Blog posts

8 March 2018- The first picture was taken by one of our children who told us they “want to take pictures to print and keep on my shelf with my special leaves”. I really love it, it shows the journey through the woods from their perspective, and the sense of belonging as part of the group really stands out too 🌳

We had been making elder wood bead necklaces. They joy when she realised she had removed all of the pith successfully is wonderful

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6 March 2018- *Play spaces*

Recently we noticed a lack in the use of fabrics to create spaces in our setting. It was something we always used to do, and would experiment with frequently, but due to being a pack away setting we just ran out of time/forgot/were busy making something else fantastic etc. So, a little kick back on track and we’ve started to reintroduce it 💥

Here we have two very simple examples, the use of sticks and cardboard tubes are used to prop up a curtain over the creative area, and a bent cardboard tube to create an archway. The sheet the children decorated as part of our Chinese New Year celebrations is draped over the top and tied on. We are a setting who recycle, repurpose and reuse whatever we can, we don’t have big fancy budgets, and my heart often aches when I see the beautifully kitted out nurseries with their purpose built furniture. That being said- I wouldn’t change our ‘look’ for anything. We love being a bit quirky- using things the children wouldn’t normally play with, and offering something a bit different to families 🌈

Why do we create these play spaces?
Since adding a simple overhead drape the creative area has been used by more boys- now that’s always a reason to celebrate
Adding archways and drapes adds a sense of magic, and makes children feel the environment is theirs to explore
It stays calmer- giving softer ceilings and smaller areas
We incorporate the Communication Friendly Spaces approach- by making spaces to maximise communication (Elizabeth Jarman)

You don’t need much to create wonderful play spaces for your children, be imaginative, use what you have, reflect and keep on moving forwards. Keep being fantastic 💪

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6 March 2018– Come and join us for our ‘Sponsored Welly Waddle’ at Shining Cliff woods. We will be starting and finishing at the bottom of Shining Cliff, at the back of St Anne’s Church, just across the bridge on Holly Lane. We will be walking a circular numbered route, around the woods (with a few challenges along the way) and then returning to Playgroup to collect a certificate and prize.
At Playgroup we will have the following from 10am onwards:

Cake stall
Craft for the children
Egg rolling competition

Please could we have donations of cakes/baked goodies and tombola prizes. These can start arriving at Playgroup any time from now. You will need to bring a hard boiled egg, wrapped and clingfilm and named with permanent marker for our egg rolling competition. Prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place.

Friendly dogs on a lead are welcome on the Welly Waddle as well as siblings/friends/family etc.

Please be considerate parking in the area- Devonshire Street gets very busy and is a private road. The garage are very accommodating for parking, and there is plenty on the A6. Please leave parking on Devonshire Street for those who need it due to mobility, disabilities and new babies.


4 March 2018– Whatever the weather ❄️🌈🌧☀️💨

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28 February 2018– We felt very privileged to be having fun in the snow with our children today ❄️

It dawned on us that they are so young, and that it’s easy to forget that they may not have experienced snow very often. What lucky people we are, to be able to share such precious moments as they grow up and experience the wonders of the world 🌍

#outside #whatevertheweather #snow #memories #weloveourjobs

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15 February 2018– Trees 🌳 sunshine ☀️and little people 🌸 … a perfect combination 💖

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13 February 2018– Woodland fun with our Little People 🌲

Dragons eggs, wild painting, meaningful writing and cinnamon apple baking at Basecamp yesterday.

Take risks, embrace the outdoors and love every moment 🌳

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9 February 2018- Joy, sheer joy. Become a ‘why not’ setting and embrace your children. Be there and in the here and now. Live every moment.

This photo was taken back in late September when they days were still warm. A trip to the park turned into a puddle diving mission. The simple act of emptying his muddy welly brought on this beautiful smile 🌸

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7 February 2018- Our children are the centre of everything we do at Ambergate. They inspire us, and lead us into some amazing experiences, which is why we allow them to lead the sessions. This means no pre planned activities, and for staff less paperwork! We operate using something called ‘In The Moment Planning’ (ITMP), which we have adapted over two years to fit with our unique pre school.

So, how does it work? How does it meet the requirements of the EYFS? And how does it go down with the big old ‘O’ that we all know to be Ofsted?

Step 1: Using ITMP takes skilled and knowledgable staff, who must have a thorough understanding of the children they are looking after and of child development.

Step 2: We observe what a child is doing

Step 3: We assess where they are at within their learning (any schemas, what do they already know etc)

Step 4: We quickly plan what we could do to develop their learning

Step 5: We carry out our super quick thinking plan (this is the teaching). This could be by commenting, modelling, I wonder questions, suggestions, providing a resource etc.

Step 6: Back to step 2!

Next steps in learning are met immediately. For example, showing an interest in transporting water is met by adding different tubes and pipes straight away, instead of being pre planned for another day. This means higher levels of learning happen because the child is deeply interested with what they are doing, whereas they may not have been interested in this the next time they come, so the learning moment would have been lost. This meets the requirements of the EYFS to help individual children achieve, develop and learn through their own unique and empowering way.

So how do we keep records of our teaching for Ofsted? Well, individual observations go on to Tapestry for parents (an online learning journal) but our teachable moments also go on to our planning boards (pictured below). This clearly demonstrates that meaningful interaction and teaching has taken place.

Once all of our boards are full we start to remove the oldest of the three and add them to our learning journal floor books which are available to the children at all times. Having a visual planning record system like we do appears to be beneficial to the children, as they can revisit their learning at any time.

These ‘teachable moments’, as we call them, have led us on some amazing adventures with our little people. They exhibit extremely high levels of engagement and well being through being able to drive their own learning 🌟

#childledlearning #inthemomentplanning #ITMP #earlyyears #wellbeing#empowerment #unique #aweandwonder

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5 February 2018– Busy little people in the woods this afternoon. A real fascination with string, a swinging motion and rope. All explored through stick wrapping, frame making, bridge making and hammocks. We also ate our lunch in the emergency shelter, what with sitting still in the cold to eat. My goodness it kept us warm and cosy! Muddy camouflage modelled by myself and Fiona- the children did their own too!

