Kids Club News

Nursery for needs: How Rushden Kids Club supports, nurtures and cares for my deaf child

In this month’s blog parent Rebekah Byer shares her thoughts on what to look for in a childcare setting if your child has a disability and the amazing progress her deaf daughter has made since starting at Rushden Kids Club.

Alivia-Ellen who attends Rushden Kids Club
From finding her inner Van Gogh to supporting her vibrant personality, Rushden Kids Club has helped profoundly deaf Alivia-Ellen excel in ways her mother didn’t think possible

“Becoming a parent comes with no manual. No instructions. No guidance on how to deal with the emotions that surround bringing up our children. Often we feel a permanent pressure to defend our choices we make on our journeys and the comparisons become endless.

Since Alivia-Ellen was born I have found myself become a personal negotiator from comparing a ‘normal hearing child’ needs to my ‘profoundly deaf’ child needs. There is so much interest from outside people wanting to know how different parenting really is between them both.

When I explain that Alivia-Ellen’s needs are not much different to her hearing brothers, I expect no less from her just because she cannot hear, I still send her to nursery, the same one her brothers attend. Her disability is no block. And she still needs the same introduction to early years just as much as ever.

The benefits Alivia-Ellen receives from attending nursery from a young age will strongly influence her development and independence from childhood to adulthood.

As much as I wanted to wrap my daughter in cotton wool and smother her in protection and love, she still needs to learn her way in world. Holding her back due to fear of potential diversity and later bullying the maternal guilt will only affect her development and ultimately confidence, self esteem and independency.

I am often asked how Alivia-Ellen fits in at nursery, how does the nursery cope and is Alivia-Ellen treated any differently.

Her first nursery during her baby years was lovely, she was close with her keyworker and was doing just fine development wise. But when she hit two I was beginning to worry, with a nursery with such a huge ratio and a large free flow area within multiple of rooms, I worried Alivia-Ellen wouldn’t have that 1-1 guidance or a 1-1 experience with a key-worker, filled with confidence, patience and a loving nature that would replace me when in the setting.

We was recommended to Rushden Kids Club, and from the get go we had a pleasant warming feeling from the manager Natasha. A feeling where the nursery just isn’t about turning money over, a nursery that truly prides themselves on nurturing, caring for the children, encouraging their individuality and embracing their own ways of development.

Natasha is a women who you warm to instantly, feel comfortable with and confidently enough to turn to if in doubt or in need. Her visualisations on how she wants the nursery to look and endorse is fascinating. She has adopted the ‘textbook rules’ and moulded and catered it into a way that’s exciting for the children to learn and develop accordingly to each child’s needs.

She encourages key workers to work closely with families and build a relationship to ensure the child’s day runs smoothly. If the children have had a unsettled time, you don’t feel judged, you are comforted with reassuring words and also advice, it normalises your experience. And each child’s interest is always at heart. which I have also found to be the most comforting and important aspect to your child’s nursery/pre school experience.

The key advice to other parents with a child of hearing loss is simply looking out for these:

  • Does the management and staff come across as friendly, welcoming and disability friendly.
  • Do they show a strong interest in their ability to help develop your child’s language and communication skills.
  • Do they have a good listening environment. For example Alivia-Ellen, she needs minimal background noise and a quiet place for her to learn, engage and socialise.
  • Are they happy to learn skills to develop better understanding and support towards your child. This could be learning BSL/ adapting skills to care for a hearing aid.
  • Encouraging a working relationship between parents and key workers.

We instantly felt the above, and not long after Alivia-Ellen joining staff had been encouraged to use supported communication towards Alivia-Ellen by learning makaton, signs which assist speech. They replicated this throughout the setting so not only do adults know how to communicate with Alivia-Ellen, children increase their curiosity around how adults engage with her and they begin to explore their own development and communication skills by doing this, it brings awareness of Alivia-Ellens additional needs of a lack of communication and this facilitates it.

