside spaces, using our new bell tents and gazebos to offer shade and shelter.   

The benefits we have seen so far… 

The greater emphasis on using our wonderful outdoor spaces has been a fantastic benefit, offering the children many more natural learning opportunities.

The children have had a greater freedom of movement and this has helped with the children’s gross motor skillsvestibular (movement and balance) development and proprioceptive (body awareness) skills. All of these benefits have no doubt driven a noticeable improvement in the children’s behaviour.  

Being outdoors more has also given the children the opportunity to experience the joys of both eating and sleeping outside. Mealtimes have been more peaceful and calmer. There has been a greater flexibility for sleeping outside under canvas or in the shady areas and the children’s sleep has been more restful.  

The children have had a greater freedom to explore our wonderful natural areas and with more fresh air there has been noticeably fewer coughs and colds going round both the children and the practitioners.   

We have found that the settling-in of new children has been more flexible and calmer in family groups, having siblings around has been both a reassurance and comfort.    

It has been lovely to see that the older children have been gaining in confidence and being more empathetic whilst supporting their younger siblings and friends. By modelling skills and behaviour in their play, children consolidate their understanding building strong foundations for future learning.  These interactions further support our younger children in gaining in confidence and independence to join in and access more challenging resources.  

Where we go from here… 

Whilst we are aware that our country is starting to relax the social distancing measures, we are not yet free from the risk of further setbacks, new strains and a third peak. We are keen to keep the number of changes for our children to a minimum. Therefore, we are going to retain the mixed age group bubbles over the summer and using the time as an opportunity to draw from all the wonderful benefits we have seen over the past year and learn from the challenges. We will, as always, keep you informed of changes as we relax the bubbles via our usual EYLog notifications.