Grant holder
Jane Whinnett and staff at Balgreen Nursery School, Edinburgh
Project status

Balgreen Nursery School in Edinburgh applied for a Froebel Trust grant to develop a Froebelian approach to young children's language development at their nursery and to run a series of play sessions for parents/ carers and their children.

A nursery school based project which aimed to develop a Froebelian approach to young children's language development and play.

Project summary

A principal teacher led three staff training sessions focusing on the role of the adult in supporting children’s language development through play. The impact of these was that staff now report they are more aware of using responsive interaction strategies to encourage communication during play. The impact on the children was that some children who were observed to be reluctant communicators were now initiating communication more regularly within the nursery classrooms.

Planning for the sessions with children and families

A series of sessions were planned and staff were identified to lead these with families. Unfortunately the first set of these could not take place due to staffing difficulties. This meant a postponement until January 2019, however staff illness resulted in these also not going ahead. At this time, a number of new staff joined the setting and it was considered important to share the nursery ethos and vision with them, which linked closely to the project. The previous staff training was repeated for the new staff.

Finally, staffing difficulties settled and the project was able to go ahead in May 2019. Initially the sessions were planned for current children and families in the setting. However, due to the new timetabling, it was considered there was an opportunity to work with our new families and children due to start in August 2019. This provided an opportunity to communicate our holistic approach to children’s learning and development through play and will help to support new parents with their children’s language and communication.

Evaluation of the sessions (as reported in August 2019)

To date, we have delivered 3 of 4 sessions to new families. 26 families were invited and 16 took up the opportunity. During these sessions, children have gradually become more confident in the nursery environment and have been very engaged.

The session format was adapted, as originally parents of existing children would have attended first for some discussion relating to play, singing, talking and reading before spending time playing with their children. In current sessions the discussion time has been condensed as adults are with children throughout the session. Despite this, some good discussion has taken place about the role of play, adult interaction and communication support. This is reflected in the comments below. Notably, staff observed a positive change in interaction during play between a parent and child from the first to the second session. During the second session the parent was joining in play, down at the child’s level, following the child’s interest and making comments during play to encourage communication.

Although the format and of sessions has been changed, so far they have been very successful. A sense of community amongst the families is developing and children are developing a sense of belonging.

Impact on families

We have received the following feedback from evaluations about what they have gained from attending:

  • Meeting other parents and staff; Welcoming environment
  • Opportunities to share information about their children; interests, concerns
  • Sharing ideas, for instance asking less questions and giving more comments and opportunities to talk
  • The suggestions for parents are most interesting. My child very excited and learnt rhymes
  • Information regarding tips on interaction with children
  • I found the information given about singing is very helpful
  • Learning that playing is the most interesting thing for my child…….now I know how to encourage him to speak and interact with me while we play together
  • Good ideas for supporting at home
  • Enjoyed singing time

Adults reported making and playing with playdough with their children at home after the first session and some commented that they didn’t sing as much with their children now as they had when they had been smaller. They were planning to sing more after the second session. One parent commented that they hadn’t thought about how powerful singing could be for supporting language development as well as relationships and interaction.

Staff have been able to model positive interaction strategies during play sessions with children and talk to parents/carers about how we support children's language and communication during play and gain an insight into the children’s interests and any concerns families may have.

Ongoing evaluation

This approach will enable us to plan effectively for the home/nursery transition in partnership with families.

We will continue to evaluate the impact of this set of sessions and plan to deliver a further set of sessions in September 2019. These will be offered to families attending the nursery and will run on the original format. We have found the sessions to be too short in duration and would plan to extend the time to provide more time for the adults to play alongside their child and take part in a discussion section. A parent also evaluated that they thought sessions that were 30 minutes longer would be more beneficial.