I believe that It is important for children to play in a variety of activities and places in order to stimulate and develop their imaginations, curiosity and creativity for children both hearing, and hard of hearing or any special needs. Majority of the time the first interactions with other children are often at nurseries, or playgroups/meets and it is important to ensure children with varying degrees of deafness to learn how to build relationships with peers by pursuing that they are included in all creative and developmental opportunities.

Rushden Kids Club have a fantastic open free flow layout, but not on a large scale to create huge amount of background noise. In the morning when you drop off you can see all creative stations laid out for their activities, this is incredibly encouraging of reminding us how amazing they are to accommodate all children’s way of learning. Sensory play is a very stimulating way of learning for children with additional needs. But just as stimulating for normal hearing children, by doing this it brings playing together and building those vital relationships.

Also another positive factor is the acceptance and a welcoming manor to all professional involved in Alivia-Ellen’s care. The teacher of the deaf whom visits at home and in the setting, has always reported back that the staff and Alivia’s key worker positively take on board advice and tasks to support Alivia-Ellen and have a close working relationship. We both feel this has had an amazing impact on Alivia’s increasing development.

Rushden Kids Club staff sit with children during Christmas concert
Consistency and support: Keyworker Chloe sits with Alivia-Ellen at the Rushden Kids Club nativity concert

I have nothing but praises for the two management ladies, Natasha and Gail. Both of these ladies not only support the children but they have invested a lot of time to also help in other areas. The compassion and care shown towards the family unit make this nursery standout from others. The bond between Alivia and her key worker Chloe has an outstanding amount of patience as she can push a lot of boundaries, she needs a lot of reassurance and encouragement.

Through Chloe’s consistency and persistence towards supporting her needs she has excelled in ways I didn’t know would be possible, sending her to nursery I know she can release her inner mountaineer, her inner Van Gogh and her spontaneous personality can be guided and flourish a lot better than what I could achieve alone with three children under four. There is a lot of trust in Chloe. With her standing in my position whilst at nursery I feel very comfortable sending her and have no worries of guilt.
I can guarantee you, when you find the right childcare the staff become an important extension to your family.”

  • This blog was first published on by Rebekah Byer, a parent whose child attends Rushden Kids Club. Huge thanks to her for giving us permission to share her family’s story.


Bringing generations together: Our visits to Rushden Park Nursing Home

Every week a group of children from Rushden Kids Club visit a local elderly people’s home. These intergenerational encounters have sparked great friendships and inspire learning and a greater understanding of the world. Manager, Natasha Wain, explains why she started the scheme and the benefits it brings to both young and old.

‘Britain is one of the most age segregated countries in the world. This causes loneliness and exclusion, lack of trust, ageism and division between generations. It doesn’t have to be like this. More and more projects are enabling older and younger people to mix and share activities and experiences.’

This statement comes from an organisation called United For All Ages, that was set up to bring generations together. It is projects like this, along with recent media, that encourage us to reflect on the impact that we can have on the local community and the importance of sharing life stories and experiences.

Rushden Park Nursing Home
Nursing home resident Frank, 76, who shares his memory box with young George said: ‘You and the children bring so much joy to my heart. I look forward to seeing you all on a Tuesday morning. I can’t believe how well behaved they all are.’
Olive, a resident at Rushden Park Nursing Home
Before one of the visits Olive, 95, got dressed and went to the hairdressers early so that she could see the children. Olive said: ‘I feel young when the children come to visit’

Over Christmas 2017 I was watching ‘Old People’s Home For 4 Year Olds’ and was reduced to tears and felt overwhelmed watching four-year-old Scarlett explain to her new friend Beryl, 85, that her Mummy had passed away.

This moment highlighted how generations can share experiences, and despite their age difference are able to empathise and admire the resilience and strength in each other in circumstances that affect us all.

I returned to work inspired by the relationships I could see transpiring between generations and wanted to bring generations together in our community. We asked for the views of parents and everyone was very positive and keen for their children to take part.

