Creativity and exploration are the key focus within the Atelier. Find out what happened when a papier-mâché session led to a visit from The Very Hungry Caterpillar.Read More
Leaving your child for the first time, in a new situation or environment can be hard.
Even when we are used to leaving our little one with grandparents or at childcare, new situations keep popping up; like the first visit to a friend’s house or a school trip.
The anxiety we feel, not just emotionally but physically too and our early experiences of separation lay a foundation for how we cope with these moments as they appear throughout life.
At Free Rangers we always have new families joining and so supporting parents and children through the first few weeks and even months of settling into their new routine is part of everyday life for us. It is important to know that every child and parent deals with separation differently however, there are some strategies that might help the transition.
Some families may not need to employ any strategies and others might need to search and try out a few things to help their child cope positively with these challenges.
Importantly I want to reassure everyone that separation anxiety is a normal behaviour and is a wonderful expression of the bond you and your child share. In most cases extreme separation anxiety only lasts a short time and soon parents and children will have built up confidence and resilience to deal with their anxieties.
Tips to help your child
Preparation is Key
Firstly preparation for your child is key and this will need to be relevant to your child’s age. For young babies, practise leaving them with grandparents or a friend for very short periods of time, this could be to pop to the shops or take a leisurely bath (who remembers those?!). Be sure to say goodbye and give them a kiss, informing them you will be back. For younger babies who are breastfed, thought will need to be given towards how they will be fed when they are away from you. You will be surprised how many breastfed babies arrive at nursery unwilling to take a bottle or beaker, yet still make the transition quickly on to a bottle, sippy cup or beaker. For older children preparation could be telling them about the nursery, looking at pictures together and buying a nursery bag ready for their next adventure.
The Benefits of Routine
Secondly routine is important for young children. Think about how their week will look, who will be taking them to nursery and picking them up, are they at more than one place during the week (for example two settings) or with grandparents one day. Think about the routine and try to ensure it works so that you can be consistent. For younger babies the routine alone will be something they become familiar with however, for older children you could use photos (a visual timetable) on the fridge to let your child know where they will be spending their day or use a uniform to indicate a nursery day. If your child struggles with the unknown think about a visual way to support their understanding.
Finally drop off is a key time for children and parents who are dealing with separation anxiety. It is important to keep the routine the same and keep goodbyes quick and consistent. This process may involve finding a peg, having a big cuddle and kiss before a comment such as “see you after lunchtime” or “nanny will pick you up later”, for others this will just be a quick kiss and a hand over to a member of staff. In nursery be assured that for these children we will also have a routine, this may be to go to the book corner or find a favourite toy, all of this helps to settle the child and make them feel secure and comfortable. We also say to parents or carers to call in and check up on how their child has settled, so that we can monitor the time it takes a child to become calm and engaged in play and learning.
Acknowledging and Sharing Feelings
It is useful for parents to know that older children may talk about their anxieties at home and make comments such as “I miss you when I am at nursery” or “I don’t want to go to nursery.” For these children it is important to acknowledge their feelings and reassure them that it’s okay to feel sad or worried and miss mummy and daddy when they are not there. It is nice for parents to share their feelings too, being mindful to keep language age appropriate. Avoid asking too many questions or offering possible reasons for why your child may be upset.
For many children the above recommendations will successfully meet their needs however, some children may need something more, even for a short period of time and this is where a transitional object is hugely beneficial. Many younger children will have a dummy, blanket or special toy that can comfort them. If they don’t, a scarf (that has been worn by a parent) or a blanket that smells like home is always a good choice. For older children the ‘object’ doesn’t always need to be a physical thing, it could be a kiss in the hand to save for later or a huge hug to make sure children are ‘full’ of hugs before the parent leaves. Whatever the object may be, ensure it is consistent and made clear to the child, and the adult who is caring for them, so they can refer to it should they need too.
There are many bedtime story books that focus on common anxieties that children might experience. Cuddled up in bed, feeling safe, is a really good time to explore your child’s feelings and thoughts and through the medium of a book makes opening up discussion feel more normal. We’d recommend Cheeky Worries by Dr Patrick Davey and Dr Anna Smith to help children accept and understand their thoughts and feelings.
