Behind the scenes at Stepping Stones Pre-School
Words by Sian McLaughlin
I’m not sure that I can truthfully say I have ever experienced an atmosphere of calm when surrounded by 24 pre-school children, but that is exactly how I felt when I visited Stepping Stones Pre-School in Oldfield Park.
The room had a gentle and peaceful atmosphere; the children were playing with activities of their own choosing and everybody seemed to be having a great time.
The Ascension Church hall is a wonderful space for the pre-school, providing room for different activities to be going on at the same time including a book corner for story time, painting, Plasticine, dressing up and even telephones and calculators to help the children with literacy skills.
“The whole point of Stepping Stones is that all the games and activities are very, very play-based,” said Kerry Hillier who runs the pre-school along with three other members of staff. Parents and grandparents also take a turn on the rota.
While all the playing is going on the children are able to enjoy a drink and some fruit during what is known as rolling snack time. This is an ingenius set up and allows the little ones to eat whenever they feel hungry between 10.15am and 11 o’clock. It’s a lovely idea which really caters to the different needs of each child whilst helping them to take responsibility for themselves in a small way.
This idea is taken even further on Tuesdays and Thursdays during a lunch club which runs after the sessions from midday until 12.45pm. As well as extending the morning a little for parents, it also helps to teach children who are soon to start school how to eat in a group and, more importantly, how to eat within a specific timetable.
As well as the hall, Stepping Stones has the use of the church garden which is kept as a natural space and free from climbing equipment and toys, so youngsters can run around on the grass and play amongst the bushes and trees.
There are regular themes at the pre-school; when I visited the children were eagerly learning about autumn and also themselves. A fabulous collage on the wall of the youngster’s faces is proof of their artistic skills – although there seems to be quite an excess of facial hair given that most of the faces belong to the under fives.
Another exciting new project is a storytelling venture overseen by B&NES. Each term sees the introduction of a new story told in weekly instalments using actions and props, allowing the children’s imaginations to run riot. This keeps the youngsters eager for more and sees their imaginations stimulated into the bargain.
This Christmas, they’ve decided to forgo the usual nativity play in favour of a wonferful day out meeting Santa at Bristol Zoo.
The Bath Parent is a free parenting magazine full of news, family features and listings of things to do with your kids in the B&NES area. For more information and to view back issues, visit The Bath Parent website.