Extending learning – Granby Carlton

At Granby, the children are at the centre of everything that we do. We let children learn through play, then extend their learning even further.

So, when a child brought in the book Jack and the Beanstalk, we shared this and then we took their lead and focused on an extended learning project.

Being creative and allowing children to use their imagination to help extend activities can provide the children with further learning opportunities.

Some children absorb information in different ways, so it is important to provide all children with the opportunities to allow them to develop skills.

As early years practitioners, we know that children learn through play and that most of the child’s time at nursery is spent engaged in child-initiated play. How then, as adults, do we extend a child’s learning even further?

Psychologist, Lev Vygotsky identified that children should not be left to discover everything on their own. Instead, we should provide them with challenges that are slightly too hard for them and gently ‘pull them along’. Based on this theory, we need to let children learn through play, then extend their learning even further.

How do we put this into practice? All children need the opportunity to take part in their own learning, we are careful not to just give children experience of directed learning (i.e., telling them what to do), but instead let their tasks be open- ended – let children take their learning where they want to take it, letting them speak to one another and work things out. Practitioners observe and ask open ended questions such as ‘Can you tell me how you made that? Why is the beanstalk so big? How could you make the beanstalk even taller? What does feel like at the top of the beanstalk?



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Speech, Language and Communication Development – Helping our children to TALK – Granby Parkgate

Having a good vocabulary (knowing and understanding words) is important for children when they are learning to talk; it has an impact in lots of different ways. Children with poor vocabulary at 2yrs tend to do less well at school by 7yrs old (Hart & Risley, 2003).  It is therefore important that we work together to support children’s language development.

Using the right language right from the start is vitally important – don’t use slang words such as doggy for dog, otherwise they will have to learn another word later on as they grow.

I know learning new words is important for children but why?

A good vocabulary (the number of words you know and can say) is really important for all children. It is an important building block for helping children to talk in sentences, but it is also really useful for learning to read. So, helping children to develop a good vocabulary is vital.


The link between play and vocabulary development

  • Children need to explore new things. From this they will gradually learn all about the new object.  They learn what it looks like and feels like.
  • The child learns what to do with the object.
  • By 9 months old a child will learn how to use objects appropriately. E.g. if given a hair brush they will brush their hair, a toothbrush is for brushing teeth and a sweeping brush for brushing the floor – this is called ‘defining an object by use’.
  • This type of play is very important because it suggests that the child is storing information in their mind and is developing an internal awareness or idea for various objects.
  • Children need to store information because it means that they can remember it for next time when they use the object. Over time they will gradually add more information about the object including how to recognise and say the word when someone says, for example ‘brush’.
  • Over time the child will hear the word for the object over and over again until eventually they learn the pattern of sounds (phonemes) represents the word e.g. /b/ /r/  /u/  /sh/ = brush.

Play and everyday experiences are crucial for the development of children’s vocabulary.


How many words should children know by when? 

We have typical milestones for how and when children learn new words. Usually:

  • Children say their first words about the age of one (although they understand them for some time before this).
  • By about 18 months children should use about 20 words, but they’ll understand more.
  • By two years old, we expect children to say 50 words and understand between 200 and 500.
  • By three years old they’ll be able to use about 300 words.
  • By the time a child reaches five years old they’ll know and use as many as 2,500 words.

Children between 18 months and 6 years old should therefore learn 8 new words a day.

Is there anything else I can do to help children to learn new words?

Learning new words is tricky. There are lots of things children have to be able to do to understand and say a new word and get it right. They have to remember the sounds they hear and the order they come in, they have to find a meaning for the word and then they have to work out where it might go in a sentence. There are lots of different things you can do to help children’s vocabulary development. Here’s just a few:

  • Find a quiet space, turn off screens, radios and televisions – with no other distractions your little one will be able to hear you better and you can give them your full attention.
  • Having a child’s attention is important for word learning. Saying an object’s name while helping a child to look at it helps them to learn and remember names for objects that they haven’t seen before.
  • Be face to face with your child so they can see your facial expressions and see the words coming out of your mouth. Speak slowly and try to speak in sentences which are only 1 or 2 words longer than the child’s sentences.
  • We know that having words and objects together is really helpful for early language development, from around six to 18 months. So, it helps your child to see the object you are talking about, as well as hearing its name. This helps them to make the connection and gives you the chance to explain what new words mean. Young children will learn more from seeing, feeling and touching an object than from a picture of it.
  • Watch what children are exploring and doing then you can say the name of an object or action. This way you’re modelling the word for them – saying what something is called, showing them the way to say it and letting them know the speech sounds that make up the word.
  • Encourage children to use new words by giving them choices. So, rather than saying “would you like a snack?” ask them “do you want raisins or cucumber?” You can do this when you’re joining in with play during any activity e.g. ‘shall we splash the water or pour it?’ ‘Do you want the big bucket or the small bucket?’ Also add new ‘sophisticated’ words to extend your child’s vocabulary.
  • Repetition is really important. Children need to hear new words lots of times before they learn it properly, so keep saying the word you want them to learn! They may try to copy you and will often take a few attempts to get it right. Repeating experiences gives children a chance to try out things they’re learning and the words for these experiences.
  • Building on what they know already can help children to extend and expand their vocabulary. This is why open ended activities such as sand, water, playdough, painting, craft, home corners (inside and out) can be used as a basis for varying the activities and the vocabulary that goes alongside.
  • Talk about how words are linked together and how they link to words they already know. They might be similar in what they mean (tall, high, long), or be words in the same group (cat, dog, hamster). Talking about these things helps children learn words well. You can also start naming different types of one thing, for example, if you are playing with dinosaurs you might say ‘dinosaur’ for younger children but as children get older you can name the different types of dinosaurs e.g. ‘that’s a tyrannosaurus – he’s got really sharp teeth’ or ‘that one is a herbivore’.
  • There are different types of words and children need to learn them all. So, they need a good vocabulary of doing words (like walking, swimming, eating, pushing, describing words (like big, heavy, red), and words that can be used to name things (like dinosaur, shark, juice).
  • Make it easier for they to talk – dummies can get in the way of talking – try to use they must t sleep time.



Useful links

Talking Point  I CAN’s Talking Point

I CAN Help www.ican.gork.uk

Babbling Babies activity pack

Toddler Talk activity pack

Chatting with Children activity pack

Hungry Little Minds Campaign www.hungrylittleminds.campaign.gov.uk

NSPCC Look, Say, Sing, Play  Look, Say, Sing, Play – Brain-building tips | NSPCC

BBC Tiny Happy People  www.bbc.co.uk/tiny-happy-people 

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Outdoor environment – Granby Wickersley

Children’s physical development is important to focus on and now, during a pandemic, it is even more important to ensure children are accessing it as much as possible as medical evidence states that that there is less likelihood and lower risk of transmission of Covid 19 outdoors than indoors.

As practitioners, we are aware that a good level of physical activity supports children’s mental health and is beneficial for self-regulation. It also allows for children to develop their creativity, problem solving and confidence whilst developing a love for outdoors.

We use all our possible spaces within nursery to ensure children access the outdoor environment as much as possible throughout the day.

Many activities which extend and develop large and fine motor skills are provided and encouraged.

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Taking Risks – Granby Carlton

At Granby we focus on children being the centre of everything we do, we tailor their learning to their own needs and pace.

As part of their learning the EYFS, Characteristics of Effective Learning states:

  • Encourage children to try new activities and to judge risks for themselves. Be sure to support children’s confidence

with words and body language.

  • Taking a risk, engaging in new experiences, and learning by trial and error.
  • Always respect children’s efforts and ideas, so they feel safe to take a risk with a new idea.

Allowing risky play at Granby.

We embrace risk taking as it allows children to push themselves to the limits of their capabilities and allows them space to progress. It also allows children to feel in control of their actions, learning and play; they learn boundaries in a safe, secure environment where they can be supported directly or indirectly by practitioners.

Within the structure of health and safety, we always remember that risk-taking is a very important part of a child’s development. But when trusted with the care of young children, the word ‘risk’ raises all sorts of concerns. How will a three-year-old know that the bridge he has built with his peers between two tyres is safe if he does not take a step onto it?

Practitioners support children to make decisions to  have opportunity to test what they have built, only then will he realise that it is too wobbly, or that the materials he has chosen are not strong enough or that the supporting structure is not stable.

The practitioners provide the open-ended questions to give children the opportunity to test out their ideas and find solutions for themselves wherever possible. Encouraging team working, relationship development and problem solving.

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Wellbeing – Granby Parkgate


Wellbeing is a term we are hearing a lot due to the way Covid-19 has changed our life’s recently – but we don’t often think about it so much for young children.

At Granby we have always been passionate about supporting our children’s wellbeing and allowing them to feel happy, having their needs met, feel safe, secure and loved. All of which will lay the foundation to a great start in their life.

One critical factor in helping children improve their wellbeing is making sure that they know that they are loved for being the unique and precious individuals that they are. Parents, grandparents, family and friends clearly have a crucial role to play in letting children know that they are unconditionally loved; but we also believe that our early years practitioners have their own role to play in showing children that they are loved too.