Tips to help you
Separation anxiety does not just impact on children, for some families the children are fine and settle well and it is in fact the parent that struggles to leave their child. To help you leave your child it is useful if you are able to understand their behaviours and be reassured that this is just normal behaviour for their age and stage.
Babies often cry as they have just started to understand ‘object permanence’ and so now know that when you leave you have actually gone. For most young babies once they learn that you will in fact return, they become more settled and make a bond with another caregiver who they know will keep them safe and ensure they have everything they need and nurture their interests. It is also common for nonverbal babies to cry when they see their parent, even when they have been content all day. This is often because they are overwhelmed by emotion upon your return and they are happy to see you.
For toddlers, their developing independence makes them more aware of being separated from their special people. Toddlers can give us some of the most impressive and spectacular tantrums when their parents leave, however they are often the age group that can be easily distracted with objects of interest long enough to engage and steer them on to more solid territory. Once calm toddlers also benefit from clear language and reminders about who will pick them up and when, so that they start to gain a greater understanding and feel safe within their new setting. They can also be comforted with hugs from a trusted adult.
Pre-schoolers are an interesting group as by this age they have learnt the impact of their actions on their parents, and often they can subconsciously play on this. We talk a lot about children ‘doing it for parents benefit’ and this is certainly the case for this age group. This is the age where consistency is key as a well settled child can again show signs of anxiety if the responses from their parents change.
Remember that separation anxiety is a normal, arguably healthy, behaviour and although it can be hard to witness, we want to work with you to provide your children with the emotional resilience that will enable them to cope with situations of stress and manage these periods throughout their life successfully due to the foundations laid when they are young.
On Friday 15th February, Free Rangers, inspired by Greta Thunberg, marched down the Green Way cycle path to raise awareness about global warming.Read More
Recently Free Rangers hosted Sean Williams AKA @seaninthewoods a Michelin trained chef with a passion for delicious outdoor cooking and creating a relaxed, sociable vibe around a fire.
Sean shared his story, explaining how his experience in world renowned restaurants provided him with incredible skill but at the same time lacked the qualities around sharing food that motivated him the most; intimacy, chat, sharing ideas and thoughts and making the process of cooking and eating much bigger than the product itself.
As the morning unravelled and the mist lifted, we all stretched and cooked our own flatbreads, understanding the look of the embers and the temperature necessary to cook straight on hot coals.
We all spoke and chatted more freely as this hands-on approach to a meal facilitated interacting with more people, not those just sat next to you. Children tried and tested this unusual way of cooking and these sometimes harsh critics even gave the spelt flat breads their seal of approval.
Sean has bought his own woodland and is soon to embark on establishing a retreat style cooking experience for guests, in Surrey, who are looking to reconnect with cooking and the great outdoors.
Many of you who attended were asking after the recipes and Sean has kindly sent them though, please do give them a go over the spring and summer and show us how you get on.
Fundraising to Build a School at Free Rangers
Finally, Free Rangers would like to thank Sean for venturing down to the West Country and offering his time and expertise for free. We explained our vision to extend our setting to offer Forest School to older children as a form of mainstream education and it turns out we shared many of the same thoughts and feelings about how education should be for younger children that Sean very kindly supported the day, despite a very hectic schedule.
We have raised over £200 pounds, and although this won’t build a school tomorrow, it will fan the flames and continue to make our desire to create a learning environment that our younger Free Rangers can move on to. Furthermore it is so heartening to know that industry experts from all walks of life are motivated to join the discussion surrounding education and make an impact for the good of future generations.
If you would like to chat all things outdoor and early years education and stay up to date with future events at Free Rangers, then please do follow us on Instagram and Facebook; @freerangersnursery.
All these recipes are better cooked directly on to beech wood fire embers, but all can be cooked on a hot frying pan or on a pizza stone in an oven.
350g Organic white Spelt flour
350g Organic bakers blend spelt
200g sourdough starter – if you haven’t got sourdough you can use 1 instant sachet yeast
Pinch of salt
25ml olive oil
Warm the water, milk and olive oil to about 37 degrees.