A parent that worked in a local care home enquired at her workplace to see if it was something that they would be willing to engage in. A few phone calls, meetings and risk assessments later we were able to go on our first visit to Rushden Park Nursing Home and begin our very own journey of intergenerational learning.

Since March 2018 we have been breathing young life into the care home every Tuesday with a small group of children for an hour and a half. All the residents know when we arrive. The sound of the children’s cheer, when Pam the activities coordinator greets us at the door, travels along the corridor and little voices and footsteps are heard throughout the building. Residents gather in the activities room awaiting our arrival and some wave as we pass by their rooms, not yet brave enough to join the fun but still happy to see us.

During the visits children engage in interactive learning such as cooking, board games, stories, singing, building and drawing – but this is superficial to the learning and experiences that lie beneath. For me, it is the life skills these children are learning, such as empathy for others, self-confidence, communication in different forms and interdependence. This can only be learnt and experienced by spending quality time together. Observing the pleasure that both generations give to one another is heartwarming and I feel humble to be a part of bringing them together.

The children learn about the world around them first hand and this was evident during an activity where we shared memory boxes. The boxes were full of old mementoes, and as the elderly reminisced they shared their memories with the children. The children were inspired to ask questions about the items and discovered more about the life experiences of the older people, a perfect little history lesson.

Ration books
Precious memories: The elderly residents shared items from their memory boxes with the children, including these ration books from World War Two

Such opportunities enable each generation to learn about and understand each other. Our visits to Rushden Park Nursing Home help the children see that the world has not always been the way they know it to be and gives them an appreciation of history, life experiences and how things change.

On these visits I am always struck by how the eyes of the elderly have seen things that we may never see in a lifetime and how the future is in the hands of the children today.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

As we head rapidly towards the end of the year and life descends into one hectic panic to get everything done in time for the big day, deputy manager Gail Cowley suggests we pause for a moment and reflect on what makes Christmas special. Plus, she shares photos of some of the recent festive activities the children have been enjoying.

There are cards to be written and delivered, the tree and house to be decorated, presents to be bought and wrapped, menus to be planned, food to be ordered – all whilst attending numerous functions and events and making sure your children are delivered to the right places at the right times! It’s exhausting!

If you have done all that, grab a coffee, put your feet up, relax and cast your mind back to what really makes Christmas special for you.

Little angels: Rushden Kids Club perform their nativity play at the local church

For me what makes Christmas special is not so much about giving and receiving presents or preparing and eating delicious food.

It’s much simpler than that. It’s a feeling of warmth and cosiness, relaxing by an open fire with flames a glow, dining by candlelight, spending quality time with loved ones, sharing special moments, seeing the children’s faces full of excitement, twinkling lights and kind gestures.

Spreading good cheer: The children share memorable moments with the residents at the elderly care home
Santa’s little helper: Decorating the tree at the elderly care home
Ho ho ho: Santa pays a visit to Rushden Kids Club

The smells of Christmas, cinnamon sticks and pine cones, nutmeg and cloves, sweet sticky mincemeat and cranberry sauce. Homemade gifts and gingerbread, candy canes and paper chains. It’s about family, laughter and joy, caring, sharing and love.

It’s also about remembering times gone by, sharing stories of our childhood memories and happy times.

Of course Christmas is not such a happy time for everyone, it reminds us of people we have loved and lost, people we miss and wish were still here to enjoy the celebrations. Some people are alone at christmas or lonely, ill or infirm. There will be children who won’t receive a present at all and whose homes are not the safe secure place we would want it to be for them.

So as we wind down to the Christmas break, spare a thought for others, spread a little cheer this Christmas, a kind word, or a friendly hello can make all the difference. Donate to a food bank, buy an extra gift and pass it on, invite a neighbour to lunch or just knock on the door to make sure they are okay. It’s these selfless acts of kindness that make magical memories to treasure forever and restore our faith in human nature.

