Nursery Newsletter

29th October 2018

Dear Parents/carers

A warm welcome back after what I hope was an enjoyable October break.  Autumn has definitely arrived now and the children are enjoying a exploring the changes in the natural environment.

Activities for children

On Wednesday 31st October, we will be celebrating Hallowe’en with apple dooking, party food, pumpkin lanterns and Hallowe’en songs and stories. Children will be encouraged to dress up if they wish, but we would ask that they do not bring masks into nursery as some children find them disturbing. If they have a pumpkin or turnip lantern, they could bring along for the day to decorate the nursery that would be great.

Celebration of Festivals

Early in November, we will celebrate Diwali, with sweets, crafts, lights and displays. Celebrating the festivals of all our families is a really important part of our curriculum, but we are very aware that we are not the experts! So, if you can help – either by offering suggestions, practical support or information – we would be delighted.

Are there festivals we are not celebrating?

Are there foods, arts/crafts, stories which we could share with the children around your festivals?

Could you help us celebrate your festivals in nursery by cooking some food, or sharing a story?

Please let us know what you think, either by talking to a member of staff, or emailing me directly on

What’s Important to our Nursery? Consultation with Parent/carers

Many thanks to those of you who have contributed your ideas to our “Growing and Learning” picture in Room 3. Among the ideas you felt were important for “nourishing” our children were : supporting friendships, following up children’s ideas, encouraging sharing, smiling, play and fun, and helping children grow as independent people while still being connected with family.

It’s still not too late to give us your suggestions – just write them on one of the post-its and stick it on the wall!

How well are we carrying out your ideas? – Please let us know.

Parental Consultations

Parental consultations for preschool children, i.e. those eligible for school in August next year, will take place during the week beginning Monday 5th November. Please take this chance to come along and discuss your child’s progress with staff. Speak to your child’s key worker to arrange a time.

School Registration

All families with children eligible for school next August should have received information about registration. Registration week this year is 5th – 9th November.  On Wednesday 31st October, local schools will be having an open day, when you will be able to go along to the school, meet staff and see round the building. Opening times for this day vary between schools, so it would be a good idea to phone the school first to find out when it will be open. For those making an out-of catchment placing request, online forms will be available on the council website. The council is advising that all children are registered at their catchment school during registration week, whether or not parents intend to send them there. So even if you are planning to defer your child’s school entry for a year, please register him/her at your catchment school. Requests for deferrals should be made by the end of March.


We are currently hosting a number of students from various colleges and universities. Maria, who is a teacher from Greece on the Erasmus programme, will be with us until Easter, and will spend time in both rooms. Karma (Room 1) and Lucy (Room 2) are Early Years Practitioner students from Edinburgh College. We will also be joined in November by Sophie, a student nurse, and, on Thursdays, by Sarah McAsey and Sarah Martin, two speech and language therapy students. A very warm welcome to all of you – we hope you enjoy your time with us.


Can I ask that you don’t put any food (e.g. sweets or crisps) in children’s bags or coat pockets and leave them on their pegs? We have several children with a wide range of allergies in nursery, and we need to be able to ensure that they don’t have unsupervised access to food. We have had recent instances of children going into their bag, taking out sweets, and attempting to share them out with their friends. It’s best to take any food away with you, but if you need to leave something, please give it to a member of staff.


A little bit of advance warning about what happens at Christmas in nursery!

The Christmas party will take place on the morning of Thursday 20th December, from 9.30 – 11.40am. Children should only attend nursery for the party time on that day. The playrooms have to be cleared for the party and concert, and then set up again for the following morning.

Parent/carers are invited to come along at 11am to hear the children sing, then share in the excitement of santa’s visit. We will be asking for a contribution of £3 towards the present each child will receive.Term will end at 11.40am on Friday 21st December. There will be no afternoon session on that day.

Our main fundraiser will once again be a “Grand Jar Sale” which will take place on Friday 14th December. The jar sale was a big success last year. We asked each family to fill and decorate a glass jar (eg a jam jar) with sweets, party bag toys, crayons, marbles etc. We then sold the jars for £1 in aid of nursery funds. The jars generated a lot of excitement last year and the event was a lot of fun.

The annual Christmas Raffle will be drawn on Monday 17th December at 9am. Parents and staff will be collecting prizes from local shops and businesses (if you know of anyone who would donate a voucher or prize, please let us know).

Our Nursery Nativity, which has been such a success over the past few years, will be on Tuesday 18th December, 9.30am. More details nearer the time.

