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#393 Let your Hands do the Talking – Rainbow Bright Nursery with Rock Paper Scissors and Toddle Talk

Lauren Schaefer

What did we do?

Our ‘Let your Hands do the Talking’ project aimed to collaborate with two organisations and to be inclusive for our children and staff members. The project sought to target and improve emotional literacy and oracy over the 2022 Spring and Summer Term. Rainbow Bright invited Toddle Talk in for weekly sing and sign sessions across all our nursery age bands. During the Spring Term Ann attended on Tuesday mornings and for Summer Term on Wednesdays. Baby sessions were held in our baby room, for the older children we had to deliver the sessions split across 2 groups in our art room. We used circle dot floor mats and Ann delivered all sessions on the floor with the children in a group circle. We had previously worked with other singing companies such as Jo Jingles, but never introduced the signing/Makaton element partnered with song and story time.  

We invited Liberty and team from ‘Rock Paper Scissors’ for a 2-part inclusive art session, where all children attending had the opportunity to freely paint and explore for 1 hour per group on a floor-based setup. Each group had multiple colour and paint tool options to explore painting on a large fabric square at low level in our art room. Going from vertical easels and paper to this new perspective sought to encourage confidence, try something new whilst at the same time remaining a collective, group-based activity. We had never really attempted anything like this before.  

Toddle Talk sessions:  

We tracked 17 dates where Ann came in to deliver 3 x 25-minute classes to each age group. For the Summer Term we made the decision to swap to a Wednesday morning 9.30-11AM to ensure a greater reach for staff and children who had not yet been involved. We tracked the sessions over 2 terms  to see how many children were involved. We used our WellComm scoring system during each term to keep up to date with children scoring low resilience who were involved in these sessions. Babies were involved in this project as a means to improve listening, understanding and learning to sign, but not tracked in the same way as our other two groups.  

Rock Paper Scissors sessions: 

Rock Paper Scissors visited our setting for 2 morning sessions (10th Feb 2022 and 11th Mar 2022) where each age group had one hour to explore and create with the RPS team. Over these visits, we involved 7 babies, 5 toddlers and 12 over 3’s (24 total). This included 9 low resilience children from each of these groups who we thought would benefit from this activity due to speech, language and communication barriers ranging from confidence issues, EAL and selective mutism. We had 6 staff members involved during these 2 sessions.  

We have had so much fun developing our ideas and skills relating to the creative curriculum. We are really excited to see where this leads. 


Summary of impact

Between the Spring and Summer Term, we noticed a significant difference in the children taking part and the rate at which the low resilience scores in children were decreasing. Overall we saw a 36% decrease in low resilience children when assessed again in the Summer Term. We had a total of 14 low resilience children in the Spring, and a total of 9 in the Summer.  

11 staff members participated in these sessions, we alternated who would sit in to ensure maximum reach to our staff members working on these days. Staff recorded videos and photos of all sessions, and uploaded these onto our parent board (Tapestry) so parents were able to keep track of children’s progress and content delivered in the sessions to try at home.  

Toddle Talk outcomes:

The classes have provided a multi-sensory means of expressing emotions, have built on their emotional vocabulary and increased engagement with creative mediums of singing and signing. They have been able to vocalise more clearly with us from babies through to school leavers. This has massively improved confidence levels of certain children who have been regularly attending the classes across both terms and for new starters coming into the nursery. Children have demonstrated excellent abilities in oracy levels, the classes have supported their understanding of what ‘kind, safe hands’ looks like.  

Although we did not use specific tracking tools to measure baby’s achievements, we uploaded photos, videos and audio of all children taking part in the classes to give parents the opportunity to be included in what we had been learning. We have had numerous feedback from staff and children that have seen an improvement in oracy skills, and testimonies that signing has been implemented at home outside of setting. One parent of a baby said: ‘F has been spontaneously singing and doing the actions for ‘wind the bobbin’ this weekend. It has been so lovely listening and watching. Thank you so much’. Staff feel that Toddle Talk sessions have improved the way in which new starters settle into our setting. Having this focused time allows them to express themselves with confidence and acceptance. 

These sessions have helped the main body of our staff to support them in their understanding of how stories and rhyme can feed through to other areas of the curriculum- in particular creative arts and design.  

Rock Paper Scissors outcomes:

This project has aided children’s understanding of what expressive movement can achieve through this approach to art. All age groups participated in an inclusive activity, allowing them the chance to explore, watch, feel and do using this approach. This has allowed them to begin to perceive that everyone has their own unique story and way of expressing that. Their work has been transformed into three collective art pieces, and are now displayed across each room, symbolising that many hands made this work together. The art pieces will follow them through the building as they transition up, giving them a sense of recognition and unity within the setting.  

This project has also given staff members a fresh perspective into what mark making is- how we approach this and why it is so important to work on a larger scale, in particular. We have achieved a great starting point into gaining more knowledge of how emotional literacy ties into expressive arts and messy play.  


What would we do differently

Toddle Talk 

I would aim to target smaller groups using a class such as Toddle Talk. It was sometimes difficult to keep track of all children attending the class, and it was evident that certain children were benefitting more than others (mainly those scoring lower resilience-wise) Next time I would consider using a similar business for a select few children, alternating week-to-week so that a greater measure of impact could be supported by staff members and families involved. It was not possible to keep an up-to-date track of each individual child’s progress due to the number of children taking part in the class each session. I would also consider in greater detail how we can extend weekly sessions to reach a greater number of children in the nursery- making the decision to swap days Spring to Summer term was a good starting point, but this still limited us to the day in which the sessions took place, meaning that certain children attending on different days did not take part at all.  

We have learned that children of all ages have really benefitted from these sessions. It has equipped them with a newfound way for expressing emotions and showing empathy towards others. They have a keener sense of what it means to collaborate through time spent together weekly on singing and signing.  

Rock Paper Scissors  

The children enjoyed their visits immensely. It showed us another way to interpret our space, and how we can move forwards as a setting to explore new ideas and materials. If Rock Paper Scissors were to come again, I would move the project outside to ensure maximum movement and space for the children. We would also like to try other materials such as cardboard boxes.  

I would love to collaborate further with Rock Paper Scissors on a termly basis in order to target smaller groups while remaining as inclusive as possible. More training is required for staff leading on from this regarding linking expressive movement to emotional literacy.  

Are there parts of the project you will continue to develop and deliver?

We have just completed Write Dance Training (as a part of the Tell Your Story second grant awarded) to further secure the concept of working on a larger scale. 6 members of the team attended a live training course in June to see how the concept of movement and dance can tie into extending our creative curriculum plans.  

We have also taken things one step further with Makaton- introducing Kidslingo Spanish classes from Summer term and moving into the Autumn Term. This is so that every child is operating on the same base level of understanding by adding in an unfamiliar language together with the Makaton. This also aims to diversify children’s cultural awareness linked with expressive arts.  

See how others have implemented this Big Idea

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Big Feelings - Springfield Infant School with Cohere Arts

We belong together - The Nature Den Nursery with Arts La O'Lam

Bringing History to life - Sidegate Primary with Ipswich Museum

EYFS Emotional Literacy Through Outdoor Art - Morland Primary and Arts Eat with the Nest Project

Bringing the past to life – Clifford Road Primary with Lisa Temple Cox

If Objects Could Speak (Pop Up Museum) - Clifford Road with The Hold, Museums Service and Trinity College


Lauren Schaefer, Rainbow Bright Daycare and Private Nursery