Weekly round-up


The new soft seating for our reading corner is modular and extremely portable, which is why it found its way outside today into our "reading tent". Of course, if you have a tent then you have to have a campfire too... The children enjoyed pretending to be out camping in the wild, reading campfire stories and "cooking" on the open (cardboard) fire. Inside, our practitioners had created a multi-sensory dinosaur world, with plants, water, sand and interesting textures for the children (and the dinosaurs!) to explore.


We celebrated Jaxon's birthday today, with party games and a very delicious Paw Patrol birthday cake. Yum! Elsewhere in the nursery, the children were exploring the concepts of big and little in a new sensory set-up, the centrepiece of which was a tall plant which many found fascinating. On another table, a simple set-up of coloured see-through shapes on a sparkly cloth provided multiple possibilities for learning - what would the children focus on? Counting? Sorting? The colours? The shapes? The textures? So many ways to play!


The children enjoyed playing with our big/little set-up yesterday, and have adapted it by adding toys and items from elsewhere in the nursery (including the pirate ship from last week's sensory table). We've left it as it is, to see how the children develop it further. What will it change into today, we wonder? Other children had a go at our new vertical puzzles. These are more challenging for the children than a regular puzzle, and help to develop their dexterity and concentration as well as their spatial awareness and the words associated with it (does this piece go above or below? On the left or on the right?).


Our big/little set-up continued to evolve today, with an exploration of sand and water and an invasion of dinosaurs! We've loved seeing how the children have developed this according to their own interests. We also focused on fine motor control today (this is the term used to describe small movements, usually of the hand and fingers) and developing the children's pencil control through colouring and mark-making. Colouring is such a simple activity, but it is the precursor to developing writing and encourages creativity.


Today our focus has been on shape and numbers. Inside the nursery (where it was nice and dry!) we had a selection of resources set up to encourage the children to develop their awareness of numeracy. At the Hexi-snaps table, the children enjoyed slotting together the brightly-coloured hexagonal pieces to make 2D patterns and pictures. Another table had giant money; a further set-up had tactile numbers and peg boards. All these activities encouraged the children to discuss different aspects of numeracy (whilst also being a lot of fun!).

Wild art

If the weather forecast is to be believed, we're in for some lovely weather over the next few days. There are few things as glorious as a sunny October day, especially when you live right next to the wonder that is Ashdown Forest, so this week's craft activity gets you out into the fresh air and the beautiful autumn woods to create... FOREST FACES.

For this you will need:

A forest face made from mud.

A forest face made from mud.

  • Air drying natural clay (available from Hobbycraft) or clay-heavy mud
  • A tree trunk
  • Leaves
  • Moss
  • Small sticks
  • Stones
  • Acorns, pine cones, conkers, seed cases, etc.
  1. Push the clay or mud onto the tree trunk. Work it into a face shape, and smooth the edges down into the bark. This will help the clay/mud to stay put.
  2. Use leaves or moss for hair, eyebrows, beard, moustache. Press this firmly into the clay or mud.
  3. Push acorns/pine cones/conkers into the clay or mud for the eyes and nose.
  4. Use a small stick to create a mouth.
  5. Take a photo of your child's creation, as obviously they won't be able to take it home.
  6. Make more forest faces. Maybe even a whole forest family!
A whole forest family made from air-drying clay.

A whole forest family made from air-drying clay.

Weekly round-up

It's October! We're well and truly into autumn now, but the mild weather means there's still been plenty of outdoor fun at the nursery. Read on, to hear what your children have been up to this week...


The children had the opportunity to make play dough from scratch today. Such an easy thing to do, just mix together flour, water, some food colouring and glitter, a bit of salt and cream of tartar and voila! The children loved the sensation of using their hands to squish together the ingredients, and then had the pleasure of using "their" dough in their play. Outside, our practitioners had set up a cake shop (with some very pretty cake stands) and the children enjoyed using rice, pasta and play dough to create cakes of all shapes and sizes. At story time, the books focused on counting and number recognition - reading stories like this are a fun way of supporting your child's mathematical development.


It was all aboard the Jolly Roger today, as the children had fun playing with an exploratory set up of a pirate ship and castle, with real sand and shaving foam waves on the sea! Elsewhere in the playroom, there was an autumn display with leaves, pinecones, logs and sticks which the children could examine up-close using the magnifying glasses.


The children discovered a big block of ice at nursery today. What could possibly be frozen inside? By dripping warm water on it the children made the ice slowly melt to reveal... AN OCTOPUS! The children had a wild time exploring this fascinating creature (even if it did make the nursery smell a bit like a fishmongers). We also did some experimenting with colours and textures, with the children painting with glue and sticking on various objects to bring different textures to their pictures.


