Making 'Things' Happen: Bringing 50 Things To My Nursery
Carrie Priestley, nursery school Co-Teacher and 50 Things Enthusiast, gives her must-read tips for anyone planning to launch at their setting. You can follow Carrie and her family's 50 Things journey on Instagram at @50ThingsToDoToday.
My name is Carrie and I have two children Amber (8) and Olly (3) and I am a Co-Teacher in a school nursery working with 3-4 year olds. I became a 50 things enthusiast whilst on maternity leave with my son as I loved the idea of the free resource which shared free/low cost family friendly ideas and found it a valuable tool during his early months. Baby classes at local children’s centres were much less frequent than they had been when my daughter was a baby due to funding cuts/closures and I found 50 things helped Amber to be included with the new baby as she could choose an activity to complete with him. When I returned to work, I took along the 50 things concept and introduced it to my setting as I realised that many of our families, like myself may have missed out on opportunities and experiences with their young children due to reduced services and I wanted to show families that it is the low cost and often free activities shared with their family that children remember and will have the most positive impact on their well-being and development. My favourite activity is #34woodlandwandering as it is exciting for all ages and new adventures can be had each time. Plus it links so naturally into many of the other 50 things. Our favourite thing to do at the weekend is to go out into the great outdoors and explore (and usually have a #30yummypicnic too)!
The big launch
As a parent myself I understood that you can feel under pressure from schools to contribute to various applications or home learning platforms and I wanted to launch 50 things in a way that was fun, exciting and something that we had never done before as a setting.
We hold regular parent workshops with high parental attendance and engagement so it made sense to launch 50things as a workshop but it would be a workshop with a difference. It would be outdoors, showcasing many of the wonderful and exciting activities of 50things in our outdoor classroom, something that parents had not had a chance to experience for themselves before.
Bringing the 'things' to life
We set up different areas such as #17hocuspocus in the mud kitchen, an outdoor art studio for #4makeyourmark and #20miniartists, a mini allotment that children could plant things in with their parents for #19growinglittlepeopleplantsandthings, visits from local police officers for #43highfive and so many of the other 50 things that we were able to include activities for as we had the huge space outside.
It was absolutely wonderful to see parents really engaged in their children’s learning outdoors and being able to take part in so many of the 50 things activities and see how much their children enjoyed learning in our outdoor space. I am a huge advocate for learning outdoors in all weathers and it was fantastic to see so many of our parents having fun in what may have usually been out of their comfort zone.
We were able to end the event with a huge shared #30yummypicnic courtesy of Tesco and due to the generosity of so many local companies I had written to with donation requests every family was able to take home a free goody bag to complete activities at home, creating a fantastic link between home and school. Families that attended were entered into a raffle for free prizes including vouchers and hampers associated with 50 things which again were donated by the amazing community that we are part of.
After our initial grand launch 50 things was a huge thing for our parents and they contributed frequently to our online journal platform sharing the different activities children had done at home. We also held two other big events, our firework display for #16wheebangwhizz and a very successful winter craft event both of which were well attended. It was all going so well...
On the 22nd March 2020 our setting closed for the vast majority of students due to Covid-19. During lockdown I found that 50 things was a vital resource for me both personally and professionally. Feeling trapped inside for the majority of the day we made the most of using our garden and our daily exercise to try, retry, and try again so many of the 50 things activities, adapting them to suit the current situation and we enjoyed getting creative with the activities to challenge my over 5 year old too. Many of our personal lockdown experiences were shared with families in my setting to illustrate how 50 things could take some of the pressures off keeping children of various different ages happy, healthy and entertained. Many parents said it was helpful to know that childcare professionals were also finding lockdown difficult to manage with multiple children and they enjoyed receiving different ideas and activities to try with their children. I also enjoyed seeing the different things our families were doing during lockdown and it was great to be a part of a support network utilising the 50 things during a very uncertain time for everyone.
Re-launching in the “new normal”
The new school year has been a challenge with regard to the implementation of 50 things with our new cohorts as we cannot currently have parents in the setting. I have adapted our large 50 things events to “mini events” to link home and school in light of the current situation. Our first mini event ‘winter crafts’ will see children making a salt dough decoration in school which they will then take home alongside a goody bag full of everything they need to replicate the activity at home. This first mini event will cover #42theroughandthesmooth, #4makeyourmark, #20miniartists and #25creative junk. It is hoped that families will upload their home activity to our online journal and will be the first of many mini events planned throughout the year with the hope that during the summer term we can begin some of our typically larger events and increase knowledge and engagement of the 50 things activities.
Top tip – If you don’t ask you don’t get
Although the majority of events held in school are on a large scale they have actually cost very little to run due to the kind and generous donations from businesses and people in the local community. Never be afraid to ask for support from your community. I found that supermarkets, local shops, the council, police and football stadiums were most responsive to my email requests for donations and most were willing to help for free or at a hugely discounted rate! Plan big but keep the costs small to create experiences that children and their families will remember in the years to come. If your initial launch is exciting and one to remember then families will come back for more time and time again! Don’t forget to thank anyone that provides support and shares and reviews on social media are always very gratefully received!
Carrie spoke at our webinar in January 2021 - watch her amazing presentation below!