imagination has no rules graphic

by Alison Buist

17 May 23

Care, Play and Learning Policy

Play at this time is not trivial, it is highly serious and of deep significance.”


For some babies and young children, encountering new or different environments can be stressful time in their lives. Routines can help young children feel secure, as they come become aware of what is happening, and what will happen next. At Smallworld, we are aware that children learn at their own pace and their daily routines must be personalised to suit the individual learner . We have a role in showing children what to do, supporting and promoting choice, and in explaining what is happening. Some children may not have enough receptive language to cope with this, especially when under stress, so visual and sound prompts can be helpful.

‘Play’ can be both a tricky word and concept to describe. Often play can be seen and misinterpreted as “just play” but we truly believe in play pedagogy and the benefits of learning through play. Play encourages the child to explore their own environment and can teach them the answers to their own questions. Play also helps a child learn new skills, problem solve and to work collaboratively with other children or adults.

Our learning environments are natural and have many open-ended resources which you may hear being referred to as ‘loose parts’. Loose parts help to develop our children’s creativity and imagination where a cardboard tube can turn into a telescope and small pebbles can be pot in a pot to make some imaginary soup in the home corner. Our literacy and numeracy rich learning environment plays a large part in the child’s ability to learn at their own pace while feeling safe and secure with nurturing staff surrounding them. We offer a balance of adult led activities including stories, music and dance combined with free flow play which gives the children the freedom and time to build on their own ideas and skills where children can ask for support if required. It is through our routines and environments that we encourage children’s choice and development of independence skills. We plan on a weekly basis, following the children’s interests and needs using experiences and outcomes from the Early Level Curriculum for Excellence (CFE) in our 3-5’s department.

The early level of the CFE is from when a child begins their funded place in Nursery to the end pf Primary One and allows for a vast amount of different learning experiences and opportunities. The early level of the CFE emphasises play, emotions and the transition between early years and primary school. The transition into primary school will likely be much smoother for the child if play remains and continues into P1. We plan for progression in learning and use a child-centred play pedagogy to develop our curriculum. A child-centred approach requires us to take the lead from the children by  actively responding to the individual and constantly changing needs of the children. We incorporate a child’s care plan titled ‘My World’ into our planning so that we are meeting the interests and needs of our children and following routines and interests from their home environment. At Smallworld we are passionate about developing and maintaining a relationship between home and Nursery as we know this will help to ensure that children feel safe and secure.

It is during our very earliest years and even pre-birth that a large part of the pattern for our future adult life is set.”

Scottish Government

Our 0-3 department plan through the Scottish government document titled ‘Realising the Ambition’. There is a strong relationship between early life experiences and how babies develop cognitively, socially, emotionally, and physically throughout their lives. Babies and toddlers make sense of the world through adults, the responses they observe and the attachments that they form and we know that babies thrive when they experience relationships which are warm, secure, consistent, loving and responsive. They are eager to make sense of the world around them and learn through using their senses, being active and mobile, communicating in different ways, discovering new things and interacting with others. The staff plan around the interest and needs of the children, using their current care plans. They always welcome feedback from parents about any current interests, achievements or support needs.

It is essential to Get It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) in the Early Years. GIRFEC is Scotland’s national approach for improving and supporting children’s wellbeing outcomes and uses eight SHANARRI wellbeing indicators to help assess and plan for children to grow, develop and reach their full potential: Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible, Included.


Outdoor Play is a huge part of our daily routines at Smallworld. We highly value outdoor play and the benefits to the children’s wellbeing and development. Our garden and local community are used as extensions to our classroom for us to take our learning outdoors. We enjoy an outdoor snack in the garden every morning (weather permitting) so that the children do not have to leave their outdoor play to come inside to eat. Some of the many benefits of outdoor play are: Improves physical health, better immune system, improved wellbeing and mental health, resilience is developed through taking and managing risks in a safe environment and many more benefits. We are continually trying to improve our garden area and have recently added an outdoor cabin to ensure that we have an indoor space in our outdoor area.