Practitioners can show children that they are loved through the words they use and the way we interact with them. Spending quality time with children and telling them how lovely it is to see them today are good ways to start the children’s day.

We need to help children understand their feelings and offer emotional language to help give them the vocabulary they need to understand their own feelings, as well as other people’s. Our practitioners offer lots of opportunity for children to find their own ways to manage feelings of sadness when their parents leave them or when things do not quite go their way.

Carefully planned activities to help every child to develop their emotional well-being is vital.  Our practitioners will support children to:

  • focus their thinking
  • regulate strong feelings
  • be patient for what they want
  • bounce back when things get difficult.
  • Learn key words to express their feelings

There are many online resources available to help you and your child with ideas to support your families mental health, including:

  • MindEd, a free educational resource from Health Education England on children and young people’s mental health
  • Every Mind Matters, which includes an online tool and email journey to support everyone to feel more confident in taking action to look after their mental health and wellbeing
  • Bereavement UKand the Childhood Bereavement Network, provide information and resources to support bereaved pupils, schools and staff


Barnardo’s See, Hear, Respond service, provides support to children, young people and their families who aren’t currently seeing a social worker or other agency, and who are struggling to cope with the emotional impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19). You can access via the ‘See, Hear, Respond’ service self-referral webpage or Freephone 0800 151 7015.


It is also vital to report any safeguarding concerns you have about any child. Contact the NSPCC helpline.


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Loose parts – Granby Wickersley

One of the challenges we have faced in recent times was the advice by Public health due to Covid to remove all soft toys, and any items that are hard to clean, such as those with intricate parts. We therefore had to ‘strip back’ resources and think outside the box with the equipment we used in nursery.

Being able to draw upon our skills and knowledge of children’s interests and furthering development in a variety of ways we ensured that our large ‘loose parts’ resources were plentiful. Loose parts are materials and resources that have no pre-planned use. They are both natural and man-made, they can be bits and bobs from around the house including pots, pans, spoons & pegs and in particular objects from nature which remain the finest source of loose parts and excite all of children’s senses.


The use of Loose parts in nursery is endless. It encourages children’s imagination & creativity as open ended resources can be used as anything, giving free reign to their creativity. The development of both large & fine motor skills are promoted when using the objects as the children can build, manipulate, move, control, design and redesign, continually changing the direction of their play.


The practitioners with the nursery have a unique role during loose parts play. They need to observe and support rather than joining in or controlling the direction of play otherwise the children’s natural creativity can be stumped and they could easily lose interest.

The endless play opportunity of loose parts can be easily recreated at home with simple resources such as boxes, stones, shells and household objects. Children will play for long hours with the simplest of materials.

Think about how many children, when given a toy,  prefer to play with the box that it came in!

Granby Wickersley

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Continued Professional Development – Granby Carlton

At Granby we encourage our practitioners to build on their knowledge and keep up to date with the ever-changing early Years environment.

Over the years Granby has seen many of its management team as well as practitioners gain numerous qualifications such as Early Years Teacher Status, Early Years Foundation degrees, GCSE’s, BSL and Makaton sign language, Safeguarding and First Aid to name but a few.

Currently we have two of the Management team studying Early Mathematics on the Early Years Professional Development Programme (Early Years PDP is designed and managed by Education Development Trust in partnership with Elklan and funded by the Department for Education)

The main purpose is to enhance knowledge, skills, and confidence to share with practitioners, to enable them to plan and implement more opportunities for mathematics every day in our settings.

We will focus on Counting, Cardinality, Measurement, Space, Shape, and pattern. We will also share the knowledge with the F1 parents to encourage development at home, in anticipation of the busy year preparing for school 2021.

During the Early Maths programme, we will audit and enhance our provision to provide the best activities for all children of all abilities within the setting, also working with outside agencies when needed.

We have started by making sure we have the following books, to use within the setting, maths while enjoying a story 😊

Maths books to use with children:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar         by Eric Carle

One to 10 and back again              by Nick Sharratt and Sue Heap

Ten tall giraffes                                 by Brian Moses

Ten in the bed                                   by Penny Dale

Ten terrible dinosaurs                    by Paul Stickland

Mouse count                                      by Ellen Stoll Walsh

Ten little ladybirds                           by Melanie Gerth

One gorilla: a counting book        by Anthony Browne

123 to the Zoo                                   by Eric Carle

Big Fat Hen                                         by Keith Baker

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Transition to School – Granby Parkgate

July and August are the months that we see many of our children leave us to go to ‘BIG’ school. This year things have been very different as many children will not have had transition visits into school or indeed had a visit from their new teachers.

However, don’t fear we have been working with all our children to support this new and exciting transition into school and will continue to do so throughout the summer.