Personalised Santa plates will be on sale again in December. If you would like your child to have their own named plate for Santa’s mince pie and the reindeer’s carrots on Christmas Eve, put your order in to staff in early December.

Some dates for your diary

Tuesday 18th December Nativity
Thursday 20th  December Christmas party  – nursery opening morning only
Friday 21st December Term ends at 11.40am
Wednesday 9th January All children return

Finally, our learning update this month concerns current thinking around children’s imaginative play which involves weapons and superheroes. Until recently, the consensus has been an outright ban on such play in nursery, but recent research has indicated that this is not the best way forward. Have a read at the attached paper, and let us know what you think!

With best wishes,

Alison Smith

Head Teacher



Learning Update

Weapon and Superhero Play

The book ‘We don’t play with guns here’ by Penny Holland has been very influential in changing practitioners’ opinions about the issue of weapon/superhero play.

  1. Brief Summary of the book

The book’s aim is to promote reflection on weapon and superhero play, and its

connection with gender issues in nursery.

In nurseries for decades, the accepted approach has been ‘zero tolerance’ (the banning of all weapon and superhero play). However, Penny Holland points out that this approach has the greatest impact on male children who have a persistent interest in this area of play.  Zero tolerance can have a negative effect on their self-esteem and consequently on their attitude to learning.  When a zero tolerance approach is in place, weapon/superhero play tends to persist and become hidden. All practitioners have experience of the gun-shaped duplo construction which quickly becomes a mobile phone when a child is challenged by staff!

Settings where the zero tolerance approach has been relaxed have allowed children to construct weapons, and enact superhero and conflict scenarios.  Staff have worked actively with the children to develop their play themes.

  1. Where does Zero Tolerance come from?
  • no actual policy
  • generally based on individual practitioners’ feelings.

There is no actual evidence of a link between weapon and superhero play and aggressive behaviour.  Children’s experience of real aggression in the home however, does predict later aggressive behaviour – also, parental messages influence behaviour (e.g. when children are encouraged to respond to violence with equal violence).

  1. Gender

It is almost always boys who want to express themselves through weapon/superhero play. It is very difficult to establish how much of this is nature and how much nurture.

Penny Holland suggests it is common in nurseries for there to be a “punitive” response offered to active young boys and a “celebratory” response to compliant and passive girls.

There is an argument that zero tolerance challenges a child’s growing sense of self at a critical time.

We must remember that children are not responsible for the gender messages they receive Penny Holland argues that, as practitioners, we have a professional responsibility to work with all children,  including boys who like weapon/superhero play, in ways which don’t generate low self-esteem or negative gender identity.

4. Imagination

Penny Holland’s central argument is that weapon/superhero play is a form of imaginative play and that imaginative play is important in helping children learn to regulate aggressive behaviour. Zero tolerance bars access to this important area of play for many boys and could be preventing them developing effective conflict resolution strategies. It is through imaginative play that children develop their understanding of rules, symbolic substitution, seeing the world from different perspectives – all essential elements of conflict resolution.

Some practitioners argue that weapon/superhero play is poor imaginative play – limited, repetitive themes based on a crude struggle between good/evil.  Force always wins.


  • the battle between good and evil has a powerful attraction for children.
  • cruel punishment often doesn’t scare children but reassures them that the punishment fits the crime.

Penny Holland argues that there is an important role for staff in terms of developing and extending the play through responsive planning and spontaneous involvement.  She is not arguing for a laissez-faire approach.

What Stanwell staff agreedStanwell staff discussed the issues explored in the book, and agreed the following way forward.

  • A zero tolerance approach is no longer viable for the following reasons: children make weapons anyway, it discriminates against boys’ imaginative play, the importance of imaginative play in developing empathy and negotiating skills, the over-valuing girls’ “compliant” behaviour and a “punitive” response to active boys’ behaviour.
  • Weapon and superhero play, when it spontaneously occurs, is to be regarded as a form of imaginative play, and treated by staff as such. Staff should analyse, extend play, enter into dialogue, identify themes (e.g. pirates), provide dress-ups, resource activities, support prop making, and provide adult support when play is “stuck”
  • Boundaries/rules should still be enforced – e.g. no running/chasing indoors, no rough and tumble play, no aggressive physical play
  • Everyone should respect children who don’t want to participate and empower them to say no
  • No manufactured guns or other weapons to be brought into nursery, but children should be allowed to make weapons from junk materials and construction toys
  • Agreement to discuss with parent/carers, observe children’s response, monitor play and evaluate after a term.