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3 February 2018- Sometimes you’ve just got to lay back, close your eyes and relax in the Winter sunshine 🌳☀️

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1 February 2018- Happiness is… eating a biscuit on the way back from the woods 💖🌿

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31 January 2018– A question I am often asked is how we get out and about so often and so easily… well, it’s mostly our ‘why not policy’ stance on outings, and our passion for helping children to learn through their own ideas and interests that gives us the drive and enthusiasm to just ‘go with the flow’, but we do have a few tricks up our sleeves!

Before starting it’s important to have risk assessments in place. Because our outings can be to just about anywhere we have specific risk assessments for things like travelling on buses or trains, and the immediate local area, but we then also have dynamic risk assessments which can be applied to a variety of different places. This eradicates the need for lengthy pre-visits, and means we can get out as soon as the moment arises, and without the need to pre-plan.

Once the paperwork is in place it’s on to the good stuff! We have high expectations with regards to behaviour and by doing so we set clear boundaries and expectations before we leave. Secondly, we go out so often that it’s now second nature to the children, so we don’t need to remind them of the processes often, practice makes perfect after all! And finally, we have an array of resources that help us get from A to B such as walkodiles, a 6 seater pushable ‘bus’, back pack reins and slings. Ratios is a hot topic in relation to outings, and it’s important that staff are confident and comfortable with what you decide. We do not have set outings ratios, as we go by the children’s needs and experience instead. Some days two members of staff are able to take 12 children out (age 3+) with ease, other days 12 children may take three staff etc. It’s all about keeping the little people safe, so go with what works for you (but the tools we use really are fab!).

The slings are a relatively new addition and we would like to thank Derby Sling Library for all their help and support in finding the perfect sling for us. It’s already well used and loved- as modelled by the little one enjoying his ride to the woods today!

We hope by reading this that other settings feel more inspired and perhaps more confident to get out and about with their children, it really is a wonderful experience for the children and staff. No one likes cabin fever after all 😉

*Just to add that we use slings because we do go quite far and often on rough ground where a pushchair will not go. Sometimes children can’t walk that far due to special needs, age and ability, and sometimes we take it with us, just in case. In all cases we do what works for us and the children, and love the extra freedom we have. For those unfamiliar with carrying, don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it 😜*

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23 January 2018- We’re always looking at ways to improve the experience for the children, and so continually reflect on our practice in order to do this. We’ve identified a bit of a gap in mathematics, and so have been thinking of ways that we can give this area a boost 🏆

We already successfully run self service playdough and also creative areas, and so we’ve now introduced self service baking in order to develop our skills further 🥣 Because this area is so new, we have introduced it with plain vanilla sponge, and a washing up area. We will then build upon it gradually, and eventually we want to develop different flavour options (e.g adding fruit, flavouring sugar with botanicals and adding a decoration stage). For now, our fabulous children are enjoying accessing this area as it is 🍰

Today was the first go with this in place, and our little star featured in the video made two cupcakes. One she placed on a plate to eat, and the other in a food bag to take home. While sitting eating, she cut it up and gave a piece to a nearby friend who was busy playing. Such kindness, and what a sociable area this is proving to be already 💖

A few notes:
🌟Our ingredients are all dairy free due to us having children with milk allergies
🌟We cook our cakes in the microwave because it is very quick, perfect for cakes being eaten straight away, and doesn’t take very long to cool down for excited little people
🌟As part of choosing to bake, they are also choosing to clean up after themselves-soap is provided in a pump (a great hand strength building resource) and they then place everything back, ready for the next person
🌟They have to ask a grown up to use this area- especially while this is so new, we don’t want it getting mixed with the playdough by accident!


22 January 2018- A wonderful woods session this afternoon. The children are visibly showing an increase in confidence in the new area, and are all happily engaged and excited by what the session holds for them.

Today it was rope ladders (amazing strength building), fire cooking, map reading, bouldering, mud sliding, snow playing and stick weaving frame making fun 🌳

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20 January 2018- So wonderfully true 🌟 The key to success is play- so let’s give our youngest children the very best start.

Our next generation of doers, thinkers and dreamers 🌳

#letthemplay #reallearning #childhood #lifeskills

16 January 2018- We had a wet woods session yesterday afternoon! 💦🌪

During these sessions we take a small group of children, with a high adult to child ratio, and are entirely based in the woods 🌳 We take everything with us we could possibly need- including water and soap for hand washing, toileting means, shelter, equipment for warmth and a variety of resources we can use for just about anything. As part of these sessions we make sure the children have something to take home, this is to create a strong link between home and the forest, and so children have something to talk about in sharing with their families, as part of the reflection process 🏡

This week we battled the elements to create name badges, as well as making fire pizza and drinking delicious hot chocolate. One of our children was absolutely convinced he could cut through a large tree with a tiny saw- and you know what? He very nearly managed- and then it broke in two 🙈 The determination and commitment to his project was so strong, that we are really proud of the level of self confidence he displayed in trying so hard 💪🏻

#outdoorlearning #risktaking #tools #whatevertheweather#determination #resilience #skillsforlife

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11 January 2018-  We had such a wonderful afternoon with the children who continue to amaze us full of their enthusiasm for exploration and adventure! We took the train to Cromford where we bought duck food from the wildlife shop, fed some hungry ducks, ran through fields, found sticks we liked, played hide and seek, drank delicious hot chocolate, and then caught the bus back to Playgroup 🚊

One of our children could tell us all about Cromford, and what they had done there before with their family. Others remembered previous journeys we had taken on buses or trains, and others observed with a quiet eagerness, ready to explore where we had found ourselves.

It’s amazing being able to get out and about with the children, they learn so much and because we do it so often their behaviour is outstanding. They know and understand the expectations and measures in place to keep everybody safe and so we are able to go a little further afield.

We did have a little giggle when they all ran for the trees- they really do love the woods!

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9 January 2018- Our forest session was fantastic!

We had so much fun exploring a new area of the woods; where we looked at the different trees and plants, climbed on funny branches, poked ice puddles with measuring sticks to see how deep they were, played ‘musical mushrooms’ with sticks and cooked a delicious snack on our fire 🔥

It was a biting 0c, but dressed properly, we hardly noticed the cold, and made sure we kept on moving. We have found some interesting places we would like to visit again to explore further.

We make sure that we teach the children our “no picking and licking rule”, and that fungi can only be touched with a stick. While in the forest we love to give them the freedom to explore, but use boundary flags to mark out our area and they must also always be within sight of an adult. By giving them this responsibility they learn to manage self regulation, without us being ‘Negative Nelly’s’ and constantly having to call them back. Behaviour, social skills, empathy and communication develops at such astounding level while outside in the forest, and with the sense of belonging the children have as part of the group, they grow to have such strong connections with their natural world.