Add the sourdough or yeast and leave for about 30 minutes.
Then mix all ingredients together and kneed into a smooth ball this may take about 5 minutes.
Leave to prove in a warm place and cover with a tea towel or cling film.
Once the bread has doubled in size you can then make into balls and leave again for about 30 minutes.
You can use these breads and flatbreads like we did together or you can even add toppings and use as a pizza base.
You can also substitute the Sharpham park flour for a ‘00’ pizza flour.
Handful of wild garlic
One block of butter
Pinch of salt
Melt the butter to about 75 degrees then put in a blender with the garlic.
The liquid will then go very green after about 3 mins it should all be once consistency.
Pour over into a bowl with another bowl underneath full of ice.
Keep stirring until the butter is cold.
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 white onion
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp tahini
1 lemon juice
300ml olive oil
Salt and pepper
Cook the aubergine until they are complete soft.
While the aubergine are cooking in a sauce pan fry the onion until soft and golden
When the onion is cooked add the cumin and continue cooking until you can smell the sweet aroma from the spice.
Add the tomato puree and cook for a further 3 minutes then add half the olive oil.
When the aubergine are done blend everything together and then season.
To find out more about Sean visit his website:
and follow him on Instagram:
Introducing Di, short for Diana.
Di is here with us for 6 months as part of a Danish degree course in Early Year’s Education.
She wanted to write a blog post to introduce herself and her motivations behind why she has chosen to pursue a career in Early Years.
Di is currently based in the Den, but can also be found across all rooms of Free Rangers.
Everyone say hi to Di!
Hi, I'm Diana, and I’m a Danish student here at Free Rangers for 6 months. I am one of those who have chosen to take a half-year placements abroad. I am very excited about the opportunity to be here and hopefully learn a lot. I think it’s an important work for the whole community. How we, as role models, can develop and educate these children who will grow up to become active citizens of the great community.
Another reason why I have chosen to work with this area pulls traces back to my own childhood, where I myself fought with my own self-esteem and self-confidence.
Why would anyone waste their time on me?
Why am I always being so stupid and always appear out so awkward and almost impossible to have a normal conversation with?
Why am I not like the others?
It was just some of the questions I always asked myself being young….
I had a kind of a rough childhood and experienced a lot of bullying, some of it because of growing up in a family that didn’t have much money. My mother was at home trying to get it all together in her best possible way. But with a grumpy father in the house drinking too much, it could be difficult to make the economy fit and creating a safe environment for us. I therefore spent most of the time on my own, since I didn’t feel I belonged anywhere. I've always had a feeling of being in the way and not being good enough for what I was doing.
The feeling inside being useless has been strengthened all the way through my life, mostly it is by others' comments about things I do, words will always hit me hard and I still sometimes have to think extra if it’s just for fun. Because I have heard all these words before while growing up, and back then it was not for fun or joking around. When I think back, the hardest was from my mathematics teacher who almost thought it was fun that someone could be so stupid to solve mathematical tasks. So I was always pointed out and had to solve them by the board. - It took me time to understand he was being a bully instead of being a supporting teacher.
WHY I WISH I HAD GONE TO NURSERY
So how did it even come to that point I had a hard time in school and wasn’t confident? My own conclusion is, that it was because of I never gone to any type of child day-care and always been at my mother's home until the day I started school. Therefore in the beginning of my childhood, I have not learned the same social skills as my classmates. And of course the fact that I had an old school teacher who failed to support me. I am sure that safe surroundings, support and the learning of social skills from a good teacher are a major factor in a child's life.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CHALLENGING YOURSELF
It has taken me many years to become who I am today and the ability to socialize with others. I am now at a place in my life where it's time for me to get new experience and I find it exciting to get out on my own feet and learn to navigate in new situations. In my placement here at Free Rangers I will learn about new methods and get an insight into other ways of doing things. At the same time, being here is giving me a new knowledge about myself, and Iearning about a new and different culture than I am used to.
I think it is a good thing for me and a good challenge, trying to start from scratch with the building of new personal and professional relationships, and then it’s even in a language I’m not used to speak daily.
