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Nursery Structure/timetable


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Hello,

 

I am a Foundation Stage leader and Nursery teacher (for the first time) in a Nursery attached to a school.

 

In September, I took over from another teacher and have so far stuck to her "timetable". I am concerned that it is too structured and would like to know how other people shape their Nursery sessions. At the moment the sessions are 2 and a half hours each in the morning and afternoon.

 

The children come in and play for about an hour and have the option to join in with an adult led activity. After about an hour, we have a carpet time or group time. Then we have snack time and children have outside play.

 

I'd like some advice about snack time. We collect money for snacks. My headteacher would like it to be less formal, so they just go and have a snack when they want one. At the moment, they sit round a table in a small group then go and get the next child when they have finished.

 

Any advice and examples of what you do would be appreciated.

 

Thanks

 

Amy : :)

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Hi Amy,

 

There have been many recent discussions on and around this topic, some for the idea others showing pitfalls, as always a lot of variables around. look at the following which may help a bit, or else totally confuse you!! :o

 

snack bar

 

(this link contains links to further discussions )

 

Inge

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This sounds very much like the timetable at our nursery. In the first hour we have free play (indoor and out if the weather is OK). We also use the first hour to do focused activites and observations (some of these are done also during outdoor time). On Monday Wednesdays and Fridays the children go into groups with their key worker then we have snacks. We used to have a snack bar approach but found that we needed to use a member of staff just to make sure all the children had their snacks. We now have snack time in groups with their keyworker and we use it as a time to improve speaking and listening and communication skills, sometimes incorporating other areas depending on what the snack is or if anything has happened in nursery. On Tuesdays and Thursdays we have a longer free choice session to give them some opportunity for more sustained free play and the practitioners are expected to support this play rather than have a specific focused activity. After snacks they go outside in most weathers so if the weather is not so nice they still have some outdoor activity. If the weather is really bad we have a physical activity e.g. Sticky Kids or Boogie Beebies inside. After outdoor play we have story time in two ability groups.

 

Hope this helps we have had to move our timetable about quite a lot and it is very much a compromise because we want to cover most requirements including ofsted recommendations

Sue

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Hi like you I'm new to Nursery teaching and have spent the last term trying to build up a structure I'm happy with! We have 26 children for two and a half hours with two full time adults and a part time adult for about three quarters of an hour each afternoon. I start each session on the carpet when we have about 15 minutes whole group time. This is followed by approx. an hour of plan, do, review where the children follow their choice of activity indoors and out depending on the weather and the adults supervise adult led activities/make observations and generally interact with the children. We then have snack time together and the children take turns to serve the fruit etc. and are encouraged to interact socially together talking quietly among themselves and to the adults, we learn lots of home news during this time and find it invaluable. This generally lasts about 10-15 mins. We then all go out for 30 mins outdoor activities again weather permitting. When we come in our third adult is available so we have 15 mins small group time when children go into three small groups each of which has an adult led activity and then its time for songs, rhymes and story. Sorry I seem to have waffled a bit but hope it helps!

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Your routine sounds very like ours was, suse, until we swapped it around slightly so that small group time comes at the start of the session, after greeting time. It seems to work a bit better for us because they seem to handle an adult-initiated activity better earlier in the session.

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Thank you, that is all really helpful, I am feeling better already. I really like the idea of using tuesday and thursday for extended play sessions. :)

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I logged onto the site today ready to ask advice on structuring the routine and encouporating fruit time and found someone had betten me to it which is great as I have just read all the disscusions around fruit time and have a lot to think about.

 

We have tried many different ways and it has just been annouced that it is to change again to a cafe style, but I have doubts that it will work in our setting. It is to be changed as we have heard ofsted don't like to see the session stopping for fruit time.

 

Originally we sat down as a group for story time and ate our fruit just before the story was read the problem with this was some children didn't finish their friut before the start of the story and so inturupted with announcements of "I've finished" and then fell over the other children as they got up to put their apple core or banana skin in the bin! story time totally disrupted.

 

Next we tried having a seperate fruit time when children sat in their story group in a circle one child is chosen to give out the fruit, the children eat together, talk together, it's a very social time and a valuable learning opportunity. Counting the fruit, counting how many children are in the group, counting how many children are absent, saying good morning to each other using manners etc.

 

Fruit time happened towards the end of the session, the children who were playing outside would tidy up, come inside, then all the children would sit down for fruit time when they had finished eating they helped to tidy up inside before regrouping on the carpet for story time and then home time. This was useful as children knew the routine and understood fruit time was near the end of the session and it would soon be home time.