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4 January 2018- **Gun/weapon/superhero play**

“Eeek guns” I hear you say, as the images of weapon wielding children cross your minds 😱 Well, hopefully we can convince you of the benefits of this type of play by delving a little deeper into our stance on gun play and the ins and outs of this field we are navigating.

It’s no secret to say that most children like gun/superhero/goodie/baddie play, and that it can get out of hand, which is why in many preschools/schools/nurseries and even households we find ourselves saying “we don’t play with guns here” or the like, and sadly ban it. But what if we were to consider what we are actually teaching our children and what they are really trying to explore with this type of play?

A few facts about weapon/superhero play:
🌟Children use this type of play to explore right from wrong
🌟It’s physically exerting- children need to move
🌟They are not learning to ‘kill’ or harm
🌟It does not lead to a violent child or adult as they grow up
🌟It is an amazing imaginative play experience- by developing play acting skills
🌟Children know what is real and what is pretend
🌟It is confidence boosting- by perhaps taking on a different persona
🌟It builds a sense of belonging- by being a part of a group
🌟It develops negotiation and cooperation skills

How we manage gun play:
🌟We do not use replica toy guns- these often look very similar to the real thing, and instead we develop cognitive skills by making guns or props with recycling/resources (like in the picture)
🌟A consent rule- only play with those wanting to take part
🌟No shooting at faces or people (if this upsets them)
🌟No hurting people or living creature or causing any damage

Many children are exposed to guns in their everyday lives, there’s little getting away from that. Children learn through play, and they use play to make sense of their world. This is just one method that children use to develop their understanding. Many children are also in positions where guns are the norm for them, such as parents being in the armed forces, parents who take part in gun sport and not to mention the news or papers that feature guns almost daily.

Weapon play is a common interest of many children, while it is easy to watch from the sideline and intervene when ever deemed necessary, this can create a negative association to the type of play. The best option is to dive on in and be a part of it. That way you can direct and scaffold where you would like the learning to go, in a positive way, by following the children’s interests. You will see a different side to some of your wonderful children, and will realise that by entering their world of play, it’s really not that bad after all 👍🏻

Lots of further reading available on Mr Google 📚


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2 January 2018- There’s exciting times ahead for us at Ambergate Playgroup. We’ve responded to parent feedback, and after consultation, will be offering a Breakfast Club every weekday 8am-9am. Booking is essential (via email/text/change of hours form) 🥪

We are also opening our first ‘outdoor’ session on Monday afternoons. We will be outdoors what ever the weather, all year round and based in Shining Cliff woods. We’ll be cooking our snack on a fire each session, and will have everything with us to keep us warm and dry, ready to enjoy the forest within our unique session 🌳

I’m sure you will all agree this is a huge, positive step for us at Ambergate. It was only two years ago that we opened for our first afternoon session, as it had always remained mornings only for many years. We’re growing together, and are looking forward to the many more magical moments that we have with the children we are so lucky to share each day with. Here’s to 2018, and more fun 🎉

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14 December 2017– With the cold snap we’ve just had there are some very hungry birds out there ☃️

One of the children had the fantastic idea to make bird food! A frantic dash around, and ta da, the staff managed to gather enough of the right things to make yoghurt pot feeders using (nut free!) wild bird seed and lard 🍽

All of the children had a go, and dipped in and out as they pleased. Once finished, the feeders were hung in the garden on the apple tree 🍏

We can’t wait to watch the birds enjoying a delicious snack 🐤

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12 December 2017– Snowy, icy fun yesterday ❄️

It’s so important for children to experience all weathers. We like to teach them that there’s no such thing as a bad day 🌟 Every day holds possibilities, excitement and reason to explore- even in the pouring rain!

In the right clothing, and with warm food and drinks, children are incredibly resilient and love being outside. The fresh air is best for getting rid of germs, we breathe more easily and fundamentally feel happier 🍂

We’re ready for another day!

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8 December 2017– We are so proud of our wonderful children for doing an amazing performance of Stick Man. They were absolutely brilliant, and for such young children, coped so well with a big audience 🌟 They are all stars 🌟

Secondly, an amazing almost £500 (rough count so far) was raised through the mini fair afterwards and we would like to thank all those who helped, donated prizes or jam jars and cakes, and to everybody who came along. All funds raised go into making the children’s time at playgroup even better.

Have a fabulous weekend and we will see you all next week ❄️

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7 December 2017– Lucky Karla received a special pampering at the Ambergate Salon this morning. Her look was perfected with a bit of back combing and a few clips… ever a good sport 😀

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6 December 2017– Maths, maths, maths! (I see the virtual shudders)

There’s an overwhelming percentage of the population who say they ‘can’t do maths’. I’m sure we can all agree we’ve been that person at some point. Within Early Years provision maths is arguably one of the more ‘tricky’ areas to provide for, mainly because of the lack of enthusiasm attached to it.

Well the next generation won’t be following in our footsteps 😁 Oh no, they will be confident mathematicians! Using concepts and principles in their everyday lives. Why? Because they’ve needed maths, they’ve felt it, they’ve experienced its purpose in their all consuming play and they’ve enjoyed exploring the possibilities that numbers, space, shape and measure enable.

Our provision doesn’t need to be complicated, expensive or single purpose. It can be messy (the best kind!), open ended and even free. Maths is everywhere, and when you play with it, it’s brilliant 💫

(Pictures showing an incredibly simple maths provision in our garden)

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3 December 2017- You’ll be aware of our continuing battle in the early years to receive adequate funding, so that we can provide children with the rich opportunities to learn and develop. This article goes some way to explain the mistakes made by the DfE and furthermore, the reasons the 30 hours cannot be ‘free’.…/free-childcare-claim-withdraw…

1 December 2017- Potato planting happened today! The children helped to fill our new planter with soil, before saying we would need to plant some vegetables! Luckily we had some potatoes in the kitchen so we are going to see if anything happens. We love that the children are so hands on and interested in everything.