We tried out a brand-new board game at nursery today. "Pop to the Shops" is a fun shopping game that helps children learn about handling money and giving change. They move around the board from shop to shop, using pretend money to buy lots of different items. Each child takes on the role of both shopper and shopkeeper, helping them to practise turn-taking, role play and polite conversation as they say 'Please' and 'Thank You' once they have bought or sold their items. There was also excitement when the new sofa for our book corner was delivered. This has been purchased using some of the proceeds from the nursery Sports Day, and will make the book corner a much more comfortable and welcoming area for the children to enjoy. We are only able to buy things like this for the nursery thanks to the generosity of our parents and carers, so thank you very much!


It was a beautiful, sunny autumn day so we spent a lot of time in the garden, developing the children's gross motor skills - running, jumping, climbing and balancing. There was more excitement today as we awaited the arrival of our brand-new mud kitchen! Again, this was purchased as a result of your fantastic fundraising efforts. A mud kitchen is a great resource for the nursery, as it will help the children to reach many learning objectives from the Early Years curriculum. Mud kitchens encourage role play, sharing and turn-taking, which helps to develop the children's social skills and emotional understanding. Mud play also brings children closer to nature while at the same time stimulating their imagination, developing their language and communication skills and teaching scientific concepts. We can't wait to start playing with it!

Leaf printing

The weather forecast says it's going to be dry this weekend, so why not get outside with your little one for a nature walk? Then collect some fallen autumn leaves for this week's craft idea: LEAF PRINTING.

rainbow leaves.jpg

For this you will need:

  • Paints
  • An old plate
  • Paint brush
  • Newspaper
  • Leaves
  • Paper
  1. Pour some thick paint onto an old plate. Add a little water and mix with a brush until the paint is slightly runny.
  2. Lay a leaf on a sheet of newspaper, with the veins on the underside of the leaf facing upwards. Brush a thick layer of paint onto the leaf until it is completely covered.
  3. Press the leaf onto a piece of paper to make a print.
  4. Use a variety of leaves and colours to make many different prints.
  5. Allow the prints to dry.

Why not cut the prints out and string them together to make a pretty autumn garland? If you try any of our suggested crafts at home, please do take photos so we can see your child's handiwork - you can even upload them to your Tapestry account, as part of your child's learning journal.

School admissions

If your child is "rising 5" (i.e. will turn 5 on or after the start of September 2018) then you need to apply for a place at the school you would like your child to attend. This does not happen automatically, so there are some important dates you need to put in your diary if you wish to give your child the best chance of attending your first-choice school:

  • Apply online from 12th September 2017
  • Closing date for applications: 15th January 2018
  • Allocation decisions sent on (offer date): 16th April 2018
  • Appeal hearings: June and July 2018
  • Induction days: summer 2018

When applying for a school place for your child, you can name up to three schools on your application form. Listing more than one does not affect your first preference. Every school has its own admissions criteria, so it is worth checking these out before you fill out the application form. Generally speaking, the criteria will take into account where you live (the catchment area), whether your child has siblings at the school, and your religious denomination if you are applying for a place at a church-run school. Church-run schools usually also ask you to fill in a separate application form in addition to the online form - check their websites for details.

Please do also be aware that attendance at St Mary's Nursery does not automatically guarantee your child a place at St Mary's Catholic Primary School - you will need to apply in the usual way and meet the relevant criteria in order to obtain a place. 

Flexible options and summer-born children

By law, children must start school the term after they turn 5. Although most children start school in the Autumn term after their fourth birthday, recent legislation has brought in flexible options such as delayed start dates and part-time attendance for "summer-born children" (i.e. children who were born between 1st April and 31st August). This is because studies have shown that some summer-born children can be disadvantaged by their relative immaturity within a class. Children born in late summer - July and August - can find themselves in a class with children who are 11 or 12 months older than them. These older children will often be more physically capable, will be able to concentrate better and their language skills might be more developed. As a parent of a summer-born child, you have the right to request a deferred start date, meaning that your child would start school in September 2019. Further information can be found here: Admissions for summer born children.