So with my own childhood in mind is it one of the reasons I feel dedicated to this area. I want the best for all children and in somehow achieve success in life. Not everyone needs to be good at mathematics. Because as Howard Gardner says:
“It is not about how smart you are; it is about HOW you’re smart”
I know that I can't change the whole world, but by being here, I can get knowledge about the world, that I can use to make a difference for someone else in their journey through life.
It was really difficult to hear. My Forest Schoolers rarely dishearten me over things they might mention during the sessions but one had stopped on the Timber Trail on one particularly wet Forest School session.Read More
The first edition of of our magazine, will be available from next week. Please read below to see who has contributed.Read More
It’s my favourite time of year. There’s something very comforting and familiar about Autumn. The kaleidoscope of colour. The falling of leaves. The chill in the air. The smell of wood fires. Hot drinks and woolly hats. It's a riotous assault on the senses.Read More
At Free Rangers we understand that a child’s happiness is the foundation upon which learning is built. We nurture every child’s self-esteem and confidence to ensure they embrace the opportunities on offer. An important factor in this process is mealtimes.Read More
The children in the Den are about to embark upon a creative adventure …
We know that young children are inventive, by observing them during play we see how their brains can turn a wooden block into a phone and a cardboard box can become a space rocket. They display great creativity that as adults we often lose. In the Den we allow children to play with open-ended resources to encourage that creativity.Read More
Did you know that it’s Organic September? This month is all about raising awareness of organic products and celebrating the farmers and producers that create them.Read More
We've invested in a carpentry room at Free Rangers and we can't wait to tell you why carpentry and woodwork is such a worthwhile activity for children to engage in.aRead More
Free Rangers Forest School Nursery has made it to the grand old age of seven (despite the Government’s best efforts to underfund us to within an inch of our lives.) We’re also celebrating an ever so small “proposed’ yet significant change to the Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum. Let us explain…Read More
Fire; the one tool in my Forest School arsenal guaranteed to spark creativity, curiosity and focus. Seeing a child make their first fire is something very special. We have been harnessing and bending it to our will since time immemorial, and even now, after all the fires I've lit (a lot), it still captures my attention and draws my gazeRead More
A few months ago we were shocked to learn that the humble bedtime story is quickly becoming a thing of the past! Storytime is one of our favourite activities here at Free Rangers. It’s no secret that the adults love a bit of The Gruffalo as much as the children do! So, we decided to put our heads together and come-up with a way to bring back bedtime stories.Read More
As a parent myself I always notice the instant effect of some foods and drinks on my children's behaviour. (Never again will a Fruit Shoot pass their lips!)
But what is the latest research saying?
Instinctively we feel that sugar almost instantly turns our children into Tasmanian Devil style lunatics who run around and ping off all the furniture. But physicians say there is no scientific evidence to co-oberate our theories.
One line of thought is that adrenaline is released upon sugar consumption (particularly highly refined sugars) more quickly in children than in adults, meaning behaviour, in the form of hyperactivity will result. But more recently, a link has shown between healthy guts, healthy minds and positive behaviours.
This article explains how this relationship works:
So whether you're a finger licker or a bowl scraper, at Free Rangers we always strive to provide the children with unrefined sugars, leafy greens and food that will promote gut health and a balanced diet. As research grows, it seems we really should listen to our "gut instinct" when it comes to what we should be trying to feed our children.
Last month we went to the Be.Nips seminar in Bath for Mental Health and Children.
We heard Paul Stallard, Professor of Child and Family Mental Health at the University of Bath advise us all to remember to talk to our children. This seems easy and like common sense, but how do you actually discuss your child's feelings or indeed not say the "wrong" thing.
Paul used an analogy:
S: Stop what you're doing and engage with your child if they have given you a cue they want to talk.
L: Listen to what they are saying. We all want to help our children but sometimes we can be guilty of butting in and trying to solve the problem.
E. Empathise, put yourself in their shoes and confirm that you can understand why they might be feeling like that.
E: Explore, what made them feel like that? What happened to make them build up to these feelings? Explore the context of the problem with them.
