Early Years

Every day at Rush Farm Children’s Garden has a consistent rhythm and a predictable routine, so the children are doing the same things at the same times. This rhythm enables the children to know what to expect, helping them to feel safe and secure. There is a varied pace throughout the day between times of activity and rest, child-initiated activity with teacher-led activity. For example creative play followed by a more concentrated ring  time.

Daily Rhythm

Free Play and Activity
The day starts with a period of free play which could take place inside or out which is followed by a particular activity for example:
Monday morning the children bake bread for lunch.
Tuesday morning the children cut up vegetables for soup they eat at lunch.
Wednesday is painting day. Wet on wet painting is all about colour and how it makes you feel rather than painting objects or people.
Thursday is craft day which might be making lanterns for the Martinmas Lantern walk or making leather gloves, sewing and weaving, whittling wood, fingerknitting, all of course under the watchful eye of a grown-up. These activities are either for the whole group or the older children will be given more challenging projects as their abilities and needs grow. The child will be allowed to handle certain tools under supervision, because we believe that as long as the children are taught how to handle something correctly and that they learn and have respect for the tool than it is of benefit to them to be able to use them.
The activities change during the seasons and where they are carried out can also change with the weather. It has been known to make bread, prepared back at base, cooked over a wood fire in the woodland camp – delicious! Autumn sees a glut of apples from the Rush Farm Children’s Garden apple tree, which are turned into delicious apple crumble.
Before ring time can start, everyone is involved in tidying up. Tidying up is an important task and the aim is that it is done in such a way that it does not occur to the children that this is something that spoils their fun or is a tedious chore. It is done out of imitation of the adults and more experienced children, and soon becomes part of the rhythm of the day.

Ring time
Ring time is when the children come together in a circle to sing traditional songs, play games and rhythmical verses. An individual song or verse will be repeated every day for a week or more, giving the children time to learn it off by heart, before a new song or rhyme is introduced. The activities in ring time help focus the children’s attention, develop their linguistic skills and help strengthen their motor skills.

Mealtimes
Meals consist of a morning snack of fruit and oatcakes or porridge and a freshly prepared hot meal at lunchtime. The meals are always vegetarian and there is a different meal each day. The lunches are made by the teachers and helped to create by the children. Meals are shared together around the table. A blessing on the meal and perhaps a short rhyme or seasonal song is sung before eating. Vegetables and fruit come from the Rush Farm kitchen garden and polytunnel when available, otherwise organic produce is always purchased when possible. As well as help with the preparation of certain meals, the children also help with laying the table, clearing away and washing up. Recycling and composting is part of the routine. Meal times offer an opportunity to develop good habits, social, communication and mathematical skills – for example counting out the number of plates needed, and to co-operate in setting the table, sharing out of food, partaking in conversation and listening to the comments of others.

Outdoor
We have a safe outdoor play space with a sandpit, climbing frame with space underneath for making dens / hiding areas and a lawn and area of woodchip. There are flower beds in which we grew peas and raspberries last year amongst the flowers. There is also of course easy access to the fields of Rush Farm. The development of the physical co-ordination through movement, balance etc. is fundamental at this age. Climbing trees, balancing on poles or doing hard physical digging all provide an excellent opportunity for children to develop these capacities, and to find their own boundaries. Further, play out of doors has a different quality/mood from the indoor play and allows for a different social dynamic to emerge. It also provides an opportunity for children to begin to appreciate their environment.
When the weather suits we spend all day outside including eating, ring time and play, either in the garden or wood or both!

Story time
The morning concludes with story time normally a fairy or folk tale. A well-told story creates an appreciation for the human voice and the beauty and rhythms of language. It also helps to extend vocabulary and aids the development of a good memory. Children love to hear the same story many times and delight in the repetition which brings the opportunity for children to familiarise themselves with the material and to deepen their relationship to it.

Afternoon
After lunch there is a different feel. There is rest time for the little ones and a longer period of play, generally outside, crafts and playing with friends before home time.

Below is an example of a typical day:

9.00am free play and activity
10.15 ring time
10.45 little lunch
11.15 outdoor free play or activity
12.30 story time
12.45 lunch
1.30 rest time
2.00 free play
3.00 home time

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