Grant holder
Elain Fullerton, Hope Cottage Nursery School
Project status

A Froebel Trust grant to launch a new weekly family group at a Edinburgh nursery. The group aims to build a supportive community of families and staff, sharing knowledge and expertise with each other.

A nursery school based project developing a supportive community of families and staff which would enable children to flourish.

Project Summary

Hope Cottage is the oldest maintained nursery in Edinburgh. The nursery serves an inner city area with a diverse community.

The project further developed a supportive community of families and staff to enable children to flourish. ‘Parents are doing the best that they can for their children’ (Scottish Government, 2012, p16) however many ask for further ideas about play, understanding their children’s behaviour and strengthening their relationships with their children. Other programmes do not fit our distinct community nor are they child led.

The project has been developed and delivered over a 3-4 month period. Delivering a parent/child group open to all families, once a week for 75 minutes. The structure of the group provided time for parent learning and discussion, interactive face to face songs based on Froebel’s advice in the Mother Songs, open ended play experiences both indoors and in nature. We had a specific focus to play each week including weaving, cooking, sewing, sand, block play, clay, song but at all times children were free to choose from a well-resourced nursery playroom or a natural environment. The aim was to build a supportive community, sharing knowledge and expertise as well as valuing the knowledge and expertise of parents.

This project builds on previous parental supports at Hope Cottage, building on the expertise in play therapy, filial therapy and supports using the principles of Theraplay. This group focuses on children’s need for play alongside curious, attuned parents learning from their children as they both cherish and encourage play. Developing ‘instinct into insight’ (Froebel, 1878:7). Parents have the opportunity to understand and support their children better, to grow as a family and find solutions to their own challenges. The nuances in ‘freedom with guidance’ are explored.

This project supported parents to have a deeper understanding of attachment, recognising each child as a unique individual, valuing play as the highest level of child development (Froebel 1826 in Lilley, 1967:83), recognising and understanding the emotional and social life and inner world of children and ways to mirror and reflect their children’s inner and outer worlds and contain the intense feelings that children will at times feel. This is an area in which many parents ask for support and the latest neuroscience and the work of Panksepp, Cozolino, Sunderland and Bion’s work on maternal reverie and containment will be shared in accessible ways. The aim was to use the interpreting service, liaise with the English as an Additional Language service, produce more hand-outs and demonstrations/film as part of the parent discussion time to make the group inclusive for all bilingual families whatever their fluency in English.

Part of the project focused on whole staff training in the principles of Theraplay, Froebelian Principles and the effect of adverse experiences on child mental health and ways to empathically support children emotionally and socially. This raised all staff’s capacities to provide on-going parental supports. It is also important that the emotional needs of staff running the group was supported and this was provided through clinical supervision.

Elaine Fullerton from Hope Cottage Nursery School shared their experience of setting up the Connect family group during the Froebel Trust Conference session on 'Froebelian Approaches in the Nursery Community' held in March 2021.