Open Days

One of the best ways of choosing a school for your child can be to visit it during an Open Day. Often, parents and carers will get a "feel" for a school that sways their decision one way or another. Details of open days being held by local primary schools can be found below; click on the school's name to be directed to their website:

St Mary's Catholic Primary School

  • Tuesday 14th November at 2pm
  • Wednesday 22nd November at 9:30am

St John's CofE Primary School

  • Thursday 7th December at 9am and 7pm

Sir Henry Fermor CofE (Aided) Primary School

  • Tuesday 17th October at 5:15pm
  • Wednesday 18th October at 2pm
  • Tuesday 14th November at 9:30am

Ashdown Primary School

  • Thursday 9th November at 9:30am and 6pm

Jarvis Brook Primary School

  • Wednesday 22nd November at 10:30am and 2:15pm

Rotherfield Primary School

  • Tuesday 7th November at 10:45am
  • Thursday 9th November at 1:15pm
  • Monday 13th November at 10:45am
  • Wednesday 15th November at 1:15pm
  • Tuesday 28th November at 10:45am
  • Monday 4th December at 5pm
  • Monday 8th January at 10:45am

High Hurstwood CofE Primary School

  • Wednesday 22nd November at 10am
  • Thursday 23rd November at 10am

Mark Cross CofE (Aided) Primary School

  • Tuesday 14th November at 9:15am

Mayfield CofE Primary School

  • Wednesday 15th November at 9:30am and 6pm

Five Ashes CofE Primary School

  • Thursday 16th November at 10am
  • Thursday 23rd November at 10am

Please do bear in mind that some schools may wish for you to call to let them know that you will be attending an open day.



Maths through play

If you have been following this blog or the nursery Instagram feed, you might have noticed that we have been putting a lot of emphasis on supporting the development of the children's numeracy skills. This is something that you can also do at home with your child, bringing maths into the heart of your play together.

I can't do maths

Okay, hands up: who thought they were rubbish at maths when they were at school? Who still considers themselves to be no good with numbers? It's a sad fact that so many of us grow up with negative attitudes to mathematics.  We are "bad at maths"... or is it just that we were never encouraged to find any enjoyment in the subject?

maths fear.jpg

One way to develop more positive attitudes to mathematics in our children is through play. I know that in many people's experience, maths and play couldn't be further apart - maths was that subject we hated, feared or were just plain bored by, something we were forced to do despite not fully understanding. Play was something we loved and looked forward to. So how can these two things be linked?

First, we need to understand what is actually happening when a child plays. Play is the way that a child learns, "it is the process through which children explore, investigate, recreate and come to understand their world. Play is an activity in which everything that a child knows and can do is practised or used to make sense of what is new" (Early Years: Maths through Play). Through their play, children can grasp many mathematical concepts without them having to be explicitly "taught".

I can count to ten!

It is tempting to think that when a child "knows their numbers" (i.e. can count to ten or whatever) we have succeeded in developing their mathematical skills. It's a useful thing to be able to do, for sure, and is a nice party trick when Auntie Beryl comes for tea, but it actually means very little in itself. Being able to recite all the numbers up to 100 is not helpful unless the child understands what the number system really means, and the basis of this is conservation. This means that 5 is always 5, no matter how it is arranged or presented - be it the number 5, the letters for five, five fingers, five bricks, five stairs or five little speckled frogs sat on a speckled log. So before they can really understand numbers for things that can't be seen, such as 5 miles or 5 years old, children need to spend time playing with real objects which can be seen and handled - this way they can check that the count is right each time. This is all new to them, remember? How do they know that those five bricks might not become six bricks if they count again? Or four? Or twelve? It's only by playing - by investigating - that children eventually come to understand that five is always five.


Maths at home

The idea of "doing maths" with your child might be bringing you out in a cold sweat. Relax. It's learning through play, remember? Your child already has lots of mathematical experiences with you on a day-to-day basis. Your daily routine teaches them about the concept of time. Going to the shops with you teaches them about money. They develop an awareness of number at mealtimes and snack times (how many biscuits are too many biscuits? One's nice, two's nicer, three's too many). There are so many ways to use play to further develop their mathematical concepts - here are just a few easy ideas:

  • Sing songs and rhymes that have mathematical elements, e.g. "One, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive", "Five little ducks", "Five little speckled frogs", "Ten green bottles", "One, two, buckle my shoe"... the list goes on!
  • Sand and water play can introduce many mathematical concepts - is the bucket empty or full? Is it heavy or light? How much will it hold?
  • Baking with your child develops concepts of quantity (three eggs, 300g sugar, three teaspoons of vanilla essence), number ("How many cupcakes did we make?") and time ("How long do we bake the cakes for?").
  • Playing with blocks or toy cars can develop an understanding of sequencing (can they sort them according to colour or size?) and develop mathematical language ("Which one is largest? Which one is smallest? How many are red?").
  • Play dough can be used in a variety of ways to support mathematical understanding. The dough can be shaped into numbers, flat shapes, 3D shapes, and talking about it can also develop mathematical language (short, long, round, square, etc.).
  • Reading books together can be a great way to support an understanding of number and conservation. Ask your child to count things in the book - how many birds are on the page? How many stars can you see? How many oranges did the very hungry caterpillar eat?




