Using the Early Years Foundation Stage as a framework to our curriculum, our qualified and experienced staff help children to develop to their full potential, at a pace that suits them. At the heart of the curriculum is the universally recognised premise that children learn best through play, and so every day at Stepping Stones is designed to be fun and at the same time, educational. The stimulating activities we plan for the children often carry associated learning goals and allow us to help children reach important milestones during their time with us. Whilst some of these milestones are academic (ie: literacy or numeracy skills), we place an equal importance on social and physical aspects of the curriculum. Our aim is that the children love every moment of their time with us and that they leave Stepping Stones fully prepared for the challenges that lay ahead by the time they go on to school.
At Stepping Stones, we recognise that each child is unique, and that in order to provide them with meaningful experiences that help them develop to their best potential, we must try to understand their individual needs and interests as much as we can. We do this by working in close partnership with parents (with established ways of sharing information between carer and parent) and by listening carefully to, watching, and making written observations on each child every day. We then use this information to inform our weekly planning so that the activities we plan reflect the interests of the children and therefore help us to reach certain targets and milestones in a fun and meaningful way, rather than in a prescriptive and unrewarding one.
A fundamental cornerstone of our approach lies in our belief in child-initiated learning. The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile Handbook defines child-initiated learning in the following way:
‘A self initiated activity is an activity wholly decided on by the child and is the result of an intrinsic motivation to explore a project, or express an idea. In doing this the child may make use of a variety of resources and demonstrate a complex range of knowledge, skills and understanding.’ (QCA, 2008).
Of course, good child-initiated learning can only take place with expert adult support, as it requires a carefully planned environment, a thoughtfully organised choice of resources and planned sessions that allow children sufficient time to become immersed in their play. And by offering children the right environment for child-initiated learning, we can learn much more about them through observing their play, and then using this information to plan adult-initiated activities to extend the thinking and understanding that has been observed.
Stepping Stones is situated in an area of outstanding beauty and we make the most of every opportunity this affords us. It is universally recognised that outdoor play is as important, if not more so, than indoor play for children in their early years, and we see the outdoors as an extension and enhancement to indoor play.