The Old Station Nursery OUR BLOG

Why your vocabulary is so important for children

January 8th, 2017 by Sarah Steel

We already know how important it is to talk to children and not just ‘park’ them in front of screens, but this article quotes expert Michael Jones and makes fascinating reading. He reminds us that it can take a child up to 500 times to learn a new word, so we need to surround them with a ‘language rich environment’.  The temptation to ‘dumb-down’ should be resisted – a ‘baby horse’ is a ‘foal’, and a ‘baby lion’ is a ‘lion cub’.

I remember hearing Penny Tassoni talking at a conference a couple of years ago. She recounted a story of seeing a child in pre-school being asked ‘what colour was the post box’. The child rolled her eyes and said ‘red’. She was reading the same story again, after nearly 2 years in pre-school, and had clearly heard the question many times. How much more exciting to describe the post-box as ‘scarlet’ or explain the term ‘letterbox red’?

I have heard many a 2 year old explaining that the ‘stegosauraus’ is fighting with the ‘diplodocus’. If they can manage to remember complex words when they interest them, surely we should supply with them with as many interesting words as we can?

Food for thought – for parents and practitioners alike!

Give the gift of music this Christmas

November 30th, 2016 by Sarah Steel

Here is a fabulous guest blog from Harriet at Boogie Mites, about bringing the joy of music to your child as an entertaining and educational Christmas present:

Give The Gift Of Music To Your Child This Christmas

I don’t know about you, but I always feel overwhelmed by Christmas present shopping! We seem to be bombarded by adverts and marketing emails from just after Halloween through to Christmas Eve, and I even heard my first Christmas song in a shop just the other day (it’s not even December!).

Yet how do we know what will really be the best present for our child? There are always the tales from exasperated parents who spent a fortune, only for their child to play with the box or wrapping paper, or the 5-minute wonder present that was soon discarded with the wrapping paper in favour of the much-loved wooden spoon or a kitchen roll tube!

Here at Boogie Mites, we say that music is the top gift you can give your child this Christmas. Now this doesn’t have to be spending hundreds of pounds on the latest keyboard or guitar that no one in the family knows how to play, especially when children are still developing their own musical identities. It could be much more creative, interactive and (best of all) cheaper than that!

We know that when parents take part in music with their children, not only the children, but the parents benefit too. A study by De Gratzer (1999) found that parents reported non-musical benefits such as improved relationships and increased communication with their children, and Nicholson, Berthelsen, Abad, Williams and Bradley (2008) found that a 10 week music project showed significant improvements in measures of parental irritability, activities with their child, parental mental health, child communication, and child social skills. Closer to home, an evaluation report of Boogie Mites music programmes (Fairchild & Karousou, 2013) found that parents felt more confident when singing and with their general music practice. And in particular, parents of children with SEN stressed how Boogie Mites music was a valuable means of communication and interacting with their child and also an enjoyable activity as a family.

So now we know how great music is, how could you turn this into the Christmas gift that keeps on giving?

We at Boogie Mites absolutely love making our own instruments and encourage everyone to do the same. It’s cheap, fun, eco-friendly and best of all, something that is totally personal. In my last Old Station blog I talked about making shakers. If you’ve tried this, then why not add to your band by making a drum.

Watch the ‘How To Make A Drum’ video for tips on making your drum and then using it to have lots of fun with nursery rhymes – and boost language and counting skills too!

How To Make A Drum (

Are you having family with little ones round this Christmas? Try wrapping up all the craft elements needed to make a whole percussion band – empty bottles for shakers, wooden spoons for rhythm sticks, empty boxes for drums – and have fun decorating them together (yes grownups love this too!). You could theme them for each person or for the festive time of year. You could also use all that leftover wrapping paper to make sounds and music with.

Once you have your percussion band assembled, you could add sound effects to your favourite stories, and encourage your little one to be the conductor! Or perhaps invest in a quality, educational music CD that you could tap along to, or a book with all your favourite nursery rhymes in. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you could make a song bag yourself, with objects or props to represent your child’s favourite songs. You can keep adding to the bag as you and your child learn more songs.

All of these gifts could be used in many different ways throughout the following months and years, so won’t end up in a corner unused. And because they’re interactive, you’ll know that actually, you’ll be giving the best gift any child could receive: you.

Happy Christmas everyone!

About the Author: Harriet Thomas is Creative Director at Boogie Mites UK, offering early years music training for practitioners and licensee opportunities for anyone with a passion for music for under 5’s.





Getting your child ready for school

September 4th, 2016 by Sarah Steel

So many parents will have children either starting or returning to school this week, so I’d like to share an excellent newsletter from parenting expert, Sue Atkins, in my blog this month. Do have a look, she has some great tips which make a lot of sense.



