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Stimulating Starting Points!


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We've been asked to organise visits and visitors for starting points next year (Recption)

Obviously the cost factor needs to be low or local! Last year there was a visit to a zoo, but staff felt this did not really appeal to the children ( xD )

The outline of topics (per term) are : All about us, Special times, Weather, People who help us, In the garden, Out & about


I can think of all sorts of 'stuff' but thought I'd throw the ball into the court to bounce some ideas about! Has anyone done anything that has been partically successful or unusual that has caught children's imagination?


For example I know of one school that has their own garden & grow their own fruit. When covering traditional stories, a member of the kitchen staff got dressed up as little red riding hood and visited the class. They went and picked fruit and later made fruit pies.


I'm sort of trying to find ideas in 'context', so for instance if the fire brigade came and visited, rather than just visiting... setting up a pretend senario. eg. Firemen ask for help.. there's a fire... how can we put it out?


Or learning about money .... visiting local shop and 'paying' for something.


Am I going completely loopy!!! :o


Has anyone got plans, websites or references to share/ ideas that went well/ or even pitfalls to be aware of?


I know this is an 'open' enquiry- but this site and your ideas are so good I couldn't resist asking! :D



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Have seen done sucessfully for gingerbread man, children make or decorate and put in oven, (works well with decorating and toy oven) when they open oven to get them out they are gone with a clue as to where they could be, either written or pictoral, and the run rhyme, children then have to discuss where it could be, who should go and look to find place go there and find another clue etc. ending with them found safe to take home or eat at snack time.


worked well in a school where they got other staff involved and children went in small groups to find next clue in other classrooms, playground etc. took some organising but lots of learning and fun too.




not really a visit except around local areas

Edited by Inge
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What a lovely idea! Thankyou. I like the thought of taking that a bit further ........... maybe, just maybe .. the gingerbread man ran back to the baker/ cake shop?


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Regarding low cost /no cost visits: we have visited the laundrette, hairdressers and the lock keeper(water topic)

local garden centre to look at pets and plants (growing and animal topics)

we've had a baby naming ceremony courtesy of a catholic priest, methodist minister and C of E vicar, sadly live too far away from any other places of worship although I am looking into this for future )

Drs surgery and baby clinic

Dentists (we all got a free goodie bag)

supermarket with pictorial shopping lists Sainsburys was brilliant and entertained us in the staff canteen as well as giving us a substantial donation for school fair

We are lucky to have two mini buses at our disposal so that cuts down on cost depending on numbers. All above visits were free.


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We have had several visits to a local allotment where the owner is kind enough to arrange for us to do some work (like planting out strawberry plants). She also gave us some seed potatoes to take back to nursery and plant. At the end of the season she came to visit us and see our potato plants. On one visit we drew plants and on another we looked for and photographed patterns, which acted as a stimulus for printing back at nursery. The beauty of the whole thing is that the allotment is 5 minutes walk away.

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We took children to the garden centre and bought seeds and plants. We then took them to my alllotment to plant and they had a wonderful time. Like posy we have a mini bus to use. I took photos's of them as they were growing and then brought in the sugar snap peas to taste.

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These are all fantastic ideas - thankyou. I think my main problem is going to be transport. Places to visit (hairdressers, supermarkets, local shops etc) are all too far away to walk. We can do one 'big' visit, but realistically it's a case of getting people, firms, companies or services to come to us.

I am new to the area also (heck, I've got my research cut out for me!) so I think I'll have to look around to see what I can find.

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My school has adopted the 'Learning Journey' approach from Reception all the way up to Year 6. This means that each theme starts with a 'WOW' (to grab the children's interest and set them up for the term's work to follow) and ends with a 'Celebration'. My WOW's so far have been:

* a spider's web across the entrance to the classroom (nursery rhyme theme)

* a pirate to welcome the children into the classroom (water theme)

* a visit to a children's farm (animals theme)

* a visit from a Chinese dragon (journeys and transport theme)


My celebrations have been:

* a nursery rhyme party where we all dressed up as nursery rhyme characters

* a visit to the sea-life centre and the beach to play the sea-shakers we had made

* inviting parents to eat snail sandwiches :o, listen to our animal songs and look at the work we'd done


For the end of our current theme we're going to launch helium filled balloons and hopefully people will reply if they find one.


I also try and have people or things in:

* a vet

* a chicken

* a dog

* a tarantula

* a vintage car

* a talk and practical activities on Africa - coming next week - I can't wait!

* an African land snail


I expect it's obvious but parents/carers are often a wonderful starting point. My tarantula and the vintage car are courtesy of parents/their contacts and last year two of my parents were artists who came in and did 2 wonderful days worth of stuff.