 

We still encouraged the children's independence as they have a seperate milk table where there is a carton of milk for each child with their name on attached by an elastic band which they can help themselves to at anytime during the session.

If they don't want their milk they take off their name and put it in the box. There is also water avaliable for them to pour themselves a drink then wash their cup.

 

The teacher now wants to introduce a cafe style.

 

We have 36 children who are there for two and half hours only, it takes at least 15 mins to get them in do register etc storytime and tidy up times take off at least another 50 mins so it dosen't leave us very long to get round all the children as we also have limeted space and only 5 children can have snack at any one time.

 

She would like one of the adults to supervise the cafe and round up the children but there are only 3 adults. There are three areas to supervise and three focus activities this dosen't include the outside area which is opened up after the first hour.

 

So in having an adult concentrate on rounding the children up for snack it means that they cannot focus on an activity or interact with the children who are busy focused on an activitie which I feel is a complete waste of an adult. I also don't feel it's fair on the new children who will need support to settle in to take away an adult for an hour or more just to do snack. Snack time should be simple and quick and not take up too much of the adults or children's time.

 

Dosen't this system interupt the flow of children's play even more as you have to bring them away from an activity and in our case during the first hour which is the time in my opinion that the children are the most focused.

 

Snack time seems to be one big hassle we have to give the children fruit as part of the goverments fruit scheme but I don't feel it should mean taking away other important opportunities.

 

Like another person said on here one child could sit for an hour eating a piece of fruit while another child might not eat at all during the session.

 

How do you ensure children with food allergies don't help themselves to food they shouldn't eat if it's freely avaliable?

What's stopping one child eating more than his fair share and then not leaving enough for other children?

 

We also seperate our fruit waste for our composte bin so this needs to be overseen as well!!

 

I don't know what the answer is I just feel really strongly that fruit time should not distract children or adults from what they really should be doing during the session, or take up too much of their time, or mean that there is not a focus activity in one area because the snack bar needs the adults full attention.

 

:o

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You raise some good points, Jo jo. If the 'standard' snack time is done well, with children being involved in preparation, allowed to choose from selections, adults fully interacting etc, then I believe it can be a very important part of the session. I suspect that thhere lies the answer - not so much which approach is taken, but how well it's done.

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Hi everyone hope you all had a good christmas and new year. I think after years of playing around with "snack time" that as much as giving the children goodness in the way of food, we now use it more as a time for all the children to actually sit at a table for food. I know its an odd notion that food can also be eaten at a table :D but we use it as a "teaching" social time for some of our children that don't ever sit down properly to eat. Apart from the fact that its quite a nice time to talk to the children, it can be better than a circletime, as the children relax more when food is in front of them. As long as the staff are vigilante on who's eating what, as there always little seagulls circling to tidy up the crumbs !!!!!! xD:D:o

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I agree with you steph, we use snack time as a big part of learning.

We set up the tables and chairs and then the helper puts out the names. The helper usually can recpgnise some of the names, so learning name recognition. We have 18 per session - 3 tables of 6.

Each table has an older child on, who is responsible for helping the younger children recognise their names. They then choose a cup colour for their table. They then line up to pour their juice/milk/water. All children regardless of age pour their drinks. When at the table, 2 plates are put on table, one of friut, one of snack. Snack can be crackers with ham, yoghurt, toast etc. They are given a piece of kitchen towel to use as a napkin. Big time promoting manners. Depending on what snack, they use plastic spoons, knives, forks. And is the best social occasion sithin the session. Everyone chats, because it is a very relaxing time. I have staff allocated to each table to eat with the children, but only as an overseerer, to make sure snack is not grabbed by one child and to show manners eg - not eating wioth mouth full, how to use a spoon, using a napkin. All the simple things that a lot of parents don't seem to teach children.

I had one 3and a half yr old who expected to be spoon fed.

We are showing children, self choice, independance, caring for others, sharing, developing social skills, learning from others, using eating implements, manners, colours and respect.

After reading, sounds like it takes hours, but only approx 15/20 mins.

Net x

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Hi Jo Jo,

 

It appears to me ( might be wrong) from your post that you feel like you are going round in circles.

 

Maybe it would be an idea for your teacher to sit and discuss with the staff the Policy, practice and principles behind having a Cafe style system. It shouldn't be done because "Ofsted want to see it"- as long as quality care, learning and teaching is provided and evidenced they do not have the right to tell any practitioner what method to use.

 

I have previously acknowledged that the cafe system doesn't work for everybody because of physical environmental restrictions - access to handwashing facilities etc.

 

In my preschool we have successfully provided this system ( in fact I've been using it for 10+ yrs)

 

We see it as an activity in it's own right, the same as Painting, playdough, role play area etc, and requires the same level of adult supervision / interaction as these activities.

 

The main purpose of ours is to provide healthy food and drink which meets each childs individual cognitive developmental levels and individual care needs.

( mainly PD & PSE or BTTM- A Healthy Child or Inspection outcome 1. Being Healthy )

 

This includes a thirsty / hungry child on arrival or a child who wants to sit and wait for mum/dad at the end of a session. It is an inclusive activity which is accessable to children of all abilities.

 

As with Painting (mainly CD & CLL or BTTM - A Competent Child, Skillful Communicator or Inspection outcome 3. Enjoying and Achieving) there are many other learning opportunities from snack time ( which ever way it is managed) but the main rationalle for it needs to be agreed.

 

Our cafe system takes no more adult input than the Art area, children access it independently and soon learn the rules of using it.

 

What better way for children to learn about their bodies, what makes their bodies work, to recognise when they are hungry or thirsty and be able to independently do something about their own individual body needs. We don't do "group" toilet time, so why do "group" eat & drink time.

 

To me "group" time means adult led, which doesn't foster child initiated individual choice. Yes, a child may have the choice between a piece of apple or a piece of banana, between a yellow or red cup, but is it a real choice if it is only available for a 10-15 minute period within a 150 minute session?

Children are already grouped for register, news, story, tidy-up time, song time etc. they already have adult led focused activities, how much time is left for child initiated play?

 

We have a cupboard which contains plates, cups serviettes etc which the children self access, they independently wash hands and pour own drinks, use cutlery to serve and eat snacks and use name labels to self regulate who has used the snack table. Yes they count fruit, recognise colours of cups etc but this is not their main reason for using the snack table. They use it to meet their food/ drink needs, to sit and look on at others at play, to sit and have a quiet rest or chat with a chosen friend who normally accompanies them to the table ( their choice). They practice social skills, manners, conversation and physical skills preparing foods, they learn about different types of foods, who not eat certain foods and all the other things mentioned in other posts.

 

Why do adults use cafe's? What makes an adult cafe successful? certainly wouldn't be in business long if it was only open for limited periods of time.

Children use their cafe for much the same reason as we use ours.

 

They learn to have control over their own eating, to think of others- will there be enough for my friend if I eat all the banana ( they know more drink and food is available if needed).

We have found that the children develop their own routine of using the snack table - Charlie tends to use it between 9:30 and 10am, whereas Cassy likes to help prepare food and sit at the table on arrival, watching as other children arrive. Jackie goes to the table 5 or 6 times during a session for a drink yet only eats food on 1 or 2 of her visits. "Looked after" children soon learn that food is not a "control" substance that is taken away at an adults whim. What other activities in the setting can be used to teach these important lessons?

 

I hope you get a chance to discuss with your teacher the policy and principles of having a cafe system and that all your staff agree how best to meet your principles in practice because this is fundamental to it's success.

Good luck.

 

Peggy

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I have come round to a cafe style snack time if it is run in the way it has been suggested by the people on this site. I just didn't see the benefit of our system. My concern is the way in which it will be set up in my setting maybe I didn't explain this in my last post.

 

I would love to see a snack table where each child has a drink and a piece of fruit with their name to help themselves to as and when they require it with an adult overseeing it to ensure it works well and that children with allergies eat the right choice of fruit etc.

 

I can see this is important for independence and for the children to be in control of their own appeitites but our system will work like this:-

 

Our snack bar will be open for only one hour the first hour, one adult has the role of walking around the nursery and rounding the children up asking them to come and eat, the snack shop will close and be cleared away after the first hour.

 

So it seems to me that we aren't meeting any of the reasons for having a snack bar in the first place as we are still dictating to the children when they should eat and drink. I feel the adult will find it diifficult to get round all the children in one hour as well as do all the other things she needs to do eg greet the children, supervise an area etc the children will miss out on that adults attention as she will be consantly getting up walking around with not much time to sit and encourage the children's manners, social skills etc whilst they are eating their fruit and it will mean we will have one less adult to do assessment or a focus activity or generally be interacting with the children.

 

This is what I find sad and have brought it up with my superior but at the moment this is how she wants it to run.

 

I feel the reason I was not wanting to give up my fruit circle time was also because our storytime session has been shortened to a very short amount of time so there wont be time to have disscussions or listen to the children in a group situation anymore!!

 

This is what I am against and I will be trying hard next week before the children return to school to bring these points up and hope we can get a snack bar thats open and accessible for the whole session and a story time that's long enough.

 

I just wanted to see how everyone else organises their snack bar as I was sure the way it has been suggested to me is not the best way. I don't feel the children will gain much from it I feel everyone will be losing out it this system is introduced!! :o

 

I think I just wanted some back up information and to know that I was right in my thinking before approaching my superior about this issue again so thank you everyone.

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It will take at least half a term for the "new" system to settle. During this time staff can evaluate and adapt to how it meets childrens and classroom needs.

Your teacher may be anxious of the change too, but at least it is a middle ground to what you want.

Try and think of the children who sit at the snack area as a "group" activity, they can enjoy discussions, between themselves and/or with the adult.

The children will quickly learn that the activity is only available for one hour and before too long the adult won't have to "round children up" they will access it within the timescales they learn that it is open.

By the way having an open and closed sign is good "literacy in the environment" opportunity. Add a clock symbol and the children can gauge/ begin to understand time. (direct their attention to the classroom clock)

 

Try and make the best of what you have and find the positives, the children will enjoy the experiece, even though it is limited it is better than no cafe system at all. :D

 

Peggy

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It will take at least half a term for the "new" system to settle. During this time staff can evaluate and adapt to how it meets childrens and classroom needs.

Your teacher may be anxious of the change too, but at least it is a middle ground to what you want.

Try and think of the children who sit at the snack area as a "group" activity, they can enjoy discussions, between themselves and/or with the adult.

The children will quickly learn that the activity is only available for one hour and before too long the adult won't have to "round children up" they will access it within the timescales they learn that it is open.

By the way having an open and closed sign is good "literacy in the environment" opportunity. Add a clock symbol and the children can gauge/ begin to understand time. (direct their attention to the classroom clock)

 

Try and make the best of what you have and find the positives, the children will enjoy the experiece, even though it is limited it is better than no cafe system at all.  :D

 

Peggy

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Peggy and Jo Jo

 

We had the snack bar approach in nursery for many years and when we had a new head teacher she did a time management survey watching how the staff were using their time in nursery and we found that a lot of time was taken up by a member of staff going to find children who hadnt had their snacks. We liked the theory behind this approach but found it difficult in practice.

 

Do you make sure every child has their snacks or is that their choice aswell?

 

We only had the snack bar for the first hour which is why we found it difficult as we only have three members of staff in two rooms and a lot of children did not really want snacks or drinks and we found that we were taking them away from activities that they wanted to do as it was free choice. We then started guiding the reluctant children earlier to the snack bar and they would end up sitting there for the full hour and eating and drinking only a little and taking up a place at the table. If we left them till nearer the end they would be still there during group time (saying that - this also happened with children who were not very good at mixing and this was a good place for them to feel secure and to gain confidence) Then we had the other extreme where children would just down their milk refuse snacks and dash off to play and so got very little personal and social education out of snack time. It was difficult to get these children to sit and talk as we needed to make sure the next children were coming to get their snacks. because of the time restraints and the number of children it was quite rare to actually get much learning done during snack times

 

We really wanted to keep a snack bar approach but we actually found we could teach the children more if they had snacks in groups with their key worker all at the same time. They are also able to have a drink of water at any time during the session. This has been a compromise but we are finding it is working quite well. The children are bonding with their groups better and more quickly as it is a less formal time than group time. They are encouraged to chat - or the key worker will have a specific subject to discuss. If they have finished quickly they remain at the table until the others have finished and join in with the discussion. We have all the usual counting and snack related activities every day. We can also use snack time to demonstrate how to prepare food such as pancakes and sandwiches or toast as the children are all already sitting down together and we dont have the health and safety risk from having other children walking about. We also have the extra member of staff during the first hour.

 

We also had and still have the problem that different members of staff either love or hate the snack bar system. I am still undecided as I am very much for free choice but I also feel that some children are not aware of their needs and would go the whole session without a drink but if offered would be very thirsty.

 

Having tried both I realise there are pros and cons to both ways and it just has to be down to what the individual settings are happy with. I am still not 100% happy with what we are doing but I cannot think of a better way to do it in our nursery.

 

Just thought I'd contribute. i dont know if it helps

Sue

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Thanks peggy and sue you have both been very helpful,

 

It seems that which ever way you run your snack time it needs to work for your setting we will have to give the children time to adjust to the new snack routine it might work really well it may not but you don't know until you try!

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I do love to read about all the different ways, settings approach things. Although we do have a set snack time, we also have water and fruit available throughout the session. We always check the different allergies children have before we decide on what fruit to put out.

I also forgot to mention that we are open all day. We open 9.30. Snack 11.00, lunch 12.00. Snack 2.00 home 3.00.

 

I would be very interested into how you cafe bar works Jo Jo.

 

Net x

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