TEY speaks to Chloe Webster from Pebbles Childcare about professional love, and the benefits of outdoor play all-year-round…
Pebbles Childcare is an award-winning childminding business run by Bridgit Brown and Chloe Webster.
“I met Bridgit when we were working together at a day nursery – she was my manager,” explains Chloe.
“Bridgit later set up her own business as a registered childminder and was receiving daily enquiries. As a childminder with smaller ratios, she needed to look at ways of expanding to meet that demand, and that’s where I came in.
“We’ve been working together since 2016 and are both registered childminders. From a business point of view, it made sense that I registered as a childminder in my own right rather than as a childminding assistant.
“You can only be in sole charge of the children for two hours as an assistant; being a registered childminder allows me to offer continuity of care for a reduced number of children if Bridgit’s away.”
Pebbles Childcare embeds the principles of Dr Jools Page’s work on professional love and Tamsin Grimmer’s research on developing a loving pedagogy in the early years.
“When Bridgit and I had been working together for about 8 months, we attended a conference in Brighton where Dr Jools Page talked about professional love in early years settings (PLEYS).
“We could instantly relate to the concept of professional love and feel very lucky that we were able to put it into practice so naturally – it encompasses everything we do and are about.
“Our setting is very much a home-from-home,” says Chloe. “There are days when some children come in and just need to sit on the sofa with you and be cuddled. Or times when they don’t need active play but need to rest in the book corner on their own for a while, and we’re able to follow their lead in terms of what they need emotionally.
“I think that’s where we have fully embraced professional love – yes, we do love the children and no we’re not going to get in trouble for saying that. There’s a professional boundary and we’re providing a service, but it’s not ‘just a job’.
“When I began working with Bridget, a new baby started who was around 6 months old. She was a bit unsettled as a new starter, so I lay on the floor beneath the fairy lights, cuddling her.
“I instantly felt that I should be doing something else – actively playing with the children or filling in paperwork. Bridget came in and reassured me: ‘This is exactly what she needs right now. You’re meeting her needs and that’s all I care about.’
“Developing a loving pedagogy instils confidence, independence and resilience in the children, and will support them to grow into well-rounded, emotionally intelligent and secure young people.”
Another way in which Pebbles Childcare fosters independence is through plenty of outdoor play. “We pride ourselves on raising hardy children and we’re firm believers that anything you do indoors can be replicated outdoors with many more benefits,” says Chloe.
“We’re big advocates for outdoor play in all seasons. We’ve invested in splash suits; the children keep wellies here; and we do bag changes for the season so they have appropriate clothing.
“We teach the children that there’s no such thing as bad weather, as long as you have the right clothes. If we taught them that we only go outside in the summer, that’s not real life,” explains Chloe.
“By going out in all seasons, they can immerse themselves in nature and experience changes throughout the year, and that learning is phenomenal.”
Bridgit and Chloe even took part in beach school training: “We started the beach school sessions in January, so it was pretty cold but we persevered!” Chloe tells us. “By August, the children were exploring the coastline independently.
“Beach school is similar in many ways to forest school. Sessions are child-led and encourage children to follow their curiosity, develop leadership skills and grow in independence. The children learn to have a respect for the sea and the elements, and know that they’re unpredictable.”
The benefits of outdoor play in the early years are well established – from relaxation and wellbeing to developing an understanding of risk. Bridgit and Chloe make time to explore and discover hidden gems in their local area that present new outdoor learning opportunities for the children.
“We don’t have a huge garden space, so we utilise what’s available elsewhere and make the most of natural resources,” says Chloe.
“It’s great to learn to climb the steps of a slide – and we do visit playgrounds – but being out in the woods or at the beach provides opportunities to climb sand dunes and huge hills, or to listen to birds singing or explore different textures and terrains. We have 2-year-olds who can tell us if the tide’s in or out!
“I appreciate that we’re very lucky to have so much available to us. There’s a nearby stream that runs into a small waterfall. We visited with the children in the summer and returned in the winter to see that it was frozen. That kind of learning’s only possible because the children have the opportunity to go out in all weathers.
“Heading out also enables us to bring children’s interests to life, whether that means accessing local businesses in the community or going out into nature,” Chloe explains. “We might have planned activities for the day, but if the children say, ‘We saw some snails yesterday and we’d love to find more,’ we can be spontaneous.
“That’s the beauty of what we do – it’s flexible, fluid, child-led learning, and a hands-on approach to outdoor play does wonders for children’s confidence, independence, attention spans and resilience.”
Pebbles Childcare is an Outstanding registered childminding setting in Worthing, West Sussex.