Tots tackle '30 winter things to do before you're three'

THE children at Cloan Nursery in Glasgow know all about aiming high.

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Mirren Whyte and Jessica Gilmour have the recipe for fun as they make soup
Mirren Whyte and Jessica Gilmour have the recipe for fun as they make soup

After all, there are not many pre-schoolers who can boast to have graduated from university by the age of five.

Moreover, staff, pupils and parents worked together to overcome a series of arson attacks on their building ... and went on to achieve high praise from education inspectors.

Now the nursery, based in an annexe of the now-derelict Stonedyke Primary in Cloan Avenue, Drumchapel, is taking on a new challenge: its pupils have become ambassadors for learning in the great outdoors.

The nursery is pioneering the Scottish Government's latest early years challenge by completing '30 Winter Things To Do Before You're 3'.

It is part of the PlayTalkRead campaign, which was launched in 2009 to encourage children's development through simple interaction and bonding activities.

Evidence has shown that during the first three years of a child's life, 75% of brain growth is complete and an estimated 50% of our language is in place.

Head teacher Anne O'Grady, inset, has set all parents – regardless of their child's age – the target of completing this updated list of wintry activities.

The seasonal checklist proved the perfect fit for a nursery that is highly pro-active about al fresco learning.

Ms O'Grady, who has been in charge for three years, said: "When I saw that list, my heart sang – I thought, 'This is absolutely up our street'.

"When you see the joy of children jumping in a puddle, what you want to do – even although you are a grown-up – is get in the puddle with them. We are outdoors all day – we are an all-weather nursery and we are well-equipped.

"Scotland probably has winter for at least half of the year, but I think there have been only two days in two years that we have not been outside."

Fundraising activities helped buy red and blue waterproof suits for all the nursery's children and all children are encouraged to play outside every day, even in snow and ice. They also regularly go for walks in nearby woodland.

Music blasts from one staff member's car stereo as youngsters boogie in the playground.

Nearby, boys kick up fallen leaves, while a pow-wow of tots toast marshmallows over a firepit.

Inside the two to three-year-olds' room, Chris Gilmour, whose two daughters attend the nursery, ticks off one of the items on the list by making soup with his youngest child, Jessica, aged three.

Mr Gilmour, 31, a supermarket assistant manager, said of the 30 Things checklist: "It is a good challenge."

Parents like him are encouraged to regularly participate in activities and become more involved in their child's learning. Parents recently took part in a rocket-building challenge and also helped put up tepees on the grassy verges of the playground.

Ms O'Grady added: "If you're going to enable children to learn to their absolute ability, then you need to work with the whole family. You will not change things for a child if you don't.The key to change is education."

The nursery has worked for the last three years with Glasgow Caledonian University's community engagement initiative, the Caledonian Club.

The club aims to widen access to university in areas where people would not typically go on to further or higher education.

All Cloan Nursery's children now graduate in a ceremony held at the university before they start school.

"We did a survey last year and out of 100 of our parents, only two had ever been in a university building before," said Ms O'Grady, pictured left.

"We knew if we could get the parents into the university, then that might be an aspiration they would have for their children."

Parents, meanwhile, are encouraged to sign up for refresher learning courses that can lead to vocational or academic studies in the future.

Shereen McInally is one of the parents who has signed up to the course, attending a class at Drumchapel High every week.

The 24-year-old, whose daughter Tyreece, 2, attends the nursery, said: "I want a better future – something better, anyway."

Families have also learned about food hygiene, budgeting and nutrition by attending weekly workshops at the Caledonian Club's Cook And Eat project.

The nursery itself is no oil painting. It was set on fire twice in one week in July last year. Its parents' room and library were destroyed and smoke damaged toys and equipment.

But the nursery's teachers and pupils still earned four "very good" ratings and one "good" rating from HMIe inspectors last summer.

Within splashing distance of the nursery building sits a pristine – yet empty – new-build, one of only a few standalone nurseries to be constructed in Glasgow.

Staff hope to move into their new home in the next few months, which will extend the nursery's capacity by accommodating babies in their own specially-designed room.

The nursery's outdoor strategy has meant a sheltered 'Hobbit House' in the playground perched high on the list of must-have facilities.

Arlene Armstrong, a child and learning officer in the nursery, says learning has to spark little imaginations.

She said: "For children to learn, for children to want to participate, it has to be fun.

"If you sit with a board in front of you and say 'That's a circle, that's a square, that's a triangle,' children always lose interest right away.

"If you walk along the road, then ask what shape is a traffic light or a door, you make it more fun.

"That's the way forward for children."

l For more information see: THE 30 WINTER THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU'RE 3

1. Make a sock puppet.

2. Draw and colour a Saltire on St Andrew's Day.

3. Drop sticks in the river and watch them float downstream.

4. Use your fingers to draw a picture in condensation on a window.

5. Help mum and dad make chocolate apples – and get messy eating them afterwards.

6. Kick up fallen leaves.

7. Snuggle under a blanket for bedtime stories.

8. Make a pom-pom.

9. Eat a toasted marshmallow.

10. Collect sticks and make a stick man.

11. Go singing in the rain.

12. Make an egg head – plant cress seeds in egg shells, draw on a cheeky face and watch it grow green hair.

13. Help bake biscuits.

14. Tuck into a bowl of warming winter soup.

15. See your breath on a cold winter morning.

16. Turn an unused glove into a cuddly bear.

17. Spot a robin.

18. Wear your wellies, jump in a puddle and make a splash.

19. Get playful in the bath with soap and suds.

20. Get messy making fingertip paintings of your family.

21. Go on a 'hot or cold' treasure hunt inside your home.

22. Make a snowflake.

23. Feed the ducks.

24. Play some tunes and have a baby disco indoors.

25. Spot a twinkly star.

26. Have fun on a windy day waving a ribbon in the breeze.

27. Play dressing up, trying on mum or dad's clothes and shoes .

28. Get creative making a hat from an old copy of the Evening Times.

29. Have some good old-fashioned fun playing hopscotch in the garden.

30. Make a noise like an owl.


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