The afternoon saw us exploring the forest 🌳 Climbing, running, rolling, sliding and frosty leaf crunching fun ❄️🍂

Have a fabulous weekend everybody 🌟 Get outside 🍁

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29 November 2017– Wow it’s chilly today ❄️

The icy winter blast hasn’t stopped our fun though, oh no, we’ve been mountaineering this morning!

Wrapped up, snug as bugs, and with a few extra layers thrown on as a ‘just in case’ we set off for the park. Some of us walked and some of us had a ride in Betsy Bus 🎢

The children helped each other to climb up the mountain hill while some, who weren’t able to do it by themselves at first, kept on practicing until they could. A true example of determination, perseverance and resilience 🌟


23 November 2017- “Drilling holes” seems to be the thing to do at playgroup for some of our children 🌟

As part of our woodwork provision we have now extended this to include hand drills 🔩 The children are still exploring what you can do with them, so we will continue to focus on this for the time being before introducing saws ready for our fully operational workshop! 🛠

Afternoon fire lighting led to hotdogs/crumpets on sticks and they were a big hit! 🔥

We love that our children’s interests usually revolve around risk, outdoor play and problem solving. We’re proud of the confident and capable little people they’ve become 😃


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20 November 2017– A challenge for everybody this week 🌟

Wave goodbye to the “no” just once 👋🏻

Embrace your child’s awe and wonder for the world and say “why not?” 🌏

We have a strong “why not” policy and it has made such a difference to the experiences we allow our children to have. Unless there’s a very good (real) reason why we shouldn’t do something, then we do it ✔️ This means we end up painting our entire bodies, getting trains, belly flopping in puddles and painting our faces in mud 🎨

🌟 If it’s mess related- mess is not the child’s problem! We have ways and means to clean up and it takes moments if you get the children helping
🌟 If it’s time related- you’re going too fast, there’s always time for fun
🌟 If it’s risk related- risk is important, children are more capable than we think, let go, let them try, fail and try again
🌟 If your an early years setting and you’re worried about how your parents will react to mess- adopt a strong ethos for messy play, share the research that supports this approach with your parents and invite them in to see it in action, provide clothes for the really messy stuff (we do this for body painting) and share lots of photos and videos showing the fun they have had

Share with us your ‘why not’ moments in the comments. We can’t wait to see what you’ve all been up to… (current parents can also add to Tapestry)

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16 November 2017– Can you think of a more magical place to eat your lunch?

We took the train to Belper 🚂 (after Kate realised she doesn’t read bus timetables correctly 😆) and walked to Belper Parks Nature Reserve 🌳

The children absolutely loved eating in this beautiful woodland den, which has been developing for some time and made by various groups and individuals 🍂

We then climbed ‘The Best Climbing Tree’ (it’s famous you know!) before some fun in the stream 💦 Muddy, soggy children achieved; we then walked back to the train station to return to Playgroup.

An amazing day, with children who could not have behaved any better, and who will definitely sleep incredibly well tonight 🙈


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14 November 2017-Back to one of our favourite places today: The Mud Slide 😁

Some children had their first outing to the woods today and they LOVED it, while others who had been before encouraged and helped those who were less confident or familiar, while others went down the mud slide when they had previously decided not to. All children participated and learnt in their own way 🌟

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9 November 2017– If you go down to the woods today… you’ll be sure to see; mudslides, rope swings and hedgehog houses!

A wonderful morning in the woods getting filthy 😉

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7 November 2017– We had some logs arrive today… they were stepping stones at first, and then one child had the wonderful idea of hammering the logs. We added some nails and bottle tops and away they went!

Woodwork is something we are passionate about at playgroup. It’s a risky activity to do, but risk is important and reasonably manageable. We’ve a lot of new children, and after a long summer break, we’re reintroducing woodwork slowly. It’s important to build on a child’s skills using different tools and exploring the elements of woodwork, rather than just offering every tool straight away. In this case we walk before we can run 😉

We’ve been offering a variety of ‘tinkering’ resources, such as hammering golf tees into pumpkins or taking apart broken electricals with screw drivers, for a while now and today was this years first go at using nails. We will let them explore the possibilities when using nails, such as joining and fixing in place, before moving on to our next steps in tool use; sawing and drilling. Once they have grasped these concepts we will begin combining tools and methods, before a fully operational workshop will open with all resources available for woodwork to take place in 🛠


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5 November 2017– Please read and sign! This is something we are incredibly passionate about at Ambergate. It is so important for our future generations. We need the thinkers, the doers and the curious to be our next inventors, world changers and leaders 🌟#extendtheeyfs#earlychildhood#letthemplay#change#togetherwecandothis


3 November 2017–  A lovely Friday 🌟

Our youngest children went to the park in Betsy Bus with Fiona and Karla. They loved having the space to run and explore, and especially loved to climb the big hill in the park area. They ended up a little soggy because of the rain, but returned to enjoy hotdogs cooked on the fire as our token towards bonfire night. Delicious hot dogs, cooked by the children themselves, and then served with yummy baked beans and bread. You can’t beat Autumnal food  🌭

In the afternoon a piano arrived, which has been given to us by a local care home. Thank you very much Coxbench Hall and thank you to MBE Build for delivering the piano to us.

The children have already loved exploring the beautiful sounds a piano can make and we will be extending this area to introduce basic musical language and knowledge while also using it to sing songs or dance together

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2 November 2017- We’ve had a busy morning with lots of new families looking around, while the children have been busy role playing in the garden. They made an aeroplane from large construction, with tickets and seatbelts and then went on a journey to the beach. After our lunch the children chose to go to the park… of course, we should have known they didn’t really mean the park! They meant the swampy, muddy, sloppy puddle in the middle of the field…

Our wonderful children, showing us that when life gets busy, stand in a cold, muddy puddle and love every moment 🌟


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31 October 2017-  We made a rope swing in the woods! It was so much fun swinging through the trees 🍂

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20 October 2017- Precious moments finding bugs 🐞 and insects 🕸 in the woods with our confident little explorers. Super fun as it was EXTRA muddy due to the heavy rain 💦

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15 October 2017- Wild Child

“They caught the wild children and put them in zoos,

They made them do sums and wear sensible shoes.

They put them to bed at the wrong time of day,

And made them sit still when they wanted to play.

They scrubbed them with soap and they made them eat peas.

They made them behave and say pardon and please.

They took all their wisdom and wildness away.

That’s why there are none in the forests today.”

