The importance of sensory play


The importance of sensory play



Children are born as little investigators. They are eager to discover the world around them using their senses. Their learning can be helped by having the opportunity to enjoy tactile experiences. Through sensory play children get to express themselves and develop confidence as individuals in sharing their ideas with others.

From little investigators come little scientists who make predictions and observations on what they see. They will work cooperatively and collaboratively with their friends, to discover and explore their environment, develop their imagination and have the ability to problem solve and experiment.




Sensory play helps physical development through the manipulation of a range of materials, which promote fine and gross motor skills.

At First Friends day nursery our children have the opportunity to enjoy sensory experiences by following a four weekly plan. Activities include, corn flour play, jelly, gloop and shaving foam. Parents can work with their children just as easily as we can in the nursery setting. To get you going, we would like to share with you these recipes and activities you can enjoy at home with your child.






Play Dough

Mix the ingredients together in a pan and stir over medium heat until smooth. Remove from the heat and knead until smooth.
Children enjoy using playdough to make their creations. At nursery our children use their imagination to make pretend foods and generally experience pleasure from just experimenting with a range of tools and mark-making equipment. This type of sensory play is accessible to all our children and does not require particular skills or dexterity.

Saltbread Dough

This can be a great activity for making presents for loved ones and it is rewarding for children when they have been involved in their own resource making and can see the end results.

In a large bowl mix salt and flour together.
Gradually stir in water. Mix well until it forms a doughy consistency. Turn the dough onto the bench and kneed with your hands until smooth and combined. Make your creations using the salt dough. Place the salt dough creations into the oven at 180C and then turn the heat down to slow bake.  The amount of time needed to bake depends on the size and thickness of the salt dough creations.

Cornflour Play

Add water to a tray of cornflour for children to enjoy the different texture. It is important not to add too much water but enough to be able to manipulate the cornflour. It has an interesting texture, feeling both wet and dry, and can feel solid while being held and at the same time will run through fingers like water.

Is the UK Apprentice Scheme worthwhile for day nurseries?

As any of our staff will tell you, working in a day nursery is challenging, very hands-on, always varied and hugely rewarding.  A job in a day nursery is a vocation – some would say it is a calling.  But as a vocation, the necessary skills can be learned on the job and so junior positions in day nurseries can be usefully filled through the current apprenticeship scheme.   The scheme mixes training at work (including gaining valuable work experience) with study in a college setting so that apprentices gain job-specific skills as well as general skills.


With the subsidies for small employers as a financial incentive, and a general skills shortage in the day nursery sector, you would be right to expect a high apprentice take-up rate.  But at the time of writing, out of some 700 jobs in the sector currently advertised here on only six are for apprentices.  And here on there are only four true apprentice jobs out of some 300 advertised.  These statistics suggest that our sector is not embracing apprentices.  We know that in our areas of operation across Wiltshire and Hampshire, very few day nurseries are taking apprentices on.  We speak to the apprentice contacts in the colleges around our settings and they are frustrated at the number of apprenticeship places that are available at any one time across all sectors, not just day nurseries.


At First Friends, we always have at least one apprentice on our books, and sometimes more.  When we have found the right young people, they have excelled and gone on to become competent, caring professionals in their field.  But, apparently, not all day nursery companies feel the same.


Our experience proves how worthwhile the UK apprentice scheme is to the day nurseries sector.   More day nurseries should embrace the UK apprenticeship scheme as way to access cost-effective, enthusiastic youngsters with lots to offer.   In the long run, today’s apprentices are tomorrow’s managers, and we all have a duty to invest in the UK’s future labour force.


First Friends owner Louise Hayes with our Salisbury manager Jane Andrews and her deputy Tobie Keel.

We are delighted to report that our Salisbury setting was a finalist at this year’s South Wiltshire Business Awards in the Apprentice Employer category.  Well done to our staff team there, led by our manager Jane Andrews.  Let’s hope that the recognition of our achievement encourages others to think more positively about apprenticeships.

Graduation 2017



We have recently celebrated the children’s success at First Friends and Abacus by having our annual graduation.

This is a popular event amongst our parents, staff and children. It gives everyone the opportunity to come together and celebrate the children’s achievements and to say goodbye to friends.

There have been many articles in the press, naming graduation parties for under-5s as “over the top” and an “American trend”. But as you can see from our photos, as long as the children have fun and enjoy their day of celebrations, its not a problem with us.

Many of the children who graduated from our Salisbury setting have been with us since they were babies.  They, along with the children at Abacus have developed into wonderful independent individuals. We feel it’s important to celebrate children’s success and for them to feel motivated and ready to start the next chapter in their lives.

We would love to hear your views.