Spider week!

We know you love to hear what your children have been up to at nursery. We also know that when you ask them, they can never remember...! We hope that your new Tapestry account is giving you some insight into your child's time at St Mary's Nursery, however even this does not give a full picture of all the activities that the children enjoy during the week. So, from now on, every Friday we will be publishing a post here on the website letting you know what's been going on in the nursery over the past week.


Outdoors, there was a large tray of rice coloured in autumnal shades of red, orange and yellow. The children loved the sensation of scooping it up in their hands, and had fun mixing the different colours together. More sensory play was available elsewhere, with the children enjoying playing in the tray of flour and glitter; number-shaped moulds helped to support their numeracy skills. Inside, other children had fun painting. It was definitely messy play Monday at the nursery!


Today, the children explored ice frozen into numbers - again, this supported their numeracy while also giving them a fascinating sensory experience. They loved handling the ice numbers and seeing how they slowly melted. In the afternoon, during story time, we had an uninvited guest in the shape of an ENORMOUS spider! We gently encouraged it into one of our bug jars, which meant the children could examine it up close. The children were captivated by this extraordinary creature, the staff... not so much.


It was time for an autumn-themed painting activity today, and the children had fun printing using different autumn squash to create patterns on their paper. Several children were also intrigued by the feel of paint on their skin, so we explored that also, painting our hands to further experience the texture and colours. When children play in this way they are doing so much more than just getting messy. Sensory play is a way for children to investigate and understand the world - they are little scientists, constantly questioning and using their senses to collect data. Though getting covered in paint is a lot of fun too.


More spider action today, as the children discovered another (much smaller!) spider spinning her web next to the playhouse. The children's interest in this led to some spontaneous planning from our practitioners, and they developed an activity where the children used string to spin their own web in one of our activity trays. We hope it doesn't attract any more spiders!


Our focus on numeracy continued today, with the children making numbers out of play dough (this is a great idea to try at home). The children also had more fun painting, this time using cotton wool to dab the paint onto the paper. It is exciting for the children to use different things to make their artworks - next time you are painting with your child, why not ditch the paintbrushes in favour of something more unusual? This site has some super suggestions.

We've all had a fantastic week at the nursery, and we hope your children have enjoyed themselves. Have a great weekend, and see you all next week for more fun!

Monster fun

It can be hard to think up new ways to entertain your little ones, especially when it's chucking it down with rain outside. That's why every week we're going to give you an idea to try out at home. This week: BLOW PAINT MONSTERS!

blow paint monsters.jpg

For this you will need:

  • Paint (it's a good idea if it's washable!)
  • Water
  • Paper
  • A drinking straw
  • Felt-tip pen
  • Stick-on googly eyes (optional)
  1. Pour some paint into a container and mix it with a little water to make it runny. 
  2. Pour some of the paint into the middle of the paper.
  3. Hold a straw over the paint and blow hard. The paint should start to spread across the paper.
  4. Keep blowing in different directions to make a monster shape.
  5. Use the end of the straw to drag the paint to make arms, legs, eye stalks, tentacles...
  6. When the paint is dry, stick on the googly-eyes or draw eyes and a mouth for your monster.

Stay well this winter

The leaves are turning brown, the days are getting shorter, the Christmas decorations are in the shops... and the first winter illnesses are starting to appear at nursery. Colds and coughs can be pretty miserable for children (and for their parents!) but at least they can be soothed with a dose of Calpol and a cuddle. Flu is a different matter, however. It is a common infection in small children, and can be very unpleasant for them. Children under the age of five have the highest hospitalisation admission rates for flu compared to other age groups.


All the children at St Mary's Nursery School are eligible for a free flu vaccination in the form of a nasal spray. It is available at your GP, and you should soon receive a letter inviting you to bring your child to be vaccinated. If you have not received this letter by early November, contact your GP to make an appointment. The vaccine is usually administered by the practice nurse, and for most children it is a quick and painless nasal spray (so none of the trauma associated with jabs!). To be effective, the vaccinations need to be given between October and December as this is before flu tends to circulate. The flu virus can also change annually, meaning that your child should be vaccinated every year. By choosing to give your child the flu vaccine, not only are you protecting them from this unpleasant illness, you are also helping to reduce the spread of flu to other family members and the wider community.

If you want to learn more about the vaccination, click here to view the Government's 'Protecting your child against flu' leaflet.

New website!

We are very excited to unveil our new-look website. We hope that the new format will provide a more user-friendly portal for our parents and carers, as well as being a useful first point of contact for prospective parents.

While developing this website, we have tried to consider what information you as parents and carers might want to know about our nursery. We would love to hear your comments about our new look so that we can make it an even better resource for you!