Our Philosophy
Our aim at The Little Sweethearts is to offer flexible, high quality care and education for children based on the Montessori philosophy and Forest School approach, alongside the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS) in a welcoming, calm and caring environment where children are able to play and learn at their own pace, making discoveries and choices for themselves along the way. In doing this, it is our aim to provide a nurturing environment that facilitates a child's learning and development, enabling them to grow in confidence, self-esteem and develop their own personality within a framework of good appropriate expectation.

Our environment is open and welcoming to all. It is rich in opportunities that reflect the world today as well as being appropriately stimulating and safe, so as to encourage fun and experimentation with a wide range of materials inside and outdoors.

We understand that parents are children's primary carers and acknowledge that only by working in partnership with parents throughout the child's time with us, can we fully understand the need of each individual child. We view communication with the children, their families and staff throughout the setting as a vital tool and will aid the process of communication in any way necessary for the needs of the children in our care.

Our team are experienced and excellent role models for the children in our care. They seek to develop their personal skills and knowledge so that they are always best placed to identify the needs of the individual child.

Montessori Accreditation
The Little Sweethearts has gained accreditation under the Montessori Evaluation and Accreditation Board (MEAB) scheme. The scheme offers support and guidance to Montessori schools in order to ensure that their Montessori provision is of a high quality. The scheme, which includes two visits by MEAB assessors to the setting, also seeks to reassure parents that their Montessori school works with the Early Years Foundation Stage framework. The assessors that visited the Little Sweethearts felt that it followed the Montessori ethos and was certainly worthy of accreditation. You can see our Montessori Accreditation report here.
What is Montessori?
Montessori saw that children learn best by doing and that happy self-motivated learners form positive images of themselves as confident, successful people. Montessori creates specially designed resources to foster independence and a love for learning from an early age. The Montessori approach is holistic and aims to develop the whole child. Fundamental to the approach is the belief that a child's early years from birth to six are the period when they have the greatest capacity to learn.
Our Montessori curriculum has six distinct areas:
1. Practical Life
These activities help develop and refine co-ordination and concentration. The child learns skills to care for themself, the environment and to be an independent and useful member of any group. Real and functional equipment offer challenges to bring deep satisfaction and mastery of everyday skills.

For example, they can transfer pasta from bowl to bowl using a scoop, pour water from a jug through a funnel, thread some colourful beads onto a string, use brushes, cloths and sponges to clear up, practice doing up zips or buttons to dress themselves, or enjoy preparing fruit snacks.

2. Sensorial
Pre-school children learn through their senses - this section of our environment lets them explore through touch, feel, sight, hearing and even taste.

For example, they can build towers of blocks, feel 3D shapes, match sounds, colours and textures to start to categorise and make sense of the rich experiences in the everyday world. They will start to build their own mental concepts of "red", or "smooth", "heavy" or "round". Since they are particularly sensitive to language we always use the words to help describe their experiences at every step of discovery.

3. Mathematics
Using songs, baking sessions, outdoor games, puzzles etc. the child is introduced to early mathematical concepts of quantity, sequencing, matching and pairing. These building blocks lead them forward to use the specially designed mathematical activities using rods, beads, spindles and cubes. They can visualise the patterns and structures of numbers and gradually, step by step, gain confidence and understanding of numbers.
4. Literacy
Pre-schoolers learn language at an amazing rate: there are lots of interesting picture books, we play phonetic games and start to learn phonics gently using giant alphabet letters. For example, in our cosy book den, they can snuggle up at any time and become totally absorbed. Using sandpaper letters they can feel the phonetic letter sounds without knowing they are learning to read. All these prepare the child for reading and writing, while acquiring more knowledge and naturally beginning to notice words in their environment.
5. Cultural Awareness
Montessori educators believe that understanding our natural world and other cultures can help the child find their place in the world. Finding similarities and celebrating differences between cultures leads to inclusion and tolerance. Our cultural activities include Geography, Botany, Zoology and Science, and we mark a diverse selection of festivals throughout the year.

In our cultural shelves, the child can explore globes, puzzle maps and even create a volcanic eruption to understand the Earth and where we live. We share treasures from the beach, the woods and the gardens on our nature table where they can investigate using magnifying glasses or a microscope. Open our Continent boxes to discover photographs, dolls, and other cultural artefects from distant places.

6. Expressive Art and Design
The child has the freedom to explore creative materials with constant free access to arts and crafts materials for painting, gluing, sticking, printing and model making activities. They will be invited to take part in music and dance sessions and have constant access to rhythm instruments and different styles of music and learn a wide repertoire of traditional and new songs and nursery rhymes. They will find resources to engage in imaginative role play scenarios.
What is Forest School?
Forest School is an inspirational process that offers children regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees. Forest School is a specialised, child-centred learning approach that connects with the ever changing seasons, giving the child challenges of the natural world to fill every Forest School session with discovery and difference. You can climb a fallen log, splash in a muddy puddle, create art using sticks, leaves, moss or simply pause and listen to the wind in the treetops.

At Forest School all children are viewed as:

  • equal, unique and valuable
  • competent to explore & discover
  • entitled to experience appropriate risk and challenge
  • entitled to choose, and to initiate and drive their own learning and development
  • entitled to experience regular success
  • entitled to develop positive relationships with themselves and other people
  • entitled to develop a strong, positive relationship with their natural world

You can find out more about the Forest School Association here. The Little Sweethearts is a member of the Forest School Association and Nicola is a Level 3 Forest School Leader.

What is the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)?
The EYFS is a framework for the care and learning of all children from birth to the age of five years or until the end of the Reception year at school.

There are four main guiding principles that shape the EYFS and apply to all children in Early Years Education, which are:

  1. Every child is a unique child, who is constantly learning and can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured.
  2. Children learn to be strong and independent through positive relationships.
  3. Children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and/or carers.
  4. Children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates. The framework covers the education and care of all children in early years provision, including children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Following on from these principles there are seven areas of early years learning that EYFS concentrates on, the first three of which are identified as being particularly important for younger children:

  • Communication and language
  • Physical development
  • Personal, social and emotional development
  • Literacy
  • Mathematics
  • Understanding of the world
  • Expressive arts and design

You can find out more about Early Years Foundation Stage here.

How does the EYFS fit with the Montessori Philosophy?
The principles of the EYFS are expressed in terms that are very familiar to Montessorians: that each child is unique; that positive relationships form the basis for personal respect supporting learning; that the learning environment is important in extending learning and development; and that children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates. The Montessori approach is at one with the EYFS view of learning and both see observation as the key to promoting children's learning and development.