– Jeanne Willis, “Wild Child”

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13 October 2017- A morning of potion making in the mud kitchen for some, and an afternoon of serious body painting for others. We aren’t kidding when we say we’re a messy Playgroup! Imagine the feeling as a child to have the freedom to really see what paint does, to feel it, to use it and to explore what our bodies are capable of doing too: magical 🌟 Thankfully we are well practiced at kitchen sink baths, and keep a stock of shampoo and bubbles for such occasions… 🎨#aweandwonder#childhood#reallearning

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12 October 2017– A morning of preschool photographs (the proofs are back already and looking gorgeous!) and an afternoon in the woods. Mud painting, woodland doll making, stick decorating, bubbles, pirate fighting, hill climbing and worm wriggling fun! #outdoorclassroom#outdoorplay

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10 October 2017– We were donated a disused bed sheet this week, and being a setting who will use just about anything as a resource we got to work making prints on the fabric. The children selected flowers and leaves to hammer and made beautiful patterns on the fabric. We’ve stuck a piece in our reflection book so we can look back another day and see our creations. We’re going to collect some sticks to make picture frames for the printed fabric, as we ran out of time today, and then we will hang them on the walls or in the garden. 🍃🌿🍁🌷🌸🌺

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8 October 2017- I am lost for words when I read online from parents who’s 2, 3 or 4 year old are disengaged and unhappy because somewhere they are not being allowed to ‘just be’. Children who no longer want to write because they are made to do it in school, and as homework, and without any of the purpose or love they once had. Children who are not being allowed to experience all consuming play, because they are at school, and at school they do work. There are those who are failing to see that play is the real work of childhood- they are learning, and they do not need worksheets or handwriting practice to show for that. We are proud of our play based setting, but what happens once our children leave us? I urge all of you to get involved with FB groups and campaigns such as;

The way to lead change is by standing together, and parents, if we have any hope of change, it will only be with you by our sides.

“Individually we are one drop. Together we are an ocean”.

(Credit to KEYU fb group for the links)


7 October 2017- *Warning lots of mess!*

Fun and frolics in the garden on Friday. The children began using their wellington boots to stamp in the paint, then the bikes to make marks and leave tracks, and then their own bodies. Process art at its finest 🎨

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5 October 2017- This morning we were busy planning our afternoon. One of our children wanted to make pumpkin soup, and seeing as the pumpkins we already had were either hacked to pieces or covered in paint and glitter, we thought it best to go and get a new one. And so our adventure began! A train to Belper to visit the green grocers was on the cards, timetables checked and outing bag packed, we set off to hunt down the perfect pumpkin. We tried the green grocers and the co-op but neither had any pumpkins in yet! “Not to worry” we said, “we can make a different soup”. Carrots, coriander and onions were purchased, with everybody helping to count ten carrots. We also visited the pet shop to buy Acorn a yummy treat (guinea pig banana popcorn no less!) and then went for a rock hunt/run around in the memorial gardens before our train home. Thanks to our fantastic walkodile we are able to get out and about more easily and safely 😄 #childled #moments #autumn #learningthroughplay#curiosity #aweandwonder

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4 October 2017- Such a busy day today!

One child ‘found’ a sweet corn still in its jacket. This sparked the idea of cooking corn on the cob, which happened over the open fire. This then led on to preparing food, which turned out to be leak, potato and broccoli soup which the children prepared all by themselves. We then moved on to the tools used on or with fires… sticks were whittled and marshmallow toasting sticks were made. Unfortunately we only had half an hour left of the day, and a lack of marshmallows, so we settled for toasting an orange over the fire, seeing as we had no time to walk to the local shop. These tiny moments lead on to so much. Children have the most wonderful ideas and the enthusiasm to follow them through. It’s up to us as grown ups to let these ideas happen and to enable high quality learning to shine through #inthemomentplanning #childled #aweandwonder#whynotapproach #outdoor

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2 October 2017- Lots of excitement as Peppa Pig from #belperrocks made an appearance through our letterbox this morning! Some very excited children- we will be going out to re-hide Peppa tomorrow, as well as adding some of our own.

If you haven’t heard of Belper Rocks before it’s a brilliant idea where rocks are decorated, and hidden all around Belper (and the outskirts) for others to find, keep or re-hide. Take a look at the group for further information

Happy rock hunting!

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1 October 2017- Some inspirational pictures, showcasing the wonder of childhood and the limitless possibilities 🍂

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28 September 2017- This afternoon we joined in with ‘Belper Rocks’ and re-hid some that had been found already, as well as added a few of our own. I wonder who will find them? If you’d like to join in with Belper Rocks take a look at their Facebook group- it’s great fun and the children love hunting for them. Ambergate toddlers may find one as well as a visitor to Shining Cliff Woods!

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27 September 2017– The children are brilliant at independently making their own playdough, and exploring the different scents or colours to add. We provide provocations to explore, of which are usually natural or found, upcycled or repurposed resources. Today saw the addition of blackberries, conkers and other beautiful autumnal provocations. Here you can see we used the blackberries to add colour to the playdough, then we realised it smelt amazing too! We explored how the conkers and acorns made lovely patterns and that the leaves could be pressed onto rolled out dough to leave an impression. We need to collect more blackberries though, as one of the children ate the ones we hadn’t used yet! Wonderful, child led, all consuming, explorative and engaging play 🍂#play#earlyyears#childled#aweandwonder#naturallearning#learningthroughplay

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20 September 2017– Risk! It is so important for children to take risks. It helps brains to develop, leads to resilience and develops decision making skills. We should allow children to take their own risks, to risk assess their own environment, and to make their own decisions about what they can do. Children will not go beyond what they deem safe and possible, and it is our job as adults to allow them the freedom to discover their limits. That’s why we use risk/benefit assessments at Ambergate and find that the benefits of a resource or activity by far outweigh any possible risks.