P: Plan a way to cope with the scenario if it happens again.
A negative cycle in thoughts can happen when children focus on their weaknesses rather than their strengths, so try to build an environment in your home where strengths are celebrated and weaknesses treated with compassion.
We also found these little resource cards from Mindful Kin, they are great for exploring feelings and starting to open up discussions about how your child is feeling.
This ice cream recipe only contains the naturally occurring sugars found in bananas, the children at Free Rangers love it and it's really easy to make.
3 organic bananas
450g natural yoghurt
Serves: 6 children
1) Freeze 3 organic peeled bananas
2) Blend with natural yoghurt, check the yoghurt has less than or equal to 5g of sugar per 100g
3) If you like lumps then keep a few chopped bananas to add to the mix, before you refreeze.
4) Refreeze for 30 mins, the longer you freeze the harder the consistency, if you freeze for an hour, you could add to a cone and the ice cream would keep its shape.
5) Serve, we sometimes sprinkle raw cacao powder to add a little kick.
Please note you can substitute bananas for raspberries, strawberries, blueberries......you get the idea?
Is My Child Ready To Start School?
Tam has written this blog to help our families at Free Rangers make a positive transition to school, but we also thought this might be useful to many other families, please read below.
At Free Rangers we believe that if a child is confident in their abilities and can communicate their wants, needs and emotions they are more likely to have a positive transition into school. We develop these skills during our children’s time in the den room. We encourage children to be independent, to risk assess, to take on challenges. We guide children to understand their emotions by ‘emotion coaching’ them. We develop the skills of negotiation, explaining and listening to others. Our children are actively encouraged to dress independently and access their own bags. This doesn’t come without it’s challenges as we can be helping a child then turn around to find two children have decided to change their clothes leaving all their belongings on the floor! This process is not easier for the nursery staff however we know that children need to learn to be independent, take responsibility for their belongings and actions. Imagine the school classroom getting ready for physical education class and all the school clothes look the same with up to thirty children getting changed at the same time. Free Rangers children are encouraged to look after themselves and their belongings, in fact we have been lucky enough to have feedback from local schools who say, ‘we know who the Free Rangers children are because they show increased confidence and can organise themselves, their belongings and are ready to learn.’
Many people focus on the ‘specifics’ of learning, literacy, maths, writing. They get caught up in the idea that a child should be writing their own name and able to do sums by the time they start school. At Free Rangers we know that if a child cannot ‘function’ at school, if they don’t have the confidence in themselves and their abilities they won’t learn. Children who worry about using the toilet, changing their clothes, how to organise their belongings will not be able to focus on their learning. Don’t get us wrong, at Free Rangers we encourage children to develop their skills in the specific areas depending on each child’s abilities and desire to learn however it is the prime areas that we know need to be there to pave the way for learning once in infant school. Your child's learning and development summary is forwarded onto school in the form of a 'moving on' document.
If your child has an identified need that requires learning support Free Rangers speak about this to your child’s new school and complete a ‘kept in mind’ book which highlights what is needed for the child to enable them to learn. We talk about areas needing support and what works for your child. If children qualify for funding for learning support this is applied for in the December before the school year. Children needing support but do not have a targeted outcome plan may have notes added to the ‘moving on’ form where there is a section for parents to write their concerns. The majority of schools make nursery visits and some home visits giving you and your child the opportunity to meet with their teacher and teaching assistant. Free Rangers make school books which are accessible to children during free play with photographs of the schools and staff that have been allocated to the year group. School clothes and bags are incorporated into role play again for access during free play where children can engage in role play and act out their thoughts and ideas about school. This process is key to children 'understanding' what school means for them, what to expect and helps them to realise they have similarities to others who go to infant school in September.
Our top tips for school transition are;
- Talk with your child about school…but not too much.
- DO NOT put the pressure on by using phrases like, ‘you’re a big boy or girl now.’
- On journeys point out their new school.
- Talk in a matter of fact way, when we are older we go to infant school.
- Practise the ‘school run’ perhaps make a Sunday outing of it before the start of term comes. Notice landmarks along the way, make it an adventure, draw a map!