We have strong links with all our feeder schools and talk frequently with teaching staff about the children who will be moving onto them. We send an end of term report to school with all your children’s milestones recorded and an overview of who they are, what they enjoy doing and if they will need any additional support in any area of learning and development.

We have made school transition books for all the children who are leaving us which we share daily whilst they are at nursery. The children love to share the pictures with each other of where they are going and who is going to be their new teacher. They all show great pride and enthusiasm in sharing these and this continues to support their up and coming adventure.

Things you can do at home to support your child’s transition into school:

Getting dressed and undressed and using the toilet independently are key skills which can be encouraged at home. These simple things can be really helpful, too: getting familiar with numbers, letters and sounds, singing nursery rhymes, and just doing things with your children like baking, getting out in the garden if you have one and simply chatting with them. It is also very important to help your child develop independence skills and good sleeping habits.

Things are uncertain at the moment, but this doesn’t need to affect the way you talk about transition with your children. We approach a lot of things thinking like an adult, but children tend to be more resilient than adults in many ways. They don’t need to know that things aren’t happening the way they would do normally. They take things at face value and tend to throw themselves into most things – we just sometimes need to shield them from our own worries. The most important thing is to make this a really exciting time and it is really exciting, for them and for their school. We will miss you all and look forward to hearing all about your adventures so please keep in touch, you will always be a part of our Granby family.

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Settling back into Nursery – Granby Wickersley


We reopened our doors to families on Monday 1st June 2020 and we are amazed at how well the children have adapted to our new ‘ways’.

Nursery life has gone in a new direction and we are passionate about ensuring we provide a safe, calm environment embracing the changes we have to make as an early years setting.

One of which was parents were asked not to come into the setting, handing their children over to us at the main door and then collecting them from there at the end of their session as a social distancing measure. This has been very successful, and we have welcomed the children back with lots of happy faces!

We removed our soft toys, soft furnishings and the smaller harder to clean resources but we had many ideas & activities to keep the little ones busy.

We made the most of all our spaces and although we are keeping in our ‘bubbles’ – we strive to maintain some normality into our days – we want to hear their laughter, see their smiles and love to listen to their little voices as they tell us their news.

As practitioners, we feel passionate about reducing the stress and anxiety around children, so we are conscious about being calm whilst also highlighting the necessity of hygiene such as an increased need for hand washing.  We do this in a fun way, making up new words to songs that children love such as Baby Shark.  This, along with role modelling, keeps the children engaged.

Outdoor play is a strong ethos of Granby Nurseries, we believe that it is an essential part of a child’s development as it provides freedom, develops creativity and curiosity, allows risk taking and allows the use of all senses.

We have re looked at our practice outdoors and strengthened it further to ensure children spend more optimal time in the outdoor environment making good use of all the spaces we have. This has provided many learning and calming opportunities such as daily yoga and listening to environmental sounds.

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The World changed – Granby Carlton

Granby Nurseries has been open now for over 25 years, and the past 11 weeks have been like no other we have ever known. On 23rd March 2020 Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that most schools and early years settings in the UK would close.

Some schools and early years settings would stay open to children whose parents are key workers like nurses, delivery drivers and teachers.

All three Granby’s stayed open initially to provide care for limited children, whilst other children stayed safe at home with their parents.

On March 26th, the Prime minister- Boris Johnson, Princes George and Louis and Princess Charlotte lead our nation in our first clap for the NHS and keyworkers. At 8 o’clock on Thursday nights people stand outside their front doors and clap to say thank you to those that are helping to keep us safe.

Granby Wickersley and Granby Carlton unfortunately closed from 6th April 2020.

Granby Parkgate remained open throughout the whole lockdown period, supporting families, and creating a safe environment for children.

Granby Wickersley used their Facebook page to communicate with families, sending videos and activities for children to enjoy.

Granby Carlton had created LIVE@11 from 23rd March, doing a fun live session on their Facebook page, for families to watch, Jacqui carried this on throughout lockdown, reading stories from her campervan for families to enjoy, activities and story videos from staff were also posted weekly.

Granby Wickersley and Carlton maintained contact throughout offering families support and advice.

On 11th May Boris Johnson announced that he intended schools and early years settings to reopen from 1st June 2020 – the hard work began. All Granby Directors and Managers worked hard for the next few weeks, writing new documents in time for opening, they communicated and reassured families about opening and measures put in place.

We are day four into opening and welcoming back our families, all staff have been amazing and have worked hard to settle children back in, the children have been amazing, and come back as if they were here yesterday. Granby Nurseries are very proud of what we and our families have achieved and look forward to welcoming more and new families back in the future.

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