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20 September 2017– A few of the children chose to make autumnal sun catchers today. They look beautiful against a window or light 🍂

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19 September 2017– It started out as a bit of paddling…it ended up being a mud bath! A brilliant afternoon with our fabulous children who are always ready to get stuck in (and filthy!) If you can’t have the freedom to throw yourself into muddy water as a child, then when can you? Thank you to all of our ever good spirited parents/relatives for always being happy to see the fun the children have had, instead of the mess! #earlyyears#outdoorplay#childled#adventure#whatevertheweather#inthemoment

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9 September 2017- We are looking for indoor and outdoor potted plants to add an additional depth to our environment. If you can help us we would love to hear from you! Our reasons are because plants naturally purify the air, as well as help to create a calm environment, and can also be used as resources such as creating cozy nooks. Thank you in advance! 😀

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 8 September 2017- Our environment today! We’re always looking to improve and develop playgroup, and our environment changes daily in response to the children’s needs and ideas. Our long term journey has seen us move from lots of tables and chairs, plastic toys and few authentic resources. Now we use real, authentic resources (yes real food and tableware!!) in so many areas, and we are still continuing our journey to replace others. We create spaces using natural and found resources, and add fabrics to make them communication friendly, relaxing and inspiring. We actively encourage critical thinking and ensure children can access all creative resources at all times, both in and out. Here they pour their own paint, make their own play dough and colour the water. We’ve started adding real instruments, rather than ones marketed as children’s toys, and in the short week we’ve been back we’ve seen such a jump in our children’s musical skills and importantly, their interest in music. Water and sand are presented together, where children can select resources and combine them, celebrating their own ideas and concepts. We are by no means where we want to be, but we are proud of the opportunities we offer our children, and we are prouder still for their ideas and inspirations to make it just so. (Please excuse the background noise of our staff team having a morning coffee before the children arrived!)

27 July 2017- You have probably heard news of early years settings being frustrated by the new 30 hours scheme that is coming in from September, or sadly in some cases where they have closed. There are many reasons why providers are facing difficulties at the moment, but this interactive tool is a clear way to show what little movement we have in this sector. At the end of the slides you are able to join the supportive plight to secure appropriate funding for our youngest children. Further information can be found by googling the ‘champagne nurseries on lemonade funding’ campaign. Help us to ensure that our youngest children have access to high quality early education!

21 July 2017 – Today was a little less adventurous in comparison to the previous few days. We’ve some very tired children after such a busy week and half term. We opted for lots of large physical play at playgroup. This was ideal as our hall has been cleared (in preparation for the holidays) so children had the space and freedom to move in lots of ways. Sadly we were let down by an ice cream van this afternoon, but Danielle came to the rescue and returned with everything we would need to make our own. A lovely end of term, afternoon treat

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20 July 2017- Today we got the train to Belper! We had our snack in the Memorial Gardens where the children were really interested in the memorial monument. They asked a grown up to read the names to them and we talked about what the monument was for. A few of the children were able to tell us about grandparents who grew up in the war. We then continued into Belper Parks where we had a fantastic time in a stream, splashing, balancing on rocks and logs and throwing sticks into the water. A picnic lunch and a change into dry clothes later, we did some tree climbing. Belper Parks is fantastic for tree climbing- the trees are just right! We then had a gentle walk back to the memorial gardens for a play with some bubbles before heading to the train station. A very busy day- but the rain didn’t stop our fun

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19 July 2017- We had a wonderful time in Matlock Bath today with our small group of children. The day started by taking the train from Ambergate, playing in a park with a huge pirate ship, a delicious flapjack snack at a lovely cafe, who were very kind and welcoming to us all, a few two penny pieces disappearing and then the train back to Ambergate. The children were impeccably behaved and we are very proud of them.

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19 July 2017–  Yesterday we spent the entire day at Shining Cliff Woods, enjoying snack and a picnic lunch. We were all totally shattered by the end of the day, but wow what a day it was! At Playgroup we fully embrace the importance of taking risks and tackling challenge, and this is just one of the reasons why we encourage tree climbing 🌳

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17 July 2017– We have a busy week planned as we are out every day, doing lots of wonderful things with the children. Today we were at ‘Bluebell Woods’ where the children made this fantastic den. It even had fern leaves added to give it some added waterproofing!

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11 July 2017- A huge thank you to J C Balls of Ambergate for helping us to keep the children safe while we are out and about. We used one of our walkodiles today, while taking the older children up to school for a transition morning. They are fantastic pieces of equipment and help to keep us going out and about with the children 🐊

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10 July 2017- We had a fantastic time at Ambergate Carnival on Saturday! Playgroup won 3rd prize and an amazing £530 was raised through the evening party and our stall on the day. Thank you so much to all who worked so hard to make the event happen and to everybody who helped make decorations etc. The children had an amazing time (photo credit goes to James Corbett & Ambergate Carnival Facebook page)

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30 June 2017– Yesterday, in the pouring rain, we ended up cooking vegetable soup on a fire. This all happened because one child wanted to paint a potato! Potato painting happened, the adults then extended this by cutting shapes into potatoes for printing. The children then had a go at cutting shapes into them, then a few children began chopping the potatoes into pieces and told us they wanted to cook with them. We provided them with chopping boards and clean knives etc so they could continue chopping. We added a few vegetables from our supplies and then a group of children went into the garden to pick some of our home grown vegetables. Not many were ready for eating just yet, but we still managed to pull up a few small carrots and a broad bean. The children turned it into soup, adding a selection of dried herbs and some fresh mint. We asked how they would like to cook it and they said “fire”! This one moment ended up lasting two hours, with children engaged and involved. We had some soup with our lunch, yum!

28 June 2017- ‘Flower petal pancake soup’ was made in the rain yesterday! The children wanted to write their recipe down so Kate helped with the process.

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28 June 2017- We have growth! Now I’d like to see somebody else evenly divide the first ripe strawberry between twelve!

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28 June 2017- Ahoy there! Pirates have been spotted in the Ambergate area! Superman appears to have turned to the dark side, and is assisting the grog drinking crew on their quest to find gold!

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20 June 2017- Some of the children created this beautiful woven hoop today. We collected flowers and leaves and wove them in and out of the string. The children were naming the flowers that they knew, and we helped to name those they didn’t. They particularly enjoyed smelling the lavender flowers. We also spoke about the plants that we wouldn’t be picking such as ivy and nettles.

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18 June 2017- Talking Point have published an easy to use communication and language progress tool for parents and practitioners to use. Please follow the link to complete it if you would like to

16 June 2017– We had a great time at Sports Day today! Thank you to Ambergate Primary School for having Playgroup join in.

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15 June 2017– Yet another wonderful session at the woods today. The children are always so excited to be here and we see them at their most involved and engaged. We yet again followed the children and ended up creating forest people using anything could find, created stories using natural items as props, ran down hills, had stick races, played hide and seek, drew in the mud, made music on trees with sticks and to top it all off we had ice creams from the local shop while passing. Our children, as usual, behaved outstandingly well and we are very proud of our confident little explorers.