- Let your child wear their shoes,school clothes, uniform and PE kit. Let them handle their bag and drinks bottle before they start school. There is nothing worse than wearing stiff, itchy clothes on you first day of school as that is all your child will focus on and will not be able to learn. In fact how will children recognise their shoes and other belongings if they've been kept for best. We've all been there where we wear our new shoes out for a special occassion only to get a blister and spend the whole time concentrating on our feet rather than enjoying our day, it's the same for our children.
- Label your child’s clothing, use their name, initials or colour code the label with a ‘sharpie’! Let your child become familiar with their belongings.
- Practise getting ready for school so as you and your child know what to expect.
- Google the school together and talk about features you can recognise when school starts.
- Be aware of your child’s school transition procedure. Some schools have a staggered entry where your child may attend mornings only for the first week, then afternoons only the following week. If you need your child to attend full time you are within your rights to ask that your child attend full time. Nursery hours are written on children's 'moving on' forms but feel free to remind the school if you feel your child can cope with regular school sessions. If you are full time working parents you may need to consider child care options. Free Rangers may be able to offer limited spaces to term time only families or for the short fall that all year round families experience so speak with Daisy (admin) as soon as possible.
- Many schools hold open days, it will benefit you and your child if you attend, familiarising yourselves with staff, surroundings, routine and getting to know other children and parents attending the school. At Free Rangers we use a 'buddy' system where children going to the same school are encouraged to sit together at lunch and circle times. We are not forcing them to become friends but to be aware of the other children going to the same school. These details are added on the children's 'moving on' forms.
- If your child is not going to nursery during the school holidays before the start of term continue to keep a routine going that will assist the school routine when it starts. This could be a regular morning visit to the local library or early shop using a 'lotto' game style shopping list for your child to help you with.
- Keep a language rich environment, reading, making rhymes, singing, using the book start resources.
- If your child is showing an eagerness to write encourage your child to recognise the form of their name, let then trace or copy their name. Schools have different ways of writing, some may use 'script' writing where every letter starts at the bottom left, you may inadvertently teach the wrong way of forming letters for your school. Many children will reverse their letters, model the correct way but do not tell them they are wrong as they will have recognised the form. If reverse writing continues into year one then bring this to the attention of your child’s teacher as they may be physically continually forming the letters incorrectly or possibly have dyslexia. Essentially further investigation is required. Help your child to recognise their name and the form of their initial letter by tracing, printing, writing in sand, using bathtime crayons...make it fun and don't force it.
- A tip for your new routine, if you need something to happen do not offer the instruction as a request but state it as a fact. Remember if you don’t want the answer to be no don’t offer a choice. For example, if you need your child to get dressed phrase the instruction as, you need to get dressed as we are leaving to go to school. Not, can you get dressed? As the answer may be, No!
- Try not to project your anxiety on to your child. Remember reception teachers are aware how a new setting can affect children’s behaviour and confidence. If over time you feel that you would like to have a meeting with your child’s teacher then do request one.
Children often step back from where they were with their learning while they become familiar with their new surroundings and teachers. They need to learn what is expected of them academically, new boundaries and social expectations. When you collect your child remember they have been following instructions, listening, thinking, communicating and being physically and mentally active all day, do not bombard them with questions, your child will talk about their day when they are ready and probably when you least expect it. If you quiz your child they will become grumpy or stop talking altogether. After a week or two your child should hopefully have found a time when they feel ready to share their experiences with you. If not perhaps during bath time when your child feels more relaxed you can ask your child about their day in a very open ended way. Rather than quiz with 'what did you do today?' Ask, 'let me know something that made you laugh today?' Keep positive. Schools generally send children out of the school door when they see parents waiting to collect with little or no feedback. If you have a concern you need to vocalise this with your school. If you are not happy with the reply continue to voice your concerns and ask for steps to be put into place to support your child with the transition.
Our Forest School focus over the past few weeks has looked at the children’s perceptions of strength. If you ask any child if they’re strong and you’ll get a mini Mr & Mrs Universe lineup of bicep tensing as a visable display of their perceived strength!Read More