When it comes to under fives there are a lot of bad news stories – rising obesity, the effects of increased ‘screen time’ on social development, children reaching school age without basic skills required for learning. So you may think that serious early years educators don’t have time for fun stuff – like dancing around to silly songs!


Music is Fireworks for The Brain

Luckily for music-lovers like me, 20 years of neuroscience has shown that music is very good for us!  More than virtually any other activity, active music making – music making that involves seeing, hearing, touching, moving – engages all of our senses providing one of the richest learning environments that there is. In fact cat scans show that music activates the whole brain, with each component of music affecting a different part of the brain. So here are my top 5 reasons for making music part of your everyday life.

  1. Music Is Fun Fun: Let’s be honest. This is why we actually love music. It’s so much fun! Whether you’re singing along to the radio, waving your arms at a festival or singing a lullaby to your toddler, music makes us feel good. Why? Research shows that dopamine, a “feel-good hormone” is released every time you listen to music you like. Music has actually been shown to alleviate depression. And we have probably all experienced a bad day that was made better by listening to a song we love.
  1. Music Creates Togetherness: Yes,release your inner hippy! I’m sure we all have lots of special music moments: My favourite is from when my youngest daughter was around 5 years old. She had learned to whistle and we used to spend car journeys whistling our favourite tunes in harmony. It was hysterical and we never did get to the end of a song without collapsing into giggles. You may have sung in a choir, as part of a football crowd or in the car like me and my daugheter. Wherever it was, we have all experienced the bonding that occurs when we share music.  Scientists put it down to the release of prolactin, a hormone that bonds people together.
  1. Music Boosts Language Development: The very earliest exposure to music increases your baby’s mental age, communication skills and language development. A pioneering study in the benefits for babies was the first fully controlled study to assess the effects of music on babies (McMaster University Canada 2012). Within 4 months the babies in the music group were significantly more advanced in communication and social skills. In another study (Johanella Tafuri, Italy, 2008), babies that were sung to by their parents daily were compared to those who were not. It was found that the music babies developed vocalisations at a rate previously unimagined by developmental psychology researchers themselves.
  1. Music Helps Us Move: As soon we can move we respond physically to music: babies sway, toddlers march, pre teens work out their dance routines, some of us pretend to be Beyonce in the evening aerobics class…or is that just me! There are major international corporations making huge amounts of money out of the fact that music encourages us to move…and if it’s good enough for Zumba it’s good enough for us. Walking, marching, jumping, balancing, swaying: all of these physical skills can be developed through actions songs that focus on each particular movement.
  1. Music Develops Confidence One of the wonderful things about music is that it allows children to participate in their own way. One child may love to dance, another may focus on keeping the beat by clapping, another on singing. Children’s self-esteem is directly connected with their perception of themselves as competent. Music allows a child to be express herself in a way that is right for her, encouraging competence and confidence in her skills and providing a context in which those skills can be nurtured and celebrated.

If Music Is So Great, Why Aren’t We Doing It With Our Children Every Day?

I’ve only just scratched the surface of the many benefits that music making has for young children. If you want to know more, check out this video by researcher Anita Collins – it’s very entertaining as well as enlightening!

But here’s the problem…many of us just aren’t confident to do music, either at home or in the setting. We think that music is for just for musicians. This is wrong. Music is for humans. (And musicians are human too you know!)

So just to prove to you that YOU CAN DO IT here is a really fun music activity for you to try. There are 3 steps

  1. Watch the ‘How To Make A Shaker’ video here

(This is easy, cheap and fun to do together!)

  1. Watch the ‘Shakey Shakey’ video here
  2. Download your ‘Shakey Shakey’ song here and listen to it whenever you and your child want to boogie…which is everyday, right?!

Have fun and keep on boogie-ing!





The papers are full of stories of radicalism and terrorism on a daily basis and there have recently been articles regarding the failure of the authorities to prevent young children from being taken to Syria and becoming radicalised, as they pose in IS ‘uniforms’ and become part of the propaganda war. The Prevent Duty which was introduced to try and keep children and young people from being radicalised has taken some stick, with headlines about how we should be alert even with the youngest children.

Nurseries are now expected to explain to OFSTED inspectors how they are complying with the Prevent Duty, and this still causes some concern for practitioners. At a staff meeting last week we focussed on exactly what it means to us in early years and agreed that if we know our children, family and colleagues well and take time to listen, we are a long way to meeting our duty. We embrace a framework of tolerance and celebrating different cultures and since July 2015 the Early Years Foundation Stage has required us to promote British Values. This does not involve displaying pictures of the Royal Family (despite what some supplier catalogues would have us believe!) but does involve making decisions together, taking turns, being fair, respecting each other and understanding different cultures.

If any parents want to know more about how we promote British Values or how we fulfil our Prevent Duty, do ask your nursery manager or drop me a line. This article in Nursery World is also an interesting read. Shot 2016-02-01 at 15.56.40


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