Today is the first ever National Nursery Practitioner Day, celebrating the efforts and contributions towards children’s learning made by Early Years Practitioners across the country. We thought we would join in the celebrations by asking our Early Years Practitioners what the best part about their job was. They all gave the same answer: the chance to be part of the children’s progression and success over the years that the children are at nursery is extremely rewarding.
We then asked the children what they thought their key person’s job was. Most of them replied “I don’t know” and we are sure that a lot of people don’t know what it is we do when all the parents have gone and it’s just us and the children. So here’s an idea of what the Playbox staff get up to on a typical day:
07.30 – Arrive at nursery and complete a risk assessment of all indoor and outdoors areas ensuring that it is safe and fit for purpose. This often involves persuading the local cat that the mud kitchen isn’t in fact his home but an area for the children to play.
08.00 – Staff start to arrive and start their day with a quick cup of tea (this cup of tea is never finished whilst it is still hot and can often be found lurking, still half full, in the sink at lunch time). Staff then set up the garden with inspiring and creative activities for the children to explore and meet to discuss the plan for the day and hand over any information from the previous day.
08.30 – The children arrive at nursery, some eager to tell us all about their weekend/new baby/fall on the way to nursery/that they were sick in their bed last night (that’s normally not true – or so parents assure us) whilst others are less keen to come in because they just don’t fancy it today (we all have those days). Then it’s time to talk to parents about everything from bereavement to advice on ditching the dummy and assuring them that their child will have a great day.
9.00 – Free play. After the children arrive and hang their things on their own or someone else’s peg (which then leads to staff sorting their things onto the correct peg) the children choose which activity they would like to play with. Staff set the room according to the children’s interests, ensuring that all activities have an educational benefit to the children. All staff have full and relevant childcare qualifications, up to and including undergraduate degrees, and draw on their many years of experience to ensure the highest standard of education is provided.
Whilst the children are playing Staff spend their time pretending to be a train driver, supervising a painting activity whilst trying to persuade the children not to eat the paint or put it in their hair and educating the children about whichever topic has taken their interest (“If there is oil in the ocean and it gets in the Dolphin’s eyes will it go to the sea vet or just die?”).
Whilst the children play they are being carefully observed by the staff who then write detailed observations, linked to the Early Years Foundation stage, depending on what the child is doing these observations can be two lines or several pages long. These observations are then either uploaded directly to Babysdays for parents to read or are passed to another member of staff to upload.
10.00 – Nappy changing time. The member of staff who is on the rota to change the children’s nappies that day dons and apron and a pair of gloves and start the nappy changing process. They then carefully write down who had what type of nappy and hope that the smell that is currently in their nose has gone by lunch time.
10.30 – It happens. The moment all staff have been dreading and hoping doesn’t happen. The accident. There’s always one and luckily it’s usually minor, a bumped head or fingers that have been trodden on. Once first aid has been administered and the accident has been written into the first aid book and the child has been convinced that their injury isn’t quite a catastrophic as it may have appeared, staff return to hoping that the knowledge and skills they gained on the 12 hour first aid course they undertake regularly will never be needed again (it probably will be needed but it’s nice to stay positive).
11.00 – The children head out into the garden after a military style operation to ensure the children have sun cream/sun hats/winter hats/gloves/scarves/coats correctly put on and convince the child who has put their coat on upside down that whilst they’ve done a great job, putting it on the correct way round really would be more comfortable.
In the garden staff encourage the children to take part in everything from finger gym exercises (these exercises are designed by our setting SENCO to strength their motor skills and are as exhausting as they sound) to riding bikes on the playground and staff record their progress.
11.45 – The children go back inside for a story and to get ready to go home. The children vote on which story they would like to read and which song they would like to sing which gives staff the opportunity to promote British values. The children often request Baby Shark which is a firm favourite amongst the children (and some staff).
12.00 – Home time/lunch time. Some children head home whilst the others sit down for lunch and staff grab a half an hour lunch break in our staff room. Staff that supervise lunch ensure the children eat the food in their lunch box in a timely manner whilst maintaining the highest standard of table manners, cutting grapes and sausages to make them safe and convincing the children the ham in their sandwich isn’t sour and that their bread sticks should not be used as a weapon to poke their friends with. Once lunch is finished the children wash their hands and faces and then head into the book corner with an adult to read a book whilst the other members of staff complete the clean up operation.
12.30 – The children arrive for the afternoon session. Some staff repeat the 08.30 routine whilst the others head off for some lunch. The staff who have already had their lunch return to the rooms to be greeted at the door by a child jumping on the spot shouting “I did a poo on the toilet”, staff member then resists the temptation to join in the celebratory jumping (they’ve been working on that target with the child for weeks) and instead goes in search of a special sticker.
12.40 – Circle time. The children take part in a pre-prepared circle game targeting an area of learning. What’s Inside The Box is a particular favourite (sung to a different tune each time because whilst the staff are great at a lot of things, holding a tune isn’t one of them) and encourages the children to identify the initial sound of the items inside the box and support their learning of literacy and turn taking.
12.50 – Free play. More fun and exciting activities and maybe even some play dough and some potato printing (if we’re all lucky). Whilst the children are playing they are learning and staff are supporting that learning. The nursery manager and SENCOs are often in meetings, meeting with outside professionals and parents to ensure that staff are providing the best outcomes for the children.
15.00 – It’s time for some of the children and staff to head home. There is a flurry of activity as the child’s parent rings the buzzer and walks up the path to the front door, the staff are inside calling the children to collect their belongings and get ready to go home. The child is then let out the building and are asked by their parent “where’s your jumper” the child re-enters the building to collect the jumper they insisted 2 minutes earlier they didn’t bring today whilst staff chat to parents about how the child’s day has been.
15.10 – The children who are staying until 15.30 sit at table top activities and play alongside the adults who re-set the room for the next day.
15.30 – The children go home and staff repeat the 15.00 routine.
15.40 – The cleaning begins. Our caretaker takes charge of the garden, mowing the grass and pruning the trees/hedges, some staff tackle the hoovering and wonder why we thought getting the play dough out was a good idea whilst other staff have the glamorous job of heading into the toilets to thoroughly clean the toilets, nappy changing table and sinks. The majority of staff then head home.
16.00 – A chance to catch up on admin such as observations, ordering the milk, emailing parents to guide them through the application process for 30 hours and chasing invoices (sorry, we know we are expensive, some of us pay for childcare too, but we hope we are worth every penny).
16.30 – The final member of staff completes the closing checks to ensure that all of the toys are back inside the nursery and don’t fall into the wrong paws (either the squirrels or the cats), crosses the day off of the calendar and silently cheers that we are one day closer to half term (even though we work then too), and heads home to scroll through Pinterest to find a new and exciting activity to do tomorrow.
As you can see we have a busy day but we love (almost) every minute of it!