So with this in mind we wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a very happy and healthy New Year from all the staff and children at Rushden Kids Club.

Happy times: The children enjoy a performance by entertainer Banana Brain Roadshow
Smile! It’s Christmas! The children and staff in the Buttercups Room show off their Christmas jumpers

EYFS in Action

Rushden Kids Club recently hosted a workshop on the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) to give parents a better understanding of their child’s learning and development.

Our manager, Natasha Wain, explains what the workshop was all about and how the framework is applied at the nursery – as well as tips on how to encourage learning at home.

To support our parents in working in partnership with us we wanted to build an understanding of the early years and stages of child development. We held an information evening where parents were introduced to the Department of Education publication of ‘What to expect when?’.

The guide is parent friendly and gives a step by step guide to the areas of learning and stages of development without all the detail of the curriculum. It gives parents some practical ideas on how to support learning and development at home through quality time together.

As a nursery with an ethos based on a variety of theories, we are by no means prescriptive with the curriculum. Parents learned how by using natural recyclable materials and the world around us you do not have to spend a fortune on toys and IT for activities to be educational.

Hats and other dressing up clothes at Rushden Kids ClubSimple dressing up clothes from the local charity shop leave the imagination and play open to the child’s perception rather than a prescriptive dressing up outfit which dictates to the child the character and the personality they are going to adopt.

By providing a selection of clothing, materials, shoes and handbags they can be whatever and whoever they want to be, encouraging them to act out different personalities, emotions and vocabulary rather than those pre-prescribed by the costume.

This type of play links to creative thinking, language development, social development and physical development. They become creative little thinkers as they build their characters, they practice their language and social skills as they become that character and act out scenes with friends and develop physical skills as they attempt buttons, zips and dressing and undressing.

Twigs and other natural materials are combined with playdoughBy collecting and adding twigs and leaves to a simple playdough recipe you can create lots of conversation about the changes in the environment and seasons. Twigs can be chopped or snapped into different sizes, creating mathematical language such as long or short, half etc. They could be used as arms and legs creating creatures, or candles on a birthday cake – counting them, adding and subtracting engages problem solving too.

During the evening we spoke about the seven areas of learning – Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Communication and Language, Physical, Literacy, Understanding the World, Creative and Expressive Arts and Design, and Mathematics – and how these are planned for and observed through play.

‘Play’ was our main topic of conversation as only when children are fully engaged in an activity of their choice will we see children become receptors of learning. At Rushden Kids Club we focus on the process children go through and the experiences they have rather than a produced piece of work. As we highlighted in the workshop it’s the process and experiences that foster learning and development and develop children’s ability to take risks and explore.

The evening was followed up with a workshop where parents were asked to attend with their children and play. The staff were on hand to give feedback as to what the children were learning from each activity and how this linked to the EYFS.

Parent reads to their child at our EYFS workshopFor example, in the photo to the right a parent is reading to their child in our outdoor snug area, she is pointing to pictures and talking to her child about what they can see. The child is becoming familiar with text and how stories are formed. By asking the child ‘What might happen next?’ we support their imagination and ideas. It is also an opportunity for the child to snuggle in close and feel safe which promotes self esteem and confidence.

We hope that the parents that attended the session were able to take away new insights into how children learn, what stages they go through and what we are focused on as team working with their children.

What the parents had to say…

Stu Tibbs: ‘Thank you for opening your doors to us all on Saturday morning. It gave us a fantastic opportunity to explore the nursery and experience first hand how children learn through play. It is evident the transition from preschool to school is made as smooth as possible with the cross over in activities and learning using EYFS standards. Natasha is enthusiastic and passionate and this shines through all her team. Well done!’

Beksie Byer: ‘Thank you for a lovely morning. The kiddies enjoyed showing us around their nursery x.’

Craig Childs: ‘It was really good to see. Oliver is always happy after being there. I’m not quite sure that the place stays as tidy as it looks today when it’s full of children.’