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14 June 2017- Our self service play dough area is now fully embedded into our environment. The children have access to flour, salt and water in order to make their own play dough and we add enhancements to the area according to their interests and ideas. Some examples of these enhancements are the addition of vinegar bottles containing colouring, herbs and scents. The children follow a simple recipe, displayed in a picture frame but they are also free to explore their own combinations. We are all about the process and not necessarily the end product and this is just one example to show how we allow our children to think critically and explore for themselves. You can see just how popular this area is in the photographs!

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13 June 2017- We had such a busy afternoon today! The children wanted to make a giant pancake, so sure enough we followed their interests and supported them by providing the opportunity to do so. It was also a great opportunity for Fiona who hasn’t built a fire with us before. The children as usual played a part in managing any risk. They collected water into containers in case we needed it, and arranged crates to act as seats. The giant pancake was delicious and some children even had thirds!

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11 June 2017- We had a lovely time on Friday with Wellington boots and paint. The children explored colours, experimented with paint mixing, using their feet to do so and watched as they created different sized foot prints according to shoe size. A super simple, yet effective activity, that kept them busy and engaged.

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25 May 2017- A fantastic day spent playing in a paddling pool and a very messy mud kitchen!

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15 May 2017- What a fantastic morning in the woods. Despite the rain we built dens, read stories, made stick mobiles, painted sticks and had a picnic snack. The rain was quite relentless, so we spent the last hour drying off in Ambergate Baby and Toddler Group (thank you very much for accommodating us all!). We finished the session by singing songs with the toddler’s before a short walk back to our meeting point.

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11 May 2017- We had a very busy day today! First of all we went to the park where we climbed trees, hunted for bugs and ran running races. Then we supported a charity cake sale where we joined residents of Ambergate to eat delicious cakes. The children loved talking to everybody and it was a lovely social experience, sitting in the sunshine while eating a little treat. Then, the afternoon children went back to the park for some more fun. We are sure to have worn them all out. It’s lovely having the freedom to explore and engage with our local community. The children thrive on these experiences to build on their understanding of the world.

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10 May 2017- Our lovely new prospectus is now back from the printers 😀 A full version is available on our website to download should you wish to view it there, alternatively visits are welcome to the setting or we will happily send one via the post/email.

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8 May 2017- Thanks to our smartie tube collections we have been able to purchase a couple of new toys for the children. We now have a shop and puppet theatre! Both are already much loved 🎭

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3 May 2017 – From September 2017, eligible 3 and 4 year old children will be able to access 30 hours of provision per week. Playgroup will be open for 24 hours per week, while the funding can be split across up to two settings.

The link below provides lots of information and tells you how you can check to see if you are eligible. Please take a look 🙂


29 April 2017- We would like to wish Bethany (our deputy manager on maternity leave) and her partner the most wonderful of congratulations on the birth of their beautiful daughter Ayda Iris. Mummy and baby are both doing really well

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27 April 2017– Just a reminder that we are closed on Monday as it is bank holiday, and also Thursday 4th as the hall is being used as a polling station.

26 April 2017– It’s here! Kate took it out for an empty spin today 💪🏻

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23 April 2017- We’ve been creating some ‘spaces for one’ over the holidays and this super simple idea is ready for the children tomorrow. All free, made from an old cot, some silk fabric woven between the bars and a couple of hinges. ‘Spaces for one’ are ideal for young children to retreat to when they need to rest or think. They provide them with a space, that only they can use at the time, to call their own, which is important for their emotional wellbeing.

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23 April 2017- Teddy has been supervising the set up of Playgroup in comfort this evening 🐾

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19 April 2017- We have something very exciting arriving next week! Thanks to our wonderful fundraising efforts and donations we have been able to purchase ‘The Tank’. We think the children will love it!

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3 April 2017– We are all about critical thinking and problem solving at Playgroup, which is why we have begun to introduce a self service playdough area. Whilst the final set up will include dry cereal dispensers for the flour and salt, the general idea can be seen already. It’s all about the process! Giving the children ownership of their resources, and the opportunity to be independent, enables the development of mathematical thinking and problem solving ⭐️

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3 April 2017– Giant chalks and paper today! Thanks to the parents of one of our children for the photography backing paper 😄

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1 April 2017- A massive thank you to all of our parents/ grandparents/ families/ committee/ children (you get the idea!) for an amazing turn out at our Sponsored Welly Waddle! We enjoyed ourselves so much and the children had a wonderful time too. We will let you know how much we have raised for Playgroup once all of the sponsorship money has been collected over the next week.

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31 March 2017- It’s been a fiery week at playgroup, as we lit up again this morning to cook our snack. We made scrambled eggs (fresh, from one of the children’s farms) and toast- both cooked on the fire and then eaten in the garden. It was the first time taking part in an activity like this for some of our newer/younger children and they fully embraced it. By the afternoon, the fire was completely out and the remaining wood was cold, so we then used it as charcoal chalk and drew some brilliant drawings on the patio. Creative resourcing at it’s best!

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27 March 2017– Today a group of children began to talk about ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ while outside in the garden… staff spotted an opportunity to extend the children’s learning by suggesting we make some porridge. We did this over an open fire in the garden and it was wonderful! The children were included in the building of the fire, they risk assessed their own environment and we discussed fire safety before lighting… this then led on to such an in-depth learning activity, observing weights/capacity, changes as we cooked, re telling the story of Goldilocks, where porridge oats come from, using manners when serving up the porridge, trying different or a new food and then eating our porridge around the outdoor snack table. So much learning, all through play, and all completely child initiated, with a touch of adult help to make it happen. We especially love the extendable spoon!

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23 March 2017- A truly wonderful afternoon was spent at the local park. They had a quick play on the slides and swings, handed staff copious amounts of lovingly picked daisies, and ran up and down the hill a few times, but this giant puddle was just too irresistible for our confident explorers! We splashed, ran, jumped and fell in to this wonderfully muddy mess. We were also lucky enough to find some frog spawn in a section of the puddle which fascinated the children and sparked some amazing conversations around growth and change. They have asked to return soon to check on the frogspawn and to see if we can spot any tadpoles. Child led learning at it’s best!