Edited by Guest
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Moose - that's just the sort of stuff I'm looking for! Cheer's.

I've asked parents on their induction visits if they could let me know their proffessions with this in mind. The response has been wonderful - with 2 parents wanting to get stuck in with classroom activities.

I really like the way in which you are thinking of both the 'beginning' and 'end' factor as well. That makes so much sense - both from the child and parent contributions and learning etc. A great way to say thankyou and celebrate success's.

I'm curious to know about the helium balloons - did that fit into transport? I have also heard that you need to get permission for this (some sort of air traffic control stuff)?

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Hi Parents and friends are a wonderful resource to tap in to.

We have had:

a visit from a nurse,

a paramedic with ambulance

a farmer with tractor who managed to park outside in the car park

the ice cream van (all children brought £1 to buy a 99)

a pilot

local council contact were really helpful - super time with visit from park ranger with a bag of puppets

a local lady who is interested in butterflies

methodist minister - Christening

a mum who brought her children's 3 guinea pigs to visit for the morning


Hope this helps

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sorry, forgot to mention - some of our most successful (and free) trips out were a short walk down the road to the post office. Also whilst doing the theme of homes, we made clip boards with pictures of a house and doors on - having previously looked at the houses and doors we were able to add things like shaped windows and colours, numbers etc which we knew the children would be able to find / match- the children were so engrossed in looking at peoples front doors the activity was repeated throughout the week and beyond!


thought you might like to hear of our experience a few years ago with a visitor we'd booked . .

As part of 'All about me' theme our visitor was the lady from the Opticians!! (quite a famous high street name) She arrived late, she brought nothing with her (after promising allsorts of props and stating that she likes to build up good relations with children etc). she sat (asking for an adult sized chair !?) and didn't know what to do or say, after staff giving her some prompts she then asked for a coffee, because by doing this visit she had missed her break!! then she asked staff could they give her a lift into town, as she had got a lift to our Pre School and didn't know how to get back to work!! Staff informed her that this wasn't possible due to ratios etc etc, so she then asked staff to phone for a taxi!?! Needless to say we showed her the phone and telephone book at this point! Children and staff completely bored - we won't do that one again!!

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These are all great ideas - thankyou everyone (and please keep coming anyone else!)

Cheeky I know..... but has anyone got an example of how their planning fits into place?

At the school where I will be working have their own planning format (works so that the whole school have focused topic/s for the term). I will be quite happy to share once established in sept. demonstrating how I have taken and adapted ideas.


This is potentially exciting as it doesn't just work for me..... but what other years could get from/ or how I could ask for help from other years to accomodate my planning (if you get what I mean?!!)

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Just asked my boyfriend who works in air traffic control, about the helium balloon thing. Apparently you don't need permission!

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One of the most successful visitors ever to our nursery was the dustmen and dustcart. we took bags of rubbish and he told us what could be recycled

other visitors

The AA man and breakdown truck

Lollypop man

LEA road safety lady

St John's Ambulance people

school admin staff

a great grandad (talked about toys and so on)

Barnardo's lady



other local visits have included


leisure centre

bottle bank

library for story time

local book shop for story time



sorting office (they arranged transport and had Postman Pat there to meet us)

milkman and milk float


The best one ever was when a police car turned up after I'd been in touch with the local police station and been turned down. I just thought they'd changed their minds and had the first group outside before you could say 'hello, hello, hello'. They had actually come to investigate a break in. (Great communication in our school)



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Sorry Posy, but your police car story raises a little chuckle----that could so easily be one of the schools I have worked in ( and not just one!).


The park is a good resource too if you can get there easily.


We went to PetSmart too---or whatever they were called that week!

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Hi everyone and a big thankyou for sharing all your lovely ideas. (I could always resort to smashing one of the windows to guarrentee the success of a police enquiry!! :o )


I really liked the idea of the recycled bin man and ideas are flowing with ways in which you could utilise the local area. We are blessed by being based near some woods and there is a good outside area also (under used at the moment). So I hope to find links to the FS for indoor & outdoor experience. eg. Pizza place .... deliveries, architecture ....... builders outside atc.


I feel I've had a tough day today (just come back from a planning meeting). I suppose I'm realising how isolated you can sometimes feel in the FS (so it really is a blessing you all are there ... thankyou). Not quite sure about this, but feel I was ill informed about exactly what this meeting was reguarding and felt completely unprepared. Whilst the Y1 & Y2 teachers had happily revised and put together their overview (they had prepared for last week), they were refining and talking of all the visits etc that neatly tied in (also thought about last week) with their plans and contionous progression of subject areas.