Alesha Watkins: ‘It was really good. Natasha taught us a lot about what you do under the radar and just proves how hard you all work to care for the children and help them grow to their full potential. Thank you.’

Dean Czyz: It was brilliant , thank you and well done to you and Brian on speaking. Really gives us more confidence and impetus to continue their development at home.

Tips on applying EYFS at home

  • Read to your child
  • Talk to your child
  • Embrace their creativity and ideas
  • Enjoy childhood and treasure these moments as it doesn’t last forever

If you have any questions on the EYFS then please talk to a member of staff who will be happy to explain more.

Five ways to keep your child entertained this summer

We all know how difficult it can be keeping children entertained and the summer holidays can be especially tricky. Here at Rushden Kids Club we have a dedicated team of play workers who pool the children’s ideas to make the holidays as exciting as possible. Here our top five low cost activities for a fun-filled summer…

Play with a theme

Model making - activities to entertain your child
Model making: From a rocket to a castle, save up your recycling and let your child’s imagination build all sorts of exciting objects
We asked the children what they would like to do (since they are the experts at play!) and divided the summer up into manageable weekly sections, each with a different theme to inspire the imagination.

Instead of endless days of boredom we provide six individually-tailored weeks with exciting things to do: Pirates, Harry Potter, Seaside, Messy, Dinosaurs, Knights and Princesses and Space. What theme would your child choose?

Dress up and go!

Whatever the theme, at Rushden Kids Club we love dressing up. Children gain so much from dress up play, it sparks their imagination, helps with socialisation and can encourage empathy. We already have a large selection in the dress up box but making a costume from scratch has the added benefits of problem solving, honing fine motor skills and even gender exploration.

Why not take a trip to a local charity shop with your child and see what their creative minds can come up with?

Get junk modelling

At Rushden Kids Club we love junk modelling and one of the most exciting activities the staff can provide is a large selection of boxes, bottles and tubes.

The processes children use to imagine that those particular boxes with that tube could make an awesome robot with a jet pack bottle on his back is not just problem solving skills, it is a higher level skill of thinking called divergent thinking. The same materials the next day could become a space station with rocket.

Save up your recycling for a week and marvel at the wonderful ideas children can come up with.

Food, glorious food

If your child could they would probably spend the whole summer eating cakes, sweets and biscuits. We are big believers of healthy eating at Kids Club and all our snacks and dinners are nutritionally balanced and taste delicious (Thank you Natasha and Caroline the cook). However we have discovered a great way of breaking the rules; let the children make the snacks.

With our new kitchen we will be baking a lot more this year, and trying out some ambitious recipes like making our own ice-cream – we will let you know the results!

Cooking with a child helps to develop hand eye co-ordination, safety skills and you can sneak some maths and science learning in too. With the obvious bonus of delicious food at the end, your child will begin a life skill that could lead to less work for you!

Time to get messy

To develop children’s natural curiosity nothing can beat messy play. Ooblek is a fancy term for non Newtonian fluids like cornflour and custard. With no right way to play it boosts a child’s self confidence and self esteem.

We have the space at Rushden Kids Club for larger messy crafts, with a big sheet of paper and a bucket load of paint the children can use brushes if they want or get in there with hand and feet.

Try a simple messy science experiment: fill an empty squirty bottle with 1 third bicarbonate of soda, 1 third cornflour and the final third with water add a few drops of food colouring and shake it well. Fill another squirty bottle with white vinegar and a few drops of food colouring. Draw a picture with the first bottle on the ground and trace it with the second bottle to watch a fizzy chemical reaction.

If you try any of the activities on here then we’d love to hear how you got on. We will be doing these and many more over the summer at Rushden Kids Club. With a bigger team to look after the children we bounce a lot of ideas off each other during our planning. If you’re struggling for ideas over the summer speak to a member of our team.

Check out our Summer Holiday Club activity list

Find out more about our Summer Holiday Club