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22 March 2017- This beautiful sun catcher was made independently by one of our children today ✂️

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9 March 2017- The children loved making lots of fizzy potions today using lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda!

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7 March 2017- This morning, this simple tuff tray kept a group of children busy for almost two hours! They used different vehicles to transport the cereals around the tray.

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7 March 2017- The children had a wonderful time washing our cars this afternoon! Lots of bubbles made it great fun and they did a wonderful job.

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8 February 2017-Today some of the children made vegetable soup. All of the vegetables were prepared by them and the only help we had to give was with the very hot part and a bit of potato peeling. It tasted fantastic and they enjoyed it as their snack 😀

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6 February 2017- The children enjoyed a story while they ate their snack in the woods today.

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6 February 2017- We wrapped up warm today and have spent the morning at the woods. We had a picnic snack, read stories, got stuck in the mud, fell in the mud, paddled in a stream, chose which way to walk, painted with natural items that we had found and finally, retold ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ as we were walking along. A very busy morning for our little ones, but luckily we didn’t have to walk back after all of that exploring 🌳

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3 February 2017- Guess where we have been this afternoon!

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1 February 2017- **VACANCY**
We have a very exciting opportunity available at our Playgroup for a Deputy Manager (Maternity Cover- for a period of up to 12 months).

We are looking for a candidate with as much passion and enthusiasm as us, and who can join us on our journey to ‘Outstanding’. This is an excellent career development opportunity, as the Deputy Manager will be involved with all aspects of the running of Playgroup.

31 hours per week, plus any additional paperwork time and meetings.
Term time only

For additional information or an application pack please contact us by email:
Tel: 07474 762190

The closing date for applications is: Friday 3 March 2017


 30 January 2017– Herb soup was made today and it smelt delicious. The children developed their cutting skills when chopping the herbs for the pots, strengthened their shoulder muscles when stirring, and developed multiple mathematical concepts such as counting, weighing and measuring.

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24 January 2o17- Another group of children spent their entire afternoon playing with the mud kitchen and mud pit. They spent hours pouring pots of water into the mud and mixing it in to mud pies. We added an additional dimension to their play by adding in fresh vegetables for them to freely use. They finished their afternoon chanting “we love mud, we love mud” 😀

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24 January 2017- This group of boys worked as a team to build and paint their robot. When they had finished, they washed off all of the paint, so it was ready for the next person to use.

We encourage children to be as creative as they want to be, and that includes painting items and moving resources around, to be used in different ways. This is carried out on the condition that, once they have completed their play, they return the items to their original positions and in their original condition 🎨

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24 January 2017- Toasted hot cross buns anyone? A fabulous afternoon around the campfire with the children.

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23 January 2017- We’re mashing, mixing, hammering, smashing, flipping, cutting and spooning boiled potatoes today as part of our writing provision. It’s essential to build children’s strength from their core, down to their fingers, in order for them to become ready and able to write. This is an excellent shoulder and wrist strength building activity 💪🏻

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16 January 2017- We were all inspired to fly an aeroplane after playing with the small world toys today. The children made their own passports to ensure a swift departure and trouble free passing through passport control. They worked together to help each other use the correct colours for their hair, eyes and skin. Some fantastic writing, letter formation and use of phonics today ✈️

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11 January 2017- We introduced guinea pigs at Playgroup to bring a new learning experience to the children. Mainly to care for a living animal, develop their understanding of life cycles, and as a companion to those who enjoy a little quiet time. Unfortunately Oakley became very poorly and we had no other choice but to let him go peacefully. The children have begun to notice his absence which has led to us explaining what has happened to him, although very sad, it’s lovely to see that while he was with us he did his job very well and the children gained so much from the experience 🐹

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10 January 2017- We’re hoping for some delicious hot chocolate made by the children today, along with some beautifully scented basil and parsley play dough 

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19 December 2016- We went to the park this morning and the children did some rock climbing. They did so well and have really developed their climbing skills recently.

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16 December 2016- A super fun afternoon was spent at an activity centre today. The children had a great time and we loved it too! We are now thoroughly worn out, but we’re re-charging this weekend in preparation for our party next week!

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13 December 2016- I think we can all agree that the big smiles from two of our boys show just how proud they are of themselves for taking part in the play. We have raised approximately £86 for Playgroup so a huge thank you to everybody who donated- all donations contribute to making the children’s time at Playgroup even more enriching and so we are very grateful for the support

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13 December 2016- The stage is set for our production of “T’was the night before Christmas”. The children are very excited 🎄

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12 December 2016- We’ve been to Ambergate Primary School to watch their nativity play dress rehearsal today 🎄 The children are so good at walking when we are out and about and they were so excited to visit the local primary school again.

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8 December 2016-Giant messy painting this afternoon 🎨 We had so much fun and gave the children free reign over pots of glitter, PVA and full bottles of paint. Of course, we joined in too 😀

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2 December 2016- Continuing on yesterday’s fire theme some of the children have toasted mini marshmallows on tea lights this morning. They loved blowing the candles out repeatedly 🕯

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1 December 2016 – Bethany, our Deputy Manager, is a scout leader, so the children benefit from her many skills. Today we made a small camp fire and toasted fruit bread. An amazing activity for the children to be a part of.

30 November 2016 – Brrrr it’s getting chilly outside, so cold in fact, that an igloo has popped up inside Playgroup!

24 November 2016 – The climbing frame became a pirate ship! We’re mid way through a very complex reenactment of Peter Pan featuring; Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Captain Hook and his Parrot, a mermaid, a Skipper, crocodile and Spider-Man!

18 November 2016 – This new small world play table and fairy garden toadstool are very nearly finished and will be ready for the children to play with next week.

12 November 2016 – Yesterday morning was our half termly parent session and this time it was under the theme of ‘writing’. Parents joined us for tea, coffee and biscuits and took part in some fantastic mark making activities as well as our ‘getting ready to write’ interventions. ‘Finger Gym’ is changed on a weekly basis and is centred around fine motor skills to strengthen their little fingers. With strong fingers children will be able to control a pencil and their grip will naturally develop to be the correct tripod grip. We also did ‘Dough Disco’ which is another strengthening activity.

10 November 2016 Some of our children found a doll with one foot today. This sparked a very insightful discussion about disabilities. The children then adapted this little wooden chair to make a wheelchair for the doll using items found in the junk modelling box.