I sort of felt left in the dark about all of this, whereas if I had of been told last week could have utilised and made a better starting point for myself. Advise I was given was .. it's up to me what I do, but not to use the same underpinning topics so that pupils wouldn't fall into repetition in forth coming years. I just felt frustrated as for example they had in the first term looking at the school. I suggested some of these topics could be shared as they would act as a good progression within themselves (new children to the school, routines etc). Wasn't met with much encouragement.


I don't partically want to 're-invent the wheel' - but the old plans for Reception really are not advised to be followed for obvious reasons. I'm probrably getting paranoid - but I almost felt like I was being set up and tested.


I've arrived home already feeling better ( :( )...... and determined ( :( ) ....... with some ideas!


I just hit a brick wall on my 'thinking' and having to 'perform' then and there without any pre-warning. I guess what I learnt today is how important it is to let children have that little bit of time to collect their ideas, and the frustration they encounter when that hasn't been given. I felt alone, insure, confused and incoherent. Quality does not come from this state of affairs (and I suppose as a NQT / professional - it was unfair to put me in that position!)


I see the goal posts have moved from stimulating starting points to stimulating topics relevant to time of year (with a break down for each week). Into this slots the stimulating visits and visiters with relevant links to the curriculum.


If they want stimulating topics etc ....... guess what I am going to give them?? I am now in the fighting fit spirit and determined to show them what I can do!


For example, instead of 'All around me' it's going to be 'What makes me special?', instead of 'Light & Dark' it's going to be 'Celebration of Colour' ........ the same underpining aspects can still be employed - but with a twist/ more open? Does anyone have any comments?


Sorry for the long response. Thankyou for all your ideas ... it gives me really helpful starting points (and lots of feel-good moral support :) )


There are obvious visitors etc. for some topics and not for others - what I aim to do is post an overview tomorrow. If you like you can use - but maybe you could add ideas to and help extend?


This sort of crosses over into another link re: problems with planning. Not sure how or if to merge as we may be able to help eachother out?


All the best (and if you've read all this .... thankyou for perservering!)


Skylight xD:)

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Sorry to hear of your bad experience with the meeting.... glad that you turned it into a positive.


I like the ideas posted hear.... I work in a village school so getting out and about can be difficult..


One word of warning.... we had the local authority people in to school about recycling and rubbish...... the adults nearky fell asleep let alone the poor children.... it was way above their heads and not at all relevant..... Make sure the people you invite into school are aware of the age and abiltity of the children and what the expected out come is.


We had a brilliant visitor this year from a colleagues brother who works for one of the large airlines.... he showed the children a video of how a plane is made, gave all the children stickers and paper model planes and explaned how planes fly really well... engaged all the children and the adults.


We also had a dad in who is a piliot... again really good with the children.


I will be looking to see how I can fit more of this into our topics too.


Thanks for reminding me of these opportunities.



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I can see that some visits do obviously need to be planned for, and are most likely to be successful if linked in with the time of year. However, our best experiences have all been local, no cost. We are a preschool based in a housing estate with local shops, beach, sainsbury's & B&Q nearby.


Last year the children enjoyed;


Council repairing and replacing roofs on local houses

repair of pavement directly outside setting

Local beach had major works, don't know what it was called but lots of diggers moving lots of sand and pebbles!!!!

Council laid a new path across some grassland ( diggers, measuring, tarmac, prints in the mud from large tyre tracks)


These were all spontaneously exploited, couldn't of planned for them in a million years! The diggers promoted a totally new topic and we changed the entire interior into a construction site- great fun, lots of contexual learning.


Planned visitors are:


dentist ( getting a bit boring now, done the same thing every year for the last 5 yrs!!)

musicians from Africa ( quite good but went on too long)

Visit to sainsburys bakery

visit to B&Q ( very successful, given a large plank of wood that the children carried all the way back in one long line!!)



I remember years ago having an ambulance visit, our most liveliest of lads was strapped up to the heart monitor ( I'd never seen him lie so still for so long) but he sent all the machines off bleeping very loud :o ( or maybe the paramedic with a sense of humour did xD )


Glad you are feeling positive now, I love your inspirational title changes :D I do think the difference is that FS children are more leaders of their own interests compared to Y1 & Y2 who have to conform abit more and follow more stringent planning. So yes, do your research, find out about local changes, building works, new housing, local amenities and of course parent power can be great if they are valued and supported in sharing their many, many skills